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Legs

William Kennedy

Chapter 6: John Thompson's Man

Chapter 5: Playing the Jack

Chapter 7: Jack Among the Maids

Summary

Shortly before the end of Jack's run, the police recovered a peculiar piece of plaster from his house. One side of it was covered with wallpaper, which was marked with twenty-five squiggles. The police assumed it was some kind of hidden code for a booze run. Alice told Marcus that it was actually a relic from their honeymoon. They hardly left the hotel, and after they'd had sex five times, Alice decided to keep track of their lovemaking by tallying it on the wall. When they checked out of the hotel, Jack removed the marked-up piece of plaster from the wall with a tire iron.

Alice is constantly in the public spotlight while visiting Jack during his stay at the hospital. The press asks her about Kiki, but she will not answer their questions. Alice has what she calls a "Mormon" dream about Jack bringing home another wife to live with them. Alice says special prayers for Jack, hoping to save his soul. She also understands that by staying with Jack, she is allowing evil into her life. She asks Jack about Kiki, but he says that she no longer has a place in his life. Marcus recalls that when Alice was killed, she was sitting in her Brooklyn apartment, looking at an old newspaper picture of her and Jack at the Polyclinic. She had written "my hero" on the clipping.

This is an idyllic time for Alice and Jack. Marcus and Lew Edwards, a childhood friend of Marcus's and a Broadway producer, come to visit them one day in Acra. Lew proposes that Jack should say he's had a change of heart, take up religion, and become a preacher. Lew says that millions of people will become interested in the Holy Ghost's sudden possession of the gangster. Jack will start out performing in vaudevillian theaters, move on to churches, and finally fill Yankee Stadium and tour the world. Alice loves the idea. Jack asks what Marcus thinks. Marcus likes it too, but Jack says the idea rubs him the wrong way. He would feel like a hypocrite. In the next room, Alice reads in the Mirror that Kiki Roberts, now dancing in Chicago, receives a phone call every night at 7:30 from Legs Diamond. Alice storms into the room; Jack tells her not to believe everything she reads. Alice realizes that Jack is always out of the house at that hour, and packs her bags.

Kiki lies naked in bed with Jack, happy that she has seemingly driven Alice away. Still, she is frustrated because Jack has not made love to her yet that night. She goes downstairs to check on the fudge she had made Jack. The fudge hasn't hardened yet. Jack and Kiki sleep in separate rooms, as they always have. Kiki thinks back on the evening. They'd gone out to dinner and were on their way home when they came upon a man named Streeter, who hauls cider, and a boy named Dickie Bartlett. Jack pulled out his pistol and made the man pull over. When Streeter said he did not know where the still was located, Jack took them back to his place, sent Kiki inside, and brought Streeter and Bartlett into the garage. He burned Streeter's feet and nearly hanged him, but Streeter still would not talk. Jack fired a few shots by Streeter's head but finally gave up and let him go.

Kiki walks into Jack's room, naked, hoping to surprise him. She strokes his cheek, and he wakes up and puts a gun to her face and bends her fingers back. She passes out from the pain. When she wakes, Jack apologizes and calls his doctor, the coroner. Afterward, Kiki checks on the fudge, which is still liquid. She feeds it to the cat.

Marcus says that years later, he heard Clem Streeter telling people in the barbershop that he told a judge what Jack Diamond did to him. Streeter did have a still, but he said he'd be darned if he was going to give up an extra hundred and thirty dollars a week for some guy from New York.

Analysis

Alice has many of the same reservations about being with Jack as Kiki and Marcus do. Jack's wrongdoing particularly bothers Alice because she is a religious person. Alice rationalizes that she must accept Jack, as if he is a source of evil that has magically appeared in her life. She also enjoys this evil to a certain extent. She fires machine guns with equanimity, and calmly throttles the canary that Jack named for Kiki. Despite her violent tendencies, Alice is still the more housewifely of Jack's women. Kiki shines brightest when she is being squired by Jack, groped by the press, and drooled over by Marcus. But Alice rises to the occasion when Jack needs care. She looks back on Jack's recovery at the Polyclinic as one of the happiest periods in her life with him. This happy period comes to an end when she finds out that Jack has been in touch with Kiki, and when Jack rejects the notion of becoming a stage show act.

The idea of turning Jack into a traveling vaudeville show appeals to Marcus and Alice for the same reason: it will end their pangs of conscience over Jack's lifestyle. Jack the traveling evangelist and showman would still carry with him all of the notorious legend that appeals to Marcus and Alice, but without the murdering and drug smuggling that makes them nervous. The idea particularly appeals to Alice, because it would be a public act of repentance for Jack. However, Jack understands that he could never turn his lifestyle around in such a manner. Although he carries a rosary, sleeps under a crucifix, and feels blessed by God to still be alive, Jack is not a devout man. He could not completely tear himself away from a life of crime, and to go on the road and say otherwise would be hypocritical. Marcus and Alice attempt to turn Jack into a dishonest man, but he resists them.

Kiki's happy time of sex romps and parties with Jack seems to be over. The fudge that Kiki makes for Jack symbolizes her temporary futility and Jack's impotence. Kiki is not proficient in the kitchen, as Alice is. For Jack, Kiki's function is sex. On the night of the fudge-making, however, Kiki seems to lose her ability to stimulate Jack. The fudge will not harden, and Kiki and Jack go through this night without having intercourse.

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