Chapter 11 Summary

The circus is on its way to Chicago; during the ride, Kinko teaches Queenie to walk on her hind legs. Jacob wakes from a fitful night of dreams, and then he remembers all that happened the previous day. Kinko sits up on his cot and asks Jacob what his story is. Jacob says that he comes from nowhere. He sulks as he recalls his drunken behavior, but Kinko tells him that he should not be embarrassed by anything. Kinko offers Jacob a book to read, which Jacob appreciates; Kinko then says he can call him Walter like all his friends do.

As the train approaches Chicago, Jacob is bothered by the harsh smells of the city. After the tents are set up, Jacob seeks the comfort of the animals in the menagerie. Jacob knows that he is the only person standing between the safety of the animals and the business practices of Uncle Al and August. Jacob hugs Bobo, one of the chimps. Otis comes to get Jacob to look at one of the giraffes, who appears to have a cold. Jacob swabs her nostrils and swaddles her throat in flannel. Jacob then says he must leave, and he goes to the Catholic church in town. Once there, he cannot bring himself to face confession. On his way out, he sees Marlena in one of the pews.

When Jacob returns to the circus grounds, Rosie is in the menagerie. August is there, and he apologizes to Jacob for his harsh behavior. August wants to take Marlena and Jacob out to a club to make amends, so the three get dressed and take a taxi into the city. Inside, August orders drinks, which Jacob accepts even though he is still feeling ill from the previous evening. Marlena wants to dance, first with August and then with Jacob. On the dance floor, Jacob is entranced by Marlena, and he gets dirty looks from August. Suddenly, the police barge into the club to do a raid, and people run in all directions. Jacob and Marlena manage to get out together but August is nowhere to be seen. The two run through the streets and stop under a fire escape. Jacob kisses Marlena, and she softens before jerking away. Jacob apologizes, but she stares at him with her hand pressed to her mouth. She runs off down the alley. Jacob makes his way back to the circus grounds, passing a hobo village on the way. Back in the ring stock car, Jacob lies awake until morning, regretting his foolish behavior.

Walter wakes him in the afternoon, and the two go to eat. Jacob wants to eat at Walter’s table instead of with August and Marlena, who are clearly ignoring each other, but Jacob sits in his proper place. August implies that he would hurt Jacob for putting Marlena in danger.