Deacon King Kong

by

James McBride

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Deacon King Kong: Chapter 4: Running Off Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After leaving the scene of the shooting, Sportcoat ends up in the basement furnace room of Building 9 where Hot Sausage works. Rather than think about what just happened, Sportcoat continues his ongoing argument with an imaginary Hettie about the missing church fund. He tries to impress on Hettie how important the missing funds are, but she largely just ignores him. After finishing his argument with Hettie, Sportcoat takes a few swigs of King Kong and then heads off to the liquor store where he is expected to help unload some crates.
When Sportcoat reaches Building 9, he acts as though he doesn’t even remember what just occurred. His memory is certainly not helped by the swigs of King Kong that he takes before heading to work.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
On his way to the liquor store, Sportcoat sees multiple police cars and an ambulance race past him. When he enters the liquor store, his boss, a Jewish man named Mr. Itkin, asks him what’s going on outside. Sportcoat gives him an unserious answer and seems genuinely not to know what all the fuss is about.
Again, Sportcoat doesn’t seem to know what he’s just done. Perhaps the act was of little consequence to him, or maybe he genuinely doesn’t remember. Both options point to a man who is not mentally well.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
After his brief interaction with Mr. Itkin, Sportcoat makes his way to the back of the store to start unloading crates. As he works, Sportcoat regularly sips from the store’s wares whenever Mr. Itkin is not looking. Shortly after Sportcoat starts unloading the crates, he takes off his jacket and tosses it to the side. When he does so, he hears a loud “clank.” He then looks in the pocket of his jacket to find a gun, which he doesn’t remember putting there.
Although Sportcoat is a good worker, perhaps the liquor store is not the best place for him. It only enables his alcoholism. 
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Just after Sportcoat finds his gun, he hears Hot Sausage come in the store. Hot Sausage tells Mr. Itkin that Sportcoat left something at home and so he is bringing it to him. This allows Hot Sausage to get in the back of the store—typically he is not allowed in the back because Mr. Itkin doesn’t like him. Once he’s alone with Sportcoat, Hot Sausage immediately begins to question him about the shooting. However, Sportcoat acts as though he has no idea what Hot Sausage is talking about.
Clearly, word of Sportcoat shooting Deems has spread quickly around the community. After all, Hot Sausage already knows, and he did not witness the shooting.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Community and Religion Theme Icon
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Hot Sausage warns Sportcoat that he is in great danger. Deems has deep connections in the drug business, and they won’t hesitate to kill Sportcoat to seek revenge. Hot Sausage tells Sportcoat he must leave town if he doesn’t want to be killed. However, Sportcoat refuses to believe that he shot Deems and thinks Hot Sausage is just playing a trick on him. Nonetheless, Sportcoat finds it curious that his old gun is in his pocket, and he admits to Hot Sausage that he forgets a lot of what he does, likely because of how much alcohol he consumes. Still, when Hot Sausage presses him on his alcohol consumption and calls him “Deacon King Kong,” Sportcoat says that he doesn’t drink more than anyone else in the projects. In a last-ditch effort to help Sportcoat, Hot Sausage tries to give Sportcoat money to leave town, but Sportcoat turns it down.
Deems continues to be hyped up as a violent criminal who will kill Sportcoat for what he’s done, though it is not yet clear whether that image is justified. Meanwhile, Sportcoat seems genuine in his assertion that he doesn’t think he shot Deems. Additionally, this passage contains the first mention of the book’s title. Evidently, despite what he says, Sportcoat does drink more than other people in the projects, as he is the only one with a nickname that reflects the amount of alcohol he consumes.
Themes
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Quotes