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by John Updike
Rabbit, Run Chapter 2 Summary
Rabbit dreams and sleeps like a traumatized person. He wakes as it’s getting dark. He hears the men downstairs and in confused dreaminess thinks they hunt him. He hears Tothero and realizes the men are just being men together. He wakes to Tothero yelling his name. He’s been drinking and says he has a female for Rabbit. The he asks Tothero if it’s Janice. He tells Rabbit it’s after six, and that they shall be dining out. He asks about the girl, and Tothero tells him about his woman. Rabbit gets scared and tries to leave. Tothero gets emotional and Rabbit wants to get away from him, but stays out of respect. Rabbit reminds him they’re supposed to talk about Janice, and Tothero says they will talk about that after they’ve taken care of business. Rabbit dresses nervously and Tothero offers Rabbit a clean shirt to wear to Brewer and it turns out they wear the same size: “fifteen three,” or a 15.3 inch sleeve. Tothero is brimming with delight. Rabbit is looking in the mirror and sees the shirt fits. Tothero watches in a motherly fashion. Rabbit begins to grock Tothero’s plan, now that he’s not so mortified. Tothero wants to know when Rabbit last had some fun. He tells him he did last night. Tothero says that Rabbit will like his city woman. He doesn’t know Tothero's companion, but Tothero says she thinks she’s fat. Rabbit is nonchalant and feels calmer, free from his cramped apartment, but wants to know where his car is. Tothero says it’s still there, and starts hurrying Rabbit. Rabbit wants to know if there was gossip about him in town. He keeps thinking of his wife and kid. Tothero says he hasn’t heard anything, but that he wasn’t places where he would have. It rankles Rabbit that Tothero seems only to care about partying with him. He grumbles about missing work, his voice accusing. Saturdays are banner sales days. Tothero asks about his job, and Rabbit tells him about selling the MagiPeel Peeler in what we might call today a dollar store. Tothero approves and is happy Rabbit is dressed. Now Rabbit wants a comb and needs to go the bathroom. Rabbit hears the men downstairs and worries about them seeing him. When they get to the bar, the men stare at Rabbit. Tothero keeps introducing him and bragging on his county records in 1950 and 1951. (Ah ha! If Rabbit was twenty six when we met him yesterday, and this is 8 years later than when he got his last record, this must be 1959!) Rabbit thinks Tothero looks foolish to the men and is ashamed of him, so he hides in the can. The bathroom depresses and paralyzes him, so he goes back to Tothero. They get in Rabbit’s car and drive toward Brewer, and Tothero starts talking about his lady friend and how much Rabbit will like her. He’s acting very strange and jerky and then he tells Rabbit that he (Tothero) is a horrible guy who should be hated, and then starts talking about his wife. He says that in 1943, during World War II, his wife’s skin turned into an awful patchwork of tough skin, and that’s when things started to go bad. He wants to know if Rabbit is listening. Rabbit tries to talk to him about Janice again. Tothero calls her a mutt and says they should talk about the real women, who are in abundant supply. In spite of Tothero’s nuttiness, Rabbit is a little excited. They park, and go to the women at a Chinese restaurant. Rabbit gets nervous when he sees them. Tothero introduces Margaret Kasko and Rabbit, and she reminds him of Janice. She introduces him to Ruth Leonard, but forgets his name. He says to call him Harry or Rabbit. Ruth calls him “a big bunny.” Ruth is a voluptuous (what Rabbit calls “chunky”), tall woman, in a green dress, with reddish-brownish hair in a bun. She has on sandals that are too small for her feet. He says he’s only “big outside.” She says she’s the same. Rabbit says he’s hungry. Tothero is glad and they walk into the restaurant. Turns out Rabbit and Ruth were both in the class of 1951, though at rival schools. Her school lost to his. Rabbit disparages the team. She defends them. Having dated three of them, she knows. Rabbit wants to know if it was a foursome. She says: “In a way.” She has trouble walking in those shoes, but he likes her outfit and her voluptuousness. He bumps into her and feels and smells her hair with his bunny nose. Then they banter about whether Tothero is a bum or not. It seems like she doesn’t know much about Tothero. Rabbit defends him, citing his coaching history as evidence of his credibility. Ruth offers Rabbit a smoke, but he holds strong. Tothero admits he is a bum, playing the jolly reveler. Margaret defends her prince against the bum charges. Turns out that can drink can be procured here, via the bar next door. Tothero orders a double scotch whiskey. Margaret, Ruth, and Rabbit order Daiquiris. Rabbit wants to know why Ruth recognized him but not the coach. She makes disparaging comments about coaches and Rabbit defends coaches. They banter about whether a team is “all coach,” Rabbit’s position, or “all boy,” Tothero’s position and surely Ruth’s too, and maybe Margaret’s – but she isn’t talking. She’s a hard core flirt, and Rabbit digs her forthrightness. This is getting steamy. The waiter tries to give them silverware, but Tothero spurns it, requiring chopsticks for all. Now we hear from Margaret, who clings frantically to her cutlery, clearly afraid of the deadly chopstick. Rabbit and Ruth are cool with the chopsticks. They banter about the phenomenon of Chinese food in Texas. Rabbit tries to bum a smoke. They get into a nuanced spat about this, and about him asking her for a dime. He gets all paranoid and gets his own for the tabletop jukebox. She gives him a smoke. He isn’t holding a grudge. The waiter comes with menus and plastic chopsticks. Rabbit, ever alert for quality, yearns for wooden ones. Margaret picks sweet and sour pork. Rabbit and Ruth flirt about his Chinese food experiences in Texas. He claims to be able only to read Chinese food menus in Chinese. She questions his claim to past Texas residency. His memory confirms he was there. She says the Army doesn’t count, annoying Rabbit. Tothero starts in about coaching. A coach coaches three aspects of a boy: head, body, and heart. Ruth adds “crotch,” making Margaret laugh, which makes Rabbit more weirded out by her. Tothero gets mad and hurts her feelings. Tothero continues: The head needs strategy. He makes sure Rabbit is listening. The body needs running, lots of running. When he talks about the heart, it’s a bit more complicated. The good coach swells a boy’s heart. And then the boy can never really be a “failure.” Ruth asks Rabbit about his work. He tells about the MagiPeel Peeler. Tothero praises his work prowess, and Rabbit asks about Ruth’s work. She claims not to have one, coyly sipping her drink. When the food gets there, Rabbit is drooling. He likes how the meat is disguised down to highlight the vegetables. Veggies are “candy” to Rabbit. And the portions of white rice are “steaming breasts.” Everybody at the table gets “a hot breast.” They eat and are rejuvenated, and Rabbit praises Tothero’s coaching skills. Tothero praises Rabbit’s athletic tendencies. Rabbit brings up a short guy that tripped him in a game. Tothero seems surprised not to remember the incident, and wants to hear that Rabbit avenged himself violently. Rabbit cannot oblige. He never needed to resort to violence. Tothero is bothered by his hazy memory but he remembers that Rabbit was not prone to injury. Rabbit reminds him of a wrist sprain. Tothero is bothered by his memory lapses. Rabbit mentions “Harrison.” Ruth clearly knows him, which makes Rabbit think she might have slept with him, as he was a “bedbug.” She gets less certain of knowing him when Rabbit seems alarmed. He admires the way she eats, in contrast to Margaret’s yucky fork eating. Tothero is concerned that they lost games in the past He orders another round. Rabbit declines another drink. Margaret gives a hard time, increasing his hate for her. Rabbit tries to remember where his best game was played. Rabbit wants Tothero to remember the name of the school – the name having something to do with birds. Tothero seems troubled by his inability to remember. Rabbit remembers exuberantly that it was Oriole High. Rabbit remembers even the details of the weather. Tothero comments on the superiority of Rabbit’s memory, then snags his drink off the waiter’s tray. Rabbit talks about being in the zone that night at Oriole. Tothero doesn’t remember and Rabbit wants the others to feel how he felt: powerful and strong. Margaret is sarcastic in her praise of him. Tothero call hers a tramp and she smacks him. Tothero and Margaret leave, fighting a little bit. Ruth and Rabbit discuss Margaret being a hitter, her having hit Ruth. Ruth thinks Tothero likes it. They agree she is dumb. Rabbit reveals he is married, but has left. Ruth says it’s just a holiday. Rabbit tells the waiter not to worry, that he will get the bill. He starts telling Ruth about Janice. She stops him. He asks her weight, which is 147 pounds. He praises her pounds, and she doesn’t want to talk about that either. So he talks about the MagiPeel Peeler. That doesn’t work either. Things get awkward. Rabbit finds out that Ruth’s roommate moved out. He’s concerned that she has to pay the whole rent and “doesn’t do anything.” He offers her some rent money. She accepts, asking for fifteen dollars, five more than he offered. Rabbit pays the bill and they leave.
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