"My father was divorced from my mother when I was six. He was father to us three boys by day and mother by night. I didn't get close to my mother until I was 17, 18. My father didn't do things by the law every day, but he had food on the table, and we had shoes and socks and hats on. He was a good old dude.
"I had trouble adjusting socially in high school. I was suspended three times. In part of my junior and part of my senior year my father was away for six months. He never hurt anybody, but he sold numbers and bootleg whiskey. I'd go to school for a week without saying a word. I was mean and bitter. 'Cause I was alone. Nobody took any care of me. I was a hell of a football player 'cause I was mean and nasty. I ran through the center of the line and a guy hit me in the mouth and busted my front tooth. I said, 'Run that play again.' They blocked him down, and I ran over his chest and face. Right over his face mask with my feet.
"Being mad helped me in football, but not in anything else. When I was in high school I needed a psychiatrist. One day I'd bought me a box of pretzels for lunch. I came into class about 10 minutes late and set my pretzels down on my desk and turned away to give the teacher my pass. When I turned back, one of the boys had busted open my pretzels and taken them.
" 'Now you know I live in a bad mood,' I said. 'Who took my pretzels?' Nobody said anything. 'Whoever took my pretzels, give me a nickel.' Nothing. I turned to the teacher: 'Tell these guys to do something, 'cause they done messed up my food.' Somebody threw a nickel and it rolled around on the floor. I turned around and caught one guy smiling and I grabbed him and set him up against the window and said, 'Boy, don't you know I'll kill you?' He got nervous. Said, 'Man, don't do that.'
" 'You know you're not supposed to do that to me,' I said. 'You know I'm crazy.' And my girl friend was all crying in the back. She was a Jewish girl. And they used to tease her. In her home-ec class the teacher said, 'I heard Reggie went on another tantrum today.' I went over to the home-ec class and cussed her out.
"Me and my buddies all had '55 Chevys. We'd sit up in the church lot, four of us, drink six quarts of beer and eat potato chips. Then go crash parties. Beat up on rich kids. Take their coats. 'Cause it was cold and we didn't have no coats. And we'd wear 'em to school the next day. And these rich kids better not say nothing. We'd whip 'em."
Through the window of the Chicago coffee shop Jackson waves at John Summers, walking by on the sidewalk wearing one of Reggie's coats.
"Me and my friend Irwin would take our bicycles and go stealing on Saturdays. Magazines, candy, yo-yos. One time I went into a store with my father and I stole a candy bar. He made me go back in and tell the cashier I stole it. I never stole anything again in my life. I was so ashamed."
Was he ashamed when his father was away?
"I missed him. It was sad 'cause I couldn't get near him."