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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:09 pm
by admin
19. Colonel Cathcart

Colonel Cathcart was a slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of
thirty-six who lumbered when he walked and wanted to be a general.
He was dashing and dejected, poised and chagrined. He was complacent
and insecure, daring in the administrative stratagems he employed
to bring himself to the attention of his superiors and craven in his concern
that his schemes might all backfire. He was handsome and unattractive,
a swashbuckling, beefy, conceited man who was putting on fat
and was tormented chronically by prolonged seizures of apprehension.
Colonel Cathcart was conceited because he was a full colonel with a
combat command at the age of only thirty-six; and Colonel Cathcart
was dejected because although he was already thirty-six he was still
only a full colonel.
Colonel Cathcart was impervious to absolutes. He could measure
his own progress only in relationship to others, and his idea of excellence
was to do something at least as well as all the men his own age
who were doing the same thing even better. The fact that there were
thousands of men his own age and older who had not even attained the
rank of major enlivened him with foppish delight in his own remarkable
worth; on the other hand, the fact that there were men of his own
age and younger who were already generals contaminated him with an
agonizing sense of failure and made him gnaw at his fingernails with an
unappeasable anxiety that was even more intense than Hungry Joe's.
Colonel Cathcart was a very large, pouting, broad-shouldered man
with close-cropped curly dark hair that was graying at the tips and an
ornate cigarette holder that he purchased the day before he arrived in
Pianosa to take command of his group. He displayed the cigarette
holder grandly on every occasion and had learned to manipulate it
adroitly. Unwittingly, he had discovered deep within himself a fertile
aptitude for smoking with a cigarette holder. As far as he could tell, his
was the only cigarette holder in the whole Mediterranean theater of
operations, and the thought was both flattering and disquieting. He
had no doubts at all that someone as debonair and intellectual as
General Peckem approved of his smoking with a cigarette holder, even
though the two were in each other's presence rather seldom, which in
a way was very lucky, Colonel Cathcart recognized with relief, since
General Peckem might not have approved of his cigarette holder at all.
When such misgivings assailed Colonel Cathcart, he choked back a sob
and wanted to throw the damned thing away, but he was restrained by
his, unswerving conviction that the cigarette holder never failed to
embellish his masculine, martial physique with a high gloss of sophisticated
heroism that illuminated him to dazzling advantage among all
the other full colonels in the American Army with whom he was in
competition. Although how could he be sure?
Colonel Cathcart was indefatigable that way, an industrious, intense,
dedicated military tactician who calculated day and night in the service
of himself. He was his own sarcophagus, a bold and infallible diplomat
who was always berating himself disgustedly for all the chances he had
missed and kicking himself regretfully for all the errors he had made. He
was tense, irritable, bitter and smug. He was a valorous opportunist ~ho
pounced hoggishly upon every opportunity Colonel Korn discovered for
him and trembled in damp despair immediately afterward at the possible
consequences he might suffer. He collected rumors greedily and
treasured gossip. He believed all the news he heard and had faith in
none. He was on the alert constantly for every signal, shrewdly sensitive
to relationships and situations that did not exist. He was someone in the
know who was always striving pathetically to find out what was going on.
He was a blustering, intrepid bully who brooded inconsolably over the
terrible ineradicable impressions he knew he kept making on people of
prominence who were scarcely aware that he was even alive.
Everybody was persecuting him. Colonel Cathcart lived by his wits
in an unstable, arithmetical world of black eyes and feathers in his
cap, of overwhelming imaginary triumphs and catastrophic imaginary
defeats. He oscillated hourly between anguish and exhilaration, multiplying
fantastically the grandeur of his victories and exaggerating tragically
the seriousness of his defeats. Nobody ever caught him napping.
If word reached him that General Dreedle or General Peckem had been
seen smiling, frowning, or doing neither, he could not make himself rest
until he had found an acceptable interpretation and grumbled mulishly
until Colonel Korn persuaded him to relax and take things easy.
Lieutenant Colonel Korn was a loyal, indispensable ally who got on
Colonel Cathcart's nerves. Colonel Cathcart pledged eternal gratitude
to Colonel Korn for the ingenious moves he devised and was furious
with him afterward when he realized they might not work. Colonel
Cathcart was greatly indebted to Colonel Korn and did not like him at
all. The two were very close. Colonel Cathcart was jealous of Colonel
Korn's intelligence and had to remind himself often that Colonel Korn
was still only a lieutenant colonel, even though he was almost ten years
older than Colonel Cathcart, and that Colonel Korn had obtained his
education at a state university. Colonel Cathcart bewailed the miserable
fate that had given him for an invaluable assistant someone as
common as Colonel Korn. It was degrading to have to depend so thoroughly
on a person who had been educated at a state university. If
someone did have to become indispensable to him, Colonel Cathcart
lamented, it could just as easily have been someone wealthy and well
groomed, someone from a better family who was more mature than
Colonel Korn and who did not treat Colonel Cathcart's desire to
become a general as frivolously as Colonel Cathcart secretly suspected
Colonel Korn secretly did.
Colonel Cathcart wanted to be a general so desperately he was willing
to try anything, even religion, and he summoned the chaplain to
his office late one morning the week after he had raised the number of
missions to sixty and pointed abruptly down toward his desk to his
copy of The Saturday Evening Post. The colonel wore his khaki shirt
collar wide open, exposing a shadow of tough black bristles of beard on
his egg-white neck, and had a spongy hanging underlip. He was a person
who never tanned, and he kept out of the sun as much as possible
to avoid burning. The colonel was more than a head taller than the
chaplain and over twice as broad, and his swollen, overbearing authority
made the chaplain feel frail and sickly by contrast.
"Take a look, Chaplain," Colonel Cathcart directed, screwing a cigarette
into his holder and seating himself affluently in the swivel chair
behind his desk. "Let me know what you think."
The chaplain looked down at the open magazine compliantly and
saw an editorial spread dealing with an American bomber group in
England whose chaplain said prayers in the briefing room before each
mission. The chaplain almost wept with happiness when he realized
the colonel was not going to holler at him. The two had hardly spoken
since the tumultuous evening Colonel Cathcart had thrown him out of
the officers' club at General Dreedle's bidding after Chief White
Halfoat had punched Colonel Moodus in the nose. The chaplain's initial
fear had been that the colonel intended reprimanding him for having
gone back into the officers' club without permission the evening
before. He had gone there with Yossarian and Dunbar after the two
had come unexpectedly to his tent in the clearing in the woods to ask
him to join them. Intimidated as he was by Colonel Cathcart, he nevertheless
found it easier to brave his displeasure than to decline the
thoughtful invitation of his two new friends, whom he had met on one
of his hospital visits just a few weeks before and who had worked
so effectively to insulate him against the myriad social vicissitudes
involved in his official duty to live on closest terms of familiarity with
more than nine hundred unfamiliar officers and enlisted men who
thought him an odd duck.
The chaplain glued his eyes to the pages of the magazine. He studied
each photograph twice and read the captions intently as he organized
his response to the colonel's question into a grammatically
complete sentence that he rehearsed and reorganized in his mind a
considerable number of times before he was able finally to muster the
courage to reply.
"I think that saying prayers before each mission is a very moral and
highly laudatory procedure, sir," he offered timidly, and waited.
"Yeah," said the colonel. "But 1 want to know if you think they'll
work here."
"Yes, sir," answered the chaplain after a few moments. "I should
think they would."
"Then I'd like to give it a try." The colonel's ponderous, farinaceous
cheeks were tinted suddenly with glowing patches of enthusiasm. He rose
to his feet and began walking around excitedly. "Look how much good
they've done for these people in England. Here's a picture of a colonel in
The Saturday Evening Post whose chaplain conducts prayers before each
mission. If the prayers work for him, they should work for us. Maybe if
we say prayers, they'll put my picture in The Saturday Evening Post."
The colonel sat down again and smiled distantly in lavish contemplation.
The chaplain had no hint of what he was expected to say next.
With a pensive expression on his oblong, rather pale face, he allowed
his gaze to settle on several of the high bushels filled with red plum
tomatoes that stood in rows against each of the walls. He pretended to
concentrate on a reply. After a while he realized that he was staring at
rows and rows of bushels of red plum tomatoes and grew so intrigued
by the question of what bushels brimming with red plum tomatoes
were doing in a group commander's office that he forgot completely
about the discussion of prayer meetings until Colonel Cathcart, in a
genial digression, inquired:
"Would you like to buy some, Chaplain? They come right off the
farm Colonel Korn and I have up in the hills. I can let you have a
bushel wholesale."
"Oh, no, sir; I don't think so."
"That's quite all right," the colonel assured him liberally. "You don't
have to. Milo is glad to snap up all we can produce. These were picked
only yesterday. Notice how firm and ripe they are, like a young girl's
The chaplain blushed, and the colonel understood at once that he
had made a mistake. He lowered his head in shame, his cumbersome
face burning. His fingers felt gross and unwieldy. He hated the chaplain
venomously for being a chaplain and making a coarse blunder out
of an observation that in any other circumstances, he knew, would have
been considered witty and urbane. He tried miserably to recall some
means of extricating them both from their devastating embarrassment.
He recalled instead that the chaplain was only a captain, and he
straightened at once with a shocked and outraged gasp. His cheeks
grew tight with fury at the thought that he had just been duped into
humiliation by a man who was almost the same age as he was and still
only a captain, and he swung upon the chaplain avengingly with a look
of such murderous antagonism that the chaplain began to tremble.
The colonel punished him sadistically with a long, glowering, malignant,
hateful, silent stare.
"We were speaking about something else," he reminded the chaplain
cuttingly at last. "We were not speaking about the firm, ripe
breasts of young girls but about something else entirely. We were
speaking about conducting religious services in the briefing room
before each mission. Is there any reason why we can't?"
"No, sir," the chaplain mumbled.
"Then we'll begin with this afternoon's mission." The colonel's
hostility softened gradually as he applied himself to details. "Now, I
want you to give a lot of thought to the kind of prayers we're going to
say. I don't want anything heavy or sad. I'd like you to keep it light and
snappy, something that will send the boys out feeling pretty good. Do
you know what I mean? I don't want any of this Kingdom of God or
Valley of Death stuff. That's all too negative. What are you making
such a sour face for?"
"I'm sorry, sir," the chaplain stammered. "I happened to be thinking
of the Twenty-third Psalm just as you said that."
"How does that one go?"
"That's the one you were just referring to, sir. 'The Lord is my
shepherd; 1-'"
"That's the one I was just referring to. It's out. What else have you
"'Save me, 0 God; for the waters are come in unto-'"
"No waters," the colonel decided, blowing ruggedly into his cigarette
holder after flipping the butt down into his combed-brass ash
tray. "Why don't we try something musical? How about the harps on
the willows?"
"That has the rivers of Babylon in it, sir," the chaplain replied.
"' ... there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.'''
"Zion? Let's forget about that one right now. I'd like to know how
that one even got in there. Haven't you got anything humorous that
stays away from waters and valleys and God? I'd like to keep away from
the subject of religion altogether if we can."
The chaplain was apologetic. "I'm sorry, sir, but just about all the
prayers I know are rather somber in tone and make at least some passing
reference to God."
"Then let's get some new ones. The men are already doing enough
bitching about the missions I send them on without our rubbing it in
with any sermons about God or death or Paradise. Why can't we take
a more positive approach? Why can't we all pray for something good,
like a tighter bomb pattern, for example? Couldn't we pray for a
tighter bomb pattern?"
"Well, yes, sir, I suppose so," the chaplain answered hesitantly. "You
wouldn't even need me if that's all you wanted to do. You could do that
"I know I could," the colonel responded tartly. "But what do you
think you're here for? I could shop for my own food, too, but that's
Milo's job, and that's why he's doing it for every group in the area. Your
job is to lead us in prayer, and from now on you're going to lead us in
a prayer for a tighter bomb pattern before every mission. Is that clear?
I think a tighter bomb pattern is something really worth praying for. It
will be a feather in all our caps with General Peckem. General Peckem
feels it makes a much nicer aerial photograph when the bombs explode
close together."
"General Peckem, sir?"
"That's right, Chaplain," the colonel replied, chuckling paternally at
the chaplain's look of puzzlement. "I wouldn't want this to get around,
but it looks like General Dreedle is finally on the way out and that
General Peckem is slated to replace him. Frankly, I'm not going to be
sorry to see that happen. General Peckem is a very good man, and I
think we'll be all much better off under him. On the other hand, it
might never take place, and we'd still remain under General Dreedle.
Frankly, I wouldn't be sorry to see that happen either, because General
Dreedle is another very good man, and I think we'll all be much better
off under him too. I hope you're going to keep all this under your
hat, Chaplain. I wouldn't want either one to get the idea I was throwing
my support on the side of the other."
"Yes, sir."
"That's good," the colonel exclaimed, ,and stood up jovially. "But
all this gossip isn't getting us into The Saturday Evening Post, eh,
Chaplain? Let's see what kind of procedure we can evolve. Incidentally,
Chaplain, not a word about this beforehand to Colonel Korn. Understand?"
"Yes, sir."
Colonel Cathcart began tramping back and forth reflectively in the
narrow corridors left between his bushels of plum tomatoes and the
desk and wooden chairs in the center of the room. "I suppose we'll
have to keep you waiting outside until the briefing is over, because all
that information is classified. We can slip you in while Major Danby is
synchronizing the watches. I don't think there's anything secret about
the right time. We'll allocate about a minute and a half for you in the
schedule. Will a minute and a half be enough?"
"Yes, sir. If it doesn't include the time necessary to excuse the atheists
from the room and admit the enlisted men."
Colonel Cathcart stopped in his tracks. "What atheists?" he bellowed
defensively, his whole manner changing in a flash to one of virtuous
and belligerent denial. "There are no atheists in my outfit!
Atheism is against the law, isn't it?"
"No, sir."
"It isn't?" The colonel was surprised. "Then it's un-American, isn't
"I'm not sure, sir," answered the chaplain.
"Well, I am!" the colonel declared. "I'm not going to disrupt our
religious services just to accommodate a bunch of lousy atheists.
They're getting no special privileges from me. They can stay right
where they are and pray with the rest of us. And what's all this about
enlisted men? Just how the hell do they get into this act?"
The chaplain felt his face flush. "I'm sorry, sir. I just assumed you
would want the enlisted men to be present, since they would be going
along on the same mission."
"Well, 1 don't. They've got a God and a chaplain of their own,
haven't they?"
"No, sir."
"What are you talking about? You mean they pray to the same God
we do?"
"Yes, sir."
"And He listens?"
"I think so, sir."
"Well, I'll be damned," remarked the colonel, and he snorted to
himself in quizzical amusement. His spirits drooped suddenly a
moment later, and he ran his hand nervously over his short, black,
graying curls. "Do you really think it's a good idea to let the enlisted
men in?" he asked with concern.
"I should think it only proper, sir."
"I'd like to keep them out," confided the colonel, and began cracking
his knuckles savagely as he wandered back and forth. "Oh, don't get
me wrong, Chaplain. It isn't that 1 think the enlisted men are dirty,
common and inferior. It's that we just don't have enough room.
Frankly, though, I'd just as soon the officers and enlisted men didn't
fraternize in the briefing room. They see enough of each other during
the mission, it seems to me. Some of my very best friends are enlisted
men, you understand, but that's about as close as 1 care to let them
come. Honestly now, Chaplain, you wouldn't want your sister to marry
an enlisted man, would you?"
"My sister is an enlisted man, sir," the chaplain replied.
The colonel stopped in his tracks again and eyed the chaplain
sharply to make certain he was not being ridiculed. "Just what do you
mean by that remark, Chaplain? Are you trying to be funny?"
"Oh, no, sir," the' chaplain hastened to explain with a look of excruciating
discomfort. "She's a master sergeant in the Marines."
The colonel had never liked the chaplain and now he loathed and
distrusted him. He experienced a keen premonition of danger and
wondered if the chaplain too was plotting against him, if the chaplain's
reticent, unimpressive manner was really just a sinister disguise masking
a fiery ambition that, way down deep, was crafty and unscrupulous.
There was something funny about the chaplain, and the colonel soon
detected what it was. The chaplain was standing stiffly at attention, for
the colonel had forgotten to put him at ease. Let him stay that way, the
colonel decided vindictively, just to show him who was boss and to
safeguard himself against any loss of dignity that might devolve from
his acknowledging the omission.
Colonel Cathcart was drawn hypnotically toward the window with a
massive, dull stare of moody introspection. The enlisted men were
. always treacherous, he decided. He looked downward in mournful
gloom at the skeet-shooting range he had ordered built for the officers
on his headquarters staff, and he recalled the mortifying afternoon
General Dreedle had tongue-lashed him ruthlessly in front of Colonel
Korn and Major Danby and ordered him to throw open the range to all
the enlisted men and officers on combat duty. The skeet-shooting range
had been a real black eye for him, Colonel Cathcart was forced to conclude.
He was positive that General Dreedle had never forgotten it,
even though he was positive that General Dreedle didn't even remember
it, which was really very unjust, Colonel Cathcart lamented, since
the idea of a skeet-shooting range itself should have been a real feather
in his cap, even though it had been such a real black eye. Colonel
Cathcart was helpless to assess exactly how much ground he had gained
or lost with his goddam skeet-shooting range and wished that Colonel
Korn were in his office right then to evaluate the entire episode for him
still one more time and assuage his fears.
It was all very perplexing, all very discouraging. Colonel Cathcart
took the cigarette holder out of his mouth, stood it on end inside the
pocket of his shirt, and began gnawing on the fingernails of both hands
grievously. Everybody was against him, and he was sick to his soul that
Colonel Korn was not with him in this moment of crisis to help him
decide what to do about the prayer meetings. He had almost no faith
at all in the chaplain, who was still only a captain. "Do you think," he
asked, "that keeping the enlisted men out might interfere with our
chances of getting results?"
The chaplain hesitated, feeling himself on unfamiliar ground again.
"Yes, sir," he replied finally. "I think it's conceivable that such an action
could interfere with your chances of having the prayers for a tighter
bomb pattern answered."
"I wasn't even thinking about that!" cried the colonel, with his eyes
blinking and splashing like puddles. "You mean that God might even
decide to punish me by giving us a looser bomb pattern?"
"Yes, sir," said the chaplain. "It's conceivable He might."
"The hell with it, then," the colonel asserted in a huff of independence.
"I'm not going to set these damned prayer meetings up just to
make things worse than they are." With a scornful snicker, he settled
himself behind his desk, replaced the empty cigarette holder in his
mouth and lapsed into parturient silence for a few moments. "Now that
I think about it," he confessed, as much to himself as to the chaplain,
"having the men pray to God probably wasn't such a hot idea anyway.
The editors of The Saturday Evening Post might not have cooperated."
The colonel abandoned his project with remorse, for he had conceived
it entirely on his own and had hoped to unveil it as a striking
demonstration to everyone that he had no real need for Colonel Korn.
Once it was gone, he was glad to be rid of it, for he had been troubled
from the start by the danger of instituting the plan without first checking
it out with Colonel Korn. He heaved an immense sigh of contentment.
He had a much higher opinion of himself now that his idea was
abandoned, for he had made a very wise decision, he felt, and, most
important, he had made this wise decision 'Without consulting Colonel
"Will that be all, sir?" asked the chaplain.
"Yeah," said Colonel Cathcart. "Unless you've got something else to
"No, sir. Only ... "
The colonel lifted his eyes as though affronted and studied the
chaplain with aloof distrust. "Only what, Chaplain?"
"Sir," said the chaplain, "some of the men are very upset since you
raised the number of missions to sixty. They've asked me to speak to
you about it."
The colonel was silent. The chaplain's face reddened to the roots of
his sandy hair as he waited. The colonel kept him squirming a long
time with a fixed, uninterested look devoid of all emotion.
"Tell them there's a war going on," he advised finally in a flat voice.
"Thank you, sir, I will," the chaplain replied in a flood of gratitude
because the colonel had finally said something. "They were wondering
why you couldn't requisition some of the replacement crews that are
waiting in Africa to take their places and then let them go home."
"That's an administrative matter," the colonel said. "It's none of
their business." He pointed languidly toward the wall. "Help yourself
to a plum tomato, Chaplain. Go ahead, it's on me."
"Thank you, sir. Sir-"
"Don't mention it. How do you like living out there in the woods,
Chaplain? Is everything hunky-dory?"
"Yes, sir."
"That's good. You get in touch with us if you need anything."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Sir-"
"Thanks for dropping around, Chaplain. I've got some work to do
now. You'll let me know if you can think of anything for getting our
names into The Saturday Evening Post, won't you?"
"Yes, sir, I will." The chaplain braced himself with a prodigious
effort of the will and plunged ahead brazenly. "I'm particularly concerned
about the condition of one of the bombardiers, sir. Yossarian."
The colonel glanced up quickly with a start of vague recognition.
"Who?" he asked in alarm.
"Yossarian, sir."
"Yes, sir. Yossarian. He's in a very bad way, sir. I'm afraid he won't
be able to suffer much longer without doing something desperate."
"Is that a fact, Chaplain?"
"Yes, sir. I'm afraid it is."
The colonel thought about it in heavy silence for a few moments.
"Tell him to trust in God," he advised finally.
"Thank you, sir," said the chaplain. "I will."

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:09 pm
by admin
20. Corporal Whitcomb

The late-August morning sun was hot and steamy, and there was no
breeze on the balcony. The chaplain moved slowly. He was downcast
and burdened with self-reproach when he stepped without noise from
the colonel's office on his rubber-soled and rubber-heeled brown
shoes. He hated himself for what he construed to be his own cowardice.
He had intended to take a much stronger stand with Colonel
Cathcart on the matter of the sixty missions, to speak out with courage,
logic and eloquence on a subject about which he had begun to feel very
deeply. Instead he had failed miserably, had choked up once again in
the face of opposition from a stronger personality. It was a familiar,
ignominious experience, and his opinion of himself was low.
He choked up even more a second later when he spied Colonel
Korn's tubby monochrome figure trotting up the curved, wide, yellow
stone staircase toward him in lackadaisical haste from the great dilapidated
lobby below with its lofty walls of cracked dark marble and circular
floor of cracked grimy tile. The chaplain was even more frightened
of Colonel Korn than he was of Colonel Cathcart. The swarthy,
middle-aged lieutenant colonel with the rimless, icy glasses and faceted,
bald, domelike pate that he was always touching sensitively with the tips
of his splayed fingers disliked the chaplain and was impolite to him frequently.
He kept the chaplain in a constant state of terror with his curt,
derisive tongue and his knowing, cynical eyes that the chaplain was
never brave enough to meet for more than an accidental second.
Inevitably, the chaplain's attention, as he cowered meekly before him,
focused on Colonel Korn's midriff, where the shirttails bunching up
from inside his sagging belt and ballooning down over his waist gave
him an appearance of slovenly girth and made him seem inches shorter
than his middle height. Colonel Korn was an untidy disdainful man
with an oily skin and deep, hard lines running almost straight down
from his nose between his crepuscular jowls and his square, clefted chin.
His face was dour, and he glanced at the chaplain without recognition
as the two drew close on the staircase and prepared to pass.
"Hiya, Father," he said tonelessly without looking at the chaplain.
"How's it going?"
"Good morning, sir," the chaplain replied, discerning wisely that
Colonel Korn expected nothing more in the way of a response.
Colonel Korn was proceeding up the stairs without slackening his
pace, and the chaplain resisted the temptation to remind him again
that he was not a Catholic but an Anabaptist, and that it was therefore
neither necessary nor correct to address him as Father. He was almost
certain now that Colonel Korn remembered and that calling him
Father with a look of such bland innocence was just another one
of Colonel Korn's methods of taunting him because he was only an
Colonel Korn halted without warning when he was almost by and
came whirling back down upon the chaplain with a glare of infuriated
suspicion. The chaplain was petrified.
"What are you doing with that plum tomato, Chaplain?" Colonel
Korn demanded roughly.
The chaplain looked down his arm with surprise at the plum tomato
Colonel Cathcart had invited him to take. "I got it in Colonel
Cathcart's office, sir," he managed to reply.
"Does the colonel know you took it?"
"Yes, sir. He gave it to me."
"Oh, in that case I guess it's okay," Colonel Korn said, mollified. He
smiled without warmth, jabbing the crumpled folds of his shirt back
down inside his trousers with his thumbs. His eyes glinted keenly with
a private and satisfying mischief. "What did Colonel Cathcart want to
see you about, Father?" he asked suddenly.
The chaplain was tongue-tied with indecision for a moment. "I
don't think I ought-"
"Saying prayers to the editors of The Saturday Evening Post?"
The chaplain almost smiled. "Yes, sir."
Colonel Korn was enchanted with his own intuition. He laughed
disparagingly. "You know, I was afraid he'd begin thinking about something
so ridiculous as soon as he saw this week's Saturday Evening Post.
I hope you succeeded in showing him what an atrocious idea it is."
"He has decided against it, sir."
"That's good. I'm glad you convinced him that the editors of The
Saturday Evening Post were not likely to run that same story twice just
to give some publicity to some obscure colonel. How are things in the
wilderness, Father? Are you able to manage out there?"
"Yes, sir. Everything is working out."
"That's good. I'm happy to hear you have nothing to complain
about. Let us know if you need anything to make you comfortable. We
all want you to have a good time out there."
"Thank you, sir. I will."
Noise of a growing stir rose from the lobby below. It was almost
lunchtime, and the earliest arrivals were drifting into the headquarters
mess halls, the enlisted men and officers separating into different dining
halls on facing sides of the archaic rotunda. Colonel Korn stopped
"You had lunch with us here just a day or so ago, didn't you, Father?"
he asked meaningfully.
"Yes, sir. The day before yesterday."
"That's what I thought," Colonel Korn said, and paused to let his
point sink in. "Well, take it easy, Father. I'll see you around when it's
time for you to eat here again."
"Thank you, sir."
The chaplain was not certain at which of the five officers' and five
enlisted men's mess hall~ he was scheduled to have lunch that day, for
the system of rotation worked out for him by Colonel Korn was complicated,
and he had forgotten his records back in his tent. The chaplain
was the only officer attached to Group Headquarters who did not
reside in the moldering red stone Group Headquarters building itself
or in any of the smaller satellite structures that rose about the grounds
in disjuncted relationship. The chaplain lived in a clearing in the
woods about four miles away between the officers' club and the first of
the four squadron areas that stretched away from Group Headquarters
in a distant line. The chaplain lived alone in a spacious, square tent that
was also his office. Sounds of revelry traveled to him at night from the
officers' club and kept him awake often as he turned and tossed on his
cot in passive, half-voluntary exile. He was not able to gauge the effect
of the mild pills he took occasionally to help him sleep and felt guilty
about for days afterward.
The only one who lived with the chaplain in his clearing in the
woods was Corporal Whitcomb, his assistant. Corporal Whitcomb, an
atheist, was a disgruntled subordinate who felt he could do the chaplain's
job much better than the chaplain was doing it and viewed himself,
therefore, as an underprivileged victim of social inequity. He lived
in a tent of his own as spacious and square as the chaplain's. He was
openly rude and contemptuous to the chaplain once he discovered that
the chaplain would let him get away with it. The borders of the two
tents in the clearing stood no more than four or five feet apart.
It was Colonel Korn who had mapped out this way of life for the
chaplain. One good reason for making the chaplain live outside the
Group Headquarters building was Colonel Korn's theory that dwelling
in a tent as most of his parishioners did would bring him into closer
communication with them. Another good reason was the fact that having
the chaplain around Headquarters all the time made the other officers
uncomfortable. It was one thing to maintain liaison with the Lord,
and they were all in favor of that; it was something else, though,
to have Him hanging around twenty-four hours a day. All in all, as
Colonel Korn described it to Major Danby, the jittery and goggle-eyed
group operations officer, the chaplain had it pretty soft; he had little
more to do than listen to the troubles of others, bury the dead, visit the
bedridden and conduct religious services. And there were not so many
dead for him to bury any more, Colonel Korn pointed out, since opposition
from German fighter planes had virtually ceased and since close
to ninety per cent of what fatalities there still were, he estimated, perished
behind the enemy lines or disappeared inside clouds, where the
chaplain had nothing to do with disposing of the remains. The religious
services were certainly no great strain, either, since they were
conducted only once a week at the Group Headquarters building and
were attended by very few of the men.
Actually, the chaplain was learning to love it in his clearing in the
woods. Both he and Corporal Whitcomb had been provided with
every convenience so that neither might ever plead discomfort as a
basis for seeking permission to return to the Headquarters building.
The chaplain rotated his breakfasts, lunches and dinners in separate
sets among the eight squadron mess halls and ate every fifth meal in
the enlisted men's mess at Group Headquarters and every tenth meal
at the officers' mess there. Back home in Wisconsin the chaplain had
been very fond of gardening, and his heart welled with a glorious
impression of fertility and fruition each time he contemplated the low,
prickly boughs of the stunted trees and the waist-high weeds and thickets
by which he was almost walled in. In the spring he had longed to
plant begonias and zinnias in a narrow bed around his tent but he had
been deterred by his fear of Corporal Whitcomb's rancor. The chaplain
relished the privacy and isolation of his verdant surroundings and
the reveries and meditation that living there fostered. Fewer people
came to him with their troubles than formerly, and he allowed himself
a measure of gratitude for that too. The chaplain did not mix freely and
was not comfortable in conversation. He missed his wife and his three
small children, and she missed him.
What displeased Corporal Whitcomb most about the chaplain,
apart from the fact that the chaplain believed in God, was his lack of
initiative and aggressiveness. Corporal Whitcomb regarded the low
attendance at religious services as a sad reflection of his own status. His
mind germinated feverishly with challenging new ideas for sparking
the great spiritual revival of which he dreamed himself the architect box
lunches, church socials, form letters to the families of men killed
and injured in combat, censorship, Bingo. But the chaplain blocked
him. Corporal Whitcomb bridled with vexation beneath the chaplain's
restraint, for he spied room for improvement everywhere. It was people
like the chaplain, he concluded, who were responsible for giving
religion such a bad name and making pariahs out of them both. Unlike
the chaplain, Corporal Whitcomb detested the seclusion of the clearing
in the woods. One of the first things he intended to do after he
deposed the chaplain was move back into the Group Headquarters
,building, where he could be right in the thick of things.
When the chaplain drove back into the clearing after leaving Colonel
Korn, Corporal Whitcomb was outside in the muggy haze talking
in conspiratorial tones to a strange chubby man in a maroon corduroy
bathrobe and gray flannel pajamas. The chaplain recognized the bathrobe
and pajamas as official hospital attire. Neither of the two men gave
him any sign of recognition. The stranger's gums had been painted
purple; his corduroy bathrobe was decorated in back with a picture of
a B-25 nosing 'through orange bursts of flak and in front with six neat
rows of tiny bombs signifying sixty combat missions flown. The chaplain
was so struck by the sight that he stopped to stare. Both men broke
off their conversation and waited in stony silence for him to go. The
chaplain hurried inside his tent. He heard, or imagined he heard, them
Corporal Whitcomb walked in a moment later and demanded,
"What's doing?"
"There isn't anything new," the chaplain replied with averted eyes.
"Was anyone here to see me?"
"Just that crackpot Yossarian again. He's a real troublemaker, isn't
"I'm not so sure he's a crackpot," the chaplain observed.
"That's right, take his part," said Corporal Whitcomb in an injured
tone, and stamped out.
The chaplain could not believe that Corporal Whitcomb was offended
again and had really walked out. As soon as he did realize it,
Corporal Whitcomb walked back in.
"You always side with other people," Corporal Whitcomb accused.
"You don't back up your men. That's one of the things that's wrong
with you."
"I didn't intend to side with him," the chaplain apologized. "I was
just making a statement."
"What did Colonel Cathcart want?"
"It wasn't anything important. He just wanted to discuss the possibility
of saying prayers in the briefing room before each mission."
"All right, don't tell me," Corporal Whitcomb snapped and walked
out again.
The chaplain felt terrible. No matter how considerate he tried to be,
it seemed he always managed to hurt Corporal Whitcomb's feelings.
He gazed down remorsefully and saw that the orderly forced upon him
by Colonel Korn to keep his tent clean and attend to his belongings
had neglected to shine his shoes again.
Corporal Whitcomb came back in. "You never trust me with information,"
he whined truculently. "You don't have confidence in your
men. That's another one of the things that's wrong with you."
"Yes, I do," the chaplain assured him guiltily. "I have lots of confidence
in you."
"Then how about those letters?"
"No, not now," the chaplain pleaded, cringing. "Not the letters.
Please don't bring that up again. I'll let you know if I have a change of
Corporal Whitcomb looked furious. "Is that so? Well, it's all right
for you to just sit there and shake your head while I do all the work.
Didn't you see that guy outside with all those pictures painted on his
"Is he here to see me?"
"No," Corporal Whitcomb said, and walked out.
It was hot and humid inside the tent, and the chaplain felt himself
turning damp. He listened like an unwilling eavesdropper to the muffled,
indistinguishable drone of the lowered voices outside. As he sat
inertly at the rickety bridge table that served as a desk, his lips were
closed, his eyes were blank, and his face, with its pale ochre hue and
ancient, confined clusters of minute acne pits, had the color and texture
of an uncracked almond shell. He racked his memory far same
clue to the origin of Corporal Whitcomb's bitterness toward him. In
same way he was unable to fathom, he was convinced he had done him
same unforgivable wrong. It seemed incredible that such lasting ire as
Corporal Whitcomb's could have stemmed from his rejection of Bingo
or the farm letters home to the families of the men killed in combat.
The chaplain was despondent with an acceptance of his own ineptitude.
He had intended for some weeks to have a heart-to-heart talk
with Corporal Whitcomb in order to find out what was bothering him,
but was already ashamed of what he might find out.
Outside the tent, Corporal Whitcomb snickered. The other man
chuckled. For a few precarious seconds, the chaplain tingled with a weird,
occult sensation of having experienced the identical situation before in
same prior time or existence. He endeavored to trap and nourish the
impression in order to predict, and perhaps even control, what incident
would occur next, but the afflatus melted away unproductively, as he had
known beforehand it would. Deja vu. The subtle, recurring confusion
between illusion and reality that was characteristic of paramnesia fascinated
the chaplain, and he knew a number of things about it. He knew,
far example, that it was called paramnesia, and he was interested as well
in such corollary optical phenomena as jamais vu, never seen, and presque
vu, almost seen. There were terrifying, sudden moments when objects,
concepts and even people that the chaplain had lived with almost all his
life inexplicably took an an unfamiliar and irregular aspect that he had
never seen before and which made them seem totally strange: jamais vu.
And there were other moments when he almost saw absolute truth in
brilliant flashes of clarity that almost came to him: presque vu. The episode
of the naked man in the tree at Snowden's funeral mystified him thoroughly.
It was not deja vu, for at the time he had experienced no sensation
of ever having seen a naked man in a tree at Snowden's funeral before. It
was not jamais vu, since the apparition was not of someone, or something,
familiar appearing to him in an unfamiliar guise. And it was certainly oat
presque vu, far the chaplain did see him.

A jeep started up with a backfire directly outside and roared away.
Had the naked man in the tree at Snowden's funeral been merely a hallucination?
Or had it been a true revelation? The chaplain trembled at
the mere idea. He wanted desperately to confide in Yossarian, but each
time he thought about the occurrence he decided not to think about it
any further, although now that he did think about it he could not be
sure that he ever really had thought about it.
Corporal Whitcomb sauntered back in wearing a shiny new smirk
and leaned his elbow impertinently against the center pole of the chaplain's
"Do you know who that guy in the red bathrobe was?" he asked
boastfully. "That was a C.I.D. man with a fractured nose. He came
down here from the hospital on official business. He's conducting an
investigation. "
The chaplain raised his eyes quickly in obsequious commiseration.
"I hope you're not in any trouble. Is there anything I can do?"
"No, I'm not in any trouble," Corporal Whitcomb replied with a
grin. "You are. They're going to crack down on you for signing Washington
Irving's name to all those letters you've been signing Washington
Irving's name to. How do you like that?"
"I haven't been signing Washington Irving's name to any letters,"
said the chaplain.
"You don't have to lie to me," Corporal Whitcomb answered. "I'm
not the one you have to convince."
"But I'm not lying."
"I don't care whether you're lying or not. They're going to get you
for intercepting Major Major's correspondence, too. A lot of that stuff
is classified information."
"What correspondence?" asked the chaplain plaintively in rising
exasperation. "I've never seen any of Major Major's correspondence."
"You don't have to lie to me," Corporal Whitcomb replied. "I'm not
the one you have to convince."
"But I'm not lying!" protested the chaplain.
"I don't see why you have to shout at me," Corporal Whitcomb
retorted with an injured look. He came away from the center pole and
shook his finger at the chaplain for emphasis. "I just did you the
biggest favor anybody ever did you in your whole life, and you don't
even realize it. Every time he tries to report you to his superiors, somebody
up at the hospital censors out the details. He's been going batty
for weeks trying to turn you in. I just put a censor's okay on his letter
without even reading it. That will make a very good impression for you
up at C.I.D. headquarters. It will let them know that we're not the least
bit afraid to have the whole truth about you come out."
The chaplain was reeling with confusion. "But you aren't authorized
to censor letters, are you?"
"Of course not," Corporal Whitcomb answered. "Only officers are
ever authorized to do that. I censored it in your name."
"But I'm not authorized to censor letters either. Am I?"
"I took care of that for you, too," Corporal Whitcomb assured him.
"I signed somebody else's name for you."
"Isn't that forgery?"
"Oh, don't worry about that either. The only one who might complain
in a case of forgery is the person whose name you forged, and
I looked out for your interests by picking a dead man. I used
Washington Irving's name." Corporal Whitcomb scrutinized the chaplain's
face closely for some sign of rebellion and then breezed ahead
confidently with concealed irony. "That was pretty quick thinking on
my part, wasn't it?"
"I don't know," the chaplain wailed softly in a quavering voice,
squinting with grotesque contortions of anguish and incomprehension.
"I don't think I understand all you've been telling me. How will it
make a good impression for me if you signed Washington Irving's
name instead of my own?"
"Because they're convinced that you are Washington Irving. Don't
you see? They'll know it was you."
"But isn't that the very belief we want to dispel? Won't this help
them prove it?"
"If I thought you were going to be so stuffy about it, I wouldn't even
have tried to help," Corporal Whitcomb declared indignantly, and
walked out. A second later 1;lewalked back in. "I just did you the
biggest favor anybody ever did you in your whole life and you don't
even know it. You don't know how to show your appreciation. That's
another one of the things that's wrong with you."
"I'm sorry," the chaplain apologized contritely. "I really am sorry.
It's just that I'm so completely stunned by all you're telling me that I
don't even realize what I'm saying. I'm really very grateful to you."
"Then how about letting me send out those form letters?" Corporal
Whitcomb demanded immediately. "Can I begin working on the first
The chaplain's jaw dropped in astonishment. "No, no," he groaned.
"Not now."
Corporal Whitcomb was incensed. "I'm the best friend you've got
and you don't even know it," he asserted belligerently, and walked out
of the chaplain's tent. He walked back in. "I'm on your side and you
don't even realize it. Don't you know what serious trouble you're in?
That C.I.D. man has gone rushing back to the hospital to write a
brand-new report on you about that tomato."
"What tomato?" the chaplain asked, blinking.
"The plum tomato you were hiding in your hand when you first
showed up here. There it is. The tomato you're still holding in your
hand right this very minute!"
The chaplain unclenched his fingers with surprise and saw that
he was still holding the plum tomato he had obtained in Colonel
Cathcart's office. He set it down quickly on the bridge table. "I got this
tomato from Colonel Cathcart," he said, and was struck by how ludicrous
his explanation sounded. "He insisted 1 take it."
"You don't have to lie to me," Corporal Whitcomb answered. "I
don't care whether you stole it from him or not."
"Stole it?" the chaplain exclaimed with amazement. "Why should 1
want to steal a plum tomato?"
"That's exactly what had us both stumped," said Corporal Whitcomb.
"And then the C.I.D. man figured out you might have some
important secret papers hidden away inside it."
The chaplain sagged limply beneath the mountainous weight of his
despair. "I don't have any important secret papers hidden away inside
it," he stated simply. "I didn't even want it to begin with. Here, you can
have it. Take it and see for yourself."
"I don't want it."
"Please take it away," the chaplain pleaded in a voice that was barely
audible. "I want to be rid of it."
"I don't want it," Corporal Whitcomb snapped again, and stalked
out with an angry face, suppressing a smile of great jubilation at having
forged a powerful new ,alliance with the C.I.D. man and at having
succeeded again in convincing the chaplain that he was really displeased.
Poor Whitcomb, sighed the chaplain, and blamed himself for his
assistant's malaise. He sat mutely in a ponderous, stultifying melancholy,
waiting expectantly for Corporal Whitcomb to walk back in. He
was disappointed as he heard the peremptory crunch of Corporal
Whitcomb's footsteps recede into silence. There was nothing he
wanted to do next. He decided to pass up lunch for a Milky Way and a
Baby Ruth from his foot locker and a few swallows of lukewarm water
from his canteen. He felt himself surrounded by dense, overwhelming
fogs of possibilities in which he could perceive no glimmer of light. He
dreaded what Colonel Cathcart would think when the news that he
was suspected of being Washington Irving was brought to him, then
fell to fretting over what Colonel Cathcart was already thinking about
him for even having broached the subject of the sixty missions. There
was so much unhappiness in the world, he reflected, bowing his head
dismally beneath the tragic thought, and there was nothing he could
do about anybody's, least of all his own.

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:09 pm
by admin
21. General Dreedle

Colonel Cathcart was not thinking anything at all about the chaplain,
but was tangled up in a brand-new, menacing problem of his own:
Yossarian! The mere sound of that execrable, ugly name made his
blood run cold and his breath come in labored gasps. The chaplain's
first mention of the name Yossarian! had tolled deep in his memory like
a portentous gong. As soon as the latch of the door had clicked shut,
the whole humiliating recollection of the naked man in formation
came cascading down upon him in a mortifying, choking flood of
stinging details. He began to perspire and tremble. There was a sinister
and unlikely coincidence exposed that was too diabolical in implication
to be anything less than the most hideous of omens. The name
of the man who had stood naked in ranks that day to receive his
Distinguished Flying Cross from General Dreedle had also been --
Yossarian! And now it was a man named Yossarian who was threatening
to make trouble over the sixty missions he had just ordered the men in
his group to fly. Colonel Cathcart wondered gloomily if it was the
same Yossarian.
He climbed to his feet with an air of intolerable woe and began
moving about his office. He felt himself in the presence of the mysterious.
The naked man in formation, he conceded cheerlessly, had been
a real black eye for him. So had the tampering with the bomb line
before the mission to Bologna and the seven-day delay in destroying
the bridge at Ferrara, even though destroying the bridge at Ferrara
finally, he remembered with glee, had been a real feather in his cap,
although losing a plane there the second time around, he recalled in
dejection, had been another black eye, even though he had won another
real feather in his cap by getting a medal approved for the
bombardier who had gotten him the real black eye in the first place
by going around over the target twice. That bombardier's name, he
remembered suddenly with another stupefying shock, had also been
Yossarian! Now there were three! His viscous eyes bulged with astonishment and he whipped himself around in alarm to see what was taking
place behind him. A moment ago there had been no Yossarians in
his life; now they were multiplying like hobgoblins. He tried to make
himself grow calm. Yossarian was not a common name; perhaps there
were not really three Yossarians but only two Yossarians, or maybe
even only one Yossarian -- but that really made no difference! The colonel
was still in grave peril. Intuition warned him that he was drawing close
to some immense and inscrutable cosmic climax, and his broad, meaty,
towering frame tingled from head to toe at the thought that Yossarian,
whoever he would eventually turn out to be, was destined to serve as
his nemesis.
Colonel Cathcart was not superstitious, but he did believe in omens
and he sat right back down behind his desk and made a cryptic notation
on his memorandum pad to look into the whole suspicious business of
the Yossarians right away. He wrote his reminder to himself in a heavy
and decisive hand, amplifying it sharply with a series of coded punctuation
marks and underlining the whole message twice, so that it read:


The colonel sat back when he had finished and was extremely
pleased with himself for the prompt action he had just taken to meet
this sinister crisis. Yossarian -- the very sight of the name made him
shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It
was like the word subversive itself. It was like seditious and insidious too,
and like socialist, suspicious, fascist and Communist. It was an odious, alien,
distasteful name, a name that just did not inspire confidence. It was not
at all like such clean, crisp, honest, American names as Cathcart,
Peckem and Dreedle.
Colonel Cathcart rose slowly and began drifting about his office
again. Almost unconsciously, he picked up a plum tomato from the top ,
of one of the bushels and took a voracious bite. He made a wry face at
once and threw the rest of the plum tomato into his wastebasket. The
colonel did not like plum tomatoes, not even when they were his own,
and these were not even his own. These had been purchased in different
market places all over Pianosa by Colonel Korn under various
identities, moved up to the colonel's farmhouse in the hills in the dead
of night, and transported down to Group Headquarters the next morning
for sale to Milo, who paid Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn premium
prices for them. Colonel Cathcart often wondered if what they
were doing with the plum tomatoes was legal, but Colonel Korn said
it was, and he tried not to brood about it too often. He had no way of
knowing whether or not the house in the hills was legal, either, since
Colonel Korn had made all the arrangements. Colonel Cathcart did
not know if he owned the house or rented it, from whom he had
acquired it or how much, if anything, it was costing. Colonel Korn was
the lawyer, and if Colonel Korn assured him that fraud, extortion, currency
manipulation, embezzlement, income tax evasion and black-market
speculations were legal, Colonel Cathcart was in no position to
disagree with him.
All Colonel Cathcart knew about his house in the hills was that he
had such a house and hated it. He was never so bored as when spending
there the two or three days every other week necessary to sustain
the illusion that his damp and drafty stone farmhouse in the hills was a
golden palace of carnal delights. Officers' clubs everywhere pulsated
with blurred but knowing accounts of lavish, hushed-up drinking and
sex orgies there and of secret, intimate nights of ecstasy with the most
beautiful, the most tantalizing, the most readily aroused and most easily
satisfied Italian courtesans, film actresses, models and countesses.
o such private nights of ecstasy or hushed-up drinking and sex orgies
ever occurred. They might have occurred if either General Dreedle or
General Peckem had once evinced an interest in taking part in orgies
with him, but neither ever did, and the colonel was certainly not going
to waste his time and energy making love to beautiful women unless
there was something in it for him.
The coloI1eldreaded his dank lonely nights at his farmhouse and the
dull, uneventful days. He had much more fun back at Group, browbeating
everyone he wasn't afraid of. However, as Colonel Korn kept reminding
him, there was not much glamour in having a farmhouse in the hills
if he never used it. He drove off to his farmhouse each time in a mood of
self-pity. He carried a shotgun in his jeep and spent the monotonous
hours there shooting it at birds and at the plum tomatoes that did grow
there in untended rows and were too much trouble to harvest.
Among those officers of inferior rank toward whom Colonel Cathcart
still deemed it prudent to show respect, he included Major -- de
Coverley, even though he did not want to and was not sure he even had
to. Major -- de Coverley was as great a mystery to him as he was to
Major Major and to everyone else who ever took notice of him.
Colonel Cathcart had no idea whether to look up or look down in his
attitude toward Major -- de Coverley. Major -- de Coverley was
only a major, even though he was ages older than Colonel Cathcart; at
the same time, so many other people treated Major -- de Coverley
with such profound and fearful veneration that Colonel Cathcart had a
hunch they might all know something. Major -- de Coverley was an
ominous, incomprehensible presence who kept him constantly on edge
and of whom even Colonel Korn tended to be wary. Everyone was
afraid of him, and no one knew why. No one even knew Major -- de
Coverley's first name, because no one had ever had the temerity to ask
him. Colonel Cathcart knew that Major -- de Coverley was away
and he rejoiced in his absence until it occurred to him that Major --
de Coverley might be away somewhere conspiring against him, and
then he wished that Major -- de Coverley were back in his squadron
where he belonged so that he could be watched.
In a little while Colonel Cathcart's arches began to ache from pacing
back and forth so much. He sat down behind his desk again and
resolved to embark upon a mature and systematic evaluation of the
entire military situation. With the businesslike air of a man who knows
how to get things done, he found a large white pad, drew a straight line
down the middle and crossed it near the top, dividing the page into two
blank columns of equal width. He rested a moment in critical rumination.
Then he huddled over his desk, and at the head of the left column,
in a cramped and finicky hand, he wrote,. "Black Eyes!!!" At the
top of the right column he wrote, "Feathers in My Cap!!!!!" He leaned
back once more to inspect his chart admiringly from an objective
perspective. After a few seconds of solemn deliberation, he licked the
tip of his pencil carefully and wrote under "Black Eyes!!!," after intent
Bologna (bomb line moved on map during)
Skeet range
Naked man in formation (after Avignon)
Then he added:
Food poisoning (during Bologna)
Moaning (epidemic of during Avignon briefing)
Then he added:
Chaplain (banging around officers' club every night)
He decided to be charitable about the chaplain, even though he did
not like him, and under "Feathers in My Cap!!!!!" he wrote:
Chaplain (hanging around officers' club every night)
The two chaplain entries, therefore, neutralized each other. Alongside
"Ferrara" and "Naked man in formation (after Avignon)" he then
Alongside "Bologna (bomb line moved on map during)" "Food poisoning
(during Bologna)" and "Moaning (epidemic of during Avignon briefing)" he
wrote in a bold, decisive hand:


Those entries labeled "?" were the ones he wanted to investigate
immediately to determine if Yossarian had played any part in them.
Suddenly his arm began to shake, and he was unable to write any
more. He rose to his feet in terror, feeling sticky and fat, and rushed to
the open window to gulp in fresh air. His gaze fell on the skeet range,
and he reeled away with a sharp cry of distress, his wild and feverish
eyes scanning the walls of his office frantically as though they ~ere
swarming with Yossarians.
Nobody loved him. General Dreedle hated him, although General
Peckem liked him, although he couldn't be sure, since Colonel Cargill,
General Peckem's aide, undoubtedly had ambitions of his own and was
probably sabotaging him with General Peckem at every opportunity.
The only good colonel, he decided, was a dead colonel, except for himself.
The only colonel he trusted was Colonel Moodus, and even he had
an in with his father-in-law. Milo, of course, had been the big feather
in his cap, although having his group bombed by Milo's planes had
probably been a terrible black eye for him, even though Milo had ultimately
stilled all protest in disclosing the huge net profit the syndicate
had realized on the deal with the enemy and convincing everyone that
bombing his own men and planes had therefore really been a commendable
and very lucrative blow on the side of private enterprise.
The colonel was insecure about Milo because other colonels were trying
to lure him away, and Colonel Cathcart still had that lousy Big
Chief White Halfoat in his group who that lousy, lazy Captain Black
claimed was the one really responsible for the bomb line's being moved
during the Big Siege of Bologna. Colonel Cathcart liked Big Chief
White Halfoat because Big Chief White Halfoat kept punching that
lousy Colonel Moodus in the nose every time he got drunk and
Colonel Moodus was around. He wished that Big Chief White Halfoat
would begin punching Colonel Korn in his fat face, too. Colonel Korn
was a lousy smart aleck. Someone at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters
had it in for him and sent back every report he wrote with a
blistering rebuke, and Colonel Korn had bribed a clever mail clerk
there named Wintergreen to try to find out who it was. Losing that
plane over Ferrara the second time around had not done him any good,
he had to admit, and neither had having that other plane disappear
inside that cloud-that was one he hadn't even written down! He tried to
recall, longingly, if Yossarian had been lost in that plane in the cloud
and realized that Yossarian could not possibly have been lost in that
plane in the cloud if he was still around now raising such a big stink
about having to fly a lousy five missions more.
Maybe sixty missions were too many for the men to fly, Colonel
Cathcart reasoned, if Yossarian objected to flying them, but he then
remembered that forcing his men to fly more missions than everyone
else was the most tangible achievement he had going for him. As
Colonel Korn often remarked, the war was crawling with group commanders
who were merely doing their duty, and it required just some
sort of dramatic gesture like making his group fly more combat missions
than any other bomber group to spotlight his unique qualities of
leadership. Certainly none of the generals seemed to object to what he
was doing, although as far as he could detect they weren't particularly
impressed either, which made him suspect that perhaps sixty combat
missions were not nearly enough and that he ought to increase the
number at once to seventy, eighty, a hundred, or even two hundred,
three hundred, or six thousand!
Certainly he would be much better off under somebody suave like
General Peckem than he was under somebody boorish and insensitive
like General Dreedle, because General Peckem had the discernment,
the intelligence and the Ivy League background to appreciate and
enjoy him at his full value, although General Peckem had never given
the slightest indication that he appreciated or enjoyed him at all.
Colonel Cathcart felt perceptive enough to realize that visible signals
of recognition were never necessary between sophisticated, self-assured
people like himself and General Peckem who could warm Ito
each other from a distance with innate mutual understanding. It was
enough that they were of like kind, and he knew it was only a matter
of waiting discreetly for preferment until the right time, although it
rotted Colonel Cathcart's self-esteem to observe that General Peckem
never deliberately sought him out and that he labored no harder to
impress Colonel Cathcart with his epigrams and erudition than he did
to impress anyone else in earshot, even enlisted men. Either Colonel
Cathcart wasn't getting through to General Peckem or General
Peckem was not the scintillating, discriminating, intellectual, forward-looking
personality he pretended to be and it was really General
Dreedle who was sensitive, charming, brilliant and sophisticated and
under whom he would certainly be much better off, and suddenly
Colonel Cathcart had absolutely no conception of how strongly he
stood with anyone and began banging on his buzzer with his fist for
Colonel Korn to come running into his office and assure him that
everybody loved him, that Yossarian was a figment of his imagination,
and that he was making wonderful progress in the splendid and valiant
campaign he was waging to become a general.
Actually, Colonel Cathcart did not have a chance in hell of becoming
a general. For one thing, there was ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, who
also wanted to be a general and who always distorted, destroyed,
rejected or misdirected any correspondence by, for or about Colonel
Cathcart that might do him credit. For another, there already was a
general, General Dreedle, who knew that General Peckem was after
his job but did not know how to stop him.
General Dreedle, the wing commander, was a blunt, chunky, barrel-chested
man in his early fifties. His nose was squat and red, and he had
lumpy white, bunched-up eyelids circling his small gray eyes like haloes
of bacon fat. He had a nurse and a son-in-law, and he was prone to long,
ponderous silences when he had not been drinking too much. General
Dreedle had wasted too much of his time in the Army doing his job well,
and now it was too late. New power alignments had coalesced without
him and he was at a loss to cope with them. At unguarded moments his
hard and sullen face slipped into a somber, preoccupied look of defeat
and frustration. General Dreedle drank a great deal. His moods were
arbitrary and unpredictable. "War is hell," he declared frequently, drunk
or sober, and he really meant it, although that did not prevent him from
making a good living out of it or from taking his son-in-law into the
business with him, even though the two bickered constantly.
"That bastard," General Dreedle would complain about his son-in-law
with a contemptuous grunt to anyone who happened to be standing
beside him at the curve of the bar of me officers' club. "Everything
he's got he owes to me. I made him, that lousy son of a bitch! He hasn't
got brains enough to get ahead on his own."
"He thinks he knows everything," Colonel Moodus would retort in
a sulking tone to his own audience at the other end of the bar. "He
can't take criticism and he won't listen to advice."
"All he can do is give advice," General Dreedle would observe with
a rasping snort. "If it wasn't for me, he'd still be a corporal."
General Dreedle was always accompanied by both Colonel Moodus
and his nurse, who was as delectable a piece of ass as anyone who saw
her had ever laid eyes on. General Dreedle's nurse was chubby, short
and blond. She had plump dimpled checks, happy blue eyes, and neat
curly turned-up hair. She smiled at everyone and never spoke at all
unless she was spoken to. Her bosom was lush and her complexion
clear. She was irresistible, and men edged away from her carefully. She
was succulent, sweet, docile and dumb, and she drove everyone crazy
but General Dreedle.
"You should see her naked," General Dreedle chortled with croupy
relish, while his nurse stood smiling proudly right at his shoulder.
"Back at Wing she's got a uniform in my room made of purple silk
that's so tight her nipples stand out like bing cherries. Milo got me the
fabric. There isn't even room enough for panties or a brassiere underneath.
I make her wear it some nights when Moodus is around just to
drive him crazy." General Dreedle laughed hoarsely. "You should see
what goes on inside that blouse of hers every time she shifts her
weight. She drives him out of his mind. The first time I catch him putting
a hand on her or any other woman I'll bust the horny bastard right
down to private and put him on K.P. for a year."
"He keeps her around just to drive me crazy," Colonel Moodus
accused aggrievedly at the other end of the bar. "Back at Wing she's got
a uniform made out of purple silk that's so tight her nipples stand out
like bing cherries. There isn't even room for panties or a brassiere
underneath. You should hear that silk rustle every time she shifts her
weight. The first time I make a pass at her or any other girl he'll bust
me right down to private and put me on K.P. for a year. She drives me
out of my mind."
"He hasn't gotten laid since we shipped overseas," confided General
Dreedle, and his square grizzled head bobbed with sadistic laughter at
the fiendish idea. "That's one of the reasons I never let him out of my
sight, just so he can't get to a woman. Can you imagine what that poor
son of a bitch is going through?"
"I haven't been to bed with a woman since we shipped overseas,"
Colonel Moodus whimpered tearfully. "Can you imagine what I'm
going through?"
General Dreedle could be as intransigent with anyone else when displeased
as he was with Colonel Moodus. He had no taste for sham, tact
or pretension, and his credo as a professional soldier was unified and
concise: he believed that the young men who took orders from him
should be willing to give up their lives for the ideals, aspirations and idiosyncrasies
of the old men he took orders from. The officers and enlisted
men in his command had identity for him only as military quantities. All
he asked was that they do their work; beyond that, they were free to do
whatever they pleased. They were free, as Colonel Cathcart was free, to
force their men to fly sixty missions if they chose, and they were free, as
Yossarian had been free, to stand in formation naked if they wanted to,
although General Dreedle's granite jaw swung open at the sight and he
went striding dictatorially right down the line to make certain that there
really was a man wearing nothing but moccasins waiting at attention in
ranks to receive a medal from him. General Dreedle was speechless.
Colonel Cathcart began to faint ,when he spied Yossarian, and Colonel
Korn stepped up behind him and squeezed his arm in a strong grip. The
silence was grotesque. A steady warm wind flowed in from the beach, an
old cart filled with dirty straw rumbled into view on the main road,
drawn by a black donkey and driven by a farmer in a flopping hat and
faded brown work clothes who paid no attention to the formal military
ceremony taking place in the small field on his right.
At last General Dreedle spoke. "Get back in the car," he snapped
over his shoulder to his nurse, who had followed him down the line.
The nurse toddled away with a smile toward his brown staff car, parked
about twenty yards away at the edge of the rectangular clearing.
General Dreedle waited in austere silence until the car door slammed
and then demanded, "Which one is this?"
Colonel Moodus checked his roster. "This one is Yossarian, Dad.
He gets a Distinguished Flying Cross."
"Well, I'll be damned," mumbled General Dreedle, and his ruddy
monolithic face softened with amusement. "Why aren't you wearing
clothes, Yossarian?"
"I don't want to."
"What do you mean you don't want to? Why the hell don't you
want to?"
"I just don't want to, sir."
"Why isn't he wearing clothes?" General Dreedle demanded over
his shoulder of Colonel Cathcart.
"He's talking to you," Colonel Korn whispered over Colonel Cathcart's
shoulder from behind, jabbing his elbow sharply into Colonel
Cathcart's back.
"Why isn't he wearing clothes?" Colonel Cathcart demanded of
Colonel Korn with a look of acute pain, tenderly nursing the spot
where Colonel Korn had just jabbed him.
"Why isn't he wearing clothes?" Colonel Korn demanded of Captain
Piltchard and Captain Wren.
"A man was killed in his plane over Avignon last week and bled all
over him," Captain Wren replied. "He swears he's never going to wear
a uniform again."
"A man was killed in his plane over Avignon last week and bled all
over him," Captain Korn reported directly to General Dreedle. "His
uniform hasn't come back from the laundry yet."
"Where are his other uniforms?"
"They're in the laundry, too."
"What about his underwear?" General Dreedle demanded.
"All his underwear's in the laundry, too," answered Colonel Korn.
"That sounds like a lot of crap to me," General Dreedle declared.
"It is a lot of crap, sir," Yossarian said.
"Don't you worry, sir," Colonel Cathcart promised General Dreedle
with a threatening look at Yossarian. "You have my personal word, for
it that this man will be severely punished."
"What the hell do I care if he's punished or not?" General Dreedle
replied with surprise and irritation. "He's just won a medal. If he wants
to receive it without any clothes on, what the hell business is it of
"Those are my sentiments exactly, sir!" Colonel Cathcart echoed
with resounding enthusiasm and mopped his brow with a damp white
handkerchief. "But would you say that, sir, even in the light of General
Peckem's recent memorandum on the subject of appropriate military
attire in combat areas?"
"Peckem?" General Dreedle's face clouded.
"Yes, sir, sir," said Colonel Cathcart obsequiously. "General Peckem
even recommends that we send our men into combat in full-dress uniform
so they'll make a good impression on the enemy when they're
shot down."
"Peckem?" repeated General Dreedle, still squinting with bewilderment.
"Just what the hell does Peckem have to do with it?"
Colonel Korn jabbed Colonel Cathcart sharply again in the back
with his elbow.
"Absolutely nothing, sir!" Colonel Cathcart responded sprucely,
wincing in extreme pain and gingerly rubbing the spot where Colonel
Korn had just jabbed him again. "And that's exactly why 1 decided to
take absolutely no action at all until 1 first had an opportunity to discuss
it with you. Shall we ignore it completely, sir?"
General Dreedle ignored him completely, turning away from him in
baleful scorn to hand Yossarian his medal in its case.
"Get my girl back from the car," he commanded Colonel Moodus
crabbily, and waited in one spot with his scowling face down until his
nurse had rejoined him.
"Get word to the office right away to kill that directive 1just issued
ordering the men to wear neckties on the combat missions," Colonel
Cathcart whispered to Colonel Korn urgently out of the corner of his
"I told you not to do it," Colonel Korn snickered. "But you just
wouldn't listen to me."
"Shhhh!" Colonel Cathcart cautioned. "Goddammit, Korn, what
did you do to my back?"
Colonel Korn snickered again.
General Dreedle's nurse always followed General Dreedle everywhere
he went, even into the briefing room just before the mission to
Avignon, where she stood with her asinine smile at the side of the platform
and bloomed like a fertile oasis at General Dreedle's shoulder in
her pink-and-green uniform. Yossarian looked at her and fell in love,
desperately. His spirits sank, leaving him empty inside and numb. He
sat gazing in clammy want at her full red lips and dimpled cheeks as he
listened to Major Danby describe in a monotonous, didactic male
drone the heavy concentrations of flak awaiting them at Avignon, and
he moaned in deep despair suddenly at the thought that he might
never see again this lovely woman to whom he had never spoken a
word and whom he now loved so pathetically. He throbbed and ached
with sorrow, fear and desire as he stared at her; she was so beautiful.
He worshipped the ground she stood on. He licked his parched, thirsting
lips with a sticky tongue and moaned in misery again, loudly
enough this time to attract the startled, searching glances of the men
sitting around him on the rows of crude wooden benches in their
chocolate-colored coveralls and stitched white parachute harnesses.
Nately turned to him quickly with alarm. "What is it?" he whispered.
"What's the matter?"
Yossarian did not hear him. He was sick with lust and mesmerized
with regret. General Dreedle's nurse was only a little chubby, and his
senses were stuffed to congestion with the yellow radiance of her hair
and the unfelt pressure of her soft short fingers, with the rounded,
untasted wealth of her nubile breasts in her Army-pink shirt that was
opened wide at the throat and with the rolling, ripened, triangular confluences
of her belly and thighs in her tight, slick forest-green gabardine
officer's pants. He drank her in insatiably from head to painted toenail.
He never wanted to lose her. "Oooooooooooooh," he moaned again,
and this time the whole room rippled at his quavering, drawn-out cry.
A wave of startled uneasiness broke over the officers on the dais, and
even Major Danby, who had begun synchronizing the watches, was distracted
momentarily as he counted out the seconds and almost had
to begin again. Nately followed Yossarian's transfixed gaze down the
long frame auditorium until he came to General Dreedle's nurse.
He blanched with trepidation when he guessed what was troubling
"Cut it out, will you?" Nately warned in a fierce whisper.
"Oooooooooooooooooooooh," Yossarian moaned a fourth time,
this time loudly enough for everyone to hear him distinctly.
"Are you crazy?" Nately hissed vehemently. "You'll get into trouble."
"Oooooooooooooooooooooh," Dunbar answered Yossarian from
the opposite end of the room.
Nately recognized Dunbar's voice. The situation was now out of
control, and he turned away with a small moan. "Ooh."
"Oooooooooooooooooooh," Dunbar moaned back at him.
"Oooooooooooooooooooh," Nately moaned out loud in exasperation
when he realized that he had just moaned.
"Oooooooooooooooooooooh," Dunbar moaned back at him again.
"Oooooooooooooooooooooh," someone entirely new chimed III
from another section of the room, and Nately's hair stood on end.
Yossarian and Dunbar both replied while Nately cringed and
hunted about futilely for some hole in which to hide and take
Yossarian with him. A sprinkling of people were smothering laughter.
An elfin impulse possessed Nately and he moaned intentionally the
next time there was a lull. Another new voice answered. The flavor of
disobedience was titillating, and Nately moaned deliberately again, the
next time he could squeeze one in edgewise. Still another new voice
echoed him. The room was boiling irrepressibly into bedlam. An eerie
hubbub of voices was rising. Feet were scuffled, and things began to
drop from people's fingers-pencils, computers, map cases, clattering
steel flak helmets. A number of men who were not moaning were now
giggling openly, and there was no telling how far the unorganized
insurrection of moaning might have gone if General Dreedle himself
had not come forward to quell it, stepping out determinedly in the
center of the platform directly in front of Major Danby, who, with his
earnest, persevering head down, was still concentrating on his wrist
watch and saying "... twenty-five seconds ... twenty ... fifteen ... "
General Dreedle's great, red domineering face was gnarled with perplexity
and oaken with awesome resolution.
"That will be all, men," he ordered tersely, his eyes glaring with disapproval
and his square jaw firm, and that's all there was. "I run a fighting
outfit," he told them sternly, when the room had grown absolutely
quiet and the men on the benches were all cowering sheepishly, "and
there'll be no more moaning in this group as long as I'm in command.
Is that clear?"
It was clear to everybody but Major Danby, who was still concentrating
on his wrist watch and counting down the seconds aloud.
"... four ... three ... two ... one ... time!" called out Major Danby,
and raised his eyes triumphantly to discover that no one had been listening
to him and that he would have to begin all over again. "Ooooh,"
he moaned in frustration.
"What was that?" roared General Dreedle incredulously, and
whirled around in a murderous rage upon Major Danby, who staggered
back in terrified confusion and began to quail and perspire.
"Who is this man?"
"M-major Danby, sir," Colonel Cathcart stammered. "My group
operations officer."
"Take him out and shoot him," ordered General Dreedle.
"I said take him out and shoot him. Can't you hear?"
"Yes, sir!" Colonel Cathcart responded smartly, swallowing hard,
and turned in a brisk manner to his chauffeur and his meteorologist.
"Take Major Danby out and shoot him."
"S-sir?" his chauffeur and his meteorologist stammered.
"I said take Major Danby out and shoot him," Colonel Cathcart
snapped. "Can't you hear?"
The two young lieutenants nodded lumpishly and gaped at each
other in stunned and flaccid reluctance, each waiting for the other to
initiate the procedure of taking Major Danby outside and shooting
him. Neither had ever taken Major Danby outside and shot him
before. They inched their way dubiously toward Major Danby from
opposite sides. Major Danby was white with fear. His legs collapsed
suddenly and he began to fall, and the two young lieutenants sprang
forward and seized him under both arms to save him from slumping to
the floor. Now that they had Major Danby, the rest seemed easy, but
there were no guns. Major Danby began to cry. Colonel Cathcart
wanted to rush to his side and comfort him, but did not want to look
like a sissy in front of General Dreedle. He remembered that Appleby
and Havermeyer always brought their .45 automatics on the missions,
and he began to scan the rows of men in search of them.
As soon as Major Danby began to cry, Colonel Moodus, who had
been vacillating wretchedly on the sidelines, could restrain himself no
longer and stepped out diffidently toward General Dreedle with a
sickly air of self-sacrifice. "I think you'd better wait a minute, Dad," he
suggested hesitantly. "I don't think you can shoot him."
General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention. "Who the hell
says I can't?" he thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle
the whole building. Colonel Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment,
bent dose to whisper into his ear. "Why the hell can't I?"
General Dreedle bellowed. Colonel Moodus whispered some more.
"You mean I can't shoot anyone I want to?" General Dreedle demanded
with uncompromising indignation. He pricked up his ears with interest
as Colonel Moodus continued whispering. "Is that a fact?" he inquired,
his rage tamed by curiosity.
"Yes, Dad. I'm afraid it is."
"I guess you think you're pretty goddam smart, don't you?" General
Dreedle lashed out at Colonel Moodus suddenly.
Colonel Moodus turned crimson again. "No, Dad, it isn't-"
"All right, let the insubordinate son of a bitch go," General Dreedle
snarled, turning bitterly away from his son-in-law and barking peevishly
at Colonel Cathcart's chauffeur and Colonel Cathcart's meteorologist.
"But get him out of this building and keep him out. And let's
continue this goddam briefing before the war ends. I've never seen so
much incompetence."
Colonel Cathcart nodded lamely at General Dreedle and signaled
his men hurriedly to push Major Danby outside the building. As soon
as Major Danby had been pushed outside, though, there was no one to
continue the briefing. Everyone gawked at everyone else in oafish surprise.
General Dreedle turned purple with rage as nothing happened.
Colonel Cathcart had no idea what to do. He was about to begin
moaning aloud when Colonel Korn came to the rescue by stepping
forward and taking control. Colonel Cathcart sighed with enormous,
tearful relief, almost overwhelmed with gratitude.
"Now, men, we're going to synchronize our watches," Colonel
Korn began promptly in a sharp, commanding manner, rolling his eyes
flirtatiously in General Dreedle's direction. "We're going to synchronize
our watches one time and one time only, and if it doesn't come off
in that one time, General Dreedle and I are going to want to know
why. Is that clear?" He fluttered his eyes toward General Dreedle again
to make sure his plug had registered. "Now set your watches for nine-eighteen."
Colonel Korn synchronized their watches without a single hitch and
moved ahead with confidence. He gave the men the colors of the day
and reviewed the weather conditions with an agile, flashy versatility,
casting sidelong, simpering looks at General Dreedle every few seconds
to draw increased encouragement from the excellent impression
he saw he was making. Preening and pruning himself effulgently and
strutting vaingloriously about the platform as he picked up momentum,
he gave the men the colors of the day again and shifted nimbly
into a rousing pep talk on the importance of the bridge at Avignon to
the war effort and the obligation of each man on the mission to place
love of country above love of life. When his inspiring dissertation was
finished, he gave the men the colors of the day still one more time,
stressed the angle of approach and reviewed the weather conditions
again. Colonel Korn felt himself at the full height of his powers. He
belonged in the spotlight.
Comprehension dawned slowly on Colonel Cathcart; when it came,
he was struck dumb. His face grew longer and longer as he enviously
watched Colonel Korn's treachery continue, and he was almost afraid
to listen when General Dreedle moved up beside him and, in a whisper
blustery enough to be heard throughout the room, demanded,
"Who is that man?"
Colonel Cathcart answered with wan foreboding, and General
Dreedle then cupped his hand over his mouth and whispered something
that made Colonel Cathcart's face glow with immense joy.
Colonel Korn saw and quivered with uncontainable rapture. Had he
just been promoted in the field by General Dreedle to full colonel? He
could not endure the suspense. With a masterful flourish, he brought
the briefing to a close and turned expectantly to receive ardent congratulations
from General Dreedle-who was already striding out of
the building without a glance backward, trailing his nurse and Colonel
Moodus behind him. Colonel Korn was stunned by this disappointing
sight, but only for an instant. His eyes found Colonel Cathcart, who
was still standing erect in a grinning trance, and he rushed over jubilantly
and began pulling on his arm.
"What'd he say about me?" he demanded excitedly in a fervor of
proud and blissful anticipation. "What did General Dreedle say?"
"He wanted to know who you were."
"I know that. I know that. But what'd he say about me? What'd he
"You make him sick."

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:10 pm
by admin
22. Milo the Mayor

That was the mission on which Yossarian lost his nerve. Yossarian lost
his nerve on the mission to Avignon because Snowden lost his guts,
and Snowden lost his guts because their pilot that day was Huple, who
was only fifteen years old, and their co-pilot was Dobbs, who was even
worse and who wanted Yossarian to join with him in a plot to murder
Colonel Cathcart. Huple was a good pilot, Yossarian knew, but he was
only a kid, and Dobbs had no confidence in him, either, and wrested
the controls away without warning after they had dropped their
bombs, going berserk in mid-air and tipping the plane over into that
heart-stopping, ear-splitting, indescribably petrifying fatal dive that
tore Yossarian's earphones free from their connection and hung him
helplessly to the roof of the nose by the top of his head.
Ob, God! Yossarian had shrieked soundlessly as he felt them all falling.
Db, God! Ob, God! Ob, God! Ob, God! he had shrieked beseechingly
through lips that could not open as the plane fell and he dangled without
weight by the top of his head until Huple managed to seize the controls
back and leveled the plane out down inside the crazy, craggy, patchwork
canyon of crashing antiaircraft fire from which they had climbed away and
from which they would now have to escape again. Almost at once there
was a thud and a hole the size of a big fist in the Plexiglas. Yossarian's
cheeks were stinging with shimmering splinters. There was no blood.
"What happened? What happened?" he cried, and trembled violently
when he could not hear his own voice in his ears. He was cowed
by the empty silence on the intercom and almost too horrified to move
as he crouched like a trapped mouse on his hands and knees and
waited without daring to breathe until he finally spied the gleaming
cylindrical jack plug of his headset swinging back and forth in front of
his eyes and jammed it back into its receptacle with fingers that rattled.
Ob, God! he kept shrieking with no abatement of terror as the flak
thumped and mushroomed all about him. Ob, God!
Dobbs was weeping when Yossarian jammed his jack plug back into
the intercom system and was able to hear again.
"Help him, help him," Dobbs was sobbing. "Help him, help him."
"Help who? Help who?" Yossarian called back. "Help who?"
"The bombardier, the bombardier," Dobbs cried. "He doesn't answer.
Help the bombardier, help the bombardier."
"I'm the bombardier," Yossarian cried back at him. "I'm the bombardier.
I'm all right. I'm all right."
"Then help him, help him," Dobbs wept. "Help him, help him."
"Help who? Help who?"
"The radio-gunner," Dobbs begged. "Help the radio-gunner."
"I'm cold," Snowden whimpered feebly over the intercom system
then in a bleat of plaintive agony. "Please help me. I'm cold."
And Yossarian crept out through the crawlway and climbed up over
the bomb bay and down into the rear section of the plane where
Snowden lay on the floor wounded and freezing to death in a yellow
splash of sunlight near the new tail gunner lying stretched out on the
floor beside him in a dead faint.
Dobbs was the worst pilot in the world and knew it, a shattered
wreck of a virile young man who was continually striving to convince
his superiors that he was no longer fit to pilot a plane. None of his
superiors would listen, and it was the day the number of missions was
raised to sixty that Dobbs stole into Yossarian's tent while Orr was out
looking for gaskets and disclosed the plot he had formulated to murder
Colonel Cathcart. He needed Yossarian's assistance.
"You want us to kill him in cold blood?" Yossarian objected.
"That's right," Dobbs agreed with an optimistic smile, encouraged
by Yossarian's ready grasp of the situation. "We'll shoot him to death
with the Luger I brought back from Sicily that nobody knows I've
"I don't think I could do it," Yossarian concluded, after weighing the
idea in silence awhile.
Dobbs was astonished. "Why not?"
"Look. Nothing would please me more than to have the son of a
bitch break his neck or get killed in a crash or to find out that someone
else had shot him to death. But I don't think I could kill him."
"He'd do it to you," Dobbs argued. "In fact, you're the one who told
me he is doing it to us by keeping us in combat so long."
"But I don't think I could do it to him. He's got a right to live, too,
I guess."
"Not as long as he's trying to rob you and me of our right to live.
What's the matter with you?" Dobbs was flabbergasted. "I used to listen to you arguing that same thing with Clevinger. And look what happened
to him. Right inside that cloud."
"Stop shouting, will you?" Yossarian shushed him.
"I'm not shouting!" Dobbs shouted louder, his face red with revolutionary
fervor. His eyes and nostrils were running, and his palpitating
crimson lower lip was splattered with a foamy dew. "There must have
been close to a hundred men in the group who had finished their fifty-five
missions when he raised the number to sixty. There must have been
at least another hundred like you with just a couple more to fly. He's
going to kill us all if we let him go on forever. We've got to kill him first."
Yossarian nodded expressionlessly, without committing himself.
"Do you think we could get away with it?"
"I've got it all worked out. I-"
"Stop shouting, for Christ's sake!"
"I'm not shouting. I've got it-"
"Will you stop shouting!"
"I've got it all worked out," Dobbs whispered, gripping the side of
Orr's cot with white-knuckled hands to constrain them from waving.
"Thursday morning when he's due back from that goddam farmhouse
of his in the hills, I'll sneak up through the woods to that hairpin turn
in the road and hide in the bushes. He has to slow down there, and I
can watch the road in both directions to make sure there's no one else
around. When I see him coming, I'll shove a big log out into the road
to make him stop his jeep. Then I'll step out of the bushes with my
Luger and shoot him in the head until he's dead. I'll bury the gun,
come back down through the woods to the squadron, and go about my
business just like everybody else. What could possibly go wrong?"
Yossarian had followed each step attentively. "Where do I come in?"
he asked in puzzlement.
"I couldn't do it without you," Dobbs explained. "I need you to tell
me to go ahead."
Yossarian found it hard to believe him. "Is that all you want me to
do? Just tell you to go ahead?"
"That's all I need from you," Dobbs answered. "Just tell me to go
ahead and I'll blow his brains out all by myself the day after tomorrow."
His voice was accelerating with emotion and rising again. "I'd like to
shoot Colonel Korn in the head, too, while we're at it, although I'd like
to spare Major Danby, if that's all right with you. Then I'd like to murder
Appleby and Havermeyer also, and after we finish murdering
Appleby and Havermeyer I'd like to murder McWatt."
"McWatt?" cried Yossarian, almost jumping up in horror. "McWatt's
a friend of mine. What do you want from McWatt?"
"I don't know," Dobbs confessed with an air of floundering embarrassment.
"I just thought that as long as we were murdering Appleby
"and Havermeyer we might as well murder McWatt too. Don't you
want to murder McWatt?"
Yossarian took a firm stand. "Look, I might keep interested in this
if you stop shouting it all over the island and if you stick to killing
Colonel Cathcart. But if you're going to turn this into a blood bath,
you can forget about me."
"All right, all right." Dobbs sought to placate him. "Just Colonel
Cathcart. Should I do it? Tell me to go ahead."
Yossarian shook his head. "I don't think I could tell you to go
Dobbs was frantic. "I'm willing to compromise," he pleaded vehemently.
"You don't have to tell me to go ahead. Just tell me it's a good
idea. Okay? Is it a good idea?"
Yossarian still shook his head. "It would have been a great idea if you
had gone ahead and done it without even speaking to me. Now it's too
late. I don't think I can tell you anything. Give me some more time. I
might change my mind."
"Then it will be too late."
Yossarian kept shaking his head. Dobbs was disappointed. He sat for
a moment with a hangdog look, then spurted to his feet suddenly and
stamped away to have another impetuous crack at persuading Doc
Daneeka to ground him, knocking over Yossarian's washstand with his
hip when he lurched around and tripping over the fuel line of the stove
Orr was still constructing. Doc Daneeka withstood Dobbs's blustering
and gesticulating attack with a series of impatient nods and sent him to
the medical tent to describe his symptoms to Gus and Wes, who
painted his gums purple with gentian-violet solution the moment he
started to talk. They painted his toes purple, too, and forced a laxative
down his throat when he opened his mouth again to complain, and
then they sent him away.
Dobbs was in even worse shape than Hungry Joe, who could at least
fly missions when he was not having nightmares. Dobbs was almost as
bad as Orr, who seemed happy as an undersized, grinning lark with his
deranged and galvanic giggle and shivering warped buck teeth and who
was sent along for a rest leave with Milo and Yossarian on the trip to
Cairo for eggs when Milo bought cotton instead and took off at dawn
for Istanbul with his plane packed to the gun turrets with exotic spiders
and unripened red bananas. Orr was one of the homeliest freaks
Yossarian had ever encountered, and one of the most attractive. He had
a raw bulgy face, with hazel eyes squeezing from their sockets like
matching brown halves of marbles and thick, wavy particolored hair
sloping up to a peak on the top of his head like a pomaded pup tent.
On: was knocked down into the water or had an engine shot out almost
every time he went up, and he began jerking on Yossarian's arm like a
wild man after they had taken off for Naples and come down in Sicily
to find the scheming, cigar-smoking, ten-year-old pimp with the two
twelve-year-old virgin sisters waiting for them in town in front of the
hotel in which there was room for only Milo. Yossarian pulled back
from Orr adamantly, gazing with some concern and bewilderment at
Mt. Etna instead of Mt. Vesuvius and wondering what they were doing
in Sicily instead of Naples as Orr kept entreating him in a tittering,
stuttering, concupiscent turmoil to go along with him behind the
scheming ten-year-old pimp to his two twelve-year-old virgin sisters
who were not really virgins and not really sisters and who were really
only twenty-eight.
"Go with him," Milo instructed Yossarian laconically. "Remember
your mission."
"All right," Yossarian yielded with a sigh, remembering his mission.
"But at least let me try to find a hotel room first so I can get a good
night's sleep afterward."
"You'll get a good night's sleep with the girls," Milo replied with the
same air of intrigue. "Remember your mission."
But they got no sleep at all, for Yossarian and Orr found themselves
jammed into the same double bed with the two twelve-year-old
twenty-eight-year-old prostitutes, who turned out to be oily and obese
and who kept waking them up all night long to ask them to switch partners.
Yossarian's perceptions were soon so fuzzy that he paid no notice
to the beige turban the fat one crowding into him kept wearing until
late the next morning when the scheming ten-year-old pimp with the
Cuban panatella snatched it off in public in a bestial caprice that
exposed in the brilliant Sicilian daylight her shocking, misshapen and
denudate skull. Vengeful neighbor's had shaved her hair to the gleaming
bone because she had slept with Germans. The girl screeched in
feminine outrage and waddled comically after the scheming ten-year-old
pimp, her grisly, bleak, violated scalp slithering up and down ludicrously
around the queer darkened wart of her face like something
bleached and obscene. Yossarian had never laid eyes on anything so
bare before. The pimp spun the turban high on his finger like a trophy
and kept himself skipping inches ahead of her finger tips as he led her
in a tantalizing circle around the square congested with people who
were howling with laughter and pointing to Yossarian with derision
when Milo strode up with a grim look of haste and puckered his lips
reprovingly at the unseemly spectacle of so much vice and frivolity.
Milo insisted on leaving at once for Malta.
"We're sleepy," Orr whined.
"That's your own fault," Milo censured them both self-righteously.
"If you had spent the night in your hotel room instead of with these
immoral girls, you'd both feel as good as I do today."
"You told us to go with them," Yossarian retorted accusingly. "And
we didn't have a hotel room. You were the only one who could get a
hotel room."
"That wasn't my fault either," Milo explained haughtily. "How was
I supposed to know all the buyers would be in town for the chick-pea
"You knew it," Yossarian charged. "That explains why we're here in
Sicily instead of Naples. You've probably got the whole damned plane
filled with chick-peas already."
"Shhhhhh!" Milo cautioned sternly, with a meaningful glance toward
Orr. "Remember your mission."
The bomb bay, the rear and tail sections of the plane and most of
the top turret gunner's section were all filled with bushels of chick-peas
when they arrived at the airfield to take off for Malta.
Yossarian's mission on the trip was to distract Orr from observing
where Milo bought his eggs, even though Orr was a member of Milo's
syndicate and, like every other member of Milo's syndicate, owned a
share. His mission was silly, Yossarian felt, since it was common knowledge
that Milo bought his eggs in Malta for seven cents apiece and sold
them to the mess halls in his syndicate for five cents apiece.
"I just don't trust him," Milo brooded in the plane, with a backward
nod toward Orr, who was curled up like a tangled rope on the low
bushels of chick-peas, trying torturedly to sleep. "And I'd just as soon
buy my eggs when he's not around to learn my business secrets. What
else don't you understand?"
Yossarian was riding beside him in the co-pilot's seat. "I don't
understand why you buy eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell
them for five cents."
"I do it to make a profit."
"But how can you make a profit? You lose two cents an egg."
"But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling
them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy
them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don't make the profit.
The syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share."
Yossarian felt he was beginning to understand. "And the people you
sell the eggs to at four and a quarter cents apiece make a profit of two
and three quarter cents apiece when they sell them back to you at seven
cents apiece. Is that right? Why don't you sell the eggs directly to you
and eliminate the people you buy them from?"
"Because I'm the people I buy them from," Milo explained. "I make
a profit of three and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and
a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when I buy them back
from me. That's a total profit of six cents an egg. I lose only two cents
an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five cents apiece, and that's
how I can make a profit buying eggs 'for seven cents apiece and selling
them for five cents apiece. I pay only one cent apiece at the hen when
I buy them in Sicily."
"In Malta," Yossarian corrected. "You buy your eggs in Malta, not
Milo chortled proudly. "I don't buy eggs in Malta," he confessed,
with an air of slight and clandestine amusement that was the only
departure from industrious sobriety Yossarian had even seen him
make. "I buy them in Sicily for one cent apiece and transfer them to
Malta secretly at four and a half cents apiece in order to get the price
of eggs up to seven cents apiece when people come to Malta looking
for them."
"Why do people come to Malta for eggs when they're so expensive
"Because they've always done it that way."
"Why don't they look for eggs in Sicily?"
"Because they've never done it that way."
"Now I really don't understand. Why don't you sell your mess halls
the eggs for seven cents apiece instead of for five cents apiece?"
"Because my mess halls would have no need for me then. Anyone
can buy seven-cents-apiece eggs for seven cents apiece."
"Why don't they bypass you and buy the eggs directly from you in
Malta at four and a quarter cents apiece?"
"Because I wouldn't sell it to them."
"Why wouldn't you sell it to them?"
"Because then there wouldn't be as much room for a profit. At least
this way 1 can make a bit for myself as a middleman."
"Then you do make a profit for yourself," Yossarian declared.
"Of course 1 do. But it all goes to the syndicate. And everybody has
a share. Don't you understand? It's exactly what happens with those
plum tomatoes 1 sell to Colonel-Cathcart."
"Buy," Yossarian corrected him. "You don't sell plum tomatoes to
Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. You buy plum tomatoes from
"No, sell," Milo corrected Yossarian. "I distribute my plum tomatoes
in markets all over Pianosa under an assumed name so that Colonel
Cathcart and Colonel Korn can buy them up from me under their
assumed names at four cents apiece and sell them back to me the next
day for the syndicate at five cents apiece. They make a profit of one
cent apiece, 1 make a profit of three and a half cents apiece, and everybody
comes out ahead."
"Everybody but the syndicate," said Yossarian with a snort. "The
syndicate is paying five cents apiece for plum tomatoes that cost you
only half a cent apiece. How does the syndicate benefit?"
"The syndicate benefits when 1 benefit," Milo explained, "because
everybody has a share. And the syndicate gets Colonel Cathcart's and
Colonel Korn's support so that they'll let me go out on trips like this
one. You'll see how much profit that can mean in about fifteen minutes
when we land in Palermo."
"Malta," Yossarian corrected him. "We're flying to Malta now, not
"No, we're flying to Palermo," Milo answered. "There's an endive
exporter in Palermo 1 have to see for a minute about a shipment of
mushrooms to Bern that were damaged by mold."
"Milo, how do you do it?" Yossarian inquired with laughing amazement
and admiration. "You fill out a flight plan for one place and then you
go to another. Don't the people in the control towers ever raise hell?"
"They all belong to the syndicate," Milo said. "And they know that
what's good for the syndicate is good for the country, because that's
what makes Sammy run. The men in the control towers have a share,
too, and that's why they always have to do whatever they can to help
the syndicate."
"Do 1 have a share?"
"Everybody has a share."
"Does Orr have a share?"
"Everybody has a share."
"And Hungry Joe? He has a share, too?"
"Everybody has a share."
"Well, I'll be damned," mused Yossarian, deeply impressed with the
idea of a share for the very first time.
Milo turned toward him with a faint glimmer of mischief. "I have a
sure-fire plan for cheating the federal government out of six thousand
dollars. We can make three thousand dollars apiece without any risk to
either of us. Are you interested?"
Milo looked at Yossarian with profound emotion. "That's what I like
about you," he exclaimed. "You're honest! You're the only one I know
that! can really trust. That's why I wish you'd try to be of more help
to me. I really was disappointed when you ran off with those two
tramps in Catania yesterday."
Yossarian stared at Milo in quizzical disbelief. "Milo, you told me to
go with them. Don't you remember?"
"That wasn't my fault," Milo answered with dignity. "I had to get rid
of Orr some way once we reached town. It will be a lot different in
Palermo. When we land in Palermo, I want you and Orr to leave with
the girls right from the airport."
"With what girls?"
"I radioed ahead and made arrangements with a four-year-old pimp
to supply you and Orr with two eight-year-old virgins who are half
Spanish. He'll be waiting at the airport in a limousine. Go right in as
soon as you step out of the plane."
"Nothing doing," said Yossarian, shaking his head. "The only place
I'm going is to sleep."
Milo turned livid with indignation, his slim long nose flickering
spasmodically between his black eyebrows and his unbalanced orange-brown
mustache like the pale, thin flame of a single candle. "Yossarian,
remember your mission," he reminded reverently.
"To hell with my mission," Yossarian responded indifferently. "And
to hell with the syndicate too, even though I do have a share. I don't
want any eight-year-old virgins, even if they are half Spanish."
"I don't blame you. But these eight-year-old virgins are really only
thirty-two. And they're not really half Spanish but only one-third
"I don't care for any virgins."
"And they're not even virgins," Milo continued persuasively. "The
one I picked out for you was married for a short time to an elderly
schoolteacher who slept with her only on Sundays, so she's really
almost as good as new."
But Orr was sleepy, too, and Yossarian and Orr were both at Milo's
side when they rode into the city of Palermo from the airport and discovered
that there was no room for the two of them at the hotel there
either, and, more important, that Milo was mayor.
The weird, implausible reception for Milo began at the airfield,
where civilian laborers who recognized him halted in their duties
respectfully to gaze at him with full expressions of controlled exuberance
and adulation. News of his arrival preceded him into the city, and
the outskirts were already crowded with cheering citizens as they sped
by in their small uncovered truck. Yossarian and Orr were mystified
and mute and pressed close against Milo for security.
Inside the city, the welcome for Milo grew louder as the truck
slowed and eased deeper toward the middle of town. Small boys and
girls had been released from school and were lining the sidewalks in
new clothes, waving tiny flags. Yossarian and Orr were absolutely
speechless now. The streets were jammed with joyous throngs, and
strung overhead were huge banners bearing Milo's picture. Milo had
posed for these pictures in a drab peasant's blouse with a high round
collar, and his scrupulous, paternal countenance was tolerant, wise,
critical and strong as he stared out at the populace omnisciently with
his undisciplined mustache and disunited eyes. Sinking invalids blew
kisses to him from windows. Aproned shopkeepers cheered ecstatically
from the narrow doorways of their shops. Tubas crumped. Here
and there a person fell and was trampled to death. Sobbing old women
swarmed through each other frantically around the slow-moving truck
to touch Milo's shoulder or press his hand. Milo bore the tumultuous
celebration with benevolent grace. He waved back to everyone in elegant
reciprocation and showered generous handfuls of foil-covered
Hershey kisses to the rejoicing multitudes. Lines of lusty young boys
and girls skipped along behind him with their arms linked, chanting in
hoarse and glassy-eyed adoration, "Mi-lo! Mi-lo! Mi-lo!"
Now that his secret was out, Milo relaxed with Yossarian and Orr
and inflated opulently with a vast, shy pride. His cheeks turned flesh-colored.
Milo had been elected mayor of Palermo-and of nearby
Carini, Monreale, Bagheria, Termini Imerese, Cefalu, Mistretta and
Nicosia as well -- because he had brought Scotch to Sicily.
Yossarian was amazed. "The people here like to drink Scotch that
"They don't drink any of the Scotch," Milo explained. "Scotch is
very expensive, and these people here are very poor."
"Then why do you import it to Sicily if nobody drinks any?"
"To build up a price. I move the Scotch here from Malta to make
more room for profit when 1 sell it back to me for somebody else. I
created a whole new industry here. Today Sicily is the third-largest
exporter of Scotch in the world, and that's why they elected me mayor."
"How about getting us a hotel room if you're such a hotshot?" Orr
grumbled impertinently in a voice slurred with fatigue.
Milo responded contritely. "That's just what I'm going to do," he
promised. "I'm really sorry about forgetting to radio ahead for hotel
rooms for you two. Come along to my office and I'll speak to my
deputy mayor about it right now."
Milo's office was a barbershop, and his deputy mayor was a pudgy
barber from whose obsequious lips cordial greetings foamed as effusively
as the lather he began whipping up in Milo's shaving cup.
"Well, Vittorio," said Milo, settling back lazily in one of Vittorio's
barber chairs, "how were things in my absence this time?"
"Very sad, Signor Milo, very sad. But now that you are back, the
people are all happy again."
"I was wondering about the size of the crowds. How come all the
hotels are full?"
"Because so many people from other cities are here to see you,
Signor Milo. And because we have all the buyers who have come into
town for the artichoke auction."
Milo's hand soared up perpendicularly like an eagle and arrested
Vittorio's shaving brush. "What's artichoke?" he inquired.
"Artichoke, Signor Milo? An artichoke is a very tasty vegetable that
is popular everywhere. You must try some artichokes while you are
here, Signor Milo. We grow the best in the world."
"Really?" said Milo. "How much are artichokes selling for this
"It looks like a very good year for artichokes. The crops were very
"Is that a fact?" mused Milo, and was gone, sliding from his chair so
swiftly that his striped barber's apron retained his shape for a second or
two after he had gone before it collapsed. Milo had vanished from sight
by the time Yossarian and Orr rushed after him to the doorway.
"Next?" barked Milo's deputy mayor officiously. "Who's next?"
Yossarian and Orr walked from the barbershop in dejection.
Deserted by Milo, they trudged homelessly through the reveling
masses in futile search of a place to sleep. Yossarian was exhausted. His
head throbbed with a dull, debilitating pain, and he was irritable with
Orr, who had found two crab apples somewhere and walked with them
in his cheeks until Yossarian spied them there and made him take them
out. Then Orr found two horse chestnuts somewhere and slipped
those in until Yossarian detected them and snapped at him again to
take the crab apples out of his mouth. Orr grinned and replied that
they were not crab apples but horse chestnuts and that they were not
in his mouth but in his hands, but Yossarian was not able to understand
a single word he said because of the horse chestnuts in his mouth and
made him take them out anyway. A sly light twinkled in Orr's eyes. He
rubbed his forehead harshly with his knuckles, like a man in an alcoholic
stupor, and snickered lewdly.
"Do you remember that girl-" He broke off to snicker lewdly
again. "Do you remember that girl who was hitting me over the head
with that shoe in that apartment in Rome, when we were both naked?"
he asked with a look of cunning expectation. He waited until Yossarian
nodded cautiously. "If you let me put the chestnuts back in my mouth
I'll tell you why she was hitting me. Is that a deal?"
Yossarian nodded, and Orr told him the whole fantastic story of why
the naked girl in Nately's whore's apartment was hitting him over the
head with her shoe, but Yossarian was not able to understand a single
word because the horse chestnuts were back in his mouth. Yossarian
roared with exasperated laughter at the trick, but in the end there was
nothing for them to do when night fell but eat a damp dinner in a dirty
restaurant and hitch a ride back to the airfield, where they slept on the
chill metal floor of the plane and turned and tossed in groaning torment
until the truck drivers blasted up less than two hours later with
their crates of artichokes and chased them out onto the ground while
they filled up the plane. A heavy rain began falling. Yossarian and Orr
were dripping wet by the time the trucks drove away and had no choice
but to squeeze themselves back into the plane, and roll themselves up
like shivering anchovies between the jolting corners of the crates of
artichokes that Milo flew up to Naples at dawn and exchanged for the
cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla beans and pepper pods that he rushed
right back down south with that same day to Malta, where it turned
out, he was Assistant Governor-General. There was no room for
Yossarian and Orr in Malta either. Milo was Major Sir Milo Minderbinder
in Malta and had a gigantic office in the governor-general's
building. His mahogany desk was immense. In a panel of the oak wall,
between crossed British flags, hung a dramatic arresting photograph of
Major Sir Milo Minderbinder in the dress uniform of the Royal Welsh
Fusiliers. His mustache in the photograph was clipped and narrow, his
chin was chiseled, and his eyes were sharp as thorns. Milo had been
knighted, commissioned a major in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and
named Assistant Governor-General of Malta because he had brought
the egg trade there. He gave Yossarian and Orr generous permission to
spend the night on the thick carpet in his office, but shortly after he
left a sentry in battle dress appeared and drove them from the building
at the tip of his bayonet, and they rode out exhaustedly to the airport
with a surly cab driver, who overcharged them, and went to sleep inside
the plane again, which was filled now with leaking gunny sacks of
cocoa and freshly ground coffee and reeking with an odor so rich that
they were both outside' retching violently against the landing gear
when Milo was chauffeured up the first thing the next morning, looking
fit as a fiddle, and took right off for Oran, where there was a~ain
no room at the hotel for Yossarian and Orr, and where Milo was Vice-
Shah. Milo had at his disposal sumptuous quarters inside a salmonpink
palace, but Yossarian and Orr were not allowed to accompany him
inside because they were Christian infidels. They were stopped at the
gates by gargantuan Berber guards with scimitars and chased away. Orr
was snuffling and sneezing with a crippling head cold. Yossarian's
broad back was bent and aching. He was ready to break Milo's neck,
but Milo was Vice-Shah of Oran and his person was sacred. Milo was
not only the Vice-Shah of Oran, as it turned out, but also the Caliph
of Baghdad, the Imam of Damascus, and the Sheik of Araby. Milo was
the corn god, the rain god and the rice god in backward regions where
such crude gods were still worshipped by ignorant and superstitious
people, and deep inside the jungles of Africa, he intimated with becoming
modesty, large graven images of his mustached face could be found
overlooking primitive stone altars red with human blood. Everywhere
they touched he was acclaimed with honor, and it was one triumphal
ovation after another for him in city after city until they finally doubled
back through the Middle East and reached Cairo, where Milo
cornered the market on cotton that no one else in the world wanted
and brought himself promptly to the brink of ruin. In Cairo there was
at last room at the hotel for Yossarian and Orr. There were soft beds
for them with fat fluffed-up pillows and clean, crisp sheets. There were
closets with hangers for their clothes. There was water to wash with.
Yossarian and Orr soaked their rancid, unfriendly bodies pink in a
steaming-hot tub and then went from the hotel with Milo to eat
shrimp cocktails and filet mignon in a very fine restaurant with a stock
ticker in the lobby that happened to be clicking out the latest quotation
for Egyptian cotton when Milo inquired of the captain of waiters
what kind of machine it was. Milo had never imagined a machine so
beautiful as a stock ticker before.
"Really?" he exclaimed when the captain of waiters had finished his
explanation. "And how much is Egyptian cotton selling for?" The captain
of waiters told him, and Milo bought the whole crop.
But Yossarian was not nearly so frightened by the Egyptian cotton
Milo bought as he was by the bunches of green red bananas Milo had
spotted in the native market place as they drove into the city, and his
fears proved justified, for Milo shook him awake out of a deep sleep
just after twelve and shoved a partly peeled banana toward him. Yossarian
choked back a sob.
"Taste it," Milo urged, following Yossarian's writhing face around
with the banana insistently.
"Milo, you bastard," moaned Yossarian. "I've got to get some sleep."
"Eat it and tell me if it's good," Milo persevered. "Don't tell Orr I
gave it to you. I charged him two piasters for his."
Yossarian ate the banana submissively and closed his eyes after telling
Milo it was good, but Milo shook him awake again and instructed him
to get dressed as quickly as he could, because they were leaving at once
for Pianosa.
"You and Orr have to load the bananas into the plane right away,"
he explained. "The man said to watch out for spiders while you're handling
the bunches."
"Milo, can't we wait until morning?" Yossarian pleaded. "I've got to
get some sleep."
"They're ripening very quickly," answered Milo, "and we don't have
a minute to lose. Just think how happy the men back at the squadron
will be when they get these bananas."
But the men back at the squadron never even saw any of the
bananas, for it was a seller's market for bananas in Istanbul and a
buyer's market in Beirut for the caraway seeds Milo rushed with to
Bengasi after selling the bananas, and when they raced back into
Pianosa breathlessly six days later at the conclusion of Orr's rest leave,
it was with a load of best white eggs from Sicily that Milo said were
from Egypt and sold to his mess halls for only four cents apiece so that
all the commanding officers in his syndicate would implore him to
speed right back to Cairo for more bunches of green red bananas to
sell in Turkey for the caraway seeds in demand in Bengasi. And everybody
had a share.

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:10 pm
by admin
23. Nately's Old Man

The only one back in the squadron who did see any of Milo's red
bananas was Aarfy, who picked up two from an influential fraternity
brother of his in the Quartermaster Corps when the bananas ripened
and began streaming into Italy through normal black-market channels
and who was in the officers' apartment with Yossarian the evening
Nately finally found his whore again after so many fruitless weeks of
mournful searching and lured her back to the apartment with two girl
friends by promising them thirty dollars each.
"Thirty dollars each?" remarked Aarfy slowly, poking and patting
each of the three strapping girls skeptically with the air of a grudging
connoisseur. "Thirty dollars is a lot of money for pieces like these.
Besides, 1 never paid for it in my life."
"I'm not asking you to pay for it," Nately assured him quickly. "I'll
pay for them all. 1just want you guys to take the other two. Won't you
help me out?"
Aarfy smirked complacently and shook his soft round head.
"Nobody has to pay for it for good old Aarfy. 1 can get all 1 want any
time 1 want it. I'm just not in the mood right now."
"Why don't you just pay all three and send the other two away?"
Yossarian suggested.
"Because then mine will be angry with me for making her work for
her money," Nately replied with an anxious look at his girl, who was
glowering at him restlessly and starting to mutter. "She says that if 1
really liked her I'd send her away and go to bed with one of the others."
"I have a better idea," boasted Aarfy. "Why don't we keep the three
of them here until after the curfew and then threaten to push them out
into the street to be arrested unless they give us all their money. We
can even threaten to push them out the window."
"Aarfy!" Nately was aghast.
"I was only trying to help," said Aarfy sheepishly. Aarfy was always
trying to help Nately because Nately's father was rich and prominent
and in an excellent position to help Aarfy after the war. "Gee whiz," he
defended himself querulously. "Back in school we were always doing
things like that. I remember one day we tricked these two dumb high-school
girls from town into the fraternity house and made them put
out for all the fellows there who wanted them by threatening to call up
their parents and say they were putting out for us. We kept them
trapped in bed there for more than ten hours. We even smacked their
faces a little when they started to complain. Then we took away their
nickels and dimes and chewing gum and threw them out. Boy, we used
to have fun in that fraternity house," he recalled peacefully, his corpulent
cheeks aglow with the jovial, rubicund warmth of nostalgic recollection.
"We used to ostracize everyone, even each other."
But Aarfy was no help to Nately now as the girl Nately had fallen so
deeply in love with began swearing at him sullenly with rising, menacing resentment. Luckily, Hungry Joe burst in just then, and everything
was all right again, except that Dunbar staggered in drunk a minute
later and began embracing one of the other giggling girls at once. Now
there were four men and three girls, and the seven of them left Aarfy
in the apartment and climbed into a horse-drawn cab, which remained
at the curb at a dead halt while the girls demanded their money in
advance. Nately gave them ninety dollars with a gallant flourish, after
borrowing twenty dollars from Yossarian, thirty-five dollars from
Dunbar and seventeen dollars from Hungry Joe. The girls grew
friendlier then and called an address to the driver, who drove them at
a clopping pace halfway across the city into a section they had never
visited before and stopped in front of an old, tall building on a dark
street. The girls led them up four steep, very long flights of creaking
wooden stairs and guided them through a doorway into their own
wonderful and resplendent tenement apartment, which burgeoned
miraculously with an infinite and proliferating flow of supple young
naked girls and contained the evil and debauched ugly old man who
irritated Nately constantly with his caustic laughter and the clucking,
proper' old woman in the ash-gray woolen sweater who disapproved of
everything immoral that occurred there and tried her best to tidy up.
The amazing place was a fertile, seething cornucopia of female nipples
and navels. At first, there were just their own three girls, in the
dimly-lit, drab brown sitting room that stood at the juncture of three
murky hallways leading in separate directions to the distant recesses of
the strange and marvelous bordello. The girls disrobed at once, pausing
in different stages to point proudly to their garish underthings and
bantering all the while with the gaunt and dissipated old man with the
shabby long white hair and slovenly white unbuttoned shirt who sat
cackling lasciviously in a musty blue armchair almost in the exact center
of the room and bade Nately and his companions welcome with a
mirthful and sardonic formality. Then the old woman trudged out to
get a girl for Hungry Joe, dipping her captious head sadly, and
returned with two big-bosomed beauties, one already undressed and
the other in only a transparent pink half slip that she wiggled out of.
while sitting down. Three more naked girls sauntered in from a different
direction and remained to chat, then two others. Four more girls
passed through the room in an indolent group, engrossed in conversation;
three were barefoot and one wobbled perilously on a pair of
unbuckled silver dancing shoes that did not seem to be her own. One
more girl appeared wearing only panties and sat down, bringing the
total congregating there in just a few minutes to eleven, all but one of
them completely unclothed.
There was bare flesh lounging everywhere, most of it plump, and
Hungry Joe began to die. He stood stock still in rigid, cataleptic astonishment
while the girls ambled in and made themselves comfortable.
Then he let out a piercing shriek suddenly and bolted toward the door
in a headlong dash back toward the enlisted men's apartment for his
camera, only to be halted in his tracks with another frantic shriek by
the dreadful, freezing premonition that this whole lovely, lurid, rich
and colorful pagan paradise would be snatched away from him irredeemably
if he were to let it out of his sight for even an instant. He
stopped in the doorway and sputtered, the wiry veins and tendons in
his face' and neck pulsating violently. The old man watched him with
victorious merriment, sitting in his musty blue armchair like some
satanic and hedonistic deity on a throne, a stolen U.S. Army blanket
wrapped around his spindly legs to ward off a chill. He laughed
quietly, his sunken, shrewd eyes sparkling perceptively with a cynical
and wanton enjoyment. He had been drinking. Nately reacted on sight
with bristling enmity to this wicked, depraved and unpatriotic old man
who was old enough to remind him of his father and who made disparaging
jokes about America.
"America," he said, "will lose the war. And Italy will win it."
"America is the strongest and most prosperous nation on earth,"
Nately informed him with lofty fervor and dignity. "And the American
fighting man is second to none."
"Exactly," agreed the old man pleasantly, with a hint of taunting
amusement. "Italy, on the other hand, is one of the least prosperous
nations on earth. And the Italian fighting man is probably second to
all. And that's exactly why my country is doing so well in this war while
your country is doing so poorly."
Nately guffawed with surprise, then blushed apologetically for his
impoliteness. "I'm sorry I laughed at you," he said sincerely, and he
continued in a tone of respectful condescension. "But Italy was occupied
by the Germans and is now being occupied by us. You don't call
that doing very well, do you?"
"But of course I do," exclaimed the old man cheerfully. "The Germans
are being driven out, and we are still here. In a few years you will
be gone, too, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is really a very
poor and weak country, and that's what makes us so strong. Italian soldiers
are not dying any more. But American and German soldiers are.
I call that doing extremely well. Yes, I am quite certain that Italy will
survive this war and still be in existence long after your own country
has been destroyed."
Nately could scarcely believe his ears. He had never heard such
shocking blasphemies before, and he wondered with instinctive logic
why G-men did not appear to lock the traitorous old man up. "America
is not going to be destroyed!" he shouted passionately.
"Never?" prodded the old man softly.
"Well ... " Nately faltered.
The old man laughed indulgently, holding in check a deeper, more
explosive delight. His goading remained gentle. "Rome was destroyed,
Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed, Spain was destroyed. All
great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do
you really think your own country will last? Forever? Keep in mind
that the earth itself is destined to be destroyed by the sun in twenty-five
million years or so."
Nately squirmed uncomfortably. "Well, forever is a long time, I
"A million years?" persisted the jeering old man with keen, sadistic
zest. "A half million? The frog is almost five hundred million years old.
Could you really say with much certainty that America, with all its
strength and prosperity, with its fighting man that is second to none,
and with its standard of living that is the highest in the world, will last
as long as ... the frog?"
Nately wanted to smash his leering face. He looked about imploring
for help in defending his country's future against the obnoxious
calumnies of this sly and sinful assailant. He was disappointed. Yossarian and Dunbar were busy in a far corner pawing orgiastically at four
or five frolicsome girls and six bottles of red wine, and Hungry Joe had
long since tramped away down one of the mystic hallways, propelling
before him like a ravening despot as many of the broadest-hipped
young prostitutes as he could contain in his frail windmilling arms and
cram into one double bed.
Nately felt himself at an embarrassing loss. His own girl sat
sprawled out gracelessly on an overstuffed sofa with an expression of
otiose boredom. Nately was unnerved by her torpid indifference to
him, by the same sleepy and inert pose that he remembered so vividly,
so sweetly, and so miserably from the first time she had seen him and
ignored him at the packed penny-ante blackjack game in the living
room of the enlisted men's apartment. Her lax mouth hung open in a
perfect O, and God alone knew at what her glazed and smoky eyes
were staring in such brute apathy. The old man waited tranquilly,
watching him with a discerning smile that was both scornful and sympathetic.
A lissome, blond, sinuous girl with lovely legs and honey-colored
skin laid herself out contentedly on the arm of the old man's
chair and began molesting his angular, pale, dissolute face languidly
and coquettishly. Nately stiffened with resentment and hostility at the
sight of such lechery in a man so old. He turned away with a sinking
heart and wondered why he simply did not take his own girl and go to
This sordid, vulturous, diabolical old man reminded Nately of his
father because the two were nothing at all alike. Nately's father was a
courtly white-haired gentleman who dressed impeccably; this old man
was an uncouth bum. Nately's father was a sober, philosophical and
responsible man; this old man was fickle and licentious. Nately's father
was discreet and cultured; this old man was a boor. Nately's father
believed in honor and knew the answer to everything; this old man
believed in nothing and had only questions. Nately's father had a distinguished
white mustache; this old man had no mustache at all.
Nately's father-and everyone else's father Nately had ever met-was
dignified, wise and venerable; this old man was utterly repellent, and
Nately plunged back into debate with him, determined to repudiate his
vile logic and insinuations with an ambitious vengeance that would
capture the attention of the bored, phlegmatic girl he had fallen so
intensely in love with and win her admiration forever.
"Well, frankly, 1 don't know how long America is going to last," he
proceeded dauntlessly. "I suppose we can't last forever if the world
itself is going to be destroyed someday. But I do know that we're going
to survive and triumph for a long, long time." .
"For how long?" mocked the profane old man with a gleam of malicious
elation. "Not even as long as the frog?"
"Much longer than you or me," Nately blurted out lamely.
"Oh, is that all! That won't be very much longer then, considering
that you're so gullible and brave and that I am already such an old, old
"How old are you?" Nately asked, growing intrigued and charmed
with the old man in spite of himself.
"A hundred and seven." The old man chuckled heartily at Nately's
look of chagrin. "I see you don't believe that either."
"I don't believe anything you tell me;" Nately replied, with a bashful
mitigating smile. "The only thing I do believe is that America is
going to win the war."
"You put so much stock in winning wars," the grubby iniquitous old
man scoffed. "The real trick lies in losing wars, in knowing which wars
can be lost. Italy has been losing wars for centuries, and just see how
splendidly we've done nonetheless. France wins wars and is in a continual
state of crisis. Germany loses and prospers. Look at our own recent
history. Italy won a war in Ethiopia and promptly stumbled into serious
trouble. Victory gave us such insane delusions of grandeur that we
helped start a world war we hadn't a chance of winning. But now that
we are losing again, everything has taken a turn for the better, and we
will certainly come out on top again if we succeed in being defeated."
Nately gaped at him in undisguised befuddlement. "Now I really
don't understand what you're saying. You talk like a madman."
"But I live like a sane one. I was a fascist when Mussolini was on top,
and I am an anti-fascist now that he has been deposed. I was fanatically
pro-German when the Germans were here to protect us against the
Americans, and now that the Americans are here to protect us against
the Germans I am fanatically pro-American. I can assure you, my outraged
young friend"-the old man's knowing, disdainful eyes shone
even more effervescently as Nately's stuttering dismay increased-
"that you and your country will have no more loyal partisan in Italy
than me-but only as long as you remain in Italy."
"But," Nately cried out in disbelief, "you're a turncoat! A timeserver!
A shameful, unscrupulous opportunist!"
"I am a hundred and seven years old," the old man reminded him
"Don't you have any principles?"
"Of course not."
"No morality?"
"Oh, I am a very moral man," the villainous old man assured him
with satiric seriousness, stroking the bare hip of a buxom black-haired
girl with pretty dimples who had stretched herself out seductively on
the other arm of his chair. He grinned at Nately sarcastically as he sat
between both naked girls in smug and threadbare splendor, with a sovereign
hand on each.
"I can't believe it," Nately remarked grudgingly, trying stubbornly
not to watch him in relationship to the girls. "I simply can't believe it."
"But it's all perfectly true. When the Germans marched into the
city, I danced in the streets like a youthful ballerina and shouted, 'Heil
Hitler!' until my lungs were hoarse. I even waved a small Nazi flag that
I had snatched away from a beautiful little girl while her mother was
looking the other way. When the Germans left the city, I rushed out to
welcome the Americans with a bottle of excellent brandy and a basket
of flowers. The brandy was for myself, of course, and the flowers were
to sprinkle upon our liberators. There was a very stiff and stuffy old
major riding in the first car, and I hit him squarely in the eye with a red
rose. A marvelous shot! You should have seen him wince."
Nately gasped and was on his feet with amazement, the blood draining
from his cheeks. "Major -- de Coverley!" he cried.
"Do you know him?" inquired the old man with delight. "What a
charming coincidence!"
Nately was too astonished even to hear him. "So you're the one who
wounded Major -- de Coverley!" he exclaimed in horrified indignation.
"How could you do such a thing?"
The fiendish old man was unperturbed. "How could I resist, you
mean. You should have seen the arrogant old bore, sitting there so
sternly in that car like the Almighty Himself, with his big, rigid head
and his foolish, solemn face. What a tempting target he made! I got
him in the eye with an American Beauty rose. I thought that was most
appropriate. Don't you?"
"That was a terrible thing to do!" Nately shouted at him reproachfully.
"A vicious and criminal thing! Major -- de Coverley is our
squadron executive officer!"
"Is he?" teased the unregenerate old man, pinching his pointy jaw
gravely in a parody of repentance. "In that case, you must give me
credit for being impartial. When the Germans rode in, I almost
stabbed a robust young Oberstleutnant to death with a sprig of edelweiss."
Nately was appalled and bewildered by the abominable old man's
inability to perceive the enormity of his offense. "Don't you realize
what you've done?" he scolded vehemently. "Major -- de Coverley
is a noble and wonderful person, and everyone admires him."
"He's a silly old fool who really has no right acting like a silly young
fool. Where is he today? Dead?"
Nately answered softly with somber awe. "Nobody knows. He
seems to have disappeared."
"You see? Imagine a man his age risking what little life he has left
for something so absurd as a country."
Nately was instantly up in arms again. "There is nothing so absurd
about risking your life for your country!" he declared.
"Isn't there?" asked the old man. "What is a country? A country is a
piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural.
Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America,
Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There
are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many
countries can't all be worth dying for."
"Anything worth living for," said Nately, "is worth dying for."
"And anything worth dying for," answered the sacrilegious old man,
"is certainly worth living for. You know, you're such a pure and naive
young man that I almost feel sorry for you. How old are you? Twenty-five?
"Nineteen," said Nately. "I'll be twenty in January."
"If you live." The old man shook his head, wearing, for a moment,
the same touchy, meditating frown of the fretful and disapproving old
woman. "They are going to kill you if you don't watch out, and I can
see now that you are not going to watch out. Why don't you use some
sense and try to be more like me? You might live to be a hundred and
seven, too."
"Because it's better to die on one's feet than live on one's knee,"
Nately retorted with triumphant and lofty conviction. "I guess you've
heard that saying before."
"Yes, I certainly have," mused the treacherous old man, smiling
again. "But I'm afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one's
feet than die on one's knees. That is the way the saying goes."
"Are you sure?" Nately asked with sober confusion. "It seems to
make more sense my way."
"No, it makes more sense my way. Ask your friends."
Nately turned to ask his friends and discovered they had gone.
Yossarian and Dunbar had both disappeared. The old man roared with
contemptuous merriment at Nately's look of embarrassed surprise.
Nately's face darkened with shame. He vacillated helplessly for a few
seconds and then spun himself around and fled inside the nearest of the
hallways in search of Yossarian and Dunbar, hoping to catch them in
time and bring them back to the rescue with news of the remarkable
clash between the old man and Major -- de Coverley. All the doors
in all the hallways were shut. There was light under none. It was
already very late. Nately gave up his search forlornly. There was nothing
left for him to do, he realized finally, but get the girl he was in love
with and lie down with her somewhere to make tender, courteous love
to her and plan their future together; but she had gone off to bed, too,
by the time he returned to the sitting room for her, and there was
nothing left for him to do then but resume his abortive discussion with
the loathsome old man, who rose from his armchair with jesting civility
and excused himself for the night, abandoning Nately there with
two bleary-eyed girls who could not tell him into which room his own
whore had gone and who padded off to bed several seconds later after
trying in vain to interest him in themselves, leaving him to sleep alone
in the sitting room on the small, lumpy sofa.
Nately was a sensitive, rich, good-looking boy with dark hair, trusting
eyes, and a pain in his neck when he awoke on the sofa early the
next morning and wondered dully where he was. His nature was invariably
gentle and polite. He had lived for almost twenty years without
trauma, tension, hate, or neurosis, which was proof to Yossarian of just
how crazy he really was. His childhood had been a pleasant, though
disciplined, one. He got on well with his brothers and sisters, and he
did not hate his mother and father, even though they had both been
very good to him.
Nately had been brought up to detest people like Aarfy, whom his
mother characterized as climbers, and people like Milo, whom his father
characterized as pushers, but he had never learned how, since he had
never been permitted near them. As far back as he could recall, his
homes in Philadelphia, New York, Maine, Palm Beach, Southampton,
London, Deauville, Paris and the south of France had always been
crowded only with ladies and gentlemen who were not climbers or pushers.
Nately's mother, a descendant of the New England Thorntons, was
a Daughter of the American Revolution. His father was a Son of a Bitch.
"Always remember," his mother had reminded him frequently, "that
you are a Nately. You are not a Vanderbilt, whose fortune was made by
a vulgar tugboat captain, or a Rockefeller, whose wealth was amassed
through unscrupulous speculations in crude petroleum; or a Reynolds
or Duke, whose income was derived from the sale to the unsuspecting
public of products containing cancer-causing resins and tars; and you
are certainly not an Astor, whose family, I believe, still lets rooms. You
are a Nately, and the Natelys have never done anything for their
"What your mother means, son," interjected his father affably one
time with that flair for graceful and economical expression Nately
admired so much, "is that old money is better than new money and
that the newly rich are never to be esteemed as highly as the newly
poor. Isn't that correct, my dear?"
Nately's father brimmed continually with sage and sophisticated
counsel of that kind. He was as ebullient and ruddy as mulled claret,
and Nately liked him a great deal, although he did not like mulled
claret. When war broke out, Nately's family decided that he would
enlist in the armed forces, since he was too young to be placed in the
diplomatic service, and since his father had it on excellent authority
that Russia was going to collapse in a matter of weeks or months and
that Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Mussolini, Gandhi, Franco, Peron
and the Emperor of Japan would then all sign a peace treaty and live
together happily ever after. It was Nately's father's idea that he join the
Air Corps, where he could train safely as a pilot while the Russians
capitulated and the details of the armistice were worked out, and
where, as an officer, he would associate only with gentlemen.
Instead, he found himself with Yossarian, Dunbar and Hungry Joe
in a whore house in Rome, poignantly in love with an indifferent girl
there with whom he finally did lie down the morning after the night he
slept alone in the sitting room, only to be interrupted almost immediately
by her incorrigible kid sister, who came bursting in without
warning and hurled herself onto the bed jealously so that Nately could
embrace her, too. Nately's whore sprang up snarling to whack her
angrily and jerked her to her feet by the hair. The twelve-year-old girl
looked to Nately like a plucked chicken or like a twig with the bark
peeled off: her sapling body embarrassed everyone in her precocious
attempts to imitate her elders, and she was always being chased away
to put clothes on and ordered out into the street to play in the fresh air
with the other children. The two sisters swore and spat at each other
now savagely, raising a fluent, deafening commotion that brought a
whole crowd of hilarious spectators swarming into the room. Nately
gave up in exasperation. He asked his girl to get dressed and took her
downstairs for breakfast. The kid sister tagged along, and Nately felt
like the proud head of a family as the three of them ate respectably in
a nearby open-air cafe. But Nately's whore was already bored by the
time they started back, and she decided to go streetwalking with two
other girls rather than spend more time with him. Nately and the kid
sister followed meekly a block behind, the ambitious youngster to pick
up valuable pointers, Nately to eat his liver in mooning frustration, and
both were saddened when the girls were stopped by soldiers in a staff
car and driven away.
Nately went back to the cafe and bought the kid sister chocolate ice
cream until her spirits improved and then returned with her to the
apartment, where Yossarian and Dunbar were flopped out in the sitting
room with an exhausted Hungry Joe, who was still wearing on his battered
face the blissful, numb, triumphant smile with which he had
limped into view from his massive harem that morning like a person
with numerous broken bones. The lecherous and depraved old man
was delighted with Hungry Joe's split lips and black-and-blue eyes. He
greeted Nately warmly, still wearing the same rumpled clothes of the
evening before. Nately was profoundly upset by his seedy and disreputable
appearance, and whenever he came to the apartment he wished
that the corrupt, immoral old man would put on a clean Brooks
Brothers shirt, shave, comb his hair, wear a tweed jacket, and grow a
dapper white mustache so that Nately would not have to suffer such
confusing shame each time he looked at him and was reminded of his

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:11 pm
by admin
24. Milo

April had been the best month of all for Milo. Lilacs bloomed in April
and fruit ripened on the vine. Heartbeats quickened and old appetites
were renewed. In April a livelier iris gleamed upon the burnished dove.
April was spring, and in the spring Milo Minderbinder's fancy had
lightly turned to thoughts of tangerines.
"Yes, sir."
"My men would love tangerines," admitted the colonel in Sardinia
who commanded four squadrons of B-26s.
"There'll be all the tangerines they can eat that you're able to pay
for with money from your mess fund," Milo assured him.
"Casaba melons?"
"Are going for a song in Damascus."
"I have a weakness for casaba melons. I've always had a weakness for
casaba melons."
"Just lend me one plane from each squadron, just one plane, and
you'll have all the casabas you can eat that you've money to pay for."
"We buy from the syndicate?"
"And everybody has a share."
"It's amazing, positively amazing. How can you do it?"
"Mass purchasing power makes the big difference. For example,
breaded veal cutlets."
"I'm not so crazy about breaded veal cutlets," grumbled the skeptical
B-25 commander in the north of Corsica.
"Breaded veal cutlets are very nutritious," Milo admonished him
piously. "They contain egg yolk and bread crumbs. And so are lamb
"Ah, lamb chops," echoed the B-25 commander. "Good lamb chops?"
"The best," said Milo, "that the black market has to offer."
"Baby lamb chops?"
"In the cutest little pink paper panties you ever saw. Are going for a
song in Portugal."
"I can't send a plane to Portugal. I haven't the authority."
"I can, once you lend the plane to me. With a pilot to fly it. And
don't forget-you'll get General Dreedle."
"Will General Dreedle eat in my mess hall again?"
"Like a pig, once you start feeding him my best white fresh eggs
fried in my pure creamery butter. There'll be tangerines too, and
casaba melons, honeydews, filet of Dover sole, baked Alaska, and cockles
and mussels."
"And everybody has a share?"
"That," said Milo, "is the most beautiful part of it."
"I don't like it," growled the uncooperative fighter-plane commander,
who didn't like Milo either.
"There's an uncooperative fighter-plane commander up north who's
got it in for me," Milo complained to General Dreedle. "It takes just
one person to ruin the whole thing, and then you wouldn't have your
fresh eggs fried in my pure creamery butter any more."
General Dreedle had the uncooperative fighter-plane commander
transferred to the Solomon Islands to dig graves and replaced him with
a senile colonel with bursitis and a craving for litchi nuts who introduced
Milo to the B-17 general on the mainland with a yearning for
Polish sausage.
"Polish sausage is going for peanuts in Cracow," Milo informed
"Polish sausage," sighed the general nostalgically. "You know, I'd
give just about anything for a good hunk of Polish sausage. Just about
"You don't have to give anything. Just give me one plane for each
mess hall and a pilot who will do what he's told. And a small down payment
on your initial order as a token of good faith."
"But Cracow is hundreds of miles behind the enemy lines. How will
you get to the sausage?"
"There's an international Polish sausage exchange in Geneva. I'll just
fly the peanuts into Switzerland and exchange them for Polish sausage
at the open market rate. They'll fly the peanuts back to Cracow and I'll
fly the Polish sausage back to you. You buy only as much Polish sausage
as you want through the syndicate. There'll be tangerines too, with only
a little artificial coloring added. And eggs from Malta and Scotch from
Sicily. You'll be paying the money to yourself when you buy from the
syndicate, since you'll own a share, so you'll really be getting everything
you buy for nothing. Doesn't that make sense?"
"Sheer genius. How in the world did you ever think of it?"
"My name is Milo Minderbinder. I am twenty-seven years old."
Milo Minderbinder's planes flew in from everywhere, the pursuit
planes, bombers, and cargo ships streaming into Colonel Cathcart's
field with pilots at the controls who would do what they were told. The
planes were decorated with flamboyant squadron emblems illustrating
such laudable ideals as Courage, Might, Justice, Truth, Liberty, Love,
Honor and Patriotism that were painted out at once by Milo's mechanics
with a double coat of flat white and replaced in garish purple with
The "M & M" in "M & M ENTERPRISES" stood for Milo & Minderbinder,
and the & was inserted, Milo revealed candidly, to nullify any
impression that the syndicate was a one-man operation. Planes arrived
for Milo from airfields in Italy, North Mrica and England, and from
Air Transport Command stations in Liberia, Ascension Island; Cairo
and Karachi. Pursuit planes were traded for additional cargo ships or
retained for emergency invoice duty and small-parcel service; trucks
and tanks were procured from the ground forces and used for short-distance
road hauling. Everybody had a share, and men got fat and
moved about tamely with toothpicks in their greasy lips. Milo supervised
the whole expanding operation by himself. Deep otter-brown
lines of preoccupation etched themselves permanently into his careworn
face and gave him a harried look of sobriety and mistrust.
Everybody but Yossarian thought Milo was a jerk, first for volunteering
for the job of mess officer and next for taking it so seriously.
Yossarian also thought that Milo was a jerk; but he also knew that Milo
was a genius. .
One day Milo flew away to England to pick up a load of Turkish halvah
and came flying back from Madagascar leading four German
bombers filled with yams, collards, mustard greens and black-eyed
Georgia peas. Milo was dumbfounded when he stepped down to the
ground and found a contingent of armed M.P.s waiting to imprison the
German pilots and confiscate their planes. Confiscate! The mere word
was anathema' to him, and he stormed back and forth in excoriating
condemnation, shaking a piercing finger of rebuke in the guilt-ridden
faces of Colonel Cathcart, Colonel Korn and the poor battle-scarred
captain with the submachine gun who commanded the M.P.s.
"Is this Russia?" Milo assailed them incredulously at the top of his
voice. "Confiscate?" he shrieked, as though he could not believe his own
ears. "Since when is it the policy of the American government to confiscate the private property of its citizens? Shame on you! Shame on all
of you for even thinking such a horrible thought."
"But Milo," Major Danby interrupted timidly, "we're at war with
Germany, and those are German planes."
"They are no such thing!" Milo retorted furiously. "Those planes
belong to the syndicate, and everybody has a share. Confiscate? How
can you possibly confiscate your own private property? Confiscate,
indeed! I've never heard anything so depraved in my whole life."
And sure enough, Milo was right, for when they looked, his mechanics
had painted out the German swastikas on the wings, tails and
fuselages with double coats of flat white and stenciled in the words
eyes he had transformed his syndicate into an international cartel.
Milo's argosies of plenty now filled the air. Planes poured in from
Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia,
Romania, Bulgaria, Sweden, Finland, Poland-from everywhere in
Europe, in fact, but Russia, with whom Milo refused to do business.
When everybody who was going to had signed up with M & M Enterprises,
Fine Fruits and Produce, Milo created a wholly owned subsidiary,
M & M Enterprises, Fancy Pastry, and obtained more airplanes
and more money from the mess funds for scones and crumpets from
the British Isles, prune and cheese Danish from Copenhagen, eclairs,
cream puffs, Napoleons and petits fours from Paris, Reims and
Grenoble, Kugelhopf, pumpernickel and Pfefferkuchen from Berlin,
Linzer and Dobos Torten from Vienna, Strudel from Hungary and baklava
from Ankara. Each morning Milo sent planes aloft all over Europe
and North Africa hauling long red tow signs advertising the day's specials
in large square letters: "eye round, 79 cents ... whiting, 21cents." He
boosted cash income for the syndicate by leasing tow signs to Pet Milk,
Gaines Dog Food, and Noxzema. In a spirit of civic enterprise, he
regularly allotted a certain amount of free aerial advertising space to
General Peckem for the propagation of such messages in the public
announcements on Axis Sally's and Lord Haw Haw's daily propaganda
broadcasts from Berlin to keep things moving. Business boomed on
every battlefront.
Milo's planes were a familiar sight. They had freedom of passage
everywhere, and one day Milo contracted with the American military
authorities to bomb the German-held highway bridge at Orvieto and
with the German military authorities to defend the highway bridge at
Orvieto with antiaircraft fire against his own attack. His fee for attacking
the bridge for America was the total cost of the operation plus six
percent, and his fee from Germany for defending the bridge was the
same cost-plus-six agreement augmented by a merit bonus of a thousand
dollars for every American plane he shot down. The consummation of
these deals represented an important victory for private enterprise, he
pointed out, since the armies of both countries were socialized institutions.
Once the contracts were signed, there seemed to be no point in
using the resources of the syndicate to bomb and defend the bridge,
inasmuch as both governments had ample men and materiel right there
to do so and were perfectly happy to contribute them, and in the end
Milo realized a fantastic profit from both halves of his project for doing
nothing more than signing his name twice.
The arrangements were fair to both sides. Since Milo did have freedom
of passage everywhere, his planes were able to steal over in a
sneak attack without alerting the German antiaircraft gunners; and
since Milo knew about the attack, he was able to alert the German antiaircraft
gunners in sufficient time for them to begin firing accurately
the moment the planes came into range. It was an ideal arrangement
for everyone but the dead man in Yossarian's tent, who was killed over
the target the day he arrived.
"I didn't kill him!" Milo kept replying passionately to Yossarian's
angry protest. "I wasn't even there that day, I tell you. Do you think I
was down there on the ground firing an antiaircraft gun when the
planes came over?"
"But you organized the whole thing, didn't you?" Yossarian shouted
back at him in the velvet darkness cloaking the path leading past the
still vehicles of the motor pool to the open-air movie theater.
"And I didn't organize anything," Milo answered indignantly, drawing
great agitated sniffs of air in through his hissing, pale, twitching
nose. "The Germans have the bridge, and we were going to bomb it,
whether I stepped into the picture or not. I just saw a wonderful opportunity
to make some profit out of the mission, and I took it. What's so
terrible about that?"
"What's so terrible about it? Milo, a man in my tent was killed on
that mission before he could even unpack his bags."
"But I didn't kill him."
"You got a thousand dollars extra for it."
"But I didn't kill him. I wasn't even there, I tell you. I was in
Barcelona buying olive oil and skinless and boneless sardines, and I've
got the purchase orders to prove it. And I didn't get the thousand dollars.
That thousand dollars went to the syndicate, and everybody got a
share, even you." Milo was appealing to Yossarian from the bottom of
his soul. "Look, I didn't start this war, Yossarian, no matter what that
lousy Wintergreen is saying. I'm just trying to put it on a businesslike
basis. Is anything wrong with that? You know, a thousand dollars ain't
such a bad price for a medium bomber and a crew. If I can persuade the
Germans to pay me a thousand dollars for every plane they shoot
down, why shouldn't I take it?"
"Because you're dealing with the enemy, that's why. Can't you
understand that we're fighting a war? People are dying. Look around
you, for Christ's sake!"
Milo shook his head with weary forbearance. "And the Germans are
not our enemies," he declared. "Oh, I know what you're going to say.
Sure, we're at war with them. But the Germans are also members in
good standing of the syndicate, and it's my job to protect their rights
as shareholders. Maybe they did start the war, and maybe they are
killing millions of people, but they pay their bills a lot more promptly
than some allies of ours I could name. Don't you understand that I
have to respect the sanctity of my contract with Germany? Can't you
see it from my point of view?"
"No," Yossarian rebuffed him harshly.
Milo was stung and made no effort to disguise his wounded feelings.
It was a muggy, moonlit night filled with gnats, moths, and mosquitoes.
Milo lifted his arm suddenly and pointed toward the open-air
theater, where the milky, dust-filled beam bursting horizontally from
the projector slashed a conelike swath in the blackness and draped in a
fluorescent membrane of light the audience tilted on the seats there in
hypnotic sags, their faces focused upward toward the aluminized movie
screen. Milos eyes were liquid with integrity, and his artless and uncorrupted
face was lustrous with a shining mixture of sweat and insect
"Look at them," he exclaimed in a voice choked with emotion.
"They're my friends, my countrymen, my comrades in arms. A fellow
never had a better bunch of buddies. Do you think I'd do a single thing
to harm them if I didn't have to? Haven't I got enough on my mind?
Can't you see how upset I am already about all that cotton piling up on
those piers in Egypt?" Milo's voice splintered into fragments, and he
clutched at Yossarian's shirt front as though drowning. His eyes were
throbbing visibly like brown caterpillars. "Yossarian, what am I going
to do with so much cotton? It's all your fault for letting me buy it."
The cotton was piling up on the piers in Egypt, and nobody
wanted any. Milo had never dreamed that the Nile Valley could be so
fertile or that there would be no market at all for the crop he had
bought. The mess halls in his syndicate would not help; they rose up
in uncompromising rebellion against his proposal to tax them on a per
capita basis 'in order to enable each man to own his own share of the
Egyptian cotton crop. Even his reliable friends the Germans failed him
in this crisis: they preferred ersatz. Milo's mess halls would not even
help him store the cotton, and his warehousing costs skyrocketed and
contributed to the devastating drain upon his cash reserves. The profits
from the Orvieto mission were sucked away. He began writing
home for the money he had sent back in better days; soon that was
almost gone. And new bales of cotton kept arriving on the wharves at
Alexandria every day. Each time he succeeded in dumping some on the
world market for a loss it was snapped up by canny Egyptian brokers
in the Levant, who sold it back to him at the original contract price, so
that he was really worse off than before.
M & M Enterprises verged on collapse. Milo cursed himself hourly
for his monumental greed and stupidity in purchasing the entire
Egyptian cotton crop, but a contract was a contract and had to be honored,
and one night, after a sumptuous evening meal, all Milo's fighters
and bombers took off, joined in formation directly overhead and
began dropping bombs on the group. He had landed another contract
with the Germans, this time to bomb his own outfit: Milo's planes separated
in a well-coordinated attack and bombed the fuel stocks and the
ordnance dump, the repair hangars and the B-25 bombers resting on
the lollipop-shaped hardstands at the field. His crews spared the landing
strip and the mess halls so that they could land safely when their
work was done and enjoy a hot snack before retiring. They bombed
with their landing lights on, since no one was shooting back. They
bombed all four squadrons, the officers' club and the Group
Headquarters building. Men bolted from their tents in sheer terror
and did not know in which direction to turn. Wounded soon lay
screaming everywhere. A cluster of fragmentation bombs exploded in
the yard of the officers' club and punched jagged holes in the side of
the wooden building and in the bellies and backs of a row of lieutenants
and captains standing at the bar. They doubled over in agony
and dropped. The rest of the officers fled toward the two exits in panic
and jammed up the doorways like a dense, howling dam of human flesh
as they shrank from going farther.
Colonel Cathcart clawed and elbowed his way through the unruly,
bewildered mass until he stood outside by himself. He stared up at
the sky in stark astonishment and horror. Milo's planes, ballooning
serenely in over the blossoming treetops with their bomb bay doors
open and wing flaps down and with their monstrous, bug-eyed, blinding,
fiercely flickering, eerie landing lights on, were the most apocalyptic
sight he had ever beheld. Colonel Cathcart let go a stricken gasp
of dismay and hurled himself headlong into his jeep, almost sobbing.
He found the gas pedal and the ignition and sped toward the airfield as
fast as the rocking car would carry him, his huge flabby hands clenched
and bloodless on the wheel or blaring his horn tormentedly. Once he
almost killed himself when he swerved with a banshee screech of tires
to avoid plowing into a bunch of men running crazily toward the hills
in their underwear with their stunned faces down and their thin arms
pressed high around their temples as puny shields. Yellow, orange and
red fires were burning on both sides of the road. Tents and trees were
in flames, and Milo's planes kept coming around interminably with
their blinking white landing lights on and their bomb bay doors open.
Colonel Cathcart almost turned his jeep over when he slammed the
brakes on at the control tower. He leaped from the car while it was still
skidding dangerously and hurtled up the flight of steps inside, where
three men were busy at the instruments and the controls. He bowled
two of them aside in his lunge for the nickel-plated microphone, his
eyes glittering wildly and his beefy face contorted with stress. He
squeezed the microphone in a bestial grip and began shouting hysterically
at the top of his voice,
"Milo, you son of a bitch! Are you crazy? What the hell are you
doing? Come down! Come down!"
"Stop hollering so much, will you?" answered Milo, who was standing
there right beside him in the control tower with a microphone of
his own. "I'm right here." Milo looked at him with reproof and turned
back to his work. "Very good, men, very good," he chanted into his
microphone. "But I see one supply shed still standing. That will never
do, Purvis-I've spoken to you about that kind of shoddy work before.
Now, you go right back there this minute and try it again. And this
time come in slowly . . . slowly. Haste makes waste, Purvis. Haste
makes waste. If I've told you once, I must have told you a hundred
times. Haste makes waste."
The loud-speaker overhead began squawking. "Milo, this is Alvin
Brown. I've finished dropping my bombs. What should I do now?"
"Strafe," said Milo.
"Strafe?" Alvin Brown was shocked.
"We have no choice," Milo informed him resignedly. "It's in the
"Oh, okay, then," Alvin Brown acquiesced. "In that case I'll strafe."
This time Milo had gone too far. Bombing his own men and planes
was more than even the most phlegmatic observer could stomach, and
it looked like the end for him. High-ranking government officials
poured in to investigate. Newspapers inveighed against Milo with glaring
headlines, and Congressmen denounced the atrocity in stentorian
wrath and clamored for punishment. Mothers with children in the
service organized into militant groups and demanded revenge. Not
one voice was raised in his defense. Decent people everywhere were
affronted, and Milo was all washed up until he opened his books to the
public and disclosed the. tremendous profit he had made. He could
reimburse the government for all the people and property he had
destroyed and still have enough money left over to continue buying
Egyptian cotton. Everybody, of course, owned a share. And the sweetest
part of the whole deal was that there really was no need to reimburse
the government at all.
"In a democracy, the government is the people," Milo explained.
"We're people, aren't we? So we might just as well keep the money and
eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I'd like to see the government get
out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry. If we
pay the government everything we owe it, we'll only be encouraging
government control and discouraging other individuals from bombing
their own men and planes. We'll be taking away their incentive."
Milo was correct, of course, as everyone soon agreed but a few
embittered misfits like Doc Daneeka, who sulked cantankerously and
muttered offensive insinuations about the morality of the whole venture
until Milo mollified him with a donation, in the name of the syndicate,
of a lightweight aluminum collapsible garden chair that Doc
Daneeka could fold up conveniently and carry outside his tent each
time Chief White Halfoat came inside his tent and carry back inside
his tent each time Chief White Halfoat came out. Doc Daneeka had
lost his head during Milo's bombardment; instead of running for cover,
he had remained out in the open and performed his duty, slithering
along the ground through shrapnel, strafing and incendiary bombs like
a furtive, wily lizard from casualty to casualty, administering tourniquets,
morphine, splints and sulfanilamide with a dark and doleful visage,
never saying one word more than he had to and reading in each
man's bluing wound a dreadful portent of his own decay. He worked
himself relentlessly into exhaustion before the long night was over and
came down with a sniffle the next day that sent him hurrying querulously
into the medical tent to have his temperature taken by Gus and
Wes and to obtain a mustard plaster and vaporizer.
Doc Daneeka tended each moaning man that night with the same
glum and profound and introverted grief he showed at the airfield the
day of the Avignon mission when Yossarian climbed down the few steps
of his plane naked, in a state of utter shock, with Snowden smeared
abundantly all over his bare heels and toes, knees, arms and fingers,
and pointed inside wordlessly toward where the young radio-gunner
lay freezing to death on the floor beside the still younger tail-gunner
who kept falling back into a dead faint each time he opened his eyes
and saw Snowden dying.
Doc Daneeka draped a blanket around Yossarian's shoulders almost
tenderly after Snowden had been removed from the plane and carried
into an ambulance on a stretcher. He led Yossarian toward his jeep.
McWatt helped, and the three drove in silence to the squadron medical
tent, where McWatt and Doc Daneeka guided Yossarian inside to
a chair and washed Snowden off him with cold wet balls of absorbent
cotton. Doc Daneeka gave him a pill and a shot that put him to sleep
for twelve hours. When Yossarian woke up and went to see him, Doc
Daneeka gave him another pill and a shot that put him to sleep for
another twelve hours. When Yossarian woke up again and went to see
him, Doc Daneeka made ready to give him another pill and a shot.
"How long are you going to keep giving me those pills and shots?"
Yossarian asked him.
"Until you feel better."
"I feel all right now."
Doc Daneeka's fragile suntanned forehead furrowed with surprise.
"Then why don't you put some clothes on? Why are you walking
around naked?"
"I don't want to wear a uniform any more."
Doc Daneeka accepted the explanation and put away his hypodermic
syringe. "Are you sure you feel all right?"
"I feel fine. I'm just a little logy from all those pills and shots you've
been giving me."
Yossarian went about his business with no clothes on all the rest of
that day and was still naked late the next morning when Milo, after
hunting everywhere else, finally found him sitting up a tree a small distance
in back of the quaint little military cemetery at which Snowden
was being buried. Milo was dressed in his customary business attire olive-
drab trousers, a fresh olive-drab shirt and tie, with one silver first
lieutenant's bar gleaming on the collar, and a regulation dress cap with
a stiff leather bill.
"I've been looking all over for you," Milo called up to Yossarian
from the ground reproachfully.
"Y0Ushould have looked for me in this tree," Yossarian answered.
"I've been up here all morning."
"Come on down and taste this and tell me if it's good. It's very
important. "
Yossarian shook his head. He sat nude on the lowest limb of the tree
and balanced himself with both hands grasping the bough directly
above. He refused to budge, and Milo had no choice but to stretch
both arms about the trunk in a distasteful hug and start climbing. He
struggled upward clumsily with loud grunts and wheezes, and his
clothes were squashed and crooked by the time he pulled himself up
high enough to hook a leg over the limb and pause for breath. His
dress cap was askew and in danger of falling. Milo caught it just when
it began slipping. Globules of perspiration glistened like transparent
pearls around his mustache and swelled like opaque blisters under his
eyes. Yossarian watched him impassively. Cautiously Milo worked
himself around in a half circle so that he could face Yossarian. He
unwrapped tissue paper from something soft, round and brown and
handed it out to Yossarian.
"Please taste this and let me know what you think. I'd like to serve
it to the men."
"What is it?" asked Yossarian, and took a big bite.
"Chocolate-covered cotton."
Yossarian gagged convulsively and sprayed his big mouthful of
chocolate-covered cotton right out into Milo's face. "Here, take it
back!" he spouted angrily. "Jesus Christ! Have you gone crazy? You
didn't even take the goddam seeds out."
"Give it a chance, will you?" Milo begged. "It can't be that bad. Is it
really that bad?"
"It's even worse."
"But I've got to make the mess halls feed it to the men."
"They'll never be able to swallow it."
"They've got to swallow it," Milo ordained with dictatorial grandeur,
and almost broke his neck when he let go with one arm to wave
a righteous finger in the air.
"Come on out here," Yossarian invited him. "You'll be much safer,
and you can see everything."
Gripping the bough above with both hands, Milo began inching his
way out on the limb sideways with utmost care and apprehension. His
face was rigid with tension, and he sighed with relief when he found
himself seated securely beside Yossarian. He stroked the tree affectionately.
"This is a pretty good tree," he observed admiringly with
proprietary gratitude.
"It's the tree of life," Yossarian answered, waggling his toes, "and of
knowledge of good and evil, too."
Milo squinted closely at the bark and branches. "No it isn't," he
replied. "It's a chestnut tree. I ought to know. I sell chestnuts."
"Have it your way."
They sat in the tree without talking for several seconds, their legs
dangling and their hands almost straight up on the bough above, the
one completely nude but for a pair of crepe-soled sandals, the other
completely dressed in a coarse olive-drab woolen uniform with his tie
knotted tight. Milo studied Yossarian diffidently through the corner of
his eye, hesitating tactfully .
"I want to ask you something," he said at last. "You don't have any
clothes on. I don't want to butt in or anything, but I just want to know.
Why aren't you wearing your uniform?"
"I don't want to."
Milo nodded rapidly like a sparrow pecking. "I see, I see," he stated
quickly with a look of vivid confusion. "I understand perfectly. I heard
Appleby and Captain Black say you had gone crazy, and I just wanted
to find out." He hesitated politely again, weighing his next question.
"Aren't you ever going to put your uniform on again?"
"I don't think so."
Milo nodded with spurious vim to indicate he still understood and
then sat silent, ruminating gravely with troubled misgiving. A scarlet-crested
bird shot by below, brushing sure dark wings against a quivering
bush. Yossarian and Milo were covered in their bower by tissue-thin
tiers of sloping green and largely surrounded by other gray chestnut
trees and a silver spruce. The sun was high overhead in a vast sapphire-blue
sky beaded with low, isolated, puffy clouds of dry and immaculate
white. There was no breeze, and the leaves about them hung motionless.
The shade was feathery. Everything was at peace but Milo,
who straightened suddenly with a muffled cry" and began pointing
"Look at that!" he exclaimed in alarm. "Look at that! That's a funeral
going on down there. That looks like the cemetery. Isn't it?"
Yossarian answered him slowly in a level voice. "They're burying
that kid who got killed in my plane over Avignon the other day.
"What happened to him?" Milo asked in a voice deadened with awe.
"He got killed." "
"That's terrible," Milo grieved, and his large brown eyes filled with
tears. "That poor kid. It really is terrible." He bit his trembling lip
hard, and his voice rose with emotion when he continued. "And it will
get even worse if the mess halls don't agree to buy my cotton.
Yossarian, what's the matter with them? Don't they realize it's their
syndicate? Don't they know they've all got a share?"
"Did the dead man in my tent have a share?" Yossarian demanded
"Of course he did," Milo assured him lavishly. "Everybody in the
squadron has a share."
"He was killed before he even got into the squadron."
Milo made a deft grimace of tribulation and turned away. "I wish
you'd stop picking on me about that dead man in your tent," he pleaded
peevishly. "I told you I didn't have anything tq do with killing him. Is it
my fault that I saw this great opportunity to corner the market on
Egyptian cotton and got us into all this trouble? Was I supposed to know
there was going to be a glut? I didn't even know what a glut was in those
days. An opportunity to corner a market doesn't come along very often,
and I was pretty shrewd to grab the chance when I had it." Milo gulped
back a moan as he saw six uniformed pallbearers lift the plain pine coffin
from the ambulance and set it gently down on the ground beside the
yawning gash of the freshly dug grave. "And now I can't get rid of a
single penny's worth," he mourned.
Yossarian was unmoved by the fustian charade of the burial ceremony,
and by Milo's crushing bereavement. The chaplain's voice
floated up to him through the distance tenuously in an unintelligible,
almost inaudible monotone, like a gaseous murmur. Yossarian could
make out Major Major by his towering and lanky aloofness and thought
he recognized Major Danby mopping his brow with a handkerchief.
Major Danby had not stopped shaking since his run-in with General
Dreedle. There were strands of enlisted men molded in a curve around
the three officers, as inflexible as lumps of wood, and four idle
gravediggers in streaked fatigues lounging indifferently on spades near
the shocking, incongruous heap of loose copper-red earth. As
Yossarian stared, the chaplain elevated his gaze toward Yossarian beatifically,
pressed his fingers down over his eyeballs in a manner of affliction,
peered upward again toward Yossarian searchingly, and bowed his
head, concluding what Yossarian took to be a climactic part of the
funeral rite. The four men in fatigues lifted the coffin on slings and
lowered it into the grave. Milo shuddered violently.
"I can't watch it," he cried, turning away in anguish. "I just can't sit
here and watch while those mess halls let my syndicate die." He
gnashed his teeth and shook his head with bitter woe and resentment.
"If they had any loyalty, they would buy my cotton till it hurts so that
they can keep right on buying my cotton till it hurts them some more.
They would build fires and burn up their underwear and summer
uniforms just to create a bigger demand. But they won't do a thing.
Yossarian, try eating the rest of this chocolate-covered cotton for me.
Maybe it will taste delicious now."
Yossarian pushed his hand away. "Give up, Milo. People can't eat
Milo's face narrowed cunningly. "It isn't really cotton," he coaxed. "I
was joking. It's really cotton candy, delicious cotton candy. Try it and see."
"Now you're lying."
"I never lie!" Milo rejoindered with proud dignity.
"You're lying now."
"I only lie when it's necessary," Milo explained defensively, averting
his eyes for a moment and blinking his lashes winningly. "This stuff
is better than cotton candy, really it is. It's made out of real cotton.
Yossarian, you've got to help me make the men eat it. Egyptian cotton
is the finest cotton in the world."
"But it's indigestible," Yossarian emphasized. "It will make them
sick, don't you understand? Why don't you try living on it yourself if
you don't believe me?"
"I did try," admitted Milo gloomily. "And it made me sick."
The graveyard was yellow as hay and green as cooked cabbage. In a
little while the chaplain stepped back, and the beige crescent of human
forms began to break up sluggishly, like flotsam. The men drifted
without haste or sound to the vehicles parked along the side of the
bumpy dirt road. With their heads down disconsolately, the chaplain,
Major Major and Major Danby moved toward their jeeps in an ostracized
group, each holding himself friendlessly several feet away from
the other two.
"It's all over," observed Yossarian.
"It's the end," Milo agreed despondently. "There's no hope left. And
all because I left them free to make their own decisions. That should
teach me a lesson about discipline the next time I try something like
"Why don't you sell your cotton to the government?" Yossarian
suggested casually as he watched the four men in streaked fatigues
shoveling heaping bladefuls of the copper-red earth back down inside
the grave.
Milo vetoed the idea brusquely. "It's a matter of principle," he
explained firmly. "The government has no business in business, and I
would be the last person in the world to ever try to involve the government
in a business of mine. But the business of government is business,"
he remembered alertly, and continued with elation. "Calvin
Coolidge said that, and Calvin Coolidge was a President, so it must be
true. And the government does have the responsibility of buying all the
Egyptian cotton I've got that no one else wants so that I can make a
profit, 'doesn't it?" Milo's face clouded almost as abruptly, and his spirits
descended into a state of sad anxiety. "But how will I get the government
to do it?"
"Bribe it," Yossarian said.
"Bribe it!" Milo was outraged and almost lost his balance and broke
his neck again. "Shame on you!" he scolded severely, breathing virtuous
fire down and upward into his rusty mustache through his billowing
nostrils and prim lips. "Bribery is against the law, and you know it.
But it's not against the law to make a profit, is it? So it can't be against
the law for me to bribe someone in order to make a fair profit, can it?
No, of course not!" He fell to brooding again, with a meek, almost
pitiable distress. "But how will I know who to bribe?"
"Oh, don't you worry about that," Yossarian comforted him with a
toneless snicker as the engines of the jeeps and ambulance fractured
the drowsy silence and the vehicles in the rear began driving away
backward. "You make the bribe big enough and they'll find you. Just
make sure you do everything right out in the open. Let everyone know
exactly what you want and how much you're willing to pay for it. The
first time you act guilty or ashamed, you might get into trouble."
"I wish you'd come with me," Milo remarked. "I won't feel safe
among people who take bribes. They're no better than a bunch of
"You'll be all right," Yossarian assured him with confidence. "If you
run into trouble, just tell everybody that the security of the country
requires a strong domestic Egyptian-cotton speculating industry."
"It does," Milo informed him solemnly. "A strong Egyptian-cotton
speculating industry means a much stronger America."
"Of course it does. And if that doesn't work, point out the great
number of American families that depend on it for income."
"A great many American families do depend on it for income."
"You see?" said Yossarian. "You're much better at it than I am. You
almost make it sound true."
"It is true," Milo exclaimed with a strong trace of the old hauteur.
"That's what I mean. You do it with just the right amount of conviction."
"You're sure you won't come with me?"
Yossarian shook his head.
Milo was impatient to get started. He stuffed the remainder of the
chocolate-covered cotton ball into his shirt pocket and edged his way
back gingerly along the branch to the smooth gray trunk. He threw his
arms about the trunk in a generous and awkward embrace and began
shinnying down, the sides of his leather-soled shoes slipping constantly
so that it seemed many times he would fall and injure himself. Halfway
down, he changed his mind and climbed back up. Bits of tree bark stuck
to his mustache, and his straining face was flushed with exertion.
"I wish you'd put your uniform on instead of going around naked
that way," he confided pensively before he climbed back down again
and hurried away. "You might start a trend, and then I'll never get rid
of all this goldarned cotton."

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:11 pm
by admin
25. The Chaplain

It was already some time since the chaplain had first begun wondering
what everything was all about. Was there a God? How could he be
sure? Being an Anabaptist minister in the American Army was difficult
enough under the best of circumstances; without dogma, it was almost
People with loud voices frightened him. Brave, aggressive men of
action like Colonel Cathcart left him feeling helpless and alone.
Wherever he went in the Army, he was a stranger. Enlisted men and
officers did not conduct themselves with him as they conducted themselves
with other enlisted men and officers, and even other chaplains
were not as friendly toward him as they were toward each other. In a
world in which success was the only virtue, he had resigned himself to
failure. He was painfully aware that he lacked the ecclesiastical aplomb
and savoir-faire that enabled so many of his colleagues in other faiths
and sects to get ahead. He was just not equipped to excel. He thought
of himself as ugly and wanted daily to be home with his wife.
Actually, the chaplain was almost good-looking, with a pleasant,
sensitive face as pale and brittle as sandstone. His mind was open on
every subject.
Perhaps he really was Washington Irving, and perhaps he really had
been signing Washington Irving's name to those letters he knew nothing
about. Such lapses of memory were not uncommon in medical
annals, he knew. There was no way of really knowing anything, he
knew, not even that there was no way of really knowing anything. He
remembered very distinctly-or was under the impression he remembered
very distinctly-his feeling that he had met Yossarian somewhere
before the first time he had met Yossarian lying in bed in the
hospital. He remembered experiencing the same disquieting sensation
almost two weeks later when Yossarian appeared at his tent to ask to be
taken off combat duty. By that time, of course, the chaplain had met
Yossarian somewhere before, in that odd, unorthodox ward in which
every patient seemed delinquent but the unfortunate patient covered
from head to toe in white bandages and plaster who was found dead
one day with a thermometer in his mouth. But the chaplain's impression
of a prior meeting was of some occasion far more momentous and
occult than that, of a significant encounter with Yossarian in some
remote, submerged and perhaps even entirely spiritual epoch in which
he had made the identical, foredooming admission that there was
nothing, absolutely nothing, he could do to help him.
Doubts of such kind gnawed at the chaplain's lean, suffering frame
insatiably. Was there a single true faith, or a life after death? How many
angels could dance on the head of a pin, and with what matters did God
occupy Himself in all the infinite aeons before the Creation? Why was
it necessary to put a protective seal on the brow of Cain if there were
no other people to protect him from? Did Adam and Eve produce
daughters? These were the great, complex questions of ontology that
tormented him. Yet they never seemed nearly as crucial to him as the
question of kindness and good manners. He was pinched perspiringly
in the epistemological dilemma of the skeptic, unable to accept solutions
to problems he was unwilling to dismiss as unsolvable. He was
never without misery, and never without hope.
"Have you ever," he inquired hesitantly of Yossarian that day in his
tent as Yossarian sat holding in both hands the warm bottle of Coca-
Cola with which the chaplain had been able to solace him, "been in a
situation which you felt you had been in before, even though you knew
you were experiencing it for the first time?" Yossarian nodded perfunctorily,
and the chaplain's breath quickened in anticipation as he
made ready to join his will power with Yossarian's in a prodigious effort
to rip away at last the voluminous black folds shrouding the eternal
mysteries of existence. "Do you have that feeling now?"
Yossarian shook his head and explained that deja vu was just a
momentary infinitesimal lag in the operation of two coactive sensory
nerve centers that commonly functioned simultaneously. The chaplain
scarcely heard him. He was disappointed, but not inclined to believe
Yossarian, for he had been given a sign, a secret, enigmatic vision that
he still lacked the boldness to divulge. There was no mistaking the
awesome implications of the chaplain's revelation: it was either an
insight of divine origin or a hallucination; he was either blessed or losing
his mind. Both prospects filled him with equal fear and depression.
It was neither deja vu, presque vu nor jamais vu. It was possible that
there were other vus of which he had never heard and that one of these
other vus would explain succinctly the baffling phenomenon of which
he had been both a witness and a part; it was even possible that none
of what he thought had taken place, really had taken place, that he was
dealing with an aberration of memory rather than of perception, that
he never really had thought he had seen what he now thought he once
did think he had seen, that his impression now that he once had
thought so was merely the illusion of an illusion, and that he was only
now imagining that he had ever once imagined seeing a naked man sitting
in a tree at the cemetery.
It was obvious to the chaplain now that he was not particularly well
suited to his work, and he often speculated whether he might not be
happier serving in some other branch of the service, as a private in the
infantry or field artillery, perhaps, or even as a paratrooper. He had no
real friends. Before meeting Yossarian, there was no one in the group
with whom he felt at ease, and he was hardly at ease with Yossarian,
whose frequent rash and insubordinate outbursts kept him almost constantly
on edge and in an ambiguous state of enjoyable trepidation.
The chaplain felt safe when he was at the officers' club with Yossarian
and Dunbar, and even with just Nately and McWatt. When he sat with
them he had no need to sit with anyone else; his problem of where to
sit was solved, and he was protected against the undesired company of
all those fellow officers who invariably welcomed him with excessive
cordiality when he approached and waited uncomfortably for him to
go away. He made so many people uneasy. Everyone was always very
friendly toward him, and no one was ever very nice; everyone spoke to
him, and no one ever said anything. Yossarian and Dunbar were much
more relaxed, and the chaplain was hardly uncomfortable with them at
all. They even defended him the night Colonel Cathcart tried to throw
him out of the officers' club again, Yossarian rising truculently to intervene
and Nately shouting out, "Yossarian!" to restrain him. Colonel
Cathcart turned white as a sheet at the sound of Yossarian's name, and,
to everyone's amazement, retreated in horrified disorder until he
bumped into General Dreedle, who elbowed him away with annoyance
and ordered him right back to order the chaplain to start coming into
the officers' club every night again.
The chaplain had almost as much trouble keeping track of his status
at the officers' club as he had remembering at which of the ten mess
halls in the group he was scheduled to eat his next meal. He would just
as soon have remained kicked out of the officers' club, had it not been
for the pleasure he was now finding there with his new companions. If
the chaplain did not go to the officers' club at night, there was no place
else he could go. He would pass the time at Yossarian's and Dunbar's
table with a shy, reticent smile, seldom speaking unless addressed, a
glass of thick sweet wine almost untasted before him as he toyed unfamiliarly
with the tiny corncob pipe that he affected self-consciously
and occasionally stuffed with tobacco and smoked. He enjoyed listening
to Nately, whose maudlin, bittersweet lamentations mirrored much
of his own romantic desolation and never failed to evoke in him resurgent
tides of longing for his wife and children. The chaplain would
encourage Nately with nods of comprehension or assent, amused by
'his candor and immaturity. Nately did not glory too immodestly that
his girl was a prostitute, and the chaplain's awareness stemmed mainly
from Captain Black, who never slouched past their table without a
broad wink at the chaplain and some tasteless, wounding jibe about her
to Nately. The chaplain did not approve of Captain Black and found it
difficult not to wish him evil.
No one, not even Nately, seemed really to appreciate that he,
Chaplain Albert Taylor Tappman, was not just a chaplain but a human
being, that he could have a charming, passionate, pretty wife whom he
loved almost insanely and three small blue-eyed children with strange,
forgotten faces who would grow up someday to regard him as a freak
and who might never forgive him for all the social embarrassment his
vocation would cause them. Why couldn't anybody understand that he
was not really a freak but a normal, lonely adult trying to lead a normal,
lonely adult life? If they pricked him, didn't he bleed? And if he
was tickled, didn't he laugh? It seemed never to have occurred to them
that he, just as they, had eyes, hands, organs, dimensions, senses and
affections, that he was wounded by the same kind of weapons they
were, warmed and cooled by the same breezes and fed by the same kind
of food, although, he was forced to concede, in a different mess hall for
each successive meal. The only person who did seem to realize he had
feelings was Corporal Whitcomb, who had just managed to bruise
them all by going over his head to Colonel Cathcart with his proposal
for sending form letters of condolence home to the families of men
killed or wounded in combat.
The chaplain's wife was the one thing in the world he could be certain
of, and it would have been sufficient, if only he had been left to
live his life out with just her and the children. The chaplain's wife was
a reserved, diminutive, agreeable woman in her early thirties, very dark
and very attractive, with a narrow waist, calm intelligent eyes, and
small, bright, pointy teeth in a childlike face that was vivacious and
petite; he kept forgetting what his children looked like, and each time
he returned to their snapshots it was like seeing their faces for the first
time. The chaplain loved his wife and children with such tameless
intensity that he often wanted to sink to the ground helplessly and
weep like a castaway cripple. He was tormented inexorably by morbid
fantasies involving them, by dire, hideous omens of illness and accident.
His meditations were polluted with threats of dread diseases like
Ewing's tumor and leukemia; he saw his infant son die two or three
times every week because he had never taught his wife how to stop
arterial bleeding; watched, in tearful, paralyzed silence, his whole family
electrocuted, one after the other, at a baseboard socket because he
had never told her that a human body would conduct electricity; all
four went up in flames almost every night when the water heater
exploded and set the two-story wooden house afire; in ghastly, heartless,
revolting detail he saw his poor dear wife's trim and fragile body
crushed to a viscous pulp against the brick wall of a market building by
a half-witted drunken automobile driver and watched his hysterical
five-year-old daughter being led away from the grisly scene by a
kindly middle-aged gentleman with snow-white hair who raped and
murdered her repeatedly as soon as he had driven her off to a deserted
sandpit, while his two younger children starved to death slowly in the
house after his wife's mother, who had been baby-sitting, dropped dead
from a heart attack when news of his wife's accident was given to her
over the telephone. The chaplain's wife was a sweet, soothing, considerate
woman, and he yearned to touch the warm flesh of her slender
arm again and stroke her smooth black hair, to hear her intimate, comforting
voice. She was a much stronger person than he was. He wrote
brief, untroubled letters to her once a week, sometimes twice. He
wanted to write urgent love letters to her all day long and crowd the
endless pages with desperate, uninhibited confessions of his humble
worship and need and with careful instructions for administering artificial
respiration. He wanted to pour out to her in torrents of self-pity
all his unbearable loneliness and despair and warn her never to leave
the boric acid or the aspirin in reach of the children or to cross a street
against the traffic light. He did not wish to worry her. The chaplain's
wife was intuitive, gentle, compassionate and responsive. Almost
inevitably, his reveries of reunion with her ended in explicit acts of
The chaplain felt most deceitful presiding at funerals, and it would
not have astonished him to learn that the apparition in the tree that day
was a manifestation of the Almighty's censure for the blasphemy and
pride inherent in his function. To simulate gravity, feign grief and pretend
supernatural intelligence of the hereafter in so fearsome and
arcane a circumstance as death seemed the most criminal of offenses.
He recalled-or was almost convinced he recalled-the scene of the
cemetery perfectly. He could still see Major Major and Major Danby
standing somber as broken stone pillars on either side of him, see
almost the exact number of enlisted men and almost the exact places in
which they had stood, see the four unmoving men with spades, the
repulsive coffin and the large, loose, triumphant mound of reddish-brown
earth, and the massive, still, depthless, muffling sky, so weirdly
blank and blue that day it was almost poisonous. He would remember
them forever, for they were all part and parcel of the most extraordinary
event that had ever befallen him, an event perhaps marvelous,
perhaps pathological-the vision of the naked man in the tree. How
could he explain it? It was not already seen or never seen, and certainly
not almost seen; neither deja vu, jamais vu nor presque vu was elastic
enough to cover it. Was it a ghost, then? The dead man's soul? An
angel from heaven or a minion from hell? Or was the whole fantastic
episode merely the figment of a diseased imagination, his own, of a
deteriorating mind, a rotting brain? The possibility that there really
had been a naked man in the tree-two men, actually, since the first
had been joined shortly by a second man clad in a brown mustache and
sinister dark garments from head to toe who bent forward ritualistically
along the limb of the tree to offer the first man something to
drink from a brown goblet-never crossed the chaplain's mind.
The chaplain was sincerely a very helpful person who was never able
to help anyone, not even Yossarian when he finally decided to seize the
bull by the horns and visit Major Major secretly to learn if, as Yossarian
had said, the men in Colonel Cathcart's group really were being forced
to fly more combat missions than anyone else. It was a daring, impulsive
move on which the chaplain decided after quarreling with Corporal
Whitcomb again and washing down with tepid canteen water his
joyless lunch of a Milky Way and Baby Ruth. He went to Major Major
on foot so that Corporal Whitcomb would not see him leaving, stealing
into the forest noiselessly until the two tents in his clearing were
left behind, then dropping down inside the abandoned railroad ditch,
where the footing was surer. He hurried along the fossilized wooden
ties with accumulating mutinous anger. He had been browbeaten and
humiliated successively that morning by Colonel Cathcart, Colonel
Korn and Corporal Whitcomb. He just had to make himself felt in
some respect! His slight chest was soon puffing for breath. He moved
as swiftly as he could without breaking into a run, fearing his resolution
might dissolve if he slowed. Soon he saw a uniformed figure corning
toward him between the rusted rails. He clambered immediately
up the side of the ditch, ducked inside a dense copse of low trees for
concealment and sped along in his original direction on a narrow, overgrown
mossy path he found winding deep inside the shaded forest. It
was tougher going there, but he plunged ahead with the same reckless
and consuming determination, slipping and stumbling often and stinging
his unprotected hands on the stubborn branches blocking his way
until the bushes and tall ferns on both sides spread open and he lurched
past an olive-drab military trailer on cinder blocks clearly visible
through the thinning underbrush. He continued past a tent with a
luminous pearl-gray cat sunning itself outside and past another trailer
on cinder blocks and then burst into the clearing of Yossarian's
squadron. A salty dew had formed on his lips. He did not pause, but
strode directly across the clearing into the orderly room, where he was
welcomed by a gaunt, stoop-shouldered staff sergeant with prominent
cheekbones and long, very light blond hair, who informed him graciously
that he could go right in, since Major Major was out.
The chaplain thanked him with a curt nod and proceeded alone
down the aisle between the desks and typewriters to the canvas partition
in the rear. He bobbed through the triangular opening and found
himself inside an empty office. The flap fell closed behind him. He was
breathing hard and sweating profusely. The office remained empty. He
thought he heard furtive whispering. Ten minutes passed. He looked
about in stern displeasure, his jaws clamped together indomitably, and
then turned suddenly to water as he remembered the staff sergeant's
exact words: he could go right in, since Major Major was out. The
enlisted men were playing a practical joke! The chaplain shrank back from
the wall in terror, bitter tears springing to his eyes. A pleading whimper
escaped his trembling lips. Major Major was elsewhere, and the
enlisted men in the other room had made him the butt of an inhuman
prank. He could almost see them waiting on the other side of the canvas
wall, bunched up expectantly like a pack of greedy, gloating omnivorous
beasts of prey, ready with their barbaric mirth and jeers to
pounce on him brutally the moment he reappeared. He cursed himself
for his gullibility and wished in panic for something like a mask or a
pair of dark glasses and a false mustache to disguise him, or for a forceful, deep voice like Colonel Cathcart's and broad, muscular shoulders
and biceps to enable him to step outside fearlessly and vanquish his
malevolent persecutors with an overbearing authority and self-confidence
that would make them all quail and slink away cravenly in
repentance. He lacked the courage to face them. The only other way
out was the window. The coast was clear, and the chaplain jumped out
of Major Major's office through the window, darted swiftly around the
corner of the tent, and leaped down inside the railroad ditch to hide.
He scooted away with his body doubled over and his face contorted
intentionally into a nonchalant, sociable smile in case anyone chanced
to see him. He abandoned the ditch for the forest the moment he saw
someone coming toward him from the opposite direction and ran
through the cluttered forest frenziedly like someone pursued, his
cheeks burning with disgrace. He heard loud, wild peals of derisive
laughter crashing all about him and caught blurred glimpses of wicked,
beery faces smirking far back inside the bushes and high overhead in
the foliage of the trees. Spasms of scorching pains stabbed trough his
lungs and slowed him to a crippled walk. He lunged and staggered
onward until he could go no farther and collapsed all at once against a
gnarled apple tree, banging his head hard against the trunk as he toppled
forward and holding on with both arms to keep from falling. His
breathing was a rasping, moaning din in his ears. Minutes passed like
hours before he finally recognized himself as thy source of the turbulent
roar that was overwhelming him. The pains in his chest abated.
Soon he felt strong enough to stand. He cocked his ears craftily. The
forest was quiet. There was no demonic laughter, no one was chasing
him. He was too tired and sad and dirty to feel relieved. He straightened
his disheveled clothing with fingers that were numb and shaking
and walked the rest of the way to the clearing with rigid self-control.
The chaplain brooded often about the danger of heart attack.
Corporal Whitcomb's jeep was still parked in the clearing. The chaplain
tiptoed stealthily around the back of Corporal Whitcomb's tent
rather than pass the entrance and risk being seen and insulted by him.
Heaving a grateful sigh, he slipped quickly inside his own tent and
found Corporal Whitcomb ensconced on his cot, his knees propped up.
Corporal Whitcomb's mud-caked shoes were on the chaplain's blanket,
and he was eating one of the chaplain's candy bars as he thumbed with
a sneering expression through one of the chaplain's Bibles.
"Where've you been?" he demanded rudely and disinterestedly,
without looking up.
The chaplain colored and turned away evasively. "I went for a walk
through the woods."
"All right," Corporal Whitcomb snapped. "Don't take me into your
confidence. But just wait and see what happens to my morale." He bit
into the chaplain's candy bar hungrily and continued with a full mouth. \
"You had a visitor while you were gone. Major Major."
The chaplain spun around with surprise and cried: "Major Major?
Major Major was here?"
"That's who we're talking about, isn't it?"
"Where did he go?"
"He jumped down into that railroad ditch and took off like a frightened
rabbit." Corporal Whitcomb snickered. "What a jerk!"
"Did he say what he wanted?"
"He said he needed your help in a matter of great importance."
The chaplain was astounded. "Major Major said that?"
"He didn't say that," Corporal Whitcomb corrected with withering
precision. "He wrote it down in a sealed personal letter he left on your
The chaplain glanced at the bridge table that served as his desk and
saw only the abominable orange-red pear-shaped plum tomato he had
obtained that same morning from Colonel Cathcart, still lying on its
side where he had forgotten it like an indestructible and incarnadine
symbol of his own ineptitude. "Where is the letter?"
"I threw it away as soon as I tore it open and read it." Corporal
Whitcomb slammed the Bible shut and jumped up. "What's the matter?
Won't you take my word for it?" He walked out. He walked right
back in and almost collided with the chaplain, who was rushing out
behind him on his way back to Major Major. "You don't know how to
delegate responsibility," Corporal Whitcomb informed him sullenly.
"That's another one of the things that's wrong with you."
The chaplain nodded penitently and hurried past, unable to make
himself take the time to apologize. He could feel the skillful hand of
fate motivating him imperatively. Twice that day already, he realized
now, Major Major had come racing toward him inside the ditch; and
twice that day the chaplain had stupidly postponed the destined meeting
by bolting into the forest. He seethed with self-recrimination as
he hastened back as rapidly as he could stride along the splintered,
irregularly-spaced railroad ties. Bits of grit and gravel inside his shoes
and socks were grinding the tops of his toes raw. His pale, laboring face
was screwed up unconsciously into a grimace of acute discomfort. The
early August afternoon was growing hotter and more humid. It was
almost a mile from his tent to Yossarian's squadron. The chaplain's
summer-tan shirt was soaking with perspiration by the time he arrived
there and rushed breathlessly back inside the orderly-room tent, where
he was halted peremptorily by the same treacherous, soft-spoken staff
sergeant with round eyeglasses and gaunt cheeks, who requested him
to remain outside because Major Major was inside and told him he .
would not be allowed inside until Major Major went out. The chaplain
looked at him in an uncomprehending daze. Why did the sergeant hate
him? he wondered. His lips were white and trembling. He was aching
with thirst. What was the matter with people? Wasn't there tragedy
enough? The sergeant put his hand out and held the chaplain steady.
"I'm sorry, sir," he said regretfully in a low, courteous, melancholy
voice. "But those are Major Major's orders. He never wants to see anyone."
"He wants to see me," the chaplain pleaded. "He came to my tent
to see me while I was here before."
"Major Major did that?" the sergeant asked.
"Yes, he did. Please go in and ask him."
"I'm afraid I can't go in, sir. He never wants to see me either. Perhaps
if you left a note."
"I don't want to leave a note. Doesn't he ever make an exception?"
"Only in extreme circumstances. The last time he left his tent was
to attend the funeral of one of the enlisted men. The last time he saw
anyone in his office was a time he was forced to. A bombardier named
Yossarian forced-"
"Yossarian?" The chaplain lit up with excitement at this new coincidence.
Was this another miracle in the making? "But that's exactly
whom I want to speak to him about! Did they talk about the number
of missions Yossarian has to fly?"
"Yes, sir, that's exactly what they did talk about. Captain Yossarian
had flown fifty-one missions, and he appealed to Major Major to
ground him so that he wouldn't have to fly four more. Colonel Cathcart
wanted only fifty-five missions then."
"And what did Major Major say?" .
"Major Major told him there was nothing he could do."
The chaplain's face fell. "Major Major said that?"
"Yes, sir. In fact, he advised Yossarian to go see you for help. Are you
certain you wouldn't like to leave a note, sir? I have a pencil and paper
right here."
The chaplain shook his head, chewing his clotted dry lower lip forlornly,
and walked out. It was still so early in the day, and so much had
already happened. The air was cooler in the forest. His throat was
parched and sore. He walked slowly and asked himself ruefully what
new misfortune could possibly befall him a moment before the mad
hermit in the woods leaped out at him without warning from behind a
mulberry bush. The chaplain screamed at the top of his voice.
The tall, cadaverous stranger fell back in fright at the chaplain's cry
and shrieked, "Don't hurt me!"
"Who are you?" the chaplain shouted.
"Please don't hurt me!" the man shouted back.
"I'm the chaplain!"
"Then why do you want to hurt me?"
"I don't want to hurt you!" the chaplain insisted with a rising hint of
exasperation, even though he was still rooted to the spot. "Just tell me
who you are and what you want from me."
"I just want to find out if Chief White Halfoat died of pneumonia
yet," the man shouted back. "That's all I want. I live here. My name is
Flume. I belong to the squadron, but I live here in the woods. You can
ask anyone."
The chaplain's composure began trickling back as he studied the
queer, cringing figure intently. A pair of captain's bars ulcerated with
rust hung on the man's ragged shirt collar. He had a hairy, tar-black
mole on the underside of one nostril and a heavy rough mustache the
color of poplar bark.
"Why do you live in the woods if you belong to the squadron?" the
chaplain inquired curiously.
"I have to live in the woods," the captain replied crabbily, as though
the chaplain ought to know. He straightened slowly, still watching the
chaplain guardedly although he towered above him by more than a
full head. "Don't you hear everybody talking about me? Chief White
Halfoat swore he was going to cut my throat some night when I was fast
asleep, and I don't dare lie down in the squadron while he's still alive."
The chaplain listened to the implausible explanation distrustfully.
"But that's incredible," he replied. "That would be premeditated murder.
Why didn't you report the incident to Major Major?"
"I did report the incident to Major Major," said the captain sadly,
"and Major Major said he would cut my throat if I ever spoke to him
again." The man studied the chaplain fearfully. "Are you going to cut
my throat, too?"
"Oh, no, no, no," the chaplain assured him. "Of course not. Do you
really live in the forest?"
The captain nodded, and the chaplain gazed at his porous, gray pallor
of fatigue and malnutrition with a mixture of pity and esteem. The
man's body was a bony shell inside rumpled clothing that hung on him
like a disorderly collection of sacks. Wisps of dried grass were glued all
over him; he needed a haircut badly. There were great, dark circles
under his eyes. The chaplain was moved almost to tears by the
harassed, bedraggled picture the captain presented, and he filled with
deference and compassion at the thought of the many severe rigors the
poor man had to endure daily. In a voice hushed with humility, he said,
"Who does your laundry?"
The captain pursed his lips in a businesslike manner. "I have it done
by a washerwoman in one of the farmhouses down the road. I keep my
things in my trailer and sneak inside once or twice a day for a clean
handkerchief or a change of underwear."
"What will you do when winter comes?"
"Oh, I expect to be back in the squadron by then," the captain
answered with a kind of martyred confidence. "Chief White Halfoat
kept promising everyone that he was going to die of pneumonia, and I
guess I'll just have to be patient until the weather turns a little colder
and damper." He scrutinized the chaplain perplexedly. "Don't you
know all this? Don't you hear all the fellows talking about me?"
"I don't think I've ever heard anyone mention you."
"Well, I certainly can't understand that." The captain was piqued,
but managed to carry on with a pretense of optimism. "Well, here it is
almost September already, so I guess it won't be too long now. The
next time any of the boys ask about me, why, just tell them I'll be back
grinding out those old publicity releases again as soon as Chief White
Halfoat dies of pneumonia. Will you tell them that? Say I'll be back in
the squadron as soon as winter comes and Chief White Halfoat dies of
pneumonia. Okay?"
The chaplain memorized the prophetic words solemnly, entranced
further by their esoteric import. "Do you live on berries, herbs and
roots?" he asked.
"No, of course not," the captain replied with surprise. "I sneak into
the mess hall through the back and eat in the kitchen. Milo gives me
sandwiches and milk."
"What do you do when it rains?"
The captain answered frankly. "I get wet."
"Where do you sleep?"
Swiftly the captain ducked down into a crouch and began backing
away. "You too?" he cried frantically.
"Oh, no," cried the. chaplain. "I swear to you."
"You do want to cut my throat!" the captain insisted.
"I give you my word," the chaplain pleaded, but it was too late, for
the homely hirsute specter had already vanished, dissolving so expertly
inside the blooming, dappled, fragmented malformations of leaves,
light and shadows that the chaplain was already doubting that he had
even been there. So many monstrous events were occurring that he was
no longer positive which events were monstrous and which were really
taking place. He wanted to find out about the madman in the woods as
quickly as possible, to check if there ever really had been a Captain
Flume, but his first chore, he recalled with reluctance, was to appease
Corporal Whitcomb for neglecting to delegate enough responsibility
to him. He plodded along the zigzagging path through the forest listlessly,
clogged with thirst and feeling almost too exhausted to go on. He
was remorseful when he thought of Corporal Whitcomb. He prayed
that Corporal Whitcomb would be gone when he reached the clearing
so that he could undress without embarrassment, wash his arms and
chest and shoulders thoroughly, drink water, lie down refreshed and
perhaps even sleep for a few minutes; but he was in for still another disappointment
and still another shock, for Corporal Whitcomb was
Sergeant Whitcomb by the time he arrived and was sitting with his shirt
off in the chaplain's chair sewing his new sergeant's stripes on his sleeve
with the chaplain's needle and thread. Corporal Whitcomb had been
promoted by Colonel Cathcart, who wanted to see the chaplain at once
about the letters.
"Oh, no," groaned the chaplain, sinking down dumbfounded on his
cot. His warm canteen was empty, and he was too distraught to remember
the lister bag hanging outside in the shade between. the two tents.
"I can't believe it. I just can't believe that anyone would seriously believe
that I've been forging Washington Irving's name."
"Not those letters," Corporal Whitcomb corrected, plainly enjoying
the chaplain's chagrin. "He wants to see you about the letters home
to the families of casualties."
"Those letters?" asked the chaplain with surprise.
"That's right," Corporal Whitcomb gloated. "He's really going to
chew you out for refusing to let me send them. You should have seen
him go for the idea once I reminded him the letters could carry his signature. That's why he promoted me. He's absolutely sure they'll get
him into The Saturday Evening Post."
The chaplain's befuddlement increased. "But how did he know we
were even considering the idea?"
"I went to his office and told him."
"You did what?" the chaplain demanded shrilly, and charged to his
feet in an unfamiliar rage. "Do you mean to say that you actually went
over my head to the colonel without asking my permission?"
Corporal Whitcomb grinned brazenly with scornful satisfaction.
"That's right, Chaplain," he answered. "And you better not try to do
anything about it if you know what's good for you." He laughed quietly
in malicious defiance. "Colonel Cathcart isn't going to like it if he finds
out you're getting even with me for bringing him my idea. You know
something, Chaplain?" Corporal Whitcomb continued, biting the chaplain's
black thread apart contemptuously with a loud snap and buttoning
on his shirt. "That dumb bastard really thinks it's one of the greatest
ideas he's ever heard."
"It might even get me into The Saturday Evening Post," Colonel
Cathcart boasted in his office with a smile, swaggering back and forth
convivially as he reproached the chaplain. "And you didn't have brains
enough to appreciate it. You've got a good man in Corporal Whitcomb,
Chaplain. I hope you have brains enough to appreciate that."
"Sergeant Whitcomb," the chaplain corrected, before he could control
Colonel Cathcart glared. "I said Sergeant Whitcomb," he replied. "I
wish you'd try listening once in a while instead of always finding fault.
You don't want to be a captain all your life, do you?"
"Well, I certainly don't see how you're ever going to amount to anything
else if you keep on this way. Corporal Whitcomb feels that you
fellows haven't had a fresh idea in nineteen hundred and forty-four
years, and I'm inclined to agree with him. A bright boy, that Corporal
Whitcomb. Well, it's all going to change." Colonel Cathcart sat down
at his desk with a determined air and cleared a large neat space in his
blotter. When he had finished, he tapped his finger inside it. "Starting
tomorrow," he said, "I want you and Corporal Whitcomb to write a
letter of condolence for me to the next of kin of every man in the group
who's killed, wounded or taken prisoner. I want those letters to be sincere
letters. I want them filled up with lots of personal details so
there'll be no doubt I mean every word you say. Is that clear?"
The chaplain stepped forward impulsively to remonstrate. "But, sir,
that's impossible!" he blurted out. "We don't even know all the men
that well."
"What difference does that make?" Colonel Cathcart demanded,
and then smiled amicably. "Corporal Whitcomb brought me this basic
form letter that takes care of just about every situation. Listen: 'Dear
Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs.: Words cannot express the deep personal
grief I experienced when your husband, son, father or brother
was killed, wounded or reported missing in action.' And so on. I think
that opening sentence sums up my sentiments exactly. Listen, maybe
you'd better let Corporal Whitcomb take charge of the whole thing if
you don't feel up to it." Colonel Cathcart whipped out his cigarette
holder 'and flexed it between both hands like an onyx-and-ivory riding
crop. "That's one of the things that's wrong with you, Chaplain. Corporal
Whitcomb tells me you don't know how to delegate responsibility.
He says you've got no initiative either. You're not going to disagree
with me, are you?"
"O, sir." The chaplain shook his head, feeling despicably remiss
because he did not know how to delegate responsibility and had no initiative,
and because he really had been tempted to disagree with the
colonel. His mind was a shambles. They were shooting skeet outside,
and every time a gun was fired his senses were jarred. He could not
adjust to the sound of the shots. He was surrounded by bushels of plum
tomatoes and was almost convinced that he had stood in Colonel
Cathcart's office on some similar occasion deep in the past and had
been surrounded by those same bushels of those same plum tomatoes.
Deja vu again. The setting seemed so familiar; yet it also seemed so distant.
His clothes felt grimy and old, and he was deathly afraid he
"You take things too seriously, Chaplain," Colonel Cathcart told
him bluntly with an air of adult objectivity. "That's another one of the
things that's wrong with you. That long face of yours gets everybody
depressed. Let me see you laugh once in a while. Come on, Chaplain.
You give me a belly laugh right now and I'll give you a whole bushel of
plum tomatoes." He waited a second or two, watching, and then chortled
victoriously. "You see, Chaplain, I'm right. You can't give me a
belly laugh, can you?"
"No, sir," admitted the chaplain meekly, swallowing slowly with a
visible effort. "Not right now. I'm very thirsty."
"Then get yourself a drink. Colonel Korn keeps some bourbon in
his desk. You ought to try dropping around the officers' club with us
some evening just to have yourself a little fun. Try getting lit once in a
while. I hope you don't feel you're better than the rest of us just
because you're a professional man."
"Oh, no, sir," the chaplain assured him with embarrassment. "As a
matter of fact, I have been going to the officers' club the past few
"You're only a captain, you know," Colonel Cathcart continued,
paying no attention to the chaplain's remark. "You may be a professional
man, but you're still only a captain."
"Yes, sir. I know."
"That's fine, then. It's just as well you didn't laugh before. I wouldn't
have given you the plum tomatoes anyway. Corporal Whitcomb tells
me you took a plum tomato when you were in here this morning."
"This morning? But, sir! You gave it to me."
Colonel Cathcart cocked his head with suspicion. "I didn't say I
didn't give it to you, did I? I merely said you took it. I don't see why
you've got such a guilty conscience if you really didn't steal it. Did I
give it to you?"
"Yes, sir. I swear you did."
"Then I'll just have to take your word for it. Although I can't imagine
why I'd want to give you a plum tomato." Colonel Cathcart transferred
a round glass paperweight competently from the right edge of
his desk to the left edge and picked up a sharpened pencil. "Okay,
Chaplain, I've got a lot of important work to do now if you're through.
You let me know when Corporal Whitcomb has sent out about a dozen
of those letters and we'll get in touch with the editors of The Saturday
Evening Post." A sudden inspiration made his face brighten. "Say! I
think I'll volunteer the group for Avignon again. That should speed
things up!"
"For Avignon?" The chaplain's heart missed a beat, and all his flesh
began to prickle and creep.
"That's right," the colonel explained exuberantly. "The sooner we
get some casualties, the sooner we can make some progress on this. I'd
like to get in the Christmas issue if we can. I imagine the circulation is
higher then."
And to the chaplain's horror, the colonel lifted the phone to volunteer
the group for Avignon and tried to kick him out of the officers'
club again that very same night a moment before Yossarian rose up
drunkenly, knocking over his chair, to start an avenging punch that
made Nately call out his name and made Colonel Cathcart blanch and
retreat prudently smack into General Dreedle, who shoved him off his
bruised foot disgustedly and ordered him forward to kick the chaplain
right back into the officers' club. It was all very upsetting to Colonel
Cathcart, first the dreaded name Yossarian! tolling out again clearly like
a warning of doom and then General Dreedle's bruised foot, and that
was another fault Colonel Cathcart found in the chaplain, the fact that
it was impossible to predict how General Dreedle would react each
time he saw him. Colonel Cathcart would never forget the first
evening General Dreedle took notice of the chaplain in the officers'
club, lifting his ruddy, sweltering, intoxicated face to stare ponderously
through the yellow pall of cigarette smoke at the chaplain lurking near
the wall by himself.
"Well, I'll be damned," General Dreedle had exclaimed hoarsely, his
shaggy gray menacing eyebrows beetling in recognition. "Is that a
chap.1ainI see over there? That's really a fine thing when a man of God
begins hanging around a place like this with a bunch of dirty drunks
and 'gamblers."
Colonel Cathcart compressed his lips primly and started to rise. "I
couldn't agree with you more, sir," he assented briskly in a tone of
ostentatious disapproval. "I just don't know what's happening to the
clergy these days."
"They're getting better, that's what's happening to them," General
Dreedle growled emphatically.
Colonel Cathcart gulped awkwardly and made a nimble recovery.
"Yes, sir. They are getting better. That's exactly what I had in mind,
"This is just the place for a chaplain to be, mingling with the men
while they're out drinking and gambling so he can get to understand
them and win their confidence. How the hell else is he ever going to
get them to believe in God?"
"That's exactly what I had in mind, sir, when I ordered him to come
here," Colonel Cathcart said carefully, and threw his arm familiarly
around the chaplain's shoulders as he walked him off into a corner to
order him in a cold undertone to start reporting for duty at the officers'
club every evening to mingle with the men while they were drinking
and gambling so that he could get to understand them and ,win
their confidence.
The chaplain agreed and did report for duty to the officers' club
every night to mingle with men who wanted to avoid him, until the
evening the vicious fist fight broke out at the Ping-Pong table and
Chief White Halfoat whirled without provocation and punched
Colonel Moodus squarely in the nose,ยท knocking Colonel Moodus
down on the seat of his pants and making General Dreedle roar with
lusty, unexpected laughter until he spied the chaplain standing close by
gawking at him grotesquely in tortured wonder. General Dreedle froze
at the sight of him. He glowered at the chaplain with swollen fury for
a moment, his good humor gone, and turned back toward the bar disgruntledly,
rolling from side to side like a sailor on his short bandy
legs. Colonel Cathcart cantered fearfully along behind, glancing anxiously
about in vain for some sign of help from Colonel Korn.
"That's a fine thing," General Dreedle growled at the bar, gripping
his empty shot glass in his burly hand. "That's really a fine thing.
When a man of God begins hanging around a place like this with a
bunch of dirty drunks and gamblers."
Colonel Cathcart sighed with relief. "Yes, sir," he exclaimed proudly.
"It certainly is a fine thing."
"Then why the hell don't you do something about it?"
"Sir?" Colonel Cathcart inquired, blinking.
"Do you think it does you credit to have your chaplain hanging
around here every night? He's in here every goddam time I come."
"You're right, sir, absolutely right," Colonel Cathcart responded. "It
does me no credit at all. And I am going to do something about it, this
very minute."
"Aren't you the one who ordered him to come here?"
"No, sir, that was. Colonel Korn. I intend to punish him severely,
"If he wasn't a chaplain," General Dreedle muttered, "I'd have him
taken outside and shot."
"He's not a chaplain, sir," Colonel Cathcart advised helpfully.
"Isn't he? Then why the hell does he wear that cross on his collar if
he's not a chaplain?"
"He doesn't wear a cross on his collar, sir. He wears a silver leaf.
He's a lieutenant colonel."
"You've got a chaplain who's a lieutenant colonel?" inquired General
Dreedle with amazement.
"Oh, no, sir. My chaplain is only a captain."
"Then why the hell does he wear a silver leaf on his collar if he's
only a captain?"
"He doesn't wear a silver leaf on his collar, sir. He wears a cross."
"Go away from me now, you son of a bitch," said General Dreedle.
"Or I'll have you taken outside and shot!"
"Yes, sir."
Colonel Cathcart went away from General Dreedle with a gulp and
kicked the chaplain out of the officers' club, and it was exactly the way
it almost was two months later after the chaplain had tried to persuade
Colonel Cathcart to rescind his order increasing the number of missions
to sixty and had failed abysmally in that endeavor too, and the
chaplain was ready now to capitulate to despair entirely but was
restrained by the memory of his wife, whom he loved and missed so
pathetically with such sensual and exalted ardor, and by the .lifelong
trust he had placed in the wisdom and justice of an immortal, omnipotent,
omniscient, humane, universal, anthropomorphic, Englishs-peaking,
Anglo-Saxon, pro-American God, which had begun to
waver. So many things were testing his faith. There was the Bible, of
course, but the Bible was a book, and so were Bleak House, Treasure
Island, Ethan Frome and The Last of the Mohicans. Did it indeed seem
probable, as he had once overheard Dunbar ask, that the answers to the
riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand
the mechanics of rainfall? Had Almighty God, in all His infinite
wisdom, really been afraid that men six thousand years ago would succeed
in building a tower to heaven? Where the devil was heaven? Was
it up? Down? There was no up or down in a finite but expanding universe
in which even the vast, burning, dazzling, majestic sun was in a
state of progressive decay that would eventually destroy the earth too.
There were no miracles; prayers went unanswered, and misfortune
tramped with equal brutality on the virtuous and the corrupt; and the
chaplain, who had conscience and character, would have yielded to reason
and relinquished his belief in the God of his fathers-would truly
have resigned both his calling and his commission and taken his
chances as a private in the infantry or field artillery, or even, perhaps,
as a corporal in the paratroopers-had it not been for such successive
mystic phenomena as the naked man in the tree at that poor sergeant's
funeral weeks before and the cryptic, haunting, encouraging promise
of the prophet Flume in the forest only that afternoon: 'Tell them I'll be
back when winter comes.

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:12 pm
by admin
26. Aarfy

In a way it was all Yossarian's fault, for if he had not moved the bomb
line during the Big Siege of Bologna, Major -- de Coverley might
still be around to save him, and if he had not stocked the enlisted men's
apartment with girls who had no other place to live, Nately might
never have fallen in love with his whore as she sat naked from the waist I
down in the room full of grumpy blackjack players who ignored her.
Nately stared at her covertly from his overstuffed yellow armchair,
marveling at the bored, phlegmatic strength with which she accepted
the mass rejection. She yawned, and he was deeply moved. He had
never witnessed such heroic poise before.
The girl had climbed five steep flights of stairs to sell herself to the
group of satiated enlisted men, who had girls living there all around
them; none wanted her at any price, not even after she had stripped
without real enthusiasm to tempt them with a tall body that was firm
and full and truly voluptuous. She seemed more fatigued than disappointed.
Now she sat resting in vacuous indolence, watching the card
game with dull curiosity as she gathered her recalcitrant energies for
the tedious chore of donning the rest of her clothing and going back
to work. In a little while she stirred. A little while later she rose with
an unconscious sigh and stepped lethargically into her tight cotton
panties and dark skirt, then buckled on her shoes and left. Nately
slipped out behind her; and when Yossarian and Aarfy entered the officers'
apartment almost two hours later, there she was again stepping
into her panties and skirt, and it was almost like the chaplain's recurring
sensation of having been through a situation before, except for
Nately, who was moping inconsolably with his hands in his pockets.
"She wants to go now," he said in a faint, strange voice. "She doesn't
want to stay."
"Why don't you just pay her some money to let you spend the rest
of the day with her?" Yossarian advised.
"She gave me my money back," Nately admitted. "She's tired of me
now and wants to go looking for someone else."
The girl paused when her shoes were on to glance in surly invitation
at Yossarian and Aarfy. Her breasts were pointy and large in the
thin white sleeveless sweater she wore that squeezed each contour and
flowed outward smoothly with the tops of her enticing hips. Yossarian
returned her gaze and was strongly attracted. He shook his head.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish," was Aarfy's unperturbed response.
"Don't say that about her!" Nately protested with passion that was
both a plea and a rebuke. "I want her to stay with me."
"What's so special about her?" Aarfy sneered with mock surprise.
"She's only a whore."
"And don't call her a whore!"
The girl shrugged impassively after a few more seconds and ambled
toward the door. Nately bounded forward wretchedly to hold it open.
He wandered back in a heartbroken daze, his sensitive face eloquent
with grief.
"Don't worry about it," Yossarian counseled him as kindly as he
could. "You'll probably be able to find her again. We know where all
the whores hang out."
"Please don't call her that," Nately begged, looking as though he
might cry.
"I'm sorry," murmured Yossarian.
Aarfy thundered jovially, "There are hundreds of whores just as
good crawling all over the streets. That one wasn't even pretty." He
chuckled mellifluously with resonant disdain and authority. "Why, you
rushed forward to open that door as though you were in love with her."
"I think 1 am in love with her," Nately confessed in a shamed, far-off
Aarfy wrinkled his chubby round rosy forehead in comic disbelief.
"Ho, ho, ho, ho!" he laughed, patting the expansive forest-green sides
of his officer's tunic prosperously. "That's rich. You in love with her?
That's really rich." Aarfy had a date that same afternoon with a Red
Cross girl from Smith whose father owned an important milk-of-magnesia
plant. "Now, that's the kind of girl you ought to be associating
with, and not with common sluts like that one. Why, she didn't
even look clean."
"I don't care!" Nately shouted desperately. "And 1 wish you'd shut
up. 1 don't even want to talk about it with you."
"Aarfy, shut up," said Yossarian.
"Ho, ho, ho, ho!" Aarfy continued. "I can just imagine what your
father and mother would say if they knew you were running around
with filthy trollops like that one. Your father is a very distinguished
man, you know."
"I'm not going to tell him," Nately declared with determination.
"I'm not going to say a word about her to him or Mother until after
we're married."
"Married?" Aarfy's indulgent merriment swelled tremendously.
"Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho! Now you're really talking stupid. Why, you're not
even old enough to know what true love is."
Aarfy was an authority on the subject of true love because he had
already fallen truly in love with Nately's father and with the prospect
of working for him after the war in some executive capacity as a reward
for befriending Nately. Aarfy was a lead navigator who had never been
able to find himself since leaving college. He was a genial, magnanimous
lead navigator who could always forgive the other men in the
squadron for denouncing him furiously each time he got lost on a combat
mission and led them over concentrations of antiaircraft fire. He
got lost on the streets of Rome that same afternoon and never did find
the eligible Red Cross girl from Smith with the important milk-of-magnesia
plant. He got lost on the mission to Ferrara the day Kraft was
shot down and killed, and he got lost again on the weekly milk run to
Parma and tried to lead the planes out to sea over the city of Leghorn
after Yossarian had dropped his bombs on the undefended inland target
and settled back against his thick wall of armor plate with his eyes
closed and a fragrant cigarette in his finger tips. Suddenly there was
flak, and all at once McWatt was shrieking over the intercom. "Flak!
Flak! Where the hell are we? What the hell's going on?"
Yossarian flipped his eyes open in alarm and ~aw the totally unexpected
bulging black puffs of flak crashing down in toward them from
high up and Aarfy's complacent melon-round, tiny-eyed face gazing
out at the approaching cannon bursts with affable bemusement.
Yossarian was flabbergasted. His leg went abruptly to sleep. McWatt
had started to climb and was yelping over the intercom for instructions.
Yossarian sprang forward to see where they were and remained
in the same place. He was unable to move. Then he realized he was
sopping wet. He looked down at his crotch with a sinking, sick sensation.
A wild crimson blot was crawling upward rapidly along his shirt
front like an enormous sea monster rising to devour him. He was hit!
Separate trickles of blood spilled to a puddle on the floor through one
saturated trouser leg like countless unstoppable swarms of wriggling
red worms. His heart stopped. A second solid jolt struck the plane.
Yossarian shuddered with revulsion at the queer sight of his wound and
screamed at Aarfy for help.
"I lost my balls! Aarfy, I lost my balls!" Aarfy didn't hear, and
Yossarian bent forward and tugged at his arm. "Aarfy, help me," he
pleaded, almost weeping. "I'm hit! I'm hit!"
Aarfy turned slowly with a blind, quizzical grin. "What?"
"I'm hit, Aarfy! Help me!"
Aarfy grinned again and shrugged amiably. "I can't hear you," he
"Can't you see me?" Yossarian cried incredulously, and he pointed
to the deepening pool of blood he felt splashing down all around him
and spreading out underneath. "I'm wounded! Help me, for God's
sake! Aarfy, help me!"
"I still can't hear you," Aarfy complained tolerantly, cupping his
podgy hand behind the blanched corolla of his ear. "What did you say?"
Yossarian answered in a collapsing voice, weary suddenly of shouting
so much, of the whole frustrating, exasperating, ridiculous situation.
He was dying, and no one took notice. "Never mind."
"What?" Aarfy shouted.
"I said I lost my balls! Can't you hear me? I'm wounded in the
"I still can't hear you," Aarfy chided.
"I said never mind!" Yossarian screamed with a trapped feeling of
terror and began to shiver, feeling very cold suddenly and very weak.
Aarfy shook his head regretfully again and lowered his obscene,
lactescent ear almost directly into Yossarian's face. "You'll just have to
speak up, my friend. You'll just have to speak up."
"Leave me alone, you bastard! You dumb, insensitive bastard, leave
me alone!" Yossarian sobbed. He wanted to pummel Aarfy, but lacked
the strength to lift his arms. He decided to sleep instead and keeled
over sideways into a dead faint.
He was wounded in the thigh, and when he recovered consciousness
he found McWatt on both knees taking care of him. He was relieved,
even though he still saw Aarfy's bloated cherub's face hanging down
over McWatt's shoulder with placid interest. Yossarian smiled feebly at
McWatt, feeling ill, and asked, "Who's minding the store?" McWatt
gave no sign that he heard. With growing horror, Yossarian gathered
in breath and repeated the words as loudly as he could.
McWatt looked up. "Christ, I'm glad you're alive!" he exclaimed,
heaving an enormous sigh. The good-humored, friendly crinkles about
his eyes were white with tension and oily with grime as he kept unrolling
an interminable bandage around the bulky cotton compress Yossarian
felt strapped burdensomely to the inside of one thigh. "Nately's at the
controls. The poor kid almost started bawling when he heard you were
hit. He still thinks you're dead. They knocked open an artery for you,
but I think I've got it stopped. I gave you some morphine."
"Give me some more."
"It might be too soon. I'll give you some more when it starts to
"It hurts now."
"Oh, well, what the hell," said McWatt and injected another syrette
of morphine into Yossarian's arm.
"When you tell Nately I'm all right ... " said Yossarian to McWatt,
and lost consciousness again as everything went fuzzy behind a film of
strawberry-stained gelatin and a great baritone buzz swallowed him in
sound. He came to in the ambulance and smiled encouragement at
Doc Daneeka's weevil-like glum and overshadowed countenance for the
dizzy second or two he had before everything went rose-petal pink
again and then turned really black and unfathomably still.
Yossarian woke up in the hospital and went to sleep. When he woke
up in the hospital again, the smell of ether was gone and Dunbar was
lying in pajamas in the bed across the aisle maintaining that he was not
Dunbar but a fortiori. Yossarian thought he was cracked. He curled his
lip skeptically at Dunbar's bit of news and slept on it fitfully for a day
or two, then woke up while the nurses were elsewhere and eased himself
out of bed to see for himself. The floor swayed like the floating raft
at the beach and the stitches on the inside of his thigh bit into his flesh
like fine sets of fish teeth as he limped across the aisle to peruse the
name on the temperature card on the foot of Dunbar's bed, but sure
enough, Dunbar was right: he was not Dunbar any more but Second
Lieutenant Anthony F. Fortiori.
"What the hell's going on?"
A. Fortiori got out of bed and motioned to Yossarian to follow.
Grasping for support at anything he could reach, Yossarian limped
along after him out into the corridor and down the adjacent ward to a
bed containing a harried young man with pimples and a receding chin.
The harried young man rose on one elbow with alacrity as they
approached. A. Fortiori jerked his thumb over his shoulder and said,
"Screw." The harried young man jumped out of bed and ran away. A.
Fortiori climbed into the bed and became Dunbar again.
"That was A. Fortiori," Dunbar explained. "They didn't have an
empty bed in your ward, so I pulled my rank and chased him back here
into mine. It's a pretty satisfying experience, pulling rank. You ought to
try it sometime. You ought to try it right now, in fact, because you look
like you're going to fall down."
Yossarian felt like he was going to fall down. He turned to the
lantern-jawed, leather-faced middle-aged man lying in the bed next to
Dunbar's, jerked his thumb over his shoulder and said, "Screw." The
middle-aged man stiffened fiercely and glared.
"He's a major," Dunbar explained. "Why don't you aim a little lower
and try becoming Warrant Officer Homer Lumley for a while? Then
you can have a father in the state legislature and a sister who's engaged
to a champion skier. Just tell him you're a captain."
Yossarian turned to the startled patient Dunbar had indicated. "I'm
a captain," he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. "Screw."
The startled patient jumped down to the floor at Yossarian's command
and ran away. Yossarian climbed up into his bed and became
Warrant Officer Homer Lumley, who felt like vomiting and was covered
suddenly with a clammy sweat. He slept for an hour and wanted to
be Yossarian again. It did not mean so much to have a father in the state legislature
and a sister who was engaged to a champion skier. Dunbar
led the way back to Yossarian's ward, where he thumbed A. Fortiori out
of bed to become Dunbar again for a while. There was no sign of
Warrant Officer Homer Lumley. Nurse Cramer was there, though, and
sizzled with sanctimonious anger like a damp firecracker. She ordered
Yossarian to get right back into his bed and blocked his path so he
couldn't comply. Her pretty face was more repulsive than ever. Nurse
Cramer was a goodhearted, sentimental creature who rejoiced unselfishly
at news of weddings, engagements, births and anniversaries even
though she was unacquainted with any of the people involved.
"Are you crazy?" she scolded virtuously, shaking an indignant finger
in front of his eyes. "I suppose you just don't care if you kill yourself,
do you?"
"It's my self," he reminded her.
"I suppose you just don't care if you Jose your leg, do you?"
"It's my leg."
"It certainly is not your leg!" Nurse Cramer retorted. "That leg
belongs to the U.S. government. It's no different than a gear or a bedpan.
The Army has invested a lot of money to make you an airplane
pilot, and you've no right to disobey the doctor's orders."
Yossarian was not sure he liked being invested in. Nurse Cramer was
still standing directly in front of him so that he could not pass. His
head was aching. Nurse Cramer shouted at him some question he
could not understand. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder and said,
Nurse Cramer cracked him in the face so hard she almost knocked
him down. Yossarian drew back his fist to punch her in the jaw just as
his leg buckled and he began to fall. Nurse Duckett strode up in time
to catch him. She addressed them both firmly.
"Just what's going on here?"
"He won't get back into his bed," Nurse Cramer reported zealously
in an injured tone. "Sue Ann, he said something absolutely horrible to
me. Oh, I can't even make myself repeat it!"
"She called me a gear," Yossarian muttered.
Nurse Duckett was not sympathetic. "Will you get back into bed,"
she said, "or must I take you by your ear and put you there?"
"Take me by my ear and put me there," Yossarian dared her.
Nurse Duckett took him by his ear and put him back in bed.

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:12 pm
by admin
27. Nurse Duckett

Nurse Sue Ann Duckett was a tall, spare, mature, straight-backed
woman with a prominent, well-rounded ass, small breasts and angular,
ascetic New England features that came equally close to being very
lovely and very plain. Her skin was white and pink, her eyes small, her
nose and chin slender and sharp. She was able, prompt, strict and intelligent.
She welcomed responsibility and kept her head in every crisis.
She was adult and self-reliant, and there was nothing she needed from
anyone. Yossarian took pity and decided to help her.
Next morning while she was standing bent over smoothing the sheets
at the foot of his bed, he slipped his hand stealthily into the narrow space
between her knees and, all at once, brought it up swiftly under her dress
as far as it would go. Nurse Duckett shrieked and jumped into the air a
mile, but it wasn't high enough, and she squirmed and vaulted and seesawed
back and forth on her divine fulcrum for almost a full fifteen
seconds before she wiggled free finally and retreated frantically into
the aisle with an ashen, trembling face. She backed away too far, and
Dunbar, who had watched from the beginning, sprang forward on his
bed without warning and flung both arms around her bosom from
behind. Nurse Duckett let out another scream and twisted away, fleeing
far enough from Dunbar for Yossarian to lunge forward and grab her by
the snatch again. Nurse Duckett bounced out across the aisle once more
like a Ping-Pong ball with legs. Dunbar was waiting vigilantly, ready to
pounce. She remembered him just in time and leaped aside. Dunbar
missed completely and sailed by her over the bed to the floor, landing on
his skull with a soggy, crunching thud that knocked him cold.
He woke up on the floor with a bleeding nose and exactly the same
distressful head symptoms he had been feigning all along. The ward was
in a chaotic uproar. Nurse Duckett was in tears, and Yossarian was consoling
her apologetically as he sat beside her on the edge of a bed. The
commanding colonel was wroth and shouting at Yossarian that he
would not permit his patients to take indecent liberties with his nurses.
"What do you want from him?" Dunbar asked plaintively from the
floor, wincing at the vibrating pains in his temples that his voice set up.
"He didn't do anything."
"I'm talking about you!" the thin, dignified colonel bellowed as
loudly as he could. "You're going to be punished for what you did."
"What do you want from him?" Yossarian called out. "All he did was
fall on his head."
"And I'm talking about you too!" the colonel declared, whirling to
rage at Yossarian. "You're going to be good and sorry you grabbed
Nurse Duckett by the bosom."
"I didn't grab Nurse Duckett by the bosom," said Yossarian.
"1 grabbed her by the bosom," said Dunbar.
"Are you both crazy?" the doctor cried shrilly, backing away in paling
"Yes, he really is crazy, Doc," Dunbar assured him. "Every night he
dreams he's holding a live fish in his hands."
The doctor stopped in his tracks with a look of elegant amazement
and distaste, and the ward grew still. "He does what?" he demanded.
"He dreams he's holding a live fish in his hand."
"What kind of fish?" the doctor inquired sternly of Yossarian.
"I don't know," Yossarian answered. "I can't tell one kind of fish
from another."
"In which hand do you hold them?"
"It varies," answered Yossarian.
"It varies with the fish," Dunbar added helpfully.
The colonel turned and stared down at Dunbar suspiciously with a narrow
squint. "Yes? And how come you seem to know so much about it?"
"I'm in the dream," Dunbar answered without cracking a smile.
The colonel's face flushed with embarrassment. He glared at them
both with cold, unforgiving resentment. "Get up off the floor and into
your bed," he directed Dunbar through thin lips. "And I don't want to
hear another word about this dream from either one of you. I've got a
man on my staff to listen to disgusting bilge like this."
"Just why do you think," carefully inquired Major Sanderson, the soft
and thickset smiling staff psychiatrist to whom the colonel had ordered
Yossarian sent, "that Colonel Ferredge finds your dream disgusting?"
Yossarian replied respectfully. "I suppose it's either some quality in
the dream or some quality in Colonel Ferredge."
"That's very well put," applauded Major Sanderson, who wore
squeaking GI shoes and had charcoal-black hair that stood up almost
straight. "For some reason," he confided, "Colonel Ferredge has always
reminded me of a sea gull. He doesn't put much faith in psychiatry,
you know."
"You don't like sea gulls, do you?" inquired Yossarian.
"No, not very much," admitted Major Sanderson with a sharp, nervous
laugh and pulled at his pendulous second chin lovingly as though
it were a long goatee. "I think your dream is charming, and I hope it
recurs frequently so that we can continue discussing it. Would you like
a cigarette?" He smiled when Yossarian declined. "Just why do you
think," he asked knowingly, "that you have such a strong aversion to
accepting a cigarette from me?"
"I put one out a second ago. It's still smoldering in your ash tray."
Major Sanderson chuckled. "That's a very ingenious explanation.
But I suppose we'll soon discover the true reason." He tied a sloppy
double bow in his opened shoelace and then transferred a lined yellow
pad from his desk to his lap. "This fish you dream about. Let's talk
about that. It's always the same fish, isn't it?"
"I don't know," Yossarian replied. "I have trouble recognizing fish."
"What does the fish remind you of?"
"Other fish."
"And what do the other fish remind you of?"
"Other fish."
Major Sanderson sat back disappointedly. "Do you like fish?"
"Not especially."
"Just why do you think you have such a morbid aversion to fish?"
asked Major Sanderson triumphantly.
"They're too bland," Yossarian answered. "And too bony."
Major Sanderson nodded understandingly, with a smile that was
agreeable and insincere. "That's a very interesting explanation. But
we'll soon discover the true reason, I suppose. Do you like this particular
fish? The one you're holding in your hand?"
"I have no feelings about it either way."
"Do you dislike the fish? Do you have any hostile or aggressive
emotions toward it?"
"No, not at all. In fact, I rather like the fish."
"Then you do like the fish."
"Oh, no. I have no feelings toward it either way."
"But you just said you liked it. And now you say you have no feelings
toward it either way. I've just caught you in a contradiction. Don't you see?"
"Yes, sir,.1 suppose you have caught me in a contradiction."
Major Sanderson proudly lettered "Contradiction" on his pad with
his thick black pencil. "Just why do you think," he resumed when he
had finished, looking up, "that you made those two statements expressing
contradictory emotional responses to the fish?"
"I suppose I have an ambivalent attitude toward it."
Major Sanderson sprang up with joy when he heard the words
"ambivalent attitude." "You do understand!" he exclaimed, wringing
his hands together ecstatically. "Oh, you can't imagine how lonely it's
been for me, talking day after day to patients who haven't the slightest
knowledge of psychiatry, trying to cure people who have no real interest
in me or my work! It's given me such a terrible feeling of inadequacy."
A shadow of anxiety crossed his face. "I can't seem to shake it."
"Really?" asked Yossarian, wondering what else to say. "Why do you
blame yourself for gaps in the education of others?"
"It's silly, I know," Major Sanderson replied uneasily with a giddy,
involuntary laugh. "But I've always depended very heavily on the good
opinion of others. I reached puberty a bit later than all the other boys
my age, you see, and it's given me sort of-well, all sorts of problems.
I just know I'm going to enjoy discussing them with you. I'm so eager
to begin that I'm almost reluctant to digress now to your problem, but
I'm afraid I must. Colonel Ferredge would be cross if he knew we were
spending all our time on me. I'd like to show you some ink blots now
to find out what certain shapes and colors remind you of."
"You can save yourself the trouble, Doctor. Everything reminds me
of sex."
"Does it?" cried Major Sanderson with delight, as though unable to
believe his ears. "Now we're really getting somewhere! Do you ever
have any good sex dreams?"
"My fish dream is a sex dream."
"No, I mean real sex dreams-the kind where you grab some naked
bitch by the neck and pinch her and punch her in the face until she's
all bloody and then throw yourself down to ravish her and burst into
tears because you love her and hate her so much you don't know what
else to do. That's the kind of sex dreams I like to talk about. Don't you
ever have sex dreams like that?"
Yossarian reflected a moment with a wise look. "That's a fish
dream," he decided.
Major Sanderson recoiled as though he had been slapped. "Yes, of
course," he conceded frigidly, his manner changing to one of edgy and
defensive antagonism. "But I'd like you to dream one like that anyway
just to see how you react. That will be all for today. In the meantime,
I'd also like you to dream up the answers to some of those questions I
asked you. These sessions are no more pleasant for me than they are
for you, you know."
"I'll mention it to Dunbar," Yossarian replied.
"He's the one who started it all. It's his dream."
"Oh, Dunbar." Major Sanderson sneered, his confidence returning.
"I'll bet Dunbar is that evil fellow who really does all those nasty things
you're always being blamed for, isn't he?"
"He's not so evil."
"And yet you'll defend him to the very death, won't you?"
"Not that far."
Major Sanderson smiled tauntingly and wrote "Dunbar" on his pad.
"Why are you limping?" he asked sharply, as Yossarian moved to the
door. "And what the devil is that bandage doing on your leg? Are you
mad or something?"
"I was wounded in the leg. That's what I'm in the hospital for."
"Oh, no, you're not," gloated Major Sanderson maliciously. "You're
in the hospital for a stone in your salivary gland. So you're not so smart
after all, are you? You don't even know what you're in the hospital for."
"I'm in the hospital for a wounded leg," Yossarian insisted.
Major Sanderson ignored his argument with a sarcastic laugh.
"Well, give my regards to your friend Dunbar. And you will tell him to
dream that dream for me, won't you?"
But Dunbar had nausea and dizziness with his constant headache
and was not inclined to cooperate with Major Sanderson. Hungry Joe
had nightmares because he had finished sixty missions and was waiting
again to go home, but he was unwilling to share any when he came to
the hospital to visit.
"Hasn't anyone got any dreams for Major Sanderson?" Yossarian
asked. "I hate to disappoint him. He feels so rejected already."
"I've been having a very peculiar dream ever since I learned you
were wounded," confessed the chaplain. "I used to dream every night
that my wife was dying or being murdered or that my children were
choking to death on morsels of nutritious food. Now I dream that I'm
out swimming in water over my head and a shark is eating my left leg
in exactly the same place where you have your bandage."
"That's a wonderful dream," Dunbar declared. "I bet Major Sanderson
will love it."
"That's a horrible dream!" Major Sanderson cried. "It's filled with
pain and mutilation and death. I'm sure you had it just to spite me. You
know, I'm not even sure you belong in the Army, with a disgusting
dream like that."
Yossarian thought he spied a ray of hope. "Perhaps you're right, sir,"
he suggested slyly. "Perhaps I ought to be grounded and returned to
the States."
"Hasn't it ever occurred to you that in your promiscuous pursuit of
women you are merely trying to assuage your subconscious fears of
sexual impotence?"
"Yes, sir, it has."
"Then why do you do it?"
"To assuage my fears of sexual impotence."
"Why don't you get yourself a good hobby instead?" Major Sanderson
inquired with friendly interest. "Like fishing. Do you really find
Nurse Duckett so attractive? I should think she was rather bony.
Rather bland and bony, you know. Like a fish."
"I hardly know Nurse Duckett."
"They why did you grab her by the bosom? Merely because she has
"Dunbar did that."
"Oh, don't start that again," Major Sanderson exclaimed with vitriolic
scorn, and hurled down his pencil disgustedly. "Do you really think
that you can absolve yourself of guilt by pretending to be someone else?
I don't like you, Fortiori. Do you know that? I don't like you at all."
Yossarian felt a cold, damp wind of apprehension blow over him.
"I'm not Fortiori, sir," he said timidly. "I'm Yossarian."
"You're who?"
"My name is Yossarian, sir. And I'm in the hospital with a wounded
"Your name is Fortiori," Major Sanderson contradicted him belligerently.
"And you're in the hospital for a stone in your salivary gland."
"Oh, come on, Major!" Yossarian exploded. "I ought to know who I am."
"And I've got an official Army record here to prove it," Major
Sanderson retorted. "You'd better get a grip on yourself before it's too
late. First you're Dunbar. Now you're Yossarian. The next thing you
know you'll be claiming you're Washington Irving. Do you know
what's wrong with you? You've got a split personality, that's what's
wrong with you."
"Perhaps you're right, sir," Yossarian agreed diplomatically.
"I know I'm right. You've got a bad persecution complex. You think
people are trying to harm you."
"People are trying to harm me."
"You see? You have no respect for excessive authority or obsolete
traditions. You're dangerous and depraved, and you ought to be taken
outside and shot!"
"Are you serious?"
"You're an enemy of the people!"
"Are you nuts?" Yossarian shouted.
"No, I'm not nuts," Dobbs roared furiously back in the ward, in what
he imagined was a furtive whisper. "Hungry Joe saw them, I tell you. He
saw them yesterday when he flew to Naples to pick up some black-market
air conditioners for Colonel Cathcart's farm. They've got a big
replacement center there and it's filled with hundreds of pilots, bombardiers
and gunners on the way home. They've got forty-five missions,
that's all. A few with Purple Hearts have even less. Replacement crews
are pouring in from the States into other bomber groups. They want
everyone to serve overseas at least once, even administrative personnel.
Don't you read the papers? We've got to kill him now!"
"You've got only two more missions to fly," Yossarian reasoned with
him in a low voice. "Why take a chance?"
"I can get killed flying them, too," Dobbs answered pugnaciously in
his rough, quavering voice. "We can kill him the first thing tomorrow
morning when he drives back from his farm. I've got the gun right here."
Yossarian goggled with amazement as Dobbs pulled a gun out of his
pocket and displayed it high in the air. "Are you crazy?" he hissed frantically.
"Put it away. And keep your idiot voice down."
"What are you worried about?" Dobbs asked with offended innocence.
"No one can hear us."
"Hey, knock it off down there," a voice rang out from the far end of
the ward. "Can't you see we're trying to nap?"
"What the hell are you, a wise guy?" Dobbs yelled back and spun
with clenched fists, ready to fight. He whirled back to Yossarian
and, before he could speak, sneezed thunderously six times, staggering
sideways on rubbery legs in the intervals and raising ills elbow ineffectively
to fend each seizure off. The lids of his watery eyes were puffy
and inflamed. "Who does he think," he demanded, sniffing spasmodically
and wiping his nose with the back of his sturdy wrist, "he is, a cop
or something?"
"He's a C.I.D. man," Yossarian notified him tranquilly. "We've got
three here now and more on the way. Oh, don't be scared. They're
after a forger named Washington Irving. They're not interested in
"Murderers?" Dobbs was affronted. "Why do you call us murderers?
Just because we're going to murder Colonel Cathcart?"
"Be quiet, damn you!" directed Yossarian. "Can't you whisper?"
"I am whispering. I-"
"You're still shouting."
"No, I'm not. I-"
"Hey, shut up down there, will you?" patients all over the ward
began hollering at Dobbs.
"I'll fight you all!" Dobbs screamed back at them, and stood up on
a rickety wooden chair, waving the gun wildly. Yossarian caught his
arm and yanked him down. Dobbs began sneezing again. "I have an
allergy," he apologized when he had finished, his nostrils running and
his eyes streaming with tears.
"That's too bad. You'd make a great leader of men without it."
"Colonel Cathcart's the murderer," Dobbs complained hoarsely
when he had shoved away a soiled, crumpled khaki handkerchief.
"Colonel Cathcart's the one who's going to murder us all if we don't do
something to stop him." ,
"Maybe he won't raise the missions any more. Maybe sixty is as high
as he'll go."
"He always raises the missions. You know that better than I do."
Dobbs swallowed and bent his intense face very close to Yossarian's,
the muscles in his bronze, rocklike jaw bunching up into quivering
knots. "Just say it's okay and I'll do the whole thing tomorrow morning.
Do you understand what I'm telling you? I'm whispering now,
ain't I?"
Yossarian tore his eyes away from the gaze of burning entreaty
Dobbs had fastened on him. "Why the goddam hell don't you just go
out and do it?" he protested. "Why don't you stop talking to me about
it and do it alone?"
"I'm afraid to do it alone. I'm afraid to do anything alone."
"Then leave me out of it. I'd have to be crazy to get mixed up in
something like this now. I've got a million-dollar leg wound here.
They're going to send me home."
"Are you crazy?" Dobbs exclaimed in disbelief. "All you've got there
is a scratch. He'll have you back flying combat missions the day you
come out, Purple Heart and all."
"Then 1really will kill him," Yossarian vowed. "I'll come looking for
you and we'll do it together."
"Then let's do it tomorrow while we've still got the chance," Dobbs
pleaded. "The chaplain says he's volunteered the group for Avignon
again. 1 may be killed before you get out. Look how these hands of
mine shake. 1 can't fly a plane. I'm not good enough."
Yossarian was afraid to say yes. "1 want to wait and see what happens
"The trouble with you is that you just won't do anything," Dobbs
complained in a thick, infuriated voice.
"I'm doing everything 1 possibly can," the chaplain explained softly
to Yossarian after Dobbs had departed. "1 even went to the medical
tent to speak to Doc Daneeka about helping you."
"Yes, 1 can see." Yossarian suppressed a smile. "What happened?"
"They painted my gums purple," the chaplain replied sheepishly.
"They painted his toes purple, too," Nately added in outrage. "And
then they gave him a laxative."
"But 1 went back again this morning to see him."
"And they painted his gums purple again," said Nately.
"But 1 did get to speak to him," the chaplain argued in a plaintive
tone of self-justification. "Doctor Daneeka seems like such an unhappy
man. He suspects that someone is plotting to transfer him to the Pacific
Ocean. All this time he's been thinking of coming to me for help.
When 1 told him 1needed his help, he wondered if there wasn't a chaplain
I couldn't go see." The chaplain waited in patient dejection when
Yossarian and Dunbar both broke into laughter. "1 used to think it was
immoral to be unhappy," he continued, as though keening aloud in
solitude. "Now 1 don't know what to think any more. I'd like to make
the subject of immorality the basis of my sermon this Sunday, but I'm
not sure 1 ought to give any sermon at all with these purple gums.
Colonel Korn was very displeased with them."
"Chaplain, why don't you come into the hospital with us for a while and
take it easy?" Yossarian invited. "You could be very comfortable here."
The brash iniquity of the proposal tempted and amused the chaplain
for a second or two. "No, I don't think so," he decided reluctantly. "I
want to arrange for a trip to the mainland to see a mail clerk named
Wintergreen. Doctor Daneeka told me he could help."
"Wintergreen is probably the most influential man in the whole
theater of operations. He's not only a mail clerk, but he has access to a
mimeograph machine. But he won't help anybody. That's one of the
reasons he'll go far."
"I'd like to speak to him anyway. There must be somebody who will
help you."
"Do it for Dunbar, Chaplain," Yossarian corrected with a superior
air. "I've got this million-dollar leg wound that will take me out of
combat. If that doesn't do it, there's a psychiatrist who thinks I'm not
good enough to be in the Army."
"I'm the one who isn't good enough to be in the Army," Dunbar
whined jealously. "It was my dream."
"It's not the dream, Dunbar," Yossarian explained. "He likes your
dream. It's my personality. He thinks it's split."
"It's split right down the middle," said Major Sanderson, who had
laced his lumpy GI shoes for the occasion and had slicked his charcoal-dull
hair down with some stiffening and redolent tonic. He smiled
ostentatiously to show himself reasonable and nice. "I'm not saying
that to be cruel and insulting," he continued with cruel and insulting
delight. "I'm not saying it because I hate you and want revenge. I'm
not saying it because you rejected me and hurt my feelings terribly.
No, I'm a man of medicine and I'm being coldly objective. I have very
bad news for you. Are you man enough to take it?"
"God, no!" screamed Yossarian. "I'll go right to pieces."
Major Sanderson flew instantly into a rage. "Can't you even do one
thing right?" he pleaded, turning beet-red with vexation and crashing
the sides of both fists down upon his desk together. "The trouble with
you is that you think you're too good for all the conventions of society.
You probably think you're too good for me too, just because I arrived at
puberty late. Well, do you know what you are? You're a frustrated,
unhappy, disillusioned, undisciplined, maladjusted young man!" Major
Sanderson's disposition seemed to mellow as he reeled off the uncomplimentary
"Yes, sir," Yossarian agreed carefully. "I guess you're right."
"Of course I'm right. You're immature. You've been unable to adjust
to the idea of war."
"Yes, sir."
"You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact
that you're at war and might get your head blown off any second."
"I more than resent it, sir. I'm absolutely incensed."
"You have deep-seated survival anxieties. And you don't like bigots, bullies,
snobs or hypocrites. Subconsciously there are many people you hate."
"Consciously, sir, consciously," Yossarian corrected in an effort to
help. "I hate them consciously."
"You're antagonistic to the idea of being robbed, exploited, degraded,
humiliated or deceived. Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you.
Persecution depresses you. Violence depresses you. Slums depress
you. Greed depresses you. Crime depresses you. Corruption depresses
you. You know, it wouldn't surprise me if you're a manic-depressive!"
"Yes, sir. Perhaps I am."
"Don't try to deny it."
"I'm not denying it, sir," said Yossarian, pleased with the miraculous
rapport that finally existed between them. "I agree with all you've
"Then you admit you're crazy, do you?"
"Crazy?" Yossarian was shocked. "What are you talking about?
Why am I crazy? You're the one who's crazy!"
Major Sanderson turned red with indignation again and crashed
both fists down upon his thighs. "Calling me crazy," he shouted in a
sputtering rage, "is a typically sadistic and vindictive paranoiac reaction!
You really are crazy!"
"Then why don't you send me home?"
"And I'm going to send you home!"
"They're going to send me home!" Yossarian announced jubilantly
as he hobbled back into the ward.
"Me too!" A. Fortiori rejoiced. "They just came to my ward and told
"What about me?" Dunbar demanded petulantly of the doctors.
"You?" they replied with asperity. "You're going with Yossarian.
Right back into combat!"
And back into combat they both went. Yossarian was enraged when
the ambulance returned him to the squadron, and he went limping for
justice to Doc Daneeka, who glared at him glumly with misery and disdain.
"You!" Doc Daneeka exclaimed mournfully with accusing disgust,
the egg-shaped pouches under both eyes firm and censorious. "All you
ever think of is yourself. Go take a look at the bomb line if you want
to see what's been happening since you went to the hospital."
Yossarian was startled. "Are we losing?"
"Losing?" Doc Daneeka cried. "The whole military situation has
been going to hell ever since we captured Paris. I knew it would happen."
He paused, his sulking ire turning to melancholy, and frowned
irritably as though it were all Yossarian's fault. "American troops are
pushing into German soil. The Russians have captured back all of
Romania. Only yesterday the Greeks in the Eighth Army captured
Rimini. The Germans are on the defensive everywhere!" Doc Daneeka
paused again and fortified himself with a huge breath for a piercing
ejaculation of grief. "There's no more Luftwaffe left!" he wailed. He
seemed ready to burst into tears. "The whole Gothic line is in danger
of collapsing!"
"So?" asked Yossarian. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" Doc Daneeka cried. "If something doesn't happen
soon, Germany may surrender. And then we'll all be sent to the
Yossarian gawked at Doc Daneeka in grotesque dismay. "Are you
crazy? Do you know what you're saying?"
"Yeah, it's easy for you to laugh," Doc Daneeka sneered.
"Who the hell is laughing?"
"At least you've got a chance. You're in combat and might get killed.
But what about me? I've got nothing to hope for."
"You're out of your goddam head!" Yossarian shouted at him
emphatically, seizing him by the shirt front. "Do you know that? Now
keep your stupid mouth shut and listen to me."
Doc Daneeka wrenched himself away. "Don't you dare talk to me
like that. I'm a licensed physician."
"Then keep your stupid licensed physician's mouth shut and listen
to what they told me up at the hospital. I'm crazy. Did you know that?"
"Really crazy."
"I'm nuts. Cuckoo. Don't you understand? I'm off my rocker. They
sent someone else home in my place by mistake. They've got a licensed
psychiatrist up at the hospital who examined me, and that was his verdict.
I'm really insane."
"So?" Yossarian was puzzled by Doc Daneeka's inability to comprehend.
"Don't you see what that means? Now you can take me off combat
duty and send me home. They're not going to send a crazy man out
to be killed, are they?"
"Who else will go?"

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:12 pm
by admin
28. Dobbs

McWatt went, and McWatt was not crazy. And so did Yossarian, still
walking with a limp, and when Yossarian had gone two more times and
then found himself menaced by the rumor of another mission to
Bologna, he limped determinedly into Dobbs's tent early one warm
afternoon, put a finger to his mouth and said, "Shush!"
"What are you shushing him for?" asked Kid Sampson, peeling a
tangerine with his front teeth as he perused the dog-eared pages of a
comic book. "He isn't even saying anything."
"Screw," said Yossarian to Kid Sampson, jerking his thumb back
over his shoulder toward the entrance of the tent.
Kid Sampson cocked his blond eyebrows discerningly and rose to
cooperate. He whistled upward four times into his drooping yellow
mustache and spurted away into the hills on the dented old green
motorcycle he had purchased secondhand months before. Yossarian
waited until the last faint bark of the motor had died away in the distance.
Things inside the tent did not seem quite normal. The place was
too neat. Dobbs was watching him curiously, smoking a fat cigar. Now
that Yossarian had made up his mind to be brave, he was deathly afraid.
"All right," he said. "Let's kill Colonel Cathcart. We'll do it together."
Dobbs sprang forward off his cot with a look of wildest terror.
"Shush!" he roared. "Kill Colonel Cathcart? What are you talking
"Be quiet, damn it," Yossarian snarled. "The whole island will hear.
Have you still got that gun?"
"Are you crazy or something?" shouted Dobbs. "Why should I want
to kill Colonel Cathcart?"
"Why?" Yossarian stared at Dobbs with an incredulous scowl. "Why?
It was your idea, wasn't it? Didn't you come to the hospital and ask me
to do it?"
Dobbs smiled slowly. "But that was when I had only fifty-eight missions,"
he explained, puffing on his cigar luxuriously. "I'm all packed
now and I'm waiting to go home. I've finished my sixty missions."

"So what?" Yossarian replied. "He's only going to raise them again."
"Maybe this time he won't."
"He always raises them. What the hell's the matter with you,
Dobbs? Ask Hungry Joe how many times he's packed his bags."
"I've got to wait and see what happens," Dobbs maintained stubbornly.
"I'd have to be crazy to get mixed up in something like this now
that I'm out of combat." He flicked the ash from his cigar. "No, my
'advice to you," he remarked, "is that you fly your sixty missions like the
rest of us and then see what happens."
Yossarian resisted the impulse to spit squarely in his eye. "I may not
live through sixty," he wheedled in a flat, pessimistic voice. "There's a
rumor around that he volunteered the group for Bologna again.",
"It's only a rumor," Dobbs pointed out with a self-important air.
"You mustn't believe every rumor you hear."
"Will you stop giving me advice?"
"Why don't you speak to Orr?" Dobbs advised. "Orr got knocked
down into the water again last week on that second mission to Avignon.
Maybe he's unhappy enough to kill him."
"Orr hasn't got brains enough to be unhappy."
Orr had been knocked down into the water again while Yossarian
was still in the hospital and had eased his crippled airplane down gently
into the glassy blue swells off Marseilles with such flawless skill that
not one member of the six-man crew suffered the slightest bruise. The
escape hatches in the front and rear sections flew open while the sea
was still foaming white and green around the plane, and the men
scrambled out as speedily as they could in their flaccid orange Mae
West life jackets that failed to inflate and dangled limp and useless
around their necks and waists. The life jackets failed to inflate because
Milo had removed the twin carbon-dioxide cylinders from the inflating
chambers to make the strawberry and crushed-pineapple ice-cream
sodas he served in the officers' mess hall and had replaced them with
mimeographed notes that read: "What's good for M & M Enterprises
is good for the country." Orr popped out of the sinking airplane last.
"You should have seen him!" Sergeant Knight roared with laughter
as he related the episode to Yossarian. "It was the funniest goddam
thing you ever saw. None of the Mae Wests would work because Milo
had stolen the carbon dioxide to make those ice-cream sodas you bastards
have been getting in the officers' mess. But that wasn't too bad,
as it turned out. Only one of us couldn't swim, and we lifted that guy
up into the raft after Orr had worked it over by its rope right up against
the fuselage while we were all still standing on the plane. That little
crackpot sure has a knack for things like that. Then the other raft came
loose and drifted away, so that all six of us wound up sitting in one with
our elbows and legs pressed so close against each other you almost
couldn't move without knocking the guy next to you out of the raft into
the water. The plane went down about three seconds after we left it
and we were out there all alone, and right after that we began unscrewing
the caps on our Mae Wests to see what the hell had gone wrong
and found these goddam notes from Milo telling us that what was good
for him was good enough for the rest of us. That bastard! Jesus, did we
curse him, all except that buddy of yours Orr, who just kept grinning
as though for all he cared what was good for Milo might be good
enough for the rest of us.
"I swear, you should have seen him sitting up there on the rim of the
raft like the captain of a ship while the rest of us just watched him and
waited for him to tell us what to do. He kept slapping his hands on his
legs every few seconds as though he had the shakes and saying 'All
right now, all right,' and giggling like a crazy little freak, then saying
'All right now, all right' again and giggling like a crazy little freak some
more. It was like watching some kind of a moron. Watching him was
all that kept us from going to pieces altogether during the first few
minutes, what with each wave washing over us into the raft or dumping
a few of us back into the water so that we had to climb back in again
before the next wave came along and washed us right back out. It was
sure funny. We just kept falling out and climbing back in. We had the
guy who couldn't swim stretched out in the middle of the raft on the
floor, but even there he almost drowned, because the water inside the
raft was deep enough to keep splashing in his face. Oh, boy!
"Then Orr began opening up compartments in the raft, and the fun
really began. First he found a box of chocolate bars and he passed those
around, so we sat there eating salty wet chocolate bars while the waves
kept knocking us out of the raft into the water. Next he found some
bouillon cubes and aluminum cups and made us some soup. Then he
found some tea. Sure, he made it! Can't you see him serving us tea as
we sat there soaking wet in water up to our ass? Now I was falling out
of the raft because I was laughing so much. We were all laughing. And
he was dead serious, except for that goofy giggle of his and that crazy
grin. What a jerk! Whatever he found he used. He found some shark
repellent and he sprinkled it right into the water. He found some
marker dye and he threw it into the water. The next thing he finds is a
fishing line and dried bait, and his face lights up as though the Air-Sea
Rescue launch had just sped up to save us before we died of exposure
or before the Germans sent a boat out from Spezia to take us prisoner
or machine-gun us. In no time at all, Orr had that fishing line out into
the water, trolling away as happy as a lark. 'Lieutenant, what do you
expect to catch?' I asked him. 'Cod,' he told me. And he meant it. And
it's a good thing he didn't catch any, because he would have eaten that
codfish raw if he had caught any, and would have made us eat it, too,
because he had found this little book that said it was all right to eat
codfish raw.
"The next thing he found was this little blue oar about the size of a
Dixie-cup spoon, and, sure enough, he began rowing with it, trying to
move all nine hundred pounds of us with that little stick. Can you
imagine? After that he found a small magnetic compass and a big
waterproof map, and he spread the map open on his knees and set the
compass on top of it. And that's how he spent the time until the launch
picked us about thirty minutes later, sitting there with that baited fishing
line out behind him, with the compass in his lap and the map
spread out on his knees, and paddling away as hard as he could with
that dinky blue oar as though he was speeding to Majorca. Jesus!"
Sergeant Knight knew all about Majorca, and so did Orr, because
Yossarian had told them often of such sanctuaries as Spain, Switzerland
and Sweden where American fliers could be interned for the duration
of the war under conditions of utmost ease and luxury merely by flying
there. Yossarian was the squadron's leading authority on internment
and had already begun plotting an emergency heading into
Switzerland on every mission he flew into northernmost Italy. He
would certainly have preferred Sweden, where the level of intelligence
was high and where he could swim nude with beautiful girls with low,
demurring voices and sire whole happy, undisciplined tribes of illegitimate
Yossarians that the state would assist through parturition and
launch into life without stigma; but Sweden was out of reach, too far
away, and Yossarian waited for the piece of flak that would knock out
one engine over the Italian Alps and provide him with the excuse for
heading for Switzerland. He would not even tell his pilot he was guiding
him there. Yossarian often thought of scheming with some pilot he
trusted to fake a crippled engine and then destroy the evidence of
deception with a belly landing, but the only pilot he really trusted was
McWatt, who was happiest where he was and still got a big boot out of
buzzing his plane over Yossarian's tent or roaring in so low over the
bathers at the beach that the fierce wind from his propellers slashed
dark furrows in the water and whipped sheets of spray flapping back
for seconds afterward.
Dobbs and Hungry Joe were out of the question, and so was Orr,
who was tinkering with the valve of the stove again when Yossarian
limped despondently back into the tent after Dobbs had turned him
down. The stove Orr was manufacturing out of an inverted metal
drum stood in the middle of the smooth cement floor he had constructed.
He was working sedulously on both knees. Yossarian tried
paying no attention to him and limped wearily to his cot and sat down
with a labored, drawn-out grunt. Prickles of perspiration were turning
chilly on his forehead. Dobbs had depressed him. Doc Daneeka
depressed him. An ominous vision of doom depressed him when he
looked at Orr. He began ticking with a variety of internal tremors.
Nerves twitched, and the vein in one wrist began palpitating.
Orr studied Yossarian over his shoulder, his moist lips drawn back
around convex rows of large buck teeth. Reaching sideways, he dug
a bottle of warm beer out of his foot locker, and he handed it to
Yossarian after prying off the cap. Neither said a word. Yossarian
sipped the bubbles off the top and tilted his head back. Orr watched
him cunningly with a noiseless grin. Yossarian eyed Orr guardedly. Orr
snickered with a slight, mucid sibilance and turned back to his work,
squatting. Yossarian grew tense.
"Don't start," he begged in a threatening voice, both hands tightening
around his beer bottle. "Don't start working on your stove."
Orr cackled quietly. "I'm almost finished."
"No, you're not. You're about to begin."
"Here's the valve. See? It's almost all together."
"And you're about to take it apart. I know what you're doing, you
bastard. I've seen you do it three hundred times."
Orr shivered with glee. "I want to get the leak in this gasoline line
out," he explained. "I've got it down now to where it's only an ooze."
"I can't watch you," Yossarian confessed tonelessly. "If you want to
work with something big, that's okay. But that valve is filled with tiny
parts, and 1just haven't got the patience right now to watch you working
so hard over things that are so goddam small and unimportant."
"Just because they're small doesn't mean they're unimportant."
"I don't care."
"Once more?"
"When I'm not around. You're a happy imbecile and you don't
know what it means to feel the way I do. Things happen to me when
you work over small things that I can't even begin to explain. I find out
that I can't stand you. I start to hate you, and I'm soon thinking seriously
about busting this bottle down on your head or stabbing you in
the neck with that hunting knife there. Do you understand?"
Orr nodded very intelligently. "I won't take the valve apart now," he
said, and began taking it apart, working with slow, tireless, interminable
precision, his rustic, ungainly face bent very close to the floor,
picking painstakingly at the minute mechanism in his fingers with such
limitless, plodding concentration that he seemed scarcely to be thinking
of it at all.
Yossarian cursed him silently and made up his mind to ignore him.
"What the hell's your hurry with that stove, anyway?" he barked out a
moment later in spite of himself. "It's still hot out. We're probably
going swimming later. What are you worried about the cold for?"
"The days are getting shorter," Orr observed philosophically. "I'd like
to get this all finished for you while there's still time. You'll have the best
stove in the squadron when I'm through. It will bum all night with this
feed control I'm fixing, and these metal plates will radiate the heat all
over the tent. If you leave a helmet full of water on this thing when you
go to sleep, you'll have warm water to wash with all ready for you when
you wake up. Won't that be nice? If you want to cook eggs or soup, all
you'll have to do is set the pot down here and turn the fire up."
"What do you mean, me?" Yossarian wanted to know. "Where are
you going to be?"
Orr's stunted torso shook suddenly with a muffled spasm of amusement.
"I don't know," he exclaimed, and a weird, wavering giggle
gushed out suddenly through chattering buck teeth like an exploding
jet of emotion. He was still laughing when he continued, and his voice
was clogged with saliva. "If they keep on shooting me down this way, I
don't know where I'm going to be."
Yossarian was moved. "Why don't you try to stop flying, Orr?
You've got an excuse."
"I've only got eighteen missions."
"But you've been shot down on almost every one. You're either
ditching or crash-landing every time you go up."
"Oh, I don't mind flying missions. I guess they're lots of fun. You
ought to try flying a few with me when you're not flying lead. Just for
laughs. Tee-hee." Orr gazed up at Yossarian through the comers of his
eyes with a look of pointed mirth.
Yossarian avoided his stare. "They've got me flying lead again."
"When you're not flying lead. If you had my brains, do you know
what you'd do? You'd go right to Piltchard and Wren and tell them
you want to fly with me."
"And get shot down with you every time you go up? What's the fun
in that?"
"That's just why you ought to do it," Orr insisted. "I guess I'm just
about the best pilot around now when it comes to ditching or making
crash landings. It would be good practice for you."
"Good practice for what?"
"Good practice in case you ever have to ditch or make a crash landing.
"Have you got another bottle of beer for me?" Yossarian asked
"Do you want to bust it down on my head?"
This time Yossarian did laugh. "Like that whore in that apartment
in Rome?"
Ort sniggered lewdly, his bulging crab apple cheeks blowing outward
with pleasure. "Do you really want to know why she was hitting
me over the head with her shoe?" he teased.
"I do know," Yossarian teased back. "Nately's whore told me."
Orr grinned like a gargoyle. "No she didn't."
Yossarian felt sorry for Orr. Orr was so small and ugly. Who would
protect him if he lived? Who would protect a warmhearted, simpleminded
gnome like Orr from rowdies and cliques and from expert athletes
like Appleby who had flies in their eyes and would walk right over
him with swaggering conceit and self-assurance every chance they got?
Yossarian worried frequently about Orr. Who would shield him against
animosity and deceit, against people with ambition and the embittered
snobbery of the big shot's wife, against the squalid, corrupting indignities
of the profit motive and the friendly neighborhood butcher with
inferior meat? Orr was a happy and unsuspecting simpleton with a
thick mass of wavy polychromatic hair parted down the center. He
would be ~ere child's play for them. They would take his money, screw
his wife and show no kindness to his children. Yossarian felt a flood of
compassion sweep over him.
Orr was an eccentric midget, a freakish, likable dwarf with a smutty
mind and a thousand valuable skills that would keep him in a low
income group all his life. He could use a soldering iron and hammer
two boards together so that the wood did not split and the nails did not
bend. He could drill holes. He had built a good deal more in the tent
while Yossarian was away in the hospital. He had filed or chiseled a
perfect channel in the cement so that the slender gasoline line was
flush with the floor as it ran to the stove from the tank he had built outside
on an elevated platform. He had constructed andirons for the fireplace
out of excess bomb parts and had filled them with stout silver
logs, and he had framed with stained wood the photographs of girls
with big breasts he had torn out of cheesecake magazines and hung
over the mantelpiece. Orr could open a can of paint. He could mix
paint, thin paint, remove paint. He could chop wood and measure
things with a ruler. He knew how to build fires. He could dig holes,
and he had a real gift for bringing water for them both in cans and canteens
from the tanks near the mess hall. He could engross himself in
an inconsequential task for hours without growing restless or bored, as
oblivious to fatigue as the stump of a tree, and almost as taciturn. He
had an uncanny knowledge of wildlife and was not afraid of dogs or
cats or beetles or moths, or of foods like scrod or tripe.
Yossarian sighed drearily and began brooding about the rumored
mission to Bologna. The valve Orr was dismantling was about the size
of a thumb and contained thirty-seven separate parts, excluding the
casing, many of them so minute that Orr was required to pinch them
tightly between the tips of his fingernails as he placed them carefully
on the floor in orderly, catalogued rows, never quickening his movements
or slowing them down, never tiring, never pausing in his relentless, methodical, monotonous procedure unless it was to leer at
Yossarian with maniacal mischief. Yossarian tried not to watch him. He
counted the parts and thought he would go clear out of his mind. He
turned away, shutting his eyes, but that was even worse, for now he had
only the sounds, the tiny, maddening, indefatigable, distinct clicks and
rustles of hands and weightless parts. Orr was breathing rhythmically
with a noise that was stertorous and repulsive. Yossarian clenched his
fists and looked at the long bone-handled hunting knife hanging in a
holster over the cot of the dead man in the tent. As soon as he thought
of stabbing Orr, his tension eased. The idea of murdering Orr was so
ridiculous that he began to consider it seriously with queer whimsy and
fascination. He searched the nape of Orr's neck for the probable site of
the medulla oblongata. Just the daintiest stick there would kill him and
solve so many serious, agonizing problems for them both.
"Does it hurt?" Orr asked at precisely that moment, as though by
protective instinct.
Yossarian eyed him closely. "Does what hurt?"
"Your leg," said Orr with a strange, mysterious laugh. "You still limp
a little."
"It's just a habit, I guess," said Yossarian, breathing again with relief.
"I'll probably get over it soon."
Orr rolled over sideways to the floor and came up on one knee, facing
toward Yossarian. "Do you remember," he drawled reflectively,
with an air of labored recollection, "that girl who was hitting me on the
head that day in Rome?" He chuckled at Yossarian's involuntary exclamation
of tricked annoyance. "I'll make a deal with you about that girl.
I'll tell you why that girl was hitting me on the head with her shoe that
day if you answer one question."
"What's the question?"
"Did you ever screw Nately's girl?"
Yossarian laughed with surprise. "Me? No. Now tell me why that
girl hit you with her shoe."
"That wasn't the question," Orr informed him with victorious
delight. "That was just conversation. She acts like you screwed her."
"Well, I didn't. How does she act?"
"She acts like she don't like you."
"She doesn't like anyone."
"She likes Captain Black," Orr reminded.
"That's because he treats her like dirt. Anyone can get a girl that way."
"She wears a slave bracelet on her leg with his name on it."
"He makes her wear it to needle Nately."
"She even gives him some of the money she gets from Nately."
"Listen, what do you want from me?"
"Did you ever screw my girl?"
"Your girl? Who the hell is your girl?"
"The one who hit me over the head with her shoe."
"I've been with her a couple of times," Yossarian admitted. "Since
when is she your girl? What are you getting at?"
"She don't like you, either."
"What the hell do I care if she likes me or not? She likes me as much
as she likes you."
"Did she ever hit you over the head with her shoe?"
"Orr, I'm tired. Why don't you leave me alone?"
"Tee-hee-hee. How about that skinny countess in Rome and her
skinny daughter-in-law?" Orr persisted impishly with increasing zest.
"Did you ever screw them?"
"Oh, how I wish I could," sighed Yossarian honestly, imagining, at
the mere question, the prurient, used, decaying feel in 'his petting
hands of their teeny, pulpy buttocks and breasts.
"They don't like you either," commented Orr. "They like Aarfy, and
they like Nately, but they don't like you. Women just don't seem to like
you. I think they think you're a bad influence."
"Women are crazy," Yossarian answered, and waited grimly for what
he knew was coming next.
"How about that other girl of yours?" Orr asked with a pretense of
pensive curiosity. "The fat one? The bald one? You know, that fat bald
one in Sicily with the turban who kept sweating over us all night long?
Is she crazy too?" .
"Didn't she like me either?"
"How could you do it to a girl with no hair?"
"How was I supposed to know she had no hair?"
"I knew it," Orr bragged. "I knew it all the time."
"You knew she was bald?" Yossarian exclaimed in wonder.
"No, I knew this valve wouldn't work if I left a part out," Orr answered,
glowing with cranberry-red elation because he had just duped
Yossarian again. "Will you please hand me that small composition gasket
that rolled over there? It's right near your foot."
"No it isn't."
"Right here," said Orr, and took hold of something invisible with
the tips of his fingernails and held it up for Yossarian to see. "Now I'll
have to start all over again."
"I'll kill you if you do. I'll murder you on the spot."
"Why don't you ever fly with me?" Orr asked suddenly, and looked
straight into Yossarian's face for the first time. "There, that's the question
I want you to answer. Why don't you ever fly with me?"
Yossarian turned away with intense shame and embarrassment. "I told
you why. They've got me flying lead bombardier most of the time."
"That's not why," Orr said, shaking his head. "You went to Piltchard
and Wren after the first Avignon mission and told them you didn't ever
want to fly with me. That's why, isn't it?"
Yossarian felt his skin turn hot. "No, I didn't," he lied.
"Yes you did," Orr insisted equably. "You asked them not to assign
you to any plane piloted by me, Dobbs or Huple because you didn't
have confidence in us at the controls. And Piltchard and Wren said
they couldn't make an exception of you because it wouldn't be fair to
the menwho did have to fly with us."
"So?" said Yossarian. "It didn't make any difference then, did it?"
"But they've never made you fly with me." Orr, working on both
knees again, was addressing Yossarian without bitterness or reproach,
but with injured humility, which was infinitely more painful to observe,
although he was still grinning and snickering, as though the situation
were' comic. "You really ought to fly with me, you know. I'm a pretty
good pilot, and I'd take care of you. I may get knocked down a lot, but
that's not my fault, and no body's ever been hurt in my plane. Yes, sir-:"
if you had any brains, you know what you'd do? You'd go right to
Piltchard and Wren and tell them you want to fly all your missions
with me."
Yossarian leaned forward and peered closely into Orr's inscrutable
mask of contradictory emotions. "Are you trying to tell me something?"
"Tee-hee-hee-hee," Orr responded. "I'm trying to tell you why that
big girl with the shoe was hitting me on the head that day. But you just
won't let me."
"Tell me."
"Will you fly with me?"
Yossarian laughed and shook his head. "You'll only get knocked
down into the water again."
Orr did get knocked down into the water again when the rumored
mission to Bologna was flown, and he landed his single-engine plane
with a smashing jar on the choppy, wind-swept waves tossing and
falling below the warlike black thunderclouds mobilizing overhead. He
was late getting out of the plane and ended up alone in a raft that began
drifting away from the men in the other raft and was out of sight by the
time the Air-Sea Rescue launch came plowing up through the wind
and splattering raindrops to take them aboard. Night was already
falling by the time they were returned to the squadron. There was no
word of Orr.
"Don't worry," reassured Kid Sampson, still wrapped in the heavy
blankets and raincoat in which he had been swaddled on the boat by
his rescuers. "He's probably been picked up already if he didn't drown
in that storm. It didn't last long. 'I bet he'll show up any minute."
Yossarian walked back to his tent to wait for Orr to show up any
minute and lit a fire to make things warm for him. The stove worked
perfectly, with a strong, robust blaze that could be raised or lowered by
turning the tap Orr had finally finished repairing. A light rain was
falling, drumming softly on the tent, the trees, the ground. Yossarian
cooked a can of hot soup to have ready for Orr and ate it all himself
as the time passed. He hard-boiled' some eggs for Orr and ate those
too. Then he ate a whole tin of Cheddar cheese from a package of K
Each time he caught himself worrying he made himself remember
that Orr could do everything and broke into silent laughter at the picture
of Orr in the raft as Sergeant Knight had described him, bent forward
with a busy, preoccupied smile over the map and compass in his
lap, stuffing one soaking-wet chocolate bar after another into his grinning,
tittering mouth as he paddled away dutifully through the lightning,
thunder and rain with the bright-blue useless toy oar, the fishing
line with dried bait trailing out behind him. Yossarian really had no
doubt about Orr's ability to survive. If fish could be caught with that
silly fishing line, Orr would catch them, and if it was codfish he was
after, then Orr would catch a codfish, even though no codfish had ever
been caught in those waters before. Yossarian put another can of soup
up to cook and ate that too when it was hot. Every time a car door
slammed, he broke into a hopeful smile and turned expectantly toward
the entrance, listening for footsteps. He knew that any moment Orr
would come walking into the tent with big, glistening, rain-soaked
eyes, cheeks and buck teeth, looking ludicrously like a jolly New
England oysterman in a yellow oilskin rain hat and slicker numerous
sizes too large for him and holding up proudly for Yossarian's amusement
a great dead codfish he had caught. But he didn't.