Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

A few delicious tidbits in here, to which we will add as the hours, days, weeks, months and years go by.

Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:05 pm

9. Major Major Major Major

Major Major Major Major had had a difficult time from the start.
Like Miniver Cheevy, he had been born too late-exactly thirty-six
hours too late for the physical well-being of his mother, a gentle, ailing
woman who, after a full day and a half's agony in the rigors of
childbirth, was depleted of all resolve to pursue further the argument
over the new child's name. In the hospital corridor, her husband moved
ahead with the unsmiling determination of someone who knew what
he was about. Major Major's father was a towering, gaunt man in heavy
shoes and a black woolen suit. He filled out the birth certificate without
faltering, betraying no emotion at all as he handed the completed
form to the floor nurse. The nurse took it from him without comment
and padded out of sight. He watched her go, wondering what she had
on underneath.
Back in the ward, he found his wife lying vanquished beneath the
blankets like a desiccated old vegetable, wrinkled, dry and white, her
enfeebled tissues absolutely still. Her bed was at the very end of the
ward, near a cracked window thickened with grime. Rain splashed
from a moiling sky and the day was dreary and cold. In other parts of
the hospital chalky people with aged, blue lips were dying on time. The
man stood erect beside the bed and gazed down at the woman a long
time.
"I have named the boy Caleb," he announced to her finally in a soft
voice. "In accordance with your wishes." The woman made no answer,
and slowly the man smiled. He had planned it all perfectly, for his wife
was asleep and would never know that he had lied to her as she lay on
her sickbed in the poor ward of the county hospital.
From this meager beginning had sprung the ineffectual squadron
commander who was now spending the better part of each working day
in Pianosa forging Washington Irving's name to official documents.
Major Major forged diligently with his left hand to elude identification,
insulated against intrusion by his own undesired authority and
camouflaged in his false mustache and dark glasses as an additional
safeguard against detection by anyone chancing to peer in through the
dowdy celluloid window from which some thief had carved out a slice.
In between these two low points of his birth and his success lay thirty-one
dismal years of loneliness and frustration.
Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men
are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have
mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.
Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a
man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met
him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.
Major Major had three strikes on him from the beginning-his
mother, his father and Henry Fonda, to whom he bore a sickly resemblance
almost from the moment of his birth. Long before he even
suspected who Henry Fonda was, he found himself the subject of
unflattering comparisons everywhere he went. Total strangers saw fit
to deprecate him, with the result that he was stricken early with a guilty
fear of people and an obsequious impulse to 'apologize to society for
the fact that he was not Henry Fonda. It was not an easy task for him
to go through life looking something like Henry Fonda, but he never
once thought of quitting, having inherited his perseverance from his
father, a lanky man with a good sense of humor.
Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a
good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a
God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who
held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He
advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who
turned. him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing
out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every
bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the
more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he
didn't earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not
produce. Major Major's father worked without rest at not growing
alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not
mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day
just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in
land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man
in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for
he had made much money and was therefore wise. "As ye sow, so shall
ye reap," he counseled one and all, and everyone said, "Amen."
Major Major's father was an outspoken champion of economy in
government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government
to pay farmers as much as they could get for all the alfalfa they
produced that no one else wanted or for not producing any alfalfa at
all. He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment
insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle,
and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could. He
was a devout man whose pulpit was everywhere.
"The Lord gave us good farmers two strong hands so that we could
take as much as we could grab with both of them," he preached with
ardor on the courthouse steps or in the front of the A & P as he waited
for the bad-tempered gum-chewing young cashier he was after to step
outside and give him a nasty look. "If the Lord didn't want us to take as
much as we could get," he preached, "He wouldn't have given us two
good hands to take it with." And the others murmured, "Amen."
Major Major's father had a Calvinist's faith in predestination and
could perceive distinctly how everyone's misfortunes but his own were
expressions of God's will. He smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey,
and he thrived on good wit and stimulating intellectual conversation,
particularly his own when he was lying about his age or telling that
good one about God and his wife's difficulties in delivering Major
Major. The good one about God and his wife's difficulties had to do
with the fact that it had taken God only six days to produce the whole
world, whereas his wife had spent a full day and a half in labor just to
produce Major Major. A lesser man might have wavered that day in
the hospital corridor, a weaker man might have compromised on such
excellent substitutes as Drum Major, Minor Major, Sergeant Major, or
C Sharp Major, but Major Major's father had waited fourteen years
for just such an opportunity, and he was not a person to waste it.
Major Major's father had a good joke about opportunity. "Opportunity
only knocks once in this world," he would say. Major Major's father
repeated this good joke at every opportunity.
Being born with a sickly resemblance to Henry Fonda was the first
of a long series of practical jokes of which destiny was to make Major
Major the unhappy victim throughout his joyless life. Being born
Major Major Major was the second. The fact that he had been born
Major Major Major was a secret known only to his father. Not until
Major Major was enrolling in kindergarten was the discovery of his
real name made, and then the effects were disastrous. The news killed
his mother, who just lost her will to live and wasted away and died,
which was just fine with his father, who had decided to marry the bad-
tempered girl at the A & P if he had to and who had not been optimistic
about his chances of getting his wife off the land without paying
her some money or flogging her.
On Major Major himself the consequences were only slightly less
severe. It was a harsh and stunning realization that was forced upon him
at so tender an age, the realization that he was not, as he had always
been led to believe, Caleb Major, but instead was some total stranger
named Major Major Major about whom he knew absolutely nothing
and about whom nobody else had ever heard before. What playmates
he had withdrew from him and never returned, disposed, as they were,
to distrust all strangers, especially one who had already deceived them
by pretending to be someone they had known for years. Nobody would
have anything to do with him. He began to drop things and to trip. He
had a shy and hopeful manner in each new contact, and he was always
disappointed. Because he needed a friend so desperately, he never found
one. He grew awkwardly into a tall, strange, dreamy boy with fragile
eyes and a very delicate mouth whose tentative, groping smile collapsed
instantly into hurt disorder at every fresh rebuff.
He was polite to his elders, who disliked him. Whatever his elders
told him to do, he did. They told him to look before he leaped, and he
always looked before he leaped. They told him never to put off until
the next day what he could do the day before, and he never did. He was
told to honor his father and his mother, and he honored his father and
his mother. He was told that he should not kill, and he did not kill,
until he got into the Army. Then he was told to kill, and he killed. He
turned the other cheek on every occasion and always did unto others
exactly as he would have had others do unto him. When he gave to
charity, his left hand never knew what his right hand was doing. He
never once took the name of the Lord his God in vain, committed
adultery or coveted his neighbor's ass. In fact, he loved his neighbor
and never even bore false witness against him. Major Major's elders
disliked him because he was such a flagrant nonconformist.
Since he had nothing better to do well in, he did well in school. At
the state university he took his studies so seriously that he was suspected
by the homosexuals of being a Communist and suspected by the
Communists of being a homosexual. He majored in English history,
which was a mistake.
"English history!" roared the silver-maned senior Senator from his
state indignantly. "What's the matter with American history? American
history is as good as any history in the world!"
Major Major switched immediately to American literature, but not
before the F.B.I. had opened a file on him. There were six people and
a Scotch terrier inhabiting the remote farmhouse Major Major called
home, and five of them and the Scotch terrier turned out to be agents
for the F.B.I. Soon they had enough derogatory information on Major
Major to do whatever they wanted to with him. The only thing they
could find to do with him, however, was take him into the Army as a
private and make him a major four days later so that Congressmen
with nothing else on their minds could go trotting back and forth
through the streets of Washington, D.C., chanting, "Who promoted
Major Major? Who promoted Major Major?"
Actually, Major Major had been promoted by an I.B.M. machine
with a sense of humor almost as keen as his father's. When war broke
out, he was still docile and compliant. They told him to enlist, and he
enlisted. They told him to apply for aviation cadet training, and he
applied for aviation cadet training, and the very next night found himself
standing barefoot in icy mud at three o'clock in the morning
before a tough and belligerent sergeant from the Southwest who told
them he could beat hell out of any man in his outfit and was ready to
prove it. The recruits in his squadron had all been shaken roughly
awake only minutes before by the sergeant's corporals and told to
assemble in front of the administration tent. It was still raining on
Major Major. They fell into ranks in the civilian clothes they had
brought into the Army with them three days before. Those who had
lingered. to put shoes and socks on were sent back to their cold, wet,
dark tents to remove them, and they were all barefoot in the mud as
the sergeant ran his stony eyes over their faces and told them he could
beat hell out of any man in his outfit. No one was inclined to dispute
rum.
Major Major's unexpected promotion to major the next day plunged
the belligerent sergeant into a bottomless gloom, for he was no longer
able to boast that he could beat hell out of any man in his outfit. He
brooded for hours in his tent like Saul, receiving no visitors, while his
elite guard of corporals stood discouraged watch outside. At three
o'clock in the morning he found his solution, and Major Major and the
other recruits were again shaken roughly awake and ordered to assemble
barefoot in the drizzly glare at the administration tent, where the
sergeant was already waiting, his fists clenched on his hips cockily, so
eager to speak that he could hardly wait for them to arrive.
"Me and Major Major," he boasted, in the same tough, clipped
tones of the night before, "can beat hell out of any man in my outfit."
The officers on the base took action on the Major Major problem
later that same day. How could they cope with a major like Major
Major? To demean him personally would be to demean all other officers
of equal or lesser rank. To treat him with courtesy, on the other
hand, was unthinkable. Fortunately, Major Major had applied for aviation
cadet training. Orders transferring him away were sent to the
mimeograph room late in the afternoon, and at three o'clock in the
morning Major Major was again shaken roughly awake, bidden Godspeed
by the sergeant and placed aboard a plane heading west.
Lieutenant Scheisskopf turned white as a sheet when Major Major
reported to him in California with bare feet and mud-caked toes.
Major Major had taken it for granted that he was being shaken roughly
awake again to stand barefoot in the mud and had left his shoes and
socks in the tent. The civilian clothing in which he reported for duty
to Lieutenant Scheisskopf was rumpled and dirty. Lieutenant Scheisskopf,
who had not yet made his reputation as a parader, shuddered
violently at the picture Major Major would make marching barefoot in
his squadron that coming Sunday.
"Go to the hospital quickly," he mumbled, when he had recovered
sufficiently to speak, "and tell them you're sick. Stay there until your
allowance for uniforms catches up with you and you have some money
to buy some clothes. And some shoes. Buy some shoes."
"Yes, sir."
"I don't think you have to call me 'sir,' sir," Lieutenant Scheisskopf
pointed out. "You outrank me."
"Yes, sir. 1 may outrank you, sir, but you're still my commanding
officer."
"Yes, sir, that's right," Lieutenant Scheisskopf agreed. "You may
outrank me, sir, but I'm still your commanding officer. So you better
do what I tell you, sir, or you'll get into trouble. Go to the hospital and
tell them you're sick, sir. Stay there until your uniform allowance
catches up with you and you have some money to buy some uniforms."
"Yes, sir."
"And some shoes, sir. Buy some shoes the first chance you get, sir."
"Yes, sir. I will, sir."
"Thank you, sir."
Life in cadet school for Major Major was no different than life had
been for him all along. Whoever he was with always wanted him to be
with someone else. His instructors gave him preferred treatment at
every stage in order to push him along quickly and be rid of him. In
almost no time he had his pilot's wings and found himself overseas,
where things began suddenly to improve. All his life, Major Major had
longed for but one thing, to be absorbed, and in Pianosa, for a while,
he finally was. Rank meant little to the men on combat duty, and relations
between officers and enlisted men were relaxed and informal.
Men whose names he didn't even know said "Hi" and invited him to
go swimming or play basketball. His ripest hours were spent in the
day-long basketball games no one gave a damn about winning. Score
was never kept, and the number of players might vary from one to
thirty-five. Major Major had never played basketball or any other game
before, but his great, bobbing height and rapturous enthusiasm helped
make up for his innate clumsiness and lack of experience. Major Major
found true happiness there on the lopsided basketball court with the
officers and enlisted men who were almost his friends. If there were no
winners, there were no losers, and Major Major enjoyed every gamboling
moment right up till the day Colonel Cathcart roared up in his
jeep after Major Duluth was killed and made it impossible for him ever
to enjoy playing basketball there again.
"You're the new squadron commander," Colonel Cathcart -had
shouted rudely across the railroad ditch to him. "But don't think it
means anything, because it doesn't. All it means is that you're the new
squadron commander."
Colonel Cathcart had nursed an implacable grudge against Major
Major for a long time. A superfluous major on his rolls meant an
untidy table of organization and gave ammunition to the men at
Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters who Colonel Cathcart was
positive were his enemies and rivals. Colonel Cathcart had been praying
for just some stroke of good luck like Major Duluth's death. He had
been plagued by one extra major; he now had an opening for one
major. He appointed Major Major squadron commander and roared
away in his jeep as abruptly as he had come.
For Major Major, it meant the end of the game. His face flushed
with discomfort, and he was rooted to the spot in disbelief as the rain
clouds gathered above him again. When he turned to his teammates,
he encountered a reef of curious, reflective faces all gazing at him
woodenly with morose and inscrutable animosity. He shivered with
shame. When the game resumed, it was not good any longer. When he
dribbled, no one tried to stop him; when he called for a pass, whoever
had the ball passed it; and when he missed a basket, no one raced him
for the rebound. The only voice was his own. The next day was the
same, and the day after that he did not come back.
Almost on cue, everyone in the squadron stopped talking to him and
started staring at him. He walked through life self-consciously with
downcast eyes and burning cheeks, the object of contempt, envy, suspicion,
resentment and malicious innuendo everywhere he went.
People who had hardly noticed his resemblance to Henry Fonda
before now never ceased discussing it, and there were even those who
hinted sinisterly that Major Major had been elevated to squadron commander
because he resembled Henry Fonda. Captain Black, who had
aspired to the position himself, maintained that Major Major really was
Henry Fonda but was too chickenshit to admit it.
Major Major floundered bewilderedly from one embarrassing catastrophe
to another. Without consulting him, Sergeant Towser had his
belongings moved into the roomy trailer Major Duluth had occupied
alone, and when Major Major came rushing breathlessly into the
orderly room to report the theft of his things, the young corporal there
scared him half out of his wits by leaping to his feet and shouting
"Attention!" the moment he appeared. Major Major snapped to attention
with all the rest in the orderly room, wondering what important
personage had entered behind him. Minutes passed in rigid silence,
and the whole lot of them might have stood there at attention till
doomsday if Major Danby had not dropped by from Group to congratulate
Major Major twenty minutes later and put them all at ease.
Major Major fared even more lamentably at the mess hall, where
Milo, his face fluttery with smiles, was waiting to usher him proudly to
a small-table he had set up in front and decorated with an embroided
tablecloth and a nosegay of posies in a pink cut-glass vase. Major Major
hung back with horror, but he was not bold enough to resist with all
the others watching. Even Havermeyer had lifted his head from his
plate to gape at him with his heavy, pendulous jaw. Major Major submitted
meekly to Milo's tugging and cowered in disgrace at his private
table throughout the whole meal. The food was ashes in his mouth, but
he swallowed every mouthful rather than risk offending any of the men
connected with its preparation. Alone with Milo later, Major Major felt
protest stir for the first time and said he would prefer to continue eating
with the other officers. Milo told him it wouldn't work.
"I don't see what there is to work," Major Major argued. "Nothing
ever happened before."
"You were never the squadron commander before."
"Major Duluth was the squadron commander and he always ate at
the same table with the rest of the men."
"It was different with Major Duluth, sir."
"In what way was it different with Major Duluth?"
"I wish you wouldn't ask me that, sir," said Milo.
"Is it because I look like Henry Fonda?" Major Major mustered the
courage to demand.
"Some people say you are Henry Fonda," Milo answered.
"Well, I'm not Henry Fonda," Major Major exclaimed, in a voice
quavering with exasperation. "And I don't look the least bit like him.
And even if I do look like Henry Fonda, what difference does that
make?"
"It doesn't make any difference. That's what I'm trying to tell you,
sir. It's just not the same with you as it was with Major Duluth."
And it just wasn't the same, for when Major Major, at the next meal,
stepped from the food counter to sit with the others at the regular
tables, he was frozen in his tracks by the impenetrable wall of antagonism
thrown up by their faces and stood petrified with his tray quivering
in his hands until Milo glided forward wordlessly to rescue him, by
leading him tamely to his private table. Major Major gave up after that
and always ate at his table alone with his back to the others. He was certain
they resented him because he seemed too good to eat with them
now that he was squadron commander. There was never any conversation
in the mess tent when Major Major was present. He was conscious
that other officers tried to avoid eating at the same time, and everyone
was greatly relieved when he stopped coming there altogether and
began taking his meals in his trailer.
Major Major began forging Washington Irving's name to official
documents the day after the first C.I.D. man showed up to interrogate
him about somebody at the hospital who had been doing it and gave
him the idea. He had been bored and dissatisfied in his new position.
He had been made squadron commander but had no idea what he was
supposed to do as squadron commander, unless all he was supposed to
do was forge Washington Irving's name to official documents and listen
to the isolated clinks and thumps of Major -- de Coverley's
horseshoes falling to the ground outside the window of his small office
in the rear of the orderly-room tent. He was hounded incessantly by
an impression of vital duties left unfulfilled and waited in vain for his
responsibilities to overtake him. He seldom went out unless it was
absolutely necessary, for he could not get used to being stared at.
Occasionally, the monotony was broken by some officer or enlisted
man Sergeant Towser referred to him on some matter that Major
Major was unable to cope with and referred right back to Sergeant
Towser for sensible disposition. Whatever he was supposed to get done
as squadron commander apparently was getting done without any
assistance from him. He grew moody and depressed. At times he
thought seriously of going with all his sorrows to see the chaplain, but
the chaplain seemed so overburdened with miseries of his own that
Major Major shrank from adding to his troubles. Besides, he was not
quite sure if chaplains were for squadron commanders.
He had never been quite sure about Major -- de Coverley, either,
who, when he was not away renting apartments or kidnapping foreign
laborers, had nothing more pressing to do than pitch horseshoes.
Major Major often paid strict attention to the horseshoes falling softly
against the earth or riding down around the small steel pegs in the
ground. He peeked out at Major -- de Coverley for hours and marveled
that someone so august had nothing more important to do. He
was often tempted to join Major -- de Coverley, but pitching horseshoes
all day long seemed almost as dull as signing "Major Major
Major" to official documents, and Major -- de Coverley's countenance
was so forbidding that Major Major was in awe of approaching
him.
Major Major wondered about his relationship to Major -- de
Coverley and about Major -- de Coverley's relationship to him. He
knew that Major -- de Coverley was his executive officer, but he did
not know what that meant, and he could not decide whether in Major
-- de Coverley he was blessed with a lenient superior or cursed with
a delinquent subordinate. He did not want to ask Sergeant Towser, of
whom he was secretly afraid, and there was no one else he could ask,
least of all Major -- de Coverley. Few people ever dared approach
Major -- de Coverley about anything and the only officer foolish
enough to pitch one of his horseshoes was stricken the very next day
with the worst case of Pianosan crud that Gus or Wes or even Doc
Daneeka had ever seen or even heard about. Everyone was positive the
disease had been inflicted upon the poor officer in retribution by
Major -- de Coverley, although no one was sure how.
Most of the official documents that came to Major Major's desk did
not concern him at all. The vast majority consisted of allusions to prior
communications which Major Major had never seen or heard of. There
was never any need to look them up, for the instructions were invariably to disregard. In the space of a single productive minute, therefore,
he might endorse twenty separate documents each advising him to pay
absolutely no attention to any of the others. From General Peckem's
office on the mainland came prolix bulletins each day headed by such
cheery homilies as "Procrastination Is the Thief of Time" and "Cleanliness
Is Next to Godliness."
General Peckem's communications about cleanliness and procrastination
made Major Major feel like a filthy procrastinator, and he
always got those out of the way as quickly as he could. The only official
documents that interested him were those occasional ones pertaining
to the unfortunate second lieutenant who had been killed on
the mission over Orvieto less than two hours after he arrived on
Pianosa and whose partly unpacked belongings were still in Yossarian's
tent. Since the unfortunate lieutenant had reported to the operations
tent instead of to the orderly room, Sergeant Towser had decided that
it would be safest to report him as never having reported to the
squadron at all, and the occasional documents relating to him dealt
with the fact that he seemed to have vanished into thin air, which, in
one way, was exactly what did happen to him. In the long run, Major
Major was grateful for the official documents that came to his desk, for
sitting in his office signing them all day long was a lot better than sitting
in his office all day long not signing them. They gave him something
to do.
Inevitably, every document he signed came back with a fresh page
added for a new signature by him after intervals of from two to ten
days. They were always much thicker than formerly, for in between the
sheet bearing his last endorsement and the sheet added for his new
endorsement were the sheets bearing the most recent endorsements of
all the other officers in scattered locations who were also occupied in
signing their names to that same official document. Major Major grew
despondent as he watched simple communications swell prodigiously
into huge manuscripts. O matter how many times he signed one, it
always came back for still another signature, and he began to despair
of ever being free of any of them. One day-it was the day after the
C.I.D. man's first visit-Major Major signed Washington Irving's
name to one of the documents instead of his own, just to see how it
would feel. He liked it. He liked it so much that for the rest of that
afternoon he did the same with all the official documents. It was an act
of impulsive frivolity and rebellion for which he knew afterward he
would be punished severely. The next morning he entered his office in
trepidation and waited to see what would happen. Nothing happened.
He had sinned, and it was good, for none of the documents to which
he had signed Washington Irving's name ever came back! Here, at last,
was progress, and Major Major threw himself into his new career with
uninhibited gusto. Signing Washington Irving's name to official documents
was not much of a career, perhaps, but it was less monotonous
than signing "Major Major Major." When Washington Irving did
grow monotonous, he could reverse the order and sign Irving Washington
until that grew monotonous. And he was getting something
done, for none of the documents signed with either of these names
ever came back to the squadron.
What did come back, eventually, was a second C.I.D. man, masquerading
as a pilot. The men knew he was a C.I.D. man because he
confided to them he was and urged each of them not to reveal his true
identity to any of the other men to whom he had already confided that
he was a C.I.D. man.
"You're the only one in the squadron who knows I'm a C.I.D. man,"
he confided to Major Major, "and it's absolutely essential that it remain
a secret so that my efficiency won't be impaired. Do you understand?"
"Sergeant Towser knows."
"Yes, I know. I had to tell him in order to get in to see you. But I
know he won't tell a soul under any circumstances."
"He told me," said Major Major. "He told me there was a C.I.D.
man outside to see me."
"That bastard. I'll have to throw a security check on him. I wouldn't
leave any top-secret documents lying around here if I were you. At
least not until I make my report."
"I don't get any top-secret documents," said Major Major.
"That's the kind I mean. Lock them in your cabinet where Sergeant
Towser can't get his hands on them."
"Sergeant Towser has the only key to the cabinet."
"I'm afraid we're wasting time," said the second C.I.D. man rather
stiffly. He was a brisk, pudgy, high-strung person whose movements
were swift and certain. He took a number of photostats out of a large
red expansion envelope he had been hiding conspicuously beneath a
leather flight jacket painted garishly with pictures of airplanes flying
through orange bursts of flak and with orderly rows of little bombs signifying
fifty-five combat missions flown. "Have you ever seen any of
these?"
Major Major looked with a blank expression at copies of personal
correspondence from the hospital on which the censoring officer had
written "Washington Irving" or "Irving Washington."
"No."
"How about these?"
Major Major gazed next at copies of official documents addressed to
him to which he had been signing the same signatures.
"No."
"Is the man who signed these names in your squadron?"
"Which one? There are two names here."
"Either one. We figure that Washington Irving and Irving Washington
are one man and that he's using two names just to throw us off
the track. That's done very often, you know."
"I don't think there's a man with either of those names in my
squadron."
A look of disappointment crossed the second C.I.D. man's face.
"He's a lot cleverer than we thought," he observed. "He's using a third
name and posing as someone else. And I think ... yes, I think I know
what the third name is." With excitement and inspiration, he held
another photostat out for Major Major to study. "How about this?"
Major Major bent forward slightly and saw a copy of the piece of V
mail from which Yossarian had blacked out everything but the name
Mary and on which he had written, "I yearn for you tragically. A. T.
Tappman, Chaplain, U.S. Army." Major Major shook his head.
"I've never seen it before."
"Do you know who A. T. Tappman is?"
"He's the group chaplain."
"That locks it up," said the second C.I.D. man. "Washington Irving
is the group chaplain."
Major Major felt a twinge of alarm. "A. T. Tappman is the group
chaplain," he corrected.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes."
"Why should the group chaplain write this on a letter?"
"Perhaps somebody else wrote it and forged his name."
"Why would somebody want to forge the group chaplain's name?"
"To escape detection."
"You may be right," the second C.I.D. man decided after an instant's
hesitation, and smacked his lips crisply. "Maybe we're confronted with
a gang, with two men working together who just happen to have opposite
names. Yes, I'm sure that's it. One of them here in the squadron,
one of them up at the hospital and one of them with the chaplain. That
makes three men, doesn't it? Are you absolutely sure you never saw any
of these official documents before?"
"I would have signed them if! had."
"With whose name?" asked the second C.I.D. man cunningly.
"Yours or Washington Irving's?"
"With my own name," Major Major told him. "I don't even know
Washington Irving's name."
The second C.I.D. man broke into a smile.
"Major, I'm glad you're in the clear. It means we'll be able to work
together, and I'm going to need every man I can get. Somewhere in the
European theater of operations is a man who's getting his hands on
communications addressed to you. Have you any idea who it can be?"
"No."
"Well, I have a pretty good idea," said the second C.I.D. man, and
leaned forward to whisper confidentially. "That bastard Towser. Why
else would he go around shooting his mouth off about me? Now, you
keep your eyes open and let me know the minute you hear anyone even
talking about Washington Irving. I'll throw a 'security check on the
chaplain and everyone else around here."
The moment he was gone, the first C.I.D. man jumped into Major
Major's office through the window and wanted to know who the second
C.I.D. man was. Major Major barely recognized him.
"He was a C.I.D. man," Major Major told him.
"Like hell he was," said the first C.I.D. man. "I'm the C.I.D. man
around here."
Major Major barely recognized him because he was wearing a faded
maroon corduroy bathrobe with open seams under both arms, limy
flannel pajamas, and worn house slippers with one flapping sole. This
was regulation hospital dress, Major Major recalled. The man had
added about twenty pounds and seemed bursting with good health.
"I'm really a very sick man," he whined. "I caught cold in the hospital
from a fighter pilot and came down with a very serious case of
pneumonia."
"I'm very sorry," Major Major said.
"A lot of good that does me," the C.I.D. man sniveled. "I don't want
your sympathy. I just want you to know what I'm going through. I came
down to warn you that Washington Irving seems to have shifted his
base of operations from the hospital to your squadron. You haven't
heard anyone around here talking about Washington Irving, have you?"
"As a matter of fact, I have," Major Major answered. "That man
who was just in there. He was talking about Washington Irving."
"Was he really?" the first C.I.D. man cried with delight. "This might
be just what we needed to crack the case wide open! You keep him under
surveillance twenty-four hours a day while I rush back to the hospital
and write my superiors for further instructions." The C.I.D. man
jumped out of Major Major's office through the window and was gone.
A minute later, the flap separating Major Major's office from the
orderly room flew open and the second C.I.D. man was back, puffing
frantically in haste. Gasping for breath, he shouted, "I just saw a man
in red pajamas come jumping out of your window and go running up
the road! Didn't you see him?"
"He was here talking to me," Major Major answered.
"I thought that looked mighty suspicious, a man jumping out the
window in red pajamas." The man paced about the small office in vigorous
circles. "At first I thought it was you, hightailing it for Mexico.
But now I see it wasn't you. He didn't say anything about Washington
Irving, did he?"
"As a matter of fact," said Major Major, "he did."
"He did?" cried the second C.I.D. man. "That's fine! This might be
just the break we needed to crack the case wide open. Do you know
where we can find him?"
"At the hospital. He's really a very sick man."
"That's great!" exclaimed the second C.I.D. man. "I'll go right up
there after him. It would be best if I went incognito. I'll go explain the
situation at the medical tent and have them send me there as a patient."
"They won't send me to the hospital as a patient unless I'm sick," he
reported back to Major Major. "Actually, I am pretty sick. I've been
meaning to turn myself in for a checkup, and this will be a good opportunity.
I'll go back to the medical tent and tell them I'm sick, and I'll
get sent to the hospital that way."
"Look what they did to me," he reported back to Major Major with
purple gums. His distress was inconsolable. He carried his shoes and
socks in his hands, and his toes had been painted with gentian-violet
solution, too. "Who ever heard of a C.I.D. man with purple gums?" he
moaned.
He walked away from the orderly room with his head down and
tumbled into a slit trench and broke his nose. His temperature was still
normal, but Gus and Wes made an exception of him and sent him to
the hospital in an ambulance.
Major Major had lied, and it was good. He was not really surprised
that it was good, for he had observed that people who did lie were, on
the whole, more resourceful and ambitious and successful than people
who did not lie. Had he told the truth to the second C.I.D. man, he
would have found himself in trouble. Instead he had lied, and he was
free to continue his work.
He became more circumspect in his work as a result of the visit from
the second C.I.D. man. He did all his signing with his left hand and
only while wearing the dark glasses and false mustache he had used
unsuccessfully to help him begin playing basketball again. As an additional
precaution, he made a happy switch from Washington Irving to
John Milton. John Milton was supple and concise. Like Washington
Irving, he could be reversed with good effect whenever he grew monotonous.
Furthermore, he enabled Major Major to double his output,
for John Milton was so much shorter than either his own name or
Washington Irving's and took so much less time to write. John Milton
proved fruitful in still one more respect. He was versatile, and Major
Major soon found himself incorporating the signature in fragments of
imaginary dialogues. Thus, typical endorsements on the official documents
might read, "John, Milton is a sadist" or "Have you seen Milton,
John?" One signature of which he was especially proud read, "Is anybody
in the John, Milton?" John Milton threw open whole new vistas
filled with charming, inexhaustible possibilities that promised to ward
off monotony forever. Major Major went back to Washington Irving
when John Milton grew monotonous.
Major Major had bought the dark glasses and false mustache in
Rome in a final, futile attempt to save himself from the swampy degradation
into which he was steadily sinking. First there had been the
awful humiliation of the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, when not one of
the thirty or forty people circulating competitive loyalty oaths would
even allow him to sign. Then, just when that was blowing over, there
was the matter of Clevinger's plane disappearing so mysteriously in
thin air with every member of the crew, and blame for the strange
mishap centering balefully on him because he had never signed any of
the loyalty oaths.
The dark glasses had large magenta rims. The false black mustache
was a flamboyant organ grinder's, and he wore them both to the basketball
game one day when he felt he could endure his loneliness no
longer. He affected an air of jaunty familiarity as he sauntered to the
court and prayed silently that he would not be recognized. The others
pretended not to recognize him, and he began to have fun. Just as he
finished congratulating himself on his innocent ruse he was bumped
hard by one of his opponents and knocked to his knees. Soon he was
bumped hard again, and it dawned on him that they did recognize him
and that they were using his disguise as a license to elbow, trip and maul
him. They did not want him at all. And just as he did realize this, the
players on his team fused instinctively with the players on the other
team into a single, howling, bloodthirsty mob that descended upon him
from all sides with foul curses and swinging fists. They knocked him to
the ground, kicked him while he was on the ground, attacked him again
after he had struggled blindly to his feet. He covered his face with his
hands and could not see. They swarmed all over each other in their
frenzied compulsion to bludgeon him, kick him, gouge him, trample
him. He was pummeled spinning to the edge of the ditch and sent slithering
down on his head and shoulders. At the bottom he found his footing,
clambered up the other wall and staggered away beneath the hail
of hoots and stones with which they pelted him until he lurched into
shelter around a corner of the orderly-room tent. ,His paramount concern
throughout the entire assault was to keep his dark glasses and false
mustache in place so that he might continue pretending he was somebody
else and be spared the dreaded necessity of having to confront
them with his authority.
Back in his office, he wept; and when he finished weeping he washed
the blood from his mouth and nose, scrubbed the dirt from the abrasions
on his cheek and forehead, and summoned Sergeant Towser.
"From now on," he said, "I don't want anyone to come in to see me
while I'm here. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," said Sergeant Towser. "Does that include me?"
"Yes."
"I see. Will that be all?"
"Yes."
"What shall I say to the people who do come to see you while you're
here?"
"Tell them I'm in and ask them to wait."
"Yes, sir. For how long?"
"Until I've left."
"And then what shall I do with them?"
"I don't care."
"May I send them in to see you after you've left?"
"Yes."
"But you won't be here then, will you?"
"No."
"Yes, sir. Will that be all?"
"Yes."
"Yes, sir."
"From now on," Major Major said to the middle-aged enlisted man
who took care of his trailer, "I don't want you to come here while I'm
here to ask me if there's anything you can do for me. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," said the orderly. "When should I come here to find out if
there's anything you want me to do for you?"
"When I'm not here."
"Yes, sir. And what should I do?"
"Whatever I tell you to."
"But you won't be here to tell me. Will you?"
"No."
"Then what should I do?"
"Whatever has to be done."
"Yes, sir."
"That will be all," said Major Major.
"Yes, sir," said the orderly. "Will that be all?"
"No," said Major Major. "Don't come in to clean, either. Don't
come in for anything unless you're sure I'm not here."
"Yes, sir. But how can I always be sure?"
"If you're not sure, just assume that I am here and go away until you
are sure. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir."
"I'm sorry to have to talk to you in this way, but I have to. Goodbye."
"Goodbye, sir."
"And thank you. For everything."
"Yes, sir."
"From now on," Major Major said to Milo Minderbinder, "I'm not
going to come to the mess hall any more. I'll have all my meals brought
to me in my trailer."
"I think that's a good idea sir," Milo answered. "Now I'll be able to
serve you special dishes that the others will never know about. I'm sure
you'll enjoy them. Colonel Cathcart always does."
"I don't want any special dishes. I want exactly what you serve all the
other officers. Just have whoever brings it knock once on my door and
leave the tray on the step. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," said Milo. "That's very clear. I've got some live Maine
lobsters hidden away that I can serve you tonight with an excellent
Roquefort salad and two frozen eclairs that were smuggled out of Paris
only yesterday together with an important member of the French
underground. Will that do for a start?"
"No."
"Yes, sir. I understand."
For dinner that night Milo served him broiled Maine lobster with
excellent Roquefort salad and two frozen eclairs. Major Major was
annoyed. If he sent it back, though, it would only go to waste or to
somebody else, and Major Major had a weakness for broiled lobster.
He ate with a guilty conscience. The next day for lunch there was terrapin
Maryland with a whole quart of Dom Perignon 1937, and Major
Major gulped it down without a thought.
After Milo, there remained only the men in the orderly room, and
Major Major avoided them by entering and leaving every time through
the dingy celluloid window of his office. The window unbuttoned and
was low and large and easy to jump through from either side. He managed
the distance between the orderly room and his trailer by darting
around the corner of the tent when the coast was clear, leaping down
into the railroad ditch and dashing' along with his head bowed until he
attained the sanctuary of the forest. Abreast of his trailer, he left the
ditch and wove his way speedily toward home through the dense
underbrush, in which the only person he, ever encountered was Captain
Flume, ~ho, drawn and ghostly, frightened him half to death one
twilight by materializing without warning out of a patch of dewberry
bushes to complain that Chief White Halfoat had threatened to slit his
throat open from ear to ear.
"If you ever frighten me like that again," Major Major told him, "I'll
slit your throat open from ear to ear."
Captain Flume gasped and dissolved right back into the patch of
dewberry bushes, and Major Major never set eyes on him again.
When Major Major looked back on what he had accomplished, he was
pleased. In the midst of a few foreign acres teeming with more than two
hundred people, he had succeeded in becoming a recluse. With a little
ingenuity and vision, he had made it all but impossible for anyone in the
squadron to talk to him, which was just fine with everyone, he noticed,
since no one wanted to talk to him anyway. No one, it turned out, but that
madman Yossarian, who brought him down with a flying tackle one day
as he was scooting along the bottom of the ditch to his trailer for lunch.
The last person in the squadron Major Major wanted to be brought
down with a flying tackle by was Yossarian. There was something inherently
disreputable about Yossarian, always carrying on so disgracefully
about that dead man in his tent who wasn't even there and then taking
off all his clothes after the Avignon mission and going around without
them right up to the day General Dreedle stepped up to pin a medal on
him for his heroism over Ferrara and found him standing in formation
stark naked. No one in the world had the power to remove the dead
man's disorganized effects from Yossarian's tent. Major Major had forfeited
the authority when he permitted Sergeant Towser to report the
lieutenant who had been killed over Orvieto less than two hours after
he arrived in the squadron as never having arrived in the squadron at all.
The only one with any right to remove his belongings from Yossarian's
tent, it seemed to Major Major, was Yossarian himself, and Yossarian, it
seemed to Major Major, had no right.
Major Major groaned after Yossarian brought him down with a flying
tackle, and tried to wiggle to his feet. Yossarian wouldn't let him.
"Captain Yossarian," Yossarian said, "requests permission to speak
to the major at once about a matter of life or death,"
"Let me up, please," Major Major bid him in cranky discomfort. "I
can't return your salute while I'm lying on my arm."
Yossarian released him. They stood up slowly. Yossarian saluted
again and repeated his request.
"Let's go to my office," Major Major said. "I don't think this is the
best place to talk."
"Yes, sir," answered Yossarian.
They smacked the gravel from their clothing and walked in constrained
silence to the entrance of the orderly room.
"Give me a minute or two to put some Mercurochrome on these
cuts. Then have Sergeant Towser send you in."
"Yes, sir."
Major Major strode with dignity to the rear of the orderly room without
glancing at any of the clerks and typists working at the desks and filing
cabinets. He let the flap leading to his office fall closed behind him.
As soon as he was alone in his office, he raced across the room to the
window and jumped outside to dash away. He found Yossarian blocking
his path. Yossarian was waiting at attention and saluted again.
"Captain Yossarian requests permission to speak to the major at
once about a matter of life and death," he repeated determinedly.
"Permission denied," Major Major snapped.
"That won't do it."
Major Major gave in. "All right," he conceded wearily. "I'll talk to
you. Please jump inside my office."
"After you."
They jumped inside the office. Major Major sat down, and Yossarian
moved around in front of his desk and told him that he did not want to
fly any more combat missions. What could he do? Major Major asked
himself. All he could do was what he had been instructed to do by
Colonel Korn and hope for the best.
"Why not?" he asked.
"I'm afraid."
"That's nothing to be ashamed of," Major Major counseled him
kindly. "We're all afraid."
"I'm not ashamed," Yossarian said. "I'm just afraid."
"You wouldn't be normal if you were never afraid. Even the bravest
men experience fear. One of the biggest jobs we all face in combat is to
overcome fear."
"Oh, come on, Major. Can't we do without that horseshit?"
Major Major lowered his gaze sheepishly and fiddled with his fingers.
"What do you want me to tell you?"
"That I've flown enough missions and can go home."
"How many have you flown?"
"Fifty-one."
"You've only got four more to fly."
"He'll raise them. Every time I get close he raises them."
"Perhaps he won't this time."
"He never sends anyone home, anyway. He just keeps them around
waiting for rotation orders until he doesn't have enough men left for
the crews, and then raises the number of missions and throws them all
back on combat status. He's been doing that ever since he got here."
"You mustn't blame Colonel Cathcart for any delay with the
orders," Major Major advised. "It's Twenty-seventh Air Force's responsibility
to process the orders promptly once they get them from us."
"He could still ask for replacements and send us home when the
orders did come back. Anyway, I've been told that Twenty-seventh Air
Force wants only forty missions and that it's only his own idea to get
us to fly fifty-five."
"I wouldn't know anything about that," Major Major answered.
"Colonel Cathcart is our commanding officer and we must obey him.
Why don't you fly the four more missions and see what happens?"
"I don't want to."
What could you do? Major Major asked himself again. What could
you do with a man who looked you squarely in the eye and said he
would rather die than be killed in combat, a man who was at least as
mature and intelligent as you were and who you had to pretend was
not? What could you say to him?
"Suppose we let you pick your missions and fly milk runs," Major
Major said. "That way you can fly the four missions and not run any
risks."
"I don't want to fly milk runs. I don't want to be in the war any
more."
"Would you like to see our country lose?" Major Major asked.
"We won't lose. We've got more men, more money and more material.
There are ten million men in uniform who could replace me.
Some people are getting killed and a lot more are making money and
having fun. Let somebody else get killed."
"But suppose everybody on our side felt that way."
"Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way.
Wouldn't I?"
What could you possibly say to him? Major Major wondered forlornly.
One thing he could not say was that there was nothing he could do. To
say there was nothing he could do would suggest he would do something
if he could and imply the existence of an error or injustice in
Colonel Korn's policy. Colonel Korn had been most explicit about
that. He must never say there was nothing he could do.
"I'm sorry," he said. "But there's nothing I can do."
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:06 pm

10. Wintergreen

Clevinger was dead. That was the basic flaw in his philosophy. Eighteen
planes had let down through a beaming white cloud off the coast
of Elba one afternoon on the way back from the weekly milk run to
Parma; seventeen came out. No trace was ever found of the other, not
in the air or on the smooth surface of the jade waters below. There was
no debris. Helicopters circled the white cloud till sunset. During the
night the cloud blew away, and in the morning there was no more
Clevinger.
The disappearance was astounding, as astounding, certainly, as the
Grand Conspiracy of Lowery Field, when all sixty-four men in a single
barrack vanished one payday and were never heard of again. Until
Clevinger was snatched from existence so adroitly, Yossarian had
assumed that the men had simply decided unanimously to go AWOL
the same day. In fact, he had been so encouraged by what appeared to
be a mass desertion from sacred responsibility that he had gone running
outside in elation to carry the exciting news to ex-PF.e. Wintergreen.
"What's so exciting about it?" ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen sneered obnoxiously,
resting his filthy GI shoe on his spade and lounging back in
a surly slouch against the wall of one of the deep, square holes it was
his military specialty to dig.
ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen was a snide little punk who enjoyed working
at cross-purposes. Each time he went AWOL, he was caught and sentenced
to dig and fill up holes six feet deep, wide and long for a specified
length of time. Each time he finished his sentence, he went
AWOL again. ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen accepted his role of digging and
filling up holes with all the uncomplaining dedication of a true patriot.
"It's not a bad life," he would observe philosophically. "And I guess
somebody has to do it."
He had wisdom enough to understand that digging holes in
Colorado was not such a bad assignment in wartime. Since the holes
were in no great demand, he could dig them and fill them up at a
leisurely pace, and he was seldom overworked. On the other hand, he
was busted down to buck private each time he was court-martialed. He
regretted this loss of rank keenly.
"It was kind of nice being a P.F.C.," he reminisced yearningly. "I had
status-you know what I mean?-and I used to travel in the best circles."
His face darkened with resignation. "But that's all behind me
now," he guessed. "The next time I go over the hill it will be as a buck
private, and I just know it won't be the same." There was no future in
digging holes. "The job isn't even steady. I lose it each time I finish
serving my sentence. Then I have to go over the hill again if I want it
back. And I can't even keep doing that. There's a catch, Catch-22. The
next time I go over the hill, it will mean the stockade. I don't know
what's going to become of me. I might even wind up overseas if I'm not
careful." He did not want to keep digging holes for the rest of his life,
although he had no objection to doing it as long as there was a war
going on and it was part of the war effort. "It's a matter of duty," he
observed, "and we each have our own to perform. My duty is to keep
digging these holes, and I've been doing such a good job of it that I've
just been recommended for the Good Conduct Medal. Your duty is to
screw around in cadet school and hope the war ends before you get
out. The duty of the men in combat is to win the war, and I just wish
they were doing their duty as well as I've been doing mine. It wouldn't
be fair if! had to go overseas and do their job too, would it?"
One day ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen struck open a water pipe while digging
in one of his holes and almost drowned to death before he was
fished out nearly unconscious. Word spread that it was oil, and Chief
White Halfoat was kicked off the base. Soon every man who could find
a shovel was outside digging frenziedly for oil. Dirt flew everywhere;
the scene was almost like the morning in Pianosa seven months later
after the night Milo bombed the squadron with every plane he had
accumulated in his M & M syndicate, and the airfield, bomb dump and
repair hangars as well, and all the survivors were outside hacking cavernous
shelters into the solid ground and roofing them over with
sheets of armor plate stolen from the repair sheds at the field and with
tattered squares of waterproof canvas stolen from the side flaps of each
other's tents. Chief White Halfoat was transferred out of Colorado at
the first rumor of oil and came to rest finally in Pianosa as a replacement
for Lieutenant Coombs, who had gone out on a mission as a
guest one day just to see what combat was like and had died over
Ferrara in the plane with Kraft. Yossarian felt guilty each time he
remembered Kraft, guilty because Kraft had been killed on Yossarian's
second bomb run, and guilty because Kraft had got mixed up innocently
also in the Splendid Atabrine Insurrection that had begun in
Puerto Rico on the first leg of their flight overseas and ended in
Pianosa ten days later with Appleby striding dutifully into the orderly
room the moment he arrived to report Yossarian for refusing to take
his Atabrine tablets. The sergeant there invited him to be seated.
"Thank you, Sergeant, I think I will," said Appleby. "About how
long will I have to wait? I've still got a lot to get done today so that I
can be fully prepared bright and early tomorrow morning to go into
combat the minute they want me to."
"Sir?"
"What's that, Sergeant?"
"What was your question?"
"About how long will I have to wait before I can go in to see the
major?"
"Just until he goes out to lunch," Sergeant Towser replied. "Then
you can go right in."
"But he won't be there then. Will he?"
"No, sir. Major Major won't be back in his office until after lunch."
"I see," Appleby decided uncertainly. "I think I'd better come back
after lunch, then."
Appleby turned from the orderly room in secret confusion. The
moment he stepped outside, he thought he saw a tall, dark officer who
looked a little like Henry Fonda come jumping out the window of the
orderly-room tent and go scooting out of sight around the corner.
Appleby halted and squeezed his eyes closed. An anxious doubt assailed
him. He wondered if he were suffering from malaria, or, worse, from
an overdose of Atabrine tablets. Appleby had been taking four times as
many Atabrine tablets as the amount prescribed because he wanted to
be four times as good a pilot as everyone else. His eyes were still shut
when Sergeant Towser tapped him. lightly on the shoulder and told
him he could go in now if he wanted to, since Major Major had just
gone out. Appleby's confidence returned.
"Thank you, Sergeant. Will he be back soon?"
"He'll be back right after lunch. Then you'll have to go right out
and wait for him in front till he leaves for dinner. Major Major never
sees anyone in his office while he's in his office."
"Sergeant, what did you just say?"
"I said that Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in
his office."
Appleby stared at Sergeant Towser intently and attempted a firm
tone. "Sergeant, are you trying to make a fool out of me just because
I'm new in the squadron and you've been overseas a long time?"
"Oh, no, sir," answered the sergeant deferentially. "Those are my
orders. You can ask Major Major when you see him."
"That's just what I intend to do, Sergeant. When can I see him?"
"Never."
Crimson with humiliation, Appleby wrote down his report about
Yossarian and the Atabrine tablets on a pad the sergeant offered him
and left quickly, wondering if perhaps Yossarian were not the only man
privileged to wear an officer's uniform who was crazy.
By the time Colonel Cathcart had raised the number of missions to
fifty-five, Sergeant Towser had begun to suspect that perhaps every
man who wore a uniform was crazy. Sergeant Towser was lean and
angular and had fine blond hair so light it was almost without color,
sunken cheeks, and teeth like large white marshmallows. He ran the
squadron and was not happy doing it. Men like Hungry Joe glowered
at him with blameful hatred, and Appleby subjected him to vindictive
discourtesy now that he had established himself as a hot pilot and a
Ping-Pong player who never lost a point. Sergeant Towser ran the
squadron because there was no one else in the squadron to run it. He
had no interest in war or advancement. He was interested in shards and
Hepplewhite furniture.
Almost without realizing it, Sergeant Towser had fallen into the
habit of thinking of the dead man in Yossarian's tent in Yossarian's own
terms-as a dead man in Yossarian's tent. In reality, he was no such
thing. He was simply a replacement pilot who had been killed in combat
before he had officially reported for duty. He had stopped at the
operations tent to inquire the way to the orderly-room tent and had
been sent right into action because so many men had completed the
thirty-five missions required then that Captain Piltchard and Captain
Wren were finding it difficult to assemble the number of crews specified
by Group. Because he had never officially gotten into the squadron,
he could never officially be gotten out, and Sergeant Towser
sensed that the multiplying communications relating to the poor man
would continue reverberating forever.
His name was Mudd. To Sergeant Towser, who deplored violence
and waste with equal aversion, it seemed like such an abhorrent extravagance
to fly Mudd all the way across the ocean just to have him blown
into bits over Orvieto less than two hours after he arrived. No one
could recall who he was or what he had looked like, least of all Captain
Piltchard and Captain Wren, who remembered only that a new officer
had shown up at the operations tent just in time to be killed and who
colored uneasily every time the matter of the dead man in Yossarian's
tent was mentioned. The only ones who might have seen Mudd, the
men in the same plane, had all been blown to bits with him.
Yossarian, on the other hand, knew exactly who Mudd was. Mudd
was the unknown soldier who had never had a chance, for that was the
only thing anyone ever did know about all the unknown soldiers-they
never had a chance. They had to be dead. And this dead one was really
unknown, even though his belongings still lay in a tumble on the cot
in Yossarian's tent almost exactly as he had left them three months earlier
the day he never arrived-all contaminated with death less -than
two hours later, in the same way that all was contaminated with death
the very next week during the Great Big Siege of Bologna when the
moldy odor of mortality hung wet in the air with the sulphurous fog
and every man scheduled to fly was already tainted.
There was no escaping the mission to Bologna once Colonel Cathcart
had volunteered his group for the ammunition dumps there that
the heavy bombers on the Italian mainland had been unable to destroy
from their higher altitudes. Each day's delay deepened the awareness
and deepened the gloom. The clinging, overpowering conviction of
death spread steadily with the continuing rainfall, soaking mordantly
into each man's ailing countenance like the corrosive blot of some
crawling disease. Everyone smelled of formaldehyde. There was
nowhere to turn for help, not even to the medical tent, which had been
ordered closed by Colonel Korn so that no one could report for sick
call, as the men had done on the one clear day with a mysterious epidemic
of diarrhea that had forced still another postponement. With
sick call suspended and the door to the medical tent nailed shut, Doc
Daneeka spent the intervals between rain perched on a high stool,
wordlessly absorbing the bleak outbreak of fear with a sorrowing neutrality, roosting like a melancholy buzzard below the ominous, handlettered
sign tacked up on the closed door of the medical tent by
Captain Black as a joke and left hanging there by Doc Daneeka
because it was no joke. The sign was bordered in dark crayon and read:
"CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. DEATH IN THE FAMILY."
The fear flowed everywhere, into Dunbar's squadron, where Dunbar
poked his head inquiringly through the entrance of the medical
tent there one twilight and spoke respectfully to the blurred outline of
Dr. Stubbs, who was sitting in the dense shadows inside before a bottle
of whiskey and a bell jar filled with purified drinking water.
"Are you all right?" he asked solicitously.
"Terrible," Dr. Stubbs answered.
"What are you doing here?"
"Sitting."
"I thought there was no more sick call."
"There ain't."
"Then why are you sitting here?"
"Where else should I sit? At the goddam officers' club with Colonel
Cathcart and Korn? Do you know what I'm doing here?"
"Sitting."
"In the squadron, I mean. Not in the tent. Don't be such a goddam
wise guy. Can you figure out what a doctor is doing here in the squadron?"
"They've got the doors to the medical tents nailed shut in the other
squadrons," Dunbar remarked.
"If anyone sick walks through my door I'm going to ground him,"
Dr. Stubbs vowed. "I don't give a damn what they say."
"You can't ground anyone," Dunbar reminded. "Don't you know
the orders?"
"I'll knock 'him flat on his ass with an injection and really ground
him.'" Dr. Stubbs laughed with sardonic amusement at the prospect.
"They think they can order sick call out of existence. The bastards.
Ooops, there it goes again." The rain began falling again, first in the
trees, then in the mud puddles, then, faintly, like a soothing murmur,
on the tent top. "Everything's wet," Dr. Stubbs observed with revulsion.
"Even the latrines and urinals are backing up in protest. The
whole goddam world smells like a charnel house."
The silence seemed bottomless when he stopped talking. Night fell.
There was a sense of vast isolation.
"Turn on the light," Dunbar suggested.
"There is no light. I don't feel like starting my generator. I used to
get a big kick out of saving people's lives. Now I wonder what the hell's
the point, since they all have to die anyway."
"Oh, there's a point, all right," Dunbar assured him.
"Is there? What is the point?"
"The point is to keep them from dying for as long as you can."
"Yeah, but what's the point, since they all have to die anyway?"
"The trick is not to think about that."
"Never mind the trick. What the hell's the point?"
Dunbar pondered in silence for a few moments. "Who the hell
knows?"
Dunbar didn't know. Bologna should have exulted Dunbar, because
the minutes dawdled and the hours dragged like centuries. Instead it
tortured him, because he knew he was going to be killed.
"Do you really want some more codeine?" Dr. Stubbs asked.
"It's for my friend Yossarian. He's sure he's going to be killed."
"Yossarian? Who the hell is Yossarian? What the hell kind of a name
is Yossarian, anyway? Isn't he the one who got drunk and started that
fight with Colonel Korn at the officers' club the other night?"
"That's right. He's Assyrian."
"That crazy bastard."
"He's not so crazy," Dunbar said. "He swears he's not going to fly to
Bologna."
"That's just what I mean," Dr. Stubbs answered. "That crazy bastard
may be the only sane one left."
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:06 pm

11. Captain Black

Corporal Kolodny learned about it first in a phone call from Group
and was so shaken by the news that he crossed the intelligence tent on
tiptoe to Captain Black, who was resting drowsily with his bladed shins
up on the desk, and relayed the information to him in a shocked whisper.
Captain Black brightened immediately. "Bologna?" he exclaimed
with delight. "Well, I'll be damned." He broke into loud laughter.
"Bologna, huh?" He laughed again and shook his head in pleasant
amazement. "Oh, boy! I can't wait to see those bastards' faces when
they find out they're going to Bologna. Ha, ha hal"
It was the first really good laugh Captain Black had enjoyed since
the day Major Major outsmarted him and was appointed squadron
commander, and he rose with torpid enthusiasm and stationed himself
behind the front counter in order to wring the most enjoyment from
the occasion when the bombardiers arrived for their map kits.
"That's right, you bastards, Bologna," he kept repeating to all the
bombardiers who inquired incredulously if they were really going to
Bologna. "Ha! Ha! Ha! Eat your livers, you bastards. This time you're
really in for it."
Captain Black followed the last of them outside to observe with
relish the effect of the knowledge upon all of the other officers and enlisted
men who were assembling with their helmets, parachutes and
flak suits around the four trucks idling in the center of the squadron
area. He was a tall, narrow, disconsolate man who moved with a
crabby listlessness. He shaved his pinched, pale face every third or
fourth day, and most of the time he appeared to be growing a reddish-gold
mustache over his skinny upper lip. He was not disappointed in
the scene outside. There was consternation darkening every expression,
and Captain Black yawned deliciously, rubbed the last lethargy
from his eyes and laughed gloatingly each time he told someone else
to eat his liver.
Bologna turned out to be the most rewarding event in Captain
Black's life since the day Major Duluth was killed over Perugia and he
was almost selected to replace him. When word of Major Duluth's
death was radioed back to the field, Captain Black responded with a
surge of joy. Although he had never really contemplated the possibility
before; Captain Black understood at once that he was the logical
man to succeed Major Duluth as squadron commander. To begin with,
he was the squadron intelligence officer, which meant he was more
intelligent than everyone else in the squadron. True, he was not on
combat status, as Major Duluth had been and as all squadron commanders
customarily were; but this was really another powerful argument
in his favor, since his life was in no danger and he would be able
to fill the post for as long as his country needed him. The more
Captain Black thought about it, the more inevitable it seemed. It was
merely a matter of dropping the right word in the right place quickly.
He hurried back to his office to determine a course of action. Settling
back in his swivel chair, his feet up on the desk and his eyes closed, he
began imagining how beautiful everything would be once he was
squadron commander.
While Captain Black was imagining, Colonel Cathcart was acting,
and Captain Black was flabbergasted by the speed with which, he concluded,
Major Major had outsmarted him. His great dismay at the
announcement of Major Major's appointment as squadron commander
was tinged with an embittered resentment he made no effort to conceal..
When fellow administrative officers expressed astonishment at Colonel
Cathcart's choice of Major Major, Captain Black muttered that there
was something funny going on; when they speculated on the political
value of Major Major's resemblance to Henry Fonda, Captain Black
asserted that Major Major really was Henry Fonda; and when they
remarked that Major Major was somewhat odd, Captain Black
announced that he was a Communist.
"They're taking over everything," he declared rebelliously. "Well,
you fellows can stand around and let them if you want to, but I'm not
going to. I'm going to do something about it. From now on I'm going
to make every son of a bitch who comes to my intelligence tent sign a
loyalty oath. And I'm not going to let that bastard Major Major sign
one even if he wants to."
Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full
flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading
it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and
officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map
cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their
flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath
for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to
ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time
they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed. They
signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain
their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers. To
Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath
Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twenty-four
hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in
his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging
and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by
making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two
loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of
allegiance, and after that "The Star-Spangled Banner," one chorus,
two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black
forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for
their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example,
he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new stratagem
that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.
Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the
squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators
appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and
shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced
objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not
mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned
the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who
really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it
as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the
morality, he replied that "The Star-Spangled Banner" was the greatest
piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed,
the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he
had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that
he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.
"The important thing is to keep them pledging," he explained to his
cohorts. "It doesn't matter whether they mean it or not. That's why
they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what
'pledge' and 'allegiance' mean."
To Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren, the Glorious Loyalty Oath
Crusade was a glorious pain in the ass, since it complicated their task
of organizing the crews for each combat mission. Men were tied up all
over the squadron signing, pledging and singing, and the missions took
hours longer to get under way. Effective emergency action became
impossible, but Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren were both too
timid to raise any outcry against Captain Black, who scrupulously
enforced each day the doctrine of "Continual Reaffirmation" that he
had originated, a doctrine designed to trap all those men who had
become disloyal since the last time they had signed a loyalty oath the
day before. It was Captain Black who came with advice to Captain
Piltchard and Captain Wren as they pitched about in their bewildering
predicament. He came with a delegation and advised them bluntly to
make each man sign a loyalty oath before allowing him to fly on a combat
mission.
"Of course, it's up to you," Captain Black pointed out. "Nobody's
trying to pressure you. But everyone else is making them sign loyalty
oaths, and it's going to look mighty funny to the F.B.I. if you two are
.the only ones who don't care enough about your country to make them
sign loyalty oaths, too. If you want to get a bad reputation, that's nobody's
business but your own. All we're trying to do is help."
Milo was not convinced and absolutely refused to deprive Major
Major of food, even if Major Major was a Communist, which Milo
secretly doubted. Milo was by nature opposed to any innovation that
threatened to disrupt the normal course of affairs. Milo took a firm
moral stand and absolutely refused to participate in the Glorious
Loyalty Oath Crusade until Captain Black called upon him with his
delegation and requested him to.
"National defense is everybody's job," Captain Black replied to Milo's
objection. "And this whole program is voluntary, Milo-don't forget
that. The men don't have to sign Piltchard and Wren's loyalty oath if
they don't want to. But we need you to starve them to death if they
don't. It's just like Catch-22. Don't you get it? You're not against
Catch-22, are you?"
Doc Daneeka was adamant.
"What makes you so sure Major Major is a Communist?"
"You never heard him denying it until we began accusing him, did
you? And you don't see him signing any of our loyalty oaths."
"You aren't letting him sign any."
"Of course not," Captain Black explained. "That would defeat the
whole purpose of our crusade. Look, you don't have to play ball with
us if you don't want to. But what's the point of the rest of us working
so hard if you're going to give Major Major medical attention the
minute Milo begins starving him to death? 1 just wonder what they're
going to think up at Group about the man who's undermining our
whole security program. They'll probably transfer you to the Pacific."
Doc Daneeka surrendered swiftly. "I'll go tell Gus and Wes to do
whatever you want them to."
Up at Group, Colonel Cathcart had already begun wondering what
was going on.
"It's that idiot Black off on a patriotism binge," Colonel Korn
reported with a smile. "I think you'd better play ball with him for a
while, since you're the one who promoted Major Major to squadron
commander."
"That was your idea," Colonel Cathcart accused him petulantly. "I
never should have let you talk me into it."
"And a very good idea it was, too," retorted Colonel Korn, "since it
eliminated that superfluous major that's been giving you such an awful
black eye as an administrator. Don't worry, this will probably run its
course soon. :The best thing to do now is send Captain Black a letter
of total support and hope he drops dead before he does too much damage."
Colonel Korn was struck with a whimsical thought. "I wonder!
You don't suppose that imbecile will try to turn Major Major out of his
trailer, do you?"
"The next thing we've got to do is turn that bastard Major Major
out of his trailer," Captain Black decided. "I'd like to turn his wife and
kids out into the woods, too. But we can't. He has no wife and kids. So
we'll just have to make do with what we have and turn him out. Who's
in charge of the tents?"
"He is."
"You see?" cried Captain Black. "They're taking over everything!
Well, I'm not going to stand for it. I'll take this matter right to Major
-- de Coverley himself if! have to. I'll have Milo speak to him about
it the minute he gets back from Rome."
Captain Black had boundless faith in the wisdom, power and justice
of Major -- de Coverley, even though he had never spoken to him
before and still found himself without the courage to do so. He deputized
Milo to speak to Major -- de Coverley for him and stormed·
out impatiently as he waited for the tall executive officer to return.
Along with everyone else in the squadron, he lived in profound awe
and reverence of the majestic, white-haired major with the craggy face
and Jehovean bearing, who came back from Rome finally with an
injured eye inside a new celluloid eye patch and smashed his whole
Glorious Crusade to bits with a single stroke.
Milo carefully said nothing when Major -- de Coverley stepped
into the mess hall with his fierce and austere dignity the day he
returned and found his way blocked by a wall of officers waiting in line
to sign loyalty oaths. At the far end of the food counter, a group of men
who had arrived earlier were pledging allegiance to the flag, with trays
of food balanced in one hand, in order to be allowed to take seats at the
table. Already at the tables, a group that had arrived still earlier was
singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in order that they might use the
salt and pepper and ketchup there. The hubbub began to subside slowly
as Major -- de Coverley paused in the doorway with a frown of
puzzled disapproval, as though viewing something bizarre. He started
forward in a straight line, and the wall of officers before him parted like
the Red Sea. Glancing neither left nor right, he strode indomitably up
to the steam counter and, in a clear, full-bodied voice that was gruff
with age and resonant with ancient eminence and authority, said:
"Gimme eat."
Instead of eat, Corporal Snark gave Major -- de Coverley a loyalty
oath to sign. Major -- de Coverley swept it away with mighty
displeasure the moment he recognized what it was, his good eye flaring
up blindingly with fiery disdain and his enormous old corrugated
face darkening in mountainous wrath.
"Gimme eat, I said," he ordered loudly in harsh tones that rumbled
ominously through the silent tent like claps of distant thunder.
Corporal Snark turned pale and began to tremble. He glanced
toward Milo pleadingly for guidance. For several terrible seconds there
was not a sound. Then Milo nodded.
"Give him eat," he said.
Corporal Snark began giving Major -- de Coverley eat. Major
-- de Coverley turned from the counter with his tray full and came
to a stop. His eyes fell on the groups of other officers gazing at him
in mute appeal, and, with righteous belligerence, he roared:
"Give everybody eat!"
"Give everybody eat!" Milo echoed with joyful relief, and the Glorious
Loyalty Oath Crusade came to an end.
Captain Black was deeply disillusioned by this treacherous stab in
the back from someone in high place upon whom he had relied so confidently
for support. Major -- de Coverley had let him down.
"Oh, it doesn't bother me a bit," he responded cheerfully to everyone who came to him with sympathy. "We completed our task. Our
purpose was to make everyone we don't like afraid and to alert people
to the danger of Major Major, and we certainly succeeded at that. Since
we weren't going to let him sign loyalty oaths anyway, it doesn't really
matter whether we have them or not."
Seeing everyone in the squadron he didn't like afraid once again
throughout the appalling, interminable Great Big Siege of Bologna
reminded Captain Black nostalgically of the good old days of his
Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade when he had been a man of real consequence,
and when even big shots like Milo Minderbinder, Doc
Daneeka and Piltchard and Wren had trembled at his approach and
groveled at his feet. To prove to newcomers that he really had been a
man of consequence once, he still had the letter of commendation he
had received from Colonel Cathcart.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:06 pm

12. Bologna

Actually, it was not Captain Black but Sergeant Knight who triggered
the solemn panic of Bologna, slipping silently off the truck for two
extra flak suits as soon as he learned the target and signaling the start
of the grim procession back into the parachute tent that degenerated
into a frantic stampede finally before all the extra flak suits were gone.
"Hey, what's going on?" Kid Sampson asked nervously. "Bologna
can't be that rough, can it?"
Nately, sitting trancelike on the floor of the truck, held his grave
young face in both hands and did not answer him.
It was Sergeant Knight and the cruel series of postponements, for
just as they were climbing up into their planes that first morning, along
came a jeep with the news that it was raining in Bologna and that the
mission would be delayed. It was raining in Pianosa too by the time
they returned to the squadron, and they had the rest of that day to stare
woodenly at the bomb line on the map under the awning of the intelligence
tent and ruminate hypnotically on the fact that there was no
escape. The evidence was there vividly in the narrow red ribbon tacked
across the mainland: the ground forces in Italy were pinned down
forty-two insurmountable miles south of the target and could not possibly
capture the city in time. Nothing could save the men in Pianosa
from the mission to Bologna. They were trapped.
Their only hope was that it would never stop raining, and they had
no hope because they all knew it would. When it did stop raining in
Pianosa, it rained in Bologna. When it stopped raining in Bologna, it
began again in Pianosa. If there was no rain at all, there were freakish,
inexplicable phenomena like the epidemic of diarrhea or the bomb line
that moved. Four times during the first six days they were assembled
and briefed and then sent back. Once, they took off and were flying in
formation when the control tower summoned them down. The more
it rained, the worse they suffered. The worse they suffered, the more
they prayed that it would continue raining. All through the night, men
looked at the sky and were saddened by the stars. All through the day,
they looked at the bomb line on the big, wobbling easel map of Italy
that blew over in the wind and was dragged in under the awning of the
intelligence tent every time the rain began. The bomb line was a scarlet
band of narrow satin ribbon that delineated the forwardmost position
of the Allied ground forces in every sector of the Italian mainland.
The morning after Hungry Joe's fist fight with Huple's cat, the rain
stopped falling in both places. The landing strip began to dry. It would
take a full twenty-four hours to harden; but the sky remained cloudless.
The resentments incubating in each man hatched into hatred.
First they hated the infantrymen on the mainland because they had
failed to capture Bologna. Then they began to hate the bomb line
itself. For hours they stared relentlessly at the scarlet ribbon on the
map and hated it because it would not move up high enough to encompass
the city. When night fell, they congregated in the darkness with
flashlights, continuing their macabre vigil at the bomb line in brooding
entreaty as though hoping to move the ribbon up by the collective
weight of their sullen prayers.
"I really can't believe it," Clevinger exclaimed to Yossarian in a voice
rising and falling in protest and wonder. "It's a complete reversion to
primitive superstition. They're confusing cause and effect. It makes as
much sense as knocking on wood or crossing your fingers. They really
believe that we wouldn't have to fly that mission tomorrow if someone
would only tiptoe up to the map in the middle of the night and move
the bomb line over Bologna. Can you imagine? You and I must be the
only rational ones left."
In the middle of the night Yossarian knocked on wood, crossed his
fingers, and tiptoed out of his tent to move the bomb line up over
Bologna.
Corporal Kolodny tiptoed steathily into Captain Black's tent early
the next morning, reached inside the mosquito net and gently shook
the moist shoulder blade he found there until Captain Black opened
his eyes.
"What are you waking me up for?" whimpered Captain Black.
"They captured Bologna, sir," said Corporal Kolodny. "I thought
you'd want to know. Is the mission canceled?"
Captain Black tugged himself erect and began scratching his
scrawny long thighs methodically. In a little while he dressed and
emerged from his tent, squinting, cross and unshaven. The sky was
clear and warm. He peered without emotion at the map. Sure enough,
they had captured Bologna. Inside the intelligence tent, Corporal Kolodny was already removing the maps of Bologna from the navigation
kits. Captain Black seated himself with a loud yawn, lifted his feet to
the top of his desk and phoned Colonel Korn.
"What are you waking me up for?" whimpered Colonel Korn.
"They captured Bologna during the night, sir. Is the mission canceled?"
"What are you talking about, Black?" Colonel Korn growled. "Why
should the mission be canceled?"
"Because they captured Bologna, sir. Isn't the mission canceled?"
"Of course the mission is canceled. Do you think we're bombing
our own troops now?"
"What are you waking me up for?" Colonel Cathcart whimpered to
Colonel Korn.
"They captured Bologna," Colonel Korn told him. "I thought you'd
want to know."
"Who captured Bologna?"
"We did."
Colonel Cathcart was overjoyed, for he was relieved of the embarrassing
commitment to bomb Bologna without blemish to the reputation
for valor he had earned by volunteering his men to do it. General
Dreedle was pleased with the capture of Bologna, too, although he was
angry with Colonel Moodus for waking him up to tell him about it.
Headquarters was also pleased and decided to award a medal to the
officer who had captured the city. There was no officer who had captured
the city, so they gave the medal to General Peckem instead,
because General Peckem was the only officer with sufficient initiative
to ask for it.
As soon as General Peckem had received his medal, he began asking
for increased responsibility. It was General Peckem's opinion that
all combat units in the theater should be placed under the jurisdiction
of the Special Service Corps, of which General Peckem himself was the
commanding officer. If dropping bombs on the enemy was not a special
service, he reflected aloud frequently with the martyred smile of
.sweet reasonableness that was his loyal confederate in every dispute,
then he could not help wondering what in the world was. With amiable
regret, he declined the offer of a combat post under General
Dreedle.
"Flying combat missions for General Dreedle is not exactly what I
had in mind," he explained indulgently with a smooth laugh. "I was
thinking more in terms of replacing General Dreedle, or perhaps of
something above General Dreedle where I could exercise supervision
over a great many other generals too. You see, my most precious abilities
are mainly administrative ones. I have a happy facility for getting
different people-to agree." .
"He has a happy facility for getting different people to agree what a
prick he is," Colonel Cargill confided invidiously to ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen
in the hope that ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen would spread the unfavorable
report along through Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters.
"If anyone deserves that combat post, I do. It was even my idea that we
ask for the medal."
"You really want to go into combat?" ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen inquired.
"Combat?" Colonel Cargill was aghast. "Oh, no-you misunderstand
me. Of course, I wouldn't actually mind going into combat, but
my best abilities are mainly administrative ones. I too have a happy
facility for getting different people to agree."
"He too has a happy facility for getting different people to agree
what a prick he is," ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen confided with a laugh to
Yossarian, after he had come to Pianosa to learn if it was really true
about Milo and the Egyptian cotton. "If anyone deserves a promotion,
I do." Actually, he had risen already to ex-corporal, having shot
through the ranks shortly after his transfer to Twenty-seventh Air
Force Headquarters as a mail clerk and been busted right down to private
for making odious audible comparisons about the commissioned
.officers for whom he worked. The heady taste of success had infused
him further with morality and fired him with ambition for loftier
attainments. "Do you want to buy some Zippo lighters?" he asked
Yossarian. "They were stolen right from quartermaster."
"Does Milo know you're selling cigarette lighters?"
"What's it his business? Milo's not carrying cigarette lighters too
now, is he?"
"He sure is," Yossarian told him. "And his aren't stolen."
"That's what you think," ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen answered with a
laconic snort. "I'm selling mine for a buck apiece. What's he getting for
his?"
"A dollar and a penny."
ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen snickered triumphantly. "I beat him every
time," he gloated. "Say, what about all that Egyptian cotton he's stuck
with? How much did he buy?"
"All."
"In the whole world? Well, I'll be damned!" ex-P.F.C Wintergreen
crowed with malicious glee. "What a dope! You were in Cairo with
him. Why'd you let him do it?"
"Me?" Yossarian answered with a shrug. "I have no influence on
him. It was those Teletype machines they have in all the good restaurants
there. Milo had never seen a stock ticker before, and the quotation
for Egyptian cotton happened to be going in just as he asked the
headwaiter to explain it to him. 'Egyptian cotton?' Milo said with that
look of his. 'How much is Egyptian cotton selling for?' The next thing
I knew he had bought the whole goddam harvest. And now he can't
unload any of it."
"He has no imagination. I can unload plenty of it in the black market
if he'll make a deal."
"Milo knows the black market. There's no demand for cotton."
"But there is a demand for medical supplies. I can roll the cotton up
on wooden toothpicks and peddle them as sterile swabs. Will he sell to
me at a good price?"
"He won't sell to you at any price," Yossarian answered. "He's pretty
sore at you for going into competition with him. In fact, he's pretty
sore at everybody for getting diarrhea last weekend and giving his mess
hall a bad name. Say, you can help us." Yossarian suddenly seized
his arm. "Couldn't you forge some official orders on that mimeograph
machine of yours and get us out of flying to Bologna?"
Ex-P.F.C Wintergreen pulled away slowly with a look of scorn.
"Sure I could," he explained with pride. "But I would never dream of
doing anything like that."
"Why not?"
"Because it's your job. We all have our jobs to do. My job is to unload
these Zippo lighters at a profit if I can and pick up some cotton
from Milo. Your job is to bomb the ammunition dumps at Bologna."
"But I'm going to be killed at Bologna," Yossarian pleaded. "We're
all going to be killed."
"Then you'll just have to be killed," replied ex-P.F.C Wintergreen.
"Why can't you be a fatalist about it the way I am? If I'm destined to
unload these lighters at a profit and pick up some Egyptian cotton
cheap from Milo, then that's what I'm going to do. And if you're
destined to be killed over Bologna, then you're going to be killed, so
you might just as well go out and die like a man. I hate to say this,
Yossarian, but you're turning into a chronic complainer."
Clevinger agreed with ex-P.F.C Wintergreen that it was Yossarian's
job to get killed over Bologna and was livid with condemnation when
Yossarian confessed that it was he who had moved the bomb line and
caused the mission to be canceled.
"Why the hell not?" Yossarian snarled, arguing all the more vehemently
because he suspected he was wrong. "Am I supposed to get my
ass shot off just because the colonel wants to be a general?"
"What about the men on the mainland?" Clevinger demanded with
just as much emotion. "Are they supposed to get their asses shot off just
because you don't want to go? Those men are entitled to air support!"
"But not necessarily by me. Look, they don't care who knocks out
those ammunition dumps. The only reason we're going is because that
bastard Cathcart volunteered us."
"Oh, I know all that," Clevinger assured him, his gaunt face pale and
his agitated, brown eyes swimming in sincerity. "But the fact remains
that those ammunition dumps are still standing. You know very well
that I don't approve of Colonel Cathcart any more than you do."
Clevinger paused for emphasis, his mouth quivering, and then beat his
fist down softly against his sleeping bag. "But it's not for us to determine
what targets must be destroyed or who's to destroy them or-"
"Or who gets killed doing it? And why?"
"Yes, even that. We have no right to question-"
"You're insane!"
"-no right to question-"
"Do you really mean that it's not my business how or why I get
killed and that it is Colonel Cathcart's? Do you really mean that?"
"Yes, I do," Clevinger insisted, seeming unsure. "There are men
entrusted with winning the war who are in a much better position than
we are to decide what targets have to be bombed."
"We are talking about two different things," Yossarian answered
with exaggerated weariness. "You are talking about the relationship of
the Air Corps to the infantry, and I am talking about the relationship
of me to Colonel Cathcart. You are talking about winning the war, and
I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive."
"Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is
more important?"
"To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "Open your eyes, Clevinger. It
doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone
who's dead."
Clevinger sat for a moment as though he'd been slapped. "Congratulations!"
he exclaimed bitterly, the thinnest milk-white line
enclosing his lips tightly in a bloodless, squeezing ring. "I can't think
of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greater comfort
to the enemy."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody
who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and
that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the
longer you remember it, the longer you might live."
But Clevinger did forget it, and now he was dead. At the time,
Clevinger was so upset by the incident that Yossarian did not dare tell
him he had also been responsible for the epidemic of diarrhea that
had caused the other unnecessary postponement. Milo was even more
upset by the possibility that someone had poisoned his squadron again,
I and he came bustling fretfully to Yossarian for assistance.
"Please find out from Corporal Snark if he put laundry soap in the
sweet potatoes again," he requested furtively. "Corporal Snark trusts
you and will tell you the truth if you give him your word you won't tell
anyone else. As soon as he tells you, come and tell me."
"Of course I put laundry soap in the sweet potatoes," Corporal
Snark admitted to Yossarian. "That's what you asked me to do, isn't it?
Laundry soap is the best way."
"He swears to God he didn't have a thing to do with it," Yossarian
reported back to Milo.
Milo pouted dubiously. "Dunbar says there is no God."
There was no hope left. By the middle of the second week, everyone
in the squadron began to look like Hungry Joe, who was not
scheduled to fly and screamed horribly in his sleep. He was the only
one who could sleep. All night long, men moved through the darkness
outside their tents like tongueless wraiths with cigarettes. In the daytime
they stared at the bomb line in futile, drooping clusters or at the
still figure of Doc Daneeka sitting in front of the closed door of the
medical tent beneath the morbid hand-lettered sign. They began to
invent humorless, glum jokes of their own and disastrous rumors about
the destruction awaiting them at Bologna.
Yossarian sidled up drunkenly to Colonel Korn at the officers' club
one night to kid with him about the new Lepage gun that the Germans
had moved in.
"What Lepage gun?" Colonel Korn inquired with curiosity.
"The new three-hundred-and-forty-four-millimeter Lepage glue
gun," Yossarian answered. "It glues a whole formation of planes together
in mid-air."
Colonel Korn jerked his elbow free from Yossarian's clutching fingers
in startled affront. "Let go of me, you idiot!" he cried out furiously,
glaring with vindictive approval as Nately leaped upon
Yossarian's back and pulled him away. "Who is that lunatic, anyway?"
Colonel Cathcart chortled merrily. "That's the man you made me
give a medal to after Ferrara. You had me promote him to captain, too,
remember? It serves you right."
Nately was lighter than Yossarian and had great difficulty maneuvering
Yossarian's lurching bulk across the room to an unoccupied
table. "Are you crazy?" Nately kept hissing with trepidation. "That was
Colonel Korn. Are you crazy?"
Yossarian wanted another drink and promised to leave quietly if
Nately brought him one. Then he made Nately bring him two more.
When Nately finally coaxed him to the door, Captain Black came
stomping in from outside, banging his sloshing shoes down hard on
the wood floor and spilling water from his eaves like a high roof.
"Boy, are you bastards in for it!" he announced exuberantly, splashing
away from the puddle forming at his feet. "I just got a call from
Colonel Korn. Do you know what they've got waiting for you at
Bologna? Ha! Hal They've got the new Lepage glue gun. It glues a
whole formation of planes together right in mid-air."
"My God, it's true!" Yossarian shrieked, and collapsed against
Nately in terror.
"There is no God," answered Dunbar calmly, coming up with a
slight stagger.
"Hey, give me a hand with him, will you? I've got to get him back
in his tent."
"Says who?"
"Says me. Gee, look at the rain."
"'We've got to get a car."
"Steal Captain Black's car," said Yossarian. "That's what I always do."
"We can't steal anybody's car. Since you began stealing the nearest
car every time you wanted one, nobody leaves the ignition on."
"Hop in," said Chief White Halfoat, driving up drunk in a covered
jeep. He waited until they had crowded inside and then spurred ahead
with a suddenness that rolled them all over backward. He roared with
laughter at their curses. He drove straight ahead when he left the parking
lot and rammed the car into the embankment on the other side of
the road. The others piled forward in a helpless heap and began cursing
him again. "I forgot to turn," he explained.
"Be careful, will you?" Nately cautioned. "You'd better put your
headlights on."
Chief White Halfoat pulled back in reverse, made his turn and shot
away up the road at top speed. The wheels were sibilant on the
whizzing black-top surface.
"Not so fast," urged Nately.
"You'd better take me to your squadron first so I can help you put
him to bed. Then you can drive me back to my squadron."
"Who the hell are you?"
"Dunbar."
"Hey, put your headlights on," Nately shouted. "And watch the
road!"
"They are on. Isn't Yossarianin this car? That's the only reason I let
the rest of you bastards in." Chief White Halfoat turned completely
around to stare into the back seat.
"Watch the road!"
"Yossarian? Is Yossarian in here?"
"I'm here, Chief. Let's go home. What makes you so sure? You
never answered my question."
"You see? I told you he was here."
"What question?"
"Whatever it was we were talking about."
"Was it important?"
"I don't remember if it was important or not. I wish to God I knew
what it was."
"There is no God."
"That's what we were talking about," Yossarian cried. "What makes
you so sure?"
"Hey, are you sure your headlights are on?" Nately called out.
"They're on, they're on. What does he want from me? It's all this
rain on the windshield that makes it look dark from back there."
"Beautiful, beautiful rain."
"I hope it never stops raining. Rain, rain, go a-"
"-way. Come a-"
"-gain some oth-"
"-er day. Little Yo-Yowants-"
"-to play. In-"
"-the meadow, in-"
Chief White Halfoat missed the next turn in the road and ran the
jeep all the way up to the crest of a steep embankment. Rolling back
down, the jeep turned over on its side and settled softly in the mud.
There was a frightened silence.
"Is everyone all right?" Chief White Halfoat inquired in a hushed
voice. No one was injured, and he heaved a long sigh of relief. "You
know, that's my trouble," he groaned. "I never listen to anybody.
Somebody kept telling me to put my headlights on, but I just wouldn't
listen."
"I kept telling you to put your headlights on."
"I know, I know. And I just wouldn't listen, would I? I wish I had a
drink. I do have a drink. Look. It's not broken."
"It's raining in," Nately noticed. "I'm getting wet."
Chief White Halfoat got the bottle of rye open, drank and handed
it off. Lying tangled up on top of each other, they all drank but Nately,
who kept groping ineffectually for the door handle. The bottle fell
against his head with a clunk, and whiskey poured down his neck. He
began writhing convulsively.
"Hey, we've got to get out of here!" he cried. "We'll all drown."
"Is anybody in there?" asked Clevinger with concern, shining a
flashlight down from the top.
"It's Clevinger!" they shouted, and tried to pull him in through the
window as he reached down to aid them.
"Look at them!" Clevinger exclaimed indignantly to McWatt, who
sat grinning at the wheel of the staff car. "Lying there like a bunch of
drunken animals. You too, Nately? You ought to be ashamed! Come
on-help me get them out of there before they all die of pneumonia."
"You know, that don't sound like such a bad idea," Chief White
Halfoat reflected. "I think I will die of pneumonia."
"Why?"
"Why not?" answered Chief White Halfoat, and lay back in the
mud contentedly with the bottle of rye cuddled in his arms.
"Oh, now look what he's doing!" Clevinger exclaimed with irritation.
"%11 you get up and get into the car so we can all go back to the
squadron?"
"We can't all go back. Someone has to stay here and help the Chief
with this car he signed out of the motor pool."
Chief White Halfoat settled back in the staff car with an ebullient,
prideful chuckle. "That's Captain Black's car," he informed them jubilantly.
"I stole it from him at the officers' club just now with an extra
set of keys he thought he lost this morning."
"Well, I'll be damned! That calls for a drink."
"Haven't you had enough to drink?" Clevinger began scolding as
soon as McWatt started the car. "Look at you. You don't care if you
drink yourselves to death or drown yourselves to death, do you?"
"Just as long as we don't fly ourselves to death."
"Hey, open it up, open it up," Chief White Halfoat urged McWatt.
"And turn off the headlights. That's the only way to do it."
"Doc Daneeka is right," Clevinger went on. "People don't know
enough to take care of themselves. I really am disgusted with all of
you."
"Okay, fatmouth, out of the car," Chief White Halfoat ordered.
"Everybody get out of the car but Yossarian. Where's Yossarian?"
"Get the hell off me." Yossarian laughed, pushing him away. "You're
all covered with mud."
Clevinger focused on Nately. "You're the one who really surprises
me. Do you know what you smell like? Instead of trying to keep him
out of trouble, you get just as drunk as he is. Suppose he got in another
fight with Appleby?" Clevinger's eyes opened wide with alarm when he
heard Yossarian chuckle. "He didn't get in another fight with Appleby"
did he?"
"Not this time," said Dunbar.
"O, not this time. This time I did even better."
"This time he got in a fight with Colonel Korn."
"He didn't!" gasped Clevinger.
"He did?" exclaimed Chief White Halfoat with delight. "That calls
for a drink."
"But that's terrible!" Clevinger declared with deep apprehension.
"Why in the world did you have to pick on Colonel Korn? Say, what
happened to the lights? Why is everything so dark?"
"I turned them off," answered McWatt. "You know, Chief White
Halfoat is right. It's much better with the headlights off."
"Are you crazy?" Clevinger screamed, and lunged forward to snap
the headlights on. He whirled around upon Yossarian in near hysteria.
"You see what you're doing? You've got them all acting like you!
Suppose it stops raining and we have to fly to Bologna tomorrow.
You'll be in fine physical condition."
"It won't ever gonna stop raining. No, sir, a rain like this really
might go on forever."
"It bas stopped raining!" someone said, and the whole car fell silent.
"You poor bastards," Chief White Halfoat murmured compassionately
after a few moments had passed.
"Did it really stop raining?" Yossarian asked meekly.
McWatt switched off the windshield wipers to make certain. The
rain had stopped. The sky was starting to clear. The moon was sharp
behind a gauzy brown mist.
"Oh, well," sang McWatt soberly. "What the hell."
"Don't worry, fellas," Chief White Halfoat said. "The landing strip
is too soft to use tomorrow. Maybe it'll start raining again before the
field dries out."
"You goddam stinking lousy son of a bitch," Hungry Joe screamed
from his tent as they sped into the squadron.
"Jesus, is he back here tonight? I thought he was still in Rome with
the courier ship."
"Oh! Ooooh! Oooooooh!" Hungry Joe screamed.
Chief White Halfoat shuddered. "That guy gives me the willies," he
confessed in a grouchy whisper. "Hey, whatever happened to Captain
Flume?"
"There's a guy that gives me the willies. I saw him in the woods last
week eating wild berries. He never sleeps in his trailer any more. He
looked like hell."
"Hungry Joe's afraid he'll have to replace somebody who goes on
sick call, even though there is no sick call. Did you see him the other
night when he tried to kill Havermeyer and fell into Yossarian's slit
trench?"
"Ooooh!" screamed Hungry Joe. "Oh! Ooooh! Oooooooh!"
"It sure is a pleasure not having Flume around in the mess hall any
more. No more of that 'Pass the salt, Walt.'''
"Or 'Pass the bread, Fred.'''
"Or 'Shoot me a beet, Pete.'''
"Keep away, keep away," Hungry Joe screamed. "I said keep away,
keep away, you goddam stinking lousy son of a bitch."
"At least we found out what he dreams about," Dunbar observed
wryly. "He dreams about goddam stinking lousy sons of bitches."
Late that night Hungry Joe dreamed that Huple's cat was sleeping
on his face, suffocating him, and when he woke up, Huple's cat was
sleeping' on his face. His agony was terrifying, the piercing, unearthly
howl with which he split the moonlit dark vibrating in its own impact
for seconds afterward like a devastating shock. A numbing silence followed,
and then a riotous din rose from inside his tent.
Yossarian was among the first ones there. When he burst through
the entrance, Hungry Joe had his gun out and was struggling to
wrench his arm free from Huple to shoot the cat, who kept spitting and
feinting at him ferociously to distract him from shooting Huple. Both
humans were in their GI underwear. The unfrosted light bulb overhead
was swinging crazily on its loose wire, and the jumbled black
shadows kept swirling and bobbing chaotically, so that the entire tent
seemed to be reeling. Yossarian reached out instinctively for balance
and then launched himself forward in a prodigious dive that crushed
the three combatants to the ground beneath him. He emerged from
the melee with the scruff of a neck in each hand-Hungry Joe's neck
and the cat's. Hungry Joe and the cat glared at each other savagely. The
cat spat viciously at Hungry Joe, and Hungry Joe tried to hit it with a
haymaker.
"A fair fight," Yossarian decreed, and all the others who had come
running to the uproar in horror began cheering ecstatically in a tremendous
overflow of relief. "We'll have a fair fight," he explained officially
to Hungry Joe and the cat after he had carried them both outside,
still holding them apart by the scruffs of their necks. "Fists, fangs and
claws. But no guns," he warned Hungry Joe. "And no spitting," he
warned the cat sternly. "When I turn you both loose, go. Break clean in
the clinches and come back fighting. Go!"
There was a huge, giddy crowd of men who were avid for any diversion,
but the cat turned chicken the moment Yossarian released him
and fled from Hungry Joe ignominiously like a yellow dog. Hungry Joe
was declared the winner. He swaggered away happily with the proud
smile of a champion, his shriveled head high and his emaciated chest
out. He went back to bed victorious and dreamed again that Huple's
cat was sleeping on his face, suffocating him.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:07 pm

13. Major - de Coverley

Moving the bomb line did not fool the Germans, but it did fool Major
-- de Coverley, who packed his musette bag, commandeered an airplane
and, under the impression that Florence too had been captured
by the allies, had himself flown to that city to rent two apartments for
the officers and the enlisted men in the squadron to use on rest leaves.
He had still not returned by the time Yossarian jumped back outside
Major Major's office and wondered whom to appeal to next for help.
Major -- de Coverley was a splendid, awe-inspiring, grave old
man with a massive leonine head and an angry shock of wild white hair
that raged like a blizzard around his stern, patriarchal face. His duties
as squadron executive officer did consist entirely, as both Doc Daneeka
and Major Major had conjectured, of pitching horseshoes, kidnapping
Italian laborers, and renting apartments for the enlisted men and officers
to use on rest leaves, and he excelled at all three.
Each time the fall of a city like Naples, Rome or Florence seemed
imminent, Major -- de Coverley would pack his musette bag, commandeer
an airplane and a pilot, and have himself flown away, accomplishing
all this without uttering a word, by the sheer force of his
solemn, domineering visage and the peremptory gestures of his wrinkled
finger. A day or two after the city fell, he would be back with
leases on two large and luxurious apartments there, one for the officers
and one for the enlisted men, both already staffed with competent,
jolly cooks and maids. A few days after that, newspapers would appear
throughout the world with photographs of the first American soldiers
bludgeoning their way into the shattered city through rubble and
smoke. Inevitably, Major -- de Coverley was among them, seated
straight as a ramrod in a jeep he had obtained from somewhere, glancing
neither right nor left as the artillery fire burst about his invincible
head and lithe young infantrymen with carbines went loping up along
the sidewalks in the shelter of burning buildings or fell dead in doorways.
He seemed eternally indestructible as he sat there surrounded by
danger, his features molded firmly into that same fierce, regal, just and
forbidding countenance which was recognized and revered by every
man in the squadron.
To German intelligence, Major -- de Coverley was a vexatious
enigma; not one of the hundreds of American prisoners would ever
supply any concrete information about the elderly white-haired officer
with the gnarled and menacing brow and blazing, powerful eyes who
seemed to spearhead every important advance so fearlessly and successfully.
To American authorities his identity was equally perplexing;
a whole regiment of crack C.I.D. men had been thrown into the front
lines to find out who he was, while a battalion of combat-hardened
public-relations officers stood on red alert twenty-four hours a day
with orders to begin publicizing him the moment he was located.
In Rome, Major -- de Coverley had outdone himself with the
apartments. For the officers, who arrived in groups of four or five,
there was an immense double room for each in a new white stone
building, with three spacious bathrooms with walls of shimmering
aquamarine tile and one skinny maid named Michaela who tittered at
everything and kept the apartment in spotless order. On the landing
below lived the obsequious owners. On the landing above lived the
beautiful rich black-haired countess and her beautiful rich black-haired
daughter-in-law, both of whom would put out only for Nately, who
was too shy to want them, and for Aarfy, who was too stuffy to take
them and tried to dissuade them from ever putting out for anyone but
their husbands, who had chosen to remain in the north with the family's
business interests.
"They're really a couple of good kids," Aarfy confided earnestly to
Yossarian, whose recurring dream it was to have the nude milk-white
female bodies of both these beautiful rich black-haired good kids lying
stretched out in bed erotically with him at the same time.
The enlisted men descended upon Rome in gangs of twelve or more
with Gargantuan appetites and heavy crates filled with canned food for
the women to cook and serve to them in the dining room of their own
apartment on the sixth floor of a red brick building with a clinking elevator.
There was always more activity at the enlisted men's place.
There were always more enlisted men, to begin with, and more women
to cook and serve and sweep and scrub, and then there were always the
gay and silly sensual young girls that Yossarian had found and brought
there and those that the sleepy enlisted men returning to Pianosa after
their exhausting seven-day debauch had brought there on their own
and were leaving behind for whoever wanted them next. The girls had
shelter and food for as long as they wanted to stay. All they had to do
in return was hump any of the men who asked them to, which seemed
to make everything just about perfect for them.
Every fourth day or so Hungry Joe came crashing in like a man in
torment, hoarse, wild, and frenetic, if he had been unlucky enough to
finish his missions again and was flying the courier ship. Most times he
slept at the enlisted men's apartment. Nobody was certain how many
rooms Major -- de Coverley had rented, not even the stout black-bodiced
woman in corsets on the first floor from whom he had rented
them. They covered the whole top floor, and Yossarian knew they
extended down to the fifth floor as well, for it was in Snowden's room
on the fifth floor that he had finally found the maid in the lime-colored
panties with a dust mop the day after Bologna, after Hungry Joe had
discovered him in bed with Luciana at the officers' apartment that
same morning and had gone running like a fiend for his camera.
The maid in the lime-colored panties was a cheerful, fat, obliging
woman in her mid-thirties with squashy thighs and swaying hams in
lime-colored panties that she was always rolling off for any man who
wanted her. She had a plain broad face and was the most virtuous
woman alive: she laid for everybody, regardless of race, creed, color or
place of national origin, donating herself sociably as an act of hospitality,
procrastinating not even for the moment it might take to discard
the cloth or broom or dust mop she was clutching at the time she was
grabbed. Her allure stemmed from her accessibility; like Mt. Everest,
she was there, and the men climbed on top of her each time they felt
the urge. Yossarian was in love with the maid in the lime-colored
panties because she seemed to be the only woman left he could make
love to without falling in love with. Even the bald-headed girl in Sicily
still evoked in him strong sensations of pity, tenderness and regret.
Despite the multiple perils to which Major -- de Coverley exposed
himself each time he rented apartments, his only injury had
occurred, ironically enough, while he was leading the triumphal procession
into the open city of Rome, where he was wounded in the eye
by a flower fired at him from close range by a seedy, cackling, intoxicated
old man, who, like Satan himself, had then bounded up on Major
-- de Coverley's car with malicious glee, seized him roughly and contemptuously
by his venerable white head arid kissed him mockingly on
each cheek with a mouth reeking with sour fumes of wine, cheese and
garlic, before dropping back into the joyous celebrating throngs with a
hollow, dry, excoriating laugh. Major -- de Coverley, a Spartan in
adversity, did not flinch once throughout the whole hideous ordeal.
And not until he had returned to Pianosa, his business in Rome completed,
did he seek medical attention for his wound.
He resolved to remain binocular and specified to Doc Daneeka that
his eye patch be transparent so that h~ could continue pitching horseshoes,
kidnapping Italian laborers and renting apartments with unimpaired
vision. To the men in the squadron, Major -- de Coverley was
a colossus, although they never dared tell him so. The only one who
ever did dare address him was Milo Minderbinder, who approached
the horseshoe-pitching pit with a hard-boiled egg his second week in
the squadron and held it aloft for Major -- de Coverley to see.
Major -- de Coverley straightened with astonishment at Milo's
effrontery and concentrated upon him the full fury of his storming
countenance with its rugged overhang of gullied forehead and huge
crag of a humpbacked nose that came charging out of his face wrathfully
like a Big Ten fullback. Milo stood his ground; taking shelter
behind the hard-boiled egg raised protectively before his face like a
magic charm. In time the gale began to subside, and the danger passed.
"What is that?" Major -- de Coverley demanded at last.
"An egg," Milo answered.
"What kind of an egg?" Major -- de Coverley demanded.
"A hard-boiled egg," Milo answered.
"What kind of a hard-boiled egg?" Major -- de Coverley demanded.
"A fresh hard-boiled egg," Milo answered.
"Where did the fresh egg come from?" Major -- de Coverley
demanded.
"From a chicken," Milo answered.
"Where is the chicken?" Major -- de Coverley demanded.
"The chicken is in Malta," Milo answered.
"How many chickens are there in Malta?"
"Enough chickens to lay fresh eggs for every officer in the squadron
at five cents apiece from the mess fund," Milo answered.
"I have a weakness for fresh eggs," Major -- de Coverley confessed.
"If someone put a plane at my disposal, I could fly down there once
a week in a squadron plane and bring back all the fresh eggs we need,"
Milo answered. "After all, Malta's not so far away."
"Malta's not so far away," Major -- de Coverley observed. "You
could probably fly down there once a week in a squadron plane and
bring back all the fresh eggs we need."
"Yes," Milo agreed. "I suppose I could do that, if someone wanted
me to and put a plane at my disposal."
"I like my fresh eggs fried," Major -- de Coverley remembered.
"In fresh butter."
"I can find all the fresh butter we need in Sicily for twenty-five cents
a pound," Milo answered. "Twenty-five cents a pound for fresh butter
is a good buy. There's enough money in the mess fund for butter too,
and we could probably sell some to the other squadrons at a profit and
get back most of what we pay for our own."
"What's your name, son?" asked Major -- de Coverley.
"My name is Milo Minderbinder, sir. I am twenty-seven years old."
"You're a good mess officer, Milo."
"I'm not the mess officer, sir."
"You're a good mess officer, Milo."
"Thank you, sir. I'll do everything ill my power to be a good mess
officer."
"Bless you, my boy. Have a horseshoe."
"Thank you, sir. What should I do with it?"
"Throw it."
"Away?"
"At that peg there. Then pick it up and throw it at this peg. It's a
game, see? You get the horseshoe back."
"Yes, sir. I see. How much are horseshoes selling for?"
The smell of a fresh egg snapping exotically in a pool of fresh butter
carried a long way on the Mediterranean trade winds and brought
General Dreedle racing back with a voracious appetite, accompanied
by his nurse, who accompanied him everywhere, and his son-in-law,
Colonel Moodus. In the beginning General Dreedle devoured all his
meals in Milo's mess hall. Then the other three squadrons in Colonel
Cathcart's group turned their mess halls over to Milo and gave him an
airplane and a pilot each so that he could buy fresh eggs and fresh butter
for them too. Milo's planes shuttled back and forth seven days a
week as every officer in the four squadrons began devouring fresh eggs
in an insatiable orgy of fresh-egg eating. General Dreedle devoured
fresh eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner-between meals he
devoured more fresh eggs-until Milo located abundant sources of
fresh veal, beef, duck, baby lamb chops, mushroom caps, broccoli,
South African rock lobster tails, shrimp, hams, puddings, grapes, ice
cream, strawberries and artichokes. There were three other bomb
groups in General Dreedle's combat wing, and they each jealously dispatched
their own planes to Malta for fresh eggs, but discovered that
fresh eggs were selling there for seven cents apiece. Since they could
buy them from Milo for five cents apiece, it made more sense to turn
over their mess halls to his syndicate, too, and give him the planes and
pilots needed to ferry in all the other good food he promised to supply
as well.
Everyone was elated with this turn of events, most of all Colonel
Cathcart, who was convinced he had won a feather in his cap. He
greeted Milo jovially each time they met and, in an excess of contrite
generosity, impulsively recommended Major Major for promotion.
The recommendation was rejected at once at Twenty-seventh Air
Force Headquarters by ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, who scribbled a
brusque, unsigned reminder that the Army had only one Major Major
Major Major and did not intend to lose him by promotion just to
please Colonel Cathcart. Colonel Cathcart was stung by the blunt
rebuke and skulked guiltily about his room in smarting repudiation.
He blamed Major Major for this black eye and decided to bust him
down to lieutenant that very same day.
"They probably won't let you," Colonel Korn remarked with a condescending
smile, savoring the situation. "For precisely the same reasons
that they wouldn't let you promote him. Besides, you'd certainly
look foolish trying to bust him down to lieutenant right after you tried
to promote him to my rank."
Colonel Cathcart felt hemmed in on every side. He had been much
more successful in obtaining a medal for Yossarian after the debacle of
Ferrara, when the bridge spanning the Po was still standing undamaged
seven days after Colonel Cathcart had volunteered to destroy it.
Nine missions his men had flown there in six days, and the bridge was
not demolished until the tenth mission on the seventh day, when
Yossarian killed Kraft and his crew by taking his flight of six planes in
over the target a second time. Yossarian came in carefully on his second
bomb run because he was brave then. He buried his head in his
bombsight until his bombs were away; when he looked up, everything
inside the ship was suffused in a weird orange glow. At first he thought
that his own plane was on fire. Then he spied the plane with the burning
engine directly above him and screamed to McWatt through the
intercom to turn left hard. A second later, the wing of Kraft's plane
blew off. The flaming wreck dropped, first the fuselage, then the spinning
wing, while a shower of tiny metal fragments began tap dancing
on the roof of Yossarian's own plane and the incessant cachung! cachung!
cachung! of the flak was still thumping all around him.
Back on the ground, every eye watched grimly as he walked in dull
dejection up to Captain Black outside the green clapboard briefing
room to make his intelligence report and learned that Colonel Cathcart
and Colonel Korn were waiting to speak to him inside. Major
Danby stood barring the door, waving everyone else away in ashen
silence. Yossarian was leaden with fatigue and longed to remove his
sticky clothing. He stepped into the briefing room with mixed emotions,
uncertain how he was supposed to feel about Kraft and the others,
for they had all died in the distance of a mute and secluded agony
at a moment when he was up to his own ass in the same vile, excruciating
dilemma of duty and damnation.
Colonel Cathcart, on the other hand, was all broken up by the
event. "Twice?" he asked.
"I would have missed it the first time," Yossarian replied softly, his
face lowered.
Their voices echoed slightly in the long, narrow bungalow.
"But twice?" Colonel Cathcart repeated, in vivid disbelief.
"I would have missed it the first time," Yossarian repeated.
"But Kraft would be alive."
"And the bridge would still be up."
"A trained bombardier is supposed to drop his bombs the first
time," Colonel Cathcart reminded him. "The other five bombardiers
dropped their bombs the first time."
"And missed the target," Yossarian said. "We'd have had to go back
there again."
"And maybe you would have gotten it the first time then."
"And maybe 1 wouldn't have gotten it at all."
"But maybe there wouldn't have been any losses."
"And maybe there would have been more losses, with the bridge still
left standing. 1 thought you wanted the bridge destroyed."
"Don't contradict me," Colonel Cathcart said. "We're all in enough
trouble."
"I'm not contradicting you, sir."
"Yes you are. Even that's a contradiction."
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry."
Colonel Cathcart cracked his knuckles violently. Colonel Korn, a
stocky, dark, flaccid man with a shapeless paunch, sat completely relaxed
on one of the benches in the front row, his hands clasped comfortably
over the top of his bald and swarthy head. His eyes were
amused behind his glinting rimless spectacles.
"We're trying to be perfectly objective about this," he prompted
Colonel Cathcart.
"We're trying to be perfectly objective about this," Colonel Cathcart
said to Yossarian with the zeal of sudden inspiration. "It's not that
I'm being sentimental or anything. I don't give a damn about the men
or the airplane. It's just that it looks so lousy on the report. How am I
going to cover up something like this in the report?"
"Why don't you give me a medal?" Yossarian suggested timidly.
"For going around twice?"
"You gave one to Hungry Joe when he cracked up that airplane by
mistake."
Colonel Cathcart snickered ruefully, "You'll be lucky if we don't
give you a court-martial."
"But I got the bridge the second time around," Yossarian protested.
"I thought you wanted the bridge destroyed."
"Oh, I don't know what I wanted," Colonel Cathcart cried out in
exasperation. "Look, of course I wanted the bridge destroyed. That
bridge has been a source of trouble to me ever since I decided to send
you men out to get it, But why couldn't you do it the first time?"
"I didn't have enough time, My navigator wasn't sure we had the
right city."
"The right city?" Colonel Cathcart was baffled. "Are you trying to
blame it all on Aarfy now?"
"No, sir. It was my mistake for letting him distract me. All I'm trying
to say is that I'm not infallible."
"Nobody is infallible," Colonel Cathcart said sharply, and then
continued vaguely, with an afterthought: "Nobody is indispensable,
either."
There was no rebuttal. Colonel Kom stretched sluggishly. "We've
got to reach a decision," he observed casually to Colonel Cathcart.
"We've got to reach a decision," Colonel Cathcart said to Yossarian.
"And it's all your fault. Why did you have to go around twice? Why
couldn't you drop your bombs the first time like all the others?"
"I would have missed the first time."
"It seems to me that we're going around twice," Colonel Kom interrupted
with a chuckle.
"But what are we going to do?" Colonel Cathcart exclaimed with
distress. "The others are all waiting outside."
"Why don't we give him a medal?" Colonel Korn proposed.
"For going around twice? What can we give him a medal for?"
"For going around twice," Colonel Korn answered with a reflective,
self-satisfied smile. "After all, I suppose it did take a lot of courage to
go over that target a second time with no other planes around to divert
the antiaircraft fire. And he did hit the bridge. You know, that might be
the answer-to act boastfully about something we ought to be
ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail."
"Do you think it will work?"
"I'm sure it will. And let's promote him to captain, too, just to make
certain."
"Don't you think that's going a bit farther than we have to?"
"No, I don't think so. It's best to play safe. And a captain's not much
difference. "
"All right," Colonel Cathcart decided. "We'll give him a medal for
being brave enough to go around over the target twice. And we'll make
him a captain, too."
Colonel Korn reached for his hat.
"Exit smiling," he joked, and put his arm around Yossarian's shoulders
as they stepped outside the door.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:07 pm

14. Kid Sampson

By the time of the mission to Bologna, Yossarian was brave enough not
to go around over the target even once, and when he found himself
aloft finally in the nose of Kid Sampson's plane, he pressed in the button
of his throat mike and asked,
"Well? What's wrong with the plane?"
Kid Sampson let out a shriek. "Is something wrong with the plane?
What's the matter?"
Kid Sampson's cry turned Yossarian to ice.-"Is something the matter?"
he yelled in horror. "Are we bailing out?"
"I don't know!" Kid Sampson shot back in anguish, wailing excitedly.
"Someone said we're bailing out! Who is this, anyway? Who is
this?"
"This is Yossarian in the nose! Yossarian in the nose. I heard you say
there was something the matter. Didn't you say there was something
the matter?"
"I thought you said there was something wrong. Everything seems
okay. Everything is all right."
Yossarian's heart sank. Something was terribly wrong if everything
was all right and they had no excuse for turning back. He hesitated
gravely.
"I can't hear you," he said.
"I said everything is all right."
The sun was blinding white on the porcelain-blue water below and
on the flashing edges of the other airplanes. Yossarian took hold of the
colored wires leading into the jackbox of the intercom system and tore
them loose.
"I still can't hear you," he said.
He heard nothing. Slowly he collected his map case and his three
flak suits and crawled back to the main compartment. Nately, sitting
stiffly in the co-pilot's seat, spied him through the corner of his eye as
he stepped up on the flight deck behind Kid Sampson. He smiled at
Yossarian wanly, looking frail and exceptionally young and bashful in
the bulky dungeon of his earphones, hat, throat mike, flak suit and
parachute. Yossarian bent close to Kid Sampson's ear.
"I still can't hear you," he shouted above the even drone of the
engines.
Kid Sampson glanced back at him with surprise. Kid Sampson had
an angular, comical face with arched eyebrows and a scrawny blond
mustache.
"What?" he called out over his shoulder.
"I still can't hear you," Yossarian repeated.
"You'll have to talk louder," Kid Sampson said. "I still can't hear
you."
"I said 1 still can't hear you!" Yossarian yelled.
"I can't help it," Kid Sampson yelled back at him. "I'm shouting as
loud as 1 can."
"I couldn't hear you over my intercom," Yossarian bellowed in
mounting helplessness. "You'll have to turn back."
"For an intercom?" asked Kid Sampson incredulously.
"Turn back," said Yossarian, "before 1 break your head."
Kid Sampson looked for moral support toward Nately, who. stared
away from him pointedly. Yossarian outranked them both. Kid Sampson
resisted doubtfully for another moment and then capitulated
eagerly with a triumphant whoop.
"That's just fine with me," he announced gladly, and blew out a
shrill series of whistles up into his mustache. "Yes sirree, that's just fine
with old Kid Sampson." He whistled again and shouted over the intercom.
"Now hear this, my little chickadees. This is Admiral Kid Sampson
talking. This is Admiral Kid Sampson squawking, the pride of the
Queen's marines. Yessiree. We're turning back, boys, by crackee, we're
turning back!"
Nately ripped off his hat and earphones in one jubilant sweep and
began rocking back and forth happily like a handsome child in a high
chair. Sergeant Knight came plummeting down from the top gun turret
and began pounding them all on the back with delirious enthusiasm.
Kid Sampson turned the plane away from the formation in a wide,
graceful arc and headed 'toward the airfield. When Yossarian plugged
his headset into one of the auxiliary jackboxes, the two gunners in the
rear section of the plane were both singing "La Cucaracha."
Back at the field, the party fizzled out abruptly. An uneasy silence
replaced it, and Yossarian was sober and self-conscious as he climbed
down from the plane and took his place in the jeep that was already
waiting for them. None of the men spoke at all on the drive back
through the heavy, mesmerizing quiet blanketing mountains, sea and
forests. The feeling of desolation persisted when they turned off the
road at the squadron. Yossarian got out of the car last. After a minute,
Yossarian and a gentle warm wind were the only things stirring in the
haunting tranquillity that hung like a drug over the vacated tents.
The squadron stood insensate, bereft of everything human but Doc
Daneeka, who roosted dolorously like a shivering turkey buzzard
beside the closed door of the medical tent, his stuffed nose jabbing
away in thirsting futility at the hazy sunlight streaming down around
him. Yossarian knew Doc Daneeka would not go swimming with him.
Doc Daneeka would never go swimming again; a person could swoon
or suffer a mild coronary occlusion in an inch or two of water and
drown to death, be carried out to sea by an undertow, or made vulnerable
to poliomyelitis or meningococcus infection through chilling or
overexertion. The threat of Bologna to others had instilled in Doc
Daneeka an even more poignant solicitude for his own safety. At night
now, he heard burglars.
Through the lavender gloom clouding the entrance of the operations
tent, Yossarian glimpsed Chief White Halfoat, diligently embezzling
whiskey rations, forging the signatures of nondrinkers and
pouring off the alcohol with which he was poisoning himself into separate
bottles rapidly in order to steal as much as he could before
Captain Black roused himself with recollection and came hurrying
over indolently to steal the rest himself.
The jeep started up again softly. Kid Sampson, Nately and the others
wandered apart in a noiseless eddy of motion and were sucked away
into the cloying yellow stillness. The jeep vanished with a cough.
Yossarian was alone in a ponderous, primeval lull in which everything
green looked black and everything else was imbued with the color of
pus. The breeze rustled leaves in a dry and diaphanous distance. He was
restless, scared and sleepy. The sockets of his eyes felt grimy with
exhaustion. Wearily he moved inside the parachute tent with its long
table of smoothed wood, a nagging bitch of a doubt burrowing painlessly
inside a conscience that felt perfectly clear. He left his flak suit
and parachute there and crossed back past the water wagon to the intelligence
tent to return his map case to Captain Black, who sat drowsing
in his chair with his skinny long legs up on his desk and inquired with
indifferent curiosity why Yossarian's plane had turned back. Yossarian
ignored him. He set the map down on the counter and walked out.
Back in his own tent, he squirmed out of his parachute harness and
then out of his clothes. Orr was in Rome, due back that same afternoon
from the rest leave he had won by ditching his plane in the waters off
Genoa. Nately would already be packing to replace him, entranced to
find himself still alive and undoubtedly impatient to resume his
wasted and heartbreaking courtship of his prostitute in Rome. When
Yossarian was undressed, he sat down on his cot to rest. He felt much
better as soon as he was naked. He never felt comfortable in clothes.
In a little while he put fresh undershorts back on and set out for the
beach in his moccasins, a khaki-colored bath towel draped over his
shoulders.
The path from the squadron led him around a mysterious gun
emplacement in the woods; two of the three enlisted men stationed
there lay sleeping on the circle of sand bags and the third sat eating a
purple pomegranate, biting off large mouthfuls between his churning
jaws and spewing the ground roughage out away from him into the
bushes. When he bit, red juice ran out of his mouth. Yossarian padded
ahead into the forest again, caressing his bare, tingling belly adoringly
from time to time as though to reassure himself it was all still there. He
rolled a piece of lint out of his navel. Along the ground suddenly, on
both sides of the path, he saw dozens of new mushrooms the rain had
spawned poking their nodular fingers up through the clammy earth
like lifeless stalks of flesh, sprouting in such necrotic profusion everywhere
he looked that they seemed to be proliferating right before his
eyes. There were thousands of them swarming as far back into the
underbrush as he could see, and they appeared to swell in size and multiply
in number as he spied them. He hurried away from them with a
shiver of eerie alarm and did not slacken his pace until the soil crumbled
to dry sand beneath his feet and they had been left behind. He
glanced back apprehensively, half expecting to find the limp white
things crawling after him in sightless pursuit or snaking up through the
treetops in a writhing and ungovernable mutative mass.
The beach was deserted. The only sounds were hushed ones, the
bloated gurgle of the stream, the respirating hum of the tall grass and
shrubs behind him, the apathetic moaning of the dumb, translucent
waves. The surf was always small, the water clear and cool. Yossarian
left his things on the sand and moved through the knee-high waves
until he was completely immersed. On the other side of the sea, a
bumpy sliver of dark land lay wrapped in mist, almost invisible. He
swam languorously out to the raft, held on a moment, and swam languorously back to where he could stand on the sand bar. He submerged
himself head first into the green water several times until he
felt clean and wide-awake and then stretched himself out face down in
the sand and slept until the planes returning from Bologna were almost
overhead and the great, cumulative rumble of their many engines came
crashing in through his slumber in an earth-shattering roar.
He woke up blinking with a slight pain in his head and opened his
eyes upon a world boiling in chaos in which everything was in proper
order. He gasped in utter amazement at the fantastic sight of the
twelve flights of planes organized calmly into exact formation.· The
scene was too unexpected to be true. There were no planes spurting
ahead with wounded, none lagging behind with damage. No distress
flares smoked in the sky. No ship was missing but his own. For an
instant he was paralyzed with a sensation of madness. Then he understood,
and almost wept at the irony. The explanation was simple:
clouds had covered the target before the planes could bomb it, and the
mission to Bologna was still to be flown.
He was wrong. There had been no clouds. Bologna had been
bombed. Bologna was a milk run. There had been no flak there at all.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:07 pm

15. Piltchard & Wren

Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren, the inoffensive joint squadron
operations officers, were both mild, soft-spoken men of less than middle
height who enjoyed flying combat missions and begged nothing
more of life and Colonel Cathcart than the opportunity to continue flying
them. They had flown hundreds of combat missions and wanted to
fly hundreds more. They assigned themselves to every one. Nothing so
wonderful as war had ever happened to them before; and they were
afraid it might never happen to them again. They conducted their
duties humbly and reticently, with a minimum of fuss, and went to great
lengths not to antagonize anyone. They smiled quickly at everyone they
passed. When they spoke, they mumbled. They were shifty, cheerful,
subservient men who were comfortable only with each other and never
met anyone else's eye, not even Yossarian's eye at the open-air meeting
they called to reprimand him publicly for making Kid Sampson turn
back from the mission to Bologna.
"Fellas," said Captain Piltchard, who had thinning dark hair and
smiled awkwardly. "When you turn back from a mission, try to make
sure it's for something important, will you? Not for something unimportant
... like a defective intercom ... or something like that. Okay?
Captain Wren has more he wants to say to you on that subject."
"Captain Piltchard's right, fellas," said Captain Wren. "And that's all
I'm going to say to you on that subject. Well, we finally got to Bologna
today, and we found out it's a milk run. We were all a little nervous, I
guess, and didn't do too much damage. Well, listen to this. Colonel
Cathcart got permission for us to go back. And tomorrow we're really
going to paste those ammunition dumps. Now, what do you think
about that?"
And to prove to Yossarian that they bore him no animosity, they
even assigned him to fly lead bombardier with McWatt in the first formation
when they went back to Bologna the next day. He came in on
the target like a Havermeyer, confidently taking no evasive action at
all, and suddenly they were shooting the living shit out of him!
Heavy flak was everywhere! He had been lulled, lured and trapped,
and there was nothing he could do but sit there like an idiot and watch
the ugly black puffs smashing up to kill him. There was nothing he
could do until his bombs dropped but look back into the bombsight,
where the fine cross-hairs in the lens were glued magnetically over the
target exactly where he had placed them, intersecting perfectly deep
inside the yard of his block of camouflaged warehouses before the base
of the first building. He was trembling steadily as the plane crept
ahead. He could hear the hollow boom-boom-boom-boom of the flak
pounding all around him in overlapping measures of four, the sharp,
piercing crack! of a single shell exploding suddenly very close by. His
head was busting with a thousand dissonant impulses as he prayed for
the bombs to drop. He wanted to sob. The engines droned on monotonously
like a fat, lazy fly. At last the indices on the bombsight crossed,
tripping away the eight 500-pounders one after the other. The plane
lurched upward buoyantly with the lightened load. Yossarian bent
away from the bombsight crookedly to watch the indicator on his left.
When the pointer touched zero, he closed the bomb bay doors and,
over the intercom, at the very top of his voice, shrieked:
"Turn right hard!"
McWatt responded instantly. With a grinding howl of engines, he
flipped the plane over on one wing and wrung it around remorselessly
in a screaming turn away from the twin spires of flak Yossarian had
spied stabbing toward them. Then Yossarian had McWatt climb and
keep climbing higher and higher until they tore free finally into a calm,
diamond-blue sky that was sunny and pure everywhere and laced in the
distance with long white veils of tenuous fluff. The wind strummed
soothingly against the cylindrical panes of his windows, and he relaxed
exultantly only until they picked up speed again and then turned
McWatt left and plunged him right back down, noticing with a transitory
spasm of elation the mushrooming clusters of flak leaping open
high above him and back over his shoulder to the right, exactly where
he could have been if he had not turned left and dived. He leveled
McWatt out with another harsh cry and whipped him upward and
around again into a ragged blue patch of unpolluted air just as the
bombs he had dropped began to strike. The first one fell in the yard,
exactly where he had aimed, and then the rest of the bombs from his
own plane and from the other planes in his flight burst open on the
ground in a charge of rapid orange flashes across the tops of the buildings,
which collapsed instantly in a vast, churning wave of pink and
gray and coal-black smoke that went rolling out turbulently in all
directions and quaked convulsively in its bowels as though from great
blasts of red and white and golden sheet lightning.
"Well, will you look at that," Aarfy marveled sonorously right beside
Yossarian, his plump, orbicular face sparkling with a look of bright enchantment.
"There must have been an ammunition dump down there."
Yossarian had forgotten about Aarfy. "Get out!" he shouted at him.
"Get out of the nose!"
Aarfy smiled politely and pointed down toward the target in a generous
invitation for Yossarian to look. Yossarian began slapping at him
insistently and signaled wildly toward the entrance of the crawlway.
"Get back in the ship!" he cried frantically. "Get back in the ship!"
Aarfy shrugged amiably. "I can't hear you," he explained.
Yossarian seized him by the straps of his parachute harness and
pushed him backward toward the crawlway just as the plane was hit
with a jarring concussion that rattled his bones and made his heart
stop. He knew at once they were all dead.
"Climb!" he screamed into the intercom at McWatt when he saw he
was still alive. "Climb, you bastard! Climb, climb, climb, climb!"
The plane zoomed upward again in a climb that was swift and
straining, until he leveled it out with another harsh shout at McWatt
and wrenched it around once more in a roaring, merciless forty-five-degree
turn that sucked his insides out in one enervating sniff and left
him floating fleshless in mid-air until he leveled McWatt out again just
long enough to hurl him back around toward the right and then down
into a screeching dive. Through endless blobs of ghostly black smoke
he sped, the hanging smut wafting against the smooth Plexiglas nose of
the ship like an evil, damp, sooty vapor against his cheeks. His heart
was hammering again in aching terror as he hurtled upward and downward
through the blind gangs of flak charging murderously into the
sky at him, then sagging inertly. Sweat gushed from his neck in torrents
and poured down over his chest and waist with the feeling of
warm slime. He was vaguely aware for an instant that the planes in his
formation were no longer there, and then he was aware of only himself.
His throat hurt like a raw slash from the strangling intensity with
which he shrieked each command to McWatt. The engines rose to a
deafening, agonized, ululating bellow each time McWatt changed
direction. And far out in front the bursts of flak were still swarming
into the sky from new batteries of guns poking around for accurate
altitude as they waited sadistically for him to fly into range.
The plane was slammed again suddenly with another loud, jarring
explosion that almost rocked it over on its back, and the nose filled
immediately with sweet clouds of blue smoke. Something was on fire!
Yossarian whirled to escape and smacked into Aarfy, who had struck a
match and was placidly lighting his pipe. Yossarian gaped at his grinning,
moon-faced navigator "in utter shock and confusion. It occurred
to him that one of them was mad.
"Jesus Christ!" he screamed at Aarfy in tortured amazement. "Get
the hell out of the nose! Are you crazy? Get out!"
"What?" said Aarfy.
"Get out!" Yossarian yelled hysterically, and began clubbing Aarfy
backhanded with both fists to drive him away. "Get out!"
"I still can't hear you," Aarfy called back innocently with an expression
of mild and reproving perplexity. "You'll have to talk a little louder."
"Get out of the nose!" Yossarian shrieked in frustration. "They're
trying to kill us! Don't you understand? They're trying to kill us!"
"Which way should I go, goddammit?" McWatt shouted furiously
over the intercom in a suffering, high-pitched voice. "Which way
should I go?"
"Turn left! Left, you goddam dirty son of a bitch! Turn left hard!"
Aarfy crept up close behind Yossarian and jabbed him sharply in the
ribs with the stem of his pipe. Yossarian flew up toward the ceiling with
a whinnying cry, then jumped completely around on his knees, white
as a sheet and quivering with rage. Aarfy winked encouragingly and
jerked his thumb back toward McWatt with a humorous moue.
"What's eating him?" he asked with a laugh.
Yossarian was struck with a weird sense of distortion. "Will you get
out of here?" he yelped beseechingly, and shoved Aarfy over with all
his strength. "Are you deaf or something? Get back in the plane!" And
to McWatt he screamed, "Dive! Dive!"
Down they sank once more into the crunching, thudding, voluminous
barrage of bursting antiaircraft shells as Aarfy came creeping back
behind Yossarian arid jabbed him sharply in the ribs again. Yossarian
shied upward with another whinnying gasp.
"I still couldn't hear you," Aarfy said.
"I said get out of here!" Yossarian shouted, and broke into tears. He
began punching Aarfy in the body with both hands as hard as he could.
"Get away from me! Get away!"
Punching Aarfy was like sinking his fists into a limp sack of inflated
rubber. There was no resistance, no response at all from the soft,
insensitive mass, and after a while Yossarian's spirit died and his arms
dropped helplessly with exhaustion. He was overcome with a humiliating
feeling of impotence and was ready to weep in self-pity.
"What did you say?" Aarfy asked.
"Get away from me," Yossarian answered, pleading with him now.
"Go back in the plane."
"I still can't hear you.".
"Never mind," wailed Yossarian, "never mind. Just leave me alone."
"Never mind what?"
Yossarian began hitting himself in the forehead. He seized Aarfy by
the shirt front and, struggling to his feet for traction, dragged him to
the rear of the nose compartment and flung him down like a bloated
and unwieldy bag in the entrance of the crawlway. A shell banged open
with a stupendous clout right beside his ear as he was scrambling back
toward the front, and some undestroyed recess of his intelligence wondered
that it did not kill-them all. They were climbing again. The,
engines were howling again as though in pain, and the air inside the
plane was acrid with the smell of machinery and fetid with \:he stench
of gasoline. The next thing he knew, it was snowing!
Thousands of tiny bits of white paper were falling like snowflakes
inside the plane, milling around his head so thickly that they clung to
his eyelashes when he blinked in astonishment and fluttered against his
nostrils and lips each time he inhaled. When he spun around in bewilderment,
Aarfy was grinning proudly from ear to ear like something
inhuman as he held up a shattered paper map for Yossarian to see. A
large chunk of flak had ripped up from the floor through Aarfy's colossal
jumble of maps and had ripped out through the ceiling inches away
from their heads. Aarfy's joy was sublime.
"Will you look at this?" he murmured, waggling two of his stubby
fingers playfully into Yossarian's face through the hole in one of his
maps. "Will you look at this?"
Yossarian was dumbfounded by his state of rapturous contentment.
Aarfy was like an eerie ogre in a dream, incapable of being bruised or
evaded, and Yossarian dreaded him for a complex of reasons he was too
petrified to untangle. Wind whistling up through the jagged gash in
the floor kept the myriad bits of paper circulating like alabaster particles
in a paperweight and contributed to a sensation of lacquered,
waterlogged unreality. Everything seemed strange, so tawdry and
grotesque. His head was throbbing from a shrill clamor that drilled
relentlessly into both ears. It was McWatt, begging for directions in an
incoherent frenzy. Yossarian continued staring in tormented fascination
at Aarfy's spherical countenance beaming at him so serenely and
vacantly through the drifting whorls of white paper bits and concluded
that he was a raving lunatic just as eight bursts of flak broke open successively
at eye level off to the right, then eight more, and then eight
more, the last group pulled over toward the left so that they were
almost directly in front.
"Turn left hard!" he hollered to McWatt as Aarfy kept grinning, and
McWatt did turn left hard, but the flak turned left hard with them,
catching up fast, and Yossarian hollered, "I said hard, hard, hard, hard,
you bastard, hard!"
And McWatt bent the plane around even harder still, and suddenly,
miraculously, they were out of range. The flak ended. The guns
stopped booming at them. And they were alive.
Behind him, men were dying. Strung out for miles in a stricken, tortuous,
squirming line, the other flights of planes were making the same
hazardous journey over the target, threading their swift way through
the swollen masses of new and old bursts of flak like rats racing in a pack
through their own droppings. One was on fire, and flapped lamely off
by itself, billowing gigantically like a monstrous blood-red star. As
Yossarian watched, the burning plane floated over on its side and began
spiraling down slowly in wide, tremulous, narrowing circles, its huge
flaming burden blazing orange and flaring out in back like a long,
swirling cape of fire and smoke. There were parachutes, one, two,
three ... four, and then the plane gyrated into a spin and fell the rest of
the way to the ground, fluttering insensibly inside its vivid pyre like a
shred of colored tissue paper. One whole flight of planes from another
squadron had been blasted apart.
Yossarian sighed barrenly, his day's work done. He was listless and
sticky. The engines crooned mellifluously as McWatt throttled back to
loiter and allow the rest of the planes in his flight to catch up. The
abrupt stillness seemed alien and artificial, a little insidious. Yossarian
unsnapped his flak suit and took off his helmet. He sighed again, restlessly,
and closed his eyes and tried to relax.
"Where's Orr?" someone asked suddenly over his intercom.
Yossarian bounded up with a one-syllable cry that crackled with anxiety
and provided the only rational explanation for the whole mysterious
phenomenon of the flak at Bologna: Orr! He lunged forward over
the bombsight to search downward through the Plexiglas for some
reassuring sign of Orr, who drew flak like a magnet and who had
undoubtedly attracted the crack batteries of the whole Hermann
Goering Division to Bologna overnight from wherever the hell they
had been stationed the day before when Orr was still in Rome. Aarfy
launched himself forward an instant later and cracked Yossarian on the
bridge of the nose with the sharp rim of his flak helmet. Yossarian
cursed him as his eyes flooded with tears.
"There he is," Aarfy orated funereally, pointing down dramatically
at a hay wagon and two horses standing before the barn of a gray stone
farmhouse. "Smashed to bits. I guess their numbers were all up."
Yossarian swore at Aarfy again and continued searching intently,
cold with a compassionate kind of fear now for the little boupcy and
bizarre buck-toothed tent-mate who had smashed Appleby's forehead
open with a Ping-Pong racket and who was scaring the daylights out
of Yossarian once again. At last Yossarian spotted the two-engined,
twin-ruddered plane as it flew out of the green background of the
forests over afield of yellow farmland. One of the propellers was feathered
and perfectly still, but the plane was maintaining altitude and
holding a proper course. Yossarian muttered an unconscious prayer of
thankfulness and then flared up at Orr savagely in a ranting fusion of
resentment and relief.
"That bastard!" he began. "That goddam stunted, red-faced, big-cheeked,
curly-headed, buck-toothed rat bastard son of a bitch!"
"What?" said Aarfy.
"That dirty goddam midget-assed, apple-cheeked, goggle-eyed, undersized,
buck-toothed, grinning, crazy sonofabitchinbastard!" Yossarian
sputtered.
"What?"
"Never mind!"
"I still can't hear you," Aarfy answered.
Yossarian swung himself around methodically to face Aarfy. "You
prick," he began.
"Me?"
"You pompous, rotund, neighborly, vacuous, complacent ... "
Aarfy was unperturbed. Calmly he struck a wooden match and sucked
noisily at his pipe with an eloquent air of benign and magnanimous forgiveness.
He smiled sociably and opened his mouth to speak. Yossarian
put his hand over Aarfy's mouth and pushed him away wearily. He shut
his eyes and pretended to sleep' all the way back to the field so that he
would not have to listen to Aarfy or see him.
At the briefing room Yossarian made his intelligence report to
Captain Black and then waited in muttering suspense with all the others
until Orr chugged into sight overhead finally with his one good
engine still keeping him aloft gamely. Nobody breathed. Orr's landing
gear would not come down. Yossarian hung around only until Orr had
crash-landed safely, and then stole the first jeep he could find with a
key in the ignition and raced back to his tent to begin packing feverishly
for the emergency rest leave he had decided to take in Rome,
where he found Luciana and her invisible scar that same night.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:08 pm

16. Luciana

He found Luciana sitting alone at a table in the Allied officers' night
club, where the drunken Anzac major who had brought her there had
been stupid enough to desert her for the ribald company of some
singing comrades at the bar.
"All right, I'll dance with you," she said, before Yossarian could even
speak. "But I won't let you sleep with me."
"Who asked you?" Yossarian asked her.
"You don't want to sleep with me?" she exclaimed with surprise.
"I don't want to dance with you."
She seized Yossarian's hand and pulled him out on the dance floor.
She was a worse dancer than even he was, but she threw herself about
to the synthetic jitterbug music with more uninhibited pleasure than he
had ever observed until he felt his legs falling asleep with boredom and
yanked her off the dance floor toward the table at which the girl he
should have been screwing was still sitting tipsily with one hand around
Aarfy's neck, her orange satin blouse still hanging open slovenly below
her full white lacy brassiere as she made dirty sex talk ostentatiously
with Huple, Orr, Kid Sampson and Hungry Joe. Just as he reached
them, Luciana gave him a forceful, unexpected shove that carried them
both well beyond the table, so that they were still alone. She was a tall,
earthy, exuberant girl with long hair and a pretty face, a buxom, delightful,
flirtatious girl.
"All right," she said, "I will let you buy me dinner. But I won't let
you sleep with me."
"Who asked you?" Yossarian asked with surprise.
"You don't want to sleep with me?"
"I don't want to buy you dinner."
She pulled him out of the night club into the street and down a
flight of steps into a black-market restaurant filled with lively, chirping,
attractive girls who all seemed to know each other and with the self-conscious
military officers from different countries who had come
there with them. The food was elegant and expensive, and the aisles
were overflowing with great streams of flushed and merry proprietors,
all stout and balding. The bustling interior radiated with enormous,
engulfing waves of fun and warmth.
Yossarian got a tremendous kick out of the rude gusto with which
Luciana ignored him completely while she shoveled away her whole
meal with both hands. She ate like a horse until the last plate was
clean, and then she placed her silverware down with an air of conclusion
and settled back lazily in her chair with a dreamy and congested
look of sated gluttony. She drew a deep, smiling, contented breath and
regarded him amorously with a melting gaze.
"Okay, Joe," she putted, her glowing dark eyes drowsy and grateful.
"Now 1 will let you sleep with me."
"My name is Yossarian."
"Okay, Yossarian," she answered with a soft repentant laugh. "Now
1 will let you sleep with me."
""Who asked you?" said Yossarian.
Luciana was stunned. "You don't want to sleep with me?"
Yossarian nodded emphatically, laughing, and shot his hand up
under her dress. The girl came to life with a horrified start. She jerked
her legs away from him instantly, whipping her bottom around.
Blushing with alarm and embarrassment, she pushed her skirt back
down with a number of prim, sidelong glances about the restaurant.
"Now 1 will let you sleep with me," she explained cautiously in a
manner of apprehensive indulgence. "But not now."
"I know. "When we get back to my room."
The girl shook her head, eyeing him mistrustfully and keeping her
knees pressed together. "No, now 1 must go home to my mamma,
because my mamma does not like me to dance with soldiers or let them
take me to dinner, and she will be very angry with me if 1 do not come
home now. But 1 will let you write down for me where you live. And
tomorrow morning 1will come to your room for ficky-fick before 1 go
to my work at the French office. Capisci?"
"Bullshit!" Yossarian exclaimed with angry disappointment.
"Cosa vuol dire bullshit?" Luciana inquired with a blank look.
Yossarian broke into loud laughter. He answered her finally in a
tone of sympathetic good humor. "It means that 1 want to escort you
now to wherever the hell 1have to take you next so that 1can rush back
to that night club before Aarfy leaves with that wonderful tomato he's
got without giving me a chance to ask about an aunt or friend she must
have who's just like her."
"Come?"
"Subito, subito," he taunted her tenderly. "Mamma is waiting. Remember?"
"Si, Si, Mamma."
Yossarian let the girl drag him through the lovely Roman spring
night for almost a mile until they reached a chaotic bus depot honking
with horns, blazing with red and yellow lights and echoing with the
snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers pouring loathsome, hair-raising
curses out at each other, at their passengers and at the strolling,
unconcerned knots of pedestrians clogging their paths, who ignored
them until they were bumped by the buses and began shouting curses
back. Luciana vanished aboard one of the diminutive green vehicles, and
Yossarian hurried as fast as he could all the way back to the cabaret and
the bleary-eyed bleached blonde in the open orange satin blouse. She
seemed infatuated with Aarfy, but he prayed intensely for her luscious
aunt as he ran, or for a luscious girl friend, sister, cousin or mother
who was just as libidinous and depraved. She would have been perfect
for Yossarian, a debauched, coarse, vulgar, amoral, appetizing slattern
whom he had longed for and idolized for months. She was a real find.
She paid for her own drinks, and she had an automobile, an apartment
and a salmon-colored cameo ring that drove Hungry Joe clean out of his
senses with its exquisitely carved figures of a naked boy and girl on a
rock. Hungry Joe snorted and pranced and pawed at the floor in salivating
lust and groveling need, but the girl would not sell him the ring,
even though he offered her all the money in all their pockets and his
complicated black camera thrown in. She was not interested in money
or cameras. She was interested in fornication. '
She was gone when Yossarian got there. They were all gone, and he
walked right out and moved in wistful dejection through the dark,
emptying streets. Yossarian was not often lonely when he was by himself,
but he was lonely now in his keen envy of Aarfy, who he knew was
in bed that very moment with the girl who was just right for Yossarian,
and who could also make out any time he wanted to, if he ever wanted
to, with either or both of the two slender, stunning, aristocratic women
who lived in the apartment upstairs and fructified Yossarian's sex fantasies
whenever he had sex fantasies, the beautiful rich black-haired
countess with the red, wet, nervous lips and her beautiful rich black-haired
daughter-in-law. Yossarian was madly in love with all of them as
he made his way back to the officers' apartment, in love with Luciana,
with the prurient intoxicated girl in the unbuttoned satin blouse, and
with the beautiful rich countess and her beautiful rich daughter-in-law,
both of whom would never let him touch them or even flirt with them.
They doted kittenishly on Nately and deferred passively to Aarfy, but
they thought Yossarian was crazy and recoiled from him with distasteful
contempt each time he made an indecent proposal or tried to
fondle them when they passed on the stairs. They were both superb
creatures with pulpy, bright, pointed tongues and mouths like round
warm plums, a little sweet and sticky, a little rotten. They had class;
Yossarian was not sure what class was, but he knew that they had it and
he did not, and that they knew it, too. He could picture, as he walked,
the kind of underclothing they wore against their svelte feminine parts,
filmy, smooth, clinging garments of deepest black or of opalescent pastel
radiance with flowering lace borders, fragrant with the tantalizing
fumes of pampered flesh and scented bath salts rising in a germinating
cloud from their blue-white breasts. He wished again that he was
where Aarfy was, making obscene, brutal, cheerful love with a juicy
drunken tart who didn't give a tinker's dam about him and would never
think of him again.
But Aarfy was already back in the apartment when Yossarian arrived,
and Yossarian gaped at him with that same sense of persecuted astonishment
he had suffered that same morning over Bologna at his malign
and cabalistic and irremovable presence in the nose of the plane.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"That's right, ask him!" Hungry Joe exclaimed in a rage. "Make him
tell you what he's doing here!"
With a long, theatrical moan, Kid Sampson made a pistol of his
thumb and forefinger and blew his own brains out. Huple, chewing
away on a bulging wad of bubble gum, drank everything in with a callow,
vacant expression on his fifteen-year-old face. Aarfy was tapping
the bowl of his pipe against his palm leisurely as he paced back and
forth in corpulent self-approval, obviously delighted by the stir he was
causing.
"Didn't you go home with that girl?" Yossarian demanded.
"Oh, sure, I went home with her," Aarfy replied. "You didn't think
I was going to let her try to find her way home alone, did you?"
"Wouldn't she let you stay with her?"
"Oh, she wanted me to stay with her, all right." Aarfy chuckled.
"Don't you worry about good old Aarfy. But I wasn't going to take
advantage of a sweet kid like that just because she'd had a little too
much to drink. What kind of a guy do you think I am?"
"Who said anything about taking advantage of her?" Yossarian
railed at him in amazement. "All she wanted to do was get into bed
with someone. That's the only thing she kept talking about all night
long."
"That's because she was a little mixed up," Aarfy explained. "But 1
gave her a little talking to and really put some sense into her."
"You bastard!" Yossarian exclaimed, and sank down tiredly on the
divan beside Kid Sampson. "Why the hell didn't you give her to one of
us if you didn't want her?"
"You see?" Hungry Joe asked. "There's something wrong with
him."
Yossarian nodded and looked at Aarfy curiously. "Aarfy, tell me
something. Don't you ever screw any of them?"
Aarfy chuckled again with conceited amusement. "Oh, sure, 1 prod,
them. Don't you worry about me. But never any nice girls. 1know what
kind of girls to prod and what kind of girls not to prod, and 1 never
prod any nice girls. This one was a sweet kid. You could see her family
had money. Why, 1 even got her to throw that ring of hers away right
out the car window."
Hungry Joe flew into the air with a screech of intolerable pain. "You
did what?" he screamed. "You did what?" He began whaling away at
Aarfy's shoulders and arms with both fists, almost in tears. "1 ought to
kill you for what you did, you lousy bastard. He's sinful, that's what he
is. He's got a dirty mind, ain't he? Ain't he got a dirty mind?"
"The dirtiest," Yossarian agreed.
"What are you fellows talking about?" Aarfy asked with genuine
puzzlement, tucking his face away protectively inside the cushioning
insulation of his oval shoulders. "Aw, come on, Joe," he pleaded with a
smile of mild discomfort. "Quit punching me, will you?"
But Hungry Joe would not quit punching until Yossarian picked him
up and pushed him away toward his bedroom. Yossarian moved listlessly
into his own room, undressed and went to sleep. A second later
it was morning, and someone was shaking him.
"What are you waking me up for?" he whimpered.
It was Michaela, the skinny maid with the merry disposition and
homely sallow face, and she was waking him up because he had a visitor
waiting just outside the door. Luciana! He could hardly believe it.
And she was alone in the room with him after Michaela had departed,
lovely, hale and statuesque, steaming and rippling with an irrepressible
affectionate vitality even as she remained in one place and frowned at
him irately. She stood like a youthful female colossus with her magnificent
columnar legs apart on high white shoes with wedged heels,
wearing a pretty green dress and swinging a large, flat white leather
pocketbook, with which she cracked him hard across the face when he
leaped out of bed to grab her. Yossarian staggered backward out of
range in a daze, clutching his stinging cheek with bewilderment.
"Pig!" she spat out at him viciously, her nostrils flaring in a look of
savage disdain. "Vive com' un animale!"
With a fierce, guttural, scornful, disgusted oath, she strode across
the room and threw open the three tall casement windows, letting
inside an effulgent flood of sunlight and crisp fresh air that washed
through the stuffy room like an invigorating tonic. She placed her
pocketbook on a chair and began tidying the room, picking his things
up from the floor and off the tops of the furniture, throwing his socks,
handkerchief and underwear into an empty drawer of the dresser and
hanging his shirt and trousers up in the closet.
Yossarian ran out of the bedroom into the bathroom and brushed
his teeth. He washed his hands and face and combed his hair. When he
ran back, the room was in order and Luciana was almost undressed.
Her expression was relaxed. She left her earrings on the dresser and
padded barefoot to the bed wearing just a pink rayon chemise that
came down to her hips. She glanced about the room prudently to make
certain there was nothing she had overlooked in the way of neatness
and then drew back the coverlet and stretched herself out luxuriously
with an expression of feline expectation. She beckoned to him longingly,
with a husky laugh.
"Now," she announced in a whisper, holding both arms out to him
eagerly. "Now I will let you sleep with me."
She told him some lies about a single weekend in bed with a slaughtered
fiance in the Italian Army, and they all turned out to be true, for
she cried "finitoR" almost as soon as he started and wondered why he
didn't stop, until he had finitoed too and explained to her.
He lit cigarettes for both of them. She was enchanted by the deep
suntan covering his whole body. He wondered about the pink chemise
that she would not remove. It was cut like a man's undershirt, with narrow
shoulder straps, and concealed the invisible scar on her back that
she refused to let him see after he had made her tell him it was there.
She grew tense as fine steel when he traced the mutilated contours
with his finger tip from a pit in her shoulder blade almost to the base
of her spine. He winced at the many tortured nights she had spent in
the hospital, drugged or in pain, with the ubiquitous, ineradicable
odors of ether, fecal matter and disinfectant, of human flesh mortified
and decaying amid the white uniforms, the rubber-soled shoes,-and the
eerie night lights glowing dimly until dawn in the corridors. She had
been wounded in an air raid.
"Dove?" he asked, and he held his breath in suspense.
"Napoli."
"Germans?"
"Americani."
His heart cracked, and he fell in love. He wondered if she would
marry him.
"Tu sei pazzo," she told him with a pleasant laugh.
"Why am I crazy?" he asked.
"Perche non posso sposare."
"Why can't you get married?"
"Because I am not a virgin," she answered.
"What has that got to do with it?"
"Who will marry me? No one wants a girl who is not a virgin."
"I will. I'll marry you."
''Ma non posso sposarti."
"Why can't you marry me?"
"Perche sei pazzo."
"Why am I crazy?"
"Perche vuoi sposarmi."
Yossarian wrinkled his forehead with quizzical amusement. "You
won't marry me because I'm crazy, and you say I'm crazy because I
want to marry you? Is that right?"
"St."
"Tu sei pazz'!" he told her loudly.
"Perche?" she shouted back at him indignantly, her unavoidable
round breasts rising and falling in a saucy huff beneath the pink chemise
as she sat up in bed indignantly. "Why am I crazy?"
"Because you won't marry me."
"Stupido!" she shouted back at him, and smacked him loudly and
flamboyantly on the chest with the back of her hand. "Non posso sposarti! Non capisci? Non posso sposarti."
"Oh, sure, I understand. And why can't you marry me?"
"Perche sei pazzo!"
"And why am I crazy?"
"Perche vuoi sposarmi."
"Because I want to marry you. Carina, ti amo, " he explained, and he
drew her gently back down to the pillow. "Ti amo molto."
"Tu sei pazzo, " she murmured in reply, flattered.
"Perche?"
"Because you say you love me. How can you love a girl who is not a
virgin?"
"Because I can't marry you."
She bolted right up again in a threatening rage. "Why can't you
marry me?" she demanded, ready to clout him again if he gave an
uncomplimentary reply. "Just because I am not a virgin?"
"No, no, darling. Because you're crazy."
She stared at him in blank resentment for a moment and then tossed
her head back and roared appreciatively with hearty laughter. She
gazed at him with new approval when she stopped, the lush, responsive
tissues of her dark face turning darker still and blooming somnolently
with a swelling and beautifying infusion of blood. Her eyes grew dim.
He crushed out both their cigarettes, and they turned into each other
wordlessly in an engrossing kiss just as Hungry Joe came meandering
into the room without knocking to ask if Yossarian wanted to go out
with him to look for girls. Hungry Joe stopped on a dime when he saw
them and shot out of the room. Yossarian shot out of bed even faster
and began shouting at Luciana to get dressed. The girl was dumbfounded.
He pulled her roughly out of bed by her arm and flung her
away toward her clothing, then raced for the door in time to slam it
shut as Hungry Joe was running back in with his camera. Hungry Joe
had his leg wedged in the door and would not pull it out.
"Let me in!" he begged urgently, wriggling and squirming maniacally.
"Let me in!" He stopped struggling for a moment to gaze up into
Yossarian's face through the crack in the door with what he must have
supposed was a beguiling smile. "Me no Hungry Joe," he explained
earnestly. "Me heap big photographer from Life magazine. Heap big
picture on heap big cover. I make you big Hollywood star, Yossarian.
Multi dinero. Multi divorces. Multi ficky-fick all day long. Si, si, si!"
Yossarian slammed the door shut when Hungry Joe stepped back a
bit to try to shoot a picture of Luciana dressing. Hungry Joe attacked
the stout wooden barrier fanatically, fell back to reorganize his energies
and hurled himself forward fanatically again. Yossarian slithered into his
own clothes between assaults. Luciana had her green-and-white summer
dress on and was holding the skirt bunched up above her waist. A
wave of misery broke over him as he saw her about to vanish inside her
panties forever. He reached out to grasp her and drew her to him by
the raised calf of her leg. She hopped forward and molded herself
against him. Yossarian kissed her ears and her closed eyes romantically
and rubbed the backs of her thighs. She began to hum sensually a moment before
Hungry Joe hurled his frail body against the door in still
one more desperate attack and almost knocked them both down. Yossarian
pushed her away.
"Vite! Vite!" he scolded her. "Get your things on!"
"What the hell are you talking about?" she wanted to know.
"Fast! Fast! Can't you understand English? Get your clothes on fast!"
"Stupido!" she snarled back at him. "Vite is French, not Italian.
Subito, subito! That's what you mean. Subito!"
"Si, si. That's what I mean. Subito, subito!"
"Si, si," she responded cooperatively, and ran for her shoes and earrings.
Hungry Joe had paused in his attack to shoot pictures through the
closed door. Yossarian could hear the camera shutter clicking. When
both he and Luciana were ready, Yossarian waited for Hungry Joe's
next charge and yanked the door open on him unexpectedly. Hungry
Joe spilled forward into the room like a floundering frog. Yossarian
skipped nimbly around him, guiding Luciana along behind him
through the apartment and out into the hallway. They bounced down
the stairs with a great roistering clatter, laughing out loud breathlessly
and knocking their hilarious heads together each time they paused to
rest. Near the bottom they met Nately coming up and stopped laughing.
Nately was drawn, dirty and unhappy. His tie was twisted and his
shirt was rumpled, and he walked with his hands in his pockets. He
wore a hangdog, hopeless look.
"What's the matter, kid?" Yossarian inquired compassionately.
"I'm flat broke again," Nately replied with a lame and distracted
smile. "What am I going to do?"
Yossarian didn't know Nately had spent the last thirty-two hours at
twenty dollars an hour with the apathetic whore he adored, and he had
nothing left of his pay or of the lucrative allowance he received every
month from his wealthy and generous father. That meant he could not
spend time with her any more. She would not allow him to walk beside
her as she strolled the pavements soliciting other servicemen, and she
was infuriated when she spied him trailing her from a distance. He was
free to hang around her apartment if he cared to, but there was no certainty
that she would be there. And she would give him nothing unless
he could pay. She found sex uninteresting. Nately wanted the assurance
that she was not going to bed with anyone unsavory or with
someone he knew. Captain Black always made it a point to buy her
each time he came to Rome, just so he could torment Nately with the
news that he had thrown his sweetheart another hump and watch
Nately eat his liver as he related the atrocious indignities to which he
had forced her to submit.
Luciana was touched by Nately's forlorn air, but broke loudly into
robust laughter again the moment she stepped outside into the sunny
street with Yossarian and heard Hungry Joe beseeching them from the
window to come back and take their clothes off, because he really was
a photographer from Life magazine. Luciana fled mirthfully along the
sidewalk in her high white wedgies, pulling Yossarian along in tow with
the same lusty and ingenuous zeal she had displayed in the dance hall
the night before and at every moment since. Yossarian caught up and
walked with his arm around her waist until they came to the corner and
she stepped away from him. She straightened her hair in a mirror from
her pocketbook and put lipstick on.
"Why don't you ask me to let you write my name and address on a
piece of paper so that you will be able to find me again when you come
to Rome?'? she suggested.
"Why don't you let me write your name and address down on a
piece of paper?" he agreed.
"Why?" she demanded belligerently, her mouth curling suddenly
into a vehement sneer and her eyes flashing with anger. "So you can
tear it up into little pieces as soon as I leave?"
"Who's going to tear it up?" Yossarian protested in confusion.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You will," she insisted. "You'll tear it up into little pieces the
minute I'm gone and go walking away like a big shot because a tall,
young, beautiful girl like me, Luciana, let you sleep with her and did
not ask you for money."
"How much money are you asking me for?" he asked her.
"Stupido!" she shouted with emotion. "I am not asking you for any
money!" She stamped her foot and raised her arm in a turbulent gesture
that made Yossarian fear she was going to crack him in the face
again with her great pocketbook. Instead, she scribbled her name and
address on a slip of paper and thrust it at him. "Here," she taunted him
sardonically, biting on her lip to still a delicate tremor. "Don't forget.
Don't forget to tear it into tiny pieces as soon as I am gone."
Then she smiled at him serenely, squeezed his hand and, with a
whispered regretful "Addio," pressed herself against him for a moment
and then straightened and walked away with unconscious dignity and
grace.
The minute she was gone, Yossarian tore the slip of paper up and
walked away in. the other direction, feeling very much like a big shot
because a beautiful young girl like Luciana had slept with him and did
not ask for money. He was pretty pleased with himself until he looked
up in the dining room of the Red Cross building and found himself
eating breakfast with dozens and dozens of other servicemen in all
kinds of fantastic uniforms, and then all at once he was surrounded by
images of Luciana getting out of her clothes and into her clothes and
caressing and haranguing him tempestuously in the pink rayon chemise
she wore in bed with him and would not take off. Yossarian
choked on his toast and eggs at the enormity of his error in tearing her
long, lithe, nude, young vibrant limbs into tiny pieces of- paper so
impudently and dumping her down so smugly into the gutter from the
curb. He missed her terribly already. There were so many strident
faceless people in uniform in the dining room with him. He felt an
urgent desire to be alone with her again soon and sprang up impetuously
from his table and went running outside and back down the
street toward the apartment in search of the tiny bits of paper in the
gutter, but they had all been flushed away by a street cleaner's hose.
He couldn't find her again in the Allied officers' night club that
evening or in the sweltering, burnished, hedonistic bedlam of the
black-market restaurant with its vast bobbing wooden trays of elegant
food and its chirping flock of bright and lovely girls. He couldn't even
find the restaurant. When he went to bed alone, he dodged flak over
Bologna again in a dream, with Aarfy hanging over his shoulder abominably
in the plane with a bloated sordid leer. In the morning he ran
looking for Luciana in all the French offices he could find, but nobody
knew what he was talking about, and then he ran in terror, so jumpy,
distraught and disorganized that he just had to keep running in terror
somewhere, to the enlisted men's apartment for the squat maid in the
lime-colored panties, whom he found dusting in Snowden's room
on the fifth floor in her drab brown sweater and heavy dark skirt.
Snowden was still alive then, and Yossarian could tell it was Snowden's
room from the name stenciled in white on the blue duffel bag he
tripped over as he plunged through the doorway at her in a frenzy of
creative desperation. The woman caught him by the wrists before he
could fall as he came stumbling toward her in need and pulled him
along down on top of her as she flopped over backward onto the bed
and enveloped him hospitably in her flaccid and consoling embrace,
her dust mop aloft in her hand like a banner as her broad, brutish, congenial
face gazed up at him fondly with a smile of unperjured friendship.
There was a sharp elastic snap as she rolled the lime-colored
panties off beneath them both without disturbing him.
He stuffed money into her hand when they were finished. She
hugged him in gratitude. He hugged her. She hugged him back and
then pulled him down on top of her on the bed again. He stuffed more
money into her hand when they were finished this time and ran out of
the room before she could begin hugging him in gratitude again. Back
at his own apartment, he threw his things together as fast as he could,
left for Nately what money he had, and ran back to Pianosa on a
supply plane to apologize to Hungry Joe for shutting him out of the
bedroom. The apology was unnecessary, for Hungry Joe was in high
spirits when Yossarian found him. Hungry Joe was grinning from ear
to ear, and Yossarian turned sick at the sight of him, for he understood
instantly what the high spirits meant.
"Forty missions," Hungry Joe announced readily in a voice lyrical
with relief and elation. "The colonel raised them again."
Yossarian was stunned. "But I've got thirty-two, goddammit! Three
more and I would have been through."
Hungry Joe shrugged indifferently. "The colonel wants forty missions,"
he repeated.
Yossarian shoved him out of the way and ran right into the hospital.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:08 pm

17. The Soldier in White

Yossarian ran right into the hospital, determined to remain there forever
rather than fly one mission more than the thirty-two missions he
had. Ten days after he changed his mind and came out, the colonel
raised the missions to forty-five and Yossarian ran right back in, determined
to remain in the hospital forever rather than fly one mission
more than the six missions more he had just flown.
Yossarian could run into the hospital whenever he wanted to because
of his liver and because of his eyes; the doctors couldn't fix his
liver condition and couldn't meet his eyes each time he told them he
had a liver condition. He could enjoy himself in the hospital, just as
long as there was no one really very sick in the same ward. His system
was sturdy enough to survive a case of someone else's malaria or
influenza with scarcely any discomfort at all. He could come through
other people's tonsillectomies without suffering any postoperative distress,
and even endure their hernias and hemorrhoids with only mild
nausea and revulsion. But that was just about as much as he could go
through without getting sick. After that he was ready to bolt. He could
relax in the hospital, since no one there expected him to do anything.
All he was expected to do in the hospital was die or get better, and since
he was perfectly all right to begin with, getting better was easy.
Being in the hospital was better than being over Bologna or flying
over Avignon with Huple and Dobbs at the controls and Snowden
dying in back.
There were usually not nearly as many sick people inside the hospital
as Yossarian saw outside the hospital, and there were generally fewer
people inside the hospital who were seriously sick. There was a much
lower death rate inside the hospital than outside the hospital, and a
much healthier death rate. Few people died unnecessarily. People knew
a lot more about dying inside the hospital and made a much neater,
more orderly job of it. They couldn't dominate Death inside the hospital,
but they certainly made her behave. They had taught her manners.
They couldn't keep Death out, but while she was in she had to act like
a lady. People gave up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital.
There was none of that crude, ugly ostentation about dying that
was so common outside the hospital. They did not blow up in mid-air
like Kraft or the dead man in Yossarian's tent, or freeze to death in the
blazing summertime the way Snowden had frozen to death after spilling
his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane.
"I'm cold," Snowden had whimpered. "I'm cold."
"There, there," Yossarian had tried to comfort him. "There, there."
They didn't take it on the lam weirdly inside a cloud the way Clevinger
had done. They didn't explode ·into blood and clotted matter.
They didn't drown or get struck by lightning, mangled by machinery
or crushed in landslides. They didn't get shot to death in hold-ups,
strangled to death in rapes, stabbed to death in saloons, bludgeoned to
death with axes by parents or children, or die summarily by some
other act of God. Nobody choked to death. People bled to death like
gentlemen in an operating room or expired without comment in an
oxygen tent. There was none of that tricky now-you-see-me-now-you-
don't business so much in vogue outside the hospital, none of that
now-I-am-and-now-I-ain't. There were no famines or floods. Children
didn't suffocate in cradles or iceboxes or fall under trucks. No
one was beaten to death. People didn't stick their heads into ovens
with the gas on, jump in front of subway trains or come plummeting
like dead weights out of hotel windows with a whoosh!, accelerating at
the rate of thirty-two feet per second to land with a hideous plop! on
the sidewalk and die disgustingly there in public like an alpaca sack full
of hairy strawberry ice cream, bleeding, pink toes awry.
All things considered, Yossarian often preferred the hospital, even
though it had its faults. The help tended to be officious, the rules, if
heeded, restrictive, and the management meddlesome. Since sick people
were apt to be present, he could not always depend on a lively
young crowd in the same ward with him, and the entertainment was
not always good. He was forced to admit that the hospitals had altered
steadily for the worse as the war continued and one moved closer to
the battlefront, the deterioration in the quality of the guests becoming
most marked within the combat zone itself where the effects of booming
wartime conditions were apt to make themselves conspicuous
immediately. The people got sicker and sicker the deeper he moved
into combat, until finally in the hospital that last time there had been
the soldier in white, who could not have been any sicker without being
dead, and he soon was.
The soldier in white was constructed entirely of gauze, plaster and
a thermometer, and the thermometer was merely an adornment left
balanced in the empty dark hole in the bandages over his mouth early
each morning and late each afternoon by Nurse Cramer and Nurse
Duckett right up to the afternoon Nurse Cramer read the thermometer
and discovered he was dead. Now that Yossarian looked back, it
seemed that Nurse Cramer, rather than the talkative Texan, had murdered
the soldier in white; if she had not read the thermometer and
reported what she had found, the soldier in white might still be lying
there alive exactly as he had been lying there all along, encased from
head to toe in plaster and gauze with both strange, rigid legs elevated
from the hips and both strange arms strung up perpendicularly, all four
bulky limbs in casts, all four strange, useless limbs hoisted up in the
air by taut wire cables and fantastically long lead weights suspended
darkly above him. Lying there that way might not have been much of
a life, but it was all the life he had, and the decision to terminate it,
Yossarian felt, should hardly have been Nurse Cramer's.
The soldier in white was like an unrolled bandage with a hole in it
or like a broken block of stone in a harbor with a crooked zinc pipe jutting
out. The other patients in the ward, all but the Texan, shrank from
him with a tenderhearted aversion from the moment they set eyes on
him the morning after the night he had been sneaked in. They gathered
soberly in the farthest recess of the ward and gossiped about him
in malicious, offended undertones, rebelling against his presence as a
ghastly imposition and resenting him malevolently for the nauseating
truth of which he was a bright reminder. They shared a common dread
that he would begin moaning.
"I don't know what I'll do if he does begin moaning," the dashing
young fighter pilot with the golden mustache had grieved forlornly. "It
means he'll moan during the night, too, because he won't be able to tell
time."
No sound at all came from the soldier in white all the time he was
there. The ragged round hole over his mouth was deep and jet black
and showed no sign of lip, teeth, palate or tongue. The only one who
ever came close enough to look was the affable Texan, who came close
enough several times a day to chat with him about more votes for the
decent folk, opening each conversation with the same unvarying greeting:
"What do you say, fella? How you coming along?" The rest of
the men avoided them both in their regulation maroon corduroy
bathrobes and unraveling flannel pajamas, wondering gloomily who
the soldier in white was, why he was there and what he was really like
inside.
"He's all right, I tell you," the Texan would report back to them
encouragingly after each of his social visits. "Deep down inside he's
really a regular guy. He's just feeling a little shy and insecure now
because he doesn't know anybody here and can't talk. Why don't you
all just step right up to him and introduce yourselves? He won't hurt
you."
"What the goddam hell are you. talking about?" Dunbar demanded.
"Does he even know what you're talking about?"
"Sure he knows what I'm talking about. He's not stupid. There ain't
nothing wrong with him."
"Can he hear you?"
"Well, I don't know if he can hear me or not, but I'm sure he knows
what I'm talking about."
"Does that hole over his mouth ever move?"
"Now, what kind of a crazy question is that?" the Texan asked
uneasily.
"How can you tell if he's breathing if it never moves?"
"How can you tell it's a he?"
"Does he have pads over his eyes underneath that bandage over his
face?"
"Does he ever wiggle his toes or move the tips of his fingers?"
The Texan backed away in mounting confusion. "Now, what kind of
a crazy question is that? You fellas must all be crazy or something. Why
don't you just walk right up to him and get acquainted? He's a real nice
guy, I tell you."
The soldier in white was more like a stuffed and sterilized mummy
than a real nice guy. Nurse Duckett and Nurse Cramer kept him spick-and-
span. They brushed his bandages often with a whiskbroom and
scrubbed the plaster casts on his arms, legs, shoulders, chest and pelvis
with soapy water. Working with a round tin of metal polish, they
waxed a dim gloss on the dull zinc pipe rising from the cement on his
groin. With damp dish towels they wiped the dust several times a day
from the slim black rubber tubes leading in and out of him to the two
large stoppered jars, one of them, hanging on a post beside his bed,
dripping fluid into his arm constantly through a slit in the bandages
while the other, almost out of sight on the floor, drained the fluid away
through the zinc pipe rising from his groin. Both young nurses polished
the glass jars unceasingly. They were proud of their housework.
The more solicitous of the two was Nurse Cramer, a shapely, pretty,
sexless girl with a wholesome unattractive face. Nurse Cramer had a
cute nose and a radiant, blooming complexion dotted with fetching
sprays of adorable freckles that Yossarian detested. She was touched
very deeply by the soldier in white. Her virtuous, pale-blue, saucer-like
eyes flooded with leviathan tears on unexpected occasions and made
Yossarian mad.
"How the hell do you know he's even in there?" he asked her.
"Don't you dare talk to me that way!" she replied indignantly.
"Well, how do you? You don't even know if it's really him."
"Who?"
"Whoever's supposed to be in all those bandages. You might really
be weeping for somebody else. How do you know he's even alive?"
"What a terrible thing to say!" Nurse Cramer exclaimed. "Now, you
get right into bed and stop making jokes about him."
"I'm not making jokes. Anybody might be in there. For all we know,
it might even be Mudd."
"What are you talking about?" Nurse Cramer pleaded with him in
a quavering voice.
"Maybe that's where the dead man is."
"What dead man?"
"I've got a dead man in my tent that nobody can throw out. His
name is Mudd."
Nurse Cramer's face blanched and she turned to Dunbar desperately
for aid. "Make him stop saying things like that," she begged.
"Maybe there's no one inside," Dunbar suggested helpfully. "Maybe
they just sent the bandages here for a joke."
She stepped away from Dunbar in alarm. "You're crazy," she cried,
glancing about imploring. "You're both crazy."
Nurse Duckett showed up then and chased them all back to their
own beds while Nurse Cramer changed the stoppered jars for the soldier
in white. Changing the jars for the soldier in white was no trouble
at all, since the same clear fluid was dripped back inside him over and
over again with no apparent loss. When the jar feeding the inside of his
elbow was just about empty, the jar on the floor was just about full,
and the two were simply uncoupled from their respective hoses and
reversed quickly so that the liquid could be dripped right back into
him. Changing the jars was no trouble to anyone but the men who
watched them changed every hour or so and were baffled by the procedure.
"Why can't they hook the two jars up to each other and eliminate
the middleman?" the artillery captain with whom Yossarian had
stopped playing chess inquired. "What the hell do they need him for?"
"I wonder what he did to deserve it," the warrant officer with malaria
and a mosquito bite on his ass lamented after Nurse Cramer had read
her thermometer and discovered that the soldier in white was dead.
"He went to war," the fighter pilot with the golden mustache surmised.
"We all went to war," Dunbar countered.
"That's what I mean," the warrant officer with malaria continued.
"Why him? There just doesn't seem to be any logic to this system of
rewards and punishment. Look what happened to me. If I had gotten
syphilis or a dose of clap for my five minutes of passion on the beach
instead of this damned mosquito bite, I could see some justice. But
malaria? Malaria? Who can explain malaria as a consequence of fornication?"
The warrant officer shook his head in numb astonishment.
"What about me?" Yossarian said. "I stepped out of my tent in
Marrakech one night to get a bar of candy and caught your dose of clap
when that Wac I never even saw before hissed me into the bushes. All
I really wanted was a bar of candy, but who could turn it down?"
"That sounds like my dose of clap, all right," the warrant officer
agreed. "But I've still got somebody else's malaria. Just for once I'd like
to see all these things sort of straightened out, with each person getting
exactly what he deserves. It might give me some confidence in this
universe."
"I've got somebody else's three hundred thousand dollars," the
dashing young fighter captain with the golden mustache admitted.
"I've been goofing off since the day I was born. I cheated my way
through prep school and college, and just about all I've been doing
ever since is shacking up with pretty girls who think I'd make a good
husband. I've got no ambition at all. The only thing I want to do after
the war is marry some girl who's got more money than I have and shack
up with lots more pretty girls. The three hundred thousand bucks was
left to me before I was born by a grandfather who made a fortune selling
hogwash on an international scale. I know I don't deserve it, but I'll
be damned if! give it back. I wonder who it really belongs to."
"Maybe it belongs to my father," Dunbar conjectured. "He spent a
lifetime at hard work and never could make enough money to even
send my sister and me through college. He's dead now, so you might
as well keep it."
"Now, if we can just find out who my malaria belongs to, we'd be all
set. It's not that I've got anything against malaria. I'd just as soon goldbrick
with malaria as with anything else. It's only that I feel an injustice
has been committed. Why should I have somebody else's malaria and
you have my dose of clap?"
"I've got more than your dose of clap," Yossarian told him. "I've got
to keep flying combat missions because of that dose of yours until they
kill me."
"That makes it even worse. What's the justice in that?"
"I had a friend named Clevinger two and a half weeks ago who used
to see plenty of justice in it."
"It's the highest kind of justice of all," Clevinger had gloated, clapping
his. hands with a merry laugh. "I can't help thinking of the
Hippolytus of Euripides, where the early licentiousness of Theseus is
probably responsible for the asceticism of the son that helps bring
about the tragedy that ruins them all. If nothing else, that episode with
the Wac should teach you the evil of sexual immorality."
"It teaches me the evil of candy."
"Can't you see that you're not exactly without blame for the predicament
you're in?" Clevinger had continued with undisguised relish. "If
you hadn't been laid up in the hospital with venereal disease for ten days
back there in Africa, you might have finished your twenty-five missions
in time to be sent home before Colonel Nevers was killed and Colonel
Cathcart came to replace him."
"And what about you?" Yossarian had replied: "You never got clap
in Marrakech and you're in the same predicament."
"I don't know," confessed Clevinger, with a trace of mock concern,
"I guess I must nave done something very bad in my time."
"Do you really believe that?"
Clevinger laughed. "No, of course not. I just like to kid you along a
little."
There were too many dangers for Yossarian to keep track of. There
was Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo, for example, and they were all out to
kill him. There was Lieutenant Scheisskopf with his fanaticism for
parades and there was the bloated colonel with his big fat mustache
and his fanaticism for retribution, and they wanted to kill him, too.
There was Appleby, Havermeyer, Black and Korn. There was Nurse
Cramer and Nurse Duckett, who he was almost certain wanted him
dead, 'and there was the Texan and the C.I.D. man, about whom he had
no doubt. There were bartenders, bricklayers and bus conductors all
over the world who wanted him dead, landlords and tenants, traitors
and patriots, lynchers, leeches and lackeys, and they were all out to
bump him off. That was the secret Snowden had spilled to him on the
mission to Avignon-they were out to get him; and Snowden had
spilled it all over the back of the plane.
There were lymph glands that might do him in. There were kidneys,
nerve sheaths and corpuscles. There were tumors of the brain.
There was Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
There were fertile red meadows of epithelial tissue to catch and coddle
a cancer cell. 'There were diseases of the skin, diseases of the bone,
diseases of the lung, diseases of the stomach, diseases of the heart,
blood and arteries. There were diseases of the head, diseases of the
neck, diseases of the chest, diseases of the intestines, diseases of the
crotch. There even were diseases of the feet. There were billions of
conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals
at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and
every one was a potential traitor and foe. There were so many diseases
that it took a truly diseased mind to even think about them as often as
he and Hungry Joe did.
Hungry Joe collected lists of fatal diseases and arranged them in
alphabetical order so that he could put his finger without delay on any
one he wanted to worry about. He grew very upset whenever he misplaced
some or when he could not add to his list, and he would go
rushing in a cold sweat to Doc Daneeka for help.
"Give him Ewing's tumor," Yossarian advised Doc Daneeka, who
would come to Yossarian for help in handling Hungry Joe, "and follow
it up with melanoma. Hungry Joe likes lingering diseases, but he likes
the fulminating ones even more."
Doc Daneeka had never heard of either. "How do you manage to
keep up on so many diseases like that?" he inquired with high professional
esteem.
"I learn about them at the hospital when 1study the Reader's Digest."
Yossarian had so many ailments to be afraid of that he was sometimes
tempted to turn himself in to the hospital for good and spend the
rest of his life stretched out there inside an oxygen tent with a battery
of specialists and nurses seated at one side of his bed twenty-four hours
a day waiting for something to go wrong and at least one surgeon with
a knife poised at the other, ready to jump forward and begin cutting
away the moment it became necessary. Aneurisms, for instance; how
else could they ever defend him in time against an aneurism of the
aorta? Yossarian felt much safer inside the hospital than outside the
hospital, even though he loathed the surgeon and his knife as much as
he had ever loathed anyone. He could start screaming inside a hospital
and people would at least come running to try to help; outside the hospital
they would throw him in prison if he ever started screaming about
all the things he felt everyone ought to start screaming about, or they
would put him in the hospital. One of the things he wanted to start
screaming about was the -surgeon's knife that was almost certain to be
waiting for him and everyone else who lived long enough to die. He
wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush,
twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or
lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the
inevitable end.
He was afraid also that Doc Daneeka would still refuse to help him
when he went to him again after jumping out of Major Major's office,
and he was right.
"You think you've got something to be afraid about?" Doc Daneeka
demanded, lifting his delicate immaculate dark head up from his chest
to gaze at Yossarian irascibly for a moment with lachrymose eyes.
"What about me? My precious medical skills are rusting away here on
this lousy island while other doctors are cleaning up. Do you think 1
enjoy sitting here day after day refusing to help you? 1 wouldn't mind
it so much if 1 could refuse to help you back in the States or in some
place like Rome. But saying no to you here isn't easy for me, either."
"Then stop saying no. Ground me."
"I can't ground you," Doc Daneeka mumbled. "How many times do
you have to be told?"
"Yes you can. Major Major told me you're the only one in the
squadron who can ground me."
Doc Daneeka was stunned. "Major Major told you that? When?"
"When I tackled him in the ditch."
"Major Major told you that? In a ditch?"
"He told me in his office after we left the ditch and jumped inside.
He told me not to tell anyone he told me, so don't start shooting your
mouth off."
"Why that dirty, scheming liar!" Doc Daneeka cried. "He wasn't
supposed to tell anyone. Did he tell you how 1 could ground you?"
"Just by filling out a little slip of paper saying I'm on the verge of a
nervous collapse and sending it to Group. Dr. Stubbs grounds men in
his squadron all the time, so why can't you?"
"And what happens to the men after Stubbs does ground them?"
Doc Daneeka retorted with a sneer. "They go right back on combat
status, don't they? And he finds himself right up the creek. Sure, I can
ground you by filling out a slip saying you're unfit to fly. But there's a
catch."
"Catch-22?"
"Sure. If I take you off combat duty, Group has to approve my
action, and Group isn't going to. They'll put you right back on combat
status, and then where will I be? On my way to the Pacific Ocean,
probably. No, thank you. I'm not going to take any chances for you."
"Isn't it worth a try?" Yossarian argued. "What's so hot about Pianosa?"
"Pianosa is terrible. But it's better than the Pacific Ocean. I wouldn't
mind being shipped someplace civilized where I might pick up a buck
or two in abortion money every now and then. But all they've got in
the Pacific is jungles and monsoons. I'd rot there."
"You're rotting here."
Doc Daneeka flared up angrily. "Yeah? Well, at least I'm going to
come out of this war alive, which is a lot more than you're going to do."
"That's just what I'm trying to tell you, goddammit. I'm asking you
to save my life."
"It's not my business to save lives," Doc Daneeka retorted sullenly.
"What is your business?"
"I don't know what my business is. All they ever told me was to
uphold the ethics of my profession and never give testimony against
another physician. Listen. You think you're the only one whose life is
in danger? What about me? Those two quacks I've got working for me
in the medical tent still can't find out what's wrong with me."
"Maybe it's Ewing's tumor," Yossarian muttered sarcastically.
"Do you really think so?" Doc Daneeka exclaimed with fright.
"Oh, I don't know," Yossarian answered impatiently. "I just know
I'm not going to fly any more missions. They wouldn't really shoot me,
would they? I've got fifty-one."
"Why don't you at least finish the fifty-five before you take a stand?"
Doc Daneeka advised. "With all your bitching, you've never finished a
tour of duty even once."
"How the hell can I? The colonel keeps raising them every time I
get close."
"You never finish your missions because you keep running into the
hospital or going off to Rome. You'd be in a much stronger position if
you had your fifty-five finished and then refused to fly. Then maybe I'd
see what I could do."
"Do you promise?"
"I promise."
"What do you promise?"
"I promise that maybe I'll think about doing something to help if
you finish your fifty-five missions and if you get McWatt to put my
name on his flight log again so that I can draw my flight pay without
going up in a plane. I'm afraid of airplanes. Did you read about that
airplane crash in Idaho three weeks ago? Six people killed. It was terrible.
I don't know why they want me to put in four hours' flight time
every month in order to get my flight pay. Don't I have enough to
worry about without worrying about being killed in an airplane crash
too?"
"I worry about airplane crashes also," Yossarian told him. "You're
not the only one."
"Yeah, but I'm also pretty worried about that Ewing's tumor," Doc
Daneeka boasted. "Do you think that's why my nose is stuffed all the
time and why I always feel so chilly? Take my pulse."
Yossarian also worried about Ewing's tumor and melanoma. Catastrophes
were lurking everywhere, too numerous to count. When he
contemplated the many diseases and potential accidents threatening
him, he was positively astounded that he had managed to survive in
good health for as long as he had. It was miraculous. Each day he faced
was another dangerous mission against mortality. And he had been
surviving them for twenty-eight years.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:08 pm

18. The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice

Yossarian owed his good health to exercise, fresh air, teamwork and
good sportsmanship; it was to get away from them all that he had
first discovered the hospital. When the physical-education officer at
Lowery Field ordered everyone to fall out for calisthenics one afternoon,
Yossarian, the private, reported instead at the dispensary with
what he said was a pain in his right side.
"Beat it," said the doctor on duty there, who was doing a crossword
puzzle.
"We can't tell him to beat it," said a corporal. "There's a new directive
out about abdominal complaints. We have to keep them under
observation five days because so many of them have been dying after
we make them beat it."
"All right," grumbled the doctor. "Keep him under observation five
days and then make him beat it."
They took Yossarian's clothes away and put him in a ward, where he
was very happy when no one was snoring nearby. In the morning a
helpful young English intern popped in to ask him about his liver.
"I think it's my appendix that's bothering me," Yossarian told him.
"Your appendix is no good," the Englishman declared with jaunty
authority. "If your appendix goes wrong, we can take it out and have
you back on active duty in almost no time at all. But come to us with a
liver complaint and you can fool us for weeks. The liver, you see, is a
large, ugly mystery to us. If you've ever eaten liver you know what
I mean. We're pretty sure today that the liver exists, and we have a
fairly good idea of what it does whenever it's doing what it's supposed
to be doing. Beyond that, we're really in the dark After all, what is a
liver? My father, for example, died of cancer of the liver and was never
sick a day of his life right up till the moment it killed him. Never felt a
twinge of pain. In a way, that was too bad, since I hated my father. Lust
for my mother, you know."
"What's an English medical officer doing on duty here?" Yossarian
wanted to know.
The officer laughed. "I'll tell you all about that when I see you
tomorrow morning. And throw that silly ice bag away before you die
of pneumonia."
Yossarian never saw him again. That was one of the nice things '
about all the doctors at the hospital; he never saw any of them a second
time. They came and went and simply disappeared. In place of the
English intern the next day, there arrived a group of doctors he had
never seen before to ask him about his appendix.
"There's nothing wrong with my appendix," Yossarian informed
them. "The doctor yesterday said it was my liver."
"Maybe it is his liver," replied the white-haired officer in charge.
"What does his blood count show?"
"lie hasn't had a blood count."
"Have one taken right away. We can't afford to take chances with a
patient in his condition. We've got to keep ourselves covered in case he
dies." He made a notation on his clipboard and spoke to Yossarian. "In
the meantime, keep that ice bag on. It's very important."
"I don't have an ice bag on."
"Well, get one. There must be an ice bag around here somewhere.
And let someone know if the pain becomes unendurable."
At the end of ten days, a new group of doctors came to Yossarian with
bad news: he was in perfect health and had to get out. He was rescued
in the nick of time by a patient across the aisle who began to see everything
twice. Without warning, the patient sat up in bed and shouted,
"I see everything twice!"
A nurse screamed and an orderly fainted. Doctors came running
up from every direction with needles, lights, tubes, rubber mallets and
oscillating metal tines. They rolled up complicated instruments on
wheels. There was not enough of the patient to go around, and specialists
pushed forward in line with raw tempers and snapped at their
colleagues in front to hurry up and give somebody else a chance. A
colonel with a large forehead and horn-rimmed glasses soon arrived at
a diagnosis.
"It's meningitis," he called out emphatically, waving the others back.
"Although Lord knows there's not the slightest reason for thinking so."
"Then why pick meningitis?" inquired a major with a suave chuckle.
"Why not, let's say, acute nephritis?"
"Because I'm a meningitis man, that's why, and not an acute nephritis
man," retorted the colonel. "And I'm not going to give him
up to any of your kidney birds without a struggle. I was here first."
In the end, the doctors were all in accord. They agreed they had no
idea what was wrong with the soldier who saw everything twice, and
they rolled him away into a room in the corridor and quarantined
everyone else in the ward for fourteen days.
Thanksgiving Day came and went without any fuss while Yossarian
was still in the hospital. The only bad thing about it was the turkey for
dinner, and even that was pretty good. It was the most rational
Thanksgiving he had ever spent, and he took a sacred oath to spend
every future Thanksgiving Day in the cloistered shelter of a hospital.
He broke his sacred oath the very next year, when he spent the holiday
in a hotel room instead in intellectual conversation with Lieutenant
Scheisskopf's wife, who had Dori Duz's dog tags on for the occasion
and who henpecked Yossarian sententiously for being cynical and callous
about Thanksgiving, even though she didn't believe in God just as
much as he didn't.
"I'm probably just as good an atheist as you are," she speculated
boastfully. "But even I feel that we all have a great deal to be thankful
for and that we shouldn't be ashamed to show it."
"Name one thing I've got to be thankful for," Yossarian challenged
her without interest.
"Well ... " Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife mused and paused a moment
to ponder dubiously. "Me."
"Oh, come on," he scoffed.
She arched her eyebrows in surprise. "Aren't you thankful for me?"
she asked. She frowned peevishly, her pride wounded. "I don't have to
shack up with you, you know," she told him with cold dignity. "My
husband has a whole squadron full of aviation cadets who would be
only too happy to shack up with their commanding officer's wife just
for the added fillip it would give them."
Yossarian decided to change. the subject. "Now you're changing the
subject," he pointed out diplomatically. "I'll bet I can name two things
to be miserable about for every one you can name to be thankful for."
"Be thankful you've got me," she insisted.
"I am, honey. But I'm also goddam good and miserable that I can't
have Dori Duz again, too. Or the hundreds of other girls and women
I'll see and want in my short lifetime and won't be able to go to bed
with even once."
"Be thankful you're healthy."
"Be bitter you're not going to stay that way."
"Be glad you're even alive."
"Be furious you're going to die."
"Things could be much worse," she cried.
"They could be one hell of a lot better," he answered heatedly.
"You're naming only one thing," she protested. "You said you could
name two."
"And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways," Yossarian continued,
hurtling on over her objection. "There's nothing so mysterious
about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten
all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about-a country
bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed.
Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being
who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth
decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running
through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed
old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in
the world did He ever create pain?"
"Pain?" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife pounced upon the word victoriously.
"Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily
dangers."
"And who created the dangers?" Yossarian demanded. He laughed
caustically. "Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us
pain! Why couldn't He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or
one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes
right in the middle of each person's forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer
worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn't He?"
"People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon
tubes in the middle of their foreheads."
"They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony or stupefied
with morphine, don't they? What a colossal, immortal blunderer!
When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a
job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead,
His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It's obvious He never
met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler
like Him as even a shipping clerk!"
Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife had turned ashen in disbelief and was
ogling him with alarm. "You'd better not talk that way about Him,
honey," she warned him reprovingly in a low and hostile voice. "He
might punish you."
"Isn't He punishing me enough?" Yossarian snorted resentfully.
"You know, we mustn't let Him get away with it. Oh no, we certainly
mustn't let Him get away scot-free for all the sorrow He's caused us.
Someday I'm going to make Him pay. I know when. On the Judgment
Day. Yes, that's the day I'll be close enough to reach out and grab that
little yokel by His neck and-"
"Stop it! Stop it!" Lieutenant Scheisskopfs wife screamed suddenly,
and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists.
"Stop it!"
Yossarian ducked behind his arm for protection while she slammed
away at him in feminine fury for a few seconds, and then he caught her
determinedly by the wrists and forced her 'gently back down on the
bed. "What the hell are you getting so upset about?" he asked her
bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. "I thought you didn't
believe in God."
"I don't," she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. "But the God I
don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the
mean and stupid God you make Him out to be."
Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose. "Let's have a little
more religious freedom between us," he proposed obligingly. "You
don't believe in the God you want to, and I won't believe in the God I
want to. Is that a deal?" ,
That was the most illogical Thanksgiving he could ever remember
spending, and his thoughts returned wishfully to his halcyon fourteen-day
quarantine in the hospital the year before; but even that idyll had
ended on a tragic note: he was still in good health when the quarantine
period was over, and they told him again that he had to get out and go to
war. Yossarian sat up in bed when he heard the bad news and shouted,
"I see everything twice!"
Pandemonium broke loose in the ward again. The specialists came
running up from all directions and ringed him in a circle of scrutiny so
confining that he could feel the humid breath from their various noses
blowing uncomfortably upon the different sectors of his body. They
went snooping into his eyes and ears with tiny beams of light, assaulted
his legs and feet with rubber hammers and vibrating forks, drew blood
from his veins, held anything handy up for him to see on the periphery
of his vision.
The leader of this team of doctors was a dignified, solicitous gentleman
who held one finger up directly in front of Yossarian and
demanded, "How many fingers do you see?"
"Two," said Yossarian.
"How many fingers do you see now?" asked the doctor, holding up two.
"Two," said Yossarian.
"And how many now?" asked the doctor, holding up none.
"Two," said Yossarian.
The doctor's face wreathed with a smile. "By Jove, he's right," he
declared jubilantly. "He does see everything twice."
They rolled Yossarian away on a stretcher into the room with the
other soldier who saw everything twice and quarantined everyone else
in the ward for another fourteen days.
"I see everything twice!" the soldier who saw everything twice
shouted when they rolled Yossarian in.
"I see everything twice!" Yossarian shouted back at him just as
loudly, with a secret wink.
"The walls! The walls!" the other soldier cried. "Move back the
walls!"
"The walls! The walls!" Yossarian cried. "Move back the walls!"
One of the doctors pretended to shove the wall back. "Is that far
enough?" .
The soldier who saw everything twice nodded weakly and sank back
on his bed. Yossarian nodded weakly too, eyeing his talented roommate
with great humility and admiration. He knew he was in the presence of
a master. His talented roommate was obviously a person to be studied
and emulated. During the night, his talented roommate died, and
Yossarian decided that he had followed him far enough.
"I see everything once!" he cried quickly.
A new group of specialists came pounding up to his bedside with
their instruments to find out if it was true.
"How many fingers do you see?" asked the leader, holding up one.
"One."
The doctor held up two fingers. "How many fingers do you see
now?"
"One."
The doctor held up ten fingers. "And how many now?"
"One."
The doctor turned to the other doctors with amazement. "He does
see everything once!" he exclaimed. "We made him all better."
"And just in time, too," announced the doctor with whom Yossarian
next found himself alone, a tall, torpedo-shaped congenial man with an
unshaven growth of brown beard and a pack of cigarettes in his shirt
pocket that he chain-smoked insouciantly as he leaned against the wall.
"There are some relatives here to see you. Oh, don't worry," he added
with a laugh. "Not your relatives. It's the mother, father and brother of
that chap who died. They've traveled all the way from New York to see
a dying soldier, and you're the handiest one we've got."
"What are you talking about?" Yossarian asked suspiciously. "I'm
not dying."
"Of course you're dying. We're all dying. Where the devil else do
you think you're heading?"
"They didn't come to see me," Yossarian objected. "They came to
see their son."
"They'll have to take what they can get. As far as we're concerned,
one dying boy is just as good as any other, or just as bad. To a scientist,
all dying boys are equal. I have a proposition for you. You let them
come in and look you over for a few minutes and I won't tell anyone
you've been lying about your liver symptoms."
Yossarian drew back from him farther. "You know about that?"
"Of course I do. Give us some credit." The doctor chuckled amiably
and lit another cigarette. "How do you expect anyone to believe you
have a liver condition if you keep squeezing the nurses' tits every time
you get a chance? You're going to have to give up sex if you want to
convince people you've got an ailing liver."
"That's a hell of a price to pay just to keep alive. Why didn't you
turn me in if you knew I was faking?"
"Why the devil should I?" asked the doctor with a flicker of surprise.
"We're all in this business of illusion together. I'm always willing
to lend a helping hand to a fellow conspirator along the road to survival
if he's willing to do the same for me. These people have come a
long way, and I'd rather not disappoint them. I'm sentimental about
old people."
"But they came to see their son."
"They came too late. Maybe they won't even notice the difference."
"Suppose they start crying."
"They probably will start crying. That's one of the reasons they
came. I'll listen outside the door and break it up if it starts getting
tacky."
"It all sounds a bit crazy," Yossarian reflected. "What do they want
to watch their son die for, anyway?"
"I've never been able to figure that one out," the doctor admitted,
"but they always do. Well, what do you say? All you've got to do is lie
there a few minutes and die a little. Is that asking so much?"
"All right," Yossarian gave in. "If it's just for a few minutes and you
promise to wait right outside." He warmed to his role. "Say, why don't
you wrap a bandage around me for effect?"
"That sounds like a splendid idea," applauded the doctor.
They wrapped a batch of bandages around Yossarian. A team of
medical orderlies installed tan shades on each of the two windows and
lowered them to douse the room in depressing shadows. Yossarian suggested
flowers, and the doctor sent an orderly out to find two small
bunches of fading ones with a strong and sickening smell. When everything
was in place, they made Yossarian get back into bed and lie down.
Then they admitted the visitors.
The visitors entered uncertainly as though they felt they were intruding,
tiptoeing in with stares of meek apology, first the grieving mother
and father, then the brother, a glowering heavy-set sailor with a deep
chest. The man and woman stepped into the room stiffly side by side as
though right out of a familiar, though esoteric, anniversary daguerreotype
on a wall. They were both short, sere and proud. They seemed
made of iron and old, dark clothing. The woman had a long, brooding,
oval face of burnt umber, with coarse graying black hair parted severely
in the middle and combed back austerely behind her neck without curl,
wave or ornamentation. Her mouth was sullen and sad, her lined lips
compressed. The father stood very rigid and quaint in a double-breasted
suit with padded shoulders that were much too tight for him. He was
broad and muscular on a small scale and had a magnificently curled silver
mustache on his crinkled face. His eyes were creased and rheumy,
and he appeared tragically ill at ease as he stood awkwardly with the brim
of his black felt fedora held in his two brawny laborer's hands out in front
of his wide lapels. Poverty and hard work had inflicted iniquitous damage
on both. The brother was looking for a fight. His round white cap
was cocked at an insolent tilt, his hands were clenched, and he glared at
everything in the room with a scowl of injured truculence.
The three creaked forward timidly, holding themselves close to each
other in a stealthy, funereal group and inching forward almost in step,
until they arrived at the side of the bed and stood staring down at
Yossarian. There was a gruesome and excruciating silence that threatened
to endure forever. Finally Yossarian was unable to bear it any
longer and cleared his throat. The old man spoke at last.
"He looks terrible," he said.
"He's sick, Pa."
"Giuseppe," said the mother, who had seated herself in a chair with
her veiny fingers clasped in her lap.
"My name is Yossarian," Yossarian said.
"His name is Yossarian, Ma. Yossarian, don't you recognize me? I'm
your brother John. Don't you know who I am?"
"Sure I do. You're my brother John."
"He does recognize me! Pa, he knows who I am. Yossarian, here's
Papa. Say hello to Papa."
"Hello, Papa," said Yossarian.
"Hello, Giuseppe."
"His name is Yossarian, Pa."
"I can't get over how terrible he looks," the father said.
"He's very sick, Pa. The doctor says he's going to die."
"I didn't know whether to believe the doctor or not," the father said.
"You know how crooked those guys are."
"Giuseppe," the mother said again, in a soft, broken chord of muted
anguish.
"His name is Yossarian, Ma. She don't remember things too good
any more. How're they treating you in here, kid? They treating you
pretty good?"
"Pretty good," Yossarian told him ..
"That's good. Just don't let anybody in here push you around.
You're just as good as anybody else in here even though you are Italian.
You've got rights, too."
Yossarian winced and closed his eyes so that he would not have to
look at his brother John. He began to feel sick.
"Now see how terrible he looks," the father observed.
"Giuseppe," the mother said.
"Ma, his name is Yossarian," the brother interrupted her impatiently.
"Can't you remember?"
"It's all right," Yossarian interrupted him. "She can call me Giuseppe
if she wants to."
"Giuseppe," she said to him.
"Don't worry, Yossarian," the brother said. "Everything is going to
be all right."
"Don't worry, Ma," Yossarian said. "Everything is going to be all
right."
"Did you have a priest?" the brother wanted to know.
"Yes," Yossarian lied, wincing again.
"That's good," the brother decided. "Just as long as you're getting
everything you've got coming to you. We came all the way from New
York. We were afraid we wouldn't get here in time."
"In time for what?"
"In time to see you before you died."
"What difference would it make?"
"We didn't want you to die by yourself."
"What difference would it make?"
"He must be getting delirious," the brother said. "He keeps saying
the same thing over and over again."
"That's really very funny," the old man replied. "All the time I
thought his name was Giuseppe, and now I find out his name is Yossarian.
That's really very funny."
"Ma, make him feel good," the brother urged. "Say something to
cheer him up."
"Giuseppe."
"It's not Giuseppe, Ma. It's Yossarian."
"What difference does it make?" the mother answered in the same
mourning tone, without looking up. "He's dying."
Her tumid eyes filled with tears and she began to cry, rocking back and
forth slowly in her chair with her hands lying in her lap like fallen moths.
Yossarian was afraid she would start wailing. The father and brother
began crying also. Yossarian remembered suddenly why they were all crying,
and he began crying too. A doctor Yossarian had never seen before
stepped inside the room and told the visitors courteously that they had to
go. The father drew himself up formally to say goodbye.
"Giuseppe," he began.
"Yossarian," corrected the son.
"Yossarian," said the father.
"Giuseppe," corrected Yossarian.
"Soon you're going to die."
Yossarian began to cry again. The doctor threw him a dirty look
from the rear of the room, and Yossarian made himself stop.
The father continued solemnly with his head lowered. "When you
talk to the man upstairs," he said, "I want you to tell Him something
for me. Tell Him it ain't right for people to die when they're young. I
mean it. Tell Him if they got to die at all, they got to die when they're
old. I want you to tell Him that. I don't think He knows it ain't right,
because He's supposed to be good and it's been going on for a long,
long time. Okay?"
"And don't let anybody up there push you around," the brother
advised. "You'll be just as good as anybody else in heaven, even though
you are Italian."
"Dress warm," said the mother, who seemed to know.
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