39. The Eternal City
Yossarian was going absent without official leave with Milo, who, as the
plane cruised toward Rome, shook his head reproachfully and, with
pious lips pursed, informed Yossarian in ecclesiastical tones that he was
ashamed of him. Yossarian nodded. Yossarian was making an uncouth
spectacle of himself by walking around backward with his gun on his
hip and refusing to fly more combat missions, Milo said. Yossarian
nodded. It was disloyal to his squadron and embarrassing to his superiors.
He was placing Milo in a very uncomfortable position, too.
Yossarian nodded again. The men were starting to grumble. It was not
fair for Yossarian to think only of his own safety while men like Milo,
Colonel Cathcart, Colonel Korn and ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen were willing
to do everything they could to win the war. The men with seventy
missions were starting to grumble because they had to fly eighty, and
there was a danger some of them might put on guns and begin walking
around backward, too. Morale was deteriorating and it was all
Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional
rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise
Yossarian kept nodding in the co-pilot's seat and tried not to listen as
Milo prattled on. Nately's whore was on his mind, as were Kraft and
Orr and Nately and Dunbar, and Kid Sampson and McWatt, and all the
poor and stupid and diseased people he had seen in Italy, Egypt and
North Africa and knew about in other areas of the world, and Snowden
and Nately's whore's kid sister were on his conscience, too. Yossarian
thought he knew why Nately's whore held him responsible for Nately's
death and wanted to kill him. Why the hell shouldn't she? It was a man's.
world, and she and everyone younger had every right to blame him and
everyone older for every unnatural tragedy that befell them; just as she,
even in her grief, was to blame for every man-made misery that landed
on her kid sister and on all other children behind her. Someone had to
do something sometime. Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim,
and somebody had to stand up sometime to try to break the lousy
chain of inherited habit that was imperiling them all. In parts of Africa
little boys were still stolen away by adult slave traders and sold for
money to men who disemboweled them and ate them. Yossarian marveled
that children could suffer such barbaric sacrifice without evincing
the slightest hint of fear or pain. He took it for granted that they
did submit so stoically. If not, he reasoned, the custom would certainly
have died, for no craving for wealth or immortality could be so great,
he felt, as to subsist on the sorrow of children.
He was rocking the boat, Milo said, and Yossarian nodded once
more. He was not a good member of the team, Milo said. Yossarian
nodded and listened to Milo tell him that the decent thing to do if he
did not like the way Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn were running
the group was go to Russia, instead of stirring up trouble. Yossarian
refrained from pointing out that Colonel Cathcart, Colonel Korn and
Milo could all go to Russia if they did not like the way he was stirring
up trouble. Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn had both been very
good to Yossarian, Milo said; hadn't they given him a medal after the
last mission to Ferrara and promoted him to captain? Yossarian nodded.
Didn't they feed him and give him his pay every month? Yossarian
nodded again. Milo was sure they would be charitable if he went to
them to apologize and recant and promised to fly eighty missions.
Yossarian said he would think it over, and held his breath and prayed
for a safe landing as Milo dropped his wheels and glided in toward the
runway. It was funny how he had really come to detest flying.
Rome was in ruins, he saw, when the plane was down. The airdrome
had been bombed. eight months before, and knobby slabs of white
stone rubble had been bulldozed into flat-topped heaps on both sides
of the entrance through the wire fence surrounding the field. The Colosseum
was a dilapidated shell, and the Arch of Constantine had fallen.
Nately's whore's apartment was a shambles. The girls were gone, and
the only one there was the old woman. The windows in the apartment
had been smashed. She was bundled up in sweaters and skirts and wore
a dark shawl about her head. She sat on a wooden chair near an electric
hot plate, her arms folded, boiling water in a battered aluminum pot.
She was talking aloud. to herself when Yossarian entered and began
moaning as soon as she saw him.
"Gone," she moaned before he could even inquire. Holding her
elbows, she rocked back and forth mournfully on her creaking chair.
"All. All the poor young girls."
"Away. Chased away into the street. All of them gone. All the poor
"Chased away by who? Who did it?"
"The mean tall soldiers with the hard white hats and clubs. And by
our carabinieri. They came with their clubs and chased them away.
They would not even let them take their coats. The poor things. They
just chased them away into the cold."
"Did they arrest them?"
"They chased them away. They just chased them away."
"Then why did they do it if they didn't arrest them?"
"I don't know," sobbed the old woman. "I don't know. Who will take
care of me? Who will take care of me now that all the poor young girls
are gone. Who will take care of me?"
"There must have been a reason," Yossarian persisted, pounding his
fist into his hand. "They couldn't just barge in here and chase everyone
"No reason," wailed the old woman. "No reason."
"What right did they have?"
"What?" Yossarian froze in his tracks with fear and alarm and felt his
whole body begin to tingle. "What did you say?"
"Catch-22," the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and
down. "Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we
can't stop them from doing."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Yossarian shouted at her in
bewildered, furious protest. "How did you know it was Catch-22?
Who the hell told you it was Catch-22?"
"The soldiers with the hard white hats and clubs. The girls were
crying. 'Did we do anything wrong?' they said. The men said no and
pushed them away out the door with the ends of their clubs. 'Then
why are you chasing us out?' the girls said. 'Catch-22,' the men said.
'What right do you have?' the girls said. 'Catch-22,' the men said. All
they kept saying was 'Catch-22, Catch-22.' What does it mean, Catch-
22? What is Catch-22?"
"Didn't they show it to you?" Yossarian demanded, stamping about
in anger and distress. "Didn't you even make them read it?"
"They don't have to show us Catch-22," the old woman answered.
"The law says they don't have to."
"What law says they don't have to?"
"Oh, God damn!" Yossarian exclaimed bitterly. "I bet it wasn't even
really there." He stopped walking and glanced about the room disconsolately.
"Where's the old man?"
"Gone," mourned the old woman.
"Dead," the old woman told him, nodding in emphatic lament,
pointing to her head with the flat of her hand. "Something broke in
here. One minute he was living, one minute he was dead."
"But he can't be dead!" Yossarian cried, ready to argue insistently.
But of course he knew it was true, knew it was logical and true: once
again the old man had marched along with the majority.
Yossarian turned away and trudged through the apartment with a
gloomy scowl, peering with pessimistic curiosity into all the rooms.
Everything made of glass had been smashed by the men with the clubs.
Torn drapes and bedding lay dumped on the floor. Chairs, tables and
dressers had been overturned. Everything breakable had been broken.
The destruction was total. No wild vandals could have been more
thorough. Every window was smashed, and darkness poured like inky
clouds into each room through the shattered panes. Yossarian could
imagine the heavy, crashing footfalls of the tall M.P.s in the hard white
hats. He could picture the fiery and malicious exhilaration with which
they had made their wreckage, and their sanctimonious, ruthless sense
of right and dedication. All the poor young girls were gone. Everyone
was gone but the weeping old woman in the bulky brown and gray
sweaters and black head shawl, and soon she too would be gone.
"Gone," she grieved, when he walked back in, before he could even
speak. "Who will take care of me now?"
Yossarian ignored the question. "Nately's girl friend-did anyone
hear from her?" he asked. I
"I know she's gone. But did anyone hear from her? Does anyone
know where she is?"
"The little sister. What happened to her?"
"Gone." The old woman's tone had not changed.
"Do you know what I'm talking about?" Yossarian asked sharply,
staring into her eyes to see if she were not speaking to him from a coma.
He raised his voice. "What happened to the kid sister, to the little girl?"
"Gone, gone," the old woman replied with a crabby shrug, irritated
by his persistence, her low wail growing louder. "Chased away with the
rest, chased away into the street. They would not even let her take her
"Where did she go?"
"I don't know. I don't know."
"Who will take care of her?"
"Who will take care of me?"
"She doesn't know anybody else, does she?"
"Who will take care of me?"
Yossarian left money in the old woman's lap-it was odd how many
wrongs leaving money seemed to right-and strode out of the apartment,
cursing Catch-22 vehemently as he descended the stairs, even
though he knew there was no such thing. Catch-22 did not exist, he
was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was
that everyone thought it existed, and that was much worse, for there
was no object or text to ridicule or refute, to accuse, criticize, attack,
amend, hate, revile, spit at, rip to shreds, trample upon or burn up.
It was cold outside, and dark, and a leaky, insipid mist lay swollen in
the air and trickled down the large, unpolished stone blocks of the
houses and the pedestals of monuments. Yossarian hurried back to
Milo and recanted. He said he was sorry and, knowing he was lying,
promised to fly as many more missions as Colonel Cathcart wanted if
Milo would only use all his influence in Rome to help him locate
Nately's whore's kid sister.
"She's just a twelve-year-old virgin, Milo," he explained anxiously,
"and I want to find her before it's too late."
Milo responded to his request with a benign smile. "I've got just the
twelve-year-old virgin you're looking for," he announced jubilantly.
"This twelve-year-old virgin is really only thirty-four, but she was
brought up on a low-protein diet by very strict parents and didn't start
sleeping with men until-"
"Milo, I'm talking about a little girl!" Yossarian interrupted him
with desperate impatience. "Don't you understand? I don't want to
sleep with her. I want to help her. You've got daughters. She's just a little
kid, and she's all alone in this city with no one to take care of her. I
want to protect her from harm. Don't .you know what I'm talking
Milo did understand and was deeply touched. "Yossarian, I'm proud
of you," he exclaimed with profound emotion. "I really am. You don't
know how glad I am to see that everything isn't always just sex with
you. You've got principles. Certainly I've got daughters, and I know
exactly what you're talking about. We'll find that girl. Don't you worry.
You come with me and we'll find that girl if we have to turn this whole
city upside down. Come along."
Yossarian went along in Milo Minderbinder's speeding M & M staff
car to police headquarters to meet a swarthy, untidy police commissioner
with a narrow black mustache and unbuttoned tunic who was fiddling
with a stout woman with warts and two chins when they entered
his office and who greeted Milo with warm surprise and bowed and
scraped in obscene servility as though Milo were some elegant marquis.
"Ah, Marchese Milo," he declared with effusive pleasure, pushing
the fat, disgruntled woman out the door without even looking toward
her. "Why didn't you tell me you were coming? I would have a big
party for you. Come in, come in, Marchese. You almost never visit us
Milo knew that there was not one moment to waste. "Hello, Luigi/
he said, nodding so briskly that he almost seemed rude. "Luigi, I need
your help. My friend here wants to find a girl."
"A girl, Marchese?" said Luigi, scratching his face pensively. "There
are lots of girls in Rome. For an American officer, a girl should not be
"No, Luigi, you don't understand. This is a twelve-year-old virgin
that he has to find right away."
"Ah, yes, now I understand," Luigi said sagaciously. "A virgin might
take a little time. But if he waits at the bus terminal where the young
farm girls looking for work arrive, I-"
"Luigi, you still don't understand," Milo snapped with such brusque
impatience that the police commissioner's face flushed and he jumped
to attention and began buttoning his uniform in confusion. "This girl
is a friend, an old friend of the family, and we want to help her. She's
only a child. She's all alone in this city somewhere, and we have to find
her before somebody harms her. Now do you understand? Luigi, this
is very important to me. I have a daughter the same age as that little
girl, and nothing in the world means more to me right now than saving
that poor child before it's too late. Will you help?"
"Si, Marchese, now I understand," said Luigi. "And I will do everything
in my power to find her. But tonight I have almost no men.
Tonight all my men are busy trying to break up the traffic in illegal
"Illegal tobacco?" asked Milo.
"Milo," Yossarian bleated faintly with a sinking heart, sensing at
once that all was lost.
"Si, Marchese," said Luigi. "The profit in illegal tobacco is so high
that the smuggling is almost impossible to control."
"Is there really that much profit in illegal tobacco?" Milo inquired
with keen interest, his rust-colored eyebrows arching avidly and his
"Milo," Yossarian called to him. "Pay attention to me, will you?"
"Si, Marchese," Luigi answered. "The profit in illegal tobacco is
very high. The smuggling is a national scandal, Marchese, truly a
"Is that a fact?" Milo observed with a preoccupied smile and started
toward the door as though in a spell.
"Milo!" Yossarian yelled, and bounded forward impulsively to intercept
him. "Milo, you've got to help me."
"Illegal tobacco," Milo explained to him with a look of epileptic lust,
struggling doggedly to get by. "Let me go. I've got to smuggle illegal
"Stay here and help me find her," pleaded Yossarian. "You can
smuggle illegal tobacco tomorrow."
But Milo was deaf and kept pushing forward, nonviolently but irresistibly,
sweating, his eyes, as though he were in the grip of a blind fixation,
burning feverishly, and his twitching mouth slavering. He
moaned calmly as though in remote, instinctive distress and kept
repeating, "Illegal tobacco, illegal tobacco." Yossarian stepped out of
the way with resignation finally when he saw it was hopeless to try to
reason with him. Milo was gone like a shot. The commissioner of
police unbuttoned his tunic again and looked at Yossarian with contempt.
"What do you want here?'? he asked coldly. "Do you want me to
Yossarian walked out of the office and down the stairs into the dark,
tomblike street, passing in the hall the stout woman with warts and two
chins, who was already on her way back in. There was no sign of Milo
outside. There were no lights in any of the windows. The deserted
sidewalk rose steeply and continuously for several blocks. He could see
the glare of a broad avenue at the top of the long cobblestone incline.
The police station was almost at the bottom; the yellow bulbs at the
entrance sizzled in the dampness like wet torches. A frigid, fine rain
was falling. He began walking slowly, pushing uphill. Soon he came to
a quiet, cozy, inviting restaurant with red velvet drapes in the windows
and a blue neon sign near the door that said: TONY'S RESTAURANT. FINE
FOOD AND DRINK. KEEP OUT. The words on the blue neon sign surprised
him mildly for only an instant. Nothing warped seemed bizarre
any more in his strange, distorted surroundings. The tops of the sheer
buildings slanted in weird, surrealistic perspective, and the street
seemed tilted. He raised the collar of his warm woolen coat and
hugged it around him. The night was raw. A boy in a thin shirt and thin
tattered trousers walked out of the darkness on bare feet. The boy had
black hair and needed a haircut and shoes and socks. His sickly face was
pale and sad. His feet made grisly, soft, sucking sounds in the rain puddles
on the wet pavement as he passed, and Yossarian was moved by
such intense pity for his poverty that he wanted to smash his pale, sad,
sickly face with his fist and knock him out of existence because he
brought to mind all the pale, sad, sickly children in Italy that same
night who needed haircuts and needed shoes and socks. He made
Yossarian think of cripples and of cold and hungry men and women;
and of all the dumb, passive, devout mothers with catatonic eyes nursing
infants outdoors that same night with chilled animal udders bared
insensibly to that same raw rain. Cows. Almost on cue, a nursing
mother padded past holding an infant in black rags, and Yossarian
wanted to smash her too, because she reminded him of the barefoot
boy in the thin shirt and thin, tattered trousers and of all the shivering,
stupefying misery in a world that never yet had provided enough heat
and food and justice for all but an ingenious and unscrupulous handful.
What a lousy earth! He wondered how many people were destitute
that same night even in his own prosperous country, how many homes
were shanties, how many husbands were drunk and wives socked, and
how many children were bullied, abused or abandoned. How many
families hungered for food they could not afford to buy? How many
hearts were broken? How many suicides would take place that same
night, how many people would go insane? How many cockroaches and
landlords would triumph? How many winners were losers, successes
failures, rich men poor men? How many wise guys were stupid? How
many happy endings were unhappy endings? How many honest men
were liars, brave men cowards, loyal men traitors, how many sainted
men were corrupt, how many people in positions of trust had sold their
souls to blackguards for petty cash, how many had never had souls?
How many straight-and-narrow paths were crooked paths? How many
best families were worst families and how many good people were bad
people? When you added them all up and then subtracted, you might
be left with only the children, and perhaps with Albert Einstein and an
old violinist or sculptor somewhere. Yossarian walked in lonely torture,
feeling estranged, and could not wipe from his mind the excruciating
image of the barefoot boy with sickly cheeks until he turned the corner
into the avenue finally and came upon an Allied soldier having convulsions
on the ground, a young lieutenant with a small, pale, boyish
face. Six other soldiers from different countries wrestled with different
parts of him, striving to help him and hold him still. He yelped and
groaned unintelligibly through clenched teeth, his eyes rolled up into
his head. "Don't let him bite his tongue off," a short sergeant near
Yossarian advised shrewdly, and a seventh man threw himself into the
fray to wrestle with the ill lieutenant's face. All at once the wrestlers
won and turned to each other undecidedly, for now that they held the
young lieutenant rigid they did not know what to do with him. A
quiver of moronic panic spread from one straining brute face to another.
"Why don't you lift him up and put him on the hood of that
car?" a corporal standing in back of Yossarian drawled. That seemed to
make sense, so the seven men lifted the young lieutenant up and
stretched him out carefully on the hood of a parked car, still pinning
each struggling part of him down. Once they had him stretched out on
the hood of the parked car, they stared at each other uneasily again, for
they had no idea what to do with him next. "Why don't you lift him up
off the hood of that car and lay him down on the ground?" drawled the
same corporal behind Yossarian. That seemed like a good idea, too,
and they began to move him back to the sidewalk, but before they
could finish, a jeep raced up with a flashing red spotlight at the side and
two military policemen in the front seat.
"What's going on?" the driver yelled.
"He's having convulsions," one of the men grappling with one of the
young lieutenant's limbs answered. "We're holding him still."
"That's good. He's under arrest."
"What should we do with him?"
"Keep him under arrest!" the M.P. shouted, doubling over with raucous
laughter at his jest, and sped away ill' his jeep.
Yossarian recalled that he had no leave papers and moved prudently
past the strange group toward the sound of muffled voices emanating
from a distance inside the murky darkness ahead. The broad, rain-blotched
boulevard was illuminated every half-block by short, curling
lampposts with eerie, shimmering glares surrounded by smoky brown
mist. From a window overhead he heard an unhappy female voice
pleading, "Please don't. Please don't." A despondent young woman
in a black raincoat with much black hair on her face passed with her
eyes lowered. At the Ministry of Public Affairs on the next block, a
drunken lady was backed up against one of the fluted Corinthian
columns by a drunken young soldier, while three drunken comrades in
arms sat watching nearby on the steps with wine bottles scantling
between their legs. "Pleeshe don't," begged the drunken lady. "I want
to go home now. Pleeshe don't." One of the three sitting men cursed
pugnaciously and hurled a wine bottle down at Yossarian when he
turned to look up. The bottle shattered harmlessly far away with a brief
and muted noise. Yossarian continued walking away at the same listless,
unhurried pace, hands buried in his pockets. "Come on, baby," he
heard the drunken soldier urge determinedly. "Its my turn now."
"Pleeshe don't," begged the drunken lady. "Pleeshe don't." At the very
next comer, deep inside the dense, impenetrable shadows of a narrow,
winding side street, he heard the mysterious, unmistakable sound of
someone shoveling snow. The measured, labored, evocative scrape of
iron shovel against concrete made his flesh crawl with terror as he
stepped from the curb to cross the ominous alley and hurried onward
until the haunting, incongruous noise had been left behind. Now he
knew where he was; soon, if he continued without turning, he would
come to the dry fountain in the middle of the boulevard, then to the
officers' apartment seven blocks beyond. He heard snarling, inhuman
voices cutting through the ghostly blackness in front suddenly. The
bulb on the comer lamppost had died, spilling gloom over half the
street, throwing everything visible off balance. On the other side of the
intersection, a man was beating a dog with a stick like the man who was
beating the horse with a whip in Raskolnikov's dream. Yossarian
strained helplessly not to see or hear. The dog whimpered and
squealed in brute, dumbfounded hysteria at the end of an old Manila
rope and groveled and crawled on its belly without resisting, but the
man beat it and beat it anyway with his heavy, flat stick. A small crowd
watched. A squat woman stepped out and asked him please to stop.
"Mind your own business," the man barked gruffly, lifting his stick as
though he might beat her too, and the woman retreated sheepishly
with an abject and humiliated air. Yossarian quickened his pace to get
away, almost ran. The night was filled with horrors, and he thought he
knew how Christ must have felt as he walked through the world, like a
psychiatrist through a ward full of nuts, like a victim through a prison
full of thieves. What a welcome sight a leper must have been! At the
next corner a man was beating a small boy brutally in the midst of an
immobile crowd of adult spectators who made no effort to intervene.
Yossarian recoiled with sickening recognition. He was certain he had
witnessed that same horrible scene sometime before. Deja vu? The sinister
coincidence shook him and filled him with doubt and dread. It
was the same scene he had witnessed a block before, although everything
in it seemed quite different. What in the world was happening?
Would a squat woman step out and ask the man to please stop? Would
he raise his hand to strike her and would she retreat? Nobody moved.
The child cried steadily as though in drugged misery. The man kept
knocking him down with hard, resounding open-palm blows to the
head, then jerking him up to his feet in order to knock him down again.
No one in the sullen, cowering crowd seemed to care enough about
the stunned and beaten boy to interfere. The child was no more than
nine. One drab woman was weeping silently into a dirty dish towel.
The boy was emaciated and needed a haircut. Bright-red blood was
streaming from both ears. Yossarian crossed quickly to the other side
of the immense avenue to escape the nauseating sight and found
himself walking on human teeth lying on the drenched, glistening
pavement near splotches of blood kept sticky by the pelting raindrops
poking each one like sharp fingernails. Molars and broken incisors Jay
scattered everywhere. He circled on tiptoe the grotesque debris and
came near a doorway containing a crying soldier holding a saturated
handkerchief to his mouth, supported as he sagged by two other soldiers
waiting in grave impatience for the military ambulance that·
finally came clanging up with amber fog lights on and passed them by
for an altercation on the next block between a single civilian Italian
with books and a slew of civilian policemen with arm-locks and clubs.
The screaming, struggling civilian was a dark man with a face white as
flour from fear. His eyes were pulsating in hectic desperation, flapping
like bat's wings, as the many tall policemen seized him by the arms and
legs and lifted him up. His books were spilled on the ground. "Help!"
he shrieked shrilly in a voice strangling in its own emotion, as the
policemen carried him to the open doors in the rear of the ambulance
and threw him inside. "Police! Help! Police!" The doors were shut and
bolted, and the ambulance raced away. There was a humorless irony in
the ludicrous panic of the man screaming for help to the police while
policemen were all around him. Yossarian smiled wryly at the futile and
ridiculous cry for aid, then saw with a start that the words were
ambiguous, realized with alarm that they were not, perhaps, intended
as a call for police but as a heroic warning from the grave by a doomed
friend to everyone who was not a policeman with a club and a gun and
a mob of other policemen with clubs and guns to back him up. "Help!
Police!" the man had cried, and he could have been shouting of danger.
Yossarian responded to the thought by slipping away stealthily
from the police and almost tripped over the feet of a burly woman of
forty hastening across the intersection guiltily, darting furtive, vindictive
glances behind her toward a woman of eighty with thick, bandaged
ankles doddering after her in a losing pursuit. The old woman was
gasping for breath as she minced along and muttering to herself in distracted
agitation. There was no mistaking the nature of the scene; it
was a chase. The triumphant first woman was halfway across the wide
avenue before the second woman reached the curb. The nasty, small,
gloating smile with which she glanced back at the laboring old woman
was both wicked and apprehensive. Yossarian knew he could help the
troubled old woman if she would only cry out, knew he could spring
forward and capture the sturdy first woman and hold her for the mob
. of policemen nearby if the second woman would only give him license
with a shriek of distress. But the old woman passed by without even
seeing him, mumbling in terrible, tragic vexation, and soon the first
woman had vanished into the deepening layers of darkness and the old
woman was left standing helplessly in the center of the thoroughfare,
dazed, uncertain which way to proceed, alone. Yossarian tore his eyes
from her and hurried away in shame because he had done nothing to
assist her. He darted furtive, guilty glances back as he fled in defeat,
afraid the old woman might now start following him, and he welcomed
the concealing shelter of the drizzling, drifting, lightless, nearly
opaque gloom. Mobs ... mobs of policemen-everything but England
was in the hands of mobs, mobs, mobs. Mobs with clubs were in control
The surface of the collar and shoulders of Yossarian's coat was
soaked. His socks were wet and cold. The light on the next lamppost
was out, too, the glass globe broken. Buildings and featureless shapes
flowed by him noiselessly as though borne past immutably on the surface
of some rank and timeless tide. A tall monk passed, his face buried
entirely inside a coarse gray cowl, even the eyes hidden. Footsteps
sloshed toward him steadily through a puddle, and he feared it would
be another barefoot child. He brushed by a gaunt, cadaverous, tristful
man in a black raincoat with a star-shaped scar in his cheek and a glossy
mutilated depression the size of an egg in one temple. On squishing
straw sandals, a young woman materialized with her whole face disfigured
by a God-awful pink and piebald burn that started on her neck and
stretched in a raw, corrugated mass up both cheeks past her eyes!
Yossarian could not bear to look, and shuddered. No one would ever
love her. His spirit was sick; he longed to lie down with some girl he
could love who would soothe and excite him and put him to sleep. A
mob with a club was waiting for him in Pianosa. The girls were all gone.
The countess and her daughter-in-law were no longer good enough; he
had grown too old for fun, he no longer had the time. Luciana was
gone, dead, probably; if not yet then soon enough. Aarfy's buxom trollop
had vanished with her smutty cameo ring, and Nurse Duckett was
ashamed of him because he had refused to fly more combat missions
and would cause a scandal. The only girl he knew nearby was the plain
maid in the officers' apartment, whom none of the men had ever slept
with. Her name was Michaela, but the men called her filthy things in
dulcet, ingratiating voices, and she giggled with childish joy because she
understood no English and thought they were flattering her and making
harmless jokes. Everything wild she watched them do filled her with
enchanted delight. She was a happy, simple-minded, hard-working girl
who could not read and was barely able to write her name. Her straight
hair was the color of retting straw. She had sallow skin and myopic eyes,
and none of the men had ever slept with her because none of the men
had ever wanted to, none but Aarfy, who had raped her once that same
evening and had then held her prisoner in a clothes closet for almost
two hours with his hand over her mouth until the civilian curfew sirens
sounded and it was unlawful for her to be outside.
Then he threw her out the window. Her dead body was still lying
on the pavement when Yossarian arrived and pushed his way politely
through the circle of solemn neighbors with dim lanterns, who glared
with venom as they shrank away from him and pointed up bitterly
toward the second-floor windows in their private, grim, accusing conversations.
Yossarian's heart pounded with fright and horror at the pitiful,
ominous, gory spectacle of the broken corpse. He ducked into the
hallway and bolted up the stairs into the apartment, where he found
Aarfy pacing about uneasily with a pompous, slightly uncomfortable
smile. Aarfy seemed a bit unsettled as he fidgeted with his pipe and
assured Yossarian that everything was going to be all right. There was
nothing to worry about.
"I only raped her once," he explained.
Yossarian was aghast. "But you killed her, Aarfy! You killed her!"
"Oh, I had to do that after I raped her," Aarfy replied in his most
condescending manner. "I couldn't very well let her go around saying
bad things about us, could I?"
"But why did you have to touch her at all, you dumb bastard?"
Yossarian shouted. "Why couldn't you get yourself a girl off the street
if you wanted one? The city is full of prostitutes."
"Oh, no, not me," Aarfy bragged. "I never paid for it in my life."
"Aarfy, are you insane?" Yossarian was almost speechless. "You killed
a girl. They're going to put you in jail!"
"Oh, no," Aarfy answered with a forced smile. "Not me. They aren't
going to put good old Aarfy in jail. Not for killing her."
"But you threw her out the window. She's lying there dead in the
"She has no right to be there," Aarfy answered. "It's after curfew."
"Stupid! Don't you realize what you've done?" Yossarian wanted to
grab Aarfy by his well-fed, caterpillar-soft shoulders and shake some
sense into him. "You've murdered a human being. They are going to
put you in jail. They might even hang you!"
"Oh, I hardly think they'll do that," Aarfy replied with a jovial
chuckle, although his symptoms of nervousness increased. He spilled
tobacco crumbs unconsciously as his short fingers fumbled with the
bowl of his pipe. "No, sirree. Not to good old Aarfy" He chortled
again. "She was only a servant girl. I hardly think they're going to
make too much of a fuss over one poor Italian servant girl when so
many thousands of lives are being lost every day. Do you?"
"Listen!" Yossarian cried, almost in joy. He pricked up his ears and
watched the blood drain from Aarfy's face as sirens mourned far away,
police sirens, and then ascended almost instantaneously to a howling,
strident, onrushing cacophony of overwhelming sound that seemed to
crash into the room around them from every side. "Aarfy, they're coming
for you,'~ he said in a flood of compassion, shouting to be heard
above the noise. "They're coming to arrest you. Aarfy, don't you
understand? You can't take the life of another human being and get
away with it, even if she is just a poor servant girl. Don't you see? Can't
"Oh, no," Aarfy insisted with a lame laugh and a weak smile.
"They're not coming to arrest me. Not good old Aarfy."
All at once he looked sick. He sank down on a chair in a trembling
stupor, his stumpy, lax hands quaking in his lap. Cars skidded to a stop
outside. Spotlights hit the windows immediately. Car doors slammed
and police whistles screeched. Voices rose harshly. Aarfy was green. He
kept shaking his head mechanically with a queer, numb smile and
repeating in a weak, hollow monotone that they were not coming for
him, not for good old Aarfy, no sirree, striving to convince himself that
this was so even as heavy footsteps raced up the stairs and pounded
across the landing, even as fists beat on the door four times with a deafening,
inexorable force. Then the door to the apartment flew open,
and two large, tough, brawny M.P.s with icy eyes and firm, sinewy,
unsmiling jaws entered quickly, strode across the room, and arrested
They arrested Yossarian for being in Rome without a pass.
They apologized to Aarfy for intruding and led Yossarian away
between them, gripping him under each arm with fingers as hard as
steel manacles. They said nothing at all to him on the way down ..Two
more tall M.P.s with clubs and hard white helmets were waiting outside
at a closed car. They marched Yossarian into the back seat, and the
car roared away and weaved through the rain and muddy fog to a
police station. The M.P.s locked him up for the night in a cell with four
stone walls. At dawn they gave him a pail for a latrine and drove him
to the airport, where two more giant M.P.s with clubs and white helmets
were waiting at a transport plane whose engines were already
warming up when they arrived, the cylindrical green cowlings oozing
quivering beads of condensation. None of the M.P.s said anything to
each other either. They did not even nod. Yossarian had never seen
such granite faces. The plane flew to Pianosa. Two more silent M.P.s
~ere waiting at the landing strip. There were now eight, and they filed
with precise, wordless discipline into two cars and sped on humming
tires past the four squadron areas to the Group Headquarters building,
where still two more M.P.s were waiting at the parking area. All ten
tall, strong, purposeful, silent men towered around him as they turned
toward the entrance. Their footsteps crunched in loud unison on the
cindered ground. He had an impression of accelerating haste. He was
terrified. Every one of the ten M.P.s seemed powerful enough to bash
him to death with a single blow. They had only to press their massive,
toughened, boulderous shoulders against him to crush all life from his
body. There was nothing he could do to save himself. He could not
even see which two were gripping him under the arms as they marched
him rapidly between the two tight single-file columns they had
formed. Their pace quickened, and he felt as though he were flying
along with his feet off the ground as they trotted in resolute cadence
up the wide marble staircase to the upper landing, where still two more
inscrutable military policemen with hard faces were waiting to lead
them all at an even faster pace down the long, cantilevered balcony
overhanging the immense lobby. Their marching footsteps on the dull
tile floor thundered like an awesome, quickening drum roll through
the vacant center of the building as they moved with even greater
speed and precision toward Colonel Cathcart's office, and violent
winds of panic began blowing in Yossarian's ears when they turned him
toward his doom inside the office, where Colonel Korn, his rump
spreading comfortably on a corner of Colonel Cathcart's desk, sat waiting
to greet him with a genial smile and said,
"We're sending you home."