Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:18 pm

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
them.
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.
"Gone."
"Who?"
"All. All the poor young girls."
"Where?"
"Away. Chased away into the street. All of them gone. All the poor
young girls."
"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
out."
"No reason," wailed the old woman. "No reason."
"What right did they have?"
"Catch-22."
"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?"
"Catch-22."
"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.
"Gone?"
"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
"Gone."
"I know she's gone. But did anyone hear from her? Does anyone
know where she is?"
"Gone."
"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
coat."
"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
about?"
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
anymore."
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
too difficult."
"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
tobacco."
"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
nostrils sniffing.
"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
national disgrace."
"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
tobacco."
"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
arrest you?"
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
everywhere.
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
street."
"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
you understand?"
"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
Yossarian.
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."
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:18 pm

40. Catch-22

There was, of course, a catch.
"Catch-22?" inquired Yossarian.
"Of course," Colonel Korn answered pleasantly, after he had chased
the mighty guard of massive M.P.s out with an insouciant flick of his
hand and a slightly contemptuous nod-most relaxed, as always, when
he could be most cynical. His rimless square eyeglasses glinted with sly
amusement as he gazed at Yossarian. "After all, we can't simply send
you home for refusing to fly more missions and keep the rest of the
men here, can we? That would hardly be fair to them."
"You're goddam right!" Colonel Cathcart blurted out, lumbering
back and forth gracelessly like a winded bull, puffing and pouting
angrily. "I'd like to tie him up hand and foot and throw him aboard a
plane on every mission. That's what I'd like to do."
Colonel Korn motioned Colonel Cathcart to be silent and smiled at
Yossarian. "You know, you really have been making things terribly difficult
for Colonel Cathcart," he observed with flip good humor, as
though the fact did not displease him at all. "The men are unhappy and
morale is beginning to deteriorate. And it's all your fault."
"It's your fault," Yossarian argued, "for raising the number of missions."
"No, it's your fault for refusing to fly them," Colonel Korn retorted.
"The men were perfectly content to fly as many missions as we asked
as long as they thought they had no alternative. Now you've given
them hope, and they're unhappy. So the blame is all yours."
"Doesn't he know there's a war going on?" Colonel Cathcart, still
stamping back and forth, demanded morosely without looking at
Yossarian.
"I'm quite sure he does," Colonel Korn answered. "That's probably
why he refuses to fly them."
"Doesn't it make any difference to him?"
"Will the knowledge that there's a war going on weaken your decision
to refuse to participate in it?" Colonel Korn inquired with sarcastic
seriousness, mocking Colonel Cathcart.
"No, sir," Yossarian replied, almost returning Colonel Korn's smile.
"I was afraid of that," Colonel Korn remarked with an elaborate
sigh, locking his fingers together comfortably on top of his smooth,
bald, broad, shiny brown head. "You know, in all fairness, we really
haven't treated you too badly, have we? We've fed you and paid you on
time. We gave you a medal and even made you a captain."
"I never should have made him a captain," Colonel Cathcart
exclaimed bitterly. "I should have given him a court-martial after he
loused up that Ferrara mission and went around twice."
"I told you not to promote him," said Colonel Korrt, "but you
wouldn't listen to me."
"No you didn't. You told me to promote him, didn't you?"
"I told you not to promote him. But you just wouldn't listen."
"I should have listened."
"You never listen to me," Colonel Korn persisted with relish.
"That's the reason we're in this spot."
"All right, gee whiz. Stop rubbing it in, will you?" Colonel Cathcart
burrowed his fists down deep inside his pockets and turned away in a
slouch. "Instead of picking on me, why don't you figure out what we're
going to do about him?"
"We're going to send him home, I'm afraid." Colonel Korn was
chuckling triumphantly when he turned away from Colonel Cathcart
to face Yossarian. "Yossarian, the war is over for you. We're going to
send you home. You really don't deserve it, you know, which is one of
the reasons I don't mind doing it. Since there's nothing else we can risk
doing to you at this time, we've decided to return you to the States.
We've worked out this little deal to-"
"What kind of deal?" Yossarian demanded. with defiant mistrust.
Colonel Korn tossed his head back and laughed. "Oh, a thoroughly
despicable deal, make no mistake about that. It's absolutely revolting.
But you'll accept it quickly enough."
"Don't be too sure."
"I haven't the slightest doubt you will, even though it stinks to high
heaven. Oh, by the way. You haven't told any of the men you've refused
to fly more missions, have you?"
"No, sir," Yossarian answered promptly.
Colonel Korn nodded approvingly. "That's good. I like the way you
lie. You'll go far in this world if you ever acquire some decent ambition."
"Doesn't he know there's a war going on?" Colonel Cathcart yelled
out suddenly, and blew with vigorous disbelief into the open end of his
cigarette holder.
"I'm quite sure he does," Colonel Korn replied acidly, "since you
brought that identical point to his attention just a moment ago."
Colonel Korn frowned wearily for Yossarian's benefit, his eyes twinkling
swarthily with sly and daring scorn. Gripping the edge of Colonel
Cathcart's desk with both hands, he lifted his flaccid haunches far back
on the corner to sit with both short legs dangling freely. His shoes
kicked lightly against the yellow oak wood, his sludge-brown socks,
garterless, collapsed in sagging circles below ankles that were surprisingly
small and white. "You know, Yossarian," he mused affably in a
manner of casual reflection that seemed both derisive and sincere, "I
really do admire you a bit. You're an intelligent person of great moral
character who has taken a very courageous stand. I'm an intelligent person
with no moral character at all, so I'm in an ideal position to appreciate
it."
"These are very critical times," Colonel Cathcart asserted petulantly
from a far corner of the office, paying no attention to Colonel Korn.
"Very critical times indeed," Colonel Korn agreed with a placid
nod. "We've just had a change of command above, and we can't afford
. a situation that might put us in a bad light with either General
Scheisskopf or General Peckem. Isn't that what you mean, Colonel?"
"Hasn't he got any patriotism?"
"Won't you fight for your country?" Colonel Korn demanded, emulating
Colonel Cathcart's harsh, self-righteous tone. "Won't you give
up your life for Colonel Cathcart and me?"
Yossarian tensed with alert astonishment when he heard Colonel
Korn's concluding words. "What's that?" he exclaimed. "What have
you and Colonel Cathcart got to do with my country? You're not the
same."
"How can you separate us?" Colonel Korn inquired with ironical
tranquility.
"That's right," Colonel Cathcart cried emphatically. "You're either
for us or against us. There's no two ways about it."
"I'm afraid he's got you," added Colonel Korn. "You're either for us
or against your country. It's as simple as that."
"Oh, no, Colonel. I don't buy that."
Colonel Korn was unruffled. "Neither do I, frankly, but everyone
else will. So there you are."
"You're a disgrace to your uniform!" Colonel Cathcart declared
with blustering wrath, whirling to confront Yossarian for the first time.
"I'd like to know how you ever got to be a captain, anyway."
"You promoted him," Colonel Korn reminded sweetly, stifling a
snicker. "Don't you remember?"
"Well, I never should have done it."
"I told you not to do it," Colonel Korn said. "But you just wouldn't
listen to me."
"Gee whiz, will you stop rubbing it in?" Colonel Cathcart cried. He
furrowed his brow and glowered at Colonel Korn through eyes narrow
with suspicion, his fists clenched on his hips. "Say, whose side are you
on, anyway?"
"Your side, Colonel. What other side could I be on?"
"Then stop picking on me, will you? Get off my back, will you?"
"I'm on your side, Colonel. I'm just loaded with patriotism."
"Well, just make sure you don't forget that." Colonel Cathcart
turned away grudgingly after another moment, incompletely reassured,
and began striding the floor again, his hands kneading his long
cigarette holder. He jerked a thumb toward Yossarian. "Let's settle
with him. I know what I'd like to do with him. I'd like to take him outside
and shoot him. That's what I'd like to do with him. That's what
General Dreedle would do with him."
"But General Dreedle isn't with us any more," said Colonel Korn,
"so we can't take him outside and shoot him." Now that his moment
of tension with Colonel Cathcart had passed, Colonel Korn relaxed
again and resumed kicking softly against Colonel Cathcart's desk. He
returned to Yossarian. "So we're going to send you home instead. It
took a bit of thinking, but we finally worked out this horrible little plan
for sending you home without causing too much dissatisfaction among
the friends you'll leave behind. Doesn't that make you happy?"
"What kind of plan? I'm not sure I'm going to like it."
"I know you're not going to like it." Colonel Korn laughed, locking
his hands contentedly on top of his head again. "You're going to loathe
it. It really is odious and certainly will offend your conscience. But
you'll agree to it quickly enough. You'll agree to it because it will send
you home safe and sound in two weeks, and because you have no
choice. It's that or a court-martial. Take it or leave it."
Yossarian snorted. "Stop bluffing, Colonel. You can't court-martial
me for desertion in the face of the enemy. It would make you look bad
and you probably couldn't get a conviction."
"But we can court-martial you now for desertion from duty, since
you went to Rome without a pass. And we could make it stick. If you
think about it a minute, you'll see that you'd leave us no alternative.
We can't simply let you keep walking around in open insubordination
without punishing you. All the other men would stop flying missions,
too. No, you have my word for it. We will court-martial you if you turn
our deal down, even though it would raise a lot of questions and be a
terrible black eye for Colonel Cathcart."
Colonel Cathcart winced at the words "black eye" and, without any
apparent premeditation, hurled his slender onyx-and-ivory cigarette
holder down viciously on the wooden surface on his desk. "Jesus Christ!"
he shouted unexpectedly. "I hate this goddam cigarette holder!" The
cigarette holder bounced off the desk to the wall, ricocheted across the
window sill to the floor and came to a stop almost where he was standing.
Colonel Cathcart stared down at it with an irascible scowl. "I wonder
if it's really doing me any good."
"It's a feather in your cap with General Peckem, but a black eye for
you with General Scheisskopf," Colonel Korn informed him with a
mischievous look of innocence.
"Well, which one am I supposed to please?"
"Both."
"How can I please them both? They hate each other. How am I ever
going to get a feather in my cap from General Scheisskopf without getting
a black eye from General Peckem?"
"March."
"Yeah, march. That's the only way to please him. March. March."
Colonel Cathcart grimaced sullenly. "Some generals! They're a disgrace
to their uniforms. If people like those two can make general, I
don't see how I can miss."
"You're going to go far," Colonel Korn assured him with a flat lack
of conviction, and turned back chuckling to Yossarian, his disdainful
merriment increasing at the sight of Yossarian's unyielding expression
of antagonism and distrust. "And there you have the crux of the situation.
Colonel Cathcart wants to be a general and I want to be a colonel,
and that's why we have to send you home."
"Why does he want to be a general?"
"Why? For the same reason that I want to be a colonel. What else
have we got to do? Everyone teaches us to aspire to higher things. A
general is higher than a colonel, and a colonel is higher than a lieutenant
colonel. So we're both aspiring. And you know, Yossarian, it's a
lucky thing for you that we are. Your timing on this is absolutely perfect, but I suppose you took that factor into account in your calculations."
"I haven't been doing any calculating," Yossarian retorted.
"Yes, I really do enjoy the way you lie," Colonel Korn answered.
"Won't it make you proud to have your commanding officer promoted
to general-to know you served in an outfit that averaged more combat
missions per person than any other? Don't you want to earn more unit
citations and more oak leaf clusters for your Air Medal? Where's your
'sprit de corps? Don't you want to contribute further to this great record
by flying more combat missions? It's your last chance to answer yes."
"No."
"In that case, you have us over a barrel-" said Colonel Korn without
rancor.
"He ought to be ashamed of himself!"
"-and we have to send you home. Just do a few little things for us,
and-"
"What sort of things?" Yossarian interrupted with belligerent misgiving.
"Oh, tiny, insignificant things. Really, this is a very generous deal
we're making with you. We will issue orders returning you to the
States-really, we will-and all you have to do in return is ... "
"What? What must I do?"
Colonel Korn laughed curtly. "Like us."
Yossarian blinked. "Like you?"
"Like us."
"Like you?"
"That's right," said Colonel Korn, nodding, gratified immeasurably
by Yossarian's guileless surprise and bewilderment. "Like us. Join us.
Be our pal. Say nice things about us here and back in the States.
Become one of the boys. Now, that isn't asking too much, is it?"
'''You just want me to like you? Is that all?"
"That's all."
"That's all?"
"Just find it in your heart to like us."
Yossarian wanted to laugh confidently when he saw with amazement
that Colonel Korn was telling the truth. "That isn't going to be too
easy," he sneered.
"Oh, it will be a lot easier than you think," Colonel Korn taunted in
return, undismayed by Yossarian's barb. "You'll be surprised at how
easy you'll find it to like us once you begin." Colonel Korn hitched up
the waist of his loose, voluminous trousers. The deep black grooves
isolating his square chin from his jowls. were bent again in a kind of
jeering and reprehensible mirth. "You see, Yossarian, we're going to
put you on easy street. We're going to promote you to major and even
give you another medal. Captain Flume is already working on glowing
press releases describing your valor over Ferrara, your deep and abiding
loyalty to your outfit and your .consummate dedication to duty.
Those phrases are all actual quotations, by the way. We're going to
glorify you and send you home a hero, recalled by the Pentagon for
morale and public-relations purposes. You'll live like a millionaire.
Everyone will lionize you. You'll have parades in your honor and make
speeches to raise money for war bonds. A whole new world of luxury
awaits you once you become our pal. Isn't it lovely?"
Yossarian found himself listening intently to the fascinating elucidation
of details. "I'm not sure I want to make speeches."
"Then we'll forget the speeches. The important thing is what you
say to people here." Colonel Korn leaned forward earnestly, no longer
smiling. "We don't want any of the men in the group to know that
we're sending you home as a result of your refusal to fly more missions.
And we don't want General Peckem or General Scheisskopf to get
wind of any friction between us, either. That's why we're going to
become such good pals."
"What will I say to the men who asked me why I refused to fly more
missions?"
"Tell them you had been informed in confidence that you were
being returned to the States and that you were unwilling to risk your
life for another mission or two. Just a minor disagreement between
pals, that's all."
"Will they believe it?"
"Of course they'll believe it, once they see what great friends we've
become and when they see the press releases and read the flattering
things you have to say about me and Colonel Cathcart. Don't worry
about the men. They'll be easy enough to discipline and control when
you've gone. It's only while you're still here that they may prove troublesome.
You know, one good apple can spoil the rest," Colonel Korn
concluded with conscious irony. "You know-this would really be
wonderful-you might even serve as an inspiration to them to fly more
missions."
"Suppose I denounce you when I get back to the States?"
"After you've accepted our medal and promotion and all the fanfare? No one would believe you, the Army wouldn't let you, and why
in the world should you want to? You're going to be one of the boys,
remember? You'll enjoy a rich, rewarding, luxurious, privileged existence.
You'd have to be a fool to throw it all away just for a moral principle,
and you're not a fool. Is it a deal?"
"I don't know."
"It's that or a court-martial."
"That's a pretty scummy trick I'd be playing on the men in the
squadron, isn't it?"
"Odious," Colonel Kom agreed amiably, and waited, watching Yossarian
patiently with a glimmer of private delight.
"But what the hell!" Yossarian exclaimed. "If they don't want to fly
more missions, let them stand up and do something about it the way I
did. Right?"
"Of course," said Colonel Kom.
"There's no reason I have to risk my life for them, is there?"
"Of course not."
Yossarian arrived at his decision with a swift grin. "It's a deal!" he
announced jubilantly.
"Great," said Colonel Korn with somewhat less cordiality than
Yossarian had expected, and he slid himself off Colonel Cathcart's desk
to stand on the floor. He tugged the folds of cloth of his pants and
undershorts free from his crotch and gave Yossarian a limp hand to
shake. "Welcome aboard."
"Thanks, Colonel. I-"
"Call me Blackie, John. We're pals now."
"Sure, Blackie. My friends call me Yo-Yo. Blackie, I-"
"His friends call him Yo-Yo," Colonel Korn sang out to Colonel
Cathcart. "Why don't you congratulate Yo-Yoon what a sensible move
he's making?"
"That's a real sensible move you're making, Yo-Yo," Colonel Cathcart
said, pumping Yossarian's hand with clumsy zeal.
"Thank you, Colonel, I-"
"Call him Chuck," said Colonel Korn.
"Sure, call me Chuck," said Colonel Cathcart with a laugh that was
hearty and awkward. "We're all pals now."
"Sure, Chuck."
"Exit smiling," said Colonel Kom, his hands on both their shoulders
as the three of them moved to the door.
"Come on over for dinner with us some night, Yo-Yo," Colonel
Cathcart invited hospitably. "How about tonight? In the Group dining
room."
"I'd love to, sir."
"Chuck," Colonel Korn corrected reprovingly.
"I'm sorry, Blackie. Chuck. I can't get used to it."
"That's all right, pal."
"Sure, pal."
"Thanks, pal."
"Don't mention it, pal."
"So long, pal."
Yossarian waved goodbye fondly to his new pals and sauntered out
onto the balcony corridor, almost bursting into song the instant he was
alone. He was home free: he had pulled it off; his act of rebellion had
succeeded; he was safe, and he had nothing to be ashamed of to anyone.
He started toward the staircase with a jaunty and exhilarated air.
A private in green fatigues saluted him. Yossarian returned the salute
happily, staring at the private with curiosity. He looked strangely familiar.
When Yossarian returned the salute, the private in green fatigues
turned suddenly into Nately's whore and lunged at him murderously
with a bone-handled kitchen knife that caught him in the side below
his upraised arm. Yossarian sank to the floor with a shriek, shutting his
eyes in overwhelming terror as he saw the girl lift the knife to strike
him again. He was already unconscious when Colonel Korn and
Colonel Cathcart dashed out of the office and saved his life by frightening
her away.
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:19 pm

41. Snowden

"Cut," said a doctor.
"You cut," said another.
"No cuts," said Yossarian with a thick, unwieldy tongue.
"Now look who's butting in," complained one of the doctors.
"Another county heard from. Are we going to operate or aren't we?"
"He doesn't need an operation," complained the other. "It's a small
wound. All we have to do is stop the bleeding, clean it out and put a
few stitches in."
"But I've never had a chance to operate before. Which one is the
scalpel? Is this one the scalpel?"
"No, the other one is the scalpel. Well, go ahead and cut already if
you're going to. Make the incision."
"Like this?"
"Not there, you dope!"
"No incisions," Yossarian said, perceiving through the lifting fog of
insensibility that two strangers were ready to begin cutting him.
"Another county heard from," complained the first doctor sarcastically.
"Is he going to keep talking that way while I operate on him?"
"You can't operate on him until I admit him," said a clerk.
"You can't admit him until I clear him," said a fat, gruff colonel with
a mustache and an enormous pink face that pressed down very close to
Yossarian and radiated scorching heat like the bottom of a huge frying
pan. "Where were you born?"
The fat, gruff colonel reminded Yossarian of the fat, gruff colonel
who had interrogated the chaplain and found him guilty. Yossarian
stared up at him through a glassy film. The cloying scents of formaldehyde
and alcohol sweetened the air.
"On a battlefield," he answered.
"No, no. In what state were you born?"
"In a state of innocence."
"No, no, you don't understand."
"Let me handle him," urged a hatchet-faced man with sunken acrimonious eyes and a thin, malevolent mouth. "Are you a smart aleck or
something?" he asked Yossarian.
"He's delirious," one of the doctors said. "Why don't you let us take
him back inside and treat him?"
"Leave him right here if he's delirious. He might say something
incriminating."
"But he's still bleeding profusely. Can't you see? He might even
die."
"Good for him!"
"It would serve the finky bastard right," said the fat, gruff colonel.
"All right, John, let's speak out. We want to get to the truth."
"Everyone calls me Yo-Yo."
"We want you to cooperate with us, Yo-Yo. We're your friends and
we want you to trust us. We're here to help you. We're not going to
hurt you."
"Let's jab our thumbs down inside his wound and gouge it," suggested
the hatchet-faced man.
Yossarian let his eyes fall closed and hoped they would think he was
unconscious.
"He's fainted," he heard a doctor say. "Can't we treat him now
before it's too late? He really might die."
"All right, take him. I hope the bastard does die."
"You can't treat him until I admit him," the clerk said.
Yossarian played dead with his eyes shut while the clerk admitted
him by shuffling some papers, and then he was rolled away slowly into
a stuffy, dark room with searing spotlights overhead in which the cloying
smell of formaldehyde and sweet alcohol was even stronger. The
pleasant, permeating stink was intoxicating. He smelled ether too and
heard glass tinkling. He listened with secret, egotistical mirth to the
husky breathing of the two doctors. It delighted him that they thought
he was unconscious and did not know he was listening. It all seemed
very silly to him until one of the doctors said,
"Well, do you think we should save his life? They might be sore at
us if we do."
"Let's operate," said the other doctor. "Let's cut him open and get
to the inside of things once and for all. He keeps complaining about his
liver. His liver looks pretty small on this X ray."
"That's his pancreas, you dope. This is his liver."
"No it isn't. That's his heart. I'll bet you a nickel this is his liver. I'm
going to operate and find out. Should I wash my hands first?"
"No operations," Yossarian said, opening his eyes and trying to sit up.
"Another county heard from," scoffed one of the doctors indignantly.
"Can't we make him shut up?"
"We could give him a total. The ether's right here."
"No totals," said Yossarian.
"Another county heard from," said a doctor.
"Let's give him a total and knock him out. Then we can do what we
want with him."
They gave Yossarian total anesthesia and knocked him lIut. He
woke up thirsty in a private room, drowning in ether fumes. Colonel
Korn was there at his bedside, waiting calmly in a chair in his baggy,
wool, olive-drab shirt and trousers. A bland, phlegmatic smile hung
on his brown face with its heavy-bearded cheeks, and he was buffing
the facets of his bald head gently with the palms of both hands. He
bent forward chuckling when Yossarian awoke, and assured him in
the friendliest tones that the deal they had made was still on if
Yossarian didn't die. Yossarian vomited, and Colonel Korn shot to
his feet at the first cough and fled in disgust, so it seemed indeed
that there was a silver lining in every cloud, Yossarian reflected, as
he drifted back into a suffocating daze. A hand with sharp fingers
shook him awake roughly. He turned and opened his eyes and saw a
strange man with a mean face who curled his lip at him in a spiteful
scowl and bragged,
"We've got your pal, buddy. We've got your pal."
Yossarian turned cold and faint and broke into a sweat.
"Who's my pal?" he asked when he saw the chaplain sitting where
Colonel Korn had been sitting.
"Maybe I'm your pal," the chaplain answered.
But Yossarian couldn't hear him and closed his eyes. Someone gave
him water to sip and tiptoed away. He slept and-woke up feeling great
until he turned his head to smile at the chaplain and saw Aarfy there
instead. Yossarian moaned instinctively and screwed his face up with
excruciating irritability when Aarfy chortled and asked how he was
feeling. Aarfy looked puzzled when Yossarian inquired why he was
not in jail. Yossarian shut his eyes to make him go away. When he
opened them, Aarfy was gone and the chaplain was there. Yossarian
broke into laughter when he spied the chaplain's cheerful grin and
asked him what in the hell he was so happy about.
"I'm happy about you," the chaplain replied with excited candor and
joy. "I heard at Group that you were very seriously injured and that you
would have to be sent home if you lived. Colonel Korn said your condition
was critical. But I've just learned from one of the doctors that
your wound is really a very slight one and that you'll probably be able
to leave in a day or two. You're in no danger. It isn't bad at all."
Yossarian listened to the chaplain's news with enormous relief.
"That's good."
"Yes," said the chaplain, a pink flush of impish pleasure creeping
into his cheeks. "Yes, that is good."
Yossarian laughed, recalling his first conversation with the chaplain.
"You know, the first time I met you was in the hospital. And now I'm
in the hospital again. Just about the only time I see you lately is in the
hospital. Where've you been keeping yourself?"
The chaplain shrugged. "I've been praying a lot," he confessed. "I
try to stay in my tent as much as I can, and I pray every time Sergeant
Whitcomb leaves the area, so that he won't catch me."
"Does it do any good?"
"It takes my mind off my troubles," the chaplain answered with
another shrug. "And it gives me something to do."
"Well, that's good, then, isn't it?"
"Yes," agreed the chaplain enthusiastically, as though the idea had
not occurred to him before. "Yes, I guess that is good." He bent forward
impulsively with awkward solicitude. "Yossarian, is there anything
I can do for you while you're here, anything I can get you?"
Yossarian teased him jovially. "Like toys, or candy, or chewing
gum?"
The chaplain blushed again, grinning self-consciously, and then
turned very respectful. "Like books, perhaps, or anything at all. I wish
there was something I could do to make you happy. You know, Yossarian,
we're all very proud of you."
"Proud?"
"Yes, of course, For risking your life to stop that Nazi assassin. It
was a very noble thing to do."
"What Nazi assassin?"
"The one that came here to murder Colonel Cathcart and Colonel
Korn. And you saved them. He might have stabbed you to death as you
grappled with him on the balcony. It's a lucky thing you're alive."
Yossarian snickered sardonically when he understood. "That was no
Nazi assassin."
"Certainly it was. Colonel Korn said it was."
"That was Nately's girl friend. And she was after me, not Colonel
Cathcart and Colonel Korn. She's been trying to kill me ever since I
broke the news to her that Nately was dead."
"But how could that be?" the chaplain protested in livid and resentful
confusion. "Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Kom both saw him as
he ran away. The official report says you stopped a Nazi assassin from
killing them."
"Don't believe the official report," Yossarian advised dryly. "It's part
of the deal."
"What deal?"
"The deal I made with Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn They'll
let me go home a big hero if I say nice things about them to everybody
and never criticize them to anyone for making the rest of the men fly
more missions."
The chaplain was appalled and rose halfway out of his chair. He
bristled with bellicose dismay. "But that's terrible! That's a shameful,
scandalous deal, isn't it?"
"Odious," Yossarian answered, staring up woodenly at the ceiling
with just the back of his head resting on the pillow. "I think 'odious' is
the word we decided on."
"Then how could you agree to it?"
"It's that or a court-martial, Chaplain."
"Oh," the chaplain exclaimed with a look of stark remorse, the back
of his hand covering his mouth. He lowered himself into his chair
uneasily. "1 shouldn't have said anything."
"They'd lock me in prison with a bunch of criminals."
"Of course. You must do whatever you think is right, then." The
chaplain nodded to himself as though deciding the argument and
lapsed into embarrassed silence.
"Don't worry," Yossarian said with a sorrowful laugh after several
moments had passed. "I'm not going to do it."
"But you must do it," the chaplain insisted, bending forward with
concern. "Really, you must. I had no right to influence you. 1really had
no right to say anything."
"You didn't influence me." Yossarian hauled himself over onto his
side and shook his head in solemn mockery. "Christ, Chaplain! Can
you imagine that for a sin? Saving Colonel Cathcart's life! That's the
one crime I don't want on my record."
The chaplain returned to the subject with caution. "What will you
do instead? You can't let them put you in prison."
"I'll fly more missions. Or maybe I really will desert and let them
catch me. They probably would."
"And they'd put you in prison. You don't want to go to prison."
"Then I'll just keep flying missions until the war ends, I guess. Some
of us have to survive."
"But you might get killed."
"Then I guess I won't fly any more missions."
"What will you do?"
"I don't know."
"Will you let them send you home?"
"I don't know. Is it hot out? It's very warm in here."
"It's very cold out," the chaplain said.
"You know," Yossarian remembered, "a very funny thing happened-
maybe I dreamed it. I think a strange man came in here before
and told me he's got my pal. I wonder if I imagined it."
"I don't think you did," the chaplain informed him. "You started to
tell me about him when I dropped in earlier."
"Then he really did say it. 'We've got your pal, buddy,' he said.
'We've got your pal.' He had the most malignant manner I ever saw. I
wonder who my pal is."
"I like to think that I'm your pal, Yossarian," the chaplain said with
humble sincerity. "And they certainly have got me. They've got my
number and they've got me under surveillance, and they've got me
right where they want me. That's what they told me at my interrogation."
"No, I don't think it's you he meant," Yossarian decided. "I think it
must be someone like Nately or Dunbar. You know, someone who
was killed in the war, like Clevinger, Orr, Dobbs, Kid Sampson or
McWatt." Yossarian emitted a startled gasp and shook his head. "I just
realized it," he exclaimed. "They've got all my pals, haven't they? The
only ones left are me and Hungry Joe." He tingled with dread as he
saw the chaplain's face go pale. "Chaplain, what is it?"
"Hungry Joe was killed."
"God, no! On a mission?"
"He died in his sleep while having a dream. They found a cat on his
face."
"Poor bastard," Yossarian said, and began to cry, hiding his tears in
the crook of his shoulder. The chaplain left without saying goodbye.
Yossarian ate something and went to sleep. A hand shook him awake in
the middle of the night. He opened his eyes and saw a thin, mean man
in a patient's bathrobe and pajamas who looked at him with a nasty
smirk and jeered,
"We've got your pal, buddy. We've got your pal."
Yossarian was unnerved. "What the hell are you talking about?" he
pleaded in incipient panic.
"You'll find out, buddy. You'll find out."
Yossarian lunged for his tormentor's throat with one hand, but the
man glided out of reach effortlessly and vanished into the corridor with
a malicious laugh. Yossarian lay there trembling with a pounding pulse.
He was bathed in icy sweat. He wondered who his pal was. It was dark
in the hospital and perfectly quiet. He had no watch to tell him the
time. He was wide-awake, and he knew he was a prisoner in one of
those sleepless, bedridden nights that would take an eternity to dissolve
into dawn. A throbbing chill oozed up his legs. He was cold, and
he thought of Snowden, who had never been his pal but was a vaguely
familiar kid who was badly wounded and freezing to death in the puddle
of harsh yellow sunlight splashing into his face through the side
gunport when Yossarian crawled into the rear section of the plane over
the bomb bay after Dobbs had beseeched him on the intercom to help
the gunner, please help the gunner. Yossarian's stomach turned over
when his eyes first beheld the macabre scene; he was absolutely
, revolted, and he paused in fright a few moments before descending,
crouched on his hands and knees in the narrow tunnel over the bomb
bay beside the sealed corrugated carton containing the first-aid kit.
Snowden was lying on his back on the floor with his legs stretched out,
still burdened cumbersomely by his flak suit, his flak helmet, his parachute
harness and his Mae West. Not far away on the floor lay the
small tail gunner in a dead faint. The wound Yossarian saw was in the
outside of Snowden's thigh, as large and deep as a football, it seemed.
It was impossible to tell where the shreds of his saturated coveralls
ended and the ragged flesh began.
There was no morphine in the first-aid kit, no protection for
Snowden against pain but the numbing shock of the gaping wound
itself. The twelve syrettes of morphine had been stolen from their
case and replaced by a cleanly lettered note that said: "What's good
for M & M Enterprises is good for the country. Milo Minderbinder."
Yossarian swore at Milo and held two aspirins out to ashen lips unable
to receive them. But first he hastily drew a tourniquet around Snowden's
thigh because he could not think what else to do in those first
tumultuous moments when his senses were in turmoil, when he knew
he must act competently at once and feared he might go to pieces
completely. Snowden watched him steadily, saying nothing. No artery
was spurting, but Yossarian pretended to absorb himself entirely into
the fashioning of a tourniquet, because applying a tourniquet was
something he did know how to do. He worked with simulated skill and
composure, feeling Snowden's lackluster gaze resting upon him. He
recovered possession of himself before the tourniquet was finished and
loosened it immediately to lessen the danger of gangrene. His mind
was clear now, and he knew how to proceed. He rummaged through
the first-aid kit for scissors.
"I'm cold," Snowden said softly. "I'm cold."
"You're going to be all right, kid," Yossarian reassured him with a
grin. "You're going to be all right."
"I'm cold," Snowden said again in a frail, childlike voice. "I'm cold."
"There, there," Yossarian said, because he did not know what else to
say. "There, there."
"I'm cold," Snowden whimpered. "I'm cold."
"There, there. There, there."
Yossarian was frightened and moved more swiftly. He found a pair
of scissors at last and began cutting carefully through Snowden's coveralls
high up above the wound, just below the groin. He cut through
the heavy gabardine cloth all the way around the thigh in a straight
line. The tiny tail gunner woke up while Yossarian was cutting with the
scissors, saw him, and fainted again. Snowden rolled his head to the
other side of his neck in order to stare at Yossarian more directly. A
dim, sunken light glowed in his weak and listless eyes. Yossarian, puzzled,
tried not to look at him. He began cutting downward through the
coveralls along the inside seam. The yawning wound-was that a tube
of slimy bone he saw running deep inside the gory scarlet flow behind
the twitching, startling fibers of weird muscle?-was dripping blood in
several trickles, like snow melting on eaves, but viscous and red,
already thickening as it dropped. Yossarian kept cutting through the
coveralls to the bottom and peeled open the severed leg of the garment.
It fell to the floor with a plop, exposing the hem of khaki undershorts
that were soaking up blotches of blood on one side as though in
thirst. Yossarian was stunned at how waxen and ghastly Snowden's bare
leg looked, how loathsome, how lifeless and esoteric the downy, fine,
curled blond hairs on his odd, white shin and calf. The wound, he saw
now, was not nearly as large as a football, but as long and wide as his
hand, and too raw and deep to see into clearly. The raw muscles inside
twitched like live hamburger meat. A long sigh of relief escaped
slowly through Yossarian's mouth when he saw that Snowden was not
in danger of dying. The blood was already coagulating inside the
wound, and it was simply a matter of bandaging him up and keeping
him calm until the plane landed. He removed some packets of sulfanilamide
from the first-aid kit. Snowden quivered when Yossarian
pressed against him gently to turn him up slightly on his side.
"Did I hurt you?"
"I'm cold," Snowden whimpered. "I'm cold."
"There, there," Yossarian said. "There, there."
"I'm cold. I'm cold."
"There, there. There, there."
"It's starting to hurt me," Snowden cried out suddenly with a plaintive,
urgent wince.
Yossarian scrambled frantically through the first-aid kit in search of
morphine again and found only Milo's note and a bottle of aspirin. He
cursed Milo and held two aspirin tablets out to Snowden. He had no
water to offer. Snowden rejected the aspirin with an almost imperceptible
shake of his head. His face was pale and pasty. Yossarian removed
Snowden's flak helmet and lowered his head to the floor.
"I'm cold," Snowden moaned with half-closed eyes. "I'm cold."
The edges of his mouth were turning blue. Yossarian was petrified. He
wondered whether to pull the rip cord of Snowden's parachute and cover
him with the nylon folds. It was very warm in the plane. Glancing up
unexpectedly, Snowden gave him a wan, cooperative smile and shifted the
position of his hips a bit so that Yossarian could begin salting the wound
with sulfanilamide. Yossarian worked with renewed confidence and optimism.
The plane bounced hard inside an air pocket, and he remembered
with a start that he had left his own parachute up front in the nose. There
was nothing to be done about that. He poured envelope after envelope of
the white crystalline powder into the bloody oval wound until nothing
red could be seen and then drew a deep, apprehensive breath, steeling
himself with gritted teeth as he touched his bare hand to the dangling
shreds of drying flesh to tuck them up inside the wound. Quickly he covered
the whole wound with a large cotton compress and jerked his hand
away. He smiled nervously when his brief ordeal had ended. The actual
Contact with the dead flesh had not been nearly as repulsive as he had
anticipated, and he found excuse to caress the wound with his fingers
again and again to convince himself of his own courage.
Next he began binding the compress in place with a roll of gauze.
The second time around Snowden's thigh with the bandage, he spotted
the small hole on the inside through which the piece of flak had
entered, a round, crinkled wound the size of a quarter with blue edges
and a black core inside where the blood had crusted. Yossarian sprinkled
this one with sulfanilamide too and continued unwinding the
gauze around Snowden's leg until the compress was secure. Then he
snipped off the roll with the scissors and slit the end down the center.
He made the whole thing fast with a tidy square knot. It was a good
bandage, he knew, and he sat back on his heels with pride, wiping the
perspiration from his brow, and grinned at Snowden with spontaneous
friendliness.
"I'm cold," Snowden moaned. "I'm cold."
"You're going to be all right, kid," Yossarian assured him, patting his
arm comfortingly. "Everything's under control."
Snowden shook his head feebly. "I'm cold," he repeated, with eyes
as dull and blind as stone. "I'm cold."
"There, there," said Yossarian, with growing doubt and trepidation.
"There, there. In a little while we'll be back on the ground and Doc
Daneeka will take care of you."
But Snowden kept shaking his head and pointed at last, with just the
barest movement of his chin, down toward his armpit. Yossarian bent
forward to peer and saw a strangely colored stain seeping through the
coveralls just above the armhole of Snowden's flak suit. Yossarian felt
his heart stop, then pound so violently he found it difficult to breathe.
Snowden was wounded inside his flak suit. Yossarian ripped open
the snaps of Snowden's flak suit and heard himself scream wildly as
Snowden's insides slithered down to the floor in a soggy pile and just
kept dripping out. A chunk of flak more than three inches big had shot
into his other side just underneath the arm and blasted all the way
through, drawing whole mottled quarts of Snowden along with it
through the gigantic hole in his ribs it made as it blasted out. Yossarian
screamed a second time and squeezed both hands over his eyes. His
teeth were chattering in horror. He forced himself to look again. Here
was God's plenty, all right, he thought bitterly as he stared-liver,
lungs, kidneys, ribs, stomach and bits of the stewed tomatoes Snowden
had ,eaten that day for lunch. Yossarian hated stewed tomatoes and
turned away dizzily and began to vomit, clutching his burning throat.
The tail gunner woke up while Yossarian was vomiting, saw him, and
fainted again. Yossarian was limp with exhaustion, pain and despair
when he finished. He turned back weakly to Snowden, whose breath
had grown softer and more rapid, and whose face had grown paler. He
wondered how in the world to begin to save him.
"I'm cold," Snowden whimpered. "I'm cold."
"There, there," Yossarian mumbled mechanically in a voice too low
to be heard. "There, there."
Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose
pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the
grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to
read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden's
secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll
burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit
gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.
"I'm cold," Snowden said. "I'm cold."
"There, there," said Yossarian. "There, there." He pulled the rip
cord of Snowden's parachute and covered his body with the white
nylon sheets.
"I'm cold."
"There, there."
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Re: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Postby admin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:19 pm

42. Yossarian

"Colonel Korn says," said Major Danby to Yossarian with a prissy,
gratified smile, "that the deal is still on. Everything is working out
fine."
"No it isn't."
"Oh, yes, indeed," Major Danby insisted benevolently. "In fact,
everything is much better. It was really a stroke of luck that you were
almost murdered by that girl. Now the deal can go through perfectly."
"I'm not making any deals with Colonel Korn."
Major Danby's effervescent optimism vanished instantly, and he
broke out all at once into a bubbling sweat. "But you do have a deal
with him, don't you?" he asked in anguished puzzlement. "Don't you
have an agreement?"
"I'm breaking the agreement."
"But you shook hands on it, didn't you? You gave him your word as
a gentleman."
"I'm breaking my word."
"Oh, dear," sighed Major Danby, and began dabbing ineffectually at
his careworn brow with a folded white handkerchief "But why, Yossarian?
It's a very good deal they're offering you."
"It's a lousy deal, Danby. It's an odious deal."
"Oh, dear," Major Danby fretted, running his bare hand over his
dark, wiry hair; which was already soaked with perspiration to the tops
of the thick, close-cropped waves. "Oh, dear."
"Danby, don't you think it's odious?"
Major Danby pondered a moment. "Yes, I suppose it is odious," he
conceded with reluctance. His globular, exophthalmic eyes were quite
distraught. "But why did you make such a deal if you didn't like it?"
"I did it in a moment of weakness," Yossarian wisecracked with glum
irony. "I was trying to save my life."
"Don't you want to save your life now?"
"That's why I won't let them make me fly more missions."
"Then let them send you home and you'll be in no more danger."
"Let them send me home because, I flew more than fifty missions,"
Yossarian said, "and not because I was stabbed by that girl, or because
I've turned into such a stubborn son of a bitch."
Major Danby shook his head emphatically in sincere and bespectacled
vexation. "They'd have to send nearly every man home if they did
that. Most of the men have more than fifty missions. Colonel Cathcart
couldn't possibly requisition so many inexperienced replacement crews
at one time without causing an investigation. He's caught in his own
trap."
"That's his problem."
"No, no, no, Yossarian," Major Danby disagreed solicitously. "It's
your problem. Because if you don't go through with the deal, they're
going to institute court-martial proceedings as soon as you sign out of
the hospital."
Yossarian thumbed his nose at Major Danby and laughed with smug
elation. "The hell they will! Don't lie to me, Danby. They wouldn't
even try."
"But why wouldn't they?" inquired Major Danby, blinking with
astonishment.
"Because I've really got them over a barrel now. There's an official
report that says I was stabbed by a Nazi assassin trying to kill them.
They'd certainly look silly trying to court-martial me after that."
"But, Yossarian!" Major Danby exclaimed. "There's another official
report that says you were stabbed by an innocent girl in the course of
extensive black-market operations involving acts of sabotage and the
sale of military secrets to the enemy."
Yossarian was taken back severely with surprise and disappointment.
"Another official report?"
"Yossarian, they can prepare as many official reports as they want
and choose whichever ones they need on any given occasion. Didn't
you know that?"
"Oh, dear," Yossarian murmured in heavy dejection, the blood
draining from his face. "Oh, dear."
Major Danby pressed forward avidly with a look of vulturous well-meaning.
"Yossarian, do what they want and let them send you home.
It's best for everyone that way."
"It's best for Cathcart, Korn and me, not for everyone."
"For everyone," Major Danby insisted. "It will solve the whole
problem."
"Is it best for the men in the group who will have to keep flying
more missions?"
Major Danby flinched and turned his face away uncomfortably for
a second. "Yossarian," he replied, "it will help nobody if you force
Colonel Cathcart to court-martial you and prove you guilty of all the
crimes with which you'll be charged. You will go to prison for a long
time, and your whole life will be ruined."
Yossarian listened to him with a growing feeling of concern. "What
crimes will they charge me with?"
"Incompetence over Ferrara, insubordination, refusal to engage the
enemy in combat when ordered to do so, and desertion."
Yossarian sucked his cheeks in soberly. "They could charge me with
all that, couldn't they? They gave me a medal for Ferrara. How could
they charge me with incompetence now?"
"Aarfy will swear that you and McWatt lied in your official report."
"I'll bet the bastard would!"
"They will also find you guilty," Major Danby recited, "of rape,
extensive black-market operations, acts of sabotage and the sale of military
secrets to the enemy."
"How will they prove any of that? I never did a single one of those
things."
"But they have witnesses who will swear you did. They can get all
the witnesses they need simply by persuading them that destroying you
is for the good of the country. And in a way, it would be for the good of
the country."
"In what way?" Yossarian demanded, rising up slowly on one elbow
with bridling hostility.
Major Danby drew back a bit and began mopping his forehead
again. "Well, Yossarian," he began with an apologetic stammer, "it
would not help the war effort to bring Colonel Cathcart and Colonel
Korn into disrepute now. Let's face it, Yossarian-in spite of everything,
the group does have a very good record. If you were court-martialed
and found innocent, other men would probably refuse to fly missions,
too. Colonel Cathcart would be in disgrace, and the military efficiency
of the unit might be destroyed. So in that way it would be for the good
of the country to have you found guilty and put in prison, even though
you are innocent."
"What a sweet way you have of putting things!" Yossarian snapped
with caustic resentment.
Major Danby turned red and squirmed and squinted uneasily.
"Please don't blame me," he pleaded with a look of anxious integrity.
"You know it's not my fault. All I'm doing is trying to look at things
objectively and arrive at a solution to a very difficult situation."
"I didn't create the situation."
"But you can resolve it. And what else can you do? You don't want
to fly more missions."
"I can run away."
"Run away?"
"Desert. Take off. 1 can turn my back on the whole damned mess
and start running."
Major Danby was shocked. "Where to? Where could you go?"
"I could get to Rome easily enough. And 1 could hide myself there."
"And live in danger every minute of your life that they would find
you? No, no, no, no, Yossarian. That would be a disastrous and ignoble
thing to do. Running away from problems never solved them.
Please believe me. 1 am only trying to help you."
"That's what that kind detective said before he decided to jab his
thumb into my wound," Yossarian retorted sarcastically.
"I am not a detective," Major Danby replied with indignation, his
cheeks flushing again. "I'm a university professor with a highly developed
sense of right and wrong, and 1 wouldn't try to deceive you. 1
wouldn't lie to anyone."
"What would you do if one of the men in the group asked you about
this conversation?"
"I would lie to him."
Yossarian laughed mockingly, and Major Danby, despite his blushing
discomfort, leaned back with relief, as though welcoming the
respite Yossarian's changing mood promised. Yossarian gazed at him
with a mixture of reserved pity and contempt. He sat up in bed with his
back resting against the headboard, lit a cigarette, smiled slightly with
wry amusement, and stared with whimsical sympathy at the vivid, popeyed
horror that had implanted itself permanently on Major Danby's
face the day of the mission to Avignon, when General Dreedle had
ordered him taken outside and shot. The startled wrinkles would
always remain, like deep black scars, and Yossarian felt sorry for the
gentle, moral, middle-aged idealist, as he felt sorry for so many people
whose shortcomings were not large and whose troubles were light.
With deliberate amiability he said, "Danby, how can you work along
with people like Cathcart and Korn? Doesn't it turn your stomach?"
Major Danby seemed surprised by Yossarian's question. "I do it to
help my country," he replied, as though the answer should have been
obvious. "Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn are my superiors, and
obeying their orders is the only contribution I can make to the war
effort. I work along with them because it's my duty. And also," he
added in a much lower voice, dropping his eyes, "because I am not a
very aggressive person."
"Your country doesn't need your help any more," Yossarian reasoned
without antagonism. "So all you're doing is helping them."
"I try not to think of that," Major Danby admitted frankly. "I try to
concentrate on only the big result and to forget that they are succeeding,
too. I try to pretend that they are not significant."
"That's my trouble, you know," Yossarian mused sympathetically,
folding his arms. "Between me and every ideal I always find Scheisskopfs,
Peckems, Korns and Cathcarts. And that sort of changes the
ideal."
"You must try not to think of them," Major Danby advised affirmatively.
"And you must never let them change your values. Ideals are
good, but people are sometimes not so good. You must try to look up
at the big picture."
Yossarian rejected the advice with a skeptical shake of his head.
"When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don't see heaven or saints
or' angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every
human tragedy."
"But you must try not to think of that,," Major Danby insisted. "And
you must try not to let it upset you."
"Oh, it doesn't really upset me. What does upset me, though, is that
they think I'm a sucker. They think that they're smart, and that the rest
of us are dumb. And, you know, Danby, the thought occurs to me right
now, for the first time, that maybe they're right."
"But you must try not to think of that too," argued Major Danby.
"You must think only of the welfare of your country and the dignity of
man."
"Yeah," said Yossarian.
"I mean it, Yossarian. This is not World War One. You must never
forget that we're at war with aggressors who would not let either one
of us live if they won."
"I know that," Yossarian replied tersely, with a sudden surge of
scowling annoyance. "Christ, Danby, I earned that medal I got, no
matter what their reasons were for giving it to me. I've flown seventy
goddam combat missions. Don't talk to me about fighting to save my
country. I've been fighting all along to save my country. Now I'm
going to fight a little to save myself. The country's not in danger any
more, but I am."
"The war's not over yet. The Germans are driving toward Antwerp."
"The Germans will be beaten in a few months. And Japan will be
beaten a few months after that. If I were to give up my life now, it
wouldn't be for my country. It would be for Cathcart and Korn. So I'm
turning my bombsight in for the duration. From now on I'm thinking
only of me."
Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile, "But, Yossarian,
suppose everyone felt that way."
"Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn't
I?" Yossarian sat up straighter with a quizzical expression. "You know,
I have a queer feeling that I've been through this exact conversation
before with someone. It's just like the chaplain's sensation of having
experienced everything twice."
"The chaplain wants you to let them send you home," Major Danby
remarked.
"The chaplain can jump in the lake."
"Oh, dear." Major Danby sighed, shaking his head in regretful disappointment.
"He's afraid he might have influenced you."
"He didn't influence me. You know what I might do? I might stay
right here in this hospital bed and vegetate. I could vegetate very comfortably
right here and let other people make the decisions."
"You must make decisions," Major Danby disagreed. "A person
can't live 'like a vegetable."
"Why not?"
A distant warm look entered Major Danby's eyes. "It must be nice
to live like a vegetable," he conceded wistfully.
"It's lousy," answered Yossarian.
"No, it must be very pleasant to be free from all this doubt and pressure,"
insisted Major Danby. "I think I'd like to live like a vegetable and
make no important decisions."
"What kind of vegetable, Danby?"
"A cucumber or a carrot."
"What kind of cucumber? A good one or a bad one?"
"Oh, a good one, of course."
"They'd cut you off in your prime and slice you up for a salad."
Major Danby's face fell. "A poor one, then."
"They'd let you rot and use you for fertilizer to help the good ones
grow."
"I guess I don't want to live like a vegetable, then," said Major
Danby with a smile of sad resignation.
"Danby, must I really let them send me home?" Yossarian inquired
of him seriously.
Major Danby shrugged. "It's a way to save yourself."
"It's a way to lose myself, Danby. You ought to know that."
"You could have lots of things you want."
"I don't want lots of things I want," Yossarian replied, and then beat
his fist down against the mattress in an outburst of rage and frustration.
"Goddammit, Danby! I've got friends who were killed in this war. I
can't make a deal now. Getting stabbed by that bitch was the best thing
that ever happened to me."
"Would you rather go to jail?"
"Would you let them send you home?"
"Of course I would!" Major Danby declared with conviction.
"Certainly I would," he added a few moments later, in a less positive
manner. "Yes, I suppose I would let them send me home if I were in
your place," he decided uncomfortably, after lapsing into troubled contemplation.
Then he threw his face sideways disgustedly in a gesture of
violent distress and blurted out, "Oh, yes, of course I'd let them send
me home! But I'm such a terrible coward I couldn't really be in your
place."
"But suppose you weren't a coward?" Yossarian demanded, studying
him closely. "Suppose you did have the courage to defy somebody?"
"Then I wouldn't let them send me home," Major Danby vowed
emphatically with vigorous joy and enthusiasm. "But I certainly
wouldn't let them court-martial me."
"Would you fly more missions?"
"No, of course not. That would be total capitulation. And I might
be killed."
"Then you'd run away?"
Major Danby started to retort with proud spirit and came to an
abrupt stop, his half-opened jaw swinging closed dumbly. He pursed
his lips in a tired pout. "I guess there just wouldn't be any hope for me,
then, would there?"
His forehead and protuberant white eyeballs were soon glistening
nervously again. He crossed his limp wrists in his lap and hardly
seemed to be breathing as he sat with his gaze drooping toward the
floor in acquiescent defeat. Dark, steep shadows slanted in from the
window. Yossarian watched him solemnly, and neither of the two men
stirred at the rattling noise of a speeding vehicle skidding to a stop outside
and the sound of racing footsteps pounding toward the building in
haste.
"Yes, there's hope for you," Yossarian remembered with a sluggish
flow of inspiration. "Milo might help you. He's bigger than Colonel
Cathcart, and he owes me a few favors."
Major Danby shook his head and answered tonelessly. "Milo and
Colonel Cathcart are pals now. He made Colonel Cathcart a vice-president
and promised him an important job after the war."
"Then ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen will help us," Yossarian exclaimed.
"He hates them both, and this will infuriate him."
Major Danby shook his head bleakly again. "Milo and ex-P.F.C.
Wintergreen merged last week. They're all 'partners now in M & M
Enterprises."
"Then there is no hope for us, is there?"
"No hope."
"No hope at all, is there?"
"No, no hope at all," Major Danby conceded. He looked up after a
while with a half-formed notion. "Wouldn't it be nice if they could disappear
us the way they disappeared the others and relieve us of all
these crushing burdens?"
Yossarian said no. Major Danby agreed with a melancholy nod, lowering
his eyes again, and there was no hope at all for either of them
until footsteps exploded in the corridor suddenly and the chaplain,
shouting at the top of his voice, came bursting into the room with the
electrifying news about Orr, so overcome with hilarious excitement
that he was almost incoherent for a minute or two. Tears of great elation
were sparkling in his eyes, and Yossarian leaped right out of bed
with an incredulous yelp when he finally understood.
"Sweden?" he cried.
"Orr!" cried the chaplain.
"Orr?" cried Yossarian.
"Sweden!" cried the chaplain, shaking his head up and down with
gleeful rapture and prancing about uncontrollably from spot to spot in
a grinning, delicious frenzy. "It's a miracle, I tell you! A miracle! I
believe in God again. I really do. Washed ashore in Sweden after so
many weeks at sea! It's a miracle."
"Washed ashore, hell!" Yossarian declared, jumping all about also
and roaring in laughing exultation at the walls, the ceiling, the chaplain
and Major Danby. "He didn't wash ashore in Sweden. He rowed
there! He rowed there, Chaplain, he rowed there."
"Rowed there?"
"He planned it that way! He went to Sweden deliberately."
"Well, I don't care!" the chaplain flung back with undiminished
zeal. "It's still a miracle, a miracle of human intelligence and human
endurance. Look how much he accomplished!" The chaplain clutched
his head with both hands and doubled over in laughter. "Can't you just
picture him?" he exclaimed with amazement. "Can't you just picture
him in that yellow raft, paddling through the Straits of Gilbraltar at
night with that tiny little blue oar-"
"With that fishing line trailing out behind him, eating raw codfish
all the way to Sweden, and serving himself tea every afternoon-"
"I can just see him!" cried the chaplain, pausing a moment in his celebration
to catch his breath. "It's a miracle of human perseverance, I
tell you. And that's just what I'm going to do from now on! I'm going
to persevere. Yes, I'm going to persevere."
"He knew what he was doing every step of the way!" Yossarian
rejoiced, holding both fists aloft triumphantly as though hoping to
squeeze revelations from them. He spun to a stop facing Major Danby.
"Danby, you dope! There is hope, after all. Can't you see? Even Clevinger
might be alive somewhere in that cloud of his, hiding inside until
it's safe to come out."
"What are you talking about?" Major Danby asked in confusion.
"What are you both talking about?"
"Bring me apples, Danby, and chestnuts too. Run, Danby, run.
Bring me crab apples and horse chestnuts before it's too late, and get
some for yourself."
"Horse chestnuts? Crab apples? What in the world for?"
"To pop into our cheeks, of course." Yossarian threw his arms up
into the air in a gesture of mighty and despairing self-recrimination.
"Oh, why didn't I listen to him? Why wouldn't I have some faith?"
"Have you gone crazy?" Major Danby demanded with alarm and
bewilderment. "Yossarian, will you please tell me what you are talking
about?"
"Danby, Orr planned it that way. Don't you understand-he
planned it that way from the beginning. He even practiced getting shot
down. He rehearsed for it on every mission he flew. And I wouldn't go
with him! Oh, why wouldn't I listen? He invited me along, and I
wouldn't go with him! Danby, bring me buck teeth too, and a valve to
fix and a look of stupid innocence that nobody would ever suspect of
any cleverness. I'll need ·them all. Oh, why wouldn't I listen to him.
Now I understand what he was trying to tell me. I even understand
why that girl was hitting him on the head with her shoe."
"Why?" inquired the chaplain sharply.
Yossarian whirled and seized the chaplain by the shirt front in an
importuning grip. "Chaplain, help me! Please help me. Get my
clothes. And hurry, will you? I need them right away."
The chaplain started away alertly. "Yes, Yossarian, I will. But where
are they? How will I get them?"
"By bullying and browbeating anybody who tries to stop you.
Chaplain, get me my uniform! It's around this hospital somewhere. For
once in your life, succeed at something."
The chaplain straightened his shoulders with determination and tightened
his jaw. "Don't worry, Yossarian. I'll get your uniform. But why was
that girl hitting Orr over the head with her shoe? Please tell me."
"Because he was paying her to, that's why! But she wouldn't hit him
hard enough, so he had to row to Sweden. Chaplain, find me my uniform
so I can get out of here. Ask Nurse Duckett for it. She'll help you.
She'll do anything she can to be rid of me."
"Where are you going?" Major Danby asked apprehensively when
the chaplain had shot from the room. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to run away," Yossarian announced in an exuberant, clear
voice, already tearing open the buttons of his pajama tops.
"Oh, no," Major Danby groaned, and began patting his perspiring
face rapidly with the bare palms of both hands. "You can't run away.
Where can you run to? Where can you go?"
"To Sweden."
"To Sweden?" Major Danby exclaimed in astonishment. "You're
going to run to Sweden? Are you crazy?"
"Orr did it."
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no," Major Danby pleaded. "No, Yossarian,
you'll never get there. You can't run away to Sweden. You can't even
row."
"But I can get to Rome if you'll keep your mouth shut when you
leave here and give me a chance to catch a ride. Will you do it?"
"But they'll find you," Major Danby argued desperately, "and bring
you back and punish you even more severely."
"They'll have to try like hell to catch me this time."
"They will try like hell. And even if they don't find you, what kind
of way is that to live? You'll always be alone. No one will ever be on
your side, and you'll always live in danger of betrayal."
"I live that way now."
"But you can't just turn your back on all your responsibilities and
run away from them," Major Danby insisted. "It's such a negative
move. It's escapist."
Yossarian laughed with buoyant scorn and shook his head. "I'm not
running away from my responsibilities. I'm running to them. There's
nothing negative about running away to save my life. You know who
the escapists are, don't you, Danby? Not me and Orr."
"Chaplain, please talk to him, will you? He's deserting. He wants to
run away to Sweden."
"Wonderful!" cheered the chaplain, proudly throwing on the bed a
pillowcase full of Yossarian's clothing. "Run away to Sweden, Yossarian.
And I'll stay here and persevere. Yes. I'll persevere. I'll nag and
badger Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn every time I see them. I'm
not afraid. I'll even pick on General Dreedle."
"General Dreedle's out," Yossarian reminded, pulling on his
trousers and hastily stuffing the tails of his shirt inside. "It's General
Peckem now."
The chaplain's babbling confidence did not falter for an instant.
"Then I'll pick on General Peckem, and even on General Scheisskopf.
And do you know what else I'm going to do? I'm going to punch
Captain Black in the nose the very next time I see him. Yes, I'm going
to punch him in the nose. I'll do it when lots of people are around so
that he may not have a chance to hit me back."
"Have you both gone crazy?" Major Danby protested, his bulging
eyes straining in their sockets with tortured awe and exasperation.
"Have you both taken leave of your senses? Yossarian, listen-"
"It's a miracle, I tell you," the chaplain proclaimed, seizing Major
Danby about the waist and dancing him around with his elbows
extended for a waltz. "A real miracle. If Orr could row to Sweden, then
I can triumph over Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn, if I only persevere."
"Chaplain, will you please shut up?" Major Danby entreated politely,
pulling free and patting his perspiring brow with a fluttering motion.
He bent toward Yossarian, who was reaching for his shoes. "What about
Colonel-"
"I couldn't care less."
"But this may actua-"
"To hell with them both!"
"This may actually help them," Major Danby persisted stubbornly.
"Have you thought of that?"
"Let the bastards thrive, for all I care, since I can't do a thing to stop
them but embarrass them by running away. I've got responsibilities of
my own now, Danby. I've got to get to Sweden."
"You'll never make it. It's impossible. It's almost a geographical
impossibility to get there from here."
"Hell, Danby, I know that. But at least I'll be trying. There's a
young kid in Rome whose life I'd like to save if I can find her. I'll take
her to Sweden with me if I can find her, so it isn't all selfish, is it?"
"It's absolutely insane. Your conscience will never let you rest."
"God bless it." Yossarian laughed. "I wouldn't want to live without
, strong misgivings. Right, Chaplain?"
"I'm going to punch Captain Black right in the nose the next time I
see him," gloried the chaplain, throwing two left jabs in the air and
then a clumsy haymaker. "Just like that."
"What about the disgrace?" demanded Major Danby.
"What disgrace? I'm in more disgrace now." Yossarian tied a hard
knot in the second shoelace and sprang to his feet. "Well, Danby, I'm
ready. What do you say? Will you keep your mouth shut and let me
catch a ride?"
Major Danby regarded Yossarian in silence, with a strange, sad
smile. He had stopped sweating and seemed absolutely calm. "What
would you do if I did try to stop you?" he asked with rueful mockery.
"Beat me up?"
Yossarian reacted to the question with hurt surprise. "No, of course
not. Why do you say that?"
"I will beat you up," boasted the chaplain, dancing up very close to
Major Danby and shadowboxing. "You and Captain Black, and maybe
even Corporal Whitcomb. Wouldn't it be wonderful if! found I didn't
have to be afraid of Corporal Whitcomb any more?"
"Are you going to stop me?" Yossarian asked Major Danby, and
gazed at him steadily.
Major Danby skipped away from the chaplain and hesitated a
moment longer. "No, of course not!" he blurted out, and suddenly was
waving both arms toward the door in a gesture of exuberant urgency.
"Of course I won't stop you. Go, for God's sake, and hurry! Do you
need any money?"
"I have some money."
"Well, here's some more." With fervent, excited enthusiasm, Major
Danby pressed a thick wad of Italian currency upon Yossarian and
clasped his hand in both his own, as much to still his own trembling
fingers as to give encouragement to Yossarian. "It must be nice to be
in Sweden now," he observed yearningly. "The girls are so sweet. And
, the people are so advanced."
"Goodbye, Yossarian," the chaplain called. "And good luck. I'll stay
here and persevere, and we'll meet again when the fighting stops."
"So long, Chaplain. Thanks, Danby."
"How do you feel, Yossarian?"
"Fine. No, I'm very frightened."
"That's good," said Major Danby. "It proves you're still alive. It
won't be fun."
Yossarian started out. "Yes it will."
"I mean it, Yossarian. You'll have to keep on your toes every minute
of every day. They'll bend heaven and earth to catch you."
"I'll keep on my toes every minute."
"You'll have to jump."
"I'll jump."
"Jump!" Major Danby cried.
Yossarian jumped. Nately's whore was hiding just outside the door.
The knife came down, missing him by inches, and he took off.
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