فصل 18 - 21کتاب: ناطور دشت / فصل 5
فصل 18 - 21
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When I left the skating rink I felt sort of hungry, so I went in this drugstore and had a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted, and then I went in a phone booth. I thought maybe I might give old Jane another buzz and see if she was home yet. I mean I had the whole evening free, and I thought I’d give her a buzz and, if she was home yet, take her dancing or something somewhere. I never danced with her or anything the whole time I knew her. I saw her dancing once, though. She looked like a very good dancer. It was atthis Fourth of July dance at the club. I didn’t know her too well then, and I didn’t think I ought to cut in on her date. She was dating this terrible guy, Al Pike, that went to Choate.
I didn’t know him too well, but he was always hanging around the swimming pool. He wore those white Lastex kind of swimming trunks, and he was always going off the high dive. He did the same lousy old half gainer all day long. It was the only dive he could do, but he thought he was very hot stuff. All muscles and no brains. Anyway, that’s who Jane dated that night. I couldn’t understand it. I swear I couldn’t. After we started going around together, I asked her how come she could date a showoff bastard like Al Pike. Jane said he wasn’t a show-off. She said he had an inferiority complex. She acted like she felt sorry for him or something, and she wasn’t just putting it on. She meant it. It’s a funny thing about girls. Every time you mention some guy that’s strictly a bastard–very mean, or very conceited and all–and when you mention it to the girl, she’ll tell you he has an inferiority complex. Maybe he has, but that still doesn’t keep him from being a bastard, in my opinion. Girls. You never know what they’re going to think. I once got this girl Roberta Walsh’s roommate a date with a friend of mine. His name was Bob Robinson and he really had an inferiority complex. You could tell he was very ashamed of his parents and all, because they said “he don’t” and “she don’t” and stuff like that and they weren’t very wealthy. But he wasn’t a bastard or anything. He was a very nice guy. But this Roberta Walsh’s roommate didn’t like him at all. She told Roberta he was too conceited–and the reason she thought he was conceited was because he happened to mention to her that he was captain of the debating team. A little thing like that, and she thought he was conceited! The trouble with girls is, if they like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is, they’ll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don’t like him, no matter how nice a guy he is, or how big an inferiority complex he has, they’ll say he’s conceited. Even smart girls do it.
Anyway, I gave old Jane a buzz again, but her phone didn’t answer, so I had to hang up. Then I had to look through my address book to see who the hell might be available for the evening. The trouble was, though, my address book only has about three people in it. Jane, and this man, Mr. Antolini, that was my teacher at Elkton Hills, and my father’s office number. I keep forgetting to put people’s names in. So what I did finally, I gave old Carl Luce a buzz. He graduated from the Whooton School after I left. He was about three years older than I was, and I didn’t like him too much, but he was one of these very intellectual guys– he had the highest I.Q. of any boy at Whooton–and I thought he might want to have dinner with me somewhere and have a slightly intellectual conversation. He was very enlightening sometimes. So I gave him a buzz. He went to Columbia now, but he lived on 65th Street and all, and I knew he’d be home. When I got him on the phone, he said he couldn’t make it for dinner but that he’d meet me for a drink at ten o’clock at the Wicker Bar, on 54th. I think he was pretty surprised to hear from me.
I once called him a fat-assed phony.
I had quite a bit of time to kill till ten o’clock, so what I did, I went to the movies at Radio City. It was probably the worst thing I could’ve done, but it was near, and I couldn’t think of anything else.
I came in when the goddam stage show was on. The Rockettes were kicking their heads off, the way they do when they’re all in line with their arms around each other’s waist. The audience applauded like mad, and some guy behind me kept saying to his wife, “You know what that is? That’s precision.” He killed me. Then, after the Rockettes,a guy came out in a tuxedo and roller skates on, and started skating under a bunch of little tables, and telling jokes while he did it. He was a very good skater and all, but I couldn’t enjoy it much because I kept picturing him practicing to be a guy that roller-skates on the stage. It seemed so stupid. I guess I just wasn’t in the right mood. Then, after him, they had this Christmas thing they have at Radio City every year. All these angels start coming out of the boxes and everywhere, guys carrying crucifixes and stuff all over the place, and the whole bunch of them–thousands of them–singing “Come All Ye Faithful!” like mad. Big deal. It’s supposed to be religious as hell, I know, and very pretty and all, but I can’t see anything religious or pretty, for God’s sake, about a bunch of actors carrying crucifixes all over the stage. When they were all finished and started going out the boxes again, you could tell they could hardly wait to get a cigarette or something. I saw it with old Sally Hayes the year before, and she kept saying how beautiful it was, the costumes and all. I said old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it–all those fancy costumes and all. Sally said I was a sacrilegious atheist. I probably am. The thing Jesus really would’ve liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra. I’ve watched that guy since I was about eight years old. My brother Allie and I, if we were with our parents and all, we used to move our seats and go way down so we could watch him. He’s the best drummer I ever saw. He only gets a chance to bang them a couple of times during a whole piece, but he never looks bored when he isn’t doing it. Then when he does bang them, he does it so nice and sweet, with this nervous expression on his face.
One time when we went to Washington with my father, Allie sent him a postcard, but I’ll bet he never got it. We weren’t too sure how to address it.
After the Christmas thing was over, the goddam picture started. It was so putrid I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was about this English guy, Alec something, that was in the war and loses his memory in the hospital and all. He comes out of the hospital carrying a cane and limping all over the place, all over London, not knowing who the hell he is. He’s really a duke, but he doesn’t know it. Then he meets this nice, homey, sincere girl getting on a bus. Her goddam hat blows off and he catches it, and then they go upstairs and sit down and start talking about Charles di@kens. He’s both their favorite author and all. He’s carrying this copy of Oliver Twist and so’s she. I could’ve puked.
Anyway, they fell in love right away, on account of they’re both so nuts about Charles di@kens and all, and he helps her run her publishing business. She’s a publisher, the girl.
Only, she’s not doing so hot, because her brother’s a drunkard and he spends all their dough. He’s a very bitter guy, the brother, because he was a doctor in the war and now he can’t operate any more because his nerves are shot, so he boozes all the time, but he’s pretty witty and all. Anyway, old Alec writes a book, and this girl publishes it, and they both make a hatful of dough on it. They’re all set to get married when this other girl, old Marcia, shows up. Marcia was Alec’s fiancée before he lost his memory, and she recognizes him when he’s in this store autographing books. She tells old Alec he’s really a duke and all, but he doesn’t believe her and doesn’t want to go with her to visit his mother and all. His mother’s blind as a bat. But the other girl, the homey one, makes him go.
She’s very noble and all. So he goes. But he still doesn’t get his memory back, even when his great Dane jumps all over him and his mother sticks her fingers all over his face and brings him this teddy bear he used to slobber around with when he was a kid. But then, one day, some kids are playing cricket on the lawn and he gets smacked in the head with a cricket ball. Then right away he gets his goddam memory back and he goes in andkisses his mother on the forehead and all. Then he starts being a regular duke again, and he forgets all about the homey babe that has the publishing business. I’d tell you the rest of the story, but I might puke if I did. It isn’t that I’d spoil it for you or anything. There isn’t anything to spoil for Chrissake. Anyway, it ends up with Alec and the homey babe getting married, and the brother that’s a drunkard gets his nerves back and operates on Alec’s mother so she can see again, and then the drunken brother and old Marcia go for each other. It ends up with everybody at this long dinner table laughing their asses off because the great Dane comes in with a bunch of puppies. Everybody thought it was a male, I suppose, or some goddam thing. All I can say is, don’t see it if you don’t want to puke all over yourself.
The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried. You’d have thought she did it because she was kindhearted as hell, but I was sitting right next to her, and she wasn’t.
She had this little kid with her that was bored as hell and had to go to the bathroom, but she wouldn’t take him. She kept telling him to sit still and behave himself. She was about as kindhearted as a goddam wolf. You take somebody that cries their goddam eyes out over phony stuff in the movies, and nine times out of ten they’re mean bastards at heart.
I’m not kidding.
After the movie was over, I started walking down to the Wicker Bar, where I was supposed to meet old Carl Luce, and while I walked I sort of thought about war and all.
Those war movies always do that to me. I don’t think I could stand it if I had to go to war.
I really couldn’t. It wouldn’t be too bad if they’d just take you out and shoot you or something, but you have to stay in the Army so goddam long. That’s the whole trouble.
My brother D.B. was in the Army for four goddam years. He was in the war, too–he landed on D-Day and all–but I really think he hated the Army worse than the war. I was practically a child at the time, but I remember when he used to come home on furlough and all, all he did was lie on his bed, practically. He hardly ever even came in the living room. Later, when he went overseas and was in the war and all, he didn’t get wounded or anything and he didn’t have to shoot anybody. All he had to do was drive some cowboy general around all day in a command car. He once told Allie and I that if he’d had to shoot anybody, he wouldn’t’ve known which direction to shoot in. He said the Army was practically as full of bastards as the Nazis were. I remember Allie once asked him wasn’t it sort of good that he was in the war because he was a writer and it gave him a lot to write about and all. He made Allie go get his baseball mitt and then he asked him who was the best war poet, Rupert Brooke or Emily di@kinson. Allie said Emily di@kinson. I don’t know too much about it myself, because I don’t read much poetry, but I do know it’d drive me crazy if I had to be in the Army and be with a bunch of guys like Ackley and Stradlater and old Maurice all the time, marching with them and all. I was in the Boy Scouts once, for about a week, and I couldn’t even stand looking at the back of the guy’s neck in front of me. They kept telling you to look at the back of the guy’s neck in front of you. I swear if there’s ever another war, they better just take me out and stick me in front of a firing squad. I wouldn’t object. What gets me about D.B., though, he hated the war so much, and yet he got me to read this book A Farewell to Arms last summer. He said it was so terrific. That’s what I can’t understand. It had this guy in it named Lieutenant Henry that was supposed to be a nice guy and all. I don’t see how D.B. could hate the Army and war and all so much and still like a phony like that. I mean, for instance, I don’tsee how he could like a phony book like that and still like that one by Ring Lardner, or that other one he’s so crazy about, The Great Gatsby. D.B. got sore when I said that, and said I was too young and all to appreciate it, but I don’t think so. I told him I liked Ring Lardner and The Great Gatsby and all. I did, too. I was crazy about The Great Gatsby.
Old Gatsby. Old sport. That killed me. Anyway, I’m sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.
In case you don’t live in New York, the Wicker Bar is in this sort of swanky hotel, the Seton Hotel. I used to go there quite a lot, but I don’t any more. I gradually cut it out.
It’s one of those places that are supposed to be very sophisticated and all, and the phonies are coming in the window. They used to have these two French babes, Tina and Janine, come out and play the piano and sing about three times every night. One of them played the piano–strictly lousy–and the other one sang, and most of the songs were either pretty dirty or in French. The one that sang, old Janine, was always whispering into the goddam microphone before she sang. She’d say, “And now we like to geeve you our impression of Vooly Voo Fransay. Eet ees the story of a leetle Fransh girl who comes to a beeg ceety, just like New York, and falls een love wees a leetle boy from Brookleen. We hope you like eet.” Then, when she was all done whispering and being cute as hell, she’d sing some dopey song, half in English and half in French, and drive all the phonies in the place mad with joy. If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding and all, you got to hate everybody in the world, I swear you did. The bartender was a louse, too. He was a big snob. He didn’t talk to you at all hardly unless you were a big shot or a celebrity or something. If you were a big shot or a celebrity or something, then he was even more nauseating. He’d go up to you and say, with this big charming smile, like he was a helluva swell guy if you knew him, “Well! How’s Connecticut?” or “How’s Florida?” It was a terrible place, I’m not kidding. I cut out going there entirely, gradually.
It was pretty early when I got there. I sat down at the bar–it was pretty crowdedand had a couple of Scotch and sodas before old Luce even showed up. I stood up when I ordered them so they could see how tall I was and all and not think I was a goddam minor. Then I watched the phonies for a while. Some guy next to me was snowing hell out of the babe he was with. He kept telling her she had aristocratic hands. That killed me. The other end of the bar was full of flits. They weren’t too flitty-looking–I mean they didn’t have their hair too long or anything–but you could tell they were flits anyway.
Finally old Luce showed up.
Old Luce. What a guy. He was supposed to be my Student Adviser when I was at Whooton. The only thing he ever did, though, was give these s@x talks and all, late at night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about s@x, especially perverts and all. He was always telling us about a lot of creepy guys that go around having affairs with sheep, and guys that go around with girls’ pants sewed in the lining of their hats and all. And flits and Lesbians. Old Luce knew who every flit and Lesbian in the United States was. All you had to do was mention somebody–anybodyand old Luce’d tell you if he was a flit or not. Sometimes it was hard to believe, thepeople he said were flits and Lesbians and all, movie actors and like that. Some of the ones he said were flits were even married, for God’s sake. You’d keep saying to him, “You mean Joe Blow’s a flit? Joe Blow? That big, tough guy that plays gangsters and cowboys all the time?” Old Luce’d say, “Certainly.” He was always saying “Certainly.”
He said it didn’t matter if a guy was married or not. He said half the married guys in the world were flits and didn’t even know it. He said you could turn into one practically overnight, if you had all the traits and all. He used to scare the hell out of us. I kept waiting to turn into a flit or something. The funny thing about old Luce, I used to think he was sort of flitty himself, in a way. He was always saying, “Try this for size,” and then he’d goose the hell out of you while you were going down the corridor. And whenever he went to the can, he always left the goddam door open and talked to you while you were brushing your teeth or something. That stuff’s sort of flitty. It really is. I’ve known quite a few real flits, at schools and all, and they’re always doing stuff like that, and that’s why I always had my doubts about old Luce. He was a pretty intelligent guy, though. He really was.
He never said hello or anything when he met you. The first thing he said when he sat down was that he could only stay a couple of minutes. He said he had a date. Then he ordered a dry Martini. He told the bartender to make it very dry, and no olive.
“Hey, I got a flit for you,” I told him. “At the end of the bar. Don’t look now. I been saving him for ya.”
“Very funny,” he said. “Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?”
I bored him a lot. I really did. He amused me, though. He was one of those guys that sort of amuse me a lot.
“How’s your s@x life?” I asked him. He hated you to ask him stuff like that.
“Relax,” he said. “Just sit back and relax, for Chrissake.”
“I’m relaxed,” I said. “How’s Columbia? Ya like it?”
“Certainly I like it. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have gone there,” he said. He could be pretty boring himself sometimes.
“What’re you majoring in?” I asked him. “Perverts?” I was only horsing around.
“What’re you trying to be–funny?”
“No. I’m only kidding,” I said. “Listen, hey, Luce. You’re one of these intellectual guys. I need your advice. I’m in a terrific–”
He let out this big groan on me. “Listen, Caulfield. If you want to sit here and have a quiet, peaceful drink and a quiet, peaceful conver–”
“All right, all right,” I said. “Relax.” You could tell he didn’t feel like discussing anything serious with me. That’s the trouble with these intellectual guys. They never want to discuss anything serious unless they feel like it. So all I did was, I started discussing topics in general with him. “No kidding, how’s your s@x life?” I asked him. “You still going around with that same babe you used to at Whooton? The one with the terrffic–”
“Good God, no,” he said.
“How come? What happened to her?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea. For all I know, since you ask, she’s probably the Whore of New Hampshire by this time.”
“That isn’t nice. If she was decent enough to let you get s@xy with her all the time, you at least shouldn’t talk about her that way.”“Oh, God!” old Luce said. “Is this going to be a typical Caulfield conversation? I want to know right now.”
“No,” I said, “but it isn’t nice anyway. If she was decent and nice enough to let you–”
“Must we pursue this horrible trend of thought?”
I didn’t say anything. I was sort of afraid he’d get up and leave on me if I didn’t shut up. So all I did was, I ordered another drink. I felt like getting stinking drunk.
“Who’re you going around with now?” I asked him. “You feel like telling me?”
“Nobody you know.”
“Yeah, but who? I might know her.”
“Girl lives in the Village. Sculptress. If you must know.”
“Yeah? No kidding? How old is she?”
“I’ve never asked her, for God’s sake.”
“Well, around how old?”
“I should imagine she’s in her late thirties,” old Luce said.
“In her late thirties? Yeah? You like that?” I asked him. “You like ‘em that old?”
The reason I was asking was because he really knew quite a bit about s@x and all. He was one of the few guys I knew that did. He lost his virginity when he was only fourteen, in Nantucket. He really did.
“I like a mature person, if that’s what you mean. Certainly.”
“You do? Why? No kidding, they better for s@x and all?”
“Listen. Let’s get one thing straight. I refuse to answer any typical Caulfield questions tonight. When in hell are you going to grow up?”
I didn’t say anything for a while. I let it drop for a while. Then old Luce ordered another Martini and told the bartender to make it a lot dryer.
“Listen. How long you been going around with her, this sculpture babe?” I asked him. I was really interested. “Did you know her when you were at Whooton?”
“Hardly. She just arrived in this country a few months ago.”
“She did? Where’s she from?”
“She happens to be from Shanghai.”
“No kidding! She Chinese, for Chrissake?”
“No kidding! Do you like that? Her being Chinese?”
“Why? I’d be interested to know–I really would.”
“I simply happen to find Eastern philosophy more satisfactory than Western.
Since you ask.”
“You do? Wuddaya mean ‘philosophy’? Ya mean s@x and all? You mean it’s better in China? That what you mean?”
“Not necessarily in China, for God’s sake. The East I said. Must we go on with this inane conversation?”
“Listen, I’m serious,” I said. “No kidding. Why’s it better in the East?”
“It’s too involved to go into, for God’s sake,” old Luce said. “They simply happen to regard s@x as both a physical and a spiritual experience. If you think I’m–"”So do I! So do I regard it as a wuddayacallit–a physical and spiritual experience and all. I really do. But it depends on who the hell I’m doing it with. If I’m doing it with somebody I don’t even–”
“Not so loud, for God’s sake, Caulfield. If you can’t manage to keep your voice down, let’s drop the whole–”
“All right, but listen,” I said. I was getting excited and I was talking a little too loud. Sometimes I talk a little loud when I get excited. “This is what I mean, though,” I said. “I know it’s supposed to be physical and spiritual, and artistic and all. But what I mean is, you can’t do it with everybody–every girl you neck with and all–and make it come out that way. Can you?”
“Let’s drop it,” old Luce said. “Do you mind?”
“All right, but listen. Take you and this Chinese babe. What’s so good about you two?”
“Drop it, I said.”
I was getting a little too personal. I realize that. But that was one of the annoying things about Luce. When we were at Whooton, he’d make you describe the most personal stuff that happened to you, but if you started asking him questions about himself, he got sore. These intellectual guys don’t like to have an intellectual conversation with you unless they’re running the whole thing. They always want you to shut up when they shut up, and go back to your room when they go back to their room. When I was at Whooton old Luce used to hate it–you really could tell he did–when after he was finished giving his s@x talk to a bunch of us in his room we stuck around and chewed the fat by ourselves for a while. I mean the other guys and myself. In somebody else’s room. Old Luce hated that. He always wanted everybody to go back to their own room and shut up when he was finished being the big shot. The thing he was afraid of, he was afraid somebody’d say something smarter than he had. He really amused me.
“Maybe I’ll go to China. My s@x life is lousy,” I said.
“Naturally. Your mind is immature.”
“It is. It really is. I know it,” I said. “You know what the trouble with me is? I can never get really s@xy–I mean really s@xy–with a girl I don’t like a lot. I mean I have to like her a lot. If I don’t, I sort of lose my goddam desire for her and all. Boy, it really screws up my s@x life something awful. My s@x life stinks.”
“Naturally it does, for God’s sake. I told you the last time I saw you what you need.”
“You mean to go to a psychoanalyst and all?” I said. That’s what he’d told me I ought to do. His father was a psychoanalyst and all.
“It’s up to you, for God’s sake. It’s none of my goddam business what you do with your life.”
I didn’t say anything for a while. I was thinking.
“Supposing I went to your father and had him psychoanalyze me and all,” I said.
“What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?”
“He wouldn’t do a goddam thing to you. He’d simply talk to you, and you’d talk to him, for God’s sake. For one thing, he’d help you to recognize the patterns of your mind.”
“The what?”“The patterns of your mind. Your mind runs in– Listen. I’m not giving an elementary course in psychoanalysis. If you’re interested, call him up and make an appointment. If you’re not, don’t. I couldn’t care less, frankly.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. Boy, he amused me. “You’re a real friendly bastard,” I told him. “You know that?”
He was looking at his wrist watch. “I have to tear,” he said, and stood up. “Nice seeing you.” He got the bartender and told him to bring him his check.
“Hey,” I said, just before he beat it. “Did your father ever psychoanalyze you?”
“Me? Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Did he, though? Has he?”
“Not exactly. He’s helped me to adjust myself to a certain extent, but an extensive analysis hasn’t been necessary. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I was just wondering.”
“Well. Take it easy,” he said. He was leaving his tip and all and he was starting to go.
“Have just one more drink,” I told him. “Please. I’m lonesome as hell. No kidding.”
He said he couldn’t do it, though. He said he was late now, and then he left.
Old Luce. He was strictly a pain in the ass, but he certainly had a good vocabulary. He had the largest vocabulary of any boy at Whooton when I was there. They gave us a test.
I kept sitting there getting drunk and waiting for old Tina and Janine to come out and do their stuff, but they weren’t there. A flitty-looking guy with wavy hair came out and played the piano, and then this new babe, Valencia, came out and sang. She wasn’t any good, but she was better than old Tina and Janine, and at least she sang good songs.
The piano was right next to the bar where I was sitting and all, and old Valencia was standing practically right next to me. I sort of gave her the old eye, but she pretended she didn’t even see me. I probably wouldn’t have done it, but I was getting drunk as hell.
When she was finished, she beat it out of the room so fast I didn’t even get a chance to invite her to join me for a drink, so I called the headwaiter over. I told him to ask old Valencia if she’d care to join me for a drink. He said he would, but he probably didn’t even give her my message. People never give your message to anybody.
Boy, I sat at that goddam bar till around one o’clock or so, getting drunk as a bastard. I could hardly see straight. The one thing I did, though, I was careful as hell not to get boisterous or anything. I didn’t want anybody to notice me or anything or ask how old I was. But, boy, I could hardly see straight. When I was really drunk, I started that stupid business with the bullet in my guts again. I was the only guy at the bar with a bullet in their guts. I kept putting my hand under my jacket, on my stomach and all, to keep the blood from dripping all over the place. I didn’t want anybody to know I was even wounded. I was concealing the fact that I was a wounded sonuvabit@h. Finally what I felt like, I felt like giving old Jane a buzz and see if she was home yet. So I paid mycheck and all. Then I left the bar and went out where the telephones were. I kept keeping my hand under my jacket to keep the blood from dripping. Boy, was I drunk.
But when I got inside this phone booth, I wasn’t much in the mood any more to give old Jane a buzz. I was too drunk, I guess. So what I did, I gave old Sally Hayes a buzz.
I had to dial about twenty numbers before I got the right one. Boy, was I blind.
“Hello,” I said when somebody answered the goddam phone. I sort of yelled it, I was so drunk.
“Who is this?” this very cold lady’s voice said.
“This is me. Holden Caulfield. Lemme speaka Sally, please.”
“Sally’s asleep. This is Sally’s grandmother. Why are you calling at this hour, Holden? Do you know what time it is?”
“Yeah. Wanna talka Sally. Very important. Put her on.”
“Sally’s asleep, young man. Call her tomorrow. Good night.”
“Wake ‘er up! Wake ‘er up, hey. Attaboy.”
Then there was a different voice. “Holden, this is me.” It was old Sally. “What’s the big idea?”
“Sally? That you?”
“Yes–stop screaming. Are you drunk?”
“Yeah. Listen. Listen, hey. I’ll come over Christmas Eve. Okay? Trimma goddarn tree for ya. Okay? Okay, hey, Sally?”
“Yes. You’re drunk. Go to bed now. Where are you? Who’s with you?”
“Sally? I’ll come over and trimma tree for ya, okay? Okay, hey?”
“Yes. Go to bed now. Where are you? Who’s with you?”
“Nobody. Me, myself and I.” Boy was I drunk! I was even still holding onto my guts. “They got me. Rocky’s mob got me. You know that? Sally, you know that?”
“I can’t hear you. Go to bed now. I have to go. Call me tomorrow.”
“Hey, Sally! You want me trimma tree for ya? Ya want me to? Huh?”
“Yes. Good night. Go home and go to bed.”
She hung up on me.
“G’night. G’night, Sally baby. Sally sweetheart darling,” I said. Can you imagine how drunk I was? I hung up too, then. I figured she probably just came home from a date.
I pictured her out with the Lunts and all somewhere, and that Andover jerk. All of them swimming around in a goddam pot of tea and saying sophisticated stuff to each other and being charming and phony. I wished to God I hadn’t even phoned her. When I’m drunk, I’m a madman.
I stayed in the damn phone booth for quite a while. I kept holding onto the phone, sort of, so I wouldn’t pass out. I wasn’t feeling too marvelous, to tell you the truth.
Finally, though, I came out and went in the men’s room, staggering around like a moron, and filled one of the washbowls with cold water. Then I dunked my head in it, right up to the ears. I didn’t even bother to dry it or anything. I just let the sonuvabit@h drip. Then I walked over to this radiator by the window and sat down on it. It was nice and warm. It felt good because I was shivering like a bastard. It’s a funny thing, I always shiver like hell when I’m drunk.
I didn’t have anything else to do, so I kept sitting on the radiator and counting these little white squares on the floor. I was getting soaked. About a gallon of water wasdripping down my neck, getting all over my collar and tie and all, but I didn’t give a damn. I was too drunk to give a damn. Then, pretty soon, the guy that played the piano for old Valencia, this very wavyhaired, flitty-looking guy, came in to comb his golden locks. We sort of struck up a conversation while he was combing it, except that he wasn’t too goddam friendly.
“Hey. You gonna see that Valencia babe when you go back in the bar?” I asked him.
“It’s highly probable,” he said. Witty bastard. All I ever meet is witty bastards.
“Listen. Give her my compliments. Ask her if that goddam waiter gave her my message, willya?”
“Why don’t you go home, Mac? How old are you, anyway?”
“Eighty-six. Listen. Give her my compliments. Okay?”
“Why don’t you go home, Mac?”
“Not me. Boy, you can play that goddam piano.” I told him. I was just flattering him. He played the piano stinking, if you want to know the truth. “You oughta go on the radio,” I said. “Handsome chap like you. All those goddam golden locks. Ya need a manager?”
“Go home, Mac, like a good guy. Go home and hit the sack.”
“No home to go to. No kidding–you need a manager?”
He didn’t answer me. He just went out. He was all through combing his hair and patting it and all, so he left. Like Stradlater. All these handsome guys are the same. When they’re done combing their goddam hair, they beat it on you.
When I finally got down off the radiator and went out to the hat-check room, I was crying and all. I don’t know why, but I was. I guess it was because I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome. Then, when I went out to the checkroom, I couldn’t find my goddam check. The hat-check girl was very nice about it, though. She gave me my coat anyway. And my “Little Shirley Beans” record–I still had it with me and all. I gave her a buck for being so nice, but she wouldn’t take it. She kept telling me to go home and go to bed. I sort of tried to make a date with her for when she got through working, but she wouldn’t do it. She said she was old enough to be my mother and all. I showed her my goddam gray hair and told her I was forty-two–I was only horsing around, naturally.
She was nice, though. I showed her my goddam red hunting hat, and she liked it. She made me put it on before I went out, because my hair was still pretty wet. She was all right.
I didn’t feel too drunk any more when I went outside, but it was getting very cold out again, and my teeth started chattering like hell. I couldn’t make them stop. I walked over to Madison Avenue and started to wait around for a bus because I didn’t have hardly any money left and I had to start economizing on cabs and all. But I didn’t feel like getting on a damn bus. And besides, I didn’t even know where I was supposed to go. So what I did, I started walking over to the park. I figured I’d go by that little lake and see what the hell the ducks were doing, see if they were around or not, I still didn’t know if they were around or not. It wasn’t far over to the park, and I didn’t have anyplace else special to go to–I didn’t even know where I was going to sleep yet–so I went. I wasn’t tired or anything. I just felt blue as hell.
Then something terrible happened just as I got in the park. I dropped old Phoebe’s record. It broke-into about fifty pieces. It was in a big envelope and all, but it brokeanyway. I damn near cried, it made me feel so terrible, but all I did was, I took the pieces out of the envelope and put them in my coat pocket. They weren’t any good for anything, but I didn’t feel like just throwing them away. Then I went in the park. Boy, was it dark.
I’ve lived in New York all my life, and I know Central Park like the back of my hand, because I used to roller-skate there all the time and ride my bike when I was a kid, but I had the most terrific trouble finding that lagoon that night. I knew right where it was–it was right near Central Park South and all–but I still couldn’t find it. I must’ve been drunker than I thought. I kept walking and walking, and it kept getting darker and darker and spookier and spookier. I didn’t see one person the whole time I was in the park. I’m just as glad. I probably would’ve jumped about a mile if I had. Then, finally, I found it. What it was, it was partly frozen and partly not frozen. But I didn’t see any ducks around. I walked all around the whole damn lake–I damn near fell in once, in fact-but I didn’t see a single duck. I thought maybe if there were any around, they might be asleep or something near the edge of the water, near the grass and all. That’s how I nearly fell in. But I couldn’t find any.
Finally I sat down on this bench, where it wasn’t so goddam dark. Boy, I was still shivering like a bastard, and the back of my hair, even though I had my hunting hat on, was sort of full of little hunks of ice. That worried me. I thought probably I’d get pneumonia and die. I started picturing millions of jerks coming to my funeral and all. My grandfather from Detroit, that keeps calling out the numbers of the streets when you ride on a goddam bus with him, and my aunts–I have about fifty aunts–and all my lousy cousins. What a mob’d be there. They all came when Allie died, the whole goddam stupid bunch of them. I have this one stupid aunt with halitosis that kept saying how peaceful he looked lying there, D.B. told me. I wasn’t there. I was still in the hospital. I had to go to the hospital and all after I hurt my hand. Anyway, I kept worrying that I was getting pneumonia, with all those hunks of ice in my hair, and that I was going to die. I felt sorry as hell for my mother and father. Especially my mother, because she still isn’t over my brother Allie yet. I kept picturing her not knowing what to do with all my suits and athletic equipment and all. The only good thing, I knew she wouldn’t let old Phoebe come to my goddam funeral because she was only a little kid. That was the only good part.
Then I thought about the whole bunch of them sticking me in a goddam cemetery and all, with my name on this tombstone and all. Surrounded by dead guys. Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.
When the weather’s nice, my parents go out quite frequently and stick a bunch of flowers on old Allie’s grave. I went with them a couple of times, but I cut it out. In the first place, I certainly don’t enjoy seeing him in that crazy cemetery. Surrounded by dead guys and tombstones and all. It wasn’t too bad when the sun was out, but twice–twicewe were there when it started to rain. It was awful. It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomach. It rained all over the place. All the visitors that were visiting the cemetery started running like hell over to their cars. That’s what nearly drove me crazy. All the visitors could get in their cars and turn on their radios and all and then go someplace nice for dinner–everybody except Allie. I couldn’t stand it. I know it’s only his body and all that’s in the cemetery, and his soul’s in Heaven and all that crap, but Icouldn’t stand it anyway. I just wish he wasn’t there. You didn’t know him. If you’d known him, you’d know what I mean. It’s not too bad when the sun’s out, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming out.
After a while, just to get my mind off getting pneumonia and all, I took out my dough and tried to count it in the lousy light from the street lamp. All I had was three singles and five quarters and a nickel left–boy, I spent a fortune since I left Pencey. Then what I did, I went down near the lagoon and I sort of skipped the quarters and the nickel across it, where it wasn’t frozen. I don’t know why I did it, but I did it. I guess I thought it’d take my mind off getting pneumonia and dying. It didn’t, though.
I started thinking how old Phoebe would feel if I got pneumonia and died. It was a childish way to think, but I couldn’t stop myself. She’d feel pretty bad if something like that happened. She likes me a lot. I mean she’s quite fond of me. She really is. Anyway, I couldn’t get that off my mind, so finally what I figured I’d do, I figured I’d better sneak home and see her, in case I died and all. I had my door key with me and all, and I figured what I’d do, I’d sneak in the apartment, very quiet and all, and just sort of chew the fat with her for a while. The only thing that worried me was our front door. It creaks like a bastard. It’s a pretty old apartment house, and the superintendent’s a lazy bastard, and everything creaks and squeaks. I was afraid my parents might hear me sneaking in. But I decided I’d try it anyhow.
So I got the hell out of the park, and went home. I walked all the way. It wasn’t too far, and I wasn’t tired or even drunk any more. It was just very cold and nobody around anywhere.
The best break I had in years, when I got home the regular night elevator boy, Pete, wasn’t on the car. Some new guy I’d never seen was on the car, so I figured that if I didn’t bump smack into my parents and all I’d be able to say hello to old Phoebe and then beat it and nobody’d even know I’d been around. It was really a terrific break. What made it even better, the new elevator boy was sort of on the stupid side. I told him, in this very casual voice, to take me up to the di@ksteins’. The di@ksteins were these people that had the other apartment on our floor. I’d already taken off my hunting hat, so as not to look suspicious or anything. I went in the elevator like I was in a terrific hurry.
He had the elevator doors all shut and all, and was all set to take me up, and then he turned around and said, “They ain’t in. They’re at a party on the fourteenth floor.”
“That’s all right,” I said. “I’m supposed to wait for them. I’m their nephew.”
He gave me this sort of stupid, suspicious look. “You better wait in the lobby, fella,” he said.
“I’d like to–I really would,” I said. “But I have a bad leg. I have to hold it in a certain position. I think I’d better sit down in the chair outside their door.”
He didn’t know what the hell I was talking about, so all he said was “Oh” and took me up. Not bad, boy. It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to.
I got off at our floor–limping like a bastard–and started walking over toward the di@ksteins’ side. Then, when I heard the elevator doors shut, I turned around and wentover to our side. I was doing all right. I didn’t even feel drunk anymore. Then I took out my door key and opened our door, quiet as hell. Then, very, very carefully and all, I went inside and closed the door. I really should’ve been a crook.
It was dark as hell in the foyer, naturally, and naturally I couldn’t turn on any lights. I had to be careful not to bump into anything and make a racket. I certainly knew I was home, though. Our foyer has a funny smell that doesn’t smell like anyplace else. I don’t know what the hell it is. It isn’t cauliflower and it isn’t perfume–I don’t know what the hell it is–but you always know you’re home. I started to take off my coat and hang it up in the foyer closet, but that closet’s full of hangers that rattle like madmen when you open the door, so I left it on. Then I started walking very, very slowly back toward old Phoebe’s room. I knew the maid wouldn’t hear me because she had only one eardrum. She had this brother that stuck a straw down her ear when she was a kid, she once told me.
She was pretty deaf and all. But my parents, especially my mother, she has ears like a goddam bloodhound. So I took it very, very easy when I went past their door. I even held my breath, for God’s sake. You can hit my father over the head with a chair and he won’t wake up, but my mother, all you have to do to my mother is cough somewhere in Siberia and she’ll hear you. She’s nervous as hell. Half the time she’s up all night smoking cigarettes.
Finally, after about an hour, I got to old Phoebe’s room. She wasn’t there, though.
I forgot about that. I forgot she always sleeps in D.B.’s room when he’s away in Hollywood or some place. She likes it because it’s the biggest room in the house. Also because it has this big old madman desk in it that D.B. bought off some lady alcoholic in Philadelphia, and this big, gigantic bed that’s about ten miles wide and ten miles long. I don’t know where he bought that bed. Anyway, old Phoebe likes to sleep in D.B.’s room when he’s away, and he lets her. You ought to see her doing her homework or something at that crazy desk. It’s almost as big as the bed. You can hardly see her when she’s doing her homework. That’s the kind of stuff she likes, though. She doesn’t like her own room because it’s too little, she says. She says she likes to spread out. That kills me. What’s old Phoebe got to spread out? Nothing.
Anyway, I went into D.B.’s room quiet as hell, and turned on the lamp on the desk. Old Phoebe didn’t even wake up. When the light was on and all, I sort of looked at her for a while. She was laying there asleep, with her face sort of on the side of the pillow. She had her mouth way open. It’s funny. You take adults, they look lousy when they’re asleep and they have their mouths way open, but kids don’t. Kids look all right.
They can even have spit all over the pillow and they still look all right.
I went around the room, very quiet and all, looking at stuff for a while. I felt swell, for a change. I didn’t even feel like I was getting pneumonia or anything any more.
I just felt good, for a change. Old Phoebe’s clothes were on this chair right next to the bed. She’s very neat, for a child. I mean she doesn’t just throw her stuff around, like some kids. She’s no slob. She had the jacket to this tan suit my mother bought her in Canada hung up on the back of the chair. Then her blouse and stuff were on the seat. Her shoes and socks were on the floor, right underneath the chair, right next to each other. I never saw the shoes before. They were new. They were these dark brown loafers, sort of like this pair I have, and they went swell with that suit my mother bought her in Canada. My mother dresses her nice. She really does. My mother has terrific taste in some things.
She’s no good at buying ice skates or anything like that, but clothes, she’s perfect. I meanPhoebe always has some dress on that can kill you. You take most little kids, even if their parents are wealthy and all, they usually have some terrible dress on. I wish you could see old Phoebe in that suit my mother bought her in Canada. I’m not kidding.
I sat down on old D.B.’s desk and looked at the stuff on it. It was mostly Phoebe’s stuff, from school and all. Mostly books. The one on top was called Arithmetic Is Fun! I sort of opened the first page and took a look at it. This is what old Phoebe had on it: PHOEBE WEATHERFIELD CAULFIELD
That killed me. Her middle name is Josephine, for God’s sake, not Weatherfield.
She doesn’t like it, though. Every time I see her she’s got a new middle name for herself.
The book underneath the arithmetic was a geography, and the book under the geography was a speller. She’s very good in spelling. She’s very good in all her subjects, but she’s best in spelling. Then, under the speller, there were a bunch of notebooks. She has about five thousand notebooks. You never saw a kid with so many notebooks. I opened the one on top and looked at the first page. It had on it:
Bernice meet me at recess I have something
very very important to tell you.
That was all there was on that page. The next one had on it:
Why has south eastern Alaska so many caning factories?
Because theres so much salmon
Why has it valuable forests?
because it has the right climate.
What has our government done to make
life easier for the alaskan eskimos?
look it up for tomorrow!!!
Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield
Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield
Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield
Phoebe W. Caulfield
Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield, Esq.
Please pass to Shirley!!!!
Shirley you said you were sagitarius
but your only taurus bring your skates
when you come over to my house
I sat there on D.B.’s desk and read the whole notebook. It didn’t take me long, and I can read that kind of stuff, some kid’s notebook, Phoebe’s or anybody’s, all day and all night long. Kid’s notebooks kill me. Then I lit another cigarette–it was my last one. I must’ve smoked about three cartons that day. Then, finally, I woke her up. I mean I couldn’t sit there on that desk for the rest of my life, and besides, I was afraid my parentsmight barge in on me all of a sudden and I wanted to at least say hello to her before they did. So I woke her up.
She wakes up very easily. I mean you don’t have to yell at her or anything. All you have to do, practically, is sit down on the bed and say, “Wake up, Phoeb,” and bingo, she’s awake.
“Holden!” she said right away. She put her arms around my neck and all. She’s very affectionate. I mean she’s quite affectionate, for a child. Sometimes she’s even too affectionate. I sort of gave her a kiss, and she said, “Whenja get home7’ She was glad as hell to see me. You could tell.
“Not so loud. Just now. How are ya anyway?”
“I’m fine. Did you get my letter? I wrote you a five-page–”
“Yeah–not so loud. Thanks.”
She wrote me this letter. I didn’t get a chance to answer it, though. It was all about this play she was in in school. She told me not to make any dates or anything for Friday so that I could come see it.
“How’s the play?” I asked her. “What’d you say the name of it was?”
“‘A Christmas Pageant for Americans.’ It stinks, but I’m Benedict Arnold. I have practically the biggest part,” she said. Boy, was she wide-awake. She gets very excited when she tells you that stuff. “It starts out when I’m dying. This ghost comes in on Christmas Eve and asks me if I’m ashamed and everything. You know. For betraying my country and everything. Are you coming to it?” She was sitting way the hell up in the bed and all. “That’s what I wrote you about. Are you?”
“Sure I’m coming. Certainly I’m coming.”
“Daddy can’t come. He has to fly to California,” she said. Boy, was she wideawake. It only takes her about two seconds to get wide-awake. She was sitting–sort of kneeling–way up in bed, and she was holding my goddam hand. “Listen. Mother said you’d be home Wednesday,” she said. “She said Wednesday.”
“I got out early. Not so loud. You’ll wake everybody up.”
“What time is it? They won’t be home till very late, Mother said. They went to a party in Norwalk, Connecticut,” old Phoebe said. “Guess what I did this afternoon! What movie I saw. Guess!”
“I don’t know–Listen. Didn’t they say what time they’d–”
“The Doctor,” old Phoebe said. “It’s a special movie they had at the Lister Foundation. Just this one day they had it–today was the only day. It was all about this doctor in Kentucky and everything that sticks a blanket over this child’s face that’s a cripple and can’t walk. Then they send him to jail and everything. It was excellent.”
“Listen a second. Didn’t they say what time they’d–”
“He feels sorry for it, the doctor. That’s why he sticks this blanket over her face and everything and makes her suffocate. Then they make him go to jail for life imprisonment, but this child that he stuck the blanket over its head comes to visit him all the time and thanks him for what he did. He was a mercy killer. Only, he knows he deserves to go to jail because a doctor isn’t supposed to take things away from God. This girl in my class’s mother took us. Alice Holmborg, She’s my best friend. She’s the only girl in the whole–”
“Wait a second, willya?” I said. “I’m asking you a question. Did they say what time they’d be back, or didn’t they?”“No, but not till very late. Daddy took the car and everything so they wouldn’t have to worry about trains. We have a radio in it now! Except that Mother said nobody can play it when the car’s in traffic.”
I began to relax, sort of. I mean I finally quit worrying about whether they’d catch me home or not. I figured the hell with it. If they did, they did.
You should’ve seen old Phoebe. She had on these blue pajamas with red elephants on the collars. Elephants knock her out.
“So it was a good picture, huh?” I said.
“Swell, except Alice had a cold, and her mother kept asking her all the time if she felt grippy. Right in the middle of the picture. Always in the middle of something important, her mother’d lean all over me and everything and ask Alice if she felt grippy.
It got on my nerves.”
Then I told her about the record. “Listen, I bought you a record,” I told her. “Only I broke it on the way home.” I took the pieces out of my coat pocket and showed her. “I was plastered,” I said.
“Gimme the pieces,” she said. “I’m saving them.” She took them right out of my hand and then she put them in the drawer of the night table. She kills me.
“D.B. coming home for Christmas?” I asked her.
“He may and he may not, Mother said. It all depends. He may have to stay in Hollywood and write a picture about Annapolis.”
“Annapolis, for God’s sake!”
“It’s a love story and everything. Guess who’s going to be in it! What movie star.
“I’m not interested. Annapolis, for God’s sake. What’s D.B. know about Annapolis, for God’s sake? What’s that got to do with the kind of stories he writes?” I said. Boy, that stuff drives me crazy. That goddam Hollywood. “What’d you do to your arm?” I asked her. I noticed she had this big hunk of adhesive tape on her elbow. The reason I noticed it, her pajamas didn’t have any sleeves.
“This boy, Curtis Weintraub, that’s in my class, pushed me while I was going down the stairs in the park,” she said. “Wanna see?” She started taking the crazy adhesive tape off her arm.
“Leave it alone. Why’d he push you down the stairs?”
“I don’t know. I think he hates me,” old Phoebe said. “This other girl and me, Selma Atterbury, put ink and stuff all over his windbreaker.”
“That isn’t nice. What are you–a child, for God’s sake?”
“No, but every time I’m in the park, he follows me everywhere. He’s always following me. He gets on my nerves.”
“He probably likes you. That’s no reason to put ink all–”
“I don’t want him to like me,” she said. Then she started looking at me funny.
“Holden,” she said, “how come you’re not home Wednesday?”
Boy, you have to watch her every minute. If you don’t think she’s smart, you’re mad.
“How come you’re not home Wednesday?” she asked me. “You didn’t get kicked out or anything, did you?”
“I told you. They let us out early. They let the whole–"”You did get kicked out! You did!” old Phoebe said. Then she hit me on the leg with her fist. She gets very fisty when she feels like it. “You did! Oh, Holden!” She had her hand on her mouth and all. She gets very emotional, I swear to God.
“Who said I got kicked out? Nobody said I–”
“You did. You did,” she said. Then she smacked me again with her fist. If you don’t think that hurts, you’re crazy. “Daddy’ll kill you!” she said. Then she flopped on her stomach on the bed and put the goddam pillow over her head. She does that quite frequently. She’s a true madman sometimes.
“Cut it out, now,” I said. “Nobody’s gonna kill me. Nobody’s gonna even–C’mon, Phoeb, take that goddam thing off your head. Nobody’s gonna kill me.”
She wouldn’t take it off, though. You can’t make her do something if she doesn’t want to. All she kept saying was, “Daddy s gonna kill you.” You could hardly understand her with that goddam pillow over her head.
“Nobody’s gonna kill me. Use your head. In the first place, I’m going away. What I may do, I may get a job on a ranch or something for a while. I know this guy whose grandfather’s got a ranch in Colorado. I may get a job out there,” I said. “I’ll keep in touch with you and all when I’m gone, if I go. C’mon. Take that off your head. C’mon, hey, Phoeb. Please. Please, willya?’
She wouldn t take it off, though I tried pulling it off, but she’s strong as hell. You get tired fighting with her. Boy, if she wants to keep a pillow over her head, she keeps it.
“Phoebe, please. C’mon outa there,” I kept saying. “C’mon, hey . . . Hey, Weatherfield.
She wouldn’t come out, though. You can’t even reason with her sometimes.
Finally, I got up and went out in the living room and got some cigarettes out of the box on the table and stuck some in my pocket. I was all out.
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