فصل 10 - 13کتاب: ناطور دشت / فصل 3
فصل 10 - 13
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It was still pretty early. I’m not sure what time it was, but it wasn’t too late. The one thing I hate to do is go to bed when I’m not even tired. So I opened my suitcases and took out a clean shirt, and then I went in the bathroom and washed and changed my shirt.
What I thought I’d do, I thought I’d go downstairs and see what the hell was going on in the Lavender Room. They had this night club, the Lavender Room, in the hotel.
While I was changing my shirt, I damn near gave my kid sister Phoebe a buzz, though. I certainly felt like talking to her on the phone. Somebody with sense and all. But I couldn’t take a chance on giving her a buzz, because she was only a little kid and she wouldn’t have been up, let alone anywhere near the phone. I thought of maybe hanging up if my parents answered, but that wouldn’t’ve worked, either. They’d know it was me.
My mother always knows it’s me. She’s psychic. But I certainly wouldn’t have minded shooting the crap with old Phoebe for a while.
You should see her. You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life. She’s really smart. I mean she’s had all A’s ever since she started school. As a matter of fact, I’m the only dumb one in the family. My brother D.B.’s a writer and all, and my brother Allie, the one that died, that I told you about, was a wizard. I’m the only really dumb one. But you ought to see old Phoebe. She has this sort of red hair, a little bit like Allie’s was, that’s very short in the summertime. In the summertime, she sticks it behindher ears. She has nice, pretty little ears. In the wintertime, it’s pretty long, though.
Sometimes my mother braids it and sometimes she doesn’t. It’s really nice, though. She’s only ten. She’s quite skinny, like me, but nice skinny. Roller-skate skinny. I watched her once from the window when she was crossing over Fifth Avenue to go to the park, and that’s what she is, roller-skate skinny. You’d like her. I mean if you tell old Phoebe something, she knows exactly what the hell you’re talking about. I mean you can even take her anywhere with you. If you take her to a lousy movie, for instance, she knows it’s a lousy movie. If you take her to a pretty good movie, she knows it’s a pretty good movie.
D.B. and I took her to see this French movie, The Baker’s Wife, with Raimu in it. It killed her. Her favorite is The 39 Steps, though, with Robert Donat. She knows the whole goddam movie by heart, because I’ve taken her to see it about ten times. When old Donat comes up to this Scotch farmhouse, for instance, when he’s running away from the cops and all, Phoebe’ll say right out loud in the movie–right when the Scotch guy in the picture says it–“Can you eat the herring?” She knows all the talk by heart. And when this professor in the picture, that’s really a German spy, sticks up his little finger with part of the middle joint missing, to show Robert Donat, old Phoebe beats him to it–she holds up her little finger at me in the dark, right in front of my face. She’s all right. You’d like her.
The only trouble is, she’s a little too affectionate sometimes. She’s very emotional, for a child. She really is. Something else she does, she writes books all the time. Only, she doesn’t finish them. They’re all about some kid named Hazel Weatherfield–only old Phoebe spells it “Hazle.” Old Hazle Weatherfield is a girl detective. She’s supposed to be an orphan, but her old man keeps showing up. Her old man’s always a “tall attractive gentleman about 20 years of age.” That kills me. Old Phoebe. I swear to God you’d like her. She was smart even when she was a very tiny little kid. When she was a very tiny little kid, I and Allie used to take her to the park with us, especially on Sundays. Allie had this sailboat he used to like to fool around with on Sundays, and we used to take old Phoebe with us. She’d wear white gloves and walk right between us, like a lady and all.
And when Allie and I were having some conversation about things in general, old Phoebe’d be listening. Sometimes you’d forget she was around, because she was such a little kid, but she’d let you know. She’d interrupt you all the time. She’d give Allie or I a push or something, and say, “Who? Who said that? Bobby or the lady?” And we’d tell her who said it, and she’d say, “Oh,” and go right on listening and all. She killed Allie, too. I mean he liked her, too. She’s ten now, and not such a tiny little kid any more, but she still kills everybody–everybody with any sense, anyway.
Anyway, she was somebody you always felt like talking to on the phone. But I was too afraid my parents would answer, and then they’d find out I was in New York and kicked out of Pencey and all. So I just finished putting on my shirt. Then I got all ready and went down in the elevator to the lobby to see what was going on.
Except for a few pimpy-looking guys, and a few whory-looking blondes, the lobby was pretty empty. But you could hear the band playing in the Lavender Room, and so I went in there. It wasn’t very crowded, but they gave me a lousy table anyway–way in the back. I should’ve waved a buck under the head-waiter’s nose. In New York, boy, money really talks–I’m not kidding.
The band was putrid. Buddy Singer. Very brassy, but not good brassy–corny brassy. Also, there were very few people around my age in the place. In fact, nobody was around my age. They were mostly old, show-offy-looking guys with their dates. Except atthe table right next to me. At the table right next to me, there were these three girls around thirty or so. The whole three of them were pretty ugly, and they all had on the kind of hats that you knew they didn’t really live in New York, but one of them, the blonde one, wasn’t too bad. She was sort of cute, the blonde one, and I started giving her the old eye a little bit, but just then the waiter came up for my order. I ordered a Scotch and soda, and told him not to mix it–I said it fast as hell, because if you hem and haw, they think you’re under twenty-one and won’t sell you any intoxicating liquor. I had trouble with him anyway, though. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “but do you have some verification of your age? Your driver’s license, perhaps?”
I gave him this very cold stare, like he’d insulted the hell out of me, and asked him, “Do I look like I’m under twenty-one?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but we have our–”
“Okay, okay,” I said. I figured the hell with it. “Bring me a Coke.” He started to go away, but I called him back. “Can’tcha stick a little rum in it or something?” I asked him. I asked him very nicely and all. “I can’t sit in a corny place like this cold sober.
Can’tcha stick a little rum in it or something?”
“I’m very sorry, sir. . .” he said, and beat it on me. I didn’t hold it against him, though. They lose their jobs if they get caught selling to a minor. I’m a goddam minor.
I started giving the three witches at the next table the eye again. That is, the blonde one. The other two were strictly from hunger. I didn’t do it crudely, though. I just gave all three of them this very cool glance and all. What they did, though, the three of them, when I did it, they started giggling like morons. They probably thought I was too young to give anybody the once-over. That annoyed hell out of me– you’d’ve thought I wanted to marry them or something. I should’ve given them the freeze, after they did that, but the trouble was, I really felt like dancing. I’m very fond of dancing, sometimes, and that was one of the times. So all of a sudden, I sort of leaned over and said, “Would any of you girls care to dance?” I didn’t ask them crudely or anything. Very suave, in fact. But God damn it, they thought that was a panic, too. They started giggling some more. I’m not kidding, they were three real morons. “C’mon,” I said. “I’ll dance with you one at a time. All right? How ‘bout it? C’mon!” I really felt like dancing.
Finally, the blonde one got up to dance with me, because you could tell I was really talking to her, and we walked out to the dance floor. The other two grools nearly had hysterics when we did. I certainly must’ve been very hard up to even bother with any of them.
But it was worth it. The blonde was some dancer. She was one of the best dancers I ever danced with. I’m not kidding, some of these very stupid girls can really knock you out on a dance floor. You take a really smart girl, and half the time she’s trying to lead you around the dance floor, or else she’s such a lousy dancer, the best thing to do is stay at the table and just get drunk with her.
“You really can dance,” I told the blonde one. “You oughta be a pro. I mean it. I danced with a pro once, and you’re twice as good as she was. Did you ever hear of Marco and Miranda?”
“What?” she said. She wasn’t even listening to me. She was looking all around the place.
“I said did you ever hear of Marco and Miranda?”
“I don’t know. No. I don’t know.”“Well, they’re dancers, she’s a dancer. She’s not too hot, though. She does everything she’s supposed to, but she’s not so hot anyway. You know when a girl’s really a terrific dancer?”
“Wudga say?” she said. She wasn’t listening to me, even. Her mind was wandering all over the place.
“I said do you know when a girl’s really a terrific dancer?”
“Well–where I have my hand on your back. If I think there isn’t anything underneath my hand–no can, no legs, no feet, no anything–then the girl’s really a terrific dancer.”
She wasn’t listening, though. So I ignored her for a while. We just danced. God, could that dopey girl dance. Buddy Singer and his stinking band was playing “Just One of Those Things” and even they couldn’t ruin it entirely. It’s a swell song. I didn’t try any trick stuff while we danced–I hate a guy that does a lot of show-off tricky stuff on the dance floor–but I was moving her around plenty, and she stayed with me. The funny thing is, I thought she was enjoying it, too, till all of a sudden she came out with this very dumb remark. “I and my girl friends saw Peter Lorre last night,” she said. “The movie actor. In person. He was buyin’ a newspaper. He’s cute.”
“You’re lucky,” I told her. “You’re really lucky. You know that?” She was really a moron. But what a dancer. I could hardly stop myself from sort of giving her a kiss on the top of her dopey head–you know– right where the part is, and all. She got sore when I did it.
“Hey! What’s the idea?”
“Nothing. No idea. You really can dance,” I said. “I have a kid sister that’s only in the goddam fourth grade. You’re about as good as she is, and she can dance better than anybody living or dead.”
“Watch your language, if you don’t mind.”
What a lady, boy. A queen, for Chrissake.
“Where you girls from?” I asked her.
She didn’t answer me, though. She was busy looking around for old Peter Lorre to show up, I guess.
“Where you girls from?” I asked her again.
“What?” she said.
“Where you girls from? Don’t answer if you don’t feel like it. I don’t want you to strain yourself.”
“Seattle, Washington,” she said. She was doing me a big favor to tell me.
“You’re a very good conversationalist,” I told her. “You know that?”
I let it drop. It was over her head, anyway. “Do you feel like jitterbugging a little bit, if they play a fast one? Not corny jitterbug, not jump or anything–just nice and easy.
Everybody’ll all sit down when they play a fast one, except the old guys and the fat guys, and we’ll have plenty of room. Okay?”
“It’s immaterial to me,” she said. “Hey–how old are you, anyhow?”
That annoyed me, for some reason. “Oh, Christ. Don’t spoil it,” I said. “I’m twelve, for Chrissake. I’m big for my age.”“Listen. I toleja about that. I don’t like that type language,” she said. “If you’re gonna use that type language, I can go sit down with my girl friends, you know.”
I apologized like a madman, because the band was starting a fast one. She started jitterbugging with me– but just very nice and easy, not corny. She was really good. All you had to do was touch her. And when she turned around, her pretty little butt twitched so nice and all. She knocked me out. I mean it. I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.
They didn’t invite me to sit down at their table– mostly because they were too ignorant–but I sat down anyway. The blonde I’d been dancing with’s name was Bernice something–Crabs or Krebs. The two ugly ones’ names were Marty and Laverne. I told them my name was Jim Steele, just for the hell of it. Then I tried to get them in a little intelligent conversation, but it was practically impossible. You had to twist their arms.
You could hardly tell which was the stupidest of the three of them. And the whole three of them kept looking all around the goddam room, like as if they expected a flock of goddam movie stars to come in any minute. They probably thought movie stars always hung out in the Lavender Room when they came to New York, instead of the Stork Club or El Morocco and all. Anyway, it took me about a half hour to find out where they all worked and all in Seattle. They all worked in the same insurance office. I asked them if they liked it, but do you think you could get an intelligent answer out of those three dopes? I thought the two ugly ones, Marty and Laverne, were sisters, but they got very insulted when I asked them. You could tell neither one of them wanted to look like the other one, and you couldn’t blame them, but it was very amusing anyway.
I danced with them all–the whole three of them–one at a time. The one ugly one, Laverne, wasn’t too bad a dancer, but the other one, old Marty, was murder. Old Marty was like dragging the Statue of Liberty around the floor. The only way I could even half enjoy myself dragging her around was if I amused myself a little. So I told her I just saw Gary Cooper, the movie star, on the other side of the floor.
“Where?” she asked me–excited as hell. “Where?”
“Aw, you just missed him. He just went out. Why didn’t you look when I told you?”
She practically stopped dancing, and started looking over everybody’s heads to see if she could see him. “Oh, shoot!” she said. I’d just about broken her heart– I really had. I was sorry as hell I’d kidded her. Some people you shouldn’t kid, even if they deserve it.
Here’s what was very funny, though. When we got back to the table, old Marty told the other two that Gary Cooper had just gone out. Boy, old Laverne and Bernice nearly committed suicide when they heard that. They got all excited and asked Marty if she’d seen him and all. Old Mart said she’d only caught a glimpse of him. That killed me.
The bar was closing up for the night, so I bought them all two drinks apiece quick before it closed, and I ordered two more Cokes for myself. The goddam table was lousy with glasses. The one ugly one, Laverne, kept kidding me because I was only drinking Cokes. She had a sterling sense of humor. She and old Marty were drinking Tom Collinses–in the middle of December, for God’s sake. They didn’t know any better. Theblonde one, old Bernice, was drinking bourbon and water. She was really putting it away, too. The whole three of them kept looking for movie stars the whole time. They hardly talked–even to each other. Old Marty talked more than the other two. She kept saying these very corny, boring things, like calling the can the “little girls’ room,” and she thought Buddy Singer’s poor old beat-up clarinet player was really terrific when he stood up and took a couple of ice-cold hot licks. She called his clarinet a “licorice stick.” Was she corny. The other ugly one, Laverne, thought she was a very witty type. She kept asking me to call up my father and ask him what he was doing tonight. She kept asking me if my father had a date or not. Four times she asked me that–she was certainly witty.
Old Bernice, the blonde one, didn’t say hardly anything at all. Every time I’d ask her something, she said “What?” That can get on your nerves after a while.
All of a sudden, when they finished their drink, all three of them stood up on me and said they had to get to bed. They said they were going to get up early to see the first show at Radio City Music Hall. I tried to get them to stick around for a while, but they wouldn’t. So we said good-by and all. I told them I’d look them up in Seattle sometime, if I ever got there, but I doubt if I ever will. Look them up, I mean.
With cigarettes and all, the check came to about thirteen bucks. I think they should’ve at least offered to pay for the drinks they had before I joined them–I wouldn’t’ve let them, naturally, but they should’ve at least offered. I didn’t care much, though. They were so ignorant, and they had those sad, fancy hats on and all. And that business about getting up early to see the first show at Radio City Music Hall depressed me. If somebody, some girl in an awful-looking hat, for instance, comes all the way to New York–from Seattle, Washington, for God’s sake–and ends up getting up early in the morning to see the goddam first show at Radio City Music Hall, it makes me so depressed I can’t stand it. I’d’ve bought the whole three of them a hundred drinks if only they hadn’t told me that.
I left the Lavender Room pretty soon after they did. They were closing it up anyway, and the band had quit a long time ago. In the first place, it was one of those places that are very terrible to be in unless you have somebody good to dance with, or unless the waiter lets you buy real drinks instead of just Cokes. There isn’t any night club in the world you can sit in for a long time unless you can at least buy some liquor and get drunk. Or unless you’re with some girl that really knocks you out.
All of a sudden, on my way out to the lobby, I got old Jane Gallagher on the brain again. I got her on, and I couldn’t get her off. I sat down in this vomity-looking chair in the lobby and thought about her and Stradlater sitting in that goddam Ed Banky’s car, and though I was pretty damn sure old Stradlater hadn’t given her the time–I know old Jane like a book–I still couldn’t get her off my brain. I knew her like a book. I really did. I mean, besides checkers, she was quite fond of all athletic sports, and after I got to know her, the whole summer long we played tennis together almost every morning and golf almost every afternoon. I really got to know her quite intimately. I don’t mean it was anything physical or anything–it wasn’t–but we saw each other all the time. You don’t always have to get too s@xy to get to know a girl.The way I met her, this Doberman pinscher she had used to come over and relieve himself on our lawn, and my mother got very irritated about it. She called up Jane’s mother and made a big stink about it. My mother can make a very big stink about that kind of stuff. Then what happened, a couple of days later I saw Jane laying on her stomach next to the swimming pool, at the club, and I said hello to her. I knew she lived in the house next to ours, but I’d never conversed with her before or anything. She gave me the big freeze when I said hello that day, though. I had a helluva time convincing her that I didn’t give a good goddam where her dog relieved himself. He could do it in the living room, for all I cared. Anyway, after that, Jane and I got to be friends and all. I played golf with her that same afternoon. She lost eight balls, I remember. Eight. I had a terrible time getting her to at least open her eyes when she took a swing at the ball. I improved her game immensely, though. I’m a very good golfer. If I told you what I go around in, you probably wouldn’t believe me. I almost was once in a movie short, but I changed my mind at the last minute. I figured that anybody that hates the movies as much as I do, I’d be a phony if I let them stick me in a movie short.
She was a funny girl, old Jane. I wouldn’t exactly describe her as strictly beautiful.
She knocked me out, though. She was sort of muckle-mouthed. I mean when she was talking and she got excited about something, her mouth sort of went in about fifty directions, her lips and all. That killed me. And she never really closed it all the way, her mouth. It was always just a little bit open, especially when she got in her golf stance, or when she was reading a book. She was always reading, and she read very good books.
She read a lot of poetry and all. She was the only one, outside my family, that I ever showed Allie’s baseball mitt to, with all the poems written on it. She’d never met Allie or anything, because that was her first summer in Maine–before that, she went to Cape Cod-but I told her quite a lot about him. She was interested in that kind of stuff.
My mother didn’t like her too much. I mean my mother always thought Jane and her mother were sort of snubbing her or something when they didn’t say hello. My mother saw them in the village a lot, because Jane used to drive to market with her mother in this LaSalle convertible they had. My mother didn’t think Jane was pretty, even. I did, though. I just liked the way she looked, that’s all.
I remember this one afternoon. It was the only time old Jane and I ever got close to necking, even. It was a Saturday and it was raining like a bastard out, and I was over at her house, on the porch–they had this big screened-in porch. We were playing checkers. I used to kid her once in a while because she wouldn’t take her kings out of the back row.
But I didn’t kid her much, though. You never wanted to kid Jane too much. I think I really like it best when you can kid the pants off a girl when the opportunity arises, but it’s a funny thing. The girls I like best are the ones I never feel much like kidding. Sometimes I think they’d like it if you kidded them–in fact, I know they would–but it’s hard to get started, once you’ve known them a pretty long time and never kidded them. Anyway, I was telling you about that afternoon Jane and I came close to necking. It was raining like hell and we were out on her porch, and all of a sudden this booze hound her mother was married to came out on the porch and asked Jane if there were any cigarettes in the house.
I didn’t know him too well or anything, but he looked like the kind of guy that wouldn’t talk to you much unless he wanted something off you. He had a lousy personality.
Anyway, old Jane wouldn’t answer him when he asked her if she knew where there was any cigarettes. So the guy asked her again, but she still wouldn’t answer him. She didn’teven look up from the game. Finally the guy went inside the house. When he did, I asked Jane what the hell was going on. She wouldn’t even answer me, then. She made out like she was concentrating on her next move in the game and all. Then all of a sudden, this tear plopped down on the checkerboard. On one of the red squares–boy, I can still see it.
She just rubbed it into the board with her finger. I don’t know why, but it bothered hell out of me. So what I did was, I went over and made her move over on the glider so that I could sit down next to her–I practically sat down in her lap, as a matter of fact. Then she really started to cry, and the next thing I knew, I was kissing her all over–anywhere–her eyes, her nose, her forehead, her eyebrows and all, her ears–her whole face except her mouth and all. She sort of wouldn’t let me get to her mouth. Anyway, it was the closest we ever got to necking. After a while, she got up and went in and put on this red and white sweater she had, that knocked me out, and we went to a goddam movie. I asked her, on the way, if Mr. Cudahy–that was the booze hound’s name–had ever tried to get wise with her. She was pretty young, but she had this terrific figure, and I wouldn’t’ve put it past that Cudahy bastard. She said no, though. I never did find out what the hell was the matter. Some girls you practically never find out what’s the matter.
I don’t want you to get the idea she was a goddam icicle or something, just because we never necked or horsed around much. She wasn’t. I held hands with her all the time, for instance. That doesn’t sound like much, I realize, but she was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hand all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a big deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.
One other thing I just thought of. One time, in this movie, Jane did something that just about knocked me out. The newsreel was on or something, and all of a sudden I felt this hand on the back of my neck, and it was Jane’s. It was a funny thing to do. I mean she was quite young and all, and most girls if you see them putting their hand on the back of somebody’s neck, they’re around twenty-five or thirty and usually they’re doing it to their husband or their little kid–I do it to my kid sister Phoebe once in a while, for instance. But if a girl’s quite young and all and she does it, it’s so pretty it just about kills you.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about while I sat in that vomity-looking chair in the lobby. Old Jane. Every time I got to the part about her out with Stradlater in that damn Ed Banky’s car, it almost drove me crazy. I knew she wouldn’t let him get to first base with her, but it drove me crazy anyway. I don’t even like to talk about it, if you want to know the truth.
There was hardly anybody in the lobby any more. Even all the whory-looking blondes weren’t around any more, and all of a sudden I felt like getting the hell out of the place. It was too depressing. And I wasn’t tired or anything. So I went up to my room and put on my coat. I also took a look out the window to see if all the perverts were still in action, but the lights and all were out now. I went down in the elevator again and got a cab and told the driver to take me down to Ernie’s. Ernie’s is this night club in Greenwich Village that my brother D.B. used to go to quite frequently before he went out toHollywood and prostituted himself. He used to take me with him once in a while. Ernie’s a big fat colored guy that plays the piano. He’s a terrific snob and he won’t hardly even talk to you unless you’re a big shot or a celebrity or something, but he can really play the piano. He’s so good he’s almost corny, in fact. I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it. I certainly like to hear him play, but sometimes you feel like turning his goddam piano over. I think it’s because sometimes when he plays, he sounds like the kind of guy that won’t talk to you unless you’re a big shot.
The cab I had was a real old one that smelled like someone’d just tossed his cookies in it. I always get those vomity kind of cabs if I go anywhere late at night. What made it worse, it was so quiet and lonesome out, even though it was Saturday night. I didn’t see hardly anybody on the street. Now and then you just saw a man and a girl crossing a street, with their arms around each other’s waists and all, or a bunch of hoodlumy-looking guys and their dates, all of them laughing like hyenas at something you could bet wasn’t funny. New York’s terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed. I kept wishing I could go home and shoot the bull for a while with old Phoebe. But finally, after I was riding a while, the cab driver and I sort of struck up a conversation. His name was Horwitz. He was a much better guy than the other driver I’d had. Anyway, I thought maybe he might know about the ducks.
“Hey, Horwitz,” I said. “You ever pass by the lagoon in Central Park? Down by Central Park South?”
“The lagoon. That little lake, like, there. Where the ducks are. You know.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Well, you know the ducks that swim around in it? In the springtime and all? Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance?”
“Where who goes?”
“The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves–go south or something?”
Old Horwitz turned all the way around and looked at me. He was a very impatient-type guy. He wasn’t a bad guy, though. “How the hell should I know?” he said.
“How the hell should I know a stupid thing like that?”
“Well, don’t get sore about it,” I said. He was sore about it or something.
“Who’s sore? Nobody’s sore.”
I stopped having a conversation with him, if he was going to get so damn touchy about it. But he started it up again himself. He turned all the way around again, and said, “The fish don’t go no place. They stay right where they are, the fish. Right in the goddam lake.”
“The fish–that’s different. The fish is different. I’m talking about the ducks,” I said.”What’s different about it? Nothin’s different about it,” Horwitz said. Everything he said, he sounded sore about something. “It’s tougher for the fish, the winter and all, than it is for the ducks, for Chrissake. Use your head, for Chrissake.”
I didn’t say anything for about a minute. Then I said, “All right. What do they do, the fish and all, when that whole little lake’s a solid block of ice, people skating on it and all?”
Old Horwitz turned around again. “What the hellaya mean what do they do?” he yelled at me. “They stay right where they are, for Chrissake.”
“They can’t just ignore the ice. They can’t just ignore it.”
“Who’s ignoring it? Nobody’s ignoring it!” Horwitz said. He got so damn excited and all, I was afraid he was going to drive the cab right into a lamppost or something.
“They live right in the goddam ice. It’s their nature, for Chrissake. They get frozen right in one position for the whole winter.”
“Yeah? What do they eat, then? I mean if they’re frozen solid, they can’t swim around looking for food and all.”
“Their bodies, for Chrissake–what’sa matter with ya? Their bodies take in nutrition and all, right through the goddam seaweed and crap that’s in the ice. They got their pores open the whole time. That’s their nature, for Chrissake. See what I mean?” He turned way the hell around again to look at me.
“Oh,” I said. I let it drop. I was afraid he was going to crack the damn taxi up or something. Besides, he was such a touchy guy, it wasn’t any pleasure discussing anything with him. “Would you care to stop off and have a drink with me somewhere?” I said.
He didn’t answer me, though. I guess he was still thinking. I asked him again, though. He was a pretty good guy. Quite amusing and all.
“I ain’t got no time for no liquor, bud,” he said. “How the hell old are you, anyways? Why ain’tcha home in bed?”
“I’m not tired.”
When I got out in front of Ernie’s and paid the fare, old Horwitz brought up the fish again. He certainly had it on his mind. “Listen,” he said. “If you was a fish, Mother Nature’d take care of you, wouldn’t she? Right? You don’t think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?”
“You’re goddam right they don’t,” Horwitz said, and drove off like a bat out of hell. He was about the touchiest guy I ever met. Everything you said made him sore.
Even though it was so late, old Ernie’s was jampacked. Mostly with prep school jerks and college jerks. Almost every damn school in the world gets out earlier for Christmas vacation than the schools I go to. You could hardly check your coat, it was so crowded. It was pretty quiet, though, because Ernie was playing the piano. It was supposed to be something holy, for God’s sake, when he sat down at the piano. Nobody’s that good. About three couples, besides me, were waiting for tables, and they were all shoving and standing on tiptoes to get a look at old Ernie while he played. He had a big damn mirror in front of the piano, with this big spotlight on him, so that everybody could watch his face while he played. You couldn’t see his fingers while he played–just his big old face. Big deal. I’m not too sure what the name of the song was that he was playing when I came in, but whatever it was, he was really stinking it up. He was putting all these dumb, show-offy ripples in the high notes, and a lot of other very tricky stuff that givesme a pain in the ass. You should’ve heard the crowd, though, when he was finished. You would’ve puked. They went mad. They were exactly the same morons that laugh like hyenas in the movies at stuff that isn’t funny. I swear to God, if I were a piano player or an actor or something and all those dopes thought I was terrific, I’d hate it. I wouldn’t even want them to clap for me. People always clap for the wrong things. If I were a piano player, I’d play it in the goddam closet. Anyway, when he was finished, and everybody was clapping their heads off, old Ernie turned around on his stool and gave this very phony, humble bow. Like as if he was a helluva humble guy, besides being a terrific piano player. It was very phony–I mean him being such a big snob and all. In a funny way, though, I felt sort of sorry for him when he was finished. I don’t even think he knows any more when he’s playing right or not. It isn’t all his fault. I partly blame all those dopes that clap their heads off–they’d foul up anybody, if you gave them a chance.
Anyway, it made me feel depressed and lousy again, and I damn near got my coat back and went back to the hotel, but it was too early and I didn’t feel much like being all alone.
They finally got me this stinking table, right up against a wall and behind a goddam post, where you couldn’t see anything. It was one of those tiny little tables that if the people at the next table don’t get up to let you by–and they never do, the bastardsyou practically have to climb into your chair. I ordered a Scotch and soda, which is my favorite drink, next to frozen Daiquiris. If you were only around six years old, you could get liquor at Ernie’s, the place was so dark and all, and besides, nobody cared how old you were. You could even be a dope fiend and nobody’d care.
I was surrounded by jerks. I’m not kidding. At this other tiny table, right to my left, practically on top of me, there was this funny-looking guy and this funny-looking girl. They were around my age, or maybe just a little older. It was funny. You could see they were being careful as hell not to drink up the minimum too fast. I listened to their conversation for a while, because I didn’t have anything else to do. He was telling her about some pro football game he’d seen that afternoon. He gave her every single goddam play in the whole game–I’m not kidding. He was the most boring guy I ever listened to.
And you could tell his date wasn’t even interested in the goddam game, but she was even funnier-looking than he was, so I guess she had to listen. Real ugly girls have it tough. I feel so sorry for them sometimes. Sometimes I can’t even look at them, especially if they’re with some dopey guy that’s telling them all about a goddam football game. On my right, the conversation was even worse, though. On my right there was this very Joe Yale-looking guy, in a gray flannel suit and one of those flitty-looking Tattersall vests.
All those Ivy League bastards look alike. My father wants me to go to Yale, or maybe Princeton, but I swear, I wouldn’t go to one of those Ivy League colleges, if I was dying, for God’s sake. Anyway, this Joe Yale-looking guy had a terrific-looking girl with him.
Boy, she was good-looking. But you should’ve heard the conversation they were having.
In the first place, they were both slightly crocked. What he was doing, he was giving her a feel under the table, and at the same time telling her all about some guy in his dorm that had eaten a whole bottle of aspirin and nearly committed suicide. His date kept saying to him, “How horrible . . . Don’t, darling. Please, don’t. Not here.” Imagine giving somebody a feel and telling them about a guy committing suicide at the same time! They killed me.
I certainly began to feel like a prize horse’s ass, though, sitting there all by myself.
There wasn’t anything to do except smoke and drink. What I did do, though, I told the waiter to ask old Ernie if he’d care to join me for a drink. I told him to tell him I wasD.B.’s brother. I don’t think he ever even gave him my message, though. Those bastards never give your message to anybody.
All of a sudden, this girl came up to me and said, “Holden Caulfield!” Her name was Lillian Simmons. My brother D.B. used to go around with her for a while. She had very big knockers.
“Hi,” I said. I tried to get up, naturally, but it was some job getting up, in a place like that. She had some Navy officer with her that looked like he had a poker up his ass.
“How marvelous to see you!” old Lillian Simmons said. Strictly a phony. “How’s your big brother?” That’s all she really wanted to know.
“He’s fine. He’s in Hollywood.”
“In Hollywood! How marvelous! What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know. Writing,” I said. I didn’t feel like discussing it. You could tell she thought it was a big deal, his being in Hollywood. Almost everybody does. Mostly people who’ve never read any of his stories. It drives me crazy, though.
“How exciting,” old Lillian said. Then she introduced me to the Navy guy. His name was Commander Blop or something. He was one of those guys that think they’re being a pansy if they don’t break around forty of your fingers when they shake hands with you. God, I hate that stuff. “Are you all alone, baby?” old Lillian asked me. She was blocking up the whole goddam traffic in the aisle. You could tell she liked to block up a lot of traffic. This waiter was waiting for her to move out of the way, but she didn’t even notice him. It was funny. You could tell the waiter didn’t like her much, you could tell even the Navy guy didn’t like her much, even though he was dating her. And I didn’t like her much. Nobody did. You had to feel sort of sorry for her, in a way. “Don’t you have a date, baby?” she asked me. I was standing up now, and she didn’t even tell me to sit down. She was the type that keeps you standing up for hours. “Isn’t he handsome?” she said to the Navy guy. “Holden, you’re getting handsomer by the minute.” The Navy guy told her to come on. He told her they were blocking up the whole aisle. “Holden, come join us,” old Lillian said. “Bring your drink.”
“I was just leaving,” I told her. “I have to meet somebody.” You could tell she was just trying to get in good with me. So that I’d tell old D.B. about it.
“Well, you little so-and-so. All right for you. Tell your big brother I hate him, when you see him.”
Then she left. The Navy guy and I told each other we were glad to’ve met each other. Which always kills me. I’m always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.
After I’d told her I had to meet somebody, I didn’t have any goddam choice except to leave. I couldn’t even stick around to hear old Ernie play something halfway decent.
But I certainly wasn’t going to sit down at a table with old Lillian Simmons and that Navy guy and be bored to death. So I left. It made me mad, though, when I was getting my coat. People are always ruining things for you.
I walked all the way back to the hotel. Forty-one gorgeous blocks. I didn’t do it because I felt like walking or anything. It was more because I didn’t feel like getting inand out of another taxicab. Sometimes you get tired of riding in taxicabs the same way you get tired riding in elevators. All of a sudden, you have to walk, no matter how far or how high up. When I was a kid, I used to walk all the way up to our apartment very frequently. Twelve stories.
You wouldn’t even have known it had snowed at all. There was hardly any snow on the sidewalks. But it was freezing cold, and I took my red hunting hat out of my pocket and put it on–I didn’t give a damn how I looked. I even put the earlaps down. I wished I knew who’d swiped my gloves at Pencey, because my hands were freezing. Not that I’d have done much about it even if I had known. I’m one of these very yellow guys. I try not to show it, but I am. For instance, if I’d found out at Pencey who’d stolen my gloves, I probably would’ve gone down to the crook’s room and said, “Okay. How ‘bout handing over those gloves?” Then the crook that had stolen them probably would’ve said, his voice very innocent and all, “What gloves?” Then what I probably would’ve done, I’d have gone in his closet and found the gloves somewhere. Hidden in his goddam galoshes or something, for instance. I’d have taken them out and showed them to the guy and said, “I suppose these are your goddam gloves?” Then the crook probably would’ve given me this very phony, innocent look, and said, “I never saw those gloves before in my life. If they’re yours, take ‘em. I don’t want the goddam things.” Then I probably would’ve just stood there for about five minutes. I’d have the damn gloves right in my hand and all, but I’d feel I ought to sock the guy in the jaw or something–break his goddam jaw. Only, I wouldn’t have the guts to do it. I’d just stand there, trying to look tough. What I might do, I might say something very cutting and snotty, to rile him up–instead of socking him in the jaw. Anyway if I did say something very cutting and snotty, he’d probably get up and come over to me and say, “Listen, Caulfield. Are you calling me a crook?” Then, instead of saying, “You’re goddam right I am, you dirty crooked bastard!” all I probably would’ve said would be, “All I know is my goddam gloves were in your goddam galoshes.” Right away then, the guy would know for sure that I wasn’t going to take a sock at him, and he probably would’ve said, “Listen. Let’s get this straight. Are you calling me a thief?” Then I probably would’ve said, “Nobody’s calling anybody a thief. All I know is my gloves were in your goddam galoshes.” It could go on like that for hours. Finally, though, I’d leave his room without even taking a sock at him. I’d probably go down to the can and sneak a cigarette and watch myself getting tough in the mirror. Anyway, that’s what I thought about the whole way back to the hotel. It’s no fun to he yellow. Maybe I’m not all yellow. I don’t know. I think maybe I’m just partly yellow and partly the type that doesn’t give much of a damn if they lose their gloves. One of my troubles is, I never care too much when I lose something–it used to drive my mother crazy when I was a kid. Some guys spend days looking for something they lost. I never seem to have anything that if I lost it I’d care too much. Maybe that’s why I’m partly yellow. It’s no excuse, though. It really isn’t. What you should be is not yellow at all. If you’re supposed to sock somebody in the jaw, and you sort of feel like doing it, you should do it. I’m just no good at it, though. I’d rather push a guy out the window or chop his head off with an ax than sock him in the jaw. I hate fist fights. I don’t mind getting hit so much–although I’m not crazy about it, naturally–but what scares me most in a fist fight is the guy’s face. I can’t stand looking at the other guy’s face, is my trouble. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could both be blindfolded or something. It’s a funny kind of yellowness, when you come to think of it, but it’s yellowness, all right. I’m not kidding myself.The more I thought about my gloves and my yellowness, the more depressed I got, and I decided, while I was walking and all, to stop off and have a drink somewhere.
I’d only had three drinks at Ernie’s, and I didn’t even finish the last one. One thing I have, it’s a terrific capacity. I can drink all night and not even show it, if I’m in the mood. Once, at the Whooton School, this other boy, Raymond Goldfarb, and I bought a pint of Scotch and drank it in the chapel one Saturday night, where nobody’d see us. He got stinking, but I hardly didn’t even show it. I just got very cool and nonchalant. I puked before I went to bed, but I didn’t really have to–I forced myself.
Anyway, before I got to the hotel, I started to go in this dumpy-looking bar, but two guys came out, drunk as hell, and wanted to know where the subway was. One of them was this very Cuban-looking guy, and he kept breathing his stinking breath in my face while I gave him directions. I ended up not even going in the damn bar. I just went back to the hotel.
The whole lobby was empty. It smelled like fifty million dead cigars. It really did.
I wasn’t sleepy or anything, but I was feeling sort of lousy. Depressed and all. I almost wished I was dead.
Then, all of a sudden, I got in this big mess.
The first thing when I got in the elevator, the elevator guy said to me, “Innarested in having a good time, fella? Or is it too late for you?”
“How do you mean?” I said. I didn’t know what he was driving at or anything.
“Innarested in a little tail t’night?”
“Me?” I said. Which was a very dumb answer, but it’s quite embarrassing when somebody comes right up and asks you a question like that.
“How old are you, chief?” the elevator guy said.
“Why?” I said. “Twenty-two.”
“Uh huh. Well, how ‘bout it? Y’innarested? Five bucks a throw. Fifteen bucks the whole night.” He looked at his wrist watch. “Till noon. Five bucks a throw, fifteen bucks till noon.”
“Okay,” I said. It was against my principles and all, but I was feeling so depressed I didn’t even think. That’s the whole trouble. When you’re feeling very depressed, you can’t even think.
“Okay what? A throw, or till noon? I gotta know.”
“Just a throw.”
“Okay, what room ya in?”
I looked at the red thing with my number on it, on my key. “Twelve twenty-two,”
I said. I was already sort of sorry I’d let the thing start rolling, but it was too late now.
“Okay. I’ll send a girl up in about fifteen minutes.” He opened the doors and I got out.
“Hey, is she good-looking?” I asked him. “I don’t want any old bag.”
“No old bag. Don’t worry about it, chief.”
“Who do I pay?”
“Her,” he said. “Let’s go, chief.” He shut the doors, practically right in my face.
I went to my room and put some water on my hair, but you can’t really comb a crew cut or anything. Then I tested to see if my breath stank from so many cigarettes and the Scotch and sodas I drank at Ernie’s. All you do is hold your hand under your mouth and blow your breath up toward the old nostrils. It didn’t seem to stink much, but Ibrushed my teeth anyway. Then I put on another clean shirt. I knew I didn’t have to get all dolled up for a prostitute or anything, but it sort of gave me something to do. I was a little nervous. I was starting to feel pretty s@xy and all, but I was a little nervous anyway.
If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am. I’ve had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I’ve never got around to it yet. Something always happens. For instance, if you’re at a girl’s house, her parents always come home at the wrong time–or you’re afraid they will. Or if you’re in the back seat of somebody’s car, there’s always somebody’s date in the front seat–some girl, I mean–that always wants to know what’s going on all over the whole goddam car. I mean some girl in front keeps turning around to see what the hell’s going on. Anyway, something always happens. I came quite close to doing it a couple of times, though. One time in particular, I remember. Something went wrong, though –I don’t even remember what any more. The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl–a girl that isn’t a prostitute or anything, I mean–she keeps telling you to stop. The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don’t. I can’t help it. You never know whether they really want you to stop, or whether they’re just scared as hell, or whether they’re just telling you to stop so that if you do go through with it, the blame’ll be on you, not them. Anyway, I keep stopping. The trouble is, I get to feeling sorry for them. I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while, you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t any brains. I don’t know. They tell me to stop, so I stop. I always wish I hadn’t, after I take them home, but I keep doing it anyway.
Anyway, while I was putting on another clean shirt, I sort of figured this was my big chance, in a way. I figured if she was a prostitute and all, I could get in some practice on her, in case I ever get married or anything. I worry about that stuff sometimes. I read this book once, at the Whooton School, that had this very sophisticated, suave, s@xy guy in it. Monsieur Blanchard was his name, I can still remember. It was a lousy book, but this Blanchard guy was pretty good. He had this big château and all on the Riviera, in Europe, and all he did in his spare time was beat women off with a club. He was a real rake and all, but he knocked women out. He said, in this one part, that a woman’s body is like a violin and all, and that it takes a terrific musician to play it right. It was a very corny book–I realize that–but I couldn’t get that violin stuff out of my mind anyway. In a way, that’s why I sort of wanted to get some practice in, in case I ever get married.
Caulfield and his Magic Violin, boy. It’s corny, I realize, but it isn’t too corny. I wouldn’t mind being pretty good at that stuff. Half the time, if you really want to know the truth, when I’m horsing around with a girl, I have a helluva lot of trouble just finding what I’m looking for, for God’s sake, if you know what I mean. Take this girl that I just missed having s@xual intercourse with, that I told you about. It took me about an hour to just get her goddam brassiere off. By the time I did get it off, she was about ready to spit in my eye.
Anyway, I kept walking around the room, waiting for this prostitute to show up. I kept hoping she’d be good-looking. I didn’t care too much, though. I sort of just wanted to get it over with. Finally, somebody knocked on the door, and when I went to open it, I had my suitcase right in the way and I fell over it and damn near broke my knee. I always pick a gorgeous time to fall over a suitcase or something.When I opened the door, this prostitute was standing there. She had a polo coat on, and no hat. She was sort of a blonde, but you could tell she dyed her hair. She wasn’t any old bag, though. “How do you do,” I said. Suave as hell, boy.
“You the guy Maurice said?” she asked me. She didn’t seem too goddam friendly.
“Is he the elevator boy?”
“Yeah,” she said.
“Yes, I am. Come in, won’t you?” I said. I was getting more and more nonchalant as it went along. I really was.
She came in and took her coat off right away and sort of chucked it on the bed.
She had on a green dress underneath. Then she sort of sat down sideways on the chair that went with the desk in the room and started jiggling her foot up and down. She crossed her legs and started jiggling this one foot up and down. She was very nervous, for a prostitute. She really was. I think it was because she was young as hell. She was around my age. I sat down in the big chair, next to her, and offered her a cigarette. “I don’t smoke,” she said. She had a tiny little wheeny-whiny voice. You could hardly hear her.
She never said thank you, either, when you offered her something. She just didn’t know any better.
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jim Steele,” I said.
“Ya got a watch on ya?” she said. She didn’t care what the hell my name was, naturally. “Hey, how old are you, anyways?”
“Like fun you are.”
It was a funny thing to say. It sounded like a real kid. You’d think a prostitute and all would say “Like hell you are” or “Cut the crap” instead of “Like fun you are.”
“How old are you?” I asked her.
“Old enough to know better,” she said. She was really witty. “Ya got a watch on ya?” she asked me again, and then she stood up and pulled her dress over her head.
I certainly felt peculiar when she did that. I mean she did it so sudden and all. I know you’re supposed to feel pretty s@xy when somebody gets up and pulls their dress over their head, but I didn’t. s@xy was about the last thing I was feeling. I felt much more depressed than s@xy.
“Ya got a watch on ya, hey?”
“No. No, I don’t,” I said. Boy, was I feeling peculiar. “What’s your name?” I asked her. All she had on was this pink slip. It was really quite embarrassing. It really was.
“Sunny,” she said. “Let’s go, hey.”
“Don’t you feel like talking for a while?” I asked her. It was a childish thing to say, but I was feeling so damn peculiar. “Are you in a very big hurry?”
She looked at me like I was a madman. “What the heck ya wanna talk about?” she said.
“I don’t know. Nothing special. I just thought perhaps you might care to chat for a while.”
She sat down in the chair next to the desk again. She didn’t like it, though, you could tell. She started jiggling her foot again–boy, she was a nervous girl.
“Would you care for a cigarette now?” I said. I forgot she didn’t smoke.
“I don’t smoke. Listen, if you’re gonna talk, do it. I got things to do.”I couldn’t think of anything to talk about, though. I thought of asking her how she got to be a prostitute and all, but I was scared to ask her. She probably wouldn’t’ve told me anyway.
“You don’t come from New York, do you?” I said finally. That’s all I could think of.
“Hollywood,” she said. Then she got up and went over to where she’d put her dress down, on the bed. “Ya got a hanger? I don’t want to get my dress all wrinkly. It’s brand-clean.”
“Sure,” I said right away. I was only too glad to get up and do something. I took her dress over to the closet and hung it up for her. It was funny. It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it up. I thought of her going in a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all. The salesman probably just thought she was a regular girl when she bought it. It made me feel sad as hell–I don’t know why exactly.
I sat down again and tried to keep the old conversation going. She was a lousy conversationalist. “Do you work every night?” I asked her–it sounded sort of awful, after I’d said it.
“Yeah.” She was walking all around the room. She picked up the menu off the desk and read it.
“What do you do during the day?”
She sort of shrugged her shoulders. She was pretty skinny. “Sleep. Go to the show.” She put down the menu and looked at me. “Let’s go, hey. I haven’t got all–”
“Look,” I said. “I don’t feel very much like myself tonight. I’ve had a rough night.
Honest to God. I’ll pay you and all, but do you mind very much if we don’t do it? Do you mind very much?” The trouble was, I just didn’t want to do it. I felt more depressed than s@xy, if you want to know the truth. She was depressing. Her green dress hanging in the closet and all. And besides, I don’t think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long. I really don’t think I could.
She came over to me, with this funny look on her face, like as if she didn’t believe me. “What’sa matter?” she said.
“Nothing’s the matter.” Boy, was I getting nervous. “The thing is, I had an operation very recently.”
“On my wuddayacallit–my clavichord.”
“Yeah? Where the hell’s that?”
“The clavichord?” I said. “Well, actually, it’s in the spinal canal. I mean it’s quite a ways down in the spinal canal.”
“Yeah?” she said. “That’s tough.” Then she sat down on my goddam lap. “You’re cute.”
She made me so nervous, I just kept on lying my head off. “I’m still recuperating,”
I told her.
“You look like a guy in the movies. You know. Whosis. You know who I mean.
What the heck’s his name?”
“I don’t know,” I said. She wouldn’t get off my goddam lap.
“Sure you know. He was in that pitcher with Mel-vine Douglas? The one that was Mel-vine Douglas’s kid brother? That falls off this boat? You know who I mean.”
“No, I don’t. I go to the movies as seldom as I can.”Then she started getting funny. Crude and all.
“Do you mind cutting it out?” I said. “I’m not in the mood, I just told you. I just had an operation.”
She didn’t get up from my lap or anything, but she gave me this terrifically dirty look. “Listen,” she said. “I was sleepin’ when that crazy Maurice woke me up. If you think I’m–”
“I said I’d pay you for coming and all. I really will. I have plenty of dough. It’s just that I’m practically just recovering from a very serious–”
“What the heck did you tell that crazy Maurice you wanted a girl for, then? If you just had a goddam operation on your goddam wuddayacallit. Huh?”
“I thought I’d be feeling a lot better than I do. I was a little premature in my calculations. No kidding. I’m sorry. If you’ll just get up a second, I’ll get my wallet. I mean it.”
She was sore as hell, but she got up off my goddam lap so that I could go over and get my wallet off the chiffonier. I took out a five-dollar bill and handed it to her. “Thanks a lot,” I told her. “Thanks a million.”
“This is a five. It costs ten.”
She was getting funny, you could tell. I was afraid something like that would happen–I really was.
“Maurice said five,” I told her. “He said fifteen till noon and only five for a throw.”
“Ten for a throw.”
“He said five. I’m sorry–I really am–but that’s all I’m gonna shell out.”
She sort of shrugged her shoulders, the way she did before, and then she said, very cold, “Do you mind getting me my frock? Or would it be too much trouble?” She was a pretty spooky kid. Even with that little bitty voice she had, she could sort of scare you a little bit. If she’d been a big old prostitute, with a lot of makeup on her face and all, she wouldn’t have been half as spooky.
I went and got her dress for her. She put it on and all, and then she picked up her polo coat off the bed. “So long, crumb-bum,” she said.
“So long,” I said. I didn’t thank her or anything. I’m glad I didn’t.
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