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22

When I came back, she had the pillow off her head all right–I knew she wouldbut she still wouldn’t look at me, even though she was laying on her back and all. When I came around the side of the bed and sat down again, she turned her crazy face the other way. She was ostracizing the hell out of me. Just like the fencing team at Pencey when I left all the goddam foils on the subway.

“How’s old Hazel Weatherfield?” I said. “You write any new stories about her? I got that one you sent me right in my suitcase. It’s down at the station. It’s very good.”

“Daddy’ll kill you.”

Boy, she really gets something on her mind when she gets something on her mind.

“No, he won’t. The worst he’ll do, he’ll give me hell again, and then he’ll send me to that goddam military school. That’s all he’ll do to me. And in the first place, I won’t even be around. I’ll be away. I’ll be–I’ll probably be in Colorado on this ranch.”

“Don’t make me laugh. You can’t even ride a horse.”

“Who can’t? Sure I can. Certainly I can. They can teach you in about two minutes,” I said. “Stop picking at that.” She was picking at that adhesive tape on her arm.

“Who gave you that haircut?” I asked her. I just noticed what a stupid haircut somebody gave her. It was way too short.”None of your business,” she said. She can be very snotty sometimes. She can be quite snotty. “I suppose you failed in every single subject again,” she said–very snotty. It was sort of funny, too, in a way. She sounds like a goddam schoolteacher sometimes, and she’s only a little child.

“No, I didn’t,” I said. “I passed English.” Then, just for the hell of it, I gave her a pinch on the behind. It was sticking way out in the breeze, the way she was laying on her side. She has hardly any behind. I didn’t do it hard, but she tried to hit my hand anyway, but she missed.

Then all of a sudden, she said, “Oh, why did you do it?” She meant why did I get the ax again. It made me sort of sad, the way she said it.

“Oh, God, Phoebe, don’t ask me. I’m sick of everybody asking me that,” I said. “A million reasons why. It was one of the worst schools I ever went to. It was full of phonies. And mean guys. You never saw so many mean guys in your life. For instance, if you were having a bull session in somebody’s room, and somebody wanted to come in, nobody’d let them in if they were some dopey, pimply guy. Everybody was always locking their door when somebody wanted to come in. And they had this goddam secret fraternity that I was too yellow not to join. There was this one pimply, boring guy, Robert Ackley, that wanted to get in. He kept trying to join, and they wouldn’t let him. Just because he was boring and pimply. I don’t even feel like talking about it. It was a stinking school. Take my word.”

Old Phoebe didn’t say anything, but she was listen ing. I could tell by the back of her neck that she was listening. She always listens when you tell her something. And the funny part is she knows, half the time, what the hell you’re talking about. She really does.

I kept talking about old Pencey. I sort of felt like it.

“Even the couple of nice teachers on the faculty, they were phonies, too,” I said.

“There was this one old guy, Mr. Spencer. His wife was always giving you hot chocolate and all that stuff, and they were really pretty nice. But you should’ve seen him when the headmaster, old Thurmer, came in the history class and sat down in the back of the room.

He was always coming in and sitting down in the back of the room for about a half an hour. He was supposed to be incognito or something. After a while, he’d be sitting back there and then he’d start interrupting what old Spencer was saying to crack a lot of corny jokes. Old Spencer’d practically kill himself chuckling and smiling and all, like as if Thurmer was a goddam prince or something.”

“Don’t swear so much.”

“It would’ve made you puke, I swear it would,” I said. “Then, on Veterans’ Day.

They have this day, Veterans’ Day, that all the jerks that graduated from Pencey around 1776 come back and walk all over the place, with their wives and children and everybody. You should’ve seen this one old guy that was about fifty. What he did was, he came in our room and knocked on the door and asked us if we’d mind if he used the bathroom. The bathroom was at the end of the corridor–I don’t know why the hell he asked us. You know what he said? He said he wanted to see if his initials were still in one of the can doors. What he did, he carved his goddam stupid sad old initials in one of the can doors about ninety years ago, and he wanted to see if they were still there. So my roommate and I walked him down to the bathroom and all, and we had to stand there while he looked for his initials in all the can doors. He kept talking to us the whole time, telling us how when he was at Pencey they were the happiest days of his life, and givingus a lot of advice for the future and all. Boy, did he depress me! I don’t mean he was a bad guy–he wasn’t. But you don’t have to be a bad guy to depress somebody–you can be a good guy and do it. All you have to do to depress somebody is give them a lot of phony advice while you’re looking for your initials in some can door–that’s all you have to do. I don’t know. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been all out of breath. He was all out of breath from just climbing up the stairs, and the whole time he was looking for his initials he kept breathing hard, with his nostrils all funny and sad, while he kept telling Stradlater and I to get all we could out of Pencey. God, Phoebe! I can’t explain. I just didn’t like anything that was happening at Pencey. I can’t explain.”

Old Phoebe said something then, but I couldn’t hear her. She had the side of her mouth right smack on the pillow, and I couldn’t hear her.

“What?” I said. “Take your mouth away. I can’t hear you with your mouth that way.”

“You don’t like anything that’s happening.”

It made me even more depressed when she said that.

“Yes I do. Yes I do. Sure I do. Don’t say that. Why the hell do you say that?”

“Because you don’t. You don’t like any schools. You don’t like a million things.

You don’t.”

“I do! That’s where you’re wrong–that’s exactly where you’re wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that?” I said. Boy, was she depressing me.

“Because you don’t,” she said. “Name one thing.”

“One thing? One thing I like?” I said. “Okay.”

The trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate too hot. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate.

“One thing I like a lot you mean?” I asked her.

She didn’t answer me, though. She was in a cockeyed position way the hell over the other side of the bed. She was about a thousand miles away. “C’mon answer me,” I said. “One thing I like a lot, or one thing I just like?”

“You like a lot.”

“All right,” I said. But the trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate. About all I could think of were those two nuns that went around collecting dough in those beatup old straw baskets. Especially the one with the glasses with those iron rims. And this boy I knew at Elkton Hills. There was this one boy at Elkton Hills, named James Castle, that wouldn’t take back something he said about this very conceited boy, Phil Stabile. James Castle called him a very conceited guy, and one of Stabile’s lousy friends went and squealed on him to Stabile. So Stabile, with about six other dirty bastards, went down to James Castle’s room and went in and locked the goddam door and tried to make him take back what he said, but he wouldn’t do it. So they started in on him. I won’t even tell you what they did to him–it’s too repulsive–but he still wouldn’t take it back, old James Castle.

And you should’ve seen him. He was a skinny little weak-looking guy, with wrists about as big as pencils. Finally, what he did, instead of taking back what he said, he jumped out the window. I was in the shower and all, and even I could hear him land outside. But I just thought something fell out the window, a radio or a desk or something, not a boy or anything. Then I heard everybody running through the corridor and down the stairs, so I put on my bathrobe and I ran downstairs too, and there was old James Castle laying right on the stone steps and all. He was dead, and his teeth, and blood, were all over the place,and nobody would even go near him. He had on this turtleneck sweater I’d lent him. All they did with the guys that were in the room with him was expel them. They didn’t even go to jail.

That was about all I could think of, though. Those two nuns I saw at breakfast and this boy James Castle I knew at Elkton Hills. The funny part is, I hardly even know James Castle, if you want to know the truth. He was one of these very quiet guys. He was in my math class, but he was way over on the other side of the room, and he hardly ever got up to recite or go to the blackboard or anything. Some guys in school hardly ever get up to recite or go to the blackboard. I think the only time I ever even had a conversation with him was that time he asked me if he could borrow this turtleneck sweater I had. I damn near dropped dead when he asked me, I was so surprised and all. I remember I was brushing my teeth, in the can, when he asked me. He said his cousin was coming in to take him for a drive and all. I didn’t even know he knew I had a turtleneck sweater. All I knew about him was that his name was always right ahead of me at roll call. Cabel, R., Cabel, W., Castle, Caulfield–I can still remember it. If you want to know the truth, I almost didn’t lend him my sweater. Just because I didn’t know him too well.

“What?” I said to old Phoebe. She said something to me, but I didn’t hear her.

“You can’t even think of one thing.”

“Yes, I can. Yes, I can.”

“Well, do it, then.”

“I like Allie,” I said. “And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, and–”

“Allie’s dead–You always say that! If somebody’s dead and everything, and in Heaven, then it isn’t really–”

“I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sakeespecially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”

Old Phoebe didn’t say anything. When she can’t think of anything to say, she doesn’t say a goddam word.

“Anyway, I like it now,” I said. “I mean right now. Sitting here with you and just chewing the fat and horsing–”

“That isn’t anything really!”

“It is so something really! Certainly it is! Why the hell isn’t it? People never think anything is anything really. I’m getting goddam sick of it,”

“Stop swearing. All right, name something else. Name something you’d like to be.

Like a scientist. Or a lawyer or something.”

“I couldn’t be a scientist. I’m no good in science.”

“Well, a lawyer–like Daddy and all.”

“Lawyers are all right, I guess–but it doesn’t appeal to me,” I said. “I mean they’re all right if they go around saving innocent guys’ lives all the time, and like that, but you don’t do that kind of stuff if you’re a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and look like a hot-shot. And besides. Even if you did go around saving guys’ lives and all, how would you know if you did it because you really wanted to save guys’ lives, or because you did it because what you really wanted to do was be a terrific lawyer, with everybody slapping you on theback and congratulating you in court when the goddam trial was over, the reporters and everybody, the way it is in the dirty movies? How would you know you weren’t being a phony? The trouble is, you wouldn’t.”

I’m not too sure old Phoebe knew what the hell I was talking about. I mean she’s only a little child and all. But she was listening, at least. If somebody at least listens, it’s not too bad.

“Daddy’s going to kill you. He’s going to kill you,” she said.

I wasn’t listening, though. I was thinking about something else–something crazy.

“You know what I’d like to be?” I said. “You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?”

“What? Stop swearing.”

“You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’? I’d like–”

“It’s ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye’!” old Phoebe said. “It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.”

“I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.”

She was right, though. It is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.” I didn’t know it then, though.

“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,’” I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around–nobody big, I mean–except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”

Old Phoebe didn’t say anything for a long time. Then, when she said something, all she said was, “Daddy’s going to kill you.”

“I don’t give a damn if he does,” I said. I got up from the bed then, because what I wanted to do, I wanted to phone up this guy that was my English teacher at Elkton Hills, Mr. Antolini. He lived in New York now. He quit Elkton Hills. He took this job teaching English at N.Y.U. “I have to make a phone call,” I told Phoebe. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go to sleep.” I didn’t want her to go to sleep while I was in the living room. I knew she wouldn’t but I said it anyway, just to make sure.

While I was walking toward the door, old Phoebe said, “Holden!” and I turned around.

She was sitting way up in bed. She looked so pretty. “I’m taking belching lessons from this girl, Phyllis Margulies,” she said. “Listen.”

I listened, and I heard something, but it wasn’t much. “Good,” I said. Then I went out in the living room and called up this teacher I had, Mr. Antolini.

23

I made it very snappy on the phone because I was afraid my parents would barge in on me right in the middle of it. They didn’t, though. Mr. Antolini was very nice. He said I could come right over if I wanted to. I think I probably woke he and his wife up,because it took them a helluva long time to answer the phone. The first thing he asked me was if anything was wrong, and I said no. I said I’d flunked out of Pencey, though. I thought I might as well tell him. He said “Good God,” when I said that. He had a good sense of humor and all. He told me to come right over if I felt like it.

He was about the best teacher I ever had, Mr. Antolini. He was a pretty young guy, not much older than my brother D.B., and you could kid around with him without losing your respect for him. He was the one that finally picked up that boy that jumped out the window I told you about, James Castle. Old Mr. Antolini felt his pulse and all, and then he took off his coat and put it over James Castle and carried him all the way over to the infirmary. He didn’t even give a damn if his coat got all bloody.

When I got back to D.B.’s room, old Phoebe’d turned the radio on. This dance music was coming out. She’d turned it on low, though, so the maid wouldn’t hear it. You should’ve seen her. She was sitting smack in the middle of the bed, outside the covers, with her legs folded like one of those Yogi guys. She was listening to the music. She kills me.

“C’mon,” I said. “You feel like dancing?” I taught her how to dance and all when she was a tiny little kid. She’s a very good dancer. I mean I just taught her a few things.

She learned it mostly by herself. You can’t teach somebody how to really dance.

“You have shoes on,” she said.

“I’ll take ‘em off. C’mon.”

She practically jumped off the bed, and then she waited while I took my shoes off, and then I danced with her for a while. She’s really damn good. I don’t like people that dance with little kids, because most of the time it looks terrible. I mean if you’re out at a restaurant somewhere and you see some old guy take his little kid out on the dance floor.

Usually they keep yanking the kid’s dress up in the back by mistake, and the kid can’t dance worth a damn anyway, and it looks terrible, but I don’t do it out in public with Phoebe or anything. We just horse around in the house. It’s different with her anyway, because she can dance. She can follow anything you do. I mean if you hold her in close as hell so that it doesn’t matter that your legs are so much longer. She stays right with you. You can cross over, or do some corny dips, or even jitterbug a little, and she stays right with you. You can even tango, for God’s sake.

We danced about four numbers. In between numbers she’s funny as hell. She stays right in position. She won’t even talk or anything. You both have to stay right in position and wait for the orchestra to start playing again. That kills me. You’re not supposed to laugh or anything, either.

Anyway, we danced about four numbers, and then I turned off the radio. Old Phoebe jumped back in bed and got under the covers. “I’m improving, aren’t I?” she asked me.

“And how,” I said. I sat down next to her on the bed again. I was sort of out of breath. I was smoking so damn much, I had hardly any wind. She wasn’t even out of breath.

“Feel my forehead,” she said all of a sudden.

“Why?”

“Feel it. Just feel it once.”

I felt it. I didn’t feel anything, though.

“Does it feel very feverish?” she said.”No. Is it supposed to?”

“Yes–I’m making it. Feel it again.”

I felt it again, and I still didn’t feel anything, but I said, “I think it’s starting to, now.” I didn’t want her to get a goddam inferiority complex.

She nodded. “I can make it go up to over the thermoneter.”

“Thermometer. Who said so?”

“Alice Holmborg showed me how. You cross your legs and hold your breath and think of something very, very hot. A radiator or something. Then your whole forehead gets so hot you can burn somebody’s hand.”

That killed me. I pulled my hand away from her forehead, like I was in terrific danger. “Thanks for telling me,” I said.

“Oh, I wouldn’t’ve burned your hand. I’d’ve stopped before it got too–Shhh!”

Then, quick as hell, she sat way the hell up in bed.

She scared hell out of me when she did that. “What’s the matter?” I said.

“The front door!” she said in this loud whisper. “It’s them!”

I quick jumped up and ran over and turned off the light over the desk. Then I jammed out my cigarette on my shoe and put it in my pocket. Then I fanned hell out of the air, to get the smoke out–I shouldn’t even have been smoking, for God’s sake. Then I grabbed my shoes and got in the closet and shut the door. Boy, my heart was beating like a bastard.

I heard my mother come in the room.

“Phoebe?” she said. “Now, stop that. I saw the light, young lady.”

“Hello!” I heard old Phoebe say. “I couldn’t sleep. Did you have a good time?”

“Marvelous,” my mother said, but you could tell she didn’t mean it. She doesn’t enjoy herself much when she goes out. “Why are you awake, may I ask? Were you warm enough?”

“I was warm enough, I just couldn’t sleep.”

“Phoebe, have you been smoking a cigarette in here? Tell me the truth, please, young lady.”

“What?” old Phoebe said.

“You heard me.”

“I just lit one for one second. I just took one puff. Then I threw it out the window.”

“Why, may I ask?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“I don’t like that, Phoebe. I don’t like that at all,” my mother said. “Do you want another blanket?”

“No, thanks. G’night!” old Phoebe said. She was trying to get rid of her, you could tell.

“How was the movie?” my mother said.

“Excellent. Except Alice’s mother. She kept leaning over and asking her if she felt grippy during the whole entire movie. We took a taxi home.”

“Let me feel your forehead.”

“I didn’t catch anything. She didn’t have anything. It was just her mother.”

“Well. Go to sleep now. How was your dinner?”

“Lousy,” Phoebe said.”You heard what your father said about using that word. What was lousy about it?

You had a lovely lamb chop. I walked all over Lexington Avenue just to–”

“The lamb chop was all right, but Charlene always breathes on me whenever she puts something down. She breathes all over the food and everything. She breathes on everything.”

“Well. Go to sleep. Give Mother a kiss. Did you say your prayers?”

“I said them in the bathroom. G’night!”

“Good night. Go right to sleep now. I have a splitting headache,” my mother said.

She gets headaches quite frequently. She really does.

“Take a few aspirins,” old Phoebe said. “Holden’ll be home on Wednesday, won’t he?”

“So far as I know. Get under there, now. Way down.”

I heard my mother go out and close the door. I waited a couple of minutes. Then I came out of the closet. I bumped smack into old Phoebe when I did it, because it was so dark and she was out of bed and coming to tell me. “I hurt you?” I said. You had to whisper now, because they were both home. “I gotta get a move on,” I said. I found the edge of the bed in the dark and sat down on it and started putting on my shoes. I was pretty nervous. I admit it.

“Don’t go now,” Phoebe whispered. “Wait’ll they’re asleep!”

“No. Now. Now’s the best time,” I said. “She’ll be in the bathroom and Daddy’ll turn on the news or something. Now’s the best time.” I could hardly tie my shoelaces, I was so damn nervous. Not that they would’ve killed me or anything if they’d caught me home, but it would’ve been very unpleasant and all. “Where the hell are ya?” I said to old Phoebe. It was so dark I couldn’t see her.

“Here.” She was standing right next to me. I didn’t even see her.

“I got my damn bags at the station,” I said. “Listen. You got any dough, Phoeb?

I’m practically broke.”

“Just my Christmas dough. For presents and all. I haven’t done any shopping at all yet.”

“Oh.” I didn’t want to take her Christmas dough.

“You want some?” she said.

“I don’t want to take your Christmas dough.”

“I can lend you some,” she said. Then I heard her over at D.B.’s desk, opening a million drawers and feeling around with her hand. It was pitch-black, it was so dark in the room. “If you go away, you won’t see me in the play,” she said. Her voice sounded funny when she said it.

“Yes, I will. I won’t go way before that. You think I wanna miss the play?” I said.

“What I’ll do, I’ll probably stay at Mr. Antolini’s house till maybe Tuesday night. Then I’ll come home. If I get a chance, I’ll phone ya.”

“Here,” old Phoebe said. She was trying to give me the dough, but she couldn’t find my hand.

“Where?”

She put the dough in my hand.

“Hey, I don’t need all this,” I said. “Just give me two bucks, is all. No kiddingHere.” I tried to give it back to her, but she wouldn’t take it.

“You can take it all. You can pay me back. Bring it to the play.”“How much is it, for God’s sake?”

“Eight dollars and eighty-five cents. Sixty-five cents. I spent some.”

Then, all of a sudden, I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it, and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can’t just stop on a goddam dime. I was still sitting on the edge of the bed when I did it, and she put her old arm around my neck, and I put my arm around her, too, but I still couldn’t stop for a long time. I thought I was going to choke to death or something. Boy, I scared hell out of poor old Phoebe. The damn window was open and everything, and I could feel her shivering and all, because all she had on was her pajamas. I tried to make her get back in bed, but she wouldn’t go. Finally I stopped. But it certainly took me a long, long time. Then I finished buttoning my coat and all. I told her I’d keep in touch with her. She told me I could sleep with her if I wanted to, but I said no, that I’d better beat it, that Mr. Antolini was waiting for me and all. Then I took my hunting hat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her. She likes those kind of crazy hats. She didn’t want to take it, but I made her. I’ll bet she slept with it on. She really likes those kind of hats. Then I told her again I’d give her a buzz if I got a chance, and then I left.

It was a helluva lot easier getting out of the house than it was getting in, for some reason. For one thing, I didn’t give much of a damn any more if they caught me. I really didn’t. I figured if they caught me, they caught me. I almost wished they did, in a way.

I walked all the way downstairs, instead of taking the elevator. I went down the back stairs. I nearly broke my neck on about ten million garbage pails, but I got out all right. The elevator boy didn’t even see me. He probably still thinks I’m up at the di@ksteins’.

24

Mr. and Mrs. Antolini had this very swanky apartment over on Sutton Place, with two steps that you go down to get in the living room, and a bar and all. I’d been there quite a few times, because after I left Elkton Hills Mr. Antoilni came up to our house for dinner quite frequently to find out how I was getting along. He wasn’t married then. Then when he got married, I used to play tennis with he and Mrs. Antolini quite frequently, out at the West Side Tennis Club, in Forest Hills, Long Island. Mrs. Antolini, belonged there.

She was lousy with dough. She was about sixty years older than Mr. Antolini, but they seemed to get along quite well. For one thing, they were both very intellectual, especially Mr. Antolini except that he was more witty than intellectual when you were with him, sort of like D.B. Mrs. Antolini was mostly serious. She had asthma pretty bad. They both read all D.B.’s stories–Mrs. Antolini, too–and when D.B. went to Hollywood, Mr.

Antolini phoned him up and told him not to go. He went anyway, though. Mr. Antolini said that anybody that could write like D.B. had no business going out to Hollywood.

That’s exactly what I said, practically.

I would have walked down to their house, because I didn’t want to spend any of Phoebe’s Christmas dough that I didn’t have to, but I felt funny when I got outside. Sort of dizzy. So I took a cab. I didn’t want to, but I did. I had a helluva time even finding a cab.Old Mr. Antolini answered the door when I rang the bell–after the elevator boy finally let me up, the bastard. He had on his bathrobe and slippers, and he had a highball in one hand. He was a pretty sophisticated guy, and he was a pretty heavy drinker.

“Holden, m’boy!” he said. “My God, he’s grown another twenty inches. Fine to see you.”

“How are you, Mr. Antolini? How’s Mrs. Antolini?”

“We’re both just dandy. Let’s have that coat.” He took my coat off me and hung it up. “I expected to see a day-old infant in your arms. Nowhere to turn. Snowflakes in your eyelashes.” He’s a very witty guy sometimes. He turned around and yelled out to the kitchen, “Lillian! How’s the coffee coming?” Lillian was Mrs. Antolini’s first name.

“It’s all ready,” she yelled back. “Is that Holden? Hello, Holden!”

“Hello, Mrs. Antolini!”

You were always yelling when you were there. That’s because the both of them were never in the same room at the same time. It was sort of funny.

“Sit down, Holden,” Mr. Antolini said. You could tell he was a little oiled up. The room looked like they’d just had a party. Glasses were all over the place, and dishes with peanuts in them. “Excuse the appearance of the place,” he said. “We’ve been entertaining some Buffalo friends of Mrs. Antolini’s . . . Some buffaloes, as a matter of fact.”

I laughed, and Mrs. Antolini yelled something in to me from the kitchen, but I couldn’t hear her. “What’d she say?” I asked Mr. Antolini.

“She said not to look at her when she comes in. She just arose from the sack.

Have a cigarette. Are you smoking now?”

“Thanks,” I said. I took a cigarette from the box he offered me. “Just once in a while. I’m a moderate smoker.”

“I’ll bet you are,” he said. He gave me a light from this big lighter off the table.

“So. You and Pencey are no longer one,” he said. He always said things that way.

Sometimes it amused me a lot and sometimes it didn’t. He sort of did it a little bit too much. I don’t mean he wasn’t witty or anything–he was–but sometimes it gets on your nerves when somebody’s always saying things like “So you and Pencey are no longer one.” D.B. does it too much sometimes, too.

“What was the trouble?” Mr. Antolini asked me. “How’d you do in English? I’ll show you the door in short order if you flunked English, you little ace composition writer.”

“Oh, I passed English all right. It was mostly literature, though. I only wrote about two compositions the whole term,” I said. “I flunked Oral Expression, though. They had this course you had to take, Oral Expression. That I flunked.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” I didn’t feel much like going into It. I was still feeling sort of dizzy or something, and I had a helluva headache all of a sudden. I really did. But you could tell he was interested, so I told him a little bit about it. “It’s this course where each boy in class has to get up in class and make a speech. You know. Spontaneous and all.

And if the boy digresses at all, you’re supposed to yell ‘Digression!’ at him as fast as you can. It just about drove me crazy. I got an F in it.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. That digression business got on my nerves. I don’t know. The trouble with me is, I like it when somebody digresses. It’s more interesting and all.”“You don’t care to have somebody stick to the point when he tells you something?”

“Oh, sure! I like somebody to stick to the point and all. But I don’t like them to stick too much to the point. I don’t know. I guess I don’t like it when somebody sticks to the point all the time. The boys that got the best marks in Oral Expression were the ones that stuck to the point all the time–I admit it. But there was this one boy, Richard Kinsella. He didn’t stick to the point too much, and they were always yelling ‘Digression!’

at him. It was terrible, because in the first place, he was a very nervous guy–I mean he was a very nervous guy–and his lips were always shaking whenever it was his time to make a speech, and you could hardly hear him if you were sitting way in the back of the room. When his lips sort of quit shaking a little bit, though, I liked his speeches better than anybody else’s. He practically flunked the course, though, too. He got a D plus because they kept yelling ‘Digression!’ at him all the time. For instance, he made this speech about this farm his father bought in Vermont. They kept yelling ‘Digression!’ at him the whole time he was making it, and this teacher, Mr. Vinson, gave him an F on it because he hadn’t told what kind of animals and vegetables and stuff grew on the farm and all. What he did was, Richard Kinsella, he’d start telling you all about that stuff–then all of a sudden he’d start telling you about this letter his mother got from his uncle, and how his uncle got polio and all when he was forty-two years old, and how he wouldn’t let anybody come to see him in the hospital because he didn’t want anybody to see him with a brace on. It didn’t have much to do with the farm–I admit it–but it was nice. It’s nice when somebody tells you about their uncle. Especially when they start out telling you about their father’s farm and then all of a sudden get more interested in their uncle. I mean it’s dirty to keep yelling ‘Digression!’ at him when he’s all nice and excited. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.” I didn’t feel too much like trying, either. For one thing, I had this terrific headache all of a sudden. I wished to God old Mrs. Antolini would come in with the coffee. That’s something that annoys hell out of me–I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t.

“Holden. . . One short, faintly stuffy, pedagogical question. Don’t you think there’s a time and place for everything? Don’t you think if someone starts out to tell you about his father’s farm, he should stick to his guns, then get around to telling you about his uncle’s brace? Or, if his uncle’s brace is such a provocative subject, shouldn’t he have selected it in the first place as his subject–not the farm?”

I didn’t feel much like thinking and answering and all. I had a headache and I felt lousy. I even had sort of a stomach-ache, if you want to know the truth.

“Yes–I don’t know. I guess he should. I mean I guess he should’ve picked his uncle as a subject, instead of the farm, if that interested him most. But what I mean is, lots of time you don’t know what interests you most till you start talking about something that doesn’t interest you most. I mean you can’t help it sometimes. What I think is, you’re supposed to leave somebody alone if he’s at least being interesting and he’s getting all excited about something. I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.

You just didn’t know this teacher, Mr. Vinson. He could drive you crazy sometimes, him and the goddam class. I mean he’d keep telling you to unify and simplify all the time.

Some things you just can’t do that to. I mean you can’t hardly ever simplify and unify something just because somebody wants you to. You didn’t know this guy, Mr. Vinson. I mean he was very intelligent and all, but you could tell he didn’t have too much brains.”“Coffee, gentlemen, finally,” Mrs. Antolini said. She came in carrying this tray with coffee and cakes and stuff on it. “Holden, don’t you even peek at me. I’m a mess.”

“Hello, Mrs. Antolini,” I said. I started to get up and all, but Mr. Antolini got hold of my jacket and pulled me back down. Old Mrs. Antolini’s hair was full of those iron curler jobs, and she didn’t have any lipstick or anything on. She didn’t look too gorgeous.

She looked pretty old and all.

“I’ll leave this right here. Just dive in, you two,” she said. She put the tray down on the cigarette table, pushing all these glasses out of the way. “How’s your mother, Holden?”

“She’s fine, thanks. I haven’t seen her too recently, but the last I–”

“Darling, if Holden needs anything, everything’s in the linen closet. The top shelf.

I’m going to bed. I’m exhausted,” Mrs. Antolini said. She looked it, too. “Can you boys make up the couch by yourselves?”

“We’ll take care of everything. You run along to bed,” Mr. Antolini said. He gave Mrs. Antolini a kiss and she said good-by to me and went in the bedroom. They were always kissing each other a lot in public.

I had part of a cup of coffee and about half of some cake that was as hard as a rock. All old Mr. Antolini had was another highball, though. He makes them strong, too, you could tell. He may get to be an alcoholic if he doesn’t watch his step.

“I had lunch with your dad a couple of weeks ago,” he said all of a sudden. “Did you know that?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You’re aware, of course, that he’s terribly concerned about you.”

“I know it. I know he is,” I said.

“Apparently before he phoned me he’d just had a long, rather harrowing letter from your latest headmaster, to the effect that you were making absolutely no effort at all.

Cutting classes. Coming unprepared to all your classes. In general, being an all-around–”

“I didn’t cut any classes. You weren’t allowed to cut any. There were a couple of them I didn’t attend once in a while, like that Oral Expression I told you about, but I didn’t cut any.”

I didn’t feel at all like discussing it. The coffee made my stomach feel a little better, but I still had this awful headache.

Mr. Antolini lit another cigarette. He smoked like a fiend. Then he said, “Frankly, I don’t know what the hell to say to you, Holden.”

“I know. I’m very hard to talk to. I realize that.”

“I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don’t honestly know what kind. . . Are you listening to me?”

“Yes.”

You could tell he was trying to concentrate and all.

“It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It’s a secret between he and I.’ Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. I just don’t know. But do you know what I’m driving at, at all?”

“Yes. Sure,” I said. I did, too. “But you’re wrong about that hating business. I mean about hating football players and all. You really are. I don’t hate too many guys.What I may do, I may hate them for a little while, like this guy Stradlater I knew at Pencey, and this other boy, Robert Ackley. I hated them once in a while–I admit it–but it doesn’t last too long, is what I mean. After a while, if I didn’t see them, if they didn’t come in the room, or if I didn’t see them in the dining room for a couple of meals, I sort of missed them. I mean I sort of missed them.”

Mr. Antolini didn’t say anything for a while. He got up and got another hunk of ice and put it in his drink, then he sat down again. You could tell he was thinking. I kept wishing, though, that he’d continue the conversation in the morning, instead of now, but he was hot. People are mostly hot to have a discussion when you’re not.

“All right. Listen to me a minute now . . . I may not word this as memorably as I’d like to, but I’ll write you a letter about it in a day or two. Then you can get it all straight.

But listen now, anyway.” He started concentrating again. Then he said, “This fall I think you’re riding for–it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. You follow me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Sure?”

“Yes.”

He got up and poured some more booze in his glass. Then he sat down again. He didn’t say anything for a long time.

“I don’t want to scare you,” he said, “but I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause.” He gave me a funny look. “If I write something down for you, will you read it carefully? And keep it?”

“Yes. Sure,” I said. I did, too. I still have the paper he gave me.

He went over to this desk on the other side of the room, and without sitting down wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he came back and sat down with the paper in his hand. “Oddly enough, this wasn’t written by a practicing poet. It was written by a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel. Here’s what he–Are you still with me?”

“Yes, sure I am.”

“Here’s what he said: ‘The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.’”

He leaned over and handed it to me. I read it right when he gave it to me, and then I thanked him and all and put it in my pocket. It was nice of him to go to all that trouble.

It really was. The thing was, though, I didn’t feel much like concentrating. Boy, I felt so damn tired all of a sudden.

You could tell he wasn’t tired at all, though. He was pretty oiled up, for one thing.

“I think that one of these days,” he said, “you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there. But immediately. You can’t afford to lose a minute. Not you.”

I nodded, because he was looking right at me and all, but I wasn’t too sure what he was talking about. I was pretty sure I knew, but I wasn’t too positive at the time. I was too damn tired.”And I hate to tell you,” he said, “but I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You’ll have to. You’re a student–whether the idea appeals to you or not. You’re in love with knowledge. And I think you’ll find, once you get past all the Mr. Vineses and their Oral Comp–”

“Mr. Vinsons,” I said. He meant all the Mr. Vinsons, not all the Mr. Vineses. I shouldn’t have interrupted him, though.

“All right–the Mr. Vinsons. Once you get past all the Mr. Vinsons, you’re going to start getting closer and closer–that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it–to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles.

You’ll learn from them–if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.” He stopped and took a big drink out of his highball. Then he started again. Boy, he was really hot. I was glad I didn’t try to stop him or anything. “I’m not trying to tell you,” he said, “that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It’s not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with–which, unfortunately, is rarely the case–tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And–most important–nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker. Do you follow me at all?”

“Yes, sir.”

He didn’t say anything again for quite a while. I don’t know if you’ve ever done it, but it’s sort of hard to sit around waiting for somebody to say something when they’re thinking and all. It really is. I kept trying not to yawn. It wasn’t that I was bored or anything–I wasn’t–but I was so damn sleepy all of a sudden.

“Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it’ll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it’ll fit and, maybe, what it won’t. After a while, you’ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don’t suit you, aren’t becoming to you.

You’ll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly.”

Then, all of a sudden, I yawned. What a rude bastard, but I couldn’t help it!

Mr. Antolini just laughed, though. “C’mon,” he said, and got up. “We’ll fix up the couch for you.”

I followed him and he went over to this closet and tried to take down some sheets and blankets and stuff that was on the top shelf, but he couldn’t do it with this highball glass in his hand. So he drank it and then put the glass down on the floor and then he took the stuff down. I helped him bring it over to the couch. We both made the bed together.

He wasn’t too hot at it. He didn’t tuck anything in very tight. I didn’t care, though. I could’ve slept standing up I was so tired.

“How’re all your women?”“They’re okay.” I was being a lousy conversationalist, but I didn’t feel like it.

“How’s Sally?” He knew old Sally Hayes. I introduced him once.

“She’s all right. I had a date with her this afternoon.” Boy, it seemed like twenty years ago! “We don’t have too much in common any more.”

“Helluva pretty girl. What about that other girl? The one you told me about, in Maine?”

“Oh–Jane Gallagher. She’s all right. I’m probably gonna give her a buzz tomorrow.”

We were all done making up the couch then. “It’s all yours,” Mr. Antolini said. “I don’t know what the hell you’re going to do with those legs of yours.”

“That’s all right. I’m used to short beds,” I said. “Thanks a lot, sir. You and Mrs.

Antolini really saved my life tonight.”

“You know where the bathroom is. If there’s anything you want, just holler. I’ll be in the kitchen for a while–will the light bother you?”

“No–heck, no. Thanks a lot.”

“All right. Good night, handsome.”

“G’night, sir. Thanks a lot.”

He went out in the kitchen and I went in the bathroom and got undressed and all. I couldn’t brush my teeth because I didn’t have any toothbrush with me. I didn’t have any pajamas either and Mr. Antolini forgot to lend me some. So I just went back in the living room and turned off this little lamp next to the couch, and then I got in bed with just my shorts on. It was way too short for me, the couch, but I really could’ve slept standing up without batting an eyelash. I laid awake for just a couple of seconds thinking about all that stuff Mr. Antolini’d told me. About finding out the size of your mind and all. He was really a pretty smart guy. But I couldn’t keep my goddam eyes open, and I fell asleep.

Then something happened. I don’t even like to talk about it.

I woke up all of a sudden. I don’t know what time it was or anything, but I woke up. I felt something on my head, some guy’s hand. Boy, it really scared hell out of me.

What it was, it was Mr. Antolini’s hand. What he was doing was, he was sitting on the floor right next to the couch, in the dark and all, and he was sort of petting me or patting me on the goddam head. Boy, I’ll bet I jumped about a thousand feet.

“What the hellya doing?” I said.

“Nothing! I’m simply sitting here, admiring–”

“What’re ya doing, anyway?” I said over again. I didn’t know what the hell to say-I mean I was embarrassed as hell.

“How ‘bout keeping your voice down? I’m simply sitting here–”

“I have to go, anyway,” I said–boy, was I nervous! I started putting on my damn pants in the dark. I could hardly get them on I was so damn nervous. I know more damn perverts, at schools and all, than anybody you ever met, and they’re always being perverty when I’m around.

“You have to go where?” Mr. Antolini said. He was trying to act very goddam casual and cool and all, but he wasn’t any too goddam cool. Take my word.

“I left my bags and all at the station. I think maybe I’d better go down and get them. I have all my stuff in them.”

“They’ll be there in the morning. Now, go back to bed. I’m going to bed myself.

What’s the matter with you?”“Nothing’s the matter, it’s just that all my money and stuff’s in one of my bags. I’ll be right back. I’ll get a cab and be right back,” I said. Boy, I was falling all over myself in the dark. “The thing is, it isn’t mine, the money. It’s my mother’s, and I–”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Holden. Get back in that bed. I’m going to bed myself. The money will be there safe and sound in the morn–”

“No, no kidding. I gotta get going. I really do.” I was damn near all dressed already, except that I couldn’t find my tie. I couldn’t remember where I’d put my tie. I put on my jacket and all without it. Old Mr. Antolini was sitting now in the big chair a little ways away from me, watching me. It was dark and all and I couldn’t see him so hot, but I knew he was watching me, all right. He was still boozing, too. I could see his trusty highball glass in his hand.

“You’re a very, very strange boy.”

“I know it,” I said. I didn’t even look around much for my tie. So I went without it.

“Good-by, sir,” I said, “Thanks a lot. No kidding.”

He kept walking right behind me when I went to the front door, and when I rang the elevator bell he stayed in the damn doorway. All he said was that business about my being a “very, very strange boy” again. Strange, my ass. Then he waited in the doorway and all till the goddam elevator came. I never waited so long for an elevator in my whole goddam life. I swear.

I didn’t know what the hell to talk about while I was waiting for the elevator, and he kept standing there, so I said, “I’m gonna start reading some good books. I really am.”

I mean you had to say something. It was very embarrassing.

“You grab your bags and scoot right on back here again. I’ll leave the door unlatched.”

“Thanks a lot,” I said. “G’by!” The elevator was finally there. I got in and went down. Boy, I was shaking like a madman. I was sweating, too. When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kind of stuff’s happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can’t stand it.

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