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The Catcher in the Rye

STORYTELLER. I wasnít down at the game, as Iíd just got back from New York with the fencing team. I was the goddam manager of the fencing team. Very big deal. Weíd gone for this fencing meet with McBurney School. Only, we didnít have the meet. I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway. It wasnít all my fault. I had to keep getting up to look at this map, so weíd know where to get off. So we got back to Pencey around two-thirty instead of around dinnertime. The whole team ostracized me the whole way back on the train. It was pretty funny, in a way. And I was on my way to say good-by to old Spencer, my history teacher. I forgot to tell you - they kicked me out. I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all. They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself, when my parents came up for a conference with old Thurmeróbut I didnít do it. So I got the ax. They give guys the ax quite frequently at Pencey. It has a very good academic rating, Pencey. It really does. What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean Iíve left schools and places I didnít even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I donít care if itís a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know Iím leaving it. If you donít, you feel even worse. I was lucky. I suddenly remembered this time, in around October, that we were chucking a football around, in front of the academic building. This teacher that taught biology, Mr. Zambesi, stuck his head out of this window and told us to go back to the dorm and get ready for dinner. If I get a chance to remember that kind of stuff, I can get a good-by when I need one. I started running toward old Spencerís house. I ran all the way to the main gate, and then I waited a second till I got my breath. I have no wind, if you want to know the truth. Iím quite a heavy smoker, for one thingóthat is, I used to be. They made me cut it out. Another thing, I grew six and a half inches last year. Thatís also how I practically got t.b. and came out here for all these goddam checkups and stuff. I donít even know what I was running foróI guess I just felt like it. After I got across the road, I felt like I was sort of disappearing. It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road. Boy, I rang that doorbell fast when I got to old Spencerís house. I was really frozen. My ears were hurting and I could hardly move my fingers at all.

HOLDEN. Címon, címon! Somebody open the door!

STORYTELLER. Finally old Mrs. Spencer opened it.

MRS. SPENCER. Holden! How lovely to see you! Come in, dear! Are you frozen to death?

STORYTELLER. I think she was glad to see me. She liked me. At least, I think she did.

HOLDEN. How are you, Mrs. Spencer? Howís Mr. Spencer?

MRS. SPENCER. Let me take your coat, dear.

STORYTELLER. She was sort of deaf.

HOLDEN.Howíve you been, Mrs. Spencer?



MRS. SPENCER. Iíve been just fine, Holden. How have you been?

STORYTELLER. The way she asked me, I knew right away old Spenceríd told her Iíd been kicked out.

HOLDEN. Fine. Howís Mr. Spencer? He over his grippe yet?

MRS. SPENCER. Over it! Holden, heís behaving like a perfectóI donít know whatÖ Heís in his room, dear. Go right in.

STORYTELLER. They were both around seventy years old, or even more than that. They got a bang out of things, thoughóin a half-assed way, of course. I know that sounds mean to say, but I donít mean it mean. I just mean that I used to think about old Spencer quite a lot, and if you thought about him too much, you wondered what the heck he was still living for. I mean he was all stooped over, and he had very terrible posture, and in class, whenever he dropped a piece of chalk at the blackboard, some guy in the first row always had to get up and pick it up and hand it to him. Thatís awful, in my opinion. But if you thought about him just enough and not too much, you could figure it out that he wasnít doing too bad for himself. For instance, one Sunday when some other guys and I were over there for hot chocolate, he showed us this old beat-up Navajo blanket that he and Mrs. Spenceríd bought off some Indian. You could tell old Spenceríd got a big bang out of buying it. Thatís what I mean. You take somebody old as hell, like old Spencer, and they can get a big bang out of buying a blanket.

MR. SPENCER. Whoís that? Caulfield? Come in, boy.

STORYTELLER. The minute I went in, I was sort of sorry Iíd come. There were pills and medicine all over the place, and everything smelled like Vicks Nose Drops. It was pretty depressing. Iím not too crazy about sick people, anyway. What made it even more depressing, old Spencer had on this very sad, ratty old bathrobe that he was probably born in or something. I donít much like to see old guys in their pajamas and bathrobes anyway. Their bumpy old chests are always showing. And their legs. Old guysí legs, at beaches and places, always look so white and unhairy.

HOLDEN. Hello, sir. I got your note. Thanks a lot. You didnít have to do all that. Iíd have come over to say good-by anyway.

MR. SPENCER.Have a seat there, boy.

HOLDEN. Howís your grippe, sir?

MR. SPENCER.Míboy, if I felt any better Iíd have to send for the doctor.

STORYTELLER. That knocked him out. He started chuckling like a madman. Boy, his bed was like a rock.He started getting serious as hell. I knew he would.

MR. SPENCER.So youíre leaving us, eh?

HOLDEN. Yes, sir. I guess I am.

STORYTELLER. He started going into this nodding routine. You never saw anybody nod as much in your life as old Spencer did.

MR. SPENCER.What did Dr. Thurmer say to you, boy? I understand you had quite a little chat.

HOLDEN. Yes, we did. We really did. I was in his office for around two hours, I guess.

MR. SPENCER.Whatíd he say to you?

HOLDEN. OhÖ well, about Life being a game and all. And how you should play it according to the rules. He was pretty nice about it. I mean he didnít hit the ceiling or anything. He just kept talking about Life being a game and all. You know.

MR. SPENCER.Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.

HOLDEN. Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.

STORYTELLER. Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then itís a game, all rightóIíll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there arenít any hot-shots, then whatís a game about it? Nothing. No game.

MR. SPENCER.Has Dr. Thurmer written to your parents yet?

HOLDEN. He said he was going to write them Monday.

MR. SPENCER.And how do you think theyíll take the news?

HOLDEN. WellÖ theyíll be pretty irritated about it. They really will. This is about the fourth school Iíve gone to.

STORYTELLER. I shook my head. I shake my head quite a lot. I was sixteen then, and Iím seventeen now, and sometimes I act like Iím about thirteen. Itís really ironical, because Iím six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my headóthe right sideóis full of millions of gray hairs. Iíve had them ever since I was a kid. And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. Itís partly true, too, but it isnít all true. People always think somethingís all true. I donít give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am, but people never notice it. People never notice anything.Old Spencer started nodding again. He also started picking his nose. He made out like he was only pinching it, but he was really getting the old thumb right in there.

MR. SPENCER.I had the privilege of meeting your mother and dad some weeks ago. Theyíre grand people.

HOLDEN. Yes, they are. Theyíre very nice.

STORYTELLER. Grand. Thereís a word I really hate. Itís a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.Then all of a sudden old Spencer looked like he had something very good, something sharp as a tack, to say to me. He sat up more in his chair and sort of moved around. I wanted to get the hell out of the room. I could feel a terrific lecture coming on. I didnít mind the idea so much, but I didnít feel like being lectured to and smell Vicks Nose Drops and look at old Spencer in his pajamas and bathrobe all at the same time. I really didnít. It started, all right.

MR. SPENCER.Whatís the matter with you, boy?How many subjects did you carry this term?

HOLDEN. Five, sir.

MR. SPENCER.Five. And how many are you failing in?

HOLDEN. Four.

STORYTELLER. It was the hardest bed I ever sat on. I passed English all right, because I had all that stuff when I was at the Whooton School. He wasnít even listening.

MR. SPENCER.I flunked you in history because you knew absolutely nothing.

HOLDEN. I know that, sir. Boy, I know it. You couldnít help it.

MR. SPENCER.Absolutely nothing.

STORYTELLER. Thatís something that drives me crazy. When people say something twice that way, after you admit it the first time. Then he said it three times.

MR. SPENCER.But absolutely nothing. I doubt very much if you opened your textbook even once the whole term. Did you? Tell the truth, boy.

HOLDEN. Well, I sort of glanced through it a couple of times.

STORYTELLER. I didnít want to hurt his feelings. He was mad about history.

MR. SPENCER.You glanced through it, eh? Your, ah, exam paper is over there on top of my chiffonier. On top of the pile. Bring it here, please.

STORYTELLER. It was a very dirty trick. Boy, you canít imagine how sorry I was getting that Iíd stopped by to say good-by to him.He started handling my exam paper like it was a turd or something.

MR. SPENCER.We studied the Egyptians from November 4th to December 2nd. Would you care to hear what you had to say?

HOLDEN. No, sir, not very much.

STORYTELLER. He read it anyway, though. You canít stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it.

MR. SPENCER.ďThe Egyptians were an ancient race of Caucasians residing in one of the northern sections of Africa. The latter as we all know is the largest continent in the Eastern HemisphereĒ.

STORYTELLER. I had to sit there and listen to that crap. It certainly was a dirty trick.

MR. SPENCER.ďThe Egyptians are extremely interesting to us today for various reasons. Modern science would still like to know what the secret ingredients were that the Egyptians used when they wrapped up dead people so that their faces would not rot for innumerable centuries. This interesting riddle is still quite a challenge to modern science in the twentieth centuryĒ.

STORYTELLER. I was beginning to sort of hate him.

MR. SPENCER.Your essay, shall we say, ends there.

STORYTELLER. You wouldnít think such an old guy would be so sarcastic and all.

MR. SPENCER.However, you dropped me a little note, at the bottom of the page.

HOLDEN. I know I did.

STORYTELLER. I said it very fast because I wanted to stop him before he started reading that out loud. But you couldnít stop him. He was hot as a firecracker.

MR. SPENCER. ďDear Mr. Spencer. That is all I know about the Egyptians. I canít seem to get very interested in them although your lectures are very interesting. It is all right with me if you flunk me though as I am flunking everything else except English anyway.Respectfully yours, Holden Caulfield.Ē

STORYTELLER. He put my goddam paper down then and looked at me like heíd just beaten hell out of me in ping-pong or something. I donít think Iíll ever forgive him for reading me that crap out loud. I wouldnítíve read it out loud to him if heíd written itóI really wouldnít. In the first place, Iíd only written that damn note so that he wouldnít feel too bad about flunking me.

MR. SPENCER.Do you blame me for flunking you, boy?

HOLDEN. No, sir! I certainly donít.

STORYTELLER. I wished to hell heíd stop calling me ďboyĒ all the time.(Picks up the notebook.)Itís boring to do that every two minutes.

MR. SPENCER.What would you have done in my place? Tell the truth, boy.

STORYTELLER. Well, you could see he really felt pretty lousy about flunking me. So I shot the bull for a while. I told him I was a real moron, and all that stuff. I told him how I wouldíve done exactly the same thing if Iíd been in his place, and how most people didnít appreciate how tough it is being a teacher. That kind of stuff. The funny thing is, though, I was sort of thinking of something else while I shot the bull. I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go. I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.You donít have to think too hard when you talk to a teacher.

MR. SPENCER.How do you feel about all this, boy? Iíd be very interested to know. Very interested.

HOLDEN. You mean about my flunking out of Pencey and all?

STORYTELLER. I sort of wished heíd cover up his bumpy chest. It wasnít such a beautiful view.

MR. SPENCER.If Iím not mistaken, I believe you also had some difficulty at the Whooton School and at Elkton Hills.

HOLDEN. I didnít have too much difficulty at Elkton Hills. I didnít exactly flunk out or anything. I just quit, sort of.

MR. SPENCER.Why, may I ask?

HOLDEN. Why? Oh, well itís a long story, sir. I mean itís pretty complicated.

STORYTELLER. I didnít feel like going into the whole thing with him. He wouldnít have understood it anyway. It wasnít up his alley at all. One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. Thatís all. They were coming in the goddam window. For instance, they had this headmaster, Mr. Haas, that was the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life. On Sundays, for instance, old Haas went around shaking hands with everybodyís parents when they drove up to school. Heíd be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents. You shouldíve seen the way he did with my roommateís parents. He would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then heíd go talk, for maybe a half an hour, with somebody elseís parents. I canít stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy.

HOLDEN. What, sir?

MR. SPENCER.Do you have any particular qualms about leaving Pencey?

HOLDEN. Oh, I have a few qualms, all right. SureÖ but not too many. Not yet, anyway. I guess it hasnít really hit me yet. It takes things a while to hit me. All Iím doing right now is thinking about going home Wednesday. Iím a moron.

MR. SPENCER.Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy?

HOLDEN. Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure. Sure, I do.But not too much, I guess. Not too much, I guess.

MR. SPENCER.You will. You will, boy. You will when itís too late.

STORYTELLER. I didnít like hearing him say that. It made me sound dead or something. It was very depressing.

HOLDEN. I guess I will.

MR. SPENCER.Iíd like to put some sense in that head of yours, boy. Iím trying to help you. Iím trying to help you, if I can.

STORYTELLER. He really was, too. You could see that.But it was just that we were too much on opposite sides of the pole, thatís all.

HOLDEN. I know you are, sir. Thanks a lot. No kidding. I appreciate it. I really do.

STORYTELLER. Boy, I couldnítíve sat there another ten minutes to save my life.

HOLDEN. The thing is, though, I have to get going now. I have quite a bit of equipment at the gym I have to get to take home with me. I really do.

STORYTELLER. He looked up at me and started nodding again, with this very serious look on his face. I felt sorry as hell for him, all of a sudden. But I just couldnít hang around there any longer, the way we were on opposite sides of the pole, and his sad old bathrobe with his chest showing, and that grippy smell of Vicks Nose Drops all over the place.

HOLDEN. Look, sir. Donít worry about me. I mean it. Iíll be all right. Iím just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, donít they?

MR. SPENCER.I donít know, boy. I donít know.

STORYTELLER. I hate it when somebody answers that way.

HOLDEN. Sure. Sure, they do. I mean it, sir. Please donít worry about me.Okay?

MR. SPENCER.Wouldnít you like a cup of hot chocolate before you go? Mrs. Spencer would beÖ

HOLDEN. I would, I really would, but the thing is, I have to get going. I have to go right to the gym. Thanks, though. Thanks a lot, sir.

STORYTELLER. And all that crap. It made me feel sad as hell, though.

HOLDEN. Iíll drop you a line, sir. Take care of your grippe, now.

MR. SPENCER.Good-by, boy.

STORYTELLER. After I shut the door and started back to the living room, he yelled something at me, but I couldnít exactly hear him. Iím pretty sure he yelled ďGood luck!Ē at me, I hope to hell not. Iíd never yell ďGood luck!Ē at anybody. It sounds terrible, when you think about it.

A Date with Sally

STLR. Finally, oldSally started coming up the stairs. She looked terrific. She really did. The funny part is, I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her. Iím crazy. I didnít even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her. I swear to God Iím crazy. I admit it.

SALLY. Holden! Itís marvelous to see you! Itís been ages.

STORYTELLER. She had one of these very loud, embarrassing voices when you met her somewhere. She got away with it because she was so damn good-looking, but it always gave me a pain in the ass.

HOLDEN. Swell to see you. How are ya, anyway?

SALLY. Absolutely marvelous. Am I late?

HOLDEN. No

STORYTELLER. She was around ten minutes late, as a matter of fact. I didnít give a damn, though. If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if sheís late? Nobody.We horsed around a little bit in the cab on the way over to the theater. At first she didnít want to, because she had her lipstick on and all, but I was being seductive as hell and she didnít have any alternative. Then, just to show you how crazy I am, when we were coming out of this big clinch, I told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it. Iím crazy. I swear to God I am.

SALLY. Oh, darling, I love you too. Promise me youíll let your hair grow. Crew cuts are getting corny. And your hairís so lovely.

STORYTELLER. Lovely my ass.

HOLDEN. Hey, Sally.

SALLY. What?

HOLDEN. Did you ever get fed up? I mean did you ever get scared that everything was going to go lousy unless you did something? I mean do you like school, and all that stuff?

SALLY. Itís a terrific bore.

HOLDEN. I mean do you hate it? I know itís a terrific bore, but do you hate it, is what I mean.

SALLY. Well, I donít exactly hate it. You always have toó

HLDN. Well, I hate it. Boy, do I hate it. But it isnít just that. Itís everything. I hate living in New York and all. Taxicabs, and buses, with the drivers and all always yelling at you, and going up and down in elevators when you just want to go outside, and guys fitting your pants all the time at Brooks, and people alwaysó

SALLY. Donít shout, please.

STORYTELLER. Which was very funny, because I wasnít even shouting.

HOLDEN. Take cars. Take most people, theyíre crazy about cars. They worry if they get a little scratch on them, and theyíre always talking about how many miles they get to a gallon, and if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking about trading it in for one thatís even newer. I donít even like old cars. I mean they donít even interest me. Iíd rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for Godís sake. A horse you can at leastó

SALLY. I donít know what youíre even talking about. You jump from oneó

HOLDEN. You know something? Youíre probably the only reason Iím in New York right now, or anywhere. If you werenít around, Iíd probably be someplace way the hell off. In the woods or some goddam place. Youíre the only reason Iím around, practically.

SALLY. Youíre sweet.

STORYTELLER. But you could tell she wanted me to change the damn subject.

HOLDEN. You ought to go to a boysí school sometime. Try it sometime. Itís full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. If you try to have a little intelligentó

SALLY. Now, listen. Lots of boys get more out of school than that.

HOLDEN. I agree! I agree they do, some of them! But thatís all I get out of it. See? Thatís my point. Thatís exactly my goddam point. I donít get hardly anything out of anything.Iím in bad shape. Iím in lousy shape.

SALLY. You certainly are.

STORYTELLER. Then, all of a sudden, I got this idea.

HOLDEN. Look. Hereís my idea. How would you like to get the hell out of here? Hereís my idea. I know this guy that we can borrow his car for a couple of weeks. He used to go to the same school I did and he still owes me ten bucks. What we could do is, tomorrow morning we could drive up to Massachusetts and Vermont, and all around there, see. Itís beautiful as hell up there, It really is.

STORYTELLER. I was getting excited as hell, the more I thought of it, and I sort of reached over and took old Sallyís goddam hand. What a goddam fool I was.

HOLDEN. No kidding. I have about a hundred and eighty bucks in the bank. I can take it out when it opens in the morning, and then I could go down and get this guyís car. No kidding. Weíll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till the dough runs out. Then I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all and, later on, we could get married or something. I could chop all our own wood in the wintertime and all. Honest to God, we could have a terrific time! Wuddaya say? Címon! Wuddaya say? Will you do it with me? Please!

SALLY. You canít just do something like that.

HOLDEN. Why not? Why the hell not?

SALLY. Stop screaming at me, please.

STORYTELLER. Which was crap, because I wasnít even screaming at her.

HOLDEN. Why canítcha? Why not?

SALLY. Because you canít, thatís all. In the first place, weíre both practically children. And did you ever stop to think what youíd do if you didnít get a job when your money ran out? Weíd starve to death. The whole thingís so fantastic, it isnít evenó

HOLDEN. It isnít fantastic. Iíd get a job. Donít worry about that. You donít have to worry about that. Whatís the matter? Donít you want to go with me? Say so, if you donít.

SALLY. It isnít that. It isnít that at all.

STORYTELLER. I was beginning to hate her, in a way.

SALLY. Weíll have oodles of time to do those thingsóall those things. I mean after you go to college and all, and if we should get married and all. Thereíll be oodles of marvelous places to go to. Youíre justó

HOLDEN. No, there wonít be. There wonít be oodles of places to go to at all. Itíll be entirely different.

STORYTELLER. I was getting depressed as hell again.

SALLY. What? I canít hear you. One minute you scream at me, and the next youó

HOLDEN. No! there wonít be marvelous places to go to after I go to college and all. Open your ears. Itíll be entirely different. Weíd have to go downstairs in elevators with suitcases and stuff. Weíd have to phone up everybody and tell íem good-by and send íem postcards from hotels and all. And Iíd be working in some office, making a lot of dough, and riding to work in cabs and Madison Avenue buses, and reading newspapers, and playing bridge all the time, and going to the movies and seeing a lot of stupid shorts and coming attractions and newsreels. Newsreels. Christ almighty. Thereís always a dumb horse race, and some dame breaking a bottle over a ship, and some chimpanzee riding a goddam bicycle with pants on. It wouldnít be the same at all. You donít see what I mean at all.

SALLY. Maybe I donít! Maybe you donít, either.

STORYTELLER. We both hated each otherís guts by that time. You could see there wasnít any sense trying to have an intelligent conversation. I was sorry as hell Iíd started it.

HOLDEN. Címon, letís get outa here. You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth.

STORYTELLER. Boy, did she hit the ceiling when I said that. I know I shouldnítíve said it, and I probably wouldnítíve ordinarily, but she was depressing the hell out of me. Usually I never say crude things like that to girls. Boy, did she hit the ceiling. I apologized like a madman, but she wouldnít accept my apology. She was even crying. Which scared me a little bit, because I was a little afraid sheíd go home and tell her father I called her a pain in the ass. Her father was one of those big silent bastards, and he wasnít too crazy about me anyhow. He once told old Sally I was too goddam noisy.

HOLDEN. No kidding. Iím sorry.

SALLY. Youíre sorry. Youíre sorry. Thatís very funny.

STORYTELLER. And all of a sudden I did feel sort of sorry Iíd said it.

HOLDEN. Címon, Iíll take ya home. No kidding.

SALLY. I can go home by myself, thank you. If you think Iíd let you take me home, youíre mad. No boy ever said that to me in my entire life.

STORYTELLER. The whole thing was sort of funny, in a way, if you thought about it, and all of a sudden I did something I shouldnít have. I laughed. And I have one of these very loud, stupid laughs. I mean if I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, Iíd probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up. It made old Sally madder than ever. I stuck around for a while, apologizing and trying to get her to excuse me, but she wouldnít. She kept telling me to go away and leave her alone. So finally I did it. I shouldnítíve, but I was pretty goddam fed up by that time.If you want to know the truth, I donít even know why I started all that stuff with her. I mean about going away somewhere and all. I probably wouldnítíve taken her even if sheíd wanted to go with me. She wouldnít have been anybody to go with. The terrible part, though, is that I meant it when I asked her. Thatís the terrible part. I swear to God Iím a madman.

Monologue about war

I donít think I could stand it if I had to go to war. I really couldnít. It wouldnít be too bad if theyíd just take you out and shoot you or something, but you have to stay in the Army so goddam long. Thatís the whole trouble. My brother was in the Army for four goddam years. He was in the war, tooóhe landed on D-Day and allóbut I really think he hated the Army worse than the war. I was practically a child at the time, but I remember when he used to come home on furlough and all, all he did was lie on his bed, practically. He hardly ever even came in the living room. Later, when he went overseas and was in the war and all, he didnít get wounded or anything and he didnít have to shoot anybody. All he had to do was drive some cowboy general around all day in a command car. He once told us that if heíd had to shoot anybody, he wouldnítíve known which direction to shoot in. He said the Army was practically as full of bastards as the Nazis were. I do know itíd drive me crazy if I had to be in the Army and be with a bunch of guys like Ackley and Stradlater and old Maurice all the time, marching with them and all. I was in the Boy Scouts once, for about a week, and I couldnít even stand looking at the back of the guyís neck in front of me. They kept telling you to look at the back of the guyís neck in front of you. I swear if thereís ever another war, they better just take me out and stick me in front of a firing squad. I wouldnít object. Anyway, Iím sort of glad theyíve got the atomic bomb invented. If thereís ever another war, Iím going to sit right the hell on top of it. Iíll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.

ņ Meeting with Carl Luce

STORYTELLER. I sat down at the baróit was pretty crowdedóand had a couple of Scotch and sodas before old Luce even showed up. I stood up when I ordered them so they could see how tall I was and all and not think I was a goddam minor. Finally old Luce showed up.

 

Old Luce. What a guy. He was supposed to be my Student Adviser when I was at Whooton. The only thing he ever did, though, was give these sex talks and all, late at night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about sex, especially perverts and all. Old Luce knew who every flit and Lesbian in the United States was. All you had to do was mention somebodyóanybodyóand old Luceíd tell you if he was a flit or not. Sometimes it was hard to believe, the people he said were flits and Lesbians and all, movie actors and like that. Some of the ones he said were flits were even married, for Godís sake. He said it didnít matter if a guy was married or not. He said half the married guys in the world were flits and didnít even know it. He said you could turn into one practically overnight, if you had all the traits and all. He used to scare the hell out of us. I kept waiting to turn into a flit or something. The funny thing about old Luce, I used to think he was sort of flitty himself, in a way. He was always saying, ďTry this for size,Ē and then heíd goose the hell out of you while you were going down the corridor. He was a pretty intelligent guy, though. He really was.

LUCE. Can only stay a couple of minutes. Have a date.

STORYTELLER. He never said hello or anything when he met you.

LUCE. Dry Martini. Make it very dry, and no olive.

HOLDEN.Hey, I got a flit for you. At the end of the bar. Donít look now. I been saving him for ya.

LUCE. Very funny. Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?

STORYTELLER. I bored him a lot. I really did. He amused me, though. He was one of those guys that sort of amuse me a lot.

HOLDEN. Howís your sex life?

STORYTELLER. He hated you to ask him stuff like that.

LUCE. Relax. Just sit back and relax, for Chrissake.Ē

HOLDEN. Iím relaxed. Howís Columbia? Ya like it?

LUCE. Certainly I like it. If I didnít like it I wouldnít have gone there.

HOLDEN. Whatíre you majoring in?Perverts?

STORYTELLER. I was only horsing around.

LUCE. Whatíre you trying to beófunny?

HOLDEN.No. Iím only kidding. Listen, hey, Luce. Youíre one of these intellectual guys. I need your advice. Iím in a terrificóĒ

LUCE. (big groan) Listen, Caulfield. If you want to sit here and have a quiet, peaceful drink and a quiet, peaceful converó

HOLDEN. All right, all right. Relax.

STORYTELLER. You could tell he didnít feel like discussing anything serious with me. Thatís the trouble with these intellectual guys. They never want to discuss anything serious unless they feel like it.

HOLDEN.No kidding, howís your sex life? You still going around with that same babe you used to at Whooton? The one with the terrificó

LUCE. Good God, no.

HOLDEN. How come? What happened to her?

LUCE. I havenít the faintest idea. For all I know, since you ask, sheís probably... (whispers, laughing)

HOLDEN.That isnít nice. If she was decent enough to let you get sexy with her all the time, you at least shouldnít talk about her that way.

LUCE. Oh, God! Is this going to be a typical Caulfield conversation? I want to know right now.

HOLDEN. No, but it isnít nice anyway. If she was decent and nice enough to let youó

LUCE. Must we pursue this horrible trend of thought?

STORYTELLER.I didnít say anything. I was sort of afraid heíd get up and leave on me if I didnít shut up. So all I did was, I ordered another drink. I felt like getting stinking drunk.

HOLDEN. Whoíre you going around with now? You feel like telling me?

LUCE. Nobody you know.

HOLDEN. Yeah, but who? I might know her.

LUCE. Girl lives in the Village. Sculptress. If you must know.

HOLDEN. Yeah? No kidding? How old is she?

LUCE. Iíve never asked her, for Godís sake.

HOLDEN. Well, around how old?

LUCE. I should imagine sheís in her late thirties.

HOLDEN. In her late thirties? Yeah? You like that? You like íem that old?

STORYTELLER. The reason I was asking was because he really knew quite a bit about sex and all. He was one of the few guys I knew that did. He lost his virginity when he was only fourteen, in Nantucket. He really did.

LUCE. I like a mature person, if thatís what you mean. Certainly.

HOLDEN. You do? Why? No kidding, they better for sex and all?

LUCE. Listen. Letís get one thing straight. I refuse to answer any typical Caulfield questions tonight. When in hell are you going to grow up?

STORYTELLER. I didnít say anything for a while.

HOLDEN. Listen. How long you been going around with her, this sculpture babe?

STORYTELLER. I was really interested.

HOLDEN. Did you know her when you were at Whooton?

LUCE. Hardly. She just arrived in this country a few months ago.

HOLDEN. She did? Whereís she from?

LUCE. She happens to be from Shanghai.

HOLDEN. No kidding! She Chinese, for Chrissake?

LUCE. Obviously.

HOLDEN. No kidding! Do you like that? Her being Chinese?

LUCE. Obviously.

HOLDEN. Why? Iíd be interested to knowóI really would.

LUCE. I simply happen to find Eastern philosophy more satisfactory than Western. Since you ask.

HOLDEN.You do? Wuddaya mean Ďphilosophyí? Ya mean sex and all? You mean itís better in China? That what you mean?

LUCE. Not necessarily in China, for Godís sake. The East I said. Must we go on with this inane conversation?

HOLDEN. Listen, Iím serious. No kidding. Whyís it better in the East?

LUCE. Itís too involved to go into, for Godís sake. They simply happen to regard sex as both a physical and a spiritual experience. If you think Iímó

HOLDEN.So do I! So do I regard it as a wuddayacallitóa physical and spiritual experience and all. I really do. But it depends on who the hell Iím doing it with. If Iím doing it with somebody I donít evenó

LUCE. Not so loud, for Godís sake, Caulfield. If you canít manage to keep your voice down, letís drop the wholeó

HOLDEN. All right, but listen.

STORYTELLER. I was getting excited and I was talking a little too loud. Sometimes I talk a little loud when I get excited.

HOLDEN.This is what I mean, though. I know itís supposed to be physical and spiritual, and artistic and all. But what I mean is, you canít do it with everybodyóevery girl you neck with and allóand make it come out that way. Can you?

LUCE. Letís drop it. Do you mind?

HOLDEN. All right, but listen. Take you and this Chinese babe. Whatís so good about you two?

LUCE. Drop it, I said.

STORYTELLER. I was getting a little too personal. I realize that. But that was one of the annoying things about Luce. When we were at Whooton, heíd make you describe the most personal stuff that happened to you, but if you started asking him questions about himself, he got sore. These intellectual guys donít like to have an intellectual conversation with you unless theyíre running the whole thing. When I was at Whooton old Luce used to hate itóyou really could tell he didówhen after he was finished giving his sex talk to a bunch of us in his room we stuck around and chewed the fat by ourselves for a while. I mean the other guys and myself. In somebody elseís room. Old Luce hated that. He always wanted everybody to go back to their own room and shut up when he was finished being the big shot. The thing he was afraid of, he was afraid somebodyíd say something smarter than he had. He really amused me.

HOLDEN. Maybe Iíll go to China. My sex life is lousy.

LUCE. Naturally. Your mind is immature.

HOLDEN.It is. It really is. I know it. You know what the trouble with me is? I can never get really sexyóI mean really sexyówith a girl I donít like a lot. I mean I have to like her a lot. If I donít, I sort of lose my goddam desire for her and all. Boy, it really screws up my sex life something awful. My sex life stinks.

LUCE. Naturally it does, for Godís sake. I told you the last time I saw you what you need.

HOLDEN. You mean to go to a psychoanalyst and all?

STORYTELLER. Thatís what heíd told me I ought to do. His father was a psychoanalyst and all.

LUCE. Itís up to you, for Godís sake. Itís none of my goddam business what you do with your life.

HOLDEN. Supposing I went to your father and had him psychoanalyze me and all. What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?

LUCE. He wouldnít do a goddam thing to you. Heíd simply talk to you, and youíd talk to him, for Godís sake. For one thing, heíd help you to recognize the patterns of your mind.

HOLDEN. The what?

LUCE. The patterns of your mind. Your mind runs inó Listen. Iím not giving an elementary course in psychoanalysis. If youíre interested, call him up and make an appointment. If youíre not, donít. I couldnít care less, frankly.

STORYTELLER. I put my hand on his shoulder. Boy, he amused me.

HOLDEN. Youíre a real friendly bastard. You know that?

LUCE. (looking at his wrist watch) I have to tear.(stood up) Nice seeing you.Bartender!my check.

HOLDEN. Hey. Did your father ever psychoanalyze you?

LUCE. Me? Why do you ask?

HOLDEN. No reason. Did he, though? Has he?

LUCE. Not exactly. Heís helped me to adjust myself to a certain extent, but an extensive analysis hasnít been necessary. Why do you ask?

HOLDEN. No reason. I was just wondering.

LUCE. Well. Take it easy. (He was leaving his tip and all and he was starting to go)

HOLDEN. Have just one more drink. Please. Iím lonesome as hell. No kidding.

LUCE. I can't. I am late now.(he left)

STORYTELLER. Old Luce. He was strictly a pain in the ass, but he certainly had a good vocabulary.

 

Meeting with Phoebe

STORYTELLER. She wakes up very easily. I mean you donít have to yell at her or anything. All you have to do, practically, is sit down on the bed and say, ďWake up, Phoeb,Ē and bingo, sheís awake.

PHOEBE. Holden!(put her arms around my neck and all)

STORYTELLER. Sheís very affectionate. I mean sheís quite affectionate, for a child. Sometimes sheís even too affectionate. (I sort of gave her a kiss)

PHOEBE. Whenja get home?

STORYTELLER. She was glad as hell to see me. You could tell.

HOLDEN. Not so loud. Just now. How are ya anyway?

PHOEBE. Iím fine. Did you get my letter? I wrote you a five-pageó

HOLDEN. Yeahónot so loud. Thanks.

STORYTELLER. She wrote me this letter. I didnít get a chance to answer it, though. It was all about this play she was in in school.

HOLDEN. Howís the play?

PHOEBE. It stinks, but I have practically the biggest part.

STORYTELLER. Boy, was she wide-awake. She gets very excited when she tells you that stuff.

PHOEBE. Are you coming to it? (She was sitting way the hell up in the bed) Thatís what I wrote you about. Are you?

HOLDEN. Sure Iím coming. Certainly Iím coming.

STORYTELLER. Boy, was she wide-awake. It only takes her about two seconds to get wide-awake.

She was sittingósort of kneelingóway up in bed, and she was holding my goddam hand.

PHOEBE. Listen. Mother said youíd be home Wednesday. She said Wednesday.

HOLDEN. I got out early. Not so loud. Youíll wake everybody up.

PHOEBE. They went to a party. Guess what I did this afternoon! What movie I saw. Guess!

HOLDEN. I donít knowóListen. Did they say what time theyíd be back, or didnít they?

PHOEBE. No, but not till very late.

STORYTELLER. I began to relax, sort of. I mean I finally quit worrying about whether theyíd catch me home or not. I figured the hell with it. If they did, they did. (She had on these blue pajamas with red elephants on the collars)

HOLDEN. Listen, I bought you a record. Only I broke it on the way home.(I took the pieces out of my coat pocket and showed her) I was plastered.

PHOEBE. Gimme the pieces. Iím saving them.(She took them right out of my hand and then she put them in the drawer of the night table. She kills me.)

HOLDEN. Whatíd you do to your arm?(she had this big hunk of adhesive tape on her elbow)

PHOEBE. This boy, Curtis Weintraub, thatís in my class, pushed me while I was going down the stairs in the park. Wanna see?(She started taking the crazy adhesive tape off her arm)

HOLDEN. Leave it alone. Whyíd he push you down the stairs?

PHOEBE. I donít know. I think he hates me. This other girl and me put ink and stuff all over his windbreaker.

HOLDEN. That isnít nice. What are youóa child, for Godís sake?

PHOEBE. No, but every time Iím in the park, he follows me everywhere. Heís always following me. He gets on my nerves.

HOLDEN. He probably likes you. Thatís no reason to put ink alló

PHOEBE. I donít want him to like me. (looking at me funny) Holden, how come youíre not home Wednesday?

HOLDEN. What?

STORYTELLER. Boy, you have to watch her every minute. If you donít think sheís smart, youíre mad.

PHOEBE. How come youíre not home Wednesday? You didnít get kicked out or anything, did you?

HOLDEN. I told you. They let us out early. They let the wholeó

PHOEBE. You did get kicked out! You did!(hit me on the leg with her fist)

STORYTELLER. She gets very fisty when she feels like it.

PHOEBE. You did! Oh, Holden!(her hand on her mouth)

STORYTELLER. She gets very emotional, I swear to God.

HOLDEN. Who said I got kicked out? Nobody said Ió

PHOEBE. You did. You did. (smacked me again with her fist)

STORYTELLER. If you donít think that hurts, youíre crazy.

PHOEBE. Daddyíll kill you!(flopped on her stomach on the bed and put the goddam pillow over her head)

HOLDEN. Cut it out, now. Nobodyís gonna kill me. Nobodyís gonna evenóCímon, Phoeb, take that goddam thing off your head. Nobodyís gonna kill me.

STORYTELLER. She wouldnít take it off, though. You canít make her do something if she doesnít want to.

PHOEBE. Daddyís gonna kill you.(with that goddam pillow over her head)

HOLDEN. Nobodyís gonna kill me. Use your head. In the first place, Iím going away. What I may do, I may get a job on a ranch or something for a while. I know this guy whose grandfatherís got a ranch in Colorado. Címon. Take that off your head. Címon, hey, Phoeb. Please. Please, willya?

STORYTELLER. She strong as hell. You get tired fighting with her.

HOLDEN. Phoebe, please. Címon outa there. Címon, heyÖ Hey, Weatherfield. Címon out.

STORYTELLER. She wouldnít come out, though. You canít even reason with her sometimes. (I got up and went out in the living room and got some cigarettes out of the box on the table and stuck some in my pocket) I was all out. (When I came back, she had the pillow off her head all rightóbut she still wouldnít 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.

PHOEBE. Daddyíll kill you.

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

HOLDEN. No, he wonít. The worst heíll do, heíll give me hell again, and then heíll send me to that goddam military school. Thatís all heíll do to me. And in the first place, I wonít even be around. Iíll be away. Iíll beóIíll probably be in Colorado on this ranch.

PHOEBE. Donít make me laugh. You canít even ride a horse.

HOLDEN. Who canít? Sure I can. Certainly I can. They can teach you in about two minutes.

PHOEBE. (very snotty) I suppose you failed in every single subject again.

STORYTELLER. She sounds like a goddam schoolteacher sometimes, and sheís only a little child.

HOLDEN. No, I didnít. I passed English.(I gave her a pinch on the behind, she tried to hit my hand anyway, but she missed)

PHOEBE. Oh, why did you do it?(It made me sort of sad, the way she said it)

HOLDEN. Oh, God, Phoebe, donít ask me. Iím sick of everybody asking me that. 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. 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 wouldnít let him. Just because he was boring and pimply. I donít even feel like talking about it. It was a stinking school. Take my word.

STORYTELLER. She always listens when you tell her something. And the funny part is she knows, half the time, what the hell youíre talking about. She really does.

HOLDEN. Even the couple of nice teachers on the faculty, they were phonies, too. 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 shouldíve seen him when the headmaster, old Thurmer, came in the history class. After a while, heíd be sitting back there and then heíd start interrupting what old Spencer was saying to crack a lot of corny jokes. Old Spenceríd practically kill himself chuckling and smiling and all, like as if Thurmer was a goddam prince or something.

PHOEBE. Donít swear so much.

HOLDEN. It wouldíve made you puke, I swear it would. Then, on Veteransí Day. They have this day, Veteransí 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 shouldíve 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 weíd mind if he used the bathroom. The bathroom was at the end of the corridoróI donít 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 giving us a lot of advice for the future and all.

STORYTELLER. Boy, did he depress me! I donít mean he was a bad guyóhe wasnít. But you donít have to be a bad guy to depress somebodyóyou 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 youíre looking for your initials in some can dooróthatís all you have to do.

HOLDEN. God, Phoebe! I canít explain. I just didnít like anything that was happening at Pencey. I canít explain.

PHOEBE. (She had the side of her mouth right smack on the pillow)You donít like anything thatís happening.

HOLDEN. (even more depressed) Yes I do. Yes I do. Sure I do. Donít say that. Why the hell do you say that?

PHOEBE. Because you donít. You donít like any schools. You donít like a million things. You donít.

HOLDEN. I do! Thatís where youíre wrongóthatís exactly where youíre wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that?

STORYTELLER. Boy, was she depressing me.

PHOEBE. Because you donít. Name one thing.

HOLDEN. One thing? One thing I like?Okay.

STORYTELLER. The trouble was, I couldnít concentrate too hot. Sometimes itís hard to concentrate.

HOLDEN. One thing I like a lot you mean? (She didnít 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)

PHOEBE. You canít even think of one thing.

HOLDEN. Yes, I can. Yes, I can.

PHOEBE. Well, do it, then.

HOLDEN. I like Allie. And I like sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, andó

PHOEBE. Allieís deadóYou always say that! If somebodyís dead and everything, and in Heaven, then it isnít reallyó

HOLDEN. I know heís dead! Donít you think I know that? I can still like him, though, canít I? Just because somebodyís dead, you donít just stop liking them, for Godís sakeóespecially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know thatíre alive and all.

PHOEBE. All right, name something else. Name something youíd like to be. Like a scientist. Or a lawyer or something.Ē

HOLDEN. I couldnít be a scientist. Iím no good in science.

PHOEBE. Well, a lawyerólike Daddy and all.

HOLDEN. Lawyers are all right, I guessóbut it doesnít appeal to me. I mean theyíre all right if they go around saving innocent guysí lives all the time, and like that, but you donít do that kind of stuff if youíre 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 guysí lives and all, how would you know if you did it because you really wanted to save guysí lives, or because you did it because what you really wanted to do was be a terrific lawyer, with everybody slapping you on the back 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 werenít being a phony? The trouble is, you wouldnít.Ē

STORYTELLER. Iím not too sure old Phoebe knew what the hell I was talking about. I mean sheís only a little child and all. But she was listening, at least. If somebody at least listens, itís not too bad.

PHOEBE. Daddyís going to kill you. Heís going to kill you.

HOLDEN. You know what Iíd like to be? You know what Iíd like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?

PHOEBE. What? Stop swearing.

HOLDEN. You know that song ĎIf a body catch a body cominí through the ryeí? Iíd likeó

PHOEBE. Itís ĎIf a body meet a body coming through the ryeí!Itís a poem. By Robert Burns.

HOLDEN. I know itís a poem by Robert Burns.

STORYTELLER. She was right, though. It is ďIf a body meet a body coming through the rye.Ē I didnít know it then, though.

HOLDEN. I thought it was ĎIf a body catch a body. Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobodyís aroundónobody big, I meanóexcept me. And Iím 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 cliffóI mean if theyíre running and they donít look where theyíre going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. Thatís all Iíd do all day. Iíd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know itís crazy, but thatís the only thing Iíd really like to be. I know itís crazy.

PHOEBE. (long silence)Daddyís going to kill you.Ē

HOLDEN. I donít give a damn if he does. (got up from the bed) I have to make a phone call. Iíll be right back. Donít go to sleep.

PHOEBE. Holden!(I turned around) Iím taking belching lessons from this girl, Phyllis Margulies. Listen.

STORYTELLER. I listened, and I heard something, but it wasnít much.

HOLDEN. Good. Then I went out in the living room and called up this teacher I had, Mr. Antolini.

 


Date: 2015-02-28; view: 1571


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