/ Language: English / Genre:prose_contemporary

Closing Time

Joseph Heller

In Joseph Heller's two best novels, Catch 22 and Something Happened, the narrative circles obsessively around a repressed memory that it is the stories' business finally to confront. We feel the tremors of its eventual eruption in each book even as the narrator frantically distracts us with slapstick improvisation. In his newest novel, Closing Time, Heller brings back the (anti-) hero of Catch 22, John Yossarian, and once again something horrific is building beneath his life and those of his generation and their century as they all draw to a close. But this time it is not a brute fact lodged in memory, the something that draws its power simply from having happened. It is instead something that is going to happen-we're going to die-and it draws its power from-well-how we feel about that. The problem is that we may not all feel the same way about our approaching death, as we cannot fail to do about Howie Snowden bleeding to death on the floor of the bomber in Catch 22. We cannot really imagine our death. On the other hand, try as we might, we cannot help imagining Snowden. It comes down to a question of authority, the authority of an author's claim on our imagination. There is less of it in Closing Time. It reaches for such authority by reading into the passing of the World War II generation a paranoid apocalypse in the manner of Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. Yossarian's life goes into and out of a kind of virtual reality involving a Dantesque underworld entered through the false back of a basement tool locker in the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal. Beneath this underworld runs an underground railroad meant to provide indefinite protection for the elite of the military/industrial/political complex chosen by triage to survive the coming nuclear holocaust. As catalyst for that holocaust we are given a mentally challenged president known to us only by his affectionate nickname, the Little Prick, who is enthralled by the video games that fill a room just off the Oval Office, especially the game called Triage which enables him eventually to trip the wire on the conclusive Big Bang. Heller's underworld has some fetching attributes. It is managed by George C. Tilyou, the Coney Island entrepreneur who ran the Steeplechase amusement park before World War 1. Tilyou died before any of the novel's protagonists was born, but the remembered stories about him and his slowly sinking house with the family name on the front step qualify him as a jolly major domo of hell, a man whose love for his fellows sincerely expressed itself in fleecing them. Now, below the sub-sub-basement of the bus terminal, he rejoices in having taken it with him, for his house and eventually his whole amusement park sank down around him. Rockefeller and Morgan come by and panhandle miserably for his wealth, having learned too late that their more conventional philanthropy could not sanctify their plunder or secure their grasp on it. Other aspects of Heller's grand scheme are less successful. Two characters from Catch 22, Milo Minderbinder and ex-Pfc. Wintergreen, are strawmen representatives of the military-industrial complex, peddling a nonexistent clone of the Stealth bomber to a succession of big-brass boobies with names like Colonel Pickering and Major Bowes. Much of this is the sort of thing that killed vaudeville and is now killing "Saturday Night Live." Against these gathering forces of death, Yossarian asserts his allegiance to life in a way that is by now a reflex of the Norman Mailer generation: he has an affair with and impregnates a younger woman, a nurse whom he meets in a hospitalization of doubtful purpose at the opening of the novel. Thank heavens, I thought as I read, that I belong to the only sex capable of such late and surprising assertions. But, as the euphoria ebbed, I had to admit that Yossarian's amatory exertions were more than faintly repulsive. So the novel is disappointing where it hurts the most, in its central organizing idea. Why, after all, does Yossarian's generation get to take the whole world down with it? Well, it doesn't, really, and yet the veterans of World War II do have a special claim on us as they pass from our sight. This claim is more convincingly urged by the long first-person narratives of two characters who, we learn, moved invisibly on the periphery of events in Catch-22. Lew Rabinowitz and Sammy Singer are non-neurotics whose stories reveal their limitations and, at the same time, allow us to see around and beyond them. This is harder to do with normal people, and Heller brings it off beautifully. Rabinowitz is an aggressive giant, the son of a Coney Island junk dealer, an instinctively successful businessman who lacked the patience for the college education offered him by the G.I. Bill, and who never comprehended as we do his own delicacy of feeling. Singer, a writer of promotional and ad copy for Times, is, by his own account, a bit of a pedant given to correcting Rabinowitz's grammar. Heller sometimes allows Singer's prose style to stiffen in a way that is entirely in character and that gives an unexpected dignity and pathos to passages like those that describe his wife's last illness. Rabinowitz and Singer basically get more respect from their author than Yossarian and the characters who figure in his story. The two new characters tell us stories embued with an unforced humor and with the sort of gravity that attends good people as they come to terms with their mortality. And this goes for their wives as well, for both men make good and entirely credible marriages that last a lifetime. Yossarian should have been so lucky.

Joseph Heller

Closing Time

BOOK ONE

1 Sammy

When people our age speak of the war it is not of Vietnam but of the one that broke out more than half a century ago and swept in almost all the world. It was raging more than two years before we even got into it. More than twenty million Russians, they say, had perished by the time we invaded at Normandy. The tide had already been turned at Stalingrad before we set foot on the Continent, and the Battle of Britain had already been won. Yet a million Americans were casualties of battle before it was over-three hundred thousand of us were killed in combat. Some twenty-three hundred alone died at Pearl Harbor on that single day of infamy almost half a century back-more than twenty-five hundred others were wounded-a greater number of military casualties on just that single day than the total in all but the longest, bloodiest engagements in the Pacific, more than on D day in France.

No wonder we finally went in.

Thank God for the atom bomb, I rejoiced with the rest of the civilized Western world, almost half a century ago, when I read the banner newspaper headlines and learned it had exploded. By then I was already back and out, unharmed and, as an ex-GI, much better off than before. I could go to college. I did go and even taught college for two years in Pennsylvania, then returned to New York and in a while found work as an advertising copywriter in the promotion department of Time magazine.

In only twenty years from now, certainly not longer, newspapers across the country will be printing photographs of their oldest local living veterans of that war who are taking part in the sparse parades on the patriotic holidays. The parades are sparse already.

I never marched. I don't think my father did either. Way, way back, when I was still a kid, crazy Henry Markowitz, an old janitor of my father's generation in the apartment house across the street, would, on Armistice Day and Memorial Day, dig out and don his antique World War I army uniform, even down to the ragged leggings of the earlier Great War, and all that day strut on the sidewalk back and forth from the Norton's Point trolley tracks on Railroad Avenue to the candy store and soda fountain at the corner of Surf Avenue, which was nearer the ocean. Showing off, old Henry Markowitz-like my father back then, old Henry Markowitz probably was not much past forty-would bark commands out till hoarse to the tired women trudging home on thick legs to their small apartments carrying brown bags from the grocery or butcher, who paid him no mind. His two embarrassed daughters ignored him too, little girls, the younger my own age, the other a year or so older. He was shell-shocked, some said, but I do not think that was true. I do not think we even knew what shell-shocked meant.

There were no elevators then in our brick apartment houses, which were three and four stories high, and for the aging and the elderly, climbing steps, going home, could be hell. In the cellars you'd find coal, delivered by truck and spilled noisily by gravity down a metal chute; you'd find a furnace and boiler, and also a janitor, who might live in the building or not and whom, in intimidation more than honor, we always spoke of respectfully by his surname with the title "Mister," because he kept watch for the landlord, of whom almost all of us then, as some of us now, were always at least a little bit in fear. Just one easy mile away was the celebrated Coney Island amusement area with its gaudy lightbulbs in the hundreds of thousands and the games and rides and food stands. Luna Park was a big and famous attraction then, and so was the Steeplechase ("Steeplechase-the Funny Place ") Park of a Mr. George C. Tilyou, who had passed away long before and of whom no one knew much. Bold on every front of Steeplechase was the unforgettable trademark, a striking, garish picture in cartoon form of the grotesque, pink, flat, grinning face of a subtly idiotic man, practically on fire with a satanic hilarity and showing, incredibly, in one artless plane, a mouth sometimes almost a city block wide and an impossible and startling number of immense teeth. The attendants wore red jackets and green jockey caps and many smelled of whiskey. Tilyou had lived on Surf Avenue in his own private house, a substantial wooden structure with a walkway to the stoop from a short flight of stone steps that descended right to the margin of the sidewalk and appeared to be sinking. By the time I was old enough to walk past on my way to the public library, subway station, or Saturday movie matinee, his family name, which had been set in concrete on the vertical face of the lowest step, was already sloping out of kilter and submerged more than halfway into the ground. In my own neighborhood, the installation of oil burners, with the excavations into the pavement for pipes and fuel tanks, was unfailingly a neighborhood event, a sign of progress.

In those twenty more years we will all look pretty bad in the newspaper pictures and television clips, kind of strange, like people in a different world, ancient and doddering, balding, seeming perhaps a little bit idiotic, shrunken, with toothless smiles in collapsed, wrinkled cheeks. People I know are already dying and others I've known are already dead. We don't look that beautiful now. We wear glasses and are growing hard of hearing, we sometimes talk too much, repeat ourselves, things grow on us, even the most minor bruises take longer to heal and leave telltale traces.

And soon after that there will be no more of us left.

Only records and mementos for others, and the images they chance to evoke. Someday one of the children-I adopted them legally, with their consent, of course-or one of my grown grandchildren may happen upon my gunner's wings or Air Medal, my shoulder patch of sergeant's stripes, or that boyish snapshot of me -little Sammy Singer, the best speller of his age in Coney Island and always near the top of his grade in arithmetic, elementary algebra, and plane geometry-in my fleecy winter flight jacket and my parachute harness, taken overseas close to fifty years back on the island of Pianosa off the western shore of Italy. We are sitting with smiles for the camera near a plane in early daylight on a low stack of unfused thousand-pound bombs, waiting for the signal to start up for another mission, with our bombardier for that day, a captain, I remember, looking on at us from the background. He was a rambunctious and impulsive Armenian, often a little bit frightening, unable to learn how to navigate in the accelerated course thrown at him unexpectedly in operational training at the air base in Columbia, South Carolina, where a group of us had been brought together as a temporary crew to train for combat and fly a plane overseas into a theater of war. The pilot was a sober Texan named Appleby, who was very methodical and very good, God bless him, and the two were very quickly not getting along. My feelings lay with Yossarian, who was humorous and quick, a bit wild but, like me, a big-city boy, who would rather die than be killed, he said only half jokingly one time near the end, and had made up his mind to live forever, or at least die trying. I could identify with that. From him I learned to say no. When they offered me another stripe as a promotion and another cluster to my Air Medal to fly ten more missions, I turned them down and they sent me home. I kept all the way out of his disagreements with Appleby, because I was timid, short, an enlisted man, and a Jew. It was my nature then always to make sure of my ground with new people before expressing myself, although in principle at least, if not always with the confidence I longed for, I thought myself the equal of all the others, the officers too, even of that big, outspoken Armenian bombardier who kept joking crazily that he was really an Assyrian and already practically extinct. I was better read than all of them, I saw, and the best speller too, and smart enough, certainly, never to stress those points.

Inevitably, Yossarian got lost on every one of the night missions we flew in our operational training flights over South Carolina and Georgia. It became a joke. From the other enlisted crewmen I met in the barracks and mess hall, I learned that all of their bombardiers turned navigators got lost on all of their night training flights too, and that became another joke. The third officer in our crew was a shy copilot named Kraft, who, promoted to pilot overseas, was shot down by flak on a mission over Ferrara in northern Italy when his flight went over the bridge there in a second pass and was killed. Yossarian, the lead bombardier, who'd failed to drop the first time, got a medal for that one for going round the second time when he saw the others had missed and the bridge there was still undamaged. On those navigational training missions in South Carolina, Appleby would find the way back for us safely with his radio compass. One black night we were lost and had no radio compass for more than an hour. There was electrical interference from storms nearby, and to this day I clearly hear Yossarian's voice on the intercom, saying: "I see the bank of a river down there. Turn left and cross it and I'll pick up a landmark on the other side."

The bank of that river turned out to be the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, and we were on our way to Africa. Appleby lost patience once more and took over after another half hour, and when he finally pieced together the radio signals to bring us back to our field, there was only enough fuel left to carry us from the landing strip to our plane stand. The engines died before they could be cut.

We had all nearly been killed.

That did not sink in until early middle age, and after that when I related the anecdote, it was not just for the laughs.

In that photograph with me is a buddy, Bill Knight, the top turret gunner that day, who was about two years older than I and already married, with a baby child he had seen but a week, and a skinny kid my own age named Howard Snowden, a waist gunner and radioman from somewhere in Alabama, who would be killed on a mission to Avignon about one month later and died slowly, moaning in pain and whimpering he was cold. We are twenty years old and look like children who are only twenty years old. Howie Snowden was the first dead human I had ever seen and the only dead human I've laid eyes on since outside a mortuary. My wife died at night and was already gone from the room by the time I arrived at the hospital to conclude the paperwork and begin the arrangements for the burial. She went the way the oncologist said she would, almost to the day. There was sickness but seldom much pain, and we like to think she was spared that pain because she was always a very good person, at least to me, and to the children, generally cheerful and bighearted. If angry, it was only with her first husband, and only at times, particularly because he often had not enough money for child support but enough for new girlfriends and enough to marry again a couple more times. I was lucky with dead men, said Lew right after the war, a friend since childhood who was taken prisoner as an infantryman and had seen hundreds of dead people in Europe before he was shipped back home, seen Americans and Germans, and scores of German civilians in Dresden when he was sent back in to help clean up after the British firebombing I learned about first from him, an air raid that had killed just about everyone else in the city but these prisoners of war and their guards and which I did not know about and would not immediately believe.

"Above a hundred thousand? You must be crazy, Lew. That's more than Hiroshima and the atom bomb."

I looked it up and admitted he was right.

But that was almost fifty years ago. No wonder our progeny are not much interested in World War II. Hardly any were born then. They'd be around fifty if they were.

But maybe someday, in a future I can't try to measure, one of the children or grandchildren will happen upon that box or a drawer with my gunner's wings, Air Medal, sergeant's stripes, and wartime photograph inside and perhaps be stimulated to reflect with poignancy on some incidents of a family nature that once took place between us, or which never did and should have. Like me with my father's gas mask from World War I.

I wonder what became of it. I loved that gas mask as a toy when small and I would play with it secretly when he was at work in the city cutting shapes from fabric from patterns for children's dresses. I have his photograph as a soldier too. After I read, while still in elementary school, a biography of the German World War I aerial ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen, I wished for a while to grow up to be a fighter pilot and to duel with him daily in single combat over trenches in France and shoot him down again every time. He was my hero, and I dreamed of shooting him down. Soon after the war, my war, my father died and they called it cancer. He enjoyed cigars. He bought them in the small neighborhood shop around the corner on Surf Avenue, where a contented Mr. Levinson sat with his smile at a worktable with knives and tobacco leaves and marked out and rolled his cigars by hand, while Mrs. Levinson, a tranquil kind of pygmy of a woman with dark hair and freckles, sold bathing caps, earplugs, swimming tubes, and pails and shovels and other small trifles for the sand on the beach just one block away. They were childless.

Everyone worked. As a kid I hawked newspapers for a while through the streets and boardwalk bars. In summer our sisters sold frozen custard at the stands on the boardwalk, root beer. Davey Goldsmith sold hot dogs. On the beach unlicensed peddlers battled like Spartans with dry-ice vapors misting from cumbersome cartons toted in sun-browned arms to dispense for a nickel all of their frozen bars and Dixie cups before they could be nabbed by policemen pursuing them on soft sand through onlookers in bathing suits rooting with all their hearts for them to make good their flight. Many of these fleet-footed older young boys working so perilously were people I knew.

From our apartment we could always hear from the ocean the breaking of waves and the gong from the bell buoy (we called it the "bellboy," and that still sounds right to me). At times of unusual quiet in the early or late afternoon, we could even hear very slightly the indistinct, ghostlike music of our closest merry-go-round, the exotic calliope of the tremendous carousel on the boardwalk with its turning ring of steeds of gold the color of caramels and painted strokes of shiny black and showy tints of blue and pink of other candies, like jelly beans, licorice, and gum-drops-where did those magnificent gliding horses come from? was there a corporation somewhere that manufactured just horses for carousels? was there big money in that?-almost half a mile away. No one was rich.

2 The Little Prick

The new President was coming into office legally with the resignation of his predecessor in a vexation of spiritual fatigue resulting from the need to explain continually why he had chosen such a person as his vice presidential running mate to begin with.

"Why did you pick him?" his closest friend, the secretary of state, felt compelled to keep inquiring. "Tell at least me. Your secret is safe."

"There was no secret!" the nation's chief executive responded pleadingly in his own defense. "There was nothing underhanded, no sneaky reason. I was simply exercising my best judgment. I give you my word, there was no criminal intent."

"That's what's so terrifying."

3 Mr. Yossarian

In the middle of his second week in the hospital, Yossarian dreamed of his mother, and he knew again that he was going to die. The doctors were upset when he gave them the news.

"We can't find anything wrong," they told him.

"Keep looking," he instructed.

"You're in perfect health."

"Just wait," he advised.

Yossarian was back in the hospital for observation, having retreated there once more beneath another neurotic barrage of confusing physical symptoms to which he had become increasingly susceptible since finding himself dwelling alone again for just the second time in his life, and which seemed, one by one, to dissipate like vapor as soon as he described or was tested for each. Just a few months before, he had cured himself of an incurable case of sciatica merely by telephoning one of his physicians to complain of his incurable case of sciatica. He could not learn to live alone. He could not make a bed. He would sooner starve than cook.

This time he had gone bolting back in, so to speak, with a morbid vision of a different morbid vision shortly after hearing that the President, whom he did not like, was going to resign and that the Vice President, whom he did not like even more, would certainly succeed him; and shortly after finding out, inadvertently, that Milo Minderbinder, with whom he too now had been unavoidably and inescapably linked for something like twenty-five years, was expanding beyond surplus stale commodities like old chocolate and vintage Egyptian cotton into military equipment, with plans for a warplane of his own that he intended to sell to thd government: to any government, of course, that could afford to buy.

There were countries in Europe that could afford to buy, and in Asia and the Mideast too.

The vision of the morbid vision he had experienced was of a seizure or a stroke and had set him reminiscing again about durable old Gustav Aschenbach alone on his mythical strand of Mediterranean beach and his immortal death in Venice, worn out at fifty in a city with a plague nobody wished to talk about. In Naples far back, when assembled in line for the troopship sailing him home after he'd flown seventy missions and survived, he'd found himself behind an older soldier named Schweik and a man born Krautheimer who had changed his name to Joseph Kaye to blend more securely into his culture, and his name, like Schweik's, had meant not much to him then.

Given a choice, Yossarian still preferred to live. He ate no eggs and, though he had no headache, swallowed his baby aspirin every other day.

He had no doubt he had lots to worry about. His parents were dead, and so were all his uncles and aunts.

A prick in the White House? It would not be the first time. Another oil tanker had broken up. There was radiation. Garbage. Pesticides, toxic waste, and free enterprise. There were enemies of abortion who wished to inflict the death penalty on everyone who was not pro-life. There was mediocrity in government, and self-interest too. There was trouble in Israel. These were not mere delusions. He was not making them up. Soon they would be cloning human embryos for sale, fun, and replacement parts. Men earned millions producing nothing more substantial than changes in ownership. The cold war was over and there was still no peace on earth. Nothing made sense and neither did everything else. People did things without knowing why and then tried to find out.

When bored in his hospital room, Yossarian played with such high-minded thoughts like a daydreaming youth with his genitals.

At least once each weekday morning they came barging in around him, his doctor, Leon Shumacher, and his brisk and serious entourage of burgeoning young physicians, accompanied by the lively, attractive floor nurse with the pretty face and the magnificent ass who was openly drawn to Yossarian, despite his years, and whom he was slyly enticing to develop a benign crush on him, despite her youthfulness. She was a tall woman with impressive hips who remembered Pearl Bailey but not Pearl Harbor, which put her age somewhere between thirty-five and sixty, the very best stage, Yossarian believed, for a woman, provided, of course, she still had her health. Yossarian possessed but a hazy idea of what she really was like; yet he unscrupulously exploited every chance to help pass the time enjoyably with her for the several peaceful weeks he was resolved to remain in the hospital to rest up and put his outlook together while the great nations of the world restabilized themselves into another new world order for good ana forever once more.

He'd brought his radio and almost always had some Bach or very good chamber, piano, or other choral music on one FM station or another. There were too many disruptions for abiding attention to opera, especially Wagner. It was a good room this time, he was pleased to conclude, with unobjectionable neighbors who were not offensively ill, and it was the attractive floor nurse, in response to his baiting, modestly laughing and with a flounce and a flush of hauteur, who made the defiant boast that the ass she had was magnificent.

Yossarian could see no reason to disagree.

By the middle of the first week he was flirting with her with all his might. Dr. Leon Shumacher did not always look kindly upon this salacious frivolity.

"It's bad enough I let you in here. I suppose we both ought to feel ashamed, you in this room when you aren't sick-"

"Who says I'm not?"

"-and so many people outside on the streets."

"Will you let one in here if I agree to leave?"

"Will you pay the bills?"

Yossarian preferred not to.

A great man with angiograms had confirmed to him soberly that he did not need one, a neurologist reported with equal gloom that there was nothing the matter with his brain. Leon Shumacher again was displaying him pridefully as a rare specimen his pupils would not have opportunity to come upon often in their medical practice, a man of sixty-eight without symptoms of any disease, not even hypochondria.

Late afternoons or sometimes early in the evening, Leon would drop by just to chat awhile in singsong sorrow about his long hours, ghoulish working conditions, and unjustly low earnings in tactless, egocentric fashion to a man they both knew was soon going to die.

He was not considerate.

The name of this nurse was Melissa MacIntosh, and, like all good women to a sophisticated man with a predilection to romanticize, she seemed too good to be true.

By the beginning of his second week she was allowing him to caress with his fingertips the border of lace at the bottom of her slip when she stood or sat beside his bed or chair while she hung around and talked and flirted back by allowing him to advance in his flirting. Pink with discomfort and enlivened by mischief, she neither consented nor prohibited when he toyed with her filmy undergarment, but she was not at ease. She was in terror someone would surprise them in this impermissible intimacy. He was praying somebody would. He concealed from Nurse MacIntosh all the subtle signals of his budding erections. He did not want her to get the idea that his intentions were serious. She was lucky to have him, she agreed when he said so. He was less trouble than the other men and women in the private and semiprivate rooms on the same floor. And he was more intriguing to her, he saw-and therefore more seductive, he understood, and maybe she did not -than all of the few men she was seeing outside the hospital and even the one or two men she had been seeing exclusively, almost exclusively, for a number of years. She had never been married, not even once or twice. Yossarian was so little trouble that he was no trouble at all, and she and the other floor nurses had little more to do for him than look into his room each shift just to make certain he wasn't dead yet and needed nothing done to keep him alive.

"Is everything all right?" each one would inquire.

"Everything but my health," he sighed in response.

"You're in perfect health."

That was the trouble, he took the trouble to explain. It meant he had to get worse.

"It's no joke," he joked when they laughed.

She wore a black slip in one day after he'd begged her to switch, affecting aesthetic longing. Often when he wanted her there he found himself in dire need of something to need. When he pressed his call signal, another nurse might respond.

"Send in my Melissa," he would command.

The others would cooperate. He suffered no nursing shortage. He was in good health, the doctors restated daily, and this time, he was concluding in morose disappointment, with the sense he was being cheated, they appeared to be right.

His appetite and digestion were good. His auditory and spinal apparatus had been CAT-scanned. His sinuses were clear and there was no evidence anywhere of arthritis, bursitis, angina, or neuritis. He was even without a postnasal drip. His blood pressure was the envy of every doctor who saw him. He gave urine and they took it. His cholesterol was low, his hemoglobin was high, his sedimentation rate was a thing of beauty, and his blood nitrogen was ideal. They pronounced him a perfect human being. He thought his first wife and his second, from whom he had now been separated a year, might have some demurrers.

There was a champion cardiologist who found no fault with him, a pathologist for his pathos, who found no cause for concern either, an enterprising gastroenterologist who ran back to the room for a second opinion from Yossarian on some creative investment strategies he was considering in Arizona real estaie, and a psychologist for his psyche, in whom Yossarian was left in the last resort to confide.

"And what about these periodic periods of anomie and fatigue and disinterest and depression?" Yossarian rushed on in a whirlwind of whispers. "I find myself detached from listening to things that other people take seriously. I'm tired of information I can't use. I wish the daily newspapers were smaller and came out weekly. I'm not interested anymore in all that's going on in the world. Comedians don't make me laugh and long stories drive me wild. Is it me or old age? Or is the planet really turning irrelevant? TV news is degenerate. Everyone everywhere is glib. My enthusiasms are exhausted. Do I really feel this healthy now or am I just imagining I do? I even have this full head of hair. Doc, I've got to have the truth. Is my depression mental?"

"It isn't depression and you're not exhausted."

In due course, the psychologist conferred with the chief of psychiatry, who consulted with all the other medical men, ard they concluded with one voice that there was nothing psychosomatic about the excellent health he was enjoying and that the hair on his head was genuine too.

"Although," added the chief psychiatrist, with a clearing of throat, "I am honor bound to flag you as a very good candidate for late-life depression."

"Late-life depression?" Yossarian savored the term. "About when would that be?"

"About now. What do you do that you really enjoy?"

"Not much, I'm afraid. I run after women, but not too hard. I make more money than I need."

"Do you enjoy that?"

"No. I've got no ambition, and there's not much left I want to get done."

"No golf, bridge, tennis? Art or antique collecting?"

"That's all out of the question."

"The prognosis is not good."

"I've always known that."

"The way it looks to us now, Mr. Yossarian," said the chief medical director, speaking for the whole institution, with Leon Shumacher's head, three quarters bald, hanging over his shoulder, "you might live forever."

He had nothing to worry about, it seemed, but inflation and deflation, higher interest rates and lower interest rates, the budget deficit, the threat of war and the dangers of peace, the unfavorable balance of trade and a favorable balance of trade, the new President and the old chaplain, and a stronger dollar and a weaker dollar, along with friction, entropy, radiation, and gravity.

But he worried too about his new pal Nurse Melissa MacIntosh, because she had no money saved. Her parents had none either, and if she lived long enough, she would have to live on only her Social Security benefits and a pittance of a retirement pension from the hospital, provided she continued working there for the next twenty or three hundred years, which seemed out of the question, unless she met and married before then some fine gentleman of means who was as appealing to her then as Yossarian was to her now, which seemed to him entirely out of the question also. Few men could talk dirty to her so charmingly. More than once he contemplated her with a pang: she was too innocent to abandon to the heartless dynamics of financial circumstance, too sweet, unsuspecting, and unselfish.

"What you absolutely must do," he said one day, after she had begged him to advise whether she and her roommate should open individual retirement accounts-Yossarian advised that he could not see what fucking practical use an individual retirement account was going to be in the long run to anybody but the banks soliciting them-"is marry someone like me now, a man with some money saved who knows something about insurance policies and legacies and has been married only one time before."

"Would you be too old for me?" she asked in a fright.

"You would be too young for me. Do it soon, do it today. Even a doctor might work. Before you know it you'll be as old as I am and you won't have a thing."

He worried too about the reckless sentimentality of extending concern to a person who needed it.

That was not the American way.

The last thing he needed was another dependent. Or two, for she spoke with pride of an eye-catching, fun-loving roommate in her cramped apartment, a woman named Angela Moore who was taller than she and freer, a natural-blonde Australian with brighter-blonde hair and a larger bosom in stiletto heels and white lipstick and white eye makeup who worked as sales representative for a novelty manufacturer to whom she submitted ribald ideas for new products that rendered tongue-tied and incredulous the two elderly Jewish family men who owned the company as partners and made them blush. She liked the effect she knew she made in the costly midtown bars to which she often went after work to meet the convivial business executives to go dancing with after dinner and then discard without pity at the downstairs doorway of the apartment house when her evening was ended. She hardly ever met any she liked enough to want to stay longer with because she hardly ever let herself drink enough to get drunk. The private phone number she gave out was of the city morgue, Melissa MacIntosh related to him in such joyful praise of her confident and exuberant conduct that Yossarian knew he would fall in lov; with this woman at very first sight provided he never laid eyes on her, and would remain deeply in love until he saw her the second time. But the tall blonde somewhere near forty with the white makeup and black stockings with climbing serpentine patterns had no rich parents or money saved either, and Yossarian asked himself: What was wrong with this lousy earth anyway?

It seemed to him reasonable that everyone toward whom he bore no grudge should have enough money assured to face a future without fear, and he hung his head in his noble reverie of compassion and wanted to take this outstanding, full-bosomed waif of a roommate into his arms to dry her tears and assuage all her anxieties and unzip her dress as he stroked her backside.

That would really be something for the private detectives who'd been following him to write home about, wouldn't it? The first private eye-he took for granted the eye was private-had trailed him right into the hospital during visiting hours and come down immediately with a serious staphylococcus infection that confined him to bed with a poisoning of the blood in a different wing of the hospital with three former visitors to other patients in the hospital who had also come down with serious staphylococcus infections and who, for all Yossarian knew, might be private detectives also. Yossarian could have told all four of them that a hospital was a dangerous place. People died there. A man from Belgium checked in one day and had his throat cut. A private detective dispatched to replace the first was laid low in a day by salmonella food poisoning from an egg salad sandwich eaten in the hospital cafeteria and was now bedridden also and recuperating slowly. Yossarian considered sending flowers. Instead, he signed the name Albert T. Tappman on the get-well card he sent to each. Albert T. Tappman was the name of the chaplain of his old army bomber group, and he wrote that calling down too and wondered what the recipients of these get-well cards thought upon receiving them and where the chaplain had been taken and whether he was being intimidated, abused, starved, or tortured. A day after that he sent second get-well cards to both private detectives and signed them with the name Washington Irving. And the day after that he mailed two more cards, and these he signed Irving Washington.

The second private detective was succeeded by two more, who appeared to be strangers to each other, one of whom seemed as mysteriously curious about investigating all the others as in keeping track of Yossarian.

He wondered what they hoped to find out about him that he would not be willing to tell them outright. If they wanted adultery he would give them adultery, and he began to grow so troubled about Melissa MacIntosh's good heart and precarious economic future that he began to worry about his own future as well and decided to demand the oncologist back for some tip-top guarantees about a major killer and to hear him discourse further perhaps on the supremacy of biology in human activities and the tyranny of the genes in regulating societies and history.

"You're crazy," said Leon.

"Then get me the psychiatrist too."

"You don't have cancer. Why do you want him?"

"To do him a good deed, dope. Don't you believe in good deeds? The poor little fuck is just about the gloomiest bastard I've ever laid eyes on. How many patients do you think he sees in a week to whom he can bring good news? That guy's disasters are among the few around me I might be able to avert."

"They aren't mine," said the joyless oncologist, upon whose small features a foreboding aspect seemed to have settled as naturally as the blackness of night and the gray skies of winter. "You'd be surprised, though, how many people come to believe they really are my fault. Even colleagues don't like me. Not many people want to talk to me. It may be the reason I'm quiet. I don't get enough practice."

"I like that spirit," said Yossarian, who could not see that he had much. "Does it buck you up to know that sooner or later you are likely to play an important role in my life?"

"Only a little." His name was Dennis Teemer. "Where would you want me to begin?"

"Wherever you want to that is without pain or discomfort," Yossarian answered cheerily.

"You haven't a symptom anywhere that might suggest closer investigation."

"Why must we wait for symptoms?" queried Yossarian, talking down to his specialist. "Is it not conceivable that since we concluded our last explorations something may have originated that is blooming away hardily even as the two of us sit here procrastinating complacently?"

Dennis Teemer went along, with a shimmer of animation. "I guess I have more fun with you than I do with most of my other patients, don't I?"

"I told Leon that."

"But that may be because you're not really my patient," said Dr. Teemer. "What you conjecture is conceivable, of course, Mr. Yossarian. But it is no more likely to be happening to you than to anybody else."

"And what difference does that make to me?" countered Yossarian. "It is not much solace to know we all are susceptible. Leon thinks I'll feel better knowing I'm no worse off than he is. Let's get started."

"Suppose we begin with another chest X ray?"

"God, no!" cried Yossarian in mock alarm. "That might just get one started! You know how I feel about X rays and asbestos."

"And tobacco too. Should I give you a statistic I think you'll relish? Did you know that more Americans die each year of diseases related to smoking than were killed in all of the years of World War II?"

"Yes."

"Then I suppose we might as well go ahead. Should I hammer your knee to test your reflexes?"

'For what?"

"For free."

"Can't we at least do a biopsy?"

"Of what?"

"Of anything that's accessible and simple."

"If you will find that reassuring."

"I will sleep easier."

"We can scrape another mole or another one of your liver spots. Or should we test the prostate again? The prostate is not uncommon."

"Mine is unique," Yossarian disagreed. "It's the only one that's mine. Let's do the mole. Shumacher has a prostate my age. Let me know when you find something wrong with his."

"I can tell you now," said Yossarian's favorite oncologist, "that it will give me great pleasure to inform you that the results are negative."

"I can tell you now," said Yossarian, "that I will be happy to hear it."

Yossarian yearned to go deeper with this depressed man into the depressing nature of the pathologies in the depressing world of his work and the depressing nature of the universe in which they had each been successful in surviving thus far and which was growing more unreliable daily-there were holes in the ozone, they were running out of room for the disposal of garbage, burn the garbage and you contaminate the air, they were running out of air-but he was afraid the doctor would find that conversation depressing.

All of this cost money, of course.

"Of course," said Yossarian.

"Where is it coming from?" Leon Shumacher wondered out loud, with a palpable snarl of envy.

"I'm old enough for Medicare now."

"Medicare won't cover a fraction of this."

"And the rest is coming from a terrific plan I have."

"I wish I had a plan like that," Leon sulked.

It came, explained Yossarian, from the company for which he worked, where he was still on the books in a semi-executive capacity as a semi-retired semi-consultant and could remain for a lifetime provided he never tried to get much done.

"I wish I had a job like that. What the hell does it mean?" Leon mimicked in sneering derision: "Yossarian, John. Occupation: semi-retired semi-consultant. What the hell are our epidemiologists supposed to make of that one?"

"It's been another one of my careers. I work part of the time for all of my fee and no one listens to more than half the things I say. I would call that a semi-retired semi-consultant, wouldn't you? The company pays for everything. We are as large as Harold Strangelove Associates and almost as lovable. We are M amp; M Enterprises amp; Associates. I am one of the associates. The other people are enterprising. I associate, they enterprise."

"What do they really do?"

"Whatever makes money and isn't dishonestly criminal, I suppose," Yossarian answered.

"Is one word of this true?"

"I have no way of knowing. They can lie to me as well as to everyone else. We keep secrets from each other. I'm not making it up. You can check. Tie me back up to that heart machine and see if it skips a beat when I tell a lie."

"Will it do that?" Leon asked with surprise.

"I don't see why it wouldn't."

"What do you do there?"

"I object."

"Don't get so touchy."

"I'm answering your question," Yossarian informed him pleasantly. "I object to matters that are not up to my ethical standards. Sometimes I work very hard at objecting. Then they go ahead or don't. I am the conscience of the company, a moral presena, and that's another one of the things I've been doing since I dropped by there more than twenty years ago for illegal help in keeping my children out of the Vietnam War. How'd you keep yours out?"

"Medical school. Of course, they both switched to business administration as soon as the danger was past. By the way, my grapevine tells me you still seem to be having a pretty hot time with one of our favorite floor nurses."

"Better than I'm having with you and your associates."

"She's a very nice girl and a very good nurse."

"I think I've noticed."

"Attractive too."

"I've seen that also."

"We have a number of very fine specialists here who tell me frankly they'd like to get into her pants."

"That's crude, Leon, really crude, and you ought to be ashamed," Yossarian rebuked him with disgust. "It's a most obscene way of saying you'd all like to fuck her."

Leon was sheepish and Yossarian manipulated this momentary loss of self-possession into a favor involving a No Visitors sign outside the door, which was in place before the next one came by to disturb him.

The knock was so diffident that Yossarian hoped for an instant the chaplain was back as a free man from wherever it was that he was being lawfully detained unlawfully. Yossarian was out of ideas to aid him and just about helpless there too.

But it was only Michael, his youngest son, the underachiever among four adult children in what used to be a family. In addition to Michael there were his daughter, Gillian, a judge in a very low court; Julian, his eldest, another overachiever; and Adrian, who was average and content and was disregarded by the others because he was only average. Michael, unmarried, unsettled, unemployed, and unobjectionable, had stopped by to see what he was doing in the hospital still again and to confess that he was thinking of dropping out of law school because he found the work there no more stimulating than the medical school, business school, art school, graduate school of architecture, and several other graduate schools of assorted character he had been dropping out of after brief trials for as long now, it seemed, as anyone wanted to remember.

"Oh, shit," mourned Yossarian. "I keep pulling strings to get you in, and you keep dropping out."

"I can't help it," Michael said with discouragement. "The more I find out about the practice of law, the more I'm surprised that it isn't illegal."

"That's one of the reasons I gave that up too. How old are you now?"

"I'm not far from forty."

"You still have time."

"I'm not sure if you're joking or not."

"Neither am I," Yossarian told him. "But if you can delay the decision of what you want to do with your life until you're old enough to retire, you will never have to make it."

"I still can't tell if you're joking."

"I'm still not always sure either," Yossarian answered. "Sometimes I mean what I say and don't mean it at the same time. Tell me, my apple of my eye, do you think in my checkered history I ever really wanted to do any of the work I found myself doing?"

"Not even the film scripts?"

"Not really and not for long. That was make-believe and didn't last, and I wasn't that crazy about the finished products there either. Do you think I wanted to go into advertising, or Wall Street, or ever get busy with things like land development or puts and calls? Whoever starts out with a dream to succeed in public relations?"

"Did you really once work for Noodles Cook?"

"Noodles Cook worked for me. Soon after college. Do you think we really wanted to write political speeches, Noodles Cook and I? We wanted to write plays and be published in The New Yorker. Whoever has much choice? We take the best we can get, Michael, not what enraptures us. Even the Prince of Wales."

"That's a hell of a way to live, Dad, isn't it?"

"It's the way we have to."

Michael was silent a minute. "I got scared when I saw that No Visitors sign on your door," he confessed in a mild tone of injury. "Who the hell put it up? I began to think you might really be sick."

"It's my idea of a joke," mumbled Yossarian, who had added to the sign with a brush-point pen the notice that violators would be shot. "It helps keep people out. They just keep popping in all day long without even telephoning. They don't seem to realize that lying around in a hospital all day can be pretty demanding work."

"You never answer your telephone anyway. I bet you're the only patient here with an answering machine. How much longer are you going to stay?"

"Is the mayor still the mayor? The cardinal still the cardinal? Is that prick still in office?"

"What prick?"

"Whatever prick is in office. I want all pricks out."

"You can't stay here that long!" cried Michael. "What the hell are you doing here anyway? You had your annual workup only a couple of months ago. Everyone thinks you're crazy."

"I object. Who does?"

"I do."

"You're crazy."

"We all do."

"I object again. You're all crazy."

"Julian says you could have taken over the whole company a long time ago if you had any ambition and brains."

"He's crazy too. Michael, this time I was scared. I had a vision."

"Of what?"

"It wasn't of taking over M amp; M. I had an aura, or thought I did, and was afraid I was having a seizure or a tumor, and I wasn't sure if I was imagining it or not. When I'm bored I get anxious. I get things like conjunctivitis and athlete's foot. I don't sleep well. You won't believe this, Michael, but when I'm not in love I'm bored, and I'm not in love."

"I can tell," said Michael. "You're not on a diet."

"Is that how you know?"

"It's one of the ways."

"I thought of epilepsy, you know, and of a TIA, a transient ischemic attack, which you don't know about. Then I was afraid of a stroke-everyone should always be afraid of a stroke. Am I talking too much? I had this feeling I was seeing everything twice."

"You mean double?"

"Not that, not yet. The feeling of suspecting that I had gone through everything before. There was hardly anything new for me in the daily news. Every day there seemed to be another political campaign going on or about to start, another election, and when it wasn't that, it was another tennis tournament, or those fucking Olympic Games again. I thought it might be a good idea to come in here and check. Anyway, my brain is sound, my mind is clear. So is my conscience."

"That's all very good."

"Don't be too sure. Great crimes are committed by people whose conscience is clear. And don't forget, my father died of a stroke."

"At ninety-two?"

"Do you think that made him want to jump with joy? Michael, what will you do with yourself? Disturbing my peace of mind is my not knowing where the hell you're going to fit in."

"Now you are talking too much."

"You're the only one in the family I really can talk to, and you won't listen. The others all know this, even your mother, who always wants more alimony. Money does matter, more than almost everything else. Want a sound idea? Get a job now with a company with a good pension plan and a good medical plan, any company and any job, no matter how much you hate it, and stay there until you're too old to continue. That's the only way to live, by preparing to die."

"Oh, shit, Dad, you really believe that?"

"No, I don't, although I think it might be true. But people can't survive on Social Security, and you won't even have that. Even poor Melissa will be better off."

"Who's poor Melissa?"

"That sweetheart of a nurse out there, the one that's attractive and kind of young."

"She's not so attractive and she's older than I am."

"She is?"

"Can't you tell?"

Toward the end of Yossarian's second week in the hospital they hatched the plot that drove him out.

They drove him out with the man from Belgium in the room adjacent to his. The man from Belgium was a financial wise man with the European Economic Community. He was a very sick financial wise man from Belgium and spoke little English, which did not matter much because he had just had part of his rhroat removed and could not speak at all, and understood hardly any English either, which mattered greatly to the nurses and several doctors, who were unable to address him in ways that had meaning. All day and much of the night he had at his bedside his waxen and diminutive Belgian wife in unpressed fashionable clothes, who smoked cigarettes continually and understood no English either and jabbered away at the nurses ceaselessly and hysterically, flying into alarms of shrieking terror each time he groaned or choked or slept or awoke. He had come to this country to be made well, and the doctors had taken out a hunk of his larynx because he certainly would have died had they left it all in. Now it was not so certain he would live. Christ, thought Yossarian, how can he stand it?

Christ, thought Yossarian, how can I?

The man had no way to make his feelings known but to nod or shake his head in reply to insistent questions fired at him by his wife, who had no serviceable way to relay his responses. He was in more dangers and discomforts than Yossarian could tick off on the fingers of both hands. Yossarian ran out of fingers the first time he counted and did not try again. He had grown no new fingers. There was normally such strident commotion in his vicinity that Yossarian could hardly find the time to think about himself. Yossarian worried about the man from Belgium more than he wanted to. He was moving into stress and knew stress was not healthy. People caught cancer under stress. Worrying about his stress put Yossarian under more stress, and he began to feel sorry for himself too.

The man was in pain that was unimaginable to Yossarian, who received no painkillers for it and felt he would be unable to endure it much longer and pull through. The man from Belgium was drugged. He was suctioned. He was medicated and sterilized. He kept everyone so busy that Nurse MacIntosh hardly could find time for Yossarian to fondle the lace at the bottom of her slip. Business was business, and the sick man from Belgium was serious business. Melissa was rushed and rumpled, distracted and breathless. He did not feel right cajoling her attention with so much that was critical going on right next door and, once spoiled, felt impoverished without her. No one else would do.

The man from Belgium, who could hardly move, kept them all on the run. He was hyperalimentated through a tube stuck in his neck so that he would not starve to death. They fed water intravenously into the poor man so that he would not dehydrate, suctioned fluids from his lungs so he would not drown.

That man was a full-time job. He had a chest tube and a belly tube and required such constant ministration that Yossarian had little time to think about Chaplain Tappman and his problem or Milo and Wintergreen and their squads of invisible bombers or of the tall Australian roommate with the white makeup in stiletto heels with full breasts or anyone else. A few times a day Yossarian would venture into the hallway to look into the other room just to see what was going on. Each time he did he came reeling back to his own bed and collapsed in a woozy faint with an arm pressed over his eyes.

When his vision cleared and he looked up again, the more mysterious of the private detectives would be peering in at him. This secret agent was a dapper man in trimly tailored suits and muted paisley ties, with a foreign complexion and dark eyes in a strong-boned face that looked vaguely Oriental and reminded him of a nut, a shelled almond.

"Who the fuck are you?" Yossarian wanted to shout out at him more than once.

"Hey, who are you?" he did ask one time amiably, forcing a smile.

"Are you talking to me?" was the lordly rejoinder, in a soft voice with perfect enunciation.

"Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Not at all. I was merely wondering about the thickset, balding gentleman with yellow hair who was here in the corridor a good deal up until a few days ago."

"The other private detective?"

"I haven't the faintest idea who you mean!" the man replied, and ducked away.

"Who the fuck are you?" Yossarian did shout after him just as the familiar cry went up in the corridor again and the pounding of gum-soled shoes resumed.

"Who speaks French? Who speaks French?" The wounded wail went up a dozen times a day from Nurse MacIntosh, Nurse Cramer, or one of the other nurses, or from one in the myriad of attending physicians, technicians, or Afro-American, Hispanic, or Pacific-rim aides and other kinds of economic refugees attending the Belgian on salary in that bizarre, unnatural hospital civilization that was perfectly natural. Now that there was a cash dispensing machine on every floor alongside the candy and soda dispensing machines, a patient with a credit card and major medical insurance never had to set foot outside again.

The secret agent with the faultless speech and impeccable English tailoring did not once volunteer that he could speak French, although Yossarian would bet he was able to, and could break codes too.

Yossarian spoke a little bit of French very poorly but decided to mind his own business. He was nervous about malpractice. Who could tell? Conceivably, an error in translation might render him liable to a charge of practicing medicine without a license. Yossarian could tell: he could tell about himself that if he ever had to go through all that at his age for four or fourteen days just to be able to go on living with or without a voice box for God knew how little longer, he thought he would object. He would prefer not to. In the end it came down to elementals. He could not stand the Belgian's pain.

He was going to have to leave her.

Yossarian was symptom suggestible and knew it. Within a day his voice turned husky.

"What's the matter with you?" Nurse MacIntosh snapped with concern the very next morning after she had reported for work, put on her makeup, straightened the seams of her seamless stockings, and then come into the room looking her niftiest to make sure he was all right. "You don't sound the same. Why aren't you eating?"

"I know. I'm hoarse. I'm not hungry right now. I don't know why I'm so hoarse."

He had no fever or physical discomfort and there was no visible evidence of inflammation anywhere in his ears, nose, or throat, said the ear, nose, and throat man who was summoned.

The next day his throat felt sore. He felt a lump there too and had difficulty swallowing his food, although there was still not a sign of infection or obstruction, and he knew as surely as he knew anything else that he too would soon lose his larynx to a malignancy if he hung around there any longer and did not get the hell away from that hospital fast.

Nurse Melissa MacIntosh looked heartbroken. It was nothing personal, he assured her. He promised gallantly to take her out soon to dinner at a good restaurant, and to Paris and Florence, and Munich too, perhaps, and window-shop for lacy lingerie with her, if they found they hit it off, and if she did not mind being followed by private detectives whenever they were together. She thought he was joking about the private detectives and said she would miss him. He replied with perfection that he would not give her the chance, wondering, even as he gazed sincerely into her earnest blue eyes and warmly pressed her hand good-bye, whether he would ever even remember to want to see her again.

BOOK TWO

4 Lew

I was born strong and without fear. To this day I don't think I know what it is to be afraid of another human being. I didn't get my muscles and big bones and deep chest from baling old newspapers and doing heavy lifting as a kid in my father's junkshop. If I didn't have the strength he would not have made me do it. He would have put me to work keeping count and running errands, like he did with my sisters and my older brother Ira. We were four sons in my family and two girls, and of the boys I was the second from the last. My mother would tell people I was the strongest baby she ever saw, and also the hungriest. She needed both hands to pull me away from the breast.

"Like Hercules in his crib," Sammy Singer said once.

"Who?"

"Hercules. The infant Hercules."

"What about him?"

"When he was born a couple of big snakes were sent into his crib to kill him. He strangled one with each hand."

"It was nothing like that, wise guy."

Little Sammy Singer knew things like that even when we were kids back in public school in the third or fourth grade. Or maybe was the sixth or seventh. The rest of us were doing book reports on Tom Sawyer and Robinson Crusoe and he was doing them on the Iliad. Sammy was clever, I was smart. He looked things up. I figured them out. He was good at chess, I was good at pinochle. I stopped playing chess, he kept losing money to me at pinochle. Who was the smart one? When we went into the war he wanted be a fighter pilot and picked the air corps. I picked the ground force because I wanted to fight Germans. I hoped to be in a tank and ride right through hundreds of them. He turned out a tail gunner, I wound up in the infantry. He was knocked down into the water once and came home with a medal, I was a prisoner of war and was kept overseas until the end. Maybe he was the smarter one. After the war he went to college with the government paying, I bought a lumberyard outside the city. I bought a building lot and put up a house on spec in partnership with a few of my customers, who knew more about construction than I did. I knew more about business. With the profits from that one I did the next house alone. I discovered credit. We did not know in Coney Island that banks wanted to lend money. He went to operas and I went out shooting ducks and Canada geese with local plumbers and Yankee bankers. As a POW in Germany I worried each time I changed hands what would happen when the new guards looked at my dog tags and found out I was a Jew. I worried, but I don't remember that I ever had fear. Each place I moved as they shipped me deeper and deeper into the country toward Dresden, I made sure to find some way to tell them before they found out. I did not want them to get the idea they had someone who was hiding anything. I did not think until Sammy asked later that they might spit in my face or smash my head with the butt of a gun or just lead me away from the others into the bushes with their rifles and bayonets and stab or shoot me to death. We were most of us kids, and I figured they might bully and sneer awhile and that I just might have to bust a few jaws before I taught them to stop. I never had any question I could do that. I was LR, Lewis Rabinowitz from Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, and I never had doubts back then that I could not be beaten at anything and could succeed in doing whatever I wanted to.

I always felt that way as a kid. I was big and broad from the start and had a strong voice, and I felt bigger and broader than I was. In public school I could see with my eyes that there were older kids who were bigger than I was, and maybe they were stronger too, but I never felt it. And I was never in dread of the kids in those few Italian families we had in the neighborhood, all those Bartolinis and Palumbos, that all of the others were almost afraid to talk about unless they were home. They carried knives, those guineas, it was rumored in whispers. I never saw any. I left them alone and they didn't bother me. Or anyone else for that matter, as far as I could tell. Except one time one of them did. A skinny older one in the eighth grade came slouching past and stepped on my foot deliberately as I sat on the sidewalk at the front of the line outside the schoolyard after lunch, waiting for the doors to open and the afternoon session to begin. He wore sneakers. We were not supposed to wear sneakers to school except for gym, but all those Bartolinis and Palumbos did whenever they wanted to. "Haaay," I said to myself when I saw it happen. I'd watched him coming. I'd seen him turn in toward me with a mean and innocent look. I did not see my arm shoot out to grab him by the ankle and squeeze there only hard enough to hold him in place when he tried to pull free and continue past me without even moving his eyes, like he had a right, like I wasn't even there. He was surprised, all right, when he saw I wouldn't let him. He tried to look tough. We were under thirteen.

"Hey, what're you doing?" he said with a snarl.

My look was tougher. "You dropped something," I said with a cold smile.

"Yeah? What?"

"Your footsteps."

"Very funny. Let go of my leg."

"And one of them fell on me." With my other hand I tapped at the place he had stepped on.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

He pulled harder. I squeezed harder.

"If I did, I didn't mean it."

"I thought you did mean it," I said to him. "If you swear to God and tell me again you didn't mean it, I think I might believe you."

"You a tough guy? You think so?"

"Yeah."

Other kids watched, girls too. I felt good.

"Well, I didn't mean it," he said, and stopped pulling.

"Then I think I believe you."

After that we were friends for a while.

Sammy decided one day to teach me how to fight and to show me while doing it how much better he was at boxing.

"You can't just do it on brawn, Lew."

He had a book of instructions he had read and some boxing gloves he had borrowed. I had to keep smiling at him as we laced each other up. He showed me the stance, the lead, he taught me the jab, the hook, the "uppracut."

"Okay, tiger, you showed me. Now what do we do?"

"We'll go about three minutes, rest for one, and I'll show you what you did wrong, and then we'll go another round. Remember, keep moving. No hitting in the clinches, no wrestling there either. That's not allowed. Put your left hand up, higher, keep it up and stick it out more. Otherwise I'll come right in and bop you. That's good. Let's go."

He struck a pose and danced in and out. I moved straight toward him and with my left hand pushed both his arms down easily. With my right I grabbed his face in my open glove and twisted it playfully from side to side.

"That's a clinch," he yelled. "You're not allowed to hold a face. You have to punch or do nothing. Now we break and start again. Remember, you've got to try to hit me."

He danced around faster this time, popped the side of my head with one of his jabs, and flew right back. I moved right at him again, shoved his arms down easily with one paw, and began patting him on the face lightly with my other paw. I couldn't help laughing as I looked at him. I was grinning, he was panting.

"Let's do something else," he said miserably. "This just isn't working, is it?"

I used to worry sometimes about little Sammy because he couldn't do much and liked to needle people. But he was smart and it turned out he only needled people he could tell would not get angry at him. Like me.

"Hey, Lew, how's your girlfriend with the big tits?" he would say to me during the war when I had started dating Claire and had brought her around.

"You're a clever fellow," I would tell him with a forced smile through gritted teeth. I have a nerve at one side at the back of my jaw and the side of my neck that I used to feel twitch when I was starving to boil. I would feel it in pinochle too when I had bid too high and needed every trick.

"Hey, Lew, give my regards to your wife with the big tits," he used to say after Claire and I got married. Winkler started baiting me that way too, and I couldn't crush him if I didn't crush Sammy, and I couldn't crush Sammy. He would have been my best man, but my folks wanted my brothers, and in my family all of us did what the other ones wanted us to.

They named me Lewis and called me Louie as though my name was Louis, and I never saw that difference until Sammy pointed it out. And even then, I still don't see much difference.

Sammy read newspapers. He liked the colored people and said they should be allowed to vote in the South and be free to live wherever they wanted to. I didn't care where they lived as long as they didn't live near me. I never really liked anyone I didn't know personally. We liked Roosevelt awhile when he became President, but that was mainly because he wasn't Herbert Hoover or another one of those Republicans or one of those hayseed anti-Semites in the South or Midwest or that Father Coughlin in Detroit. But we didn't trust him and we didn't believe him. We didn't trust banks and we didn't trust bank records and we did as much of our business as we could in cash. Even before Adolf Hitler we did not like Germans. And among the Germans who did not stand a chance in our house were German Jews. And that was even after Hitler. I grew up hearing about them.

"I never wished harm on anyone," my mother would repeat. I heard her say that over and over again, and it wasn't true. Her terrific curses fell everywhere, even on all of us. "But if ever a people deserved to be punished it was them. When we came through from Poland to Hamburg they could not make themselves look at us. We were dirt in their eyes. We made them ashamed with our valises and our clothes, and we couldn't talk German. They were all of them ashamed of us and made us know it. Some stole money from us when they could. When there was an empty seat on a train or a bench on the street somewhere they would put down a hat there to make believe somebody was using it so we could not sit down near them. For hours they would make us stand there, even with our children. The people with money all did that. And they even all made believe they could not speak Yiddish."

When Sammy came up to the house for a visit with me not long ago he mentioned he thought that probably German Jews did not speak Yiddish. My mother would have pretended to be hard of hearing if she ever heard that one.

When the war came in Europe we were all of us still a couple of years too young to be drafted right away. I switched from Spanish to German in high school-I began getting ready-and began driving guys like Sammy crazy with my achtungs, wie gehts, hallos, and neins and jawohls. When they yelled at me to cut it out I threw them a danke schön or two. I kept up the German even into the army. By the time I enlisted I knew enough German to bully the POWs I found at Fort Dix and Fort Sill and Fort Riley and Fort Benning. As a POW outside Dresden I could talk to the guards a little and sometimes interpret for the other Americans. Because I could speak German, I was sent into Dresden in charge of a work detail, even though I was a sergeant and didn't have to go.

The junk business boomed while I was still a kid civilian. Sammy's mother saved old newspapers and donated aluminum pots and pans, my father sold them. There was a good living in waste, as the old man found out, and a few small fortunes for the dealers in scrap metal. We went racing for buildings slated for demolition. We followed fire engines. The big Coney Island fires were always a gold mine, for us a copper mine and lead mine, because of the pipes we salvaged. When Luna Park burned down soon after the war we had a bonanza of junk. They paid us to take it away and they paid us again when we sold it to scrap dealers. Everything hot was packed in asbestos and we took the asbestos and baled that too. We were pretty well off after that one and the old man had the ten thousand to lend me to buy the lumberyard, at stiff interest too, because he was always like that, and because he didn't like the idea. He didn't want me to leave the junk business and he didn't want us to move almost three hours away. Old schoolhouses and hospitals were especially good. We bought a second truck and hired neighborhood strongmen who could lift and who could scare other junkmen away. We even hired one big shvartza, a strong, quiet black man named Sonny who walked in one day and asked for work. We tore through plaster walls and asbestos insulation with metal claws and hammers to get at the copper and lead pipes with our baling hooks, crowbars, and hacksaws. My pop fired Smokey Rubin.

I passed on the word. News came back from Smokey that he would be out looking for me and that he'd better not find me. At night after that I went to Happy's Luncheonette on Mermaid Avenue and sat down to wait for him. Sammy and Winkler looked weak when they came in and saw me. I thought they would faint.

"What are you doing here?" Winkler said. "Get out, get out."

"Don't you know Smokey is out hunting for you?" said Sammy. "He's got a few of his pals."

"I'm making it easier for him to find me. I'll buy you some sodas and sandwiches if you want to wait here. Or you can sit where you want."

"At least go get your brothers if you want to act crazy," said Sammy. "Should I run to your house?"

"Have a malted instead."

We did not wait long. Smokey spotted me as soon as he wdked in-I sat facing the door-and came right up to the booth, backed up by a guy named Red Benny and a weird one known as Willie the Geep.

"I've been looking for you. I've got things to say."

"I'm listening." Our eyes were locked on each other's. "I came to hear them."

"Then come on outside. I want to talk to you alone."

I mulled that one over. They were thirty or over, and we were seventeen and a half. Smokey had been in the ring. He'd been to prison and was cut up badly at least once in a knife fight.

"Okay, Smokey, if that's what you want," I decided. "But have your boys there sit down awhile if you want to talk to me alone outside, and if that's what you want to do."

"You've been saying bad things about me, right? Don't bullshit. Your father too."

"What bad things?"

"That you fired me and I've been stealing. Your father didn't fire me. Let's get that thing straight. I quit. I wouldn't work for any of you anymore."

"Smokey"-I felt that nerve on the side of my cheek and neck start to tick-"the old man wants me to be sure to tell you chat if you ever set foot in the shop again he'll break your back."

That made Smokey pause. He knew the old man. If the old man said it, Smokey knew that he meant it. My father was a short man with the biggest, thickest shoulders I ever saw and small blue eyes in a face that reminded people of a torpedo or artillery shell. With his freckles and hard lines and liver spots, he looked like an iron ingot, an anvil five and a half feet tall. He'd been a blacksmith. All of us have large heads with big square jaws. We look like Polacks and know we're Yids. In Poland with one blow of his fist to the forehead he'd killed a Cossack who'd raised his voice to my mother, and in Hamburg he came close to doing that again with some kind of immigration warden who'd made that same mistake of being rude to my mother but backed away in time. In my family no one ever got away free with insulting any of us, except, I guess, for Sammy Singer with me and my wife with the big tits.

"How's your dad, Marvin?" Red Benny said to Winkler, while everyone in Happy's Luncheonette watched, and after that Smokey had another reason to be careful.

Winkler drummed the fingers of one hand on the table and kept quiet.

His father was a bookmaker and made more than just about anyone else in the neighborhood. They even had a piano in the house for a while. Red Benny was a runner, a collector, a loan shark, a debtor, and a burglar. One summer he and a gang cleaned out every room in a resort hotel except the one rented by Winkler's folks, making the people upstate start to wonder what Winkler's pop did for a living to let just him be spared.

By then Smokey was already slowing down a little. "You and your father-you're telling people I stole a building from you, right? I didn't steal that house. I found the janitor and made the deal for it all by myself."

"You found it while you were working for us," I told him. "You can work for us or you can go in business for yourself. You can't do both the same hour."

"Now the dealers won't buy anything from me. Your father won't let them."

"They can do what they want. But if they buy from you, they can't buy from him. That's all he said."

"I don't like that. I want to talk to him. I want to talk to him now. I want to straighten him out too."

"Smokey," I said, speaking slowly and feeling suddenly very, very sure of myself, "you ever raise a voice on even one word to my father, and I'll see that you die. You lift a finger to me, and he'll see that you die."

He seemed impressed with that.

"Okay," he gave in, with his face falling. "I'll go back to work for him. But you tell him I'll want sixty a week from now on."

"You don't understand. He might not take you back for even fifty. I'll have to try to talk to him for you."

"And he can have the house I found if he gives me five hundred."

"He might give you the usual two."

"When can I start?"

"Give me tomorrow to try to bring him around." Actually, it did take some talking to remind the old man that Smokey worked hard and that he and our black guy were pretty good together at chasing other junkmen off.

"Loan me fifty now, Louie, will you?" Smokey begged as a favor. "There's some good smoking stuff from Harlem outside that I want to invest in."

"I can only lend you twenty." I could have given him more. "That's funny," I said when they'd gone out the door. I was flexing my fingers. "Something's wrong with my hand. When I gave him that twenty I could hardly bend it."

"You were holding the sugar bowl," Winkler said. His teeth were shivering.

"What sugar bowl?"

"Didn't you know?" Sammy snapped at me almost angrily. "You were gripping that sugar bowl like you were going to kill him with it. I thought you would squeeze it to pieces."

I leaned back with a laugh and ordered some pie and ice cream for the three of us. No, I hadn't known I was gripping that cylindrical thick sugar shaker while we were talking. My head was cool and collected while I looked him straight in the eye, and my arm was ready for action without my even knowing it. Sammy let out some air and turned white as he lifted his hand from his lap and put back down the table knife he had been holding.

"Tiger, why were you hiding it?" I said with a laugh. "What good would that do me?"

"I didn't want them to see how my hands were shaking," Sammy whispered.

"Would you know how to use it?"

Sammy shook his head. "And I don't ever want to find out. Lew, I've got to tell you right now. If we're ever together and you feel like getting into a fight, I want you to know that you can positively count on me not to stand by you again."

"Me neither," said Winkler. "Red Benny wouldn't do nothing with me around, but I wasn't so sure about the others."

"Gang," I told them, "I wasn't counting on you this time."

"Were you really going to hit him with that sugar shaker?"

"Sammy, I would have hit him with the whole luncheonette if I had to. I would have hit him with you."

I was already past sixty-five, two years to the day, when I nabbed that young purse snatcher, a tall, swift guy in his twenties. It's a cinch to keep track because of my birthday. As a present to me, I had to bring Claire down into the city to one of those shows with songs that she wanted to see and I didn't. We got there early and were standing outside with a bunch of other people under the marquee of a theater that wasn't too far from that Port Authority Bus Terminal. That bus terminal is a place that still gives me a laugh whenever I remember the time Sammy had his pocket picked coming back from a visit to us and was almost thrown in jail for yelling at the police to try to make them do something about it. By then I'd already made peace with the Germans and drove a Mercedes. Claire had one too, a nifty convertible. All of a sudden a woman let out a geshrei. I saw a couple of guys come racing away just in back of me. Without thinking I grabbed hold of one. I spun him around, lifted him up, and slammed him down on his chest on the hood of a car. Only when I had him down did I see he was young, tall, and strong. He was a brown guy.

"If you move a muscle, I'll break your back," I said in his ear. He did not move a muscle.

When I saw how careful the cops were in searching him I kept shaking my head with what should have been fear. They combed through his scalp with their fingers for a blade or some kind of pick. They pinched through his collar and pockets and through all of the seams of his shirt and his pants, feeling him everywhere from top to bottom for a gun or a knife or anything small and sharp. I realized I could have been killed. Only when they got down inside his sneaker tops and finished did they all relax.

"You were very lucky, sir," said the young cop in charge, who was the oldest one there.

People kept smiling at me and I kept smiling back. I felt like a hero.

"Okay, Lew, your show is over," Claire said to me dryly, as I could have bet she was going to. "Let's get inside now for the real show."

"One minute more, Claire," I answered her loudly and swaggered. "There's that nice-looking blonde girl over there who I think might like to get to know me better."

"Lew, will you come inside already, for God sakes," she said, "or do I go in without you?"

We walked in laughing. Just two weeks later my symptoms returned, and I was back in the hospital for chemotherapy.

5 John

Outside the hospital it was still going on. Men went mad and were rewarded with medals. Interior decorators were culture heroes, and fashion designers were the social superiors of their clientele.

"And why wouldn't they be?" Frances Beach had already replied to this observation of Yossarian's, exercising an enunciation so nearly perfect that others often pondered how anyone could pronounce English so flawlessly and escape sounding adenoidal. "Have you forgotten what we look like naked?"

"If a man said that, John," said Patrick Beach, her husband, pleased with her once more, "he'd be flayed alive."

"Men do say that, darling," said Frances Beach, "at their spring and fall collections, and make billions dressing us."

There were still plenty of poor people.

Yossarian looked askance at a bunch sprawled on the sidewalk outside the hospital as he strode out to the curb and the stretch limousine with black windows waiting there to transport him to the luxury high-rise apartment building across town in which he now made his home. He had reserved a sedan; they had sent the limousine again; there would be no additional charge. The high-rise apartment house he lived in was called a luxury building because the costs of living in it were large. The rooms were small. The ceilings were low, there were no windows in his two bathrooms, and no space in the kitchen area for a table or a chair.

Less than ten blocks from this home was the bus terminal of the Port of New York Authority, a structure stacked with landings seven stories high. On ground level was a police desk with three principal holding cells continuously in use, which overflowed with new prisoners several times each day, and into which, a year earlier, Michael Yossarian had been hauled upon emerging from a subway exit and attempting to step back in after realizing he had got off too soon on his way downtown to the architectural firm for which he was doing drawings.

"That was the day," he still recalled, "you saved my life and broke my spirit."

"Did you want to be locked up with all those others?"

"I would have died if that happened. But it wasn't easy, seeing you blow up and bamboozle all those cops and get away with it. And knowing I could never do the same."

"We get angry the way we have to, Michael. I don't think I had much choice."

"I get depressed."

"You had an older brother who bullied you. Maybe that's the difference."

"Why didn't you stop him?"

"We didn't know how. We didn't want to bully him."

Michael responded with a token snicker. "You were really something to watch, weren't you?" he accused with envy. "You had a small crowd. There was even clapping."

Afterward they were both devitalized.

People lived in the bus terminal now, a resident population of men and women and wayward boys and girls, most of them sleeping at night in the darker depths and emerging like commuters for much of each day to conduct in the open what normal business affairs were theirs to attend to.

There was hot and cold running water in the lavatories on the different levels, along with an abundance of whores and homosexuals for every appetite, and plentiful shops close at hand for such basic daily necessities as chewing gum, cigarettes, newspapers, and jelly doughnuts. Toilet tissue was free. Fertile mothers in flight from idealized hometowns arrived regularly with small children and took up lodgings. The terminal was a good home base for streetwalkers, beggars, and young runaways. Thousands of business commuters, along with hundreds of visitors, tried paying them little mind as they passed through each morning on their way to employment and back to their homes at the conclusion of the working day. None were rich, for no one who was rich would travel to work by bus.

From the lofty picture windows in his high-rise apartment, Yossarian commanded an unobstructed view of another luxury apartment building with an even higher rise than his own. Between these structures ran the broad thoroughfare below, which teemed more and more monstrously now with growling clans of bellicose and repulsive panhandlers, prostitutes, addicts, dealers, pimps, robbers, pornographers, perverts, and disoriented psychopaths, all of them plying their criminal specialties outdoors amid multiplying strands of degraded and bedraggled people who now were actually living outdoors. Among the homeless were whites now too, and they also pissed against the walls and defecated in the alleyways that others in their circle eventually located as accommodating sites to bed down in.

Even in the better neighborhood of Park Avenue, he knew, women could be seen squatting to relieve themselves in the tended flower beds of the traffic islands in the center.

It was hard not to hate them all.

And this was New York, the Big Apple, the Empire City in the Empire State, the financial heart, brains, and sinews of the country, and the city that was greatest, barring London perhaps, in cultural doings in the whole world.

Nowhere in his lifetime, Yossarian was bound often to remember, not in wartime Rome or Pianosa or even in blasted Naples or Sicily, had he been spectator to such atrocious squalor as he saw mounting up all around him now into an eminent domain of decay. Not even-he had added in his cynicism more than once to Frances Beach, his lady friend from far back-at the sexless fund-raising luncheons and black-tie evening events he attended more times than he wanted to as the only presentable official of M amp; M Enterprises amp; Associates, an eligible male and a person who could chat with some fluency about something other than business matters to well-informed others who imagined egoistically that they were affecting world events by talking about them.

It was nobody's fault, of course.

"My God, what's that?" cried Frances Beach, as the two rode back in her rented limousine with her rented chauffeur from still another tepid tea-and-wine party for those trustees and friends of the trustees of the New York Public Library who were still in town and had concluded, after long bouts with indecision, that they did want to go there.

"The bus terminal," said Yossarian.

"It's awful, isn't it? What the devil is it for?"

"Buses. What the devil did you think it was for? You know, Frances," Yossarian taunted kindly, "you might consider sponsoring your next fashion show in there, or one of your glittering charity balls. I know McBride."

"What are you talking about? Who's McBride?"

"An ex-cop who works there now. Why not a wedding," he went on, "a really big one? That would really make the news. You've had them-"

"I haven't."

"-in the museum and the opera house. The terminal's more picturesque."

"A society wedding in that terminal?" she rejoined with a smirk. "You must be mad. I know you're joking, so let me think. Olivia and Christopher Maxon may be looking for a new place soon. Look at those people!" She sat up suddenly. "Are they men or women? And those others-why must they do those things out there in the street? Why can't they wait till they're home?"

"Many don't have homes, Frances dear," said Yossarian, smiling benignly at her. "And the lines for the toilets at the bus terminal are long. Reservations must be made for the peak hours. No one can be seated without them. The lavatories in the restaurants and hotels, say the signs, are for patrons only. Have you ever noticed, Frances, that men who take leaks in the street usually take very long ones?"

No, she had not noticed, she informed him frostily. "You sound so bitter these days. You used to be funnier."

Years back, before either had married, they had luxuriated together in what would today be termed an affair, although neither then would have conceived of applying a title so decorous to the things they were doing with each other so ardently and incessantly, with never a pledge or serious care of a future together. Then, in little time, he had turned away from his promising work as a beginner in arbitrage and investment banking for a second crack at teaching before going back to the advertising agency and then into public relations and freelance writing, succeeding, in time, as a jack-of-all-trades except any encompassing a product that could be seen, touched, utilized, or consumed, a product that occupied space and for which there was need. While she, with curiosity, drive, and some inborn talent, started finding herself attractive to theatrical producers and other gentlemen she thought might prove useful to her in stage, screen, and television.

"And you," he reminded her now, "used to be much more sympathetic. You've forgotten your past."

"You too."

"And radical."

"So were you. And now you're so negative," she remarked without much feeling. "And always sarcastic, aren't you? No wonder people are not always comfortable with you. You make ligit of everything, and they're never satisfied you really agree with tiem. And you're always flirting."

"I am not!"

"Yes, you are," Frances Beach insisted, without even turning her head to add conviction to her argument. "With just about everyone but me. You know who flirts and who doesn't. Patrick and Christopher don't. You do. You always did."

"It's the way that I joke."

"Some of the women imagine you have a mistress."

"Mistress?" Yossarian turned that word into a snorting guffaw. "Only one would be one too many."

Frances Beach laughed too and her suggestion of strain vanished. They were both past sixty-five. He had known her when her name was Franny. She remembered when they called him Yo-Yo. They had not toyed with each other since, not even between marriages, neither one of them ever possessed by a need to test the accommodations made by the other.

"There seem to be more and more of these people everywhere," she murmured mildly, with a despair she made clear would be easily controlled, "doing everything imaginable right out in public. Patrick was mugged just in front of our house, and there are whores on our corners day and night, unsightly ones in unattractive outfits, like those at that building."

"Drop me off at that building," said Yossarian. "It's where I live now."

"There?" When he nodded, she added, "Move."

"I just did. What's wrong? On the top of my magic mountain we have a couple of health clubs, and one of them is a temple of love. At the bottom there are nine movie houses, two X-rated and one gay, and we have stockbrokers, law firms, and advertising agencies in between. All kinds of doctors. There's a bank with a cash machine and that great supermarket too. I have suggested a nursing home. Once we have a nursing home, I can live there a lifetime and practically never set foot outside."

"For God sakes, John, don't always joke. Go to a good neighborhood."

"Where will I find one? Montana?" He laughed again. "Frances, this is a good neighborhood. Do you think I'd set foot in a bad one?"

All at once, Frances looked tired and dispirited. "John, you used to know everything," she reflected, dropping the affectation of cultured speech. "What can be done?"

"Nothing," he obliged her helpfully in reply.

For things were good, he reminded her: as measured by official standards, they had not often been better. This time only the poor were very poor, and the need for new prison cells was more urgent than the needs of the homeless. The problems were hopeless: there were too many people who needed food, and there was too much food to be able to feed them profitably. What was wanted was more shortages, he added, with just a small smile. He did not volunteer that by now he was one more in the solid middle class who was not keen to have his taxes raised to ameliorate the miseries of those who paid none. He preferred more prisons.

Yossarian was sixty-eight and somewhat vain, for he looked younger than many men of sixty-seven, and better than all women of his approximate generation. His second wife was still divorcing him. He did not think there would be a third.

All his children had come from his first.

His daughter, Gillian, the judge, was divorcing her husband, who, despite a much better income, was not achieving as much and was unlikely ever to amount to anything more than a reliable husband, father, family man, and provider.

His son Julian, the braggart and oldest of the lot, was a minor major hotshot on Wall Street still with insufficient earnings to move regally into Manhattan. He and his wife now occupied separate quarters of their obsolescent suburban mansion while their respective lawyers made ready to sue and countersue for divorce and attempted, impossibly, to arrive at a division of property and children that would supply entire satisfaction to both. The wife was a good-looking and disagreeable woman of fashionable tastes from a family that spent money recklessly, as loud as Julian and as despotic in certitude, and their boy and girl were bullying too and odiously unsociable.

Yossarian sensed trouble brewing in the marriage of his other son, Adrian, a chemist without a graduate degree who worked for a cosmetics manufacturer in New Jersey and was spending much of his adult working life seeking a formula for dying hair gray; his wife had taken to enrolling in adult education courses.

He fretted most about Michael, who could not seem to make himself want to amount to anything special and was blind to the dangers lurking in that lack of goal. Michael had once joked to Yossarian that he was going to save money for his divorce before starting to save for his marriage, and Yossarian resisted wisecracking back that his joke was not a joke. Michael did not regret that he never had tried hard to succeed as an artist. That role too did not appeal to him.

Women, especially women who had been married one time before, liked Michael and lived with him because he was peaceful, understanding, and undemanding, and then soon tired of living with him, because he was peaceful, understanding, and undemanding. He resolutely refused to quarrel and fell silent and sad in conflict. Yossarian had a respectful suspicion about Michael that in his taciturn way, with women as with work, he knew what he was doing. But not with money.

For money, Michael did freelance artwork for agencies and magazines or for art studios with contract assignments, or, with clear conscience, accepted what he needed from Yossarian, disbelieving a day must dawn when he would no longer find these freelance assignments at hand and that Yossarian might not always choose to safeguard him from eventual financial tragedy.

All in all, Yossarian decided, it was a typically modern, poorly adjusted, new-age family in which no one but the mother truly liked all the others or saw good reason to; and each, he suspected, was, like himself, at least secretly and intermittently sad and regretful.

His family life was perfect, he liked to lament. Like Thomas Mann's Gustav Aschenbach, he had none.

He was still under surveillance. He could not tell by how many. By the end of the week there was even an Orthodox Jew pacing back and forth outside his building on the other side of the avenue, and a call on his answering machine from the nurse Melissa MacIntosh, whom he had all but forgotten, with the information that she'd been rotated to the evening shift for a while, in case he'd been planning to take her to dinner-and to Paris and Florence too for lingerie, she reminded with a caustic snicker-and with the incredible news that the Belgian patient was still alive but in pain and that his temperature was down almost to normal.

Yossarian would have bet his life that the Belgian would already be dead.

Of all those tailing him, he could account for only a few-the ones retained by the lawyer for his estranged wife and those retained by the estranged, impulsive husband of a woman he'd lain with half-drunkenly once not long before, a mother of adolescents, and thought halfheartedly he might wish to lie with some more, if ever he was graced with the urge to lie with a woman again, who had detectives shadow every man she knew in his craze to obtain evidence of fornication to balance the evidence of fornication she had earlier obtained against him.

The idea of the others festered, and after another few spells of aggravated embitterment, Yossarian took the bull by the horns and telephoned the office.

"Anything new?" he began, to Milo's son.

"Not as far as I know."

"Are you telling me the truth?"

"To the best of my ability."

"You're not holding anything back?"

"Not as far as I can tell."

"Would you tell me if you were?"

"I would tell you if I could."

"When your father calls in today, M2," he said to Milo Minder-binder II, "tell him I need the name of a good private detective. It's for something personal."

"He's already phoned," said Milo junior. "He recommends a man named Jerry Gaffney at the Gaffney Agency. Under no circumstances mention that my father suggested him."

"He told you that already?" Yossarian was enchanted. "How did he know I was going to ask?"

"That's impossible for me to say."

"How are you feeling, M2?"

"It's hard to be sure."

"I mean in general. Have you been back to the bus terminal to look at those TV monitors?"

"I need to clock them some more. I want to go again."

"I can arrange that again."

"Will Michael come with me?"

"If you pay him for the day. Are things all right?"

"Wouldn't I want to tell you if they were?"

"But would you tell me?"

"That would depend."

"On what?"

"If I could tell you the truth."

"Would you tell me the truth?"

"Do I know what it is?"

"Could you tell me a lie?"

"Only if I knew the truth."

"You're being honest with me."

"My father wants that."

"Mr. Minderbinder mentioned you were going to call," said the sanguine, soft-spoken voice belonging to the man named Jerry Gaffney when Yossarian telephoned him.

"That's funny," said Yossarian. "Which one?"

"Mr. Minderbinder senior."

"That's very funny then," said Yossarian in a harder manner. "Because Minderbinder senior insisted I not mention his name to you when I phoned."

"It was a test to see if you could keep things secret."

"You gave me no chance to pass it."

"I trust my clients, and I want all of them to know they can always trust Jerry Gaffney. Without trust, what else is there? I put everything out front. I'll give you proof of that now. You should know that this telephone line is tapped."

Yossarian caught his breath. "How the hell did you find that out?"

"It's my telephone line and I want it tapped," Mr. Gaffney explained reasonably. "There, see? You can count on Jerry Gaffney. It's only me who's recording it."

"Is my line tapped?" Yossarian thought he should ask. "I make many business calls."

"Let me look it up. Yes, your business is tapping it. Your apartment may be bugged too."

"Mr. Gaffney, how do you know all this?"

"Call me Jerry, Mr. Yossarian."

"How do you know all this, Mr. Gaffney?"

"Because I'm the one who tapped it and I'm one of the parties who may have bugged it, Mr. Yossarian. Let me give you a tip. All walls may have ears. Talk only in the presence of running water if you want to talk privately. Have sex only in the bathroom or kitchen if you want to make love or under the air conditioner with the fan setting turned up to- That's it!" he cheered, after Yossarian had walked into the kitchen with his portable phone and turned on both faucets full pressure to talk secretly. "We're picking up nothing. I can barely hear you."

"I'm not saying anything."

"Learn to read lips."

"Mr. Gaffney-"

"Call me Jerry."

"Mr. Gaffney, you tapped my telephone and you bugged my apartment?"

"I may have bugged it. I'll have one of my staff investigators check. I keep nothing back. Mr. Yossarian, you have an intercom system with the staff in the lobby. Can you be sure it's not on now? Are there no video cameras watching you?"

"Who would do that?"

"I would, for one, if I were paid. Now that you know I tell the truth, you see we can become close friends. That's the only way to work. I thought you knew that your telephone was tapped and that your apartment might be bugged and your mail, travel, credit cards, and bank accounts monitored."

"Ho-ly shit, I don't know what I know." Yossarian soaked up the disagreeable intelligence with a prolonged groan.

"Look on the bright side, Mr. Yossarian. Always do that. You'll soon be party to another matrimonial action, I believe. You can pretty much take all that for granted if the principals have the wherewithal to pay us."

"You do that too?"

"I do a lot of that too. But this is only the company. Why should you care what M amp; M E amp; A hears if you never say anything you wouldn't want the company to hear? You believe that much, don't you?"

"No."

"No? Keep in mind, Mr. Yossarian, that I'm getting all of this down, although I'll be pleased to erase as much of it as you wish. How can you have reservations about M amp; M E amp; A when you share in its progress? Doesn't everybody share?"

"I have never gone on record with that, Mr. Gaffney, and I won't do that now. When can we meet to begin?"

"I've already begun, Mr. Yossarian. Grass doesn't grow under Senor Gaffney's feet. I've sent for your government files under the Freedom of Information Act and I'm getting your record from one of the best consumer credit-rating bureaus. I already have your Social Security number. Like it so far?"

"I am not hiring you to investigate me!"

"I want to find out what these people following you know about you before I find out who all of them are. How many did you say you think there are?"

"I didn't. But I count at least six, but two or four of them may be working in pairs. I notice they drive cheap cars."

"Economy cars," Gaffney corrected punctiliously, "to escape being noticed. That's probably how you noticed them." He seemed to Yossarian to be extremely exact. "Six, you say? Six is a good number."

"For what?"

"For business, of course. There is safety in numbers, Mr. Yossarian. For example, if one or two of them decided to assassinate you, there'd already be witnesses. Yes, six is a very good number," Gaffney continued happily. "It would be nicer to get them up to eight or ten. Forget about meeting me yet. I wouldn't want any of them to figure out I'm working for you unless it turns out that they're working for me. I like to have solutions before I find out the problems. Please turn off that water now if you're not having sex. I'm growing hoarse shouting, and I can hardly hear you. You really don't need it when you're talking to me. Your friends call you Yo-Yo? Some call you John?"

"Only my close ones, Mr. Gaffney."

"Mine call me Jerry."

"I must tell you, Mr. Gaffney, that I find talking to you exasperating."

"I hope that will change. If you'll pardon my saying so, it was heartening to hear that report from your nurse."

"What nurse?" snapped Yossarian. "I have no nurse."

"Her name is Miss Melissa MacIntosh, sir," corrected Gaffney, with a cough that was reproving.

"You heard my answering machine too?"

"Your company did. I'm just a retainer. I wouldn't do it if I didn't get paid. The patient is surviving. There's no sign of infection."

"I think it's phenomenal."

"We're happy you're pleased."

And the chaplain was still out of sight: in detention somewhere for examination and interrogation after tracking Yossarian down in his hospital through the Freedom of Information Act and popping back into his life with the problem he could not grapple with.

Yossarian was lying on his back in his hospital bed when the chaplain had found him there the time before, and he waited with a look of outraged hostility as the door to his room inched open after he'd given no response to the timid tapping he'd heard and saw an equine, bland face with a knobby forehead and thinning strands of hay-colored hair discolored with dull silver come leaning in shyly to peer at him. The eyes were pink-lidded, and they flared with brightness the instant they alighted upon him.

"I knew it!" the man bearing that face burst right out with joy. "I wanted to see you again anyway. I knew I would find you! I knew I would recognize you. How good you look! How happy I am to see we're both still alive! I want to cheer!"

"Who," asked Yossarian austerely, "the fuck are you?"

The reply was instantaneous. "Chaplain, Tappman, Chaplain Tappman, Albert Tappman, Chaplain?" chattered Chaplain Albert Tappman garrulously. "Pianosa? Air force? World War II?"

Yossarian at last allowed himself a beam of recognition. "Well, I'll be damned!" He spoke with some warmth when he at last appreciated that he was again with the army chaplain Albert T. Tappman after more than forty-five years. "Come on in. You look good too," he offered generously to this man who looked peaked, undernourished, harried, and old. "Sit down, for God sakes."

The chaplain sat down submissively. "But, Yossarian. I'm sorry to find you in a hospital. Are you very sick?"

"I'm not sick at all."

"That's good then, isn't it?"

"Yes, that is good. And how are you?"

And all at once the chaplain looked distraught. "Not good, I'm beginning to think, no, maybe not so good."

"That's bad then," said Yossarian, glad that the time to come directly to the point was so soon at hand. "Well, then, tell me, Chaplain, what brings you here? If it's another old air corps reunion, you have come to the wrong man."

"It's not a reunion." The chaplain looked miserable.

"What then?"

"Trouble," he said simply. "I think it may be serious. I don't understand it."

He had been to a psychiatrist, of course, who'd told him he was a very good candidate for late-life depression and already too old to expect any better kind.

"I've got that too."

It was possible, it had been suggested, that the chaplain was imagining it all. The chaplain did not imagine, he imagined, that he was imagining any of it.

But this much was certain.

When none in the continuing stream of intimidating newcomers materializing in Kenosha on official missions to question him about his problem seemed inclined to help him even understand what the problem was, he'd remembered Yossarian and thought of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act, the chaplain explained, was a federal regulation obliging government agencies to release all information they had to anyone who made application for it, except information they had that they did not want to release.

And because of this one catch in the Freedom of Information Act, Yossarian had subsequently found out, they were technically not compelled to release any information at all. Hundreds of thousands of pages each week went out regularly to applicants with everything blacked out on them but punctuation marks, prepositions, and conjunctions. It was a good catch, Yossarian judged expertly, because the government did not have to release any information about the information they chose not to release, and it was impossible to know if anyone was complying with the liberalizing federal law called the Freedom of Information Act.

The chaplain was back in Wisconsin no more than one day or two when the detachment of sturdy secret agents descended upon him without notice to spirit him away. They were there, they said, on a matter of such sensitivity and national importance that they could not even say who they were without compromising the secrecy of the agency for which they said they worked. They had no arrest warrant. The law said they did not need one. What law? The same law that said they never had to cite it.

"That's peculiar, isn't it?" mused Yossarian.

"Is it?" said the chaplain's wife with surprise, when they conversed on the telephone. "Why?"

"Please go on."

They read him his rights and said he did not have them. Did he want to make trouble? No, he did not want to make trouble. Then he would have to shut his mouth and go along with them. They had no search warrant either but proceeded to search the house anyway. They and others like them had been back several times since, with crews of technicians with badges and laboratory coats, gloves, Geiger counters, and surgical masks, who took samples of soil, paint, wood, water, and just about everything else in beakers and test tubes and other special containers. They dug up the ground. The neighborhood wondered.

The chaplain's problem was heavy water.

He was passing it.

"I'm afraid it's true," Leon Shumacher had confided to Yossarian, when he had the full urinalysis report. "Where did you get that specimen?"

"From that friend who was here last week when you dropped by. My old chaplain from the army."

"Where did he get it?"

"From his bladder, I guess. Why?"

"Are you sure?"

"How sure can I be?" said Yossarian. "I didn't watch him. Where the hell else would he get it?"

"Grenoble, France. Georgia, Tennessee, or South Carolina, I think. That's where most of it is made."

"Most of what?"

"Heavy water."

"What the hell does all of this mean, Leon?" Yossarian wanted to know. "Are they absolutely sure? There's no mistake?"

"I'Not from what I'm reading here. They could tell it was heavy almost immediately. It took two people to lift the eyedropper. Of course they're sure. There's an extra neutron in each hydrogen molecule of water. Do you know how many molecules there are in just a few ounces? That friend of yours must weigh fifty pounds more than he looks."

"Listen, Leon," Yossarian said, in a voice lowered warily. "You'll keep this secret, won't you?"

"Of course we will. This is a hospital. We'll tell no one but the federal government."

The government? They're the ones who've been bothering him! They're the ones he's most afraid of!"

"They have to, John," Leon Shumacher intoned in an automatic bedside manner. "The lab sent it to radiology to make sure it's safe, and radiology had to notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy. John, there's not a country in the world that allows heavy water without a license, and this guy is producing it by the quart several times a day. This deuterium oxide is dynamite, John."

"Is it dangerous?"

"Medically? Who knows? I tell you I never heard of anything like this before. But he ought to find out. He might be turning into a nuclear power plant or an atom bomb. You ought to alert him immediately."

By the time Yossarian did telephone Chaplain Albert T. Tappman, USAF, retired, to warn him, there was only Mrs. Tappman at home, in hysteria and in tears. The chaplain had been disappeared only hours before.

She had not heard from him since, although punctually each week Mrs. Karen Tappman was visited and assured he was well and given cash approximating on the generous side the amount he would have brought in were he still at liberty. The agents glowed with elation upon being told, tearfully, she had not heard from him. It was the confirmation they wanted that he was not setting through to anyone outside.

"I'll keep trying to track him down for you, Mrs. Tappman," Yossarian promised each time they spoke. "Although I don't really know where to turn next."

The lawyers she'd consulted did not believe her. The police in Kenosha were skeptical too. Her children also were dubious, although they could give no currency to the police theory that the chaplain, like many a missing man in their missing-persons book, had run off with another woman.

All that John Yossarian had been able to find out since was that whatever significance the chaplain had for his official captors was only monetary, military, scientific, industrial, diplomatic, and international.

He found this out from Milo.

He went first to good friends in Washington with influence-a lawyer, a fund-raiser, a newspaper columnist, and an image maker -who all said they did not want to go near it and thereafter did not return his calls or want him for a friend anymore. A lobbyist and a public relations counselor both requested large fees and guaranteed they could not guarantee they would do anything to earn them. His senator was useless, his governor helpless. The American Civil Liberties Union backed off too from the Case of the Missing Chaplain: they agreed with the police in Kenosha that he probably had run off with another woman. At last, in frustration, he went to Milo Minderbinder, who chewed his upper and then his lower lip and said: "Heavy water? How much is heavy water selling for?"

"It fluctuates, Milo. A lot. I've looked it up. There's a gas that comes from it that costs even more. About thirty thousand dollars a gram right now, I'd guess. But that's not the point."

"How much is a gram?"

"About one thirtieth of an ounce. But that's not the point."

"Thirty thousand dollars for one thirtieth of an ounce? That sounds almost as good as drugs." Milo spoke with his disunited eyes fixed on a distance speculatively, each brown iris pointing off in a different direction, as though, in concert, they took in to the horizon the entirety of all that was visible to humankind. The halves of his mustache were palpitating in separate cadences, the individual rusty-gray hairs oscillating skittishly like sensors taking notes electronically. "Is there much of a demand for heavy water?" he inquired.

"Every country wants it. But that's not the point."

"What's it used for?"

"Nuclear energy, mainly. And making atomic warheads."

"That sounds better than drugs," Milo went on in fascination. "Would you say that heavy water is as good a growth industry as illegal drugs?"

"I would not call heavy water a growth industry," Yossarian answered wryly. "But this is not what I'm talking about. Milo, I want to find out where he is."

"Where who is?"

"Tappman. The one I'm talking to you about. He was the chaplain in the army with us."

"I was in the army with a lot of people."

"He gave you a character reference when you nearly got in trouble for bombing our own air base."

"I get a lot of character references. Heavy water? Yes? That's what it's called? What is heavy water?"

"It's heavy water."

"Yes, I see. And what is the gas?"

"Tritium. But that's not the point."

"Who makes heavy water?"

"Chaplain Tappman does, for one. Milo, I want to find him and get him back before anything happens to him."

"And I want to help," promised Milo, "before Harold Strange-love, General Electric, or one of my other competitors does. I can't thank you enough for coming to me with this, Yossarian. You're worth your weight in gold. Tell me, which is worth more, gold or tritium?"

"Tritium."

"Then you're worth your weight in tritium. I'm busy today, but I must find that chaplain and sneak a man inside with the scientists interrogating him to establish ownership."

"How will you manage that?"

"I'll simply say it's in the national interest."

"How will you prove it?"

"By saying it twice," answered Milo, and flew off to Washington for his second presentation of the new secret bomber he had in mind that made no noise and could not be seen.

6 Milo

"You can't hear it and you can't see it. It will go faster than sound and slower than sound."

"Is that why you say your plane is sub-supersonic?"

"Yes, Major Bowes."

"When would you want it to go slower than sound?"

"When it's landing, and perhaps when it's taking off."

"Absolutely, Mr. Wintergreen?"

"Positively, Captain Hook."

"Thank you, Mr. Minderbinder."

They were meeting one level belowground in the basement of MASSPOB, the new Military Affairs Special Secret Projects Office Building, in a circular chamber with Lucite walls of ocean blue illuminated with bowed lines of longitude over warped continents and vivid free-form sculptured panels of fighting fish at war with swooping birds of prey. On the wall behind the barbered heads of the curving row of questioners was a condor with colossal wings and rapacious golden talons. All present were male. No transcript was authorized. These were men of keen intellect and their collective memory was reference enough. Two were already stifling yawns. All took for granted that the room was bugged anyway. Proceedings of such a sort were too secret to remain confidential.

"Will it go faster than light?" inquired a colonel in the half circle of experts flanking the presiding figure in dead center, who sat on a chair higher than the rest.

"It will go almost as fast."

"We can rev it up to go even faster than light."

"There would be some increase in fuel consumption."

"Wait a minute, please wait just one minute, Mr. Minderbinder, let me ask something," slowly cut in a puzzled civilian with a professorial demeanor. "Why would your bomber be noiseless? We have supersonic planes now, and they surely make noise with their sonic booms, don't they?"

"It would be noiseless to the crew."

"Why should that be important to the enemy?"

"It could be important to the crew," emphasized Milo, "and no one is more concerned about those kids than we are. Some of them may be aloft for months."

"Maybe years, with the refueling planes we recommend."

"Will they be invisible too?'

"If you want them to be."

"And make no noise?"

"The crew won't hear them."

"Unless they slow down and allow the noise to catch up."

"I see, Mr. Wintergreen. It's all very clever."

"Thank you, Colonel Pickering."

"How large is your crew?"

"Just two. Two are cheaper to train than four."

"Absolutely, Mr. Minderbinder?"

"Positively, Colonel North."

The officer in the center was a general, and he cleared his throat now as a proclamation of intent. The room fell still. He treasured the suspense.

"Does light move?" he demanded finally.

A leaden silence ensued.

"Light moves, General Bingam," Milo Minderbinder sprang in finally, with relief that he could.

"Faster than anything," ex-PFC Wintergreen added helpfully. "Light is just about the fastest thing there is."

"And one of the brightest too."

Bingam turned dubiously to the men on his left. A few of them nodded. He frowned.

"Are you sure?" he asked, and swiveled his sober mien to the specialists on his right.

A few of these nodded fearfully too. Some glanced away.

"That's funny," Bingam said slowly. "I see that light standing on the corner table and it looks perfectly still."

"That's because," offered Milo, "it's moving so fast."

"It's moving faster than light," said Wintergreen.

"Can light move faster than light?"

"Certainly."

"You can't see light when it's moving, sir."

"Absolutely, Colonel Pickering?"

"Positively, General Bingam."

"You can only see light when it isn't there," said Milo.

"Let me show you," said Wintergreen, surging to his feet impatiently. He snapped off the lamp. "See that?" He switched the lamp back on. "Notice any difference?"

"I see what you mean, Gene," Bingam said. "Yes, I'm beginning to see the light, eh?" General Bingam smiled and inclined himself along the arm of his chair. "Put simply, Milo, what does your plane look like?"

"On radar? It won't be seen by the enemy. Not even when armed with all its nuclear weapons."

"To us. In photographs and drawings."

"That's secret, sir, until you get us some funding."

"It's invisible," added Wintergreen, with a wink.

"I understand, Eugene. Invisible? It's beginning to sound like the old Stealth."

"Well, it is a bit like the old Stealth."

"The B-2 Stealth?" cried Bingam with shock.

"Only a little bit!"

"But better than the Stealth," Milo put in hastily.

"And much prettier."

"No, it's not like the old Stealth."

"Not the least little bit like the old Stealth."

"I'm glad of that." Bingam relaxed again onto his armrest. " Milo, I can say with confidence that all of us here like what I'm hearing from you today. What do you call your wonderful new airplane? We'll have to know that much."

"We call our wonderful new plane the M amp; M E amp; A Sub-Supersonic Invisible and Noiseless Defensive Second-Strike Offensive Attack Bomber."

"That's a decent name for a defensive second-strike offensive attack bomber."

"It sort of suggested itself, sir."

"One moment, Mr. Minderbinder," objected a skinny civilian from the National Security Council. "You talk about the enemy as though we have one. We have no enemies anymore."

"We always have enemies," contradicted a contentious geopolitician who also wore rimless spectacles, and considered himself just as smart. "We must have enemies. If we have no enemies, we have to make them."

"But we face no superpower at this time," argued a fat man from the State Department. " Russia is collapsed."

"Then it's time for Germany again," said Wintergreen.

"Yes, there's always Germany. Do we have the money?"

"Borrow," said Milo.

"The Germans will lend," said Wintergreen. "So will Japan. And once we have their money," added Wintergreen triumphantly, "they have to make sure we win any war against them. That's another good secret defensive feature of our wonderful offensive defensive attack bomber."

"I'm glad you pointed that out, Gene," said General Bingam. " Milo, I want to run for the gold with this one and make my recommendation."

"To the little prick?" Milo burst out with hope.

"Oh, no," Bingam replied with a humoring jollity. "It's still too soon for Little Prick. We'll need at least one more meeting with strategists from the other services. And there are always those damned civilians near the President, like Noodles Cook. We'll need leaks to newspapers. I want to start building support. You're not the only one after this, you realize."

"Who are the others?"

"Strangelove is one."

"Strangelove?" said Milo. "He's no good."

"He bullshits," charged Wintergreen.

"He was pushing the Stealth."

"What's he up to now?"

"He has this thing called a Strangelove All-Purpose Do-it-Yourself Defensive First Second or Third Strike Indestructible Fantastic State-of-the-Art B-Ware Offensive Attack Bomber."

"It won't work," said Wintergreen. "Ours is better."

"His name is better."

"We're working on our name."

"His Strangelove All-Purpose Do-It-Yourself Defensive First Second or Third Strike Indestructible Fantastic State-of-the-Art B-Ware Offensive Attack Bomber can't compare with our M amp; M E amp; A Sub-Supersonic Invisible and Noiseless Defensive Second-Strike Offensive Attack Bomber," said Milo curtly.

"Nothing he does ever works, does it?"

"I'm glad to hear that," said General Bingam, "because you're the buddies I'm backing. Here's his new business card. One of our security agents stole it from one of the security agents in another unit of procurement with which we are just about ready to go to war openly. Your bomber will help."

The business card passed down was emblazoned with the double eagle of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and with engraved lettering in auburn gold that read: Harold Strangelove Associates Fine Contacts and Advice Secondhand Influence Bought and Sold Bombast on Demand Note: The information on this business card is restricted Milo was downcast. The card was better than his.

" Milo, all of us are in the race of the century to come up with the ultimate weapon that could lead to the end of the world and bring everlasting fame to the victor who uses it first. Whoever sponsors that baby could be elevated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I, Bernard Bingam, would like to be that man."

"Hear, hear!" chorused the officers on both sides of General Bingam, who beamed in shy surprise, while the stout civilian and the slim civilian were mum and disconsolate.

"Then you better move quickly, sir," threatened Wintergreen churlishly. "We don't like to sit on our asses with a hot product like this one. If you guys don't want it-"

"Of course, Eugene, of course. Just give me some good sales copy so that we'll know what we are talking about when we talk to people about what you've been talking about to us today. Not much detail, or we might have trouble. Just a few glowing paragraphs of very hard sell, and maybe some drawings in color to give us an idea of what it's going to look like. They don't have to be accurate, just impressive. And we'll all move along as fast as we can. As fast as light, eh? And, Milo, there's one more troubling question I have to ask."

"Me too," said the fat man.

"I have one also," said Skinny.

"It's touchy, so I apologize beforehand. Will your planes work? Will they do the job you say they will? The future of the world may depend on it."

"Would I lie to you?" said Milo Minderbinder.

"When the future of the world may depend on it?" said ex-PFC Wintergreen. "I would sooner lie to my ex-wife."

"You've given me the assurances I need."

"General Bingam," said Wintergreen, with the pained solemnity of a man taking umbrage, "I understand what war is like. In World War II, I dug ditches in Colorado. I served overseas as a PFC. I sorted mail in the Mediterranean during the Normandy invasion. I was right there on D day, in my mailroom, I mean, and it was not much bigger than this room we're in today. I stuck my neck out with stolen Zippo cigarette lighters for our fighting men in Italy."

"I did that with eggs," said Milo.

"We don't have to be reminded of all that's at stake. No one in this room has a stronger awareness of my responsibilities or a deeper commitment to fulfill them."

"I'm sorry, sir," said General Bingam humbly.

"Unless it's you, General, or Mr. Minderbinder here. Or your colleagues at the table with you, sir. Jesus Christ, I knew those fucking bastards were going to want something," Wintergreen complained, when the two of them were out of the conference room.

Together they moved through the convoluted basement complex that teemed with men and women of ebullient demeanor hurrying briskly along on official business in mufti and uniform. The whole fucking bunch of them, Wintergreen noted in a subdued growl, seemed affluent and clean, aseptic, and too fucking self-assured. The women in uniform all seemed petite, except for those who were commissioned officers, and they loomed larger than life. And every fucking one of them, Wintergreen muttered with his eyes down guiltily, looked fishy, fishy.

Continuing toward the elevators, they passed a sign pointing off to the Department of Justice. In the next passageway was another directional arrow, this one black, leading to a shortcut to: he new National Military Cemetery. The public area of the new MASSPOB building, with its scintillating shopping center in the soaring atrium, was already the second most popular tourist attraction in the nation's capital; the first most popular was the newest war memorial. One needed special top-secret MASSPOB credentials to go higher and lower than the stacked-up promenades and open mezzanines with their plenitude of nouveau art deco newsstands, food counters, and souvenir shops and their celebrated sideshows, dioramas, and "virtual reality" shooting galleries, which had already excelled in international architectural competitions.

On their right in the basement, an iridescent red arrow like a flaming missile carried their eyes to a directional sign announcing: Sub-Basements A-Z The arrow angled downward suddenly to a closed metal door marked: EMERGENCY ENTRANCE KEEP OUT VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT This was guarded by two uniformed sentinels, who seemed stationed at the emergency entrance to keep people away. A large yellow letter S against a glossy background of black gave comforting reminder that a new old-fashioned bomb shelter had been installed for the convenience and protection of visitors and employees.

At the elevators were other guards, who would not talk even to each other. Inside the elevator was a TV monitor. Milo and Wintergreen did not speak or move, even when back upstairs in the main lobby of the real world, where tour guides were leading tour groups from tour buses parked beyond the revolving doors in the area reserved at the front entrance. They did not converse again until they were outside in a light spring drizzle and walking away from the august special-secret-projects building in which their meeting had just taken place.

"Wintergreen," whispered Milo finally, "will these planes of ours really work?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

"What will they look like?"

"I guess we have to find that out too."

"If the future of the world is going to depend on it," reasoned Milo, "I believe we ought to make this deal while the world is still here. Otherwise we might never get paid."

"We'll need some drawings. That fucking Strangelove."

"And some copy for a leaflet. Who can we get?"

"Yossarian?"

"He might object."

"Then fuck him," said Wintergreen. "Let him object. We'll ignore the fuck again. What the fuck! What the fuck fucking difference does it make if the fuck objects or not? We can ignore the fucking fuck again, can't we? Shit."

"I wish," said Milo, "you wouldn't swear so much in the nation's capital."

"Nobody but you can hear me."

Milo looked hesitant. The gentle sun shower sprinkled raindrops around him through a prismatic haze that circled his brow like a wreath. "Yossarian has been objecting too much again lately. I could murder my son for telling him it was a bomber."

"Don't murder your son."

"I'd like to get some second-rate hack with a good position in government who's not too scrupulous when it comes to making money."

"Noodles Cook?"

"Noodles Cook is who I had in mind."

"Noodles Cook is much too big for that stuff now. And we'd need Yossarian to make the contact."

"I worry about Yossarian." Milo was brooding. "I'm not sure I trust him. I'm afraid he's still honest."

BOOK THREE

7 ACACAMMA

Yossarian went crosstown by taxi to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the monthly meeting of ACACAMMA, arriving in time for the reading of an anonymous proposal for the creation of a deconstruction fund to reduce the museum from the farcical dimensions to which it had now grown preposterously. He heard the motion ruled out of order, seeing Olivia Maxon turn to fix her glowing black eyes upon him severely while he was turning to gaze with a suppressed smile at Frances Beach, who raised her eyebrows with admiring inquiry at Patrick Beach, who was looking down at his fingernails and paying no attention to Christopher Maxon, who, all jowls and chortles beside him, rolled an imaginary cigar between his fingers, wet its imaginary tip, relished the imagined fragrance he inhaled, inserted the imaginary cigar into a mouth that was real, and puffed himself deeply into a soporific delirium.

ACACAMMA, the select Adjunct Committee for the Advancement of Cultural Activities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was an exclusive body of which only thirty or forty of the seventy or eighty members had come that day to deal with the same thorny question: if and how to increase revenues from the utilization of the premises for social events like weddings, bridal showers, bridge classes, fashion shows, and birthday parties, or whether to discontinue those incongruous ceremonies altogether as crass.

The potent need as always was for money.

Introduced and tabled for more comprehensive discussion at future meetings were such topics as the art of fund-raising, the art of the deal, the artistry of publicity, the art of social climbing, the art of fashion designing, the art of the costume, the art of catering, and the art of conducting without dissension and bringing to a close on time a meeting lasting two hours that was pleasant, uneventful, unsurprising, and unnecessary.

What dissonance appeared was managed neatly.

A final anonymous proposal that all anonymous proposals no longer be given even perfunctory consideration was referred to the executive committee for consideration.

At the bar of the hotel nearby to which Yossarian escaped afterward with Patrick and Frances Beach, Frances began a gin and tonic and Patrick Beach looked bored.

"Of course I'm bored," he informed his wife with ill-tempered pride. "By now I hate the paintings as much as I hate hearing them talked about. Oh, Frances "-his sigh was the whimsical plea of a martyr-"why must you keep putting us both into settings like that one?"

"Have we anything better to do?" Frances Beach said sweetly to her husband. "It gets us invited to so many other things that are even worse, doesn't it? And it helps keep our name in the newspapers, so that people know who we are."

"It's so we know who we are."

"I think that's divine."

"I have promised to kill her if she uses that word."

"Let's get to the point," said Frances seriously.

"He could not possibly have meant it."

"Yes, he could. Did you mean it, John, when you suggested a wedding in that bus terminal?"

"Of course," lied Yossarian.

"And you think it could be done? A big one?"

"I have no doubt," he lied again.

"Olivia Maxon." Frances made a wry face. "She's giving a wedding for a stepniece or someone and wants fresh ideas for an original venue. That word is her own. The museum isn't good enough since those two Jews had their reception there and those two other Jews were named trustees. Those words are also hers. Poor Olivia just isn't able to remember when talking to me that I might be Jewish."

"Why don't you remind her?" Yossarian said.

"I don't want her to know."

All three chuckled.

"You certainly wanted me to know," chidled Patrick affectionately. "And everyone in my family."

"I was poor then," said Frances, "and an angry actress who thrived on dramatic conflict. Now that I'm married to a man of wealth, I'm loyal to his class."

"With a gift for stilted repartee," said Patrick. "Frances and I are happiest together when I'm away sailing."

"What I never could trust about high comedy," Yossarian mused, "is that people say funny things and the others don't laugh. They don't even know they are part of a comedy."

"Like us," said Patrick.

"Let's get back to our agenda," ruled Frances. "I'd like to see that wedding at your bus terminal, for Olivia's sake. For mine, I'd like it to be the disaster of the century."

"I might help with the venue," said Yossarian. "I don't guarantee the disaster."

"Olivia will pitch in. She's sure she can attract our newest President. Christopher gives plenty since he received a suspended sentence and escaped community service."

"That's a good start."

"The mayor would come."

"That would help too."

"And the cardinal will insist."

"We're holding all the cards," said Yossarian. "I'll start casing the joint if you really want me to."

"Who do you know there?" Frances was eager to learn.

"McMahon and McBride, the cop and a supervisor. McBride was a detective at the police station there-"

"They have a police station there?" Patrick exclaimed.

"That should be novel," Frances remarked. "We've got our protection on hand."

"And convenient too," said Yossarian. "They can fingerprint the guests as we all arrive. McBride should know if it can be done. We've all gotten pretty close since my son Michael was arrested there."

"For what?" Patrick demanded.

"For coming out of the subway and stepping back in when he realized he had mistaken the stop he wanted. They shackled him to a wall."

"Good God!" Patrick reacted with a look of wrath. "That must have been horrifying."

"It almost killed both of us," Yossarian said, with a nervous, depressed laugh. "Come there with me, Patrick. I'll be going to look at something new. You'll see more of what modern life is really like. It's not all just the museum."

"I'd rather be sailing."

Patrick Beach, four years older than both, had been born rich and intelligent and was early made indolent by the perception of his own intrinsic uselessness. In Britain, he had remarked to Yossarian, or in Italy or one of the few remaining republican societies with a truly aristocratic tradition, he might have sought to distinguish himself academically as a scholar in some field. But here, where intellectual endeavors generally were rated menial, he was sentenced from birth to be a dilettante or a career diplomat, which he felt was almost always the same thing. After three quick superficial marriages to three superficial women, he had finally settled permanently on Frances Rosenbaum, whose stage name was Frances Rolphe, and who understood easily his recurring attraction for solitude and study. "I inherited my money," he was fond of repeating with overdone amiability to new acquaintances to whom he felt obliged to be civil. "I did not have to work hard to be here with you."

He was not disturbed that many did not like him. But that patrician face of his could freeze and his fine lips quiver in powerless frustration with people too obtuse to discern the insult in his condescension, or too brutal to care.

"Olivia Maxon," said Frances in summation, "will agree to anything I want her to, provided I let her think the initiative was hers."

"And Christopher Maxon is always agreeable," Patrick guaranteed, "as long as you give him something to agree with. I have lunch with him frequently when I feel like eating alone."

When he felt like eating with someone, he thought often of Yossarian, who was content to chat disparagingly with him about almost everything current and to reminisce about their respective experiences in World War II, Yossarian as a decorated bombardier on an island near Italy, Patrick with the Office of War Information in Washington. Patrick was still always respectfully enchanted to be talking to a man he liked who knew how to read a newspaper as skeptically as he did and had been wounded in combat once and stabbed in the side by a native prostitute, and who had defied his immediate superiors and compelled them at the last to send him home.

Frances went on with good cheer. "Olivia will be delighted to know you're assisting. She's curious about you, John," she volunteered archly. "Here you've been separated now a whole year, and you're still not attached to another woman. I wonder about that too. You say you're afraid of living alone."

"I'm more afraid of living with someone. I just know the next one too will like movies and television news! And I'm not sure I can ever fall in love again," he observed, pining. "I'm afraid those miracles may be past."

"And how do you think a woman my age feels?"

"But what would you say," Yossarian teased, "if I said I was in love now with a nurse named Melissa MacIntosh?"

Frances welcomed this game. "I would remind you that at our age, love seldom makes it through the second weekend."

"And I'm also attracted to a shapely Australian blonde who shares her apartment, a friend named Angela Moorecock."

"I might fall in love with that one myself," ventured Patrick. "That's really her name? Moorecock?"

" Moore."

"I thought you said Moorecock."

"I said Moore, Peter."

"He did say Moorecock," said Frances, reproachfully. "And I would also accuse you of ruthlessly exploiting innocent young working girls for degenerate sexual purposes."

"She isn't innocent and she isn't so young."

"Then you might as well take up with one of our widows or divorcees. They can be manipulated but never exploited. They have lawyers and financial advisers who won't allow them to be misused by anyone but themselves."

Patrick made a face. "John, how did she talk before she went on the stage?"

"Like I do now. Some people would say you were lucky, Patrick, to be married to a woman who speaks always in epigrams."

"And gets us talking that way too."

"I find that divine."

"Oh, shit, darling," said Patrick.

"That's an obscenity, my sweet, that John would never use with both of us."

"He speaks dirty to me."

"To me too. But never to both of us."

He glanced with surprise at Yossarian. "Is that true?"

"You can bet your sweet ass," said Yossarian, laughing.

"You'll find out what you can? About our wedding at the bus terminal?"

"I'm on my way."

There were no cabs outside the hotel. Down the block was the Frank Campbell Funeral Home, a redoubtable mortuary catering to many of the city's perished notables. Two men out front, one in the sober attire of an employee, the other plebeian in appearance with a knapsack and a hiking pole, were rasping at each other in muted disagreement, but neither gave him a look as he lifted an arm and caught his taxi there.

8 Time

The structure housing the M amp; M offices, to which Yossarian would be going later that same day, was an edifice of secondary size in the Japanese real estate complex now known as Rockefeller Center. Formerly, it was the old Time-Life Building and the headquarters of the publishing company Time Incorporated, the company for which, in that same building long before, Sammy Singer had gone to work as an advertising-promotion writer shortly after giving up a teaching position in Pennsylvania rather than sign a state loyalty oath to keep a job paying just thirty-two hundred dollars a year, and where he met the woman who five years later would become his wife. Glenda was a year older than Sammy, which would have disqualified her with his mother, had his mother been still alive, and was not Jewish, which might have unsettled her even more.

And she was divorced. Glenda had three young children, one of whom, sadly, was fated to evolve into a borderline schizophrenic of weak will with an attraction to drugs and an incipient bent toward suicide, the other two surviving, it developed eventually, with potential traits marking them especially high risks for neo-plastic disorders. Sammy's only regret about the long marriage was its tragic and unexpected termination. Sammy had no strong opinions about loyalty oaths but a passionate dislike for the people advocating them. It was much the same with the Korean War and the Vietnam War: he had no profound convictions either way but developed a hostile revulsion for demagogues in both political parties who demanded threateningly that he believe as they did. He disliked Harry Truman after reveling in his victorious campaign in 1948 and did not care afterward for Eisenhower and Nixon. He cared no more for Kennedy than he had for Eisenhower and ceased voting in presidential elections. Soon he stopped voting altogether and felt smug on election days. Glenda had stopped voting years before he met her and found all campaigning candidates for public office vulgar, boring, and loathsome.

At Time magazine his starting salary was nine thousand dollars annually, just about three times more than he would have earned as a college instructor, and he had a four-week summer vacation. And at the end of his third year there he felt blessed to discover himself with a vested interest in a magnanimous company pension and profit-sharing plan. With a university education, paid for and made possible by the federal government under the GI Bill of Rights, and a position with an illustrious, nationally known firm, he was judged already at twenty-five a fabulous success by all his childhood friends from Coney Island. When he moved into Manhattan to a small apartment of his own, he ascended with charisma into the empyrean realm of the elite, and even Lew Rabinowitz eyed him with a kind of savoring envy. Sammy liked his surroundings, he liked his life. After he married, he loved his wife, he loved his stepchildren, and, though Lew refused to believe it, he did not go to bed with another woman for as long as he and Glenda were together.

In his work in the city Sammy found himself among Republicans for the first time in his life. Nothing in his background or higher education had conditioned him to expect that anyone but a bandit, sociopath, or ignoramus would ever want to be a Republican. But these coworkers weren't ignorant, and they were not bandits or sociopaths. He drank martinis at long lunches with other men and women in the company, smoked pot frequently at night for a few years with old friends and new ones, lamented the acquaintances back in Brooklyn now addicted to heroin. It seemed incredible to the Gentile men and women with whom he drank whiskey and smoked marijuana that Jewish youths in Brooklyn, New York, should be drug addicts. He brought friends from Manhattan to Brooklyn to meet them, to eat clams at Sheepshead Bay and hot dogs in Coney Island, to ride on the Parachute Jump and the Wonder Wheel and watch others brave the frightening roller-coasters. He took them to George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park. In daylight and darkness he went to bed with young women who used diaphragms and contraceptive vaginal foam, and he had still not gotten over that. Unlike the friends with whom he had grown up, he did not marry immediately upon returning alive from the war, but not until he was almost thirty. He was often lonely in this single life and hardly ever unhappy.

His boss was an articulate man of elegant mannerisms who had contempt for the editors, principally because he was not one of them and because he was better read than all, and he would contend eloquently at meetings that the business and promotion writers in his department were better writers than those on the editorial staff and knew much more. At that time every copywriter there, Sammy too, was writing, or talking about writing, books and articles and stories and scripts; the men and women in the art department did painting and sculpture on weekends and dreamed of exhibitions. The gadfly supervisor, of whom they all were proud, was eventually jostled into early retirement. Not long afterward he died of cancer. Right after he left the company, Sammy, a Coney Island Jew in a Protestant organization dominated by Class A suburbanites, found himself a manager of one of the smaller departments and the stepfather of three children of a Protestant woman from the Midwest of decisive emotional poise, who'd gone off one morning to have her tubes tied to avert bearing more children in a troubled marriage to a philandering husband she saw was certain to break up. She could adjust to the philandering, she'd said-and Sammy had not believed her-but detested his absence of tact. Shortly after the divorce he was stricken with melanoma. He was living still when Sammy moved in with Glenda and was alive when they married.

Sammy stayed on at Time contentedly, writing promotion copy to increase the advertising business of a magazine he appreciated only as a superior consumer product and thought little of otherwise. He liked the work, he liked the people he worked with, he enjoyed the increasingly good salary and the comfortable knowledge that he was economically secure. His involvement with the international editions of the magazines Time and Life gave him opportunities to travel and brought him into lasting friendships with people in other countries. Like others of his generation, he was brought up with the practical ideal that the best work to do was the best work to be found.

He stayed on until he too was nudged into early retirement, at the age of sixty-three, by a thriving company electing to thrive more abundantly by reducing staff and eliminating aging dead-wood like himself, and he departed serendipitously with a guaranteed good income for the rest of his life from the organization's liberal pension and profit-sharing plan, plus three thousand shares of company stock valued at more than a hundred dollars each, and with generous hospitalization and medical insurance benefits that took care of just about all the bills incurred by Glenda in her last illness and that would cover him for his lifetime and, had they still been young enough to qualify, the two surviving stepchildren until they reached nineteen or had completed college.

9 PABT

The luggage hustlers at curbside stared through him icily when he alighted without any. Inside the bus terminal things looked normal. Travelers streamed toward goals, those departing descending to buses below that carried them everywhere, or upward to the second, third, and fourth levels to buses that carried them away everywhere else.

"I'll do you for a nickel, mister," a thin boy of about fourteen spoke up to him bashfully.

A nickel was five dollars, and Yossarian did not have the heart to tell the lad that he did not think he was worth it. "I'll do you for a nickel, mister," said a flat-chested girl immediately beyond, a few years older but lacking the ballooning contours of budding female maturity, while a stout woman with painted lids and rouged cheeks and dimpled faces of fat around the chubby knees exposed by her tight skirt looked on from ahead, laughing to herself.

"I'll lick your balls," the woman proposed while Yossarian walked by, and rolled her eyes coquettishly. "We can do it in the emergency stairwell."

Now he tensed with outrage. I am sixty-eight, he said to himself. What was there about him that gave these people the notion he had come to the terminal to be done or have his balls licked? Where the fuck was McMahon?

Police Captain Thomas McMahon of the Port Authority police force was inside the police station with civilian deputy director Lawrence McBride, watching Michael Yossarian draw with a pencil on the back of a broad sheet of paper, looking on with that special reverence some people of inexperience bestow upon the ordinary skills of the artistic performer which they themselves lack. Yossarian could have told them that Michael probably would stop before finishing his sketch and leave it behind. Michael tended not to finish things and prudently did not start many.

He was busy executing a horrified picture of himself in the wall cuff to which he had still been chained when Yossarian had come charging into the police station the day he was arrested. With looping strokes he had transformed the rectangular modes of the prison cells into a vertical pit of sludge with spinning sides into which one peered slantwise, and in which the stiff human stick figure of himself he had just outlined stood engulfed and forlorn.

"You leave him right where he is!" Yossarian had thundered on the telephone half an hour before to the officer who had called to establish identification because the receptionist at the architectural firm for which Michael was doing elevations did not know he'd been taken on for a freelance assignment. "Don't you dare put him in a cell!"

"One minute, sir, one minute, sir!" broke in the offended cop, in a high-pitched outcry of objection. "I'm calling to establish identity. We have our procedures."

"You go fuck your procedures!" Yossarian commanded. "Do you understand me?" He was mad enough and scared enough and felt helpless enough to kill. "You do what I say or I'll have your ass!" he bellowed roughly, with the belief that he meant it.

"Hey, hey, hey, one minute, buddy, hey, one minute, buddy!" The young cop was screaming now in a frenzy almost hysterical. "Who the fuck do you think you are?"

"I am Major John Yossarian of the M amp; M Pentagon Air Force Project," Yossarian replied in crisp, stern tones. "You insolent cocksucker. Where's your superior?"

"Captain McMahon here," said an older man, with emotionless surprise. "What's your trouble, sir?"

"This is Major John Yossarian of the M amp; M Pentagon Air Force Project, Captain. You've got my son there. I don't want him touched, I don't want him moved, I don't want him put near anyone who might harm him. And that includes your cops. Do we understand each other?"

"I understand you," McMahon came back coolly. "But I don't think you understand me. Who did you say this is?"

"John Yossarian, Major John Yossarian. And if you tie me up on this any longer it will be your ass too. I'll be there in six minutes."

To the taxi driver he gave a hundred-dollar bill and said respectfully, hearing his heart pound: "Please pass every traffic light you can pass safely. If you're stopped by a cop I'll give you another hundred and go the rest of the way on foot. I've got a child in trouble."

That the child was past thirty-seven did not matter. That he was defenseless did.

But Michael was still safe, handcuffed to the wall on a chain as though he would founder to the floor if he did not have that chain for support, and he was white as a ghost.

The station was in an uproar. People were moving and shouting everywhere. The cages were swarming with arms and sweaty faces and with gleaming eyes and mouths, the hallway too, the air stank of everything, and the officers and prison guards, sweating and swarming all over too, labored powerfully in picking, pulling, shoving, and heaving prisoners to be steered outside into vans and trucked downtown for delivery into other hands. Of all who were there, only Michael and Yossarian showed awareness of anything uncommon. Even the prisoners seemed ideally acclimated to the turbulent environment and vigorous procedures. Many were bored, others were amused and contemptuous, some ranted crazily. Several young women were hooting with laughter and shrieking obscenities brazenly in taunting debauchery, baiting and incensing the frustrated guards, who had to endure and cope with them without retaliating.

McMahon and the desk sergeant were awaiting him with stony faces.

"Captain-you him?" Yossarian began, talking directly into McMahon's light-blue, steely eyes with a hard-boiled stare of his own. "Get used to the idea! You're not going to put him into one of those cells. And I don't want him in a van with those others either. A squad car is all right, but I'll want to go with him. If you like, I'll hire a private car, and you can put some officers in with us."

McMahon listened with folded arms. "Is that right?" he said quietly. He was slim, straight, and more than six feet tall, with a bony face with tiny features, and the crests of his high cheekbones were spotted pink with a faint efflorescence, as though in savoring anticipation of the conflict at hand. "Tell me again, sir. Who did you say you were?"

"Major John Yossarian. I'm at work on the M amp; M Pentagon Air Force Project."

"And you think that makes your son an exception?"

"He is an exception."

"Is he?"

"Are you blind?" Yossarian exploded. "Take a good look, for Christ sakes. He's the only one here with a dry crotch and a dry nose. He's the only one here who's white."

"No, he's not, Captain," meekly corrected the sergeant. "We've got two other Caucasians we're holding in back who beat up a cop by mistake. They were looking for money."

Everyone around was contemplating Yossarian now as though he were something bizarre. And when he finally appreciated why, that he was poised before them with his arms raised in an asinine prizefighter's stance, as though ready to punch, he wanted to whimper in ironic woe. He had forgotten his age. Michael too had been regarding him with astonishment.

And at just that point of unnerving self-discovery, McBride wandered up and, in a gentle manner both firm and conciliatory, asked: "What's up, guys?"

Yossarian saw a sturdy man of middle height with a flushed face and a polyester suit of vapid light gray, with a broad chest that bellied outward and down so that from his neck to his waist he seemed a bulwark.

"Who the fuck are you?" sighed Yossarian in despair.

McBride replied softly, with the fearless confidence of a man competent at riot control. "Hello. I'm Deputy Supervisor Lawrence McBride of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Hello, Tommy. Something going on?"

"He thinks he's big," said McMahon. "He says he's a major. And he thinks he can tell us what to do."

"Major Yossarian," Yossarian introduced himself. "He's got my son here, Mr. McBride, chained to that wall."

"He's been arrested," said McBride pleasantly. "What would you want them to do with him?"

"I want them to leave him where he is until we decide what we will do. That's all. He has no criminal record." To the police guard nearest Michael, Yossarian barked an order. "Unlock him now. Please do that right now."

McMahon pondered a moment and signaled permission.

Yossarian resumed amicably. "Tell us where you want him to be. We're not running away. I don't want trouble. Should I hire that car? Am I talking too much?"

Michael was aggrieved. "They never even read me my right to be silent."

"They probably didn't ask you to say anything," McBride explained. "Did they?"

"And the handcuffs hurt like hell! Not that one. The real handcuffs, God damn it. That's brutality."

"Tommy, what's he charged with?" asked McBride.

McMahon hung his head. "Beating the subway fare."

"Oh, shit, Tommy," said McBride, entreating.

"Where's Gonzales?" McMahon asked the sergeant.

"That's the guy who grabbed me," Michael called out.

The sergeant blushed. "Back at the subway exit, Captain, making his quota."

"I thought they had a fucking quota!" Michael shouted.

"Major, can't you keep your son quiet while we settle this?" asked McMahon, begging a favor.

"Tommy," said McBride, "couldn't you just give him a summons and release him on a DTA? We know he'll appear."

"What did you think we were going to do, Larry?" McMahon replied. He appealed to Yossarian as though they were allies. "You hear that, Major? I'm a captain, he was a sergeant, and now he's telling me how to handle my business. Sir, are you really a major?"

"Retired," admitted Yossarian. He found the business card he wanted of the several he carried. "My card, Captain. And one for you, Mr. McBride-McBride, is it?-in case I can return the favor. You've been a godsend."

"Here's mine, Major," said McBride, and gave a second one to Michael. "And one for you too, in case you're ever in trouble here again."

Michael was moping as they walked out with McBride. "It's a good thing I've still got you to look after me, isn't it?" he accused sullenly. Yossarian shrugged. "I feel like such a fucking weakling now."

McBride intervened. "Hey, you did the right thing, kiddo." He paused for a chuckle, laughed louder. "How could you convince us you'd break our backs and legs, when we had you in handcuffs?"

"Is that what I did?" said Yossarian with fright.

McBride laughed again. "Where's the credibility? That right, Major Yossarian?"

"Call me Yo-Yo, for God's sake," said Yossarian jovially. "I must have been forgetting my age."

"You sure were," charged Michael. "I was scared, damn it. And you guys are laughing. You were a champ, Pop," he continued sardonically. "Me, I don't even have a loud voice. Before when I was stopped by that cop, my hands shook so much he was afraid I was having a heart attack and almost let me go."

"It's the way we are, Michael, when we're angry or scared. I get crazy and talk too much."

"I couldn't even give them my right name so they'd believe me. And when the hell were you really ever a major?"

"Want a business card?" Yossarian snickered slyly and turned to McBride. "For about a minute and a half," he explained. "They gave me a temporary boost near the end because they didn't know what else to do with me. Then they shipped me home, brought me back to my permanent grade, and gave me my honorable discharge. I had the medals, I had the points, I even had my Purple Heart."

"You were wounded?" cried McBride.

"Yeah, and crazy too," replied Michael, proudly. "Another time he went walking around naked."

"You walked around naked?" cried McBride.

"And they gave him a medal," boasted Michael, completely at ease now. "A medal for bravery."

"You got a medal for bravery?" cried McBride.

"And couldn't pin it on."

"Because he was naked?"

"Still naked."

"Weren't you embarrassed? Didn't they do anything?"

"He was crazy."

"What'd you get the medal for, Major? How'd you get the Purple Heart? Why'd you walk around naked?"

"Stop calling me Major, Mr. McBride," said Yossarian, who had no wish to talk now about the waist gunner from the South who'd been killed over Avignon and the small tail gunner Sam Singer from Coney Island who kept fainting away each time he came to and saw the waist gunner dying and Yossarian throwing up all over himself as he worked with bandages and tried vainly to save the dying man. It was sometimes funny to him since in just those gruesome anecdotal aspects. The wounded waist gunner was cold and in pain, and Yossarian could find nothing to do that would warm him up. Every time Singer revived, he opened his eyes on something else Yossarian was busy with that made him faint away again: retching, wrapping up dead flesh, wielding scissors. The dying gunner was freezing to death on the floor in a patch of Mediterranean sunlight, Sam Singer kept fainting, and Yossarian had taken off all his clothes because the sight of the vomit and blood on his flight uniform made him want to vomit some more and to feel with nauseated certitude that he would never want to have to wear any kind of uniform ever again, not ever, and by the time they landed, the medics were not sure which one of the three to take into the ambulance first. "Let's talk about you."

Yossarian now knew that McBride's wife had left him-transformed almost overnight into a wrathful figure of pure fury by an inner rage he had never guessed existed-and that he had been living alone since his daughter had moved to California with a boyfriend to work as a physical therapist. To McBride, the unexpected breakup of his marriage was one more heartrending cruelty he could not puzzle out in a world he saw seething barbarously with multitudes of others. Former detective sergeant Larry McBride of the Port Authority police force was fifty and had the boyish, chubby face of an introspective seraph in hard times. As a cop he had never been able to outgrow the sympathy he suffered for every type of victim he encountered-even now his knowledge of the one-legged woman living in the terminal tormented him- and always after wrapping up a case, to his racking emotional detriment, he would begin suffering compassion for the criminals too, no matter how hardened, bestial, or obtuse, no matter how vicious the crime. He would. see them all pityingly, as they'd been as children. When the opportunity arose to retire on a full pension and take the executive position at good salary at the bus terminal -in which, in fact, as one kind of guardian or another, he had by now spent his entire working life-he seized it joyfully.

The end of a marriage he had thought satisfactory was a blow from which it seemed at first he did not think he would recover.

Now, while Michael prepared to wait, Yossarian wondered what new thing McBride wanted to show him.

"You tell me," McBride answered mysteriously.

The time before, he had unveiled his plans for a maternity cell, for converting one of the two auxiliary prison cages in the rear, for which there never had been need, into a room for mothers of unwanted babies who most generally disposed of the newborn infants in alleys and hallways or threw them away into wastebas-kets, garbage cans, and Dumpsters. He had already moved in at his own expense some pieces of furniture from his apartment for which he no longer had need. Yossarian nodded as he listened, sucking his cheeks inward a bit, and then he nodded some more. Nobody wanted those babies, he could have told him, and nobody cared for those mothers, who were rendering a service to the community by throwing them away.

For the other jail cell, McBride resumed, he had in mind a sort of pediatric day care center for the several little kids always living in the bus terminal, to afford their mothers a clean, safe place in which to place their offspring while they journeyed outside to panhandle and hustle for drugs and booze and food, and also for the runaway kids who kept showing up in this heart of the city until they made their good connections with a satisfactory drug dealer or pimp.

Yossarian broke in regretfully.

"McBride?"

"You think I'm nuts?" McBride rushed on defensively. "I know Tommy thinks I'm nuts. But we could have mobiles and stuffed toys and coloring books for the little ones. And for the older ones television sets and video games, maybe computers, sure, even word processors, couldn't they learn that?"

"McBride?" repeated Yossarian.

"Yossarian?" McBride had adopted unconsciously a number of Yossarian's speaking traits.

"Mobiles and word processors for kids who want drugs and sex?"

"Just while they're hanging around making their contacts. They'd be safer here than anywhere else, wouldn't they? What's wrong? Yossarian, what's wrong?"

Yossarian sighed wearily, feeling undone. "You're talking about a facility in a police station for aspiring child prostitutes? Larry, the public would scream bloody murder. So would I."

"What would you do that's better? They come here anyway, don't they?"

From the fact that McBride had been silent since on the subject of these humanitarian undertakings, Yossarian surmised they'd been stalled or forbidden.

Today he had some new surprise in store, and Yossarian went outside with him into the capacious structure of the bus terminal, where activities of all varieties had picked up bullishly. People were moving more quickly, and there were many more of them, traveling automatically like spirits who would have chosen a different course than the ones they were following had they found themselves free to decide. So many were eating as they walked, dripping crumbs and wrappers-candy bars, apples, hot dogs, pizzas, sandwiches, potato chips. The hustlers were at work at their assorted specialties, the best of them animated, with sharp eyes fishing around shrewdly for targets of opportunity, others blundering about crudely in search of just about anything, and still others, male and female, white and black, floating in blank-eyed, wistful stupors and looking less like predators than crippled prey.

"Pickpockets," McBride said, with a signal of his chin toward a group of three men and two girls, all of good appearance, and of Latin American countenance. "They're better trained than we are. They even know more law. Look."

A jolly group of transvestites moved up by escalator to the floor above, the faces glistening with a cosmetic sheen, all androgynous and vain in face and attire, the entire bunch as frisky and flirtatious as pubescent girl scouts high on hormones.

With McBride steering him, they passed the empty space below the pillars supporting the mezzanine floor of the observation bubble overhead with its staff of several employees doing drugs while monitoring the five dozen video screens in the Communications Control Center of the terminal. The hundreds of azure-eyed, dumb video cameras poked their flat snouts into every cranny on every level of the rambling, seven-story complex bestriding two city blocks, poking without blushing even into the men's toilets and the notorious emergency stairwells into which most of those living in the terminal crept at night for sleep and friendship and apathetic intercourse. Milo and Wintergreen were already thinking of the Communications Control Center converted into a lucrative enterprise by increasing the number of screens and selling units of time to eager spectators and players, who would replace the Port Authority employees and their salaries and their costly medical plans and vacation and retirement plans. People would flock to watch, to play cop and Peeping Tom. They could call it "The Real Thing." When crime slackened, they would present fakes and that way guarantee enough sex and violence to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty paying crowds.

They could book in Japanese tour groups. Sooner or later they could spin the whole thing off to a Japanese motion picture company.

McBride moved past a newsstand run by Indians, with newspapers and colorful periodicals like Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine headlining the collapse of Russian socialism, the grandeur of American capitalism, and the latest business bankruptcy, unemployment figures, and sale of another national mercantile landmark to foreigners, and they came to the entrance of one of the emergency stairwells. Yossarian did not want to take that tour again.

"Just one floor," promised McBride.

"Something awful?"

"I wouldn't do that."

Loafing voices echoed mellifluously from above. The stairway was practically empty, the floor almost tidy. But the odors in this civilization were strong, the air reeking of smoke and unwashed bodies and their waste, a stench of rot and degradation that was violently disgusting and vilely intolerable to all but the mass producing it daily. By midnight there was scarcely a charmed body with enough living space to be free of another body more dissipated and fetid tumbled against it. People squabbled. There were shouts, quarrels, stabbings, burns, sex, drugs, drinking, and breaking glass; by morning there were casualties and an accumulation of filth of all sorts save industrial waste. There was no water or toilet. Garbage was not collected until morning, when the locals roused and took themselves to the sinks and the toilets in the rest rooms in sanitary preparation for the day's work ahead and, despite posted bans, to bathe and do laundry in the washbasins.

By this hour, the maintenance men had been through with their hoses and face masks to clean away the messes of excrement, trash, and garbage left the night before, the charred matchsticks and empty vials from dope, the soda cans, needles, wine bottles, and used condoms and old Band-Aids. The astringent smell of caustic disinfectant hung ineradicably in the air like the carbolic harbinger of a remorseless decay.

McBride took the staircase down past two raffish men of insolent and bored demeanor who were smoking marijuana and drinking wine and fell silent in tacit approbation after sizing him up and acknowledging with a kind of objective acceptance the latent authority and prowess he exuded. Near the bottom of the steps a solitary man slept with his back to the banister.

They passed to the concrete landing without disturbing him and tiptoed carefully around the one-legged woman being raped by a man with scrawny blanched buttocks and a livid scrotum not many yards from a large, brown-skinned woman who had taken off her bloomers and her skirt and was swabbing her backside and her armpits with a few damp towels she had laid out on newspapers with some folded dry ones near two brown shopping bags. She had splotchy freckles about her puffy eyes and bore scarred, tar-colored moles on her neck and back that made him think of melanoma. She stared at each in turn with a separate nod of matter-of-fact amity. Her pendulous breasts in a pink chemise were huge and her armpits were dark and bushy. Yossanan did not want to look down at her exposed vaginal area. He did not know who she was, but he knew he had not one thing he wanted to talk to her about.

On the last flight down to the sub-level outside, there sat only a skinny blonde woman with a bruised eye and a tattered red sweater, dreamily engaged in sewing a rip in a dirty white blouse. At the bottom, where the staircase came to an end facing an exit door to the street, someone had already shit in a corner. They looked away and walked looking down, as though in dire misgiving of a step into something sinful. Instead of heading outside, McBride turned beneath the staircase and proceeded into heavy shadows almost to the end of this lowest landing, until he came to a colorless door that Yossarian would have supposed invisible.

He switched on a light that was weak and yellow. The small room into which they stepped held only a metal closet with rusting doors on broken hinges that stood against a wall. McBride forced these doors apart and stepped inside the wasted relic. It had no back. He located a latch and pushed open an entranceway built into the wall itself.

"An addict found it," he mumbled rapidly. "I let him believe he was imagining it. Go on in."

Yossarian gasped with surprise in a cramped vestibule blocked by a wide fire door a few feet in front of his face. The slick surface was military green and painted at eye level with a warning in bold letters that could not be overlooked by anyone able to read.

EMERGENCY ENTRANCE

KEEP OUT

VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT

The sturdy door seemed new, the letters fresh on the unmarred surface.

"Go on in. It's what I want to show you."

"I'm not allowed."

"Neither am I."

"Where's the key?"

"Where's the lock?" McBride grmned victoriously, his head cocked. "Go on."

The handle turned and the massive door slid open as though leveraged by counterweights and pivoting on noiseless bearings.

"They make it easy for people to get in, don't they?" said Yossarian softly.

McBride hung back, forcing Yossarian through first. Yossarian recoiled as he discovered himself on a tiny landing of wrought iron near the roof of a tunnel that seemed greatly higher than it was because of the dizzying angle downward of the staircase on which he was standing. Instinctively, he grasped the handrail. Here the flights of steps were small and reversed direction abruptly around an elliptical tiny platform of metal grillwork, where the next flight turned sharply back beneath him and dropped away out of sight at that same precipitous angle of descent. He could not see where the staircase came to an end in that abyss of a basement, whose dark floor seemed newly paved with some kind of rubberized compound. Looking down through the wrought-iron pattern of winding vine leaves that seemed to mock its own heavy composition, he was all at once reminded ridiculously of one of those vertical slides at an old-fashioned amusement park in which one embarked supine into darkness inside a cylindrical pillar with arms folded and went spiraling down with increasing momentum, to be expelled at last into a flat round arena of polished wood with disks rotating in contrary directions that bore him this way and that way for the pleasure of idle watchers until ultimately spilling him aside onto the stationary embankment that ringed the circular area of that particular attraction. The one he remembered best was named the Human Pool Table in the old George C. Tilyou Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. There, an iron handrail circling the viewing enclosure had been rigged electrically to administer stinging shocks of harmless voltage to unwary patrons whenever one of the red-suited attendants in green jockey caps thought the timing appropriate. That sudden onrush of tiny prickling needles bursting into the hands and arms was intolerable and memorable, and all who observed that half second of fright and panicked embarrassment of others laughed; the victims laughed too, afterward. There was laughter bursting from loudspeakers as well. Not many blocks away were freak shows featuring people with small heads.

Yossarian was standing now near the top of something nearly two stories high, a strange subterranean thoroughfare of impressive breadth and no discernible use, with a vaulted ceiling insulated with scored and pitted peach-colored acoustical tiles and outlined with slender borders of apple green. The high, flat walls of stone were of dark-reddish hue. These were tiled in white at the base like those of the underground stations of the subway system. The strange passageway was as wide as a city avenue, without curbs or sidewalks. It could have served as a train station too, except that he saw no rails or platforms. Then he spied near the bottom on the other side a long reflecting arrow in reel that reminded him one moment of a fiery penis and the next of a flaming missile that shot vividly to the left and then dipped downward perpendicularly toward words in black that proclaimed: Sub-Basements A-Z Above the arrow, where the white tiling ended, and perhaps thirty feet to the right, he recognized a large stenciled letter S of luminescent amber on a square of glossy black. Obviously, they were inside an old bomb shelter, he knew, until he spotted near the ground a door of metal of the same olive-drab shade as on the one behind him, with writing on it in white he could not believe, even after he had donned his trifocals to see into the distance more clearly.

DANGER NO EXPLOSIVES

"That could mean at least two different things, couldn't it?" he said.

McBride nodded grimly. "That's what I thought too." Unexpectedly, he let out a laugh, as though proud of himself. "Now look at that plaque."

"What plaque?"

"In dark letters. It's set into the wall near the doorway and says that a man named Kilroy was here."

Yossarian gave McBride a searching look. "Kilroy? It says that? Kilroy was here?"

"You know Kilroy?"

"I was in the army with Kilroy," said Yossarian.

"Maybe it's not the same Kilroy."

"He's the one."

"Overseas?"

"Everywhere. Shit, I ought to know him by now. Everywhere I was stationed, he was there too. You always saw it written on a wall. When I was arrested and put in the stockade for a week, he'd been locked up there also. In college after the war, when I went into the library stacks, he'd already been there."

"Could you find him for me?"

"I never met him. I never met anyone who saw him."

"I could find him," said McBride. "Through the Freedom of Information Act. Once I get his Social Security number I can nail him cold. Will you come talk to him with me?"

"Is he still alive?"

"Why wouldn't he be alive?" asked McBride, who was only fifty. "I want to know more about this, I want to know what he was doing here. I want to know what the hell this is."

"How far down does all this go?"

"I don't know. It's not on the plans."

"Why does it bother you?"

"I'm still a detective, I guess. Go down a few steps," McBride instructed next. "Try one more."

Yossarian froze when he heard the noise begin. It was an animal, the heaving ire of something live, the ominous burring of some dangerous beast disturbed, a rumble welling in smoldering stages into an elongated snarling. Next came growling, guttural and deadly, and an agitated shudder of awakened power, and the movement of veering limbs striding about underneath where he could not see. Then a second animal joined in; perhaps there were three.

"Go down," whispered McBride, "one more step." Yossarian shook his head. McBride nudged. On tiptoe Yossarian touched his foot down one more step and heard the jangling commence, as though of metal scraping on stone and of metal jingling against metal, and those noises were building swiftly toward a demonic climax of some calamitous sort, and all at once, as though without warning, although the warnings had been cumulative and unremitting, there was the blowout, the explosion, the ferocious and petrifying bedlam of piercing barks and deafening roars and a tumultuous charge of forceful paws pounding forward with unleashed savagery and then mercifully brought to a halt in a quaking crash of chains that made him jump with fright and afterward went reverberating like a substance of great ballistic bulk deep into the contracting gloom at both ends of the underground chamber in which they were standing. The fierce rumpus below turned more savage still with the incensed raging of the beasts at the rugged restraints against which they were now tearing and snapping with all their supernatural might. They growled and they roared and they snarled and they howled. And Yossarian kept straining his ears in a frantic irrational desire to hear more. He knew he would never be able to move again. The instant he could move, he stepped up backward in noiseless motion, hardly breathing, until he stood on the landing alongside McBride, where he took McBride's arm and held on. He was icy and he knew he was sweating. He had the giddy fear his heart was going to convulse and stop, that an artery in his head would split. He knew he could think of eight other ways he might die on the spot, if he did not die before he could list them. The raw fury in the fierce passions below seemed gradually to flag. The untamed monsters understood they had missed him, and he listened with relief to the invisible dangers subsiding and to whatever carnivorous forms that drew breath below receding with chains dragging to the dark lairs from which they had sprung. At last there was silence, the last tinkling noises melting away into a tone as delicate as a chime and dissolving into a fading resonance that seemed incongruously to be the pumped, haunting carnival music of some outlying, solitary carousel, and this receded into silence too.

He thought he knew now how it felt to be torn to pieces. He trembled.

"What do you make of it?" McBride asked, in an undertone. His lips were white. "They're always there; that happens every time you touch that step."

"It's recorded," said Yossarian.

For the moment, McBride was speechless. "Are you sure?"

"No," said Yossarian, surprised himself by the spontaneous insight he had just expressed. "But it's just too perfect. Isn't it?"

"What do you mean?"

Yossarian did not want to talk now about Dante, Cerberus, Virgil, or Charon, or the rivers Acheron and Styx. "It might be there just to scare us away."

"It sure scared hell out of that drug addict, I can tell you," said McBride. "He was sure he was hallucinating. I let everyone but Tommy think that he was."

Then they heard the new noise.

"You hear that?" said McBride.

Yossarian heard the wheels turning and looked to the base of the wall opposite. Somewhere beyond it was the muffled rolling of wheels on rails, muted by distance and barriers.

"The subway?"

McBride shook his head. "That's too far. What would you say," he continued speculatively, "to a roller-coaster?"

"Are you crazy?"

"It could be a recording too, couldn't it?" insisted McBride. "Why is that crazy?"

"Because it's not a roller-coaster."

"How do you know?"

"I think I can tell. Stop playing detective."

"When's the last time you rode on one?"

"A million years ago. But it's too steady. There's no acceleration. What more do you want? I'm going to laugh. Let's call it a train," continued Yossarian, as the vehicle came abreast and rolled away to the left. It might have been the Metroliner going down from Boston to Washington, but McBride would know that. And when he considered a roller-coaster, he did start to laugh, for he remembered that he had already lived much longer than he ever thought he would.

He stopped laughing when he saw the catwalk and railing running along the wall about three feet from the bottom and disappearing into the white-misted, golden obscurity of the enclosures on both sides.

"Was that down there all the time?" He was puzzled. "I thought I was hallucinating when I noticed it just now."

"It's been there," said McBride.

"Then I must have been hallucinating when I imagined it wasn't. Let's get the hell out."

"I want to go down there," said McBride.

"I won't go with you," Yossarian told him. He had never liked surprises.

"Aren't you curious?"

"I'm afraid of the dogs."

"You said," said McBride, "it was only a recording."

"That might scare me more. Go with Tom. That's his business."

"It's not on Tommy's beat. I'm not even supposed to be here," McBride admitted. "I'm supposed to enforce these restrictions, not violate them. Notice anything now?" he added, as they turned back up the stairs.

On the inside of the metal door Yossarian now saw two solid locks, one spring loaded, the other dead bolt. And above the locks, under a rectangle of lacquer, he saw a block of white printing on a scarlet background framed in a thin margin of silver, that read: EMERGENCY EXIT NO ADMITTANCE THIS DOOR MUST BE LOCKED AND BOLTED WHEN IN USE Yossarian scratched his head. "From this side it looks like they want to keep people out, don't they?"

"Or in?"

He would guess, he guessed, as they proceeded outside, that it was an old bomb shelter that was not on the old plans. He could not explain the signs, he admitted, as McBride closed the fire door quietly and conscientiously switched off the electric light to leave everything the same as when they had come. The dogs, the sound of the killer guard dogs? "To scare people out, I guess, like that addict, and you and me. Why did you want me to see it?"

"To let you know. You seem to know everything."

"I don't know this one."

"And you're someone I trust."

They could tell from voices higher up that the stairwell had crowded considerably. They heard clearly the bawdy laughter, the languorous salutes of greeting and recognition, the obscenities, they could smell the smoke of matches and dope and scorched newspapers, they heard a glass bottle break, they heard the splash one floor up of a man or a woman urinating, and they smelled that too. At the top of the lowest flight, they saw the one-legged woman, who was white, drinking wine with a man and two women who were black. Her expression was blank and she talked in a daze, crushing pink underwear in a hand that lay restfully in her lap. Her wooden crutches, which were old and chipped and splintered and spotted, were lying on the staircase at her hip.

"She gets a wheelchair," McBride had already explained, "and someone steals it. Then friends steal one from someone else. Then someone steals that one."

This time McBride took the exit door, and Yossarian found himself on the sidewalk passing buses on the sub-level driving ramps, where the exploding exhausts and grinding engines were noisier and the air was stinking with diesel fumes and the smell of hot rubber, and they walked past boarding stations with longdistance buses for El Paso and Saint Paul, with connections continuing far up into Canada and down all the way through Mexico into Central America.

McBride took an entrepreneur's gratification in the operational efficiency of the bus terminal: the figures of almost five hundred boarding gates, sixty-eight hundred buses, and nearly two hundred thousand passengers in and out every normal working day tripped from his tongue fluently. The work still went on, he was speedy to assert, the terminal functioned, and that was the point, wasn't it?

Yossarian wasn't sure.

Now they rode by escalator back to the main floor. Passing the Communications Control Center, they glanced uneasily at the flocks of male and female hookers already congregating in the central areas of prostitution, where more and more would continue crowding in crafty and pathetic legions like molecules of matter in human form drawn insensibly to a central mass from which they could not want to free themselves. They strode past a shrunken black woman who stood near a post between state-authorized Lottery and Lotto stands in unlaced sneakers and held out a soiled paper cup while chanting tunelessly, "Fifteen cents? Gimrne fifteen cents? Any food? Used food?" A gray-haired bloated woman in a green tam-o'-shanter and green sweater and skirt, with sores on her splotched legs, was singing an Irish song off-key blissfully in a cracked voice near a filthy, sleeping teenager on the floor and a wild-eyed, slender, chocolate-colored tall man who was spotlessly clean and seemed all bones, preaching Christian salvation in a Caribbean accent to a stout black woman who nodded and a skinny white Southerner with closed eyes who kept breaking in with calls of thrilled affirmation. As they drew near the police station, Yossarian remembered with malicious caprice his wish to find out something special from his capable guide.

"McBride?"

"Yossarian?"

"I was talking to some friends. They're thinking of holding a wedding here in the terminal."

McBride flushed generously. "Sure, hey, that's a good idea. Yeah, Yo-Yo. I could pitch in and help. We could make them a nice wedding, I think we could. I've still got that empty cell there for the kids. We could turn that into the chapel. And of course, right next door, ahem, I've still got the bed, for the honeymoon night. We could give them a big wedding breakfast in one of the food shops and maybe buy them some lottery tickets as a good-luck present. What's funny? Why couldn't they use it?"

It took Yossarian a minute to stop laughing. "No, Larry, no," he explained. "I'm talking about a big wedding, gigantic, high society, hundreds of guests, limousines at the bus ramps, newspapermen and cameras, a dance floor with a big band, maybe two dance floors and two bands."

"Are you crazy, Yo-Yo?" Now McBride was the one who was chuckling. "The commissioners would never allow it!"

"These people know the commissioners. They'd be there as guests. And the mayor and the cardinal, maybe even the new President. Secret Service men and a hundred police."

"If you had the President we'd be allowed to go all the way down there to look. The Secret Service would want that."

"Sure, you would like that too. It would be the wedding of the year. Your terminal would be famous."

"You'd have to clear out the people! Stop all the buses!"

"Nah." Yossarian shook his head. "The buses and crowds could be part of the entertainment. It would get in the newspapers. Maybe a picture inside with you and McMahon, if I pose you right."

"Hundreds of guests?" McBride restated shrilly. "A band and a dance floor? Limousines too?"

"Maybe fifteen hundred! They could use your bus ramps and park upstairs in your garages. And caterers and florists, waiters and bartenders. They could go riding on the escalators, in time to the music. I could talk to the orchestras."

"That could not be done!" McBride declared. "Everything would go wrong. It would be a catastrophe."

"Fine," said Yossarian. "Then I'll want to go ahead. Check it out for me, will you, please? Get out of my way!"

He snapped this last out at an oily Hispanic man just ahead who was flashing a stolen American Express credit card at him seductively with a smile of insinuating and insulting familiarity and caroling happily, "Just stolen, just stolen. Don't leave home without it. You can check it out, check it out."

Inside the police station, there were no reports of any new dead babies, the officer at the desk volunteered to McBride with a jocular impertinence.

"And no live ones either."

"I hate that guy," McBride muttered, coloring uncomfortably. "He thinks I'm crazy too."

McMahon was out on an emergency call, and Michael, who was finished with his unfinished drawing, inquired casually: "Where've you been?"

" Coney Island," Yossarian said jauntily. "And guess what. Kilroy was there."

"Kilroy?"

"Flight, Larry?"

"Who's Kilroy?" asked Michael.

"McBride?"

"Yossarian?"

"In Washington once, I went to look for a name on the Vietnam Memorial, with the names of all who'd been killed there. Kilroy was there, one Kilroy."

"The same one?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

"I'll check him out," promised McBride. "And let's talk more about that wedding. Maybe we could do it, I believe we could. I'll check that out too."

"What's this about a wedding?" Michael demanded with truculence, when they were out of the police station and walking away through the terminal.

"Not mine." Yossarian laughed. "I'm too old to marry again."

"You're too old to get married again."

"That's what I said. And are you still too young? Marriage may not be good, but it's not always all bad."

"Now you're talking too much."

Yossarian had his routine for moving through panhandlers, handing one-dollar bills from the folded daily allotment in his pocket to those who were timid and to those who looked threatening. A hulking man with inflamed eyes and a scrap of cloth offered to wipe his eyeglasses for a dollar or smash them to pieces if he declined. Yossarian gave him two dollars and put his eyeglasses away. Nothing surprising seemed unusual anymore in this deregulated era of free enterprise. He was under a death sentence, he knew, but he tried imparting that news to Michael euphemistically. "Michael, I want you to stay in law school," he decided seriously.

Michael stepped away. "Oh, shit, Dad. I don't want that. It's expensive too. Someday," he went on, with a dejected pause, "I'd like to work at something worthwhile."

"Know anything? I'll pay for the law school."

"You won't know what I mean, but I don't want to feel like a parasite."

"Yes, I would. It's why I gave up commodities, currency trading, stock trading, arbitrage, and investment banking. Michael, I'll give you seven more years of good health. That's the most I can promise you."

"What happens then?"

"Ask Arlene."

"Who's Arlene?

"That woman you're living with. Isn't that her name? The one with the crystals and the tarot cards."

"That's Marlene, and she moved out. What happens to me in seven years?"

"To me, you damned fool. I'll be seventy-five. Michael, I'm already sixty-eight. I'll guarantee you seven more years of my good health in which to learn how to live without me. If you don't, you'll drown. After that I can't promise you anything. You can't live without money. It's addictive once you've tried it. People steal to get it. The most I'll be able to leave each of you, after taxes, will be about half a million."

"Dollars?" Michael brightened brilliantly. "That sounds like a fortune!"

"At eight percent," Yossarian told him flatly, "you'd get forty thousand a year. At least a third will go to taxes, leaving you twenty-seven."

"Hey, that's nothing! I can't live on that!"

"I know that too. That's why I am talking too much to you. Where's your future? Can you see one? Move this way."

They stepped out of the path of a young man in sneakers running for his life from a half-dozen policemen running just as fast and closing in on him from different sides because he had just murdered with a knife someone in another part of the terminal. Pounding among them in heavy black shoes was Tom McMahon, who looked ill from the strain. Cut off in front, the nimble youth left them all in the lurch by swerving sharply and ducking down into the same emergency stairwell Yossarian had taken with McBride and probably, Yossarian mused fancifully, would never be heard of again-or better still, was already back on their level, walking behind them in his sneakers, looking blameless. They passed a man sitting asleep on the floor in a puddle of his own making, and another teenager, out cold, and then found their way blocked by a skinny woman somewhere near forty with stringy blonde hair and a lurid blister on her mouth.

"I'll do you for a nickel, mister," she offered.

"Please," said Yossarian, stepping around her.

"I'll do you both for a nickel each. I'll do you both at the same time for a nickel each. Pop, I'll do you both for the same nickel."

Michael, with a strained smile., skittered around her. She plucked at Yossarian's sleeve and held on.

"I'll lick your balls."

Yossarian stumbled free, mortified. His face burned. And Michael was aghast to see his father so shaken.

10 George G. Tilyou

At a rolltop desk many levels below, Mr. George C. Tilyou, the Coney Island entrepreneur, who'd been dead almost eighty years, counted his money and felt himself sitting on top of the world. His total never decreased. Before his eyes were the starting and finishing stations of the roller-coaster he'd had brought down after him from his Steeplechase amusement park. The tracks had never looked newer as they rose toward the crest of the highest gravity drop at the beginning and climbed out of sight into the cavernous tunnel he occupied. He filled with pride when he gazed at his redoubtable carousel, his El Dorado. Constructed originally in Leipzig for William II, the emperor of Germany, it still was possibly the most magnificent merry-go-round anywhere. Three platforms carrying horses, gondolas, and carved ducks and pigs revolved at individual speeds. Often he would send his El Dorado carousel spinning with no riders aboard, merely to study the reflections of the silver mirrors at the glittering hub and to revel in the stout voice of the calliope, which was, he liked to joke, music to his ears.

He had renamed his roller-coaster the Dragon's Gorge. Elsewhere he had his Cave of the Winds, and at the entrance churned his Barrel of Fun, which brought the unpracticed to their knees right off on the circling bottom and kept them tumbling against each other in tilted disarray until they crawled out the farther end and regained their feet or were assisted by attendants or other customers more experienced. One who knew how could pass through without fuss merely by walking on a mild diagonal contrary to the direction of rotation, but that wasn't fun. Or stride and stride uphill upon the descending floor without getting anywhere and remain forever in the same place, but that was not much fun either. Onlookers of both sexes took special delight in witnessing the unbalanced distress of attractive ladies clutching to hold down their skirts in the days before slacks attained respectability as a befitting mode of female attire.

"If Paris is France," he could remember stating as the playground's foremost spokesman and impresario, "then Coney Island, between June and September, is the world."

The money he sat counting every day would never deteriorate or grow old. His cash was indestructible and would always have value. At his back rose a cast-iron safe that was taller than he was. He had guards and attendants from the old days, costumed in red coats and green jockey caps from the old days. Many were friends from the beginning and had been with him an eternity.

With a genius uncanny and persistent, he had defied and disproved the experts, his lawyers and his bankers, and had succeeded in time in taking it all with him, in holding on to everything he valued particularly and was intent on retaining. His will made adequate provision for his widow and his children. Deeds of ownership, cash instruments, and currency in a large amount were sealed, as directed, in a moistureproof box resistant to decay and interred with him in his sepulcher in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, and his tombstone bore the inscription: MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE.

While heirs and executors disputed with each other and with government tax officials, Steeplechase (the " Funny Place ") relentlessly disappeared part by part from the face of the earth, except for the phallic, steel-beam, bankrupt skeleton of the Parachute Jump, which came in long after he was gone and was an attraction he would have rejected. It was tame and orderly, and did not frighten or tickle the customers or spectators. Mr. Tilyou relished things that surprised, threw people into confusion, annihilated dignity, blew boy and girl clumsily into each other's arms, and, with luck, flashed a glimpse of calf and petticoat, sometimes even feminine underpants, to a delighted audience just like them who viewed the comedy of their utter, ludicrous helplessness with gaiety and laughter.

Mr. Tilyou always smiled when he recalled the inscription on his tombstone.

He could not now think of anything he lacked. He had a second roller-coaster now, called the Tornado. Overhead he heard continually the stops and starts of the subway trains that had brought crowds in the hundreds of thousands to the beach on summer Sundays, and the sputtering exhausts of automobiles and larger vehicles of transportation traveling to and fro. Hearing the rippling and lapping of a canal of flowing water on a level above, he had brought down his flat-bottomed boats and reinstituted his Tunnel of Love. He had the Whip and the Whirlpool, with which he could lash patrons about and fling them aside, and the Human Pool Table with its vertical slide inside a chamber and spinning disks at the bottom to spin them supine in one direction or another while they screeched with hapless pleasure and prayed all the while it would soon come to an end. He had electric shocks on the railings for the unwary and mirrors for the normal that deformed them into merry and ridiculous monstrosities. And he had his grinning, pink-cheeked trademark, that demonic flat face with a flat head and parted hair and a wide mouth filled with cubes of teeth like white tiles, which people shrank from disbelievingly on first encounter and next time accepted good-humoredly as natural. From some unknown level below he heard repeatedly the passage of smooth-running railroad cars whose turning wheels rolled by day and night, but he was not curious. He was interested only in what he was able to own, and he wished to own only what he was able to see and watch and could control with the simplest action of a switch or a lever. He loved the smell of electricity and the crisp crackle of electrical sparks.

He had more money than he ever could spend. He'd never trusted trusts or seen much foundation to foundations. John D. Rockefeller came to him regularly now to beg for dimes and to cadge free rides, and J. P. Morgan, who'd commended his soul to God with no doubt it would be embraced, sought favors. With little to live on, they had not much to live for. Their children sent nothing. Mr. Tilyou could have told them, he told them often. Without money life could be hell. Mr. Tilyou had an inkling there would always be business as usual everywhere, and he could have told them, he told them.

He was spruce, dapper, alert, and tidy. His bowler hat, his derby of which he was proud, hung spotless on a hook on his coatrack. He dressed daily now in a white shirt with a wing collar, with a dark ascot tied perfectly and tucked neatly into the vest of his suit, and the points of his thin brown mustache were inevitably waxed.

His first major success was a Ferris wheel half the size of the one that had caught his fancy in Chicago, and he boldly proclaimed his own, even in advance of completion, as the largest in the world. He decked it out with dazzling streamers of hundreds of Mr. Edison's new incandescent lightbulbs, and enchanted patrons were diverted and thrilled.

"I have never cheated a soul in anything," he was wont to declare, "and I've never given a sucker an even break."

He liked rides that went round and brought the participants back to the place they had started from. Almost everything in nature, from the smallest to the grandest, seemed to him to move in circles and to return to the point at which it had originated, to perhaps set out again. He found people more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and he liked to manipulate them in this guise with tricks of harmless public embarrassment that would give pleasure to everyone and for which all would pay: the hat whisked away by a jet of air or the skirts gusting upward over the shoulders, the moving floors and collapsing staircases, the lipstick-smeared couple floated back into light from the concealing darkness inside the Tunnel of Love, baffled to know why the onlookers were shaking in laughter at the spectacle they made until ribald jokesters cried out to tell them.

And he still owned his home. On Surf Avenue, across from his Steeplechase amusement park, Mr. Tilyou had lived in a good-sized wooden-frame house with a narrow walk and shallow steps built of masonry, and all seemed to begin sinking into the ground shortly after his burial. On the vertical face of the step at the bottom, the one joined to the sidewalk, he'd paid a stonecutter to chisel the family name, TILYOU. Year-round residents walking by on the way to the movie house or subway station were the first to note from the position of the letters in the name that the step seemed to be settling into the pavement. By the time the whole house was gone, there was not much attention paid to one more empty lot in a dilapidated neighborhood that had passed its prime.

On the north side of the narrow strip of land that made up Coney Island, which was not a true island but a protruding spit about five miles long and half a mile wide, lay a body of water called Gravesend Bay. A dye factory there consumed much sulfur. Boys nearing puberty touched lighted matches to the yellow clumps they found lying on the ground near the building and were intrigued and gratified that they ignited easily and burned with a bluish glare and an odor that was sulfurous. Nearby stood a factory that manufactured ice and once was the scene of a spectacular armed robbery by perpetrators who made good their getaway in a speedboat that raced out to escape into the waters of Gravesend Bay. Thus, there was fire and there was ice before home refrigeration grew practical.

Fire was an ever-present danger, and great Coney Island fires blazed periodically. Within hours after Mr. Tilyou saw his first amusement park destroyed by flames, he posted signs selling his newest attraction, his Coney Island fire, and he kept his ticket takers busy collecting the ten cents admission charge he took from customers eager to enter the devastated area to cast their eyes upon his smoking ruins. Why hadn't he thought of that, mused the Devil. Even Satan called him Mr. Tilyou.

BOOK FOUR

11 Lew

Sammy and I enlisted the same day. Four of us set out together. All of us went overseas. All four of us came back, although I was captured and Sammy was shot down into the water and crash-landed another time with a forgetful pilot called Hungry Joe, who forgot to try the emergency handle for lowering the landing gear. No one was hurt, Sammy tells me, and that pilot Hungry Joe got a medal. It's a name that sticks. Milo Minderbinder was his mess officer then and not the big war hero he tries to pass himself off as now. Sammy had a squadron commander named Major Major, who was never around when anyone wanted to see him, and a bombardier he thought I would have liked named Yossarian, who took off his uniform after a guy in their plane bled to death, and he even went to the funeral naked, sitting in a tree, Sammy says.

We went up by subway to volunteer at the big army induction center at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. That was a part of the city most of us hardly ever went to. There was the physical examination we'd heard about from the older guys who were already gone. We turned our heads and coughed, we milked down our joints, we bent over and spread the cheeks of our buttocks, and kept wondering what they were looking for. We'd heard of piles from our uncles and aunts, but we didn't really know what they were. A psychiatrist interviewed me alone and asked if I liked girls. I liked them so much I fucked them, I answered.

He looked envious.

Sammy liked them too but didn't know how.

We were past eighteen, and if we'd waited until nineteen, we would have been drafted, said FDR, and that was the reason we gave to our parents, who were not so happy to see us go. We read about the war in the newspapers, heard about it on the radio, saw it done gorgeously in the Hollywood movies, and it looked and sounded better to us than being home in my father's junkshop, like I was, or in a file cage like Sammy in the insurance company he worked for, or, like Winkler, in a cigar store that was a front for the bookmaking operation his father ran in back. And in the long run it was better, for me and for most of the rest of us.

When we got back to Coney Island after enlisting, we ate some hot dogs to celebrate and went on the roller-coasters awhile, the Tornado, the Cyclone, and the Thunderbolt. We rode up on the big Wonder Wheel eating caramel popcorn and looked out over the ocean in one direction and out over Gravesend Bay in the other. We sank submarines and shot down planes on the game machines in the penny arcades and dashed into Steeplechase for a while and rolled around in the barrels and spun around on the Whirlpool and the Human Pool Table and caught rings on the big carousel, the biggest carousel in the island. We rode in a flat-bottomed boat in the Tunnel of Love and made loud dirty noises to give laughs to the other people there.

We knew there was anti-Semitism in Germany, but we didn't know what that was. We knew they were doing things to people, but we didn't know what they were.

We didn't know much of Manhattan then. When we went up into the city at all, it was mainly to the Paramount or Roxy theater, to hear the big bands and see the big new movies before they came into the neighborhood six months later, to the Loew's Coney Island or the RKO Tilyou. The big movie houses in Coney Island then were safe and profitable and comfortable. Now they're bankrupt and out of business. Some of the older fellows would sometimes take us along into Manhattan in their cars on Saturday night to the jazz clubs on Fifty-second Street or up into Harlem for the music at the colored ballroom or theater there or to buy marijuana, eat ribs cheap, and get sucked and fucked for a buck if they wanted to, but I didn't go in much for any of that, not even the music. Once the war came, a lot of people started making money, and we did too. Soon after the war you could get that same sucking and the rest right there in the Coney Island neighborhood from Jewish white girls hooked on heroin and married to other local junkies who had no money either, but the price was two bucks now, and they did their biggest business mostly with housepainters and plasterers and other laborers from outside the neighborhood, who hadn't gone to school with those girls and didn't care. Some in my own crowd, like Sammy and Marvelous Marvin Winkler, the bookie's little boy, began smoking marijuana even before the war, and you could find that country smell of pot in the smoking sections of the Coney Island movie houses once you got to recognize what the stuff smelled like. I didn't go for any of that either, and the guys who were my friends never lit up their reefers when I was around, even though I told them they could, if they wanted to.

"What's the use?" Winkler liked to groan, with his eyes red and half closed. "You bring me down."

A guy named Tilyou, who maybe was already dead, became a sort of guy to look up to once I found out about him. When everyone else was poor, he owned a movie house and he owned a big Steeplechase amusement park and a private house across the street from his Steeplechase Park, and I never even connected them all with the same name until Sammy pointed it out to me not long ago on one of his mercy visits up to my house, when all of them were already gone, and George C. Tilyou too. Sammy began coming up a lot to see us after his wife died of cancer of the ovary and he did not know what to do with himself weekends, and especially when I was out of the hospital again and had nothing much to do with myself either but hang around getting my strength back after another session of radiation or more chemotherapy. Between these hospitalizations I could feel like a million and be strong as an ox again. When things got bad here, I'd go into the city to a hospital in Manhattan and an oncologist named Dennis Teemer for treatments they had there. When I felt good, I was terrific. i By now it's out of the bag. And everyone knows I've been sick with something that sometimes puts other people away. We never speak of it by name, or even as something big enough to even have a name. Even with the doctors, Claire and I don't talk about it by name. I don't want to ask Sammy, but I'm not sure we fooled him for a minute in all of the years of my lying about it like I did-as I did, as he would want to correct me, like he does, when I let him. Sometimes I remember, but I talk to him like I want to anyway just to heckle him.

"Tiger, I know it," I will tell him with a laugh. "You still think I'm a greenhorn? I'm putting you on, like I like to do, and hopefully someday you'll get it."

Sammy is smart and picks up on small things, like the name Tilyou, and the scar on my mouth before I grew my big brush mustache to hide it or let what hair I had left grow long in back to cover the incisions there and the blue burn marks on the glands in the back of my neck. I missed a lot: maybe in my lifetime by not going to college, but I never wanted to go, and I don't think I missed anything that would have mattered to me. Except maybe college girls. But I always had girls. They'd never scared me, and I knew how to get them and talk to them and enjoy them, older ones too. I was always priapic, Sammy told me.

"You've got it, tiger," I answered him. "Now tell me what it means."

"You were all prick," he said, like he enjoyed insulting me, "and no conflicts."

"Conflicts?"

"You never had problems."

"I never had problems."

I never had doubt. My first was an older one on the next block named Blossom. My second was an older one we called Squeezy. Another one was a girl I picked up in the insurance office when Sammy was working there, and she was older too, and she knew I was younger, but she wanted more of me anyway and bought me two shirts for Christmas. Back then I think I made it with every girl I really wanted to. With girls, like everywhere else, even in the army, I found out that if you let people know what you want to do and seem sure of yourself about doing it, they're likely to let you. When I was still a corporal, my sergeant overseas was soon letting me do all the deciding for both of us. But I never had college girls, the kind you used to see in the movies. Before the war, nobody we knew went to college or thought about it. After the war, everybody began going. The girls I met through Sammy from his Time magazine before he was married, and after too, didn't always find me as popular as I thought they should, so I cut down on the personality with them instead of embarrassing him, and even his wife, Glenda, wasn't really as crazy about me and Claire at first as the people we were used to in Brooklyn and Orange Valley. Claire had the idea Glenda felt like a snob because she wasn't Jewish and was not from Brooklyn, but it turned out it wasn't that. When we began to get sick, first me, then her, we all got close, and even before that, when their boy, Michael, killed himself. We were the married couple they could turn to easiest and Claire was the girl she could confide in most.

In Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and everywhere else, I always had girls, as often as I wanted, and even could get them for others, even for Sammy. Especially in the army, in Georgia, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and married ones too, with husbands away. And that sort of always turned me off a little afterward, but it never stopped me from having the good time when I could. "Don't put it in," they would sometimes try to make me promise before I made us both happier by putting it in. In England before I was shipped into Europe there were lots. In England in the war every American could get laid, even Eisenhower, and sometimes in France in a village or farm, where we were busy moving forward with the fighting, until we had to move back and I was taken prisoner with a whole bunch of others in what I later found out was the Battle of the Bulge. Except in Germany, but even almost in Dresden as a POW working in that liquid vitamin factory making syrups for pregnant women in Germany who needed nourishment and didn't have what to eat. That was late in the war, and I hated the Germans more than ever before, but couldn't show it. Even there I came close to getting laid with my joshing around with the guards and the Polish and other slave-labor women working there, and maybe could really have talked my favorite guards-they were all old men or soldiers who'd been wounded badly on the Russian front-into looking the other way while I slipped off into a room or closet with one or another of them for a while. The women weren't eager but didn't seem to mind me-up until the night of that big firebombing when everything around us came to an end in one day, and all of the women were gone too. The other guys thought I was out of my mind for horsing around that way, but it gave us a little something more to do until the war ended and we could go back home. The Englishmen in the prison detail could make no sense of me. The guards were tired too, and they began to get a kick out of me also. They knew I was Jewish. I made sure of that everywhere.

"Herr Reichsmarschall," I called each one of the German privates as a standing joke whenever I had to speak to them to translate or ask for something. "Fucking Fritz" was what I called each one of them to myself, without joking. Or "Nazi kraut bastard."

"Herr Rabinowitz," they answered with mock respect.

"Mein Name ist Lew," I always kidded back with them heartily. "Please call me that."

"Rabinowitz, you're crazy," said my assistant Vonnegut, from Indiana. "You're going to get yourself killed."

"Don't you want to have fun?" I kept trying to cheer us all up. "How can you stand all this boredom? I bet I can get a dance going here if we can talk them into some music."

"Not me," said the old guy named Schweik. "I'm a good soldier."

Both these guys knew more German than I did, but Vonnegut was modest and shy, and Schweik, who kept complaining he had piles and aching feet, never wanted to get involved.

Then one week we saw the circus was coming to town. We had seen the posters on our march to the food factory from our billets in the reinforced basement that had been the underground room of the slaughterhouse when they still had animals to slaughter. By then the guards were more afraid than we were. At night we could hear the planes from England pass overhead on their way to military targets in the region. And we would sometimes hear with pleasure the bombs exploding in the hundreds not far away. From the east we knew the Russians were coming.

I had a big idea when I saw those carnival posters. "Let's talk to the headman and see if we can't get to go. The women too. We need a break. I'll do the talking." The chance excited me. "Let's go have a try."

"Not me," said that good soldier Schweik. "I can get myself in enough trouble just doing what I'm told."

The women working with us were wan and bedraggled and as dirty as we were, and I don't think there was a sex gland alive in any of us. And I was underweight and had diarrhea most of the time too, but that would have been one screw to tease Claire about later and to boast about now. I could have lied, but I don't like to lie.

Claire and I got married even before I was out of the army, just after my double hernia operation at Fort Dix when I got back from Europe and the prisons in Germany, and I almost went wild with a pair of German POWs there in New Jersey for leering and saying something in German when they saw her waiting for me while we were still engaged.

I saw them first in Oklahoma, those German prisoners of war over here, and I couldn't believe what I was looking at. They were outdoors with shovels and looked better than we did, and happier too on that big army base. This was war? Not in my book. I thought prisoners of war were supposed to be in prison and not outdoors having a good time with each other and making jokes about us. I got angry looking at them. They were guarded by a couple of slouching GIs who looked bored and lazy and carried rifles that looked too heavy. The krauts were supposed to be working at something, but they weren't working hard. There were American stockade prisoners all around who'd gone AWOL and been put to work digging holes in the ground just for punishment and then filling them up, and they were always working harder than any of these. I got even angrier just watching them, and one day, without even knowing what I was doing, I decided to practice my German on them and just walked right up.

"Hey, you're not allowed to do that, soldier," said the guard nearest the two I went to, jumping toward me nervously and speaking in one of those foreign southern accents I was just beginning to get used to. He even started to level his rifle.

"Pal, I've got family in Europe," I told him, "and it's perfectly all right. Just listen, you'll hear." And before he could answer me I began right in with my German, trying it out, but he didn't know that. "Bitte. Wie ist Ihr Name? Danke schön. Wie alt sind Sie? I Danke vielmals. Wo Du kommst hier? Danke." By now a few of the others had drawn close, and even a couple of the other guards had come up to listen and were smiling too, like having a good time at one of our USO shows. I didn't like that either. What the hell, I thought, was this war or peace? I kept right on talking. When they couldn't understand me, I kept changing the way I said something until they did, and then there were nods and laughs from all of them, and I made believe I was grinning with happiness when I saw they were giving me good marks. "Bitte schön, bitte schön," they told me when I said "Danke, danke" to them in a gush for telling me I was "Gut, gut." But before it was over, I made sure I let them know there was one person there who wasn't having such a good time, and that person was me. "So, wie geht jetzt?" asked them, and pointed my arm around the base. "Du, gefallt es hier? Schön, ja?" When they said they did like it there, like we were all practicing our German, I put this question to them. "Gefallt hier besser wie zuhause mit Krieg? Ja?" I would have bet they did like it there better than they would have liked being back in Germany at war. "Sure," I said to them in English, and by then they'd stopped smiling and were looking confused. I stared hard into the face of the one I had spoken to first. "Sprechen Du!" I drilled my eyes into his until he began to nod weakly, answering. When I saw him fold I wanted to laugh out loud, although I didn't find it funny. "Dein Name ist Fritz? Dein Name ist Hans? Du bist Heinrich?" And then I told them about me. "Und mein Name ist Rabinowitz." I said it again as a German might. "Rabinovitz. Ich bin Lew Rabinowitz, LR, von Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Du kennst?" And then I spoke Yiddish. "Und ich bin ein Yid. Farshstest?" And then in English. "I am a Jew. Understand?" And then in my fractured German. "Ich bin Jude. Verstehst?" Now they didn't know where to look, but they did not want to look at me. I've got blue eyes that can turn into slits of ice, Claire still tells me, and a pale, European skin that can turn red fast when I laugh hard or get mad, and I wasn't sure they believed me. So I opened my fatigues one button more and pulled out my dog tags to show them the letter J stamped there on the bottom with my blood type. "Sehen Du? Ich bin Rabinowitz, Lew Rabinowitz, und ich bin Jude. Understand? Good. Danke," I said sarcastically, glaring coldly at each of them until I saw the eyes drop. "Danke schön, danke vielmals, für alles, and a bitte and bitte schön too. And on the life of my mother, I swear I will pay you all back. Thanks, buddy boy," I said to the corporal, as I turned to go. "I'm glad you had a good time too."

"What was it all about?"

"Just practicing my German."

In Fort Dix with Claire, I wasn't practicing. I was mad in a second when I saw them snicker and say something about her, and I was ready to wade right in, madder than I'd ever been in combat, as I moved straight toward them. My voice was low and very calm, and that vein in my neck and jaw was already ticking, like the clock of a time bomb just dying to explode.

"Achtung," I said in a soft and slow voice, drawing the word out to make it last as long as I could, until I came to a stop where they were standing on the grass with their shovels near a dirt walkway they were making.

The two of them looked at each other with a hardly hidden smile they must have thought I wouldn't mind.

"Achtung," I said again, with a little more bite on the second part, as though carrying on a polite conversation with someone hard of hearing in the parlor of Claire's mother in her upstate home in New York. I put my face right into theirs, only inches away. My lips were drawn wide, as they would be if I was going to laugh, but I wasn't even smiling, and I don't think they got that yet. "Achtung, aufpassen," I said for emphasis.

They turned sober when I didn't shout it. They began to see I wasn't kidding. And then they straightened up from their comfortable slouching and began to look a little bit lost, like they couldn't make me out. I didn't know till later that I was clenching my fists, didn't know until I saw blood on my hands from where my nails were digging in.

Now they weren't so sure anymore, and I was. The war in Europe was over, but they were still prisoners of war, and they were here, not there. It was summer and they were healthy and bare-chested and bronzed from the sun, like I used to be on the beach at Coney Island before the war. They looked strong, muscular, not like the hundreds and hundreds more I'd seen taken prisoner overseas. These had been in first, and they had grown healthy as prisoners and strong on American food, while I was away with trench foot from wet socks and shoes, and was covered with bugs I'd never seen before, lice. They were early captures, I guessed, the big bully-boy crack troops from the beginning of the war, that whole generation who by now had been captured, killed, or wounded, and they looked too good and too well-off for my taste, but there were the rules of the Geneva Convention for prisoners, and here they were. The two I faced were older and bigger than me, but I did not doubt I could take them apart if it came to that, weak as I was from the operations and thin from the war, and maybe I was wrong. I wasn't fed as good as they were when I was a prisoner.

"Wie gehts?" I said casually, looking at each in turn in a way that let them know I wasn't being as sociable as I sounded. By now my German was pretty good. "Was ist Dein Name?"

One was Gustav, one was Otto. I remember the names.

"Wo kommst Du her?"

One was from Munich. I'd never heard of the other place. I was speaking with authority, and I could see they were anxious. They didn't outrank me. None could be officers if they'd been put to work, not even noncommissioned, not unless they had lied, as I had done, just to get out of the last prison camp and go somewhere to work. "Warum lachst Du wenn Du siehst Lady hier? You too." I pointed at the other one. "Why were you laughing just now when you looked at the lady here, and what did you say to him about her that made him laugh some more?"

I forgot to say that in German and spoke in English. They knew what I was talking about, all right, but were not too sure of the words. I didn't mind. This was a hard one to put into another language, but I knew they would get it if I put my mind to it.

"Warum hast Du gelacht wenn Du siehst mein girlfriend here?"

Now we all knew they understood, because they did not want to answer. The guard with the gun did not understand what was going on or know what to do about it. He looked more scared of me than of them. I knew that I wasn't even allowed to talk to them. Claire would have wanted me to stop. I wasn't going to. Nothing could have made me. A young officer with campaign ribbons who'd come up quickly halted when he saw my face.

"Better keep back," I heard Claire warn him.

I had campaign ribbons on too, including a Bronze Star I'd won in France for knocking out a Tiger tank with a guy named David Craig. I think that officer was reading my mind and was smart enough to keep out of my way. I seemed official and talked tough as hell. My German threw all of them off, and I made sure to speak it loudly.

"Antworte!" I said. "Du verstehst was ich sage?"

"Ich verstehe nicht."

"Wir haben nicht gelacht."

"Keiner hat gelacht."

"Otto, you are a liar," I told him in German. "You do understand and you did laugh. "Gustav, sag mir, Gustav, was Du sagen"-I pointed to Claire-"über meine Frau hier? Beide lachen, was ist so komisch?" We weren't married yet, but I didn't mind throwing in that she was my wife, just to tighten the screws a little more. "She is my wife," I repeated, in English, for the officer to hear. "What nasty thing did you say about her?"

"Ich babe nichts gesagt. Keiner hat gelacht."

"Sag mir!" I commanded.

"Ich babe es vergessen. Ich weiss nicht."

"Gustav, Du bist auch ein Lügner, und Du wirst gehen zu Hölle für Deine Lüge. To hell you will both go for your lie and for your dirty words about this young lady, if I have to put you there myself. Now. Schaufeln hinlegen!"

I pointed. They laid down their shovels tamely and waited. I waited too.

"Schaufeln aufheben!" I said, with no smile.

They looked about miserably. They picked up the shovels and stdod without knowing what to do with them. j "Dein Name ist Gustav?" I said after another half a minute. "Dein Name ist Otto? Jawohl? Du bist von München? Und Du bist von amp; Acb wo!" I didn't really care where the hell he was from. "Mein Name ist Rabinowitz. Lewis Rabinowitz. Icb bin Lewis Rabinowitz, from Coney Island, on West Twenty-fifth Street, between Railroad Avenue and Mermaid Avenue, bei Karussell, the merry-go-round on the boardwalk." I could feel the pulses in my thumbs beating too when I took out my dog tags to make them look at that letter J, to make extra sure that they knew what I was saying when I told them next in Yiddish: "Und ich bin ein Yid." And then in German: "Ich bin Jude, judisch. Verstehst Du jetzt?" They weren't so bronze anymore, and didn't look so powerful. I felt peaceful as can be, and never more sure of myself as LR, Louie Rabinowitz from Coney Island. There was no more need to fight with them. I spoke with my hateful smile that Claire says looks worse than a skeleton's and like a deadly grimace. "Jetzt amp; noch einmal." They put down the shovels when I told them to and picked them back up as though I had trained them perfectly. I indicated Claire. "Hast Du schlecht gesagt wie als er hat gesagt wie Du gesehen Dame hier?"

"Nein, mein Herr."

"Hast Du mitgelacht als er hat gesagt schlecht?"

"Nein, mein Herr."

"You are lying again, both of you, and it's lucky that you are because I might break both your backs if you told me you did laugh at her or said something bad. Geh zur Arbeit." I turned away from them with disgust. "Corporal, they're yours again. Thanks for the chance."

"Lew, that wasn't nice," Claire said first.

Then the officer spoke. "Sergeant, you're not allowed that. You're not allowed to talk to them that way."

I saluted respectfully. "I know the rules of the Geneva Convention, Captain. I was a prisoner of war there, sir."

"What was it all about?"

"They looked at my fiancée, sir, and said something dirty. I'm only just back. I'm not right in the head yet."

"Lew, you're not right in the head." Claire started in the minute we were alone. "Suppose they didn't do what you told them to?"

"Calm down, little girl. They did do what I told them. They had to."

"Why? Suppose the guard made you stop? Or that officer?"

"They couldn't."

"How did you know?"

"Just understand."

"Why couldn't they?"

"I tell you and you must believe me. Certain things happen the way I say they will. Don't ask me why. To me it's simple. They insulted you, and they insulted me by doing that, and I had to let them know they couldn't do that. They're not allowed to do that." We were already engaged. "You're my fiancée, nest-ce pas? My Frdulein. I would get mad at anyone who looked at you and made a smutty remark, and so would my father and my brothers, if they saw any other guy ever snicker at you like that, or at one of my sisters. Enough chitchat, my dear. Let's go back to the hospital now. Let's go say good-bye to Herman the German."

"Lew, it's enough with Herman already. I'll wait downstairs and have a soda if you feel you have to go through that with him again. I don't find it funny."

"You still won't believe it, baby, but I don't find it funny either. That's not why I do it to him."

The problem with Claire then, as Sammy and Winkler saw and let me know, was that she did have big tits. And the trouble with me was that I got jealous fast and felt ready to just about kill any other guy who noticed them, Sammy and Winkler too.

So four of us went down to enlist that day and all four of us came back. But Irving Kaiser from the apartment house next door was killed by artillery fire in Italy and I never saw him again, and Sonny Ball was killed the same way there too. Freddy Rosenbaum lost a leg, and Manny Schwartz still walks around with hooks on an artificial hand and is not so good-humored about it anymore, and Solly Moss was shot in the head and hasn't been able to hear or see too clearly since, and as Sammy mentioned once when looking back, that seems to have been a lot of casualties for just a couple of blocks in a pretty small section of a pretty small neighborhood, so a lot of others everywhere must have been killed or wounded also. I thought so too. But the day the four of us went off we didn't think there'd really be danger or casualties.

We were going to war and we didn't know what it was.

Most of us married young. And none of us knew from divorce then. That was for the Gentiles, for the rich people we used to read about in the newspapers who went to Reno, Nevada, for six weeks because it was easier there. And for someone like Sammy's Glenda and her roving first husband who liked to play around a lot and just didn't seem to give a shit who knew it. Now even one of my own daughters has got her divorce. When I first heard about that marriage breaking up I wanted to set right out after my ex-son-in-law and work out the property settlement with my bare hands. Claire shut me up and took me back to the Caribbean to cool off instead. Sammy Singer was the only one I know of who waited, and then he married his shiksa with three children and the light-brown hair that was almost blonde. But Sammy Singer was always a little bit different, short and different, quiet, thinking a lot. He was strange and went to college. I was smart enough and also had the GI Bill of Rights to pay for it, but was already married, and I had better things to do than go to school some more, and I was in a bigger hurry to get somewhere. That's another reason I never liked John Kennedy or anyone around him when he jumped into the limelight and began to act like an actor having too good a time. I could recognize a man in a hurry. I blinked once when he was shot, said too bad, and went back to work the same day, and got ready to begin disliking Lyndon Johnson, when I wanted to take the time. I don't like bullshitters and people who talk a lot, and that's what Presidents do. I hardly read newspapers anymore. Even back then I couldn't figure out why a guy with brains like Sammy Singer would want to go to college just to study things like English literature, which he could read in his spare time.

When I was thirteen and ready for high school, I got into Brooklyn Technical High School, which was not so easy to do back then, and did well in things like math, mechanical drawing, and some of the science courses, as I did not doubt I would. And then I forgot just about everything but the arithmetic when I got out and went to work for my father in the junkshop with my brother and one of my brothers-in-law, who lived with my oldest sister in the basement flat of the four-family brick house with a porch the family already owned. I used the arithmetic most in pinochle, I guess, in the bidding and playing, where I could pretty much hold my own in the boardwalk and beach games with almost the best of the old-world Jews from Russia and Hungary and Poland and Romania, who talked and talked and talked even while they played, about cards and the Jewish newspapers, and about Hitler, whom I hated early, as early as they did, and Stalin, Trotsky, Mussolini, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whom they liked, so I liked him too. In Coney Island I'll bet there was never a single Jewish voter for any Republican except maybe my brother-in-law Phil, who was always against everything everyone else around him was for, and still is.

My father did not think much of my genius at cards. When I asked him what else I should do with my time when we weren't working, he didn't know. When he didn't know something, he didn't want to talk about it. In the army there was no real pinochle, so I made my money at blackjack, poker, and craps. I almost always won because I always knew I would. If I didn't feel I would win I hardly ever played. When I lost, it wasn't much. I could tell in a minute if there were players at work who were just as good as I was and on a streak, and I knew enough to wait. Now I use my math to calculate discounts, costs, tax breaks, and profit margins, and I can do my figuring without even feeling I'm thinking, like my bookkeeper or counter girls could with their computers, and just about as fast. I'm not always right, but I'm almost never wrong. With the idea for metered home heating oil for builders and developers, even after I found the meter that would do it, I never felt sure. With metered oil there'd be no need for a fuel tank for each house in a development, and the company that owned the meter would sell the oil there. But I had the feeling I'd have trouble getting the people at the big oil companies to take me seriously, and I did and they wouldn't. When we met I was not myself. I wore a suit with a vest and had a different personality, because I had the feeling they would not like mine. They didn't care much for the one I used either. I was out of my league and knew it the minute I tried to step into theirs. There were limits, and I had guessed from the start that the sky was not one of mine.

The war was a big help, even to me, with the building boom and the shortages of materials to build with. We made money on the demolitions and on the first Luria Park fire right after the war when my hernias were fixed and I was back in the junkshop and strong as a bull again. I found I still loved the hard and heavy work with my brothers and brother-in-law and the old man. Smokey Rubin and the black guy were gone, but we had others when we needed them, and two trucks and another one we rented by the week. But I hated the dirt, hated the grease and the filth, and the stink from the rot from the ocean in the newspapers from the trash cans on the beach the scavenging ragpickers brought in to sell on the carts they pushed and pulled. I was afraid of the dirt and the air we breathed. I'm afraid of bugs. The old newspapers sometimes came with dead crabs and clumps of mussels with sand and seaweed and with orange peel and other kinds of garbage, and we put those in the middle of the big bales of papers we still wired up with our hands with pliers. There were machines now to bale newspapers, Winkler let us know like the voice of experience on one of those days when he had nothing better to do and came by to watch us working our asses off and hang around until I finished up. Winkler could find machines for anything, second hand ones too. State-of-the-art machines, he liked to call them, wasn't sure what that meant.

Winkler had found his state-of-the-art machines to slice up surplus army aerial film into sizes for consumer cameras and planned to make his first millions doing that before Eastman Kodak caught wise and tooled up again for the whole population and took back the market. People were getting married and having babies, and they wanted baby pictures.

"Never mind the machines, I don't want your machines," the old man grumbled at Winkler, grinding his dental plates and speaking in the thick Polish-Jewish accent Claire had hardly ever heard before she started going out with me and sleeping over in my other sister's room. No one would let us get together under that roof. She was upstate Jewish, where things were different than in Coney Island, and both her parents had been born in this country, which was different also. We met when they rented in Sea Gate one summer, for the beach and the ocean-we had one of the best beaches and ocean for swimming when it wasn't filthy with condoms and other things from the toilets on the big ocean liners steaming past into the harbor almost every day, and from sewers. We called the condoms " Coney Island whitefish." We called the garbage and the other floating stuff "Watch-out!" We had another name for the condoms. We called them scumbags. Now we call those pricks in Washington that. Like Noodles Cook, and maybe that new one now in the White House too.

"I got my own machines, two right here," the old man said, and flexed his muscles and smiled. He meant his shoulders and arms "And three more machines right mere." He meant me and my brother and my brother-in-law." And my machines are alive and don't cost so much. Pull, pull," he called out. "Don't stand there, don't listen to him. We got pipes to cut and boilers to get later."

And he and his three live machines went back to work with our baling claws and long pliers and thin steel baling rods to be pulled and twisted into knots, keeping our eyes and nuts out of the way in case a wire snapped. We tumbled one bale down on top of the other, where they both shook and quivered, in a way Claire thought was sexual, she told me, like a big guy like me tumbling himself down on top of a girl like her.

The old man took to Claire right off, from the time she started showing up at the junkshop to watch and help so I could finish up earlier when we had a date, and because she spent good time talking to my mother, who was not always easy to talk to anymore. And she gift-wrapped the small presents she brought for birthdays and holidays. Gift-wrapped? Claire was the first we knew of to gift-wrap. Before Claire showed up, who in the whole large family, in the whole world of Coney Island, knew about gift-wrapping? Or "stemware"? None in the family was sure what stemware was, but I knew I wanted it once Claire did, and I talked about our "stemware" to a higher-level Italian guy named Rocky I bought things from. Rocky liked me and liked Claire's way of talking straight with him, and after we both moved away and went separately into buying lots and building houses, we sometimes did things for each other. Rocky liked girls, blondes and redheads with lots of makeup and high heels and big bosoms, and was very respectful of wives, like Claire and his own.

Her father was dead, and my father put his foot down at the beginning about me ever sleeping over at her house, even with her mother home.

"Listen, Louie," my father, Morris, told me, "listen to me good. The girl is an orphan. She has no father. Marry her or leave her alone. I'm not making a joke."

I decided to marry her, and I found out, when I thought about it, that I wanted my wife to be a virgin. I was surprised, but that was the kind of a guy I turned out to be. I had to admit that every time I talked a girl into coming across, I thought at least a little bit less of her afterward, even though I usually wanted to do it with them again. And even six years later, when Sammy got married to Glenda with her three children, I still could not make myself understand how any man like him or me could get married to a girl who'd been fucked by someone else, especially by someone who was still alive, and more than once, and by more than one guy. I know it's funny, but that's the kind of a guy I turned out to be.

And still am, because there are things about my two daughters that Claire and I no longer even try to argue about. They wouldn't believe me when I let them know their mother was a virgin until we got married. And Claire made me swear I would never tell that, to anyone again.

I usually backed away from Claire's temper, but never from fear. I was not afraid in the army or the prison camps, not even in the firefights and scattered artillery barrages when we were pushing forward through the rest of France and Luxembourg and in toward the German border, not even when I looked up from the snow after the big December surprise and saw those German soldiers with clean guns and nice new white uniforms and the bunch of us were captured.

But I was afraid of the rats in our junkshop. And I hated the filth, especially when I was back after the war. Even a mouse at a baseboard would be enough to make me nauseous and set me shivering for a whole minute, like I do now when I get the taste of my mother's green apples or even remember it. And when I finally set up in business for myself in the town over two and half hours from our place in Brooklyn, the best location I could find was the building of a bankrupt mousetrap factory near the freight siding of the railroad station, and now there were plenty of mice there too.

One day after another I was disgusted by the dirt under my fingernails, and I was ashamed. All of us were. We scrubbed ourselves clean when we finished up, with cold water from the hose which was all we had there. It took maybe an hour. Even in the winter we soaped and hosed ourselves down with stiff industria brushes and lye soap. We didn't want to walk out and come home with all that muck on us. I hated the black beneath the fingernails. In Atlanta in the army I discovered the manicure-along with the shrimp cocktail and the filet mignon beefsteak-and in England I found the manicure again, and in France, moving through, I had my manicure whenever I could. And back in Coney Island I never wanted to be without it. And I never have been. Even in the hospital, at times when I'm feeling the lousiest, I still care about my cleanliness, and a manicure is one of the things I always make sure of getting. Claire already knew about manicures. After our marriage it was part of our foreplay. She liked pedicures too, and having her back scratched and her feet massaged, and I liked holding her toes.

I drove a good car as soon as I had money for one and bought another good one for Claire when I had money for that, and we didn't have to go out on dates in the company pickup anymore, and once I discovered hand-tailored suits I never wanted to dress myself up in anything else. When Kennedy became President it turned out we both had our suits made by the same shop in New York, but I had to admit I never looked as good in mine as he did in his. Sammy always said I didn't know how to dress, and Claire used to say so too, and maybe they're right, because I never did pay much attention to things like colors and style and left that to the tailors to choose for me. But I knew enough to know I always felt just grand walking around in a handmade suit that cost over three hundred dollars with the sales tax and might have cost as much as five hundred. Now they're over fifteen hundred and go up to two thousand, but I still don't care, and I have more of them now than I'll ever have time to wear out, because my weight keeps changing a lot between remissions, and I always like to look my tidiest in a suit and manicure whenever I dress up and go out.

I wore cotton shirts, only cotton. No nylon, no polyester, no Greaseproof, never any wash-and-wear. But no Egyptian cotton, not ever, not after Israel and the war of 1948. When Milo Minderbinder and his M amp; M Enterprises went big into Egyptian cotton, I stopped carrying their M amp; M toilet bowls and sinks in my plumbing business and their building materials in my lumberyard. Winkler knows I don't like the idea, but: he still buys Minderbinder cocoa beans for the chocolate Easter bunnies he's into, but we throw them out when he sends them as gifts.

I discovered cheese when I discovered the Caribbean, French cheese. I loved French cheeses from the day I found them. And Martinique and Guadeloupe and later Saint Barts became our favorite vacation spots in the Caribbean in winter. Because of the cheeses. I was not hot for Europe. I went once to France and once to Spain and Italy and never cared to go back to any place that didn't speak my language and couldn't get a good idea of the kind of person I thought I was. And then one day on Saint Barts, while having just a grand time with Claire after picking up two neat parcels of land in Saint Maarten at what I just knew would turn out to be a very good price, I ate a piece of cheese I always liked on a piece of bread I liked too, a Saint André cheese, I think I remember it was, and then a little while later felt coming up that taste of green apples I'd never forgotten, a burning, sour taste that I remembered from very far back when being sick as a kid, and I was scared that something not right might be going on inside me. And my neck felt stiff, like it was swelling up. Sammy would say that it had to swell up, because it couldn't swell down. I can smile at that now. It was something more than just indigestion. Till then I almost never felt nauseous, no matter how much I ate and drank, and I don't think I'd ever felt anything but good as a grown-up. In the army I was cold and dirty a lot and wanted more sleep and better food, but I don't think I ever felt anything but safe and healthy, or that anything that was bad and unusual was ever going to happen to me. Even when that sniper got that corporal named Hammer in the head when we were standing near that recon jeep and talking to each other just a foot apart. The town looked clear, that's what he was reporting back to me, and he was sure we could move on in. It didn't surprise me that it was him, not me. I didn't feel it was just good luck. I felt it had to happen that way.

"Honey, let's go back tomorrow," I said to Claire, when I felt that old, sick taste of green apples bubble up, and later gave her some baloney after we were back in our room and had balled each other again. "I thought of something I might do in Newburgh that might turn out pretty good for us."

I was feeling fine after the sex together and even after we were home. But just to make sure I dropped in at the doctor's. Emil looked and found nothing. I still don't know if he should have looked harder, or if it would have made any difference. Emil could easily believe that what I had on the island was not what I have now. j I'm not afraid of people but I'm getting more afraid of green apples. The first time in my life I remember getting sick, my mother told me I was sick because I had eaten some green apples she was keeping in a bowl to bake or cook something with. I don't know if I'd even really eaten them. But every time I got sick that way again and felt nauseous and threw up, from mumps, from chicken pox, from a strep throat one time, she put the blame on those same green apples, and after a while I began to believe her, even though I'd eaten no green apples, because that taste of throwing up was always the same. And I believe it still. Because each time I get sick to my stomach, before the radiation or chemotherapy and during the radiation or chemotherapy and after the radiation or chemotherapy, I taste green apples. I tasted my green apples with the surgery for the double hernia. And when I got really sick that first time driving back from a weekend at Sammy's house on Fire Island with a couple of some of Sammy's lively friends from Time and felt my neck swell so that I couldn't turn my head to keep driving and then went faint over the steering wheel and threw up just outside the car and began to babble to myself a little deliriously, it was about green apples I was babbling, Claire told me. And the kids in the back of the station wagon, we had just three then, said so too. We told people who wondered why we weren't home till late that it was only an upset stomach, because that's what we thought it was. Later we said it was angina. Then mononucleosis. Then tuberculosis of the glands. When I had my first real collapse seven years later and was in a hospital in the city and Claire told Glenda what it really was, it turned out she and Sammy both already knew or guessed. Glenda had some experience with an ex-husband with a different kind of cancer, and Sammy, as we knew, was smart, from reading Time magazine every week.

Claire had never met a family like ours, with Brooklyn accents and Jewish accents from my mom and pop, or gone out with a guy like me, who had picked her away from someone else on a double blind date and was able to do whatever he wanted to do, and whose future was in junk. I didn't like that last idea, but never showed it until we were already married.

"There's no future in junk, because there's too much of it," Winkler would say to us before his first business failure. "Louie, a surplus is always bad. The economy needs shortages. That's what's so good about monopolies-they keep down the supply of what people want. I buy Eastman Kodak surplus army aviation film for practically nothing that nobody wants because there's too much, and I turn it into regular color camera film that nobody has. Everybody's getting married and having babies, even me, and everybody wants pictures in color and can't get enough film. Eastman Kodak is helpless. It's their film, so they can't knock the quality. I use the Kodak name, and they can't come near me for price. The first order I got when I mailed out my postcards was from Eastman Kodak for four rolls of film, so they could find out what I was doing."

He and Eastman Kodak soon found out that army aviation film, which was good at ten thousand feet, left grainy splotches on babies and brides, and then he was back driving a truck for us on days we needed him before he began making honey-glaze and chocolate-covered doughnuts for the first of the bakeries he went into next before he moved to California and bought the first of his chocolate-candy factories that didn't work out either. For twenty years I slipped him money now and then and never told Claire. For twenty years, Claire sent them money when they needed it and never told me.

Before I got out of the army, Claire, still just a kid, talked seriously to me about reenlisting because she liked the opportunties to travel.

"You must be joshing," I told her, back from Dresden and flat on my back in the hospital after my operations. "My name is Louie, not screwy. Travel where? Georgia? Kansas? Fort Sill, Oklahoma? You've got no chance." Claire helped at the junkshop with the telephone and business records when my big sister Ida had to be home with my mother. And she helped with my mother when Ida was in the shop. She could make her smile more than we could. The old lady was getting stranger and stranger with what the doctor told us was hardening of the arteries of the head, which was natural with age, he said, and which we now think was probably Alzheimer's disease, which maybe we now think of as natural too, like Dennis Teemer does with cancer.

Claire is still not much good at math, and that worries me now. She can add and subtract all right, especially after you give her la hand calculator, and even divide and multiply a little bit, bat she is lost with fractions, decimals, and percentages and doesn't understand the arithmetic of markups, markdowns, and interest rates. She was good enough for the bookkeeping then, though, and that's about all the old man wanted her to do after the time she began throwing pieces of brass and copper into the last paper bale of the day to help us finish up sooner. The old man couldn't believe it, and his groan shook the walls and probably drove all our rats and mice and cockroaches jumping out in a panic onto McDonald Avenue.

"I'm trying to help," she gave as an excuse. "I thought you wanted the bales to be heavier."

I laughed out loud. "Not with brass."

"With copper?" asked my brother, and laughed also.

"Tchotchkeleh, where did you go to get educated?" the old man asked her, scraping his dental plates, with the different noise they made when he was feeling jolly. "Copper, brass too, sells for fourteen cents a pound. Newspapers sell for bubkes, for nothing by the pound. Which is worth more? You don't have to go to Harvard to figure that out. Here, tchotchkeleh, sit here, little darling, and write numbers and say who must pay us money and who we got to pay. Don't worry, you'll go dancing yet. Louie, come here. Where did you find such a little toy?" He took my arm into that grip of his and pulled me into a corner to talk to me alone, his face red, his freckles big. "Louie, listen good. If you were not my own son, and if instead she was my daughter, I would not let her go out with a tummler like you. You must not hurt her, not even a little."

She wasn't as easy to fool as he thought, although I probably could have done everything I wanted with her. She'd heard from a cousin nearby about the Coney Island boys and their social clubs, that they would dance you into the back room with the door and the couches and get some clothes off you fast so you couldn't go back out without feeling ashamed, until you gave them at least some of what they wanted. When she said she wouldn't go back there with me the first time, I just picked her up off her feet while we still were dancing and danced her around down the hall into our back room just to show her it wasn't always true, not with me, not then. What I didn't let her know was that I had already been there with a different girl about an hour before.

She was weak at arithmetic for sure, but I soon found out I was better off leaving business things in her hands than leaving them with any of my brothers or my partners, and I always trusted my brothers and partners. None of them ever cheated me that I know of, and I don't think that any of them would have wanted to, because I always picked men who were generous and liked to laugh and drink as much as I did.

Claire had good legs and that beautiful bust, and she still does. She spotted before I did that nearly all the Italian builders we did business with always showed up for appointments on the site with flashy blondes and redheads for girlfriends, and she would pitch in by tinting her own hair back closer to blonde when I brought her along to something maybe more important than normal. She would load on the costume jewelry, and she could talk to them all, men and girls alike, in their own language. "I always wear this when I'm with him," she would say with a bit of a tired sneer about the wedding ring she was sporting, and about the low V neck of the dress or suit she had chosen to wear, and all of us would laugh. "I don't have the license with me to prove it," she'd answer, whenever any of them asked if we were really married. I'd leave those answers to her and enjoy them, and sometimes if the deal was good and the lunch went long, we would sign into the local motel also for the rest of the afternoon and always leave before evening. "He has to get home," was the way she would put it. "He can't stay out all night here either." In restaurants, nightclubs, and vacation spots she was always great at starting up conversations in the ladies' room and scoring chicks for any of the guys with us who didn't have any and wanted one. And she spotted before I did what I was beginning to have in mind for one knockout of a tall Australian blonde girlfriend of one of the Italian builders, a lively, swinging thing in white makeup with high heels and another great pair of boobs who couldn't stand still for wanting to dance, even though there was no music, and who kept making broad wisecracks about the naughty toys she had in mind for the toy manufacturers she worked for.

"She's got a roommate," the guy said to me without moving his lips. "She's a nurse and a knockout. They both put out. We could go out together."

"I'll want this cookie," I said for her to hear.

"That's okay too. I'll take my chances with the nurse," he said and I knew I would not want to pal around with him. He couldn't see my fun was in charming her, not in getting her as a gift.

Claire guessed it all. "No, Lew, not that," she let me know for all time, as soon as we were in the car. "Not ever, no, not when I see it happening."

I took the message, and she never saw that happening again, as far as I know.

And in the hospital at Fort Dix, she faced me down over Herman the German. I knew then she was right for me, after I cooled off and stopped simmering.

"Who takes care of you here?" she wanted to know, on one of her weekend visits from the city. "What do you do when you need something? Who comes?"

I'd be enchanted to demonstrate, I assured her. And then I bellowed, "Herman!" I heard the frightened footsteps of the orderly before I could roar out a second time, and then Herman my German was standing there, slight, timid, panting, nervous, in his fifties, no Aryan superman hero he, no Übermensch, not that one.

"Mein Herr Rabinowitz?" he began immediately, as I'd taught him I wanted him to. "Wie kann ich Ihnen dienen?"

"Achtung, Herman," I ordered casually. And after he clicked his heels and snapped to attention, I gave the order he understood. "Anfangen!" He began to tell me about himself. And I turned to Claire. "So, honey, how was the trip down? And where are you staying? Same hotel?"

Her eyes boggled as the man recited, and she couldn't believe it when she caught on. And she didn't look pleased. I almost had to laugh at her comical expression. Herman reported his name, rank, and serial number, and then his date and place of birth, education, work experience, family background and situation, and everything else I'd told him I wanted from him each time I stood him at attention and asked him to begin telling me about himself again. And I continued chatting with Claire as though I didn't see him and certainly didn't care.

"So I'll tell you what I've been thinking. I'm not going to reenlist so forget about that one. The old man might need me back in the junkshop for a while."

Claire couldn't figure out which of us to pay attention to. I kept a straight face. The room went quiet. Herman had finished and stood there blinking and sweating.

"Oh, yes," I said, without turning, as though I had just remembered him. "Noch einmal."

And he began again. "Mein Name ist Hermann Vogeler. Ich bin ein Soldat der deutschen Armee. Ich bin Backer. Ich wurde am driUen September 1892 geboren und ich bin dreiundfünfzig Jahre alt."

"Lew, stop-it's enough already," Claire broke in finally, and she was angry. "Stop! Stop it!"

I didn't like her talking to me that way, in front of Herman or anyone else. That vein in my neck and jaw started ticking. "So I think I'll begin with the old man again," I said right past her. "Just to have some kind of income while I try to decide what we want to do with ourselves."

"Lew, let him go," she ordered. "I mean it!"

"My father raised cows and sold milk," Herman was reciting in German. "I went to school. After school I applied for college, but I was not accepted. I was not smart."

"It's okay," I told her innocently, while Herman went on as obediently as the first time. "It's what he's trained to do. They trained him to bake. I trained him to do this. When he's finished I'll have him do it a few more times, so that none of us will ever forget. We can live with the folks for a while in the top-floor apartment. We're the youngest, so they'll make us climb stairs. I' don't think I want to take time to go to college, not if we're, married. You want to be married?"

"Lew, I want you to let him go! That's what I want! I warn you."

"Make me."

"I will. Don't push me."

"How?"

"I'll take my clothes off," she decided, and I could see she meant it. "Right here. I'll undress. It's enough! I'll take everything off and get on the bed on top of you, right now, if you don't let him stop. I'll sit on top of you, even with your stitches, even if they open. I'll let him see everything you've seen, I'll show it to him, I swear I will. Send him away."

She knew how I felt, that slick one. When bikini bathing suits came in, I didn't have to tell her not to wear one, and I finally gave up trying to talk to my daughters about them and just did not want to go to the beach when they were there.

She began unbuttoning. She kept unbuttoning, and she unbuttoned some more. And when I saw the white slip with the low neck and lace and the swell underneath of those really big tits that I never wanted any other man in the world ever even to take notice of, I had to back down. I could picture her unzipping and stepping out of her skirt with him still in the room, and then raising her slip, and I was afraid of that and just couldn't stand the thought, and I had to stop Herman, and I did it as though I were angry with him instead of her, like it was all his fault, not hers, or mine, and I had to send him away.

"Okay, enough, button up." I was in a rage with her too. "Okay, Herman. Genug. Fertig. Danke schon. Go out now! Schnell! Mach schnell! Get the hell out."

"Danke schon, Herr Rabinowitz. Danke vielmals." He was quivering, which embarrassed me, and backed out bowing.

"That wasn't funny, Lew, not to me," she was letting me know as she buttoned up.

"I wasn't doing it to be funny." I felt nasty too.

"Then why?"

I didn't know why.

By the time he left, I actually had a soft spot for the poor old guy, and I went out of my way to wish him luck before they shipped him off for what they called repatriation.

By then I felt pity for him. He was weak. Even by other Germans he would be considered weak, and at his age he would never be strong. He'd reminded me already in certain ways of Sammy's father, a sweet old quiet man with silver hair who all summer went off for a long dip in the ocean as soon as he came home from work. Sammy or his brother or sister would be sent out by Sammy's mother to keep an eye on him and remind him to come home in time for supper. Sammy and I were both lucky. We each had an older sister to take care of the parents at the end. Sammy's father read all the Jewish newspapers, and in his house they all liked to listen to classical music on the radio. At the Coney Island library, Sammy would put in reservations for books for him that had been translated into Yiddish, novels mostly, and mostly by Russians. He was friendly. My father was not. My folks hardly read at all. I never could find the time. At the beginning when Sammy tried writing short stories and funny articles to sell to magazines, he tried them out on me. I never knew what to say, and I'm glad he stopped using me.

Sammy had that old picture of his father in uniform from the First World War. He was a funny-looking young guy, like all those soldiers then, in a helmet that looked too big for his small head, and with a gas mask and a canteen on his belt. Old Jacob Singer had come to this country to get away from the armies over there, and here he was back in one. His eyes were kind and smiling and they looked into yours. Sammy doesn't always meet your eye. When we were younger and started with the kissing games, we had to tell him to look right at the girl he was holding and hugging, instead of off to the side. Sammy at sixty-eight is already older than his father was when he died. I already know I'm not going to live as long as mine did.

Sammy and I lived on different blocks and our parents never met. Except for relatives who lived somewhere else and came on summer weekends for a day at the beach, none of us ever invited other families in for dinner or lunch.

My old man was not especially friendly to anyone outside the family, and friends like Sammy and Winkler were not all that comfortable when they came to my house and he was home. I was the favorite he had in mind to run the business when he grew too old and see to it that there was always a livelihood for him and for all of the brothers and sisters and their children who needed it and couldn't find anything else. The Rabinowitzes were close. Always I was the best outside man there too, the talker, the schmeichler, the salesman, the schmoozer, the easygoing guy who would go to one old building after another to butter up some poor wretch of a janitor who was shoveling coal into a cellar furnace or rolling out garbage cans and ask him politely if he was the "superintendent" or the "manager." I wanted to talk to the "gentleman" who was in charge and would hint at all the ways we could help each other. I would leave him a business card Winkler had made up for me cheap through a printer he knew, and try to establish a contact with him that could lead to our getting the old pipes and the old plumbing fixtures like sinks and toilet bowls and bathtubs and the broken steam and hot-water boilers in the house, sometimes even before they were broken. We knew people who could fix anything. If it couldn't be fixed, we could sell it for junk. There would always be junk, my father would promise us like an optimist, while Claire and I would try not to smile, and always someone to pay you to take it and pay you to sell it. He made sure to talk to both of us when he talked about money after I was back. Now that I was not a child, he would raise me to sixty dollars a week, almost double. And to sixty-five a week after we were married. And of course we could have the top-floor apartment unti we could afford something of our own.

"Listen, Morris, listen to me good," I told him when he finished. I Had almost four thousand in the bank from my gambling and army pay. "I will do better for you. And sometime you will do, better for me. I will give you a year free. But after one year, I wil decide my salary. And I will be the one to say where, when, and how I want to work."

"Free?"

That was okay with him. From that came the move after a while into the old mousetrap factory in Orange Valley, New York, and the idea of selling used building materials and plumbing fixture; and boilers and hot-water heaters in a place that didn't have much and needed things in a hurry.

Claire was a better driver than any of us-she'd come from upstate and had a license at sixteen-and she drove the truck back and forth into Brooklyn when I was too busy. She was tough and she was smart and could talk fresh when she had to, and she knew how to use her good looks with cops and filling station garages to get help when anything went wrong, without promising anything or putting herself in trouble. I remember the first ad for the local newspaper Sammy helped write that we still laugh over. WE CUT PIPE TO SKETCH.

"What's it mean?" he asked.

"What it says," I told him.

That line brought in more business of all kinds up here than anybody but me would have thought.

From that came the lumberyard and then the plumbing supply company, with the ten-thousand-dollar loan from my father, at good interest. He was worried about his old age, he said. He had a shaking in his head from a small stroke he'd already been through that nobody ever talked about but him.

"Louie, talk to me, tell me good," he would ask me. "Does it look like my head shakes a little, and the hand?"

"No, Pop, no more than mine."

I remember that when my mother's mind was all but gone, she still wanted her hair combed and whitened with rinse and the hairs tweezed from her face. I know that feeling now of wanting to look your best. And for almost thirty years now I try to keep out of sight until I look fine and healthy again.

"You're a good boy, Louie," he said with a kidding disgust. "You're a liar, like always, but I like you anyway."

We rented a house in our new community and had two kids, then bought a house and had a third, and then I built a house to sell and built some more, one at a time, with partners on the first few, and they did sell, for profit. Profit was always the motive. I found myself lunching and drinking with people who hunted and voted Republican, mainly, and who flew the flag on national holidays and felt they were serving the country by doing that. They put out yellow ribbons each time the White House went to war and acted like military heroes who were fighting it. Why yellow, I would jolly them, the national color of cowardice? But they had a volunteer fire department that was always on the spot and an emergency ambulance service I had to use the second time I got nauseous suddenly and lost all my strength and Claire panicked and rushed me into the hospital. That time they transferred me back to the hospital in Manhattan with Dennis Teemer, who fixed me up again and sent me home when I was back to normal. I joined the American Legion when we first moved up here, to make some friends and have a place to go. They taught me to hunt, and I liked doing that and liked the people I went with, felt beautiful when I hit. They cheered me whenever I brought down a goose and one time a deer. They had to gut it for me. I couldn't even watch. "It's the Christian thing to do," I'd say, and we'd all laugh. When I took my first son out, it was always with other people so there'd be someone to do that for us. He wasn't crazy about hunting and soon I stopped going too.

Next we got the golf club in a town nearby. I made more friends, a lot from the city who moved up out here to the distant suburbs, and we had different places to go and ate and drank with other married couples.

I learned more about banks, and bankers too. At the beginning they let us know, even the women who were tellers, that they didn't much like having to serve customers with names like Rabinowitz. That changed, I admit. But I didn't. They got used to me and a lot of others, as the area kept growing. They thought more of me when I borrowed than when I put money in. When I put money in I was only another hardworking guy struggling with a small business. When I was big enough to borrow, I turned into Mr. Rabinowitz, then Lew to the officers, to Mr. Clinton and Mr. Hardy-a client, of means and net worth-and I would bring them as guests to my golf club as soon as I got in and introduce them as Ed Clinton and Harry Hardy, my bankers, and they were so tickled they blushed. I found out about bankruptcies. I couldn't believe those laws the first time I found myself being screwed by them.

I found out about Chapter 11 from a builder named Hanson and his lawyer, and they found out about me. When they left his house at the start of a business day, I was out of my car while they were still on the porch.

"Lew?" Hanson was so surprised he actually smiled, until he saw I didn't. He was a tall man and he had his hair cut close to the ears in the kind of haircut we had to wear in the army, and I didn't like it even then. The one with him was a stranger. "How are you?"

"Hanson, you owe me forty-two hundred dollars," I said right off. "For lumber and shingles and toilet and kitchen fixtures and pipes. I've sent you bills and talked to you on the telephone, and now I'm telling you to your face I want it today, this morning. Now. I'm here to collect."

"Lew, this is my new lawyer. This one is Rabinowitz."

"Ah, yes," said the new lawyer, with the kind of a smile you always see on lawyers that makes them look like hypocrites you want to strangle on the spot. "My client is in Chapter 11, Mr. Rabinowitz. I think you know that."

"Tell your client-sir, what is your name? I don't think he gave it."

"Brewster. Leonard Brewster."

"Please advise your client, Brewster, that Chapter 11 is for him and his lawyers, and for the court and maybe for the other people he owes. It's not for me. It's not for Rabinowitz. Hanson, we made a bargain, you and me. You took my material, you used it, you didn't complain about the delivery or quality. Now you must pay for it. That's the way I work. Listen to me good. I want my money."

"You can't collect it, Mr. Rabinowitz," said Brewster, "except through the court. Let me explain."

"Hanson, I can collect it."

"Lew-" Hanson began.

"Explain to your lawyer that I can collect it. I don't have time for court. I can collect it through the pores of your skin if I have to, one drop at a time, if you make me. You're keeping your house? Not with my forty-two hundred. It will go out from under you brick by brick. Are you listening good?"

"Lenny, let me talk to you inside."

When they came out, Brewster spoke with his eyes down.

"You'll have to take it in cash," he told me under his breath. "We can't leave a record."

"I think I can do that."

I trusted banks a little better now, but not that much, and I put the money in a safe-deposit box, because I didn't ever want to have to trust my accountant either. Claire looked faint when I said where I'd been.

"You didn't know they would pay."

"If I didn't know, I would not have gone. I don't waste time. Don't ask me how I know. People do what I want them to. Haven't you noticed? Didn't you? Next-what about Mehlman, that gonif, as long as this is pay-up day?"

"The same story."

"Call him. I'll talk to him too."

"How much should I ask him for?"

"How much is six times seven?"

"Don't confuse me. Does he still get the discount?"

"Would you know how to figure it?"

"Does he pay interest or not? That's all I want from you! Don't put me back in school again."

Claire didn't care for deadbeats and chiselers either, no matter what their religion, any more than I did back in the days when we were working very hard and she would help out on the phone when the lumberyard was still small and she wasn't busy getting the kids off to school or rushing home to be there when they got back. Later on, when she had more time and we had more money, she had a piece of an art gallery up here that wasn't supposed to make money and didn't, and after that even a half share of an art school in Lucca in Italy I bought her to help give her something else to think about when there wasn't always that much good anymore to think about here. When Mehlman called back, I grabbed the phone from her. She was too polite, like we were the ones who were supposed to apologize.

"Mehlman, you are a liar," I began right in, without even knowing what he'd been saying. "Listen to me good. If you force me to prove it you will hang yourself, because you'll have nowhere left to turn and no lies left to tell, and I will make you ashamed. Mehlman, I know you are a very religious man, so I'll put the matter to you in religious terms. If I don't have the money in my hands by Thursday noon, this shabbos you will crawl to shul on your knees, and everyone in the temple will know that Rabinowitz broke your legs because he says you are a liar and a cheat."

"I didn't know if Mehlman was lying or not. But the money was mine, and I got it.

Of course, later on I had a much more lenient view of Chapter 11 when I finally had to go into bankruptcy myself, but none of the creditors were people. They were only corporations. People were proud of me and clapped me on the back.

By then I was older and had this ailment slowing me down. I had less pep and not much reason for keeping up with newcomers who were younger and hungrier and willing to work as hard as we used to want to. I would have liked to hold on to the lumberyard and the plumbing business to pass on to the children if they wanted to keep it or sell if they didn't. We both felt the cost was too high and it was not worth the risk.

By then the cat was out of the bag. My disease was an open secret in the family. The children knew but didn't know what to make of it, and three of them weren't so small anymore. For a while they must have thought I didn't know. It was a couple of days before even Claire could look me in the eye and tell me what I already knew and did not want her to find out, that I had this disease called Hodgkin's disease, and that it was serious. I didn't know how she would take it. I didn't know how I could take it, having her see me ailing and weak.

I've lasted longer than anyone thought I would. I count. I divide my life into seven-year stretches since.

"You listen to me now," I told her that first week in the hospital up here. "I don't want anyone to know."

"You think I do?"

"We'll make something up."

By the time we let the business go and stuck only to our land and building, it was out of the bag everywhere and we could finally stop pretending to everyone that I had angina pectoris, which often laid me up and made me want to vomit, or relapsing mononucleosis, which did the same, or a nuisance of a minor inflammation I thought up and decided to call tuberculosis of the small glands that left those small scars and blue burn marks on the neck and lips and chest when treated. My muscles came back fast, and so did my appetite. Between spells I kept myself overweight just in case, and I still looked large.

"Okay, Emil, no more kid stuff," I'd said to my doctor in the hospital after the tests, when I saw his laugh was false. He was swallowing a lot and clearing his throat. If I shook his hand I knew it would be limp. "Listen to me good, Emil. It wasn't green apples like I told you, because I don't eat green apples, and I don't even know what they taste like anymore. My neck is swollen and hurts. If it's not an allergy, and you won't say it was food poisoning, then it's got to be something else, doesn't it?"

"Hodgkin's disease," said Emil, and that's the last time in twenty-eight years anyone spoke of it to me by name. "It's what it's called," Emil added.

"Cancer?" It was hard for me to speak that word too. "It's what we're all afraid of."

"It's a form of that."

"I was afraid it was leukemia."

"No, it's not leukemia."

"I don't know the symptoms, but I was afraid it was that. Emil, I don't want to hear it, but I guess I have to. How much time do I have? No lies, Emil, not yet."

Emil looked more relaxed. "Maybe a lot. I don't want to guess. A lot depends on the biology of the individual."

"I don't know what that means," I told him.

"They're your cells, Lew. We can't always tell how they're going to behave. A lot depends on you. How much can you take? How strong is your resistance?"

I'd been holding him by the forearm without realizing it, and I squeezed good-naturedly until he turned a little pale. I laughed a little when I set him free. I was still very strong. "The best you'll ever meet, Emil."

"Then, Lew, you might be okay for a long, long while yet. And feel good most of the time."

"I think that's what I'm going to do," I informed him, as though making a business decision. "Now, don't tell Claire. I don't want her to know what it is."

"She knows, Lew. You're both adults. She didn't want you to know."

"Then don't tell her you told me. I want to watch how she lies."

"Lew, will you grow up? This thing is no joke."

"Don't I know it?"

Emil took off his glasses. "Lew, there's a man in New York I want you to see. His name is Teemer, Dennis Teemer. You'll go into his hospital there. He knows more about this than anybody here."

"I won't want an ambulance."

We went down by limo, in a pearl-gray stretch limousine with black windows that allowed us to see out but nobody to see in, with me stretched out in back in a space big enough to hold a coffin, maybe two.

"We sometimes use it for that," said the driver, who'd told us he was from Venice and the brother of a gondolier there. "The seats go flat and the back opens."

Claire left him a very big tip. We always tip big, but this time it was for luck.

Teemer had his office on Fifth Avenue across from the Metropolitan Museum and a waiting room of quiet patients. Down the block on the way uptown to his hospital was the Frank Campbell Funeral Home-a "home," they called it-and I made jokes to myself about the convenient location. Now when I hear about those big society parties they have at the museum and places like that, I get the feeling I'm upside down in a world that's turned topsy-turvy. There are big new buildings in the city that I don't even recognize. There are new multimillionaires where there used to be Rockefellers and J. P. Morgans, and I don't know where they came from or what they're doing.

After that first time in Dr. Teemer's office, I never let Claire walk inside there with me again. She would cross into the museum and I would meet her when I was finished and we'd look at pictures if she still wanted to and then go off for lunch somewhere and go home. In that waiting room there is no one ever laughing, and I am never in a mood myself to try to get anything jolly going there. Teemer himself is still a skinny little guy with a gloomy manner, and when he does cheer me up, he does it in a way that always leaves me cranky.

"You might be interested to know, Mr. Rabinowitz," he began when we met, quot; that we no longer think of it as incurable."

All at once I felt very much better. "I'll strangle Emil. He didn't tell me that."

"He doesn't always know."

"So there is a cure? Huh?"

Teemer shook his head, and my breath caught. "No, I wouldn't put it that way. We don't think of it as a cure."

Now I felt I might sock him. "I'm listening good, Dr. Teemer. The disease is now curable, but you don't have a cure?"

"It's a matter of vocabulary," he went on. "We have treatments." He was trying his hardest, maybe too hard, to be nice. "And the treatments usually work. They will work with you, but we don't know how well. Or how long. We can't really cure it. We can suppress it. That's not the same as a cure. We never feel'sure we've gotten rid of it for good, because the genesis of the disease, the origin, is always in yourself."

"For how long can you suppress it?"

"For very long when the treatments are effective. There are problems, but we'll handle them. In the periods of remission you should feel perfectly normal. When the symptoms come back, we will treat it some more."

"You're sure they'll come back?"

"They mostly seem to."

It was not the asbestos I'd worked with that brought it on. He could almost be positive about that, if anyone could be sure of anything when it came to one's genes, which were always selfish, he said, and oblivious too.

"They won't do what I want?" I almost laughed, nervously "They're mine and they don't care about me?"

"They don't know about you, Mr. Rabinowitz." He smiled just a bit. "It might be triggered by any number of things. Tobacco, radiation."

"From what?"

"Radium, electricity, uranium, maybe even tritium."

"What's tritium?"

"A radioactive gas that comes from heavy water. You may even have some on your wristwatch or bedroom clock."

"Radiation causes it and radiation cures it-excuse me, suppresses it?" I said, making my joke.

"And chemicals too," he said. "Or-I almost hate to say this, some people don't like hearing it-it might be your natural biological destiny, nothing more sinister than that."

"Natural? You'd call that natural?"

"In the world of nature, Mr. Rabinowitz, all diseases are natural." It made sense to me at the time, but I didn't like hearing it. "I've depressed you enough. Now let me help. You will be going into the hospital. You've got transportation? Has your wife made plans to stay?"

She stayed at a hotel that first time, the next, seven years later, when we both thought she was losing me, with Sammy and Glenda, because she needed someone to talk to. This last time there was no Glenda, so she stayed at a hotel again with my older daughter, but they ate with Sammy and he came every day. Teemer had been Glenda's doctor too.

I was better in three days and home in five. But the day I knew I'd survive I felt very bad too, because then I knew I was going to die.

I'd always known I was going to die. But then I knew I was going to die. The night that sank in, I woke up in the morning with my eyes wet, and one of the night nurses noticed but didn't say anything, and I never told anyone but Claire. We were going home after my breakfast.

"%ast night I shed a tear," I admitted.

"You think I didn't?"

That was just over twenty-eight years ago, and for most of the first seven I felt as good as I had ever felt before. I couldn't believe how fine I felt and I would come to believe it was gone forever. When I didn't feel fine I went into the city for Teemer once a week for half a day. When I did feel good, I played golf or cards with Emil maybe once a week and kept in touch with him that way. When the diaphragm slipped and Claire found herself pregnant again, we decided against the abortion without even saying so and had our little Michael, I felt so good. It's a way we showed confidence. We named him after my father. Mikey, we called him, and still do when we're kidding around. I felt so vibrant I could have had a hundred more. His Jewish name is Moishe, which was the Jewish name of my father. By then the old man had passed away too, and we could use his name without seeming to wish to put a curse on him while he was still alive. We Jews from the east don't name kids after parents who are still alive. But now I worry about Michael, little Mikey, because apart from money, I don't know what else I'm leaving him in the way of genes and his "natural biological destiny," and the other kids too, and maybe even my grandchildren. Those fucking genes. They're mine and won't listen to me? I can't believe that.

I don't really take to Teemer, but I'm not afraid of him or his diseases anymore, and when Sammy needed a specialist like him for Glenda, I recommended him over the one they already had, and he's the one they stuck with for the little time it took. It's those green apples I'm more afraid of now, all the time, those green apples in my mother's loony theory that green apples were what made people sick. Because more than anything else now, I'm afraid of nausea. I am sick of feeling nauseous.

"That's a good one, Lew," Sammy complimented me, when he was up here the last time.

Then I got the joke.

Sammy wears his hair combed back and parted on the side, and it's silver and thinning too, like I remember his father's. Sammy doesn't have much to do since his wife died, and then later he was forced out of his work at his Time magazine and into retirement, so he comes up here a lot. I don't want him in the hospital up here, but he comes in anyway sometimes, with Claire, and we bullshit until he sees I've had enough. We talk about the good old days in Coney Island, and now they do seem good, about Luna Park and Steeplechase and the big old RKO Tilyou movie theater, and how they've all gone away, disappeared, in d'rerd, as my father and mother used to say, in the earth, underground. He comes up by bus and, when he doesn't sleep over, goes back at night by bus to the bus terminal, that unreal city, he calls it, and then into the modern high-rise apartment he took in a building with everything, including some knockout models and call girls, when he found himself living alone in empty space he no longer wanted. Sammy still doesn't know what to do with himself, and we don't know what to do to help. He doesn't seem interested yet in settling in with someone else, although he talks about wanting to. My oldest daughter has introduced him to some of her unmarried lady friends and so has Glenda's oldest daughter, but nothing happened. They always find each other only "nice" and that's all. Claire's unattached women friends are too old. We decide that without even having to say it. He still likes to get laid now and then, and does, he tries to hint, when I kid about it. Sammy and I can chuckle now when he tells of the times he came in his pants- I never had to-and the first few times he finally got up the nerve to get girls to jerk him off: girls went for him, but he didn't know what to do with them. And the night his pocket was picked in the bus terminal and he found himself with no money and no wallet, not even carfare to get home, and was arrested and locked up in the police station there. I was the person he telephoned. I told off the cop after I vouched for Sammy and demanded the sergeant, I told off the sergeant and asked for the man in charge, and I told off the captain, McMahon, and said I would bring the wrath of the American Legion and National Guard and Pentagon down upon him, and the full force of me, former Sergeant Lewis Rabinowitz of the famed Army First Division, if he didn't show some sense and give him the cab fare to get him home. Sammy still can't get over how good I could be at things like that.

"He was lying down, that Captain McMahon," Sammy swore, "on a bed in a cell in the back of that police station that was furnished like a bedroom, and he looked sick. And the cell next to that: one was set up with desks and toys like a little classroom, a kindergarten, but cops with ashtrays were playing cards with each other. There were children's mobiles hanging over them in a prison cell, and one was a mobile of a black-and-white cow jumping over the moon, and they were luminescent, like they reflected light and would shine in the dark," Sammy explained, "like those old radium watches we all used to wear before we found out they were dangerous. There was another man there, named McBride, who was dusting and moving things around, and he's the one who lent me the money to get home. When I mailed him a check to pay him back, he even sent me a thank-you note. How's that one?"

When the kid, their Michael, flipped out with his drugs and disappeared upstate about a year before he hanged himself, I did the same thing on the telephone, although I would have driven right up to Albany if I had to, but I didn't have to. I called the governor's office, the head of the National Guard, and the headquarters of the state police. It was personal, I knew, but this was Sergeant Rabinowitz, formerly of the famed First Division in Europe, the Big Red 1, and it was a matter of life and death. They found him in a hospital in Binghamton and had him transferred in a government car to a hospital in the city at state expense. Sammy never got over how good I could be at something like that one too.

"I've made jokes that were funnier," I told him this time, when he pointed out the one I'd just made about getting sick of feeling nauseous. "I wasn't trying to be funny."

"And the word is nauseated," he said to me.

"What?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

"The word is nauseated, not nauseous," he explained. "People don't get nauseous. They get nauseated."

I liked it better my way.

"Sammy, don't you be a prick," I told him. "You can get nauseated. I'll get nauseous, if I want to. Just think, Sammy. It wasn't so long ago that I nabbed that kid in the city with the stolen pocketbook. I picked him right up, turned him around in my hands in midair, and slammed him down on the hood of a car just hard enough to let him know I was Lew Rabinowitz. wMove and I'll break your back,' I warned him, and held him there until the cops came. Who would believe it, looking at me now? Now I feel like I couldn't lift a pound of butter.'

My weight is not coming back fast enough, and Teemer and Emil are thinking of trying something new. My appetite isn't back to normal either. Mostly I have none, and I'm beginning to wonder if maybe this time there's something new going on I don't know about yet. Sammy may be ahead of all of us, because he looks worried about me, but he doesn't say. What he does say, with his small smile, is this: "If you're that weak, Lew, I might be willing to take you on at arm wrestling now."

"I'd still beat you," I came back at him. That made me laugh. "And I'd beat you at boxing too, in case you ever want to try that one with me again."

He laughs too and we eat the rest of our tuna sandwiches. But I know I look thin. My appetite has just not come rushing back like after the other times, and now I seem to be beginning to know- this has not happened to me before-this time I seem to be beginning to know that this time, I may be getting ready to die.

I don't tell Claire.

I say nothing to Sammy.

I'm well into my sixties and we're into the nineties, and this time I'm beginning to feel, like my father felt when he got old, and his brother too, that this time things are beginning to come to an end.

12 Noodles Cook

The ascent to the throne room of the White House by the man with the code name Little Prick was not without its ceremonial falterings and sundry spiteful amusements, as G. Noodles Cook could have documented in detail were it not for a lifelong propensity to be guarded, self-serving, calculating, mendacious, and mercenary-all qualities commending him as a soul singularly qualified for his exalted post as the tenth of nine senior tutors to the man who had eventually become the country's newest President. Yossarian had informed the FBI that his old friend and business colleague G. Noodles Cook was a sneak and a snake and that the administration was not going to find a much better person to fill whatever position he was being considered for. Noodles Cook was a man who could always be trusted to lie.

He got the job.

As far back as seminars in graduate school, where they had met, Noodles had unmasked himself as a person with a tendency to display his gifts only in the presence of a designated mentor, who could note that anything original emerging had originated precociously with him. Noodles, who'd done well at a less-than-elegant preparatory school while Yossarian was away at war, labored on to obtain his doctoral degree and soon found out there was not much for him to do with it but teach.

By that time, Yossarian, who had dropped out of graduate school with just a master's degree, was already in a position to hire Noodles for his group in the public relations agency where he was at work when Noodles wisely decided to give that kind of business a shot. He had good family connections, and the public relations agency seemed to him a good launching pad for something bigger and better.

Coworkers soon smelled out that Noodles never proposed an idea save when Yossarian was close enough to hear and, more frequently, would postpone suggesting anything even to Yossarian until both were in the presence of the client or with a superior official of the company. Too often when they were collaborating on their screenplays and television scripts, Noodles would supply the pregnant line in a way that aroused suspicion that the key to the problem had been lying in his grasp the day before. Telling him to change, Yossarian would tell himself, would be like telling a hunchback to stand up straight. A noodle was a noodle. In his way he was loyal to Yossarian, who did not like him but did not mind him, and they persisted as friends.

Departing graduate school with the matter-of-fact discovery that he did not want his higher education to go any higher, Yossarian had done some teaching and then moved into advertising. He did well, enjoyed his annual raises and small promotions, liked the people there better than those at the university, received a small raise again at the end of his third year, and decided to go out exploring for a better-paying job doing work of a different kind. He found a new better-paying job quickly with a different agency that handled accounts pretty much the same as the one he had just left. He remained until he received his annual raise and then went looking for another new job, and another quicker increase in salary.

Each time he took leave of one place for another, it was with the discouraging resolution that he did not want to spend the balance of his life exercising his intelligence, ingenuity, and good looks furthering the progress of products he did not himself use and of publications he would not normally read. On the other hand, he could not think of a product or cause with which he did wish to become involved that paid enough for the things he had learned to want for himself and his wife and children. The dilemma was not agonizing.

There was no need to rationalize.

He worked because he had to.

In Wall Street, of course, lay the exotic attraction in quantities unimaginable of a distilled product denuded of all complicating attributes. It was called money, and mountains of it could be manufactured out of nothing, as magically, almost, and as naturally, as a simple tree manufactures tons of wood out of thin air, sunlight, and rainwater. Money might be shit, as every college student with some knowledge of Freud might point out perversely at parties and family gatherings; but it was shit that could buy things: friends of rank and means; a coat of arms in the furriers' and jewelers' and in the fashion hubs of the world; baronial estates in Connecticut, Virginia, Mexico, East Hampton, and Colorado; and titles of knowing distinction that admitted the truncating of first names into the mere initial and the graceful relocation of accent onto the middle name, as in G. Noodles Cook and C. Porter Lovejoy, that most gray of graying eminences in the Washington Cosa Loro.

The forbearing Noodles Cook was tireless in repeating that his mother had been a daughter of the Goodman Noodles family of Goodman Noodles fame and his father a collateral descendant of the British Cooks of Cook's Tours, and that he himself was something of a scion of the Noodles and the Cooks, with some means and property devolving upon him through the normal processes of heritage. Noodles Cook had been Goody in college, Goodman in business, and Noodles in newspaper gossip coverage of such social doings as are reported regularly. And today he was G. Noodles Cook in Who's Who and on official White House stationery.

Noodles, beginning in government as the tenth of nine senior tutors to the freshman Vice President, never failed to respond on the rare occasions Yossarian had need to telephone him, and Yossarian had found that this access still obtained, even in his present post as one of the more trusted confidants of the new man recently installed in the White House.

"How's the divorce going?" one or the other of them was certain to inquire each time they spoke.

"Fine. How's yours?"

"Pretty good. Mine's having me followed anyway."

"So is mine."

"And how are you getting along with that guy you're working for?" Yossarian never failed to ask.

"Better and better-I know you're surprised."

"No, I'm not surprised."

"I don't know what to make of that. You ought to join us here in Washington if I can find some way to worm you aboard. Here at last is a real chance to do some good."

"For whom?"

The answer always was a self-effacing laugh. Between these two it was not necessary to put more into words.

Neither back then at the public relations agency was troubled ethically by the work they were doing for corporate clients who never had the public interest in mind and political candidates they would not vote for, and for a large cigarette company owned mainly by New Yorkers who did not have to grow tobacco to scratch a livelihood from the earth. They made money, met people of substance, and generally enjoyed succeeding. Writing speeches for others to deliver, even people they abhorred, seemed but a different form of creative writing.

But time passed, and the work-like all work to a man of open intellect-turned tiresome. When there was no longer doubt that tobacco caused cancer, their children looked daggers at them, and their roles took a subtle turn toward the unsavory. They separately began thinking of doing something else. Neither had ever tried pretending that the advertising, public relations, and political work they were accomplishing was ever anything but trivial, inconsequential, and duplicitous. Noodles revealed himself first.

"If I'm going to be trivial, inconsequential, and deceitful," announced Noodles, "then I might as well be in government."

And off he moved to Washington, D. C., with letters of recommendation, including one from Yossarian, to utilize his family connections in an aspiring endeavor to slither his way into the Cosa Loro there.

While Yossarian had a second crack at high-finance easy money with an insider on Wall Street who sold sure things at a time when there were sure things. He continued writing short stories and small articles of trenchant satirical genius just right for publication in the prestigious New Yorker magazine; each time his pieces were rejected, and each time he applied and was turned down for an editorial post there, his respect for the magazine escalated. He was successful with two screenplays and half successful with another, and he outlined ideas for an acerbic stage play that he was never able to finish and a complex comic novel that he was not able to start.

He made money also by consulting with clients profitably on a personal freelance basis for fees, percentages, and commissions and by participating on a modest scale in several advantageous real estate syndication ventures, which he never understood. When national affairs again took a turn toward the menacing, he found himself going as a father in anguished consternation to his old wartime acquaintance Milo Minderbirider. Milo was elated to see him.

"I was never even sure you always really liked me," he revealed almost gratefully.

"We've always been friends," said Yossarian evasively, "and what are friends for?"

Milo showed caution instantaneously with a native grasp that never seemed to fail him. "Yossarian, if you've come to me for help in keeping your sons out of the war in Vietnam- "

"It's the only reason. I have come."

"There is nothing I can do." By which Yossarian understood him to mean he had already used up his quota of illegal legal draft exemptions. "We all have our share to shoulder. I've seen my duties and I've done them."

"We all have our jobs to do," added Wintergreen. "It's the luck of the draw."

Yossarian remembered that Wintergreen's jobs in the last big war had consisted mainly of digging holes as a stockade prisoner and filling them back up for having gone AWOL one time after another to delay going overseas into danger; selling stolen Zippo cigarette lighters once there; and serving in a managerial capacity in military mailrooms, where he countermanded orders from high places that fell short of his standards, simply by throwing them away.

"I'm talking about one kid, damn it," pleaded Yossarian. "I don't want him to go."

"I know what you're suffering," said Milo. "I have a son of my own I worry about. But we've used up our contacts."

Yossarian perceived dismally that he was getting nowhere and that if Michael had bad luck in the draw, he would probably have to run off with him to Sweden. He sighed. "Then there's nothing you can do to help me? Absolutely nothing?"

"Yes, there is something you can do to help me," Milo responded, and for the moment, Yossarian feared he had been misunderstood. "You know people that we don't. We would like," Milo continued, and here his voice grew softer, in a manner sacramental, "to hire a very good law firm in Washington."

"Don't you have a good firm there?"

"We want to hire every good law firm, so that none of them can ever take part in an action against us."

"We want the influence," explained Wintergreen, "not the fucking law work. If we had the fucking influence we'd never need the fucking law work or the fucking lawyers. Yossarian, where could we begin if we wanted to get all the best legal connections in Washington?"

"Have you thought of Porter Lovejoy?"

"C. Porter Lovejoy?" At this, even Wintergreen succumbed to a state of momentary awe.

"Could you get to C. Porter Lovejoy?"

"I can get to Lovejoy," casually answered Yossarian, who'd never met Lovejoy but got to him simply with a phone call to his law office as the representative of a cash-rich corporate client seeking the services of someone experienced in Washington for an appropriate retainer.

Milo said he was a wizard. Wintergreen said he was fucking okay. "And Eugene and I agree," said Milo, "that we want to retain you too, as a consultant and a representative, on a part-time basis, of course. Only when we need you."

"For special occasions."

"We will give you an office. And a business card."

"You'll give more than that." Yossarian turned suave. "Are you sure you can afford me? It will cost a lot."

"We have a lot. And with an old friend like you, we're prepared to be generous. How much will you want, if we try it for a year?"

Yossarian pretended to ponder. The figure he would name had jumped instantly to mind. "Fifteen thousand a month," he finally said, very distinctly.

"Fifteen dollars a month?" Milo repeated, more distinctly, as though to make sure.

"Fifteen thousand a month."

"I thought you said hundred."

" Eugene, tell him."

"He said thousand, Milo," Wintergreen sadly obliged.

"I have trouble hearing." Milo pulled violently at an earlobe, a though remonstrating with a naughty child. "I thought fifteen dollars sounded low."

"It's thousand, Milo. And I'll want it on a twelve-month basis even though I might be available for only ten. I take two-month summer vacations."

He was delighted with that whopper. But it would be nice to have summers free, maybe to return to those two literary projects of yore, his play and comic novel.

His idea for the stage play, reflecting A Christmas Carol, would portray Charles Dickens and his fecund household at Christmas dinner when that family was at its most dysfunctional, shortly before that splenetic literary architect of sentimental good feeling erected the brick wall indoors to close his own quarters off from his wife's. His lighthearted comic novel was derived from the Doctor Faustus novel of Thomas Mann and centered on a legal dispute over the rights to the fictitious and horrifying Adrian Leverkühn choral masterpiece in those pages called Apocalypse, which, stated Mann, had been presented just once, in Germany in 1926, anticipating Hitler, and possibly never would be performed again. On one side of the lawsuit were the heirs of the musical genius Leverkühn, who had created that colossal composition; on the other would be the beneficiaries to the estate of Thomas Mann, who had invented Leverkühn and defined and orchestrated that prophetic, awesome, and unforgettable unique opus of progress and annihilation, with Nazi Germany as both the symbol and the substance. The attraction to Yossarian of both these ideas lay in their arresting unsuitability.

"Fifteen a month," Milo finally tabulated aloud, "for twelve months a year, will come to amp;"

"A hundred and eighty," Wintergreen told him curtly.

Milo nodded, with an expression that revealed nothing.

"Then we agree. You will work for us for one year for one hundred and eighty dollars."

"Thousand, Milo. A hundred and eighty thousand dollars a year, plus expenses. Tell him again, Eugene. And write out a check for three months in advance. That's the way I'm always paid, quarterly. I've already gotten you C. Porter Lovejoy."

Milo 's look of pain was habit. But from that date on, Yossarian knew, but did not care to admit, he had not been in serious want of teady cash, except in those uncommon times of divorce and the successive collapse of his tax shelters a dozen years after each had been erected by infallible specialists.

"And by the way"-Wintergreen took him aside at the end- "about your son. Establish a legal residence in a black neighborhood where the draft boards don't have trouble meeting their quotas. Then, lower back pain and a letter from a doctor should do the rest. I have one son technically living in Harlem now, and a couple of nephews who officially reside in Newark."

Yossarian had the feeling about Michael, and himself, that they would sooner flee to Sweden.

C. Porter Lovejoy and G. Noodles Cook took to each other symbiotically from the day Yossarian brought them together, with a reciprocating warmth Yossarian had never felt toward Noodles or for Porter Lovejoy either the few times they had met.

"That's one I owe you," Noodles had said afterward.

"There's more than one," Yossarian took the precaution of reminding him.

C. Porter Lovejoy, silver-haired, bipartisan, and clearheaded, as the friendly press chose consistently to describe him, was a man still very much at ease with life. He had been a Washington insider and a made member of the Cosa Loro there for almost half a century and by now had earned the right, he liked to ruminate to listeners, to start slowing down.

Publicly, he served often on governmental commissions to exonerate and as coauthor of reports to vindicate.

Privately, he was the major partner and counsel-at-large to the Cosa Loro Washington law firm of Atwater, Fitzwater, Dishwater, Brown, Jordan, Quack, and Capone. In that capacity, because of his aristocratic prestige and reputation for probity, he could freely represent whatever clients he liked, even those with adversarial interests. From a border state, he professed legitimate home ties in all directions and could speak in the soothing accents of the well-bred southern gentleman when talking to Northerners and with the phonetics of the cultivated true Ivy Leaguer when talking to Southerners. His partner Capone was dark and balding and looked down-to-earth and rather tough.

"If you are coming to me for influence," Porter Lovejoy would stress to each hopeful prospect seeking him out, "you have come to the wrong man. However, if you wish to retain the services of experienced people who know their way blindfolded through the corridors of power here, who are on close terms with the people you will want to see and can tell you who they are and can arrange for them to see you, who can accompany you to meetings and do much of the talking for you, who can find out what is happening about you at meetings you don't attend, and who can go over heads directly to superiors if the decisions are not those you like, I may be able to help."

It was C. Porter Lovejoy who did most to foster the aspirations of G. Noodles Cook and to increase their range. He astutely calibrated the parameters of the younger man's initiative and moved with openhanded celerity to place him with other celebrities in the Cosa Loro family who could best utilise his ingenious insights into the mechanics of political public relations and image building: his knack for the rabble-rousing motto, the snide insinuation, the smooth and sophisticated insult, the tricky prestidigitation in logic that was quicker than the eye and could glide by invisibly, and the insidious lie. Once given the chance, Noodles had never disappointed anyone who, like C. Porter Lovejoy, expected the worst from him.

Between Yossarian and a Cosa Loro hit man like Noodles Cook a breach of peaceable distaste had taken shape which neither saw any necessity to repair. Yet Yossarian had no hesitation in calling now about the ridiculous possibility of inducing the new President to pretend to take seriously an invitation from Christopher Maxon to the wedding of a stepniece or something at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

"He raises millions for your party, Noodles."

"Why not?" said Noodles merrily. "It sounds like a lark. Tell them he says he'll think seriously about coming."

"You don't have to ask him?"

"No." Noodles sounded surprised. "John, the brain has not yet come into being that is large enough to deal with all of the matters any President has to pretend he understands. I'm still riding high since I helped him through the inauguration."

As the tenth and newest of the nine senior tutors with eleven doctoral degrees in the brain trust surrounding the man who had since become President, G. Noodles Cook was still unstained by that particular contempt which familiarity is often said to breed.

It was C. Porter Lovejoy, observing the dimming luster of the original nine tutors, who had proposed the appointment of G. Noodles Cook as a tenth to rekindle an illusion of brilliance in high office, a choice, he maintained with disinterested authority, that had to be beneficial to this Vice President, the administration, the country, to Noodles Cook himself, and, unsaid but understood, to C. Porter Lovejoy and his partnership interest in the Cosa Loro lawyer-lobbying firm of Atwater, Fitzwater, Dishwater, Brown, Jordan, Quack, and Capone. Capone, like Lovejoy a founding partner, played golf at good clubs with business leader and high government officials, and was rarely permitted to lose.

The impediments in the formalities of the inauguration arose from the natural preference of the Vice President to be inducted into the higher office with an oath administered by the chief justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. The honorable gentleman occupying the post, a steely, rather domineering personality with eyeglasses and a high-domed forehead, resigned abruptly rather than collaborate in an act he felt was outside the spirit of the law, if not the letter.

The unexpected action left the new chief executive little choice but to call on one of the other celebrities on the court with party affiliations akin to his own.

The woman then on the court resigned voluntarily fourteen minutes after she was sounded out. She put forth as her explanation an overwhelming yearning to return to the field she loved most: housework. All her life, she stated, she had aspired only to be a housewife.

And the other star of magnitude in that revered constellation of honorable justices to which people had formerly been prone to look up, an honorable gentleman commended frequently by friendly newspapermen for what they called his wit and his showman's preening flair for tendentious and self-amusing hair-splitting, went fishing.

The Afro-American was of course out of the question. White America would not tolerate a President whose legitimacy in office had been validated by a black man, and especially by a black man like that one, who was not much of a lawyer and not much of a judge and had seemed at his confirmation hearings to be composed entirely out of equal measures of bile and bullshit.

The other orthodox party members on the court were spurned as simply not colorful enough and insufficiently well known. Their rejection became all the more final when from their chambers the constitutional doubt filtered out through unnamed sources and unidentified background officials as to whether any honorable member of any court in the land truly possessed the right to swear a man like him into the office of the highest government official in the land. In rare unanimous decision, they hailed the chief justice for resigning, the woman for her housework, and the witty one for going fishing.

That left only the Democrat, who'd been appointed by the putative liberal John Kennedy long back, and had voted conservative ever since.

Could a President take office without taking the oath of office? There was not enough court left to decide. But then Noodles Cook, and Noodles alone of the senior tutors, came up with the enterprising suggestion he'd had in mind from the start but had kept to himself until the climactic time, which at length brought a satisfactory resolution to the embarrassing impasse.

"I still don't get it," said the Vice President once more, when the two of them were again conferring alone. By then the other nine of his senior tutors with eleven doctoral degrees had steadily lost face with him. "Please explain it again."

"I don't think I can," Noodles Cook said, grimly. He liked the position he held but was no longer sure about the work, or his employer.

"Try. Who appoints the new chief justice of the Supreme Court?"

"You do," said Noodles, gloomily.

"Right," said the Vice President, who, with the resignation of his predecessor, was technically already the President. "But I can't appoint him until I've been sworn in?"

"That's right too," said Noodles Cook, glumly.

"Who swears me in?"

"Whoever you want to."

"I want the chief justice."

"We have no chief justice," said Noodles, grouchily.

"And we will have no chief justice until I appoint one? And I can't appoint one until-"

"You've got it now, I think."

In silence, and with an expression of surly disappointment, Noodles was regretting once more that he and his third wife, Carmen, with whom he was in the throes of a bitter divorce, were no longer on speaking terms. He hankered for someone trustworthy with whom he could burlesque such conversations safely. He thought of Yossarian, who by this time, he feared, probably thought of him as a shit. Noodles was intelligent enough to understand that he himself probably would not think much of himself either if he were somebody other than himself. Noodles was honest enough to know he was dishonest and had just enough integrity left to know he had none.

"Yes, I think I have got it," said the Vice President, with a glimmer of hope. "I think I'm beginning to click again on all cylinders."

"That would not surprise me." Noodles sounded less affirmative than he meant to.

"Well, why can't we do them both together? Couldn't I be swearing him in as chief justice at the same time that he is swearing me in as President?"

"No," said Noodles.

"Why not?"

"He'll have to be confirmed by the Senate. You would have to appoint him first."

"Well, then," said the Vice President, sitting up straight with that very broad smile of nifty achievement he usually wore when at the controls of one of his video games, "couldn't the Senate be confirming him while I am appointing him at the same time tha he is swearing me in?"

"No," Noodles told him firmly. "And please don't ask me why. It's not possible. Please take my word for it, sir."

"Well, I really do think that's a crying shame! It seems to me the President should have the right to be sworn into office by the chief justice of the Supreme Court."

"No one I know of would disagree."

"But I can't be, can I? Oh, no! Because we have no chief justice: How did something like this ever come about?"

"I don't know, sir." Noodles warned himself reprovingly that he must not sound sarcastic. "It could be another oversight by our Founding Fathers."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Here the Vice President leaped to his feet, as though propelled into a choleric rage by some inconceivable blasphemy. "There were no oversights, were there? Our Constitution was always perfect. Wasn't it?"

"We have twenty-seven amendments, sir."

"We do? I didn't know that."

"It's not a secret."

"How was I supposed to know? Is that what an amendment is? A change?"

"Yeah."

"Well, how was I supposed to know?" His mood was again one of morose despair. "So that's where we still stand, right? I can't appoint a-"

"Yes." Noodles deemed it better to cut him off rather than to have them both subjected to the litany once more.

"Then it's just like Catch-22, isn't it?" the Vice President blurted out unexpectedly, and then brightened at this evidence of his own inspiration. "I can't appoint a chief justice until I'm the President, and he can't swear me in until I appoint him. Isn't that a Catch-22?"

Noodles Cook stared fiercely at the wall and made up his mind sooner to forfeit his position of prestige with the incoming administration than deal with a person like this one with a conjecture like that one.

He was staring, he saw, at a large, simplified chart, hanging as art, of the disposition of forces at the battle of Gettysburg. Noodles began brooding on the historical past. Possibly it had always been thus, he was thinking, between sovereign and adviser, that the subordinate was in all ways but rank the superior. It was then that Noodles, in exhausted desperation, snapped out in command the solution that in the end saved the day: Use the Democrat!

What?

"Yes, use the fucking Democrat." He swept objections aside by anticipating them. "He was a Kennedy Democrat, so what does that mean? That guy is as bad as the rest of us. You'll get better press coverage for being bipartisan. And when you turn unpopular, you can blame him for swearing you in."

Porter Lovejoy's vision was vindicated again. In briefing Noodles he had stressed the good use the Vice President could make of him. The need was immediate, the opportunities unlimited. There would be an interview. "How much should I tell him?" Noodles had wanted to know. Porter Lovejoy beamed owlishly. "As much as he lets you. Actually, you will be interviewing him to see if you want the job, although he won't know it." And how, Noodles wondered, amused, would he manage that? Porter Lovejoy merely beamed again. The code name?

"Don't bring that up now," Porter Lovejoy cautioned. "He chose it himself, you know. You will have no trouble."

"Come in, come in, come in," said the Vice President jovially to Noodles Cook, after convivial salutations in the anteroom that Noodles found bewilderingly informal.

It surprised him that the younger man of distinguished title had come bounding out to welcome him warmly. Noodles barely had time to note the high school and college pennants on the walls of the reception room. He could not take count of the large number, of television screens, all of them tuned to different channels. "Waiting for old clips and sound bites," the girls there explained, giggling, and Noodles could not tell whether that was serious or not.

"I've been looking forward to meeting you," the Vice President went on convincingly. "Varoom, varoom, varoom," he said confidentially when they were alone, with the door closed. "That's from a video game I'm undefeated at called Indianapolis Speedway. Do you know it? You will. Are you good at video games? I'll bet I can beat you. Well, now, please tell me all about yourself. I'm dying to know more."

For Noodles, this was child's play. "Well, sir, what is there about me you'd like to find out? Where should I begin?"

"The thing about me," answered the Vice President, "is that when I've set my mind to do something, I've always been able to accomplish it. I'm not going to cry over spilt milk, and what's past is past. Once I set a goal, I pursue that goal with a vengeance."

"I see," said Noodles, after a minute's surprise, when he guessed that a chance was being offered to comment. "And are you saying, that you had the goal of becoming Vice President?"

"Oh, yes, definitely, definitely. And I pursued that goal with a vengeance."

"What did you do?"

"I said yes when they asked me to accept it. You see, Mr. Cook -may I call you Noodles? Thank you. It's a privilege-to me the word that best describes the office of Vice President is be prepared. Or is that two words?"; "I believe it's two."

"Thank you. I don't think I could get an answer that clear from any of my other tutors. And that's what I want to continue to pursue with a vengeance. Being prepared. Obviously, the more days you have as Vice President, the better prepared you are to be President. Don't you agree?"

Noodles dodged that question adroitly. "And is that the goal you want to pursue with a vengeance next?"

"It's the main job of the Vice President, isn't it? My other tutors agree."

"Does the President know?"

"I would not pursue it with a vengeance now unless he gave his full approval. Is there anything more you wish to know about me that will help me decide if you're good enough for the job? Porter Lovejoy says you are."

"Well, sir," said Noodles Cook, and went ahead gingerly. "Is there anything you're taking on now that you feel you might not be perfectly equipped to do entirely on your own?"

"No. I can't think of a thing."

"Then why do you feel you need another tutor?"

"To help me with questions like that one. You see, I made a mistake in college of not really applying myself to my studies, and I regret that."

"You got passing grades anyway, didn't you?"

"As good as those I got when I did apply myself. You've been to college, Mr. Cook? You're an educated man?"

"Yes, I have, sir. I have my graduate degrees."

"Good, I went to college too, you know. We have much in common and should get along-better, I hope"-and here a sound of the querulous crept in-"than I am getting along with those others. I have a feeling they make jokes about me behind my back. Looking back, I should have pursued philosophy and history and economics and things of that sort in college more. I'm making up for that now."

"How-" Noodles started to ask, and changed his mind. "Sir, my experience has been-"

"I'm not going to cry over spilt milk, and that's past."

"My experience has been," Noodles threaded his way onward obsequiously, "as a student, and even when teaching a bit, that people do what they are. A person interested in athletics, golf, and parties will spend time at athletic events, golf, and parties. It is very difficult in later life to grow interested in subjects like philosophy and history and economics if one was not attracted to them earlier."

"Yes. And it's never too late either," said the Vice President, and Noodles did not know whether they were in agreement or not. "Lately I have been studying the Napoleonic Wars, to sort of round out my education."

For a second or two Noodles sat motionless. "Which ones?" was all he could think to reply.

"Was there more than one?"

"That was not my field," answered Noodles Cook, and began to give up hope.

"And I'm doing the battle of Antietam too," he heard the man who was next in line for the presidency continue. "And after that I'm going to have a crack at Bull Run. That was really a great war, that Civil War. We've not had one like it since, have we? You'd be very surprised, but Bull Run is only a short car ride from here with a police escort."

"Are you preparing for war?"

"I'm broadening myself. And I believe in being prepared. All of the rest of the work of a President is pretty hard, it seems to me, and sort of dull. I'm having all of these battles put onto videocassettes and turned into games where either side can win. Varoom, varoom, varoom! Gettysburg too. Do you like video games? Which is your favorite?"

"I don't have a favorite," Noodles muttered, downcast.

"Soon you will. Come look at these."

On a cabinet beneath a video screen-there was a video screen with game controls in many recesses in the office-to which the Vice President walked him lay the game called Indianapolis Speedway. Noodles saw others, called Bombs Away and Beat the Draft.

And one more, called Die Laughing.

His host gave a chuckle. "I have nine college men on my staff With eleven doctoral degrees, and not one has been able to beat me at any of these a single time. Doesn't that tell you a lot aboyt higher education in this country today?"

"Yes," said Noodles.

"What does it tell you?"

"A lot," said Noodles.

"I feel that way too. There's a new one coming out just for me, called Triage. Do you know it?"

"No."

"Triage is a word that comes from the French, and in case there's a big war and we have to decide which few should survive in our underground shelters-"

"I know what the word means, Mr. Vice President!" Noodlfes interrupted, with more asperity than he had intended. "I just don't know the game," he explained, forcing a smile.

"Soon you will. I'll break you in on it first. It's fun and challenging. You would have your favorites and I would have mine, and only one of us could win and decide who would live and who would die. We'll enjoy it. I think I'll want you to specialize in Triage because you never can tell when we really might have to put it into play, and I don't think those others are up to it. Okay?"

"Yes, Mr. Vice President."

"And don't be so formal, Noodles. Call me Prick."

Noodles was appalled. "I could not do that!" he retorted emphatically in a reflex of spontaneous defiance.

"Try."

"No, I won't."

"Not even if it means your job?"

"No, not even then, Mr. Prick-I mean Mr. Vice President."

"See? You'll soon be doing it easily. Take a look at these other things Porter Lovejoy says you can handle. How much do you know about heavy water?"

"Almost nothing at all," said Noodles, feeling himself on firmer ground. "It's got something to do with nuclear reactions, doesn't it?"

"Don't ask me. It says something like that here. I don't know much about it either, so already we've got a good meeting of the minds."

"What's the problem?"

"Well, they've got this man in custody who's producing it without a license. A retired chaplain from the old army air corps, it says, back in World War II."

"Why don't you make him stop?"

"He can't stop. He's producing it sort of, if you know what I mean, biologically."

"No. I don't know what you mean."

"Well, that's what it says here on this synopsis of a summary of this classified folder, code name Tap Water. He eats and drinks like the rest of us, but what comes out of him, I guess, is this heavy water. He was researched and developed by a private corporation, M amp; M E amp; A, that now has an option on him and a patent pending."

"Where have they got him?"

"Underground somewhere, in case he decides to turn radioactive. He was in contact with some kind of associate just before they nabbed him, and his wife and this other guy talk on the telephone in code regularly and pretend to know nothing about anything. Nothing dirty between them yet. He talks on the telephone to a nurse also, and a lot that's dirty may be starting between those two. It's as though they never heard of AIDS. And there may be a Belgian spy connection with the new European Economic Community. 'The Belgian is swallowing again,' she reported to him, the last time they spoke."

"Well, what do you want to do about him?"

"Oh, we could easily have him killed by one of our antiterrorist units, if it comes to that. But we may need him, because we're having a problem with a shortage of tritium too. How much do you know about tritium, Noodles?"

"Tritium? I've never heard of it."

"Good. You can be objective. I think it's a radioactive gas of some kind that we need for our hydrogen bombs and other things. They can get it from heavy water, and this chaplain could be very valuable if he can train others to start passing heavy water too. The President hasn't got much patience for this and wants me to handle it. I don't have the patience for it either, so I'll give it to you."

"Me?" exclaimed Noodles, with surprise. "You mean I'm hired?"

"We've been talking, haven't we? Let me know what you think I should recommend."

He handed Noodles a red folder of some bulk with a top sheet with a one-sentence precis of an abstract of a digest of a synopsis of a status report of a summary of a condensation about a retired military chaplain of seventy-one who was manufacturing heavy water internally without a license and was now secretly in custody for examination and interrogation. Noodles knew little about heavy water and nothing about tritium, but he knew enough to betray no flicker of recognition when he read the names John Yossarian and Milo Minderbinder, although he pondered somerly over the nurse Melissa MacIntosh, of whom he had never heard, and a roommate named Angela Moore or Angela Moore-cock, and about a mysterious Belgian agent in a New York hospital with throat cancer, about whom the nurse regularly transmitted coded messages by telephone, and a suave, well-dressed mystery man who appeared to be keeping the others under surveillance, either to snoop or as bodyguard. As a connoisseur of expository writing, Noodles was impressed by the genius of an author to abridge so much into a single sentence.

"You want me to decide?" Noodles murmured finally with puzzlement.

"Why not you? And then here's this other thing, about someone with a perfect warplane he wants us to buy and someone else with a better perfect warplane that he wants us to buy, and we can only buy one."

"What does Porter Lovejoy say?"

"He's busy preparing for his trial. I want you to judge."

"I believe I'm not qualified."

"I believe in the flood," the Vice President replied.

"I don't think I heard that."

"I believe in the flood."

"What flood?" Noodles was befuddled again.

"Noah's flood, of course. The one in the Bible. So does my wife. Don't you know about it?"

Through narrowed eyes Noodles searched the guileless countenance for some twinkle of play. "I'm not sure I know what you mean. You believe it was wet?"

"I believe that it's true. In every detail."

"That he took the male and the female of every animal species?"

"That's what it says."

"Sir," said Noodles, with civility. "We have by now catalogued more kinds of animal and insect life than anyone could possibly collect in a lifetime and put onto a ship that size. How would he get them, where would he put them, to say nothing of room for himself and the families of his children, and the problems of the storage of food and the removal of waste in those forty days and nights of rain?"

"You do know about it!"

"I've heard. And for a hundred and fifty days and nights afterward, when the rain stopped."

"You know about that too!" The Vice President regarded him approvingly. "Then you probably also know that evolution is bunk. I hate evolution."

"Where did all this animal life we know about now come from? There are three or four hundred thousand different species of beetles alone."

"Oh, they probably just evolved."

"In only seven thousand years? That's about all it was, as biblical time is measured."

"You can look it up. Noodles. Everything we need to know about the creation of the world is right there in the Bible, put down in plain English." The Vice President regarded him placidly. "I know there are skeptics. They are all of them Reds. They are all of them wrong."

"There's the case of Mark Twain," Noodles could not restrain himself from arguing.

"Oh, I know that name!" the Vice President cried, with greaf vanity and joy. "Mark Twain is that great American humorist from my neighboring state of Missouri, isn't he?"

" Missouri is not a neighboring state of Indiana, sir. And your great American humorist Mark Twain ridiculed the Bible, despised Christianity, detested our imperialistic foreign policy, an heaped piles of scorn on every particular in the story of Noah and his ark, especially for the housefly."

"Obviously," the Vice President replied, with no loss of equanimity, "we are talking about different Mark Twains."

Noodles was enraged. "There was only one, sir," he said softly and smiled. "If you like, I'll prepare a summary of his statements and leave it with one of your secretaries."

"No, I hate written things. Put it on a video, and maybe we can turn it into a game. I really can't see why some people who read have so much trouble coming to grips with the simple truths that are put down there so clearly. And please don't call me sir, Noodles. You're so much older than I am. Won't you call me Prick?"

"No, sir, I won't call you prick."

"Everyone else does. You have a right to. I have taken an oath to support that constitutional right."

"Look, you prick-" Noodles had jumped to his feet and was glancing around frantically, for a blackboard, for chalk and a pointer, for anything! "Water seeks its own level."

"Yes, I've heard that."

" Mount Everest is close to five miles high. For the earth to be covered with water, there would have to be water everywhere on the globe that was close to five miles deep."

His future employer nodded, pleased that he finally seemed to be getting through. "There was that much water then."

"Then the waters receded. Where could they recede to?"

"Into the oceans, of course."

"Where were the oceans, if the world was under water?"

"Underneath the flood, of course," was the unhesitating reply, and the genial man rose. "If you look at a map, Noodles, you will see where the oceans are. And you will also see that Missouri does border on my state of Indiana."

"He believes in the flood!" Noodles Cook, still stewing, and speaking almost in a shout, reported immediately to Porter Lovejoy. It was the first time in the relationship that he had presented himself to his sponsor with anything other than a conspiratorial contentment.

Porter Lovejoy was unruffled. "So does his wife."

"I'll want more money!"

"The job doesn't call for it."

"Change the job!"

"I'll talk to Capone."

His health was good, he was not on welfare, and it was understood now by all involved that as the secretary in charge of health, education and welfare in the new cabinet, Noodles would focus his energies entirely on the education of the President.

BOOK FIVE

13 Tritium

Heavy water was up another two points, read the fax in the M amp; M office in Rockefeller Center in New York, on the same floor, and in much the same spot, in which Sammy Singer had spent almost all his adult working life with Time magazine, an office that, as Michael Yossarian again saw, had windows overlooking the fabled skating rink far below, the glittering, frozen centerpiece of the venerable Japanese real estate complex obtained for money earlier from the vanishing Rockefeller financial dynasty. The rink was the same site on which Sammy years before had, with Glenda, gone ice skating for the first time in his life, and didn't fall, and had gone again with her on more than one long lunch hour after they commenced seeing each other regularly, while she was still pressing him to come live with her in her West Side apartment, together with her three children and her remarkable frontier mother from Wisconsin, who approved of Sammy and departed gladly to live again with a sister on a small family farm after he did-none of the New York parents he knew, not even his own, were ever so gracefully self-sacrificing-and tritium, the gas derived from heavy water, had gained an additional two hundred and sixteen points on the international radioactive commodity exchanges in Geneva, Tokyo, Bonn, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, London, and New York. The rise in tritium was buoyed optimistically by the natural property of that hydrogen isotope to degenerate at a predictable rate in atomic weapons, necessitating periodic replenishment, and the enticing disposition of the gas to lessen in quantity between the time it was sealed by the shipper and the hour it was received by the purchaser, who, more commonly than not, was a manufacturer of novelties or marking devices with outer surfaces intrinsically luminous or an assembler and supplier of nuclear warheads.

Customers frequently reported receiving as much as forty percent less of the tritium than they had paid for and forty percent less than had been packed and shipped, with no indications of theft, diversion, or leakage.

The tritium simply was not there when delivered.

Not long before, a test shipment from merely one building to another to comprehend this loss resulted in no new information and the disappearance of three quarters of the tritium packed for the test. It was inaccurate to say, said a sheepish spokesman, that it disappeared into thin air. They were monitoring the air. The air was not thin and the tritium wasn't in it.

Despite the radiation and consequent potential as a galvanizer of cancer, tritium was still the material of choice for illuminated guides and dial faces, for gun sights for nighttime marksmanship, for icons like swastikas, crosses, Stars of David, and halos that glowed in the dark, and for the stupendous enhancement in the explosive yield of nuclear weapons.

Melissa MacIntosh's ravishing roommate, Angela Moore, whom Yossarian could no longer resist thinking of by any other name than Angela Moorecock, had by now already put forth to her elderly, gentlemanly employers the idea of luminescent items highlighting the more protuberant organs of copulation phosphorescently and had tested on buyers at the toy fair, men and women, her notion for a bedroom clock with a radiating face of tritium in a compound of paint in which the hour and minute hands were circumcised male members and the numbers were not numbers but a succession of nude female figures unfolding sensually and progressively with the hours in systematic stages of erotic trance until satiation was attained at the terminal hour of twelve. Yossarian got hot hearing her discourse on this inspiration for a consumer product in the cocktail lounge a day or two before she sucked him off the first time and sent him home because he was older than the men she was accustomed to and she was not sure she cared to know him more intimately than that, and afterward, because of Melissa's growing affection for him, along with a growing apprehension of AIDS, declined to suck him off a second time or oblige him in any equivalent way; and listening observantly to her rave that first time, he'd found himself with almost half a semi-hard-on, and he took her hand as they sat beside each other on the red velvet banquette at the plush cocktail lounge and rubbed it over the fly of his pants to let her feel for herself.

The great jump in explosive yield induced by the action of tritium in atomic warheads made possible an aesthetic reduction in the size and weight of the bombs, missiles, and shells devised, allowing a greater number to be carried by smaller implements of delivery like Milo 's projected bombers, and Strangelove's too, with no notable sacrifice in nuclear destructive capability.

The chaplain was up in value and completely safe.

14 Michael Yossarian

"When can I see him?" Michael Yossarian heard his father demand. His father's hair was thicker than his own and curly white, a color for which his brother Adrian was assiduously seeking a chemical formula for tinting; to a youthful, natural gray that would not be youthful on any man Yossarian's age and would not look natural.

"As soon as he's safe," answered M2, in a clean white shirt that was not yet rumpled, wet, or in need of ironing.

"Michael, didn't he just say the chaplain was safe?"

"It's what I thought I heard."

Michael smiled to himself. He pressed his brow against the pane of the glass window in order to gaze down intently at the ice rink below and its colorful kaleidoscope of leisurely skaters, wondering, with a downhearted presentiment of already having missed out on much, if there could possibly be abiding in that pastime rewards he might find diverting if ever he could bring himself to take the trouble to seek them. The reflecting oval of ice was ringed these days with drifting tides of panhandlers and vagrants, with working strollers on lunch and coffee breaks, with mounted policemen on daunting horses. Michael Yossarian would not dance; he could not get into the rhythm. He would not play golf, ski, or play tennis, and he knew already he would never ice-skate.

"I mean safe for us." He heard M2 defend himself plaintively and turned to watch. M2 appeared triumphantly prepared for the question he'd been asked. "He is safe for M amp; M Enterprises and cannot be appropriated by even Mercedes-Benz or the N amp; N Division of Nippon amp; Nippon Enterprises. Even Strangelove is barred. We will patent the chaplain as soon as we find out how he works, and we are looking for a trademark. We are thinking of a halo. Because he is a chaplain, of course, a Day-Glo halo. Maybe one that lights up in the dark, all night long."

"Why not tritium?"

"Tritium is expensive and radioactive. Michael, can you draw a halo?"

"It shouldn't be hard."

"We would want something cheerful but serious."

"I would try," said Michael, smiling again, "to make it serious, and it's hard to picture one that isn't cheerful."

"Where have they got him?" Yossarian wanted to know.

"In the same place, I would guess. I really don't know."

"Does your father know?"

"Do I know if he knows?"

"If you did would you tell me?"

"If he said that I could."

"If he said that you couldn't?"

"I would say I don't know."

"As you're saying right now. At least you're truthful."

"I try."

"Even when you lie. There's a paradox here. We are talking in circles."

"I went to divinity school."

"And what," said Yossarian, "do I tell the chaplain's wife? I'll be seeing her soon. If there's anyone else I can advise her to complain to, I will certainly tell her."

"Who could she find? The police are helpless."

"Strangelove?"

"Oh, no," said M2, turning whiter than customary. "I will have to find out. What you can tell Karen Tappman now-"

"Karen?"

"It's what it says on my prompt sheet. What you can tell Karen Tappman truthfully-"

"I don't think I would lie to her."

"We never choose to be anything but truthful. It's right there in our manual, under Lies. What you must tell Karen Tappman," M2 recited dutifully, "is that he is well and misses her. He looks forward to rejoining her as soon as he is not a danger to himself or the community and his presence in the family and the conjugal bed would not be injurious to her health."

"That's a new fucking wrinkle, isn't it?"

"Please." M2 flinched. "This one happens to be true."

"You would say that even if it weren't?"

"That is perfectly true," admitted M2. "But if tritium starts showing up inside him from that heavy water, he could be radioactive, and we'd all have to keep clear of him anyway."

"M2," said Yossarian harshly, "I'm going to want to talk to the chaplain soon. Has your father seen him? I know what you'll say. You have to find out."

"First, I'll have to find out if I can find out."

"Find out if you can find out if he can arrange it. Strangelove could."

M2 paled again. "You'd go to Strangelove?"

"Strangelove will come to me. And the chaplain won't produce if I tell him not to."

"I must tell my father."

"I've already told him, but he doesn't always hear."

M2 was shaken. "I just thought of something else. Should we be talking about all this in front of Michael? The chaplain is secret now, and I'm not sure I'm authorized to let anyone else hear about him."

"About who?" asked Michael mischievously.

"The chaplain," responded M2.

"What chaplain?"

"Chaplain Albert T. Tappman," said M2. "That friend of your father's from the army who's producing heavy water inside himself without a license and is now secretly in custody while they investigate and examine him while we try to patent him and register a trademark. Do you know about him?"

Michael spoke with a grin. "You mean that friend of my father's from the army who began producing heavy water inside himself illegally and is now-"

"That's the one!" M2 cried, and gaped as though confronted by a specter. "How'd you find out?"

"You just told me," laughed Michael.

"I did it again, didn't I?" blubbered M2, and collapsed with a thump into the chair at his desk in a grieving paroxysm of repentant lamentation. Now his shiny white shirt, which was of synthetic fabric, was rumpled, wet, and in need of ironing, and sopping adumbrations of a fidgety, sweltering anxiety were already darkening the fabric below the armholes of a sleeveless white undershirt he never failed to wear as well. "I just can't keep a secret, can I? My father is still angry with me for telling you about the bomber. He says he could kill me. So is my mother. So are my sisters. But it's your fault too, you know. It's his job to restrain me from telling him secrets like that."

"Like what?" asked Michael.

"Like that one about the bomber."

"What bomber?"

"Our M amp; M E amp; A Sub-Supersonic Invisible and Noiseless Defensive Second-Strike Offensive Attack Bomber. I hope you don't know about it."

"I know about it now."

"How'd you find out?"

"I have my ways," said Michael, and turned to his father with a glower. "Are we in munitions now too?"

Yossarian answered testily. "Somebody is going to have to be in munitions whether we like it or not, they tell me, so it might as well be them, and somebody is going to work with them on this, whether I say yes or no, so it might as well be you and me, and that's the perfect truth."

"Even though it's a lie?"

"They told me it was a cruise ship."

"It does cruise," M2 explained to Michael.

"With two people?" Yossarian contradicted him. "And here's another way out, to put your conscience at rest," Yossarian added to Michael. "It won't work. Right, M2?"

"We guarantee it."

"And besides," said Yossarian, with resentment surfacing, "you're only being asked to draw a picture of the plane, not to fly the fucking thing or launch an attack. This plane is for the new century. These things take forever, and we both may be dead before they get one into the air, even if they do get the contract. They don't care now if it works or not. All they want is the money. Right, M2?"

"And we'll pay you, of course," offered M2, coming back to his feet and fidgeting. He was slender, spare, with formless shoulders and prominent collarbones.

"How much will you pay?" asked Michael awkwardly.

"As much as you want," answered M2.

"He means it," said Yossarian, when Michael looked clownishly at him for interpretation.

Michael tittered. "How about," he ventured extravagantly, watching his father for the reaction, "enough for another year in law school?"

"If that's what you want," M2 immediately agreed.

"And my living expenses too?"

"Sure."

"He means that also," said Yossarian reassuringly to his incredulous son. "Michael, you won't believe this-I don't really believe it either-but sometimes there is more money in this world than anybody ever thought the planet could hold without sinking away into somewhere else."

"Where does it all come from?"

"Nobody knows," said Yossarian.

"Where does it go when it isn't here?"

"That's another scientific mystery. It just disappears. Like those particles of tritium. Right now there's a lot."

"Are you trying to corrupt me?"

"I think I'm trying to save you."

"Okay, I'll believe you. What do you want me to do?"

"A few loose drawings," said M2. "Can you read engineering blueprints?"

"Let's have a try."

The five blueprints required for an artist's rendering of the external appearance of the plane had already been selected and laid out on a conference table in an adjoining outer inner conference room just outside the rear false front of the second fireproof stand-up vault of thick steel and concrete, with alarm buttons and radioactive dials of tritium.

It took a minute for Michael to assemble coherence in the mechanical drawings of white lines on royal blue, which looked at first like an occult shambles ornamented with scribbled cryptic notations in alphabets that were indecipherable.

"It's kind of ugly, I think." Michael felt stimulated to be at work on something different that was well within his capabilities, "It's starting to look like a flying wing."

"Are there wings that don't fly?" teased Yossarian.

"The wings of a wing collar," Michael answered, without lifting his analytical gaze. "The wings of a theater stage, the wings of a political party."

"You do read, don't you?"

"Sometimes."

"What does a flying wing look like?" M2 was a moist man, and his brow and chin were beaded with shiny droplets.

"Like a plane without a fuselage, Milo. I've got a feeling I've seen this before."

"I hope you haven't. Our plane is new."

"What's this?" Yossarian pointed. In the lower left corner of all five sheets the identifying legends had been masked before copying by a patch of black tape on which was printed a white letter S without loops. "I've seen that letter."

"And so has everyone else," Michael answered lightly. "It's the standard stencil. You've seen it on old bomb shelters. But what the hell are these?"

"I meant those too."

To the right of the letter S was a trail of minuscule characters that looked like flattened squiggles, and while Yossarian was donning his glasses, Michael peered through a magnifying glass there and found the small letter h repeated in script, with an exclamation point too.

"So that," he remarked, still in very good humor, "is what you're going to call your plane, eh? The M amp; M Shhhhh!"

"You know what we call it." M2 was offended. "It's the M amp; M E amp; A Sub-Supersonic Invisible and Noiseless Defensive Second Strike Offensive Attack Bomber."

"We'd save time calling it Shhhhh! Tell me again what you want."

M2 talked diffidently. What was wanted were nice-looking pictures of the plane in flight from above, below, and the side, and at least one of the plane on the ground. "They don't have to be accurate. But make them realistic, like the planes in a comic strip or science movie. Leave out details. My father doesn't want them to see any until we get the contract. He doesn't really trust our government anymore. They'd also like a picture of what the plane will really look like in case they ever have to build it."

"Why don't you ask your engineers?" mused Michael.

"We don't really trust our engineers."

"When Ivan the Terrible," reflected Yossarian, "finished building the Kremlin, he had all the architects executed, so that no one alive would ever duplicate it."

"What was so terrible about him?" M2 wondered. "I must tell my father that."

"Leave me alone now," said Michael, rubbing his chin and concentrating. He was slipping off his corduroy jacket, whistling a Mozart melody to himself. "If you close the door, remember I'm locked in and don't forget to get me out one day." To himself, he observed aloud, "It's looking cute."

At the turn into the next century, he was cynically sure, there would be months of senseless ceremonies, tied in with political campaigns too, and the M amp; M warplane could be an exalted highlight. And no doubt, the first baby born in the new century would be born in the east, but much farther east this time than Eden.

He looked down again at the plans of this weapon for the close of the century and saw a design that seemed to him aesthetically incomplete. Much was lacking in anticipated form, much was missing. And when he looked at the blueprints and into the future in which that plane would fly, he could spy no place staked out anywhere into which he, in the stale words of his father, could fit, in which he could flourish with any more security and satisfaction than he presently enjoyed. He had room for improvement but saw not much chance of any. He remembered Marlene and her astrological charts and tarot cards, and he felt himself missing her again, even though uncertain he had ever cared for her more than any of the others in his sequence of monogamous romances. It was beginning to scare him that he might have no future, that he was already in it; like his father, about whom he'd always harbored mixed feelings, he was already there. He must risk a call to Marlene.

Even his brother Julian was having trouble these days making as much money as he had insolently projected he was destined to make. And his sister too would have to delay her divorce while testing the waters discreetly for a job in private practice with one of the law firms with whose partners she occasionally had contact.

His father would be dead. Papa John had made clear more than once that he did not expect to go deeply into that twenty-first century. For much of his life Michael had confidently presumed his father would always be alive. He felt that way still, although he knew it was untrue. That never happened with real human beings.

And who else would be there for him? There was no one to esteem, no figure to look up to whose merit persisted without blemish for more than fifteen minutes. There were people with power to confer great benefits upon others, like movie directors and the President, but that was all.

The half-million dollars his father had hoped to bequeath him no longer seemed an everlasting fortune. He would not be able to live on the income, though nine tenths of the country lived on less. In time he would have nothing, and no one, have no one, his father had underlined, to aid him. His father always had struck him as somewhat peculiar, rationally irrational and illogically logical, and did not always make consistent sense.

"It's easy to win debates as a nihilist," he'd said, "because so many people who ought to know better absurdly take positions."

He spoke slickly of things like Ewing's tumor, Hodgkin's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, TIAs, and osteogenic sarcomas;, and talked freely about his dying with an objectivity so matter-of-fact that Michael had to wonder if he was kidding himself, or faking it. Michael did not always know when he was serious and when he was not, and when he was right and when he was mistaken, and when he was right and wrong at the same time. And Yossarian would profess that he did not always know that about himself either.

"A problem I have," his father had admitted penitently, but with a hint of pride, "is that I'm almost always able to see both sides of almost every question."

And he was almost always too eager to be friendly with one woman or another, obsessed still with the dream to find work that he wished to do and the need to be what he called "in love." Michael had never found work that he wished to do-the law was no worse to him than anything else, and art was no better. He was writing a screenplay but did not want his father to know that yet. But with one thing central, Yossarian seemed right on the button.

"Before you know it, you damned fool," he'd snapped at him irascibly in a tender bad temper, "you'll be as old as I am now, and you won't have a thing."

Not even children, Michael could add ruefully. As far as he could see, that was not in the cards for him either, not in Marlene's tarot cards or any others. Michael again looked down narrowly at the blueprints before him, pulled his pad closer, and took up a pencil. He did not envy people who wished to work much harder to get much more, but had to wonder afresh why he was not like them.

15 M2

"You like Michael, don't you?"

"Yes, I like Michael," said M2.

"Give him work when you can."

"I do that. I will want to work more with him on those video screens at the bus terminal. I'll pay him for another year in law school."

"I'm not sure he'll want that. But go ahead and try."

All the parents he knew with grown children had at least one about whose doubtful prospects they were constantly troubled, and many had two. Milo had this one, and he had Michael.

Irritation mingled with puzzlement as he studied the new messages from Jerry Gaffney of the Gaffney Agency. The first advised him to call his answering machine at home for good news from his nurse and bad news from his son about his first wife. The good news from his nurse was that she was free for dinner that evening to go to a movie with him and that the Belgian patient in the hospital was making a good recovery from the bad dysentery generated by the good antibiotics administered for the bad pneumonia provoked by the salutary removal of a vocal cord in the invasive effort, successful thus far, to save his life. The second fax reported that he had now qualified for the mortgage. Yossarian had no idea what that meant. "How did he even know I was here?" he heard himself thinking out loud.

"Mr. Gaffney knows everything, I think," M2 answered, with faith. "He monitors our fax lines too."

"You pay him for that?"

"Somebody does, I think."

"Who?"

"I've no idea."

"Don't you care?"

"Should I?"

"Can't you find out?"

"I'll have to find out if I can find out."

"I'm surprised you don't want to know."

"Should I want to?"

"M2, Michael calls you Milo. Which name do you prefer?"

Milo 's only son turned ill at ease. "I would rather," he said, breathing noisily, "be called Milo, even though that's my father' name. It's my name too, you know. He gave it to me."

"Why haven't you said so?" asked Yossarian, resenting the implication imposed upon him to feel at fault.

"I'm timid, you know. My mother says I'm rabbity. So do my sisters. They keep asking me to change my personality to be strong enough to take over when I have to."

"To be more like your father?"

"They don't think much of my father."

"Who then? Wintergreen?"

"They hate Wintergreen."

"Me?"

"They don't like you either."

"Then who?"

"They can't think of any man who's good enough."

"Let me ask you," said Yossarian, "if you still have your catering company."

"I think we do. It's your company too, you know. Everybody has a share."

The M amp; M Commercial Catering Company was the oldest continuous catering service in the history of the country, having origins in Milo's labors as a mess officer for his squadron in World War II, wherein he contrived the fruitful and abstruse financial strategies for buying fresh Italian eggs from Sicily in Malta for seven cents apiece and selling them to his mess hall in Pianosa for five cents apiece at a handsome profit that increased the squad-ron's capital supply, in which everybody had a share, he said, and bettered the quality of life and the standard of living of everyone there, and for buying Scotch whisky for Malta at the source in Sicily, eliminating middlemen.

"M2," said Yossarian, and remembered he had forgotten. He had no wish to hurt him. "What will you want me to call you when you're here with your father? Two Milos may prove one too many, maybe two."

"I'll have to find out."

"You really don't know, not even that?"

"I can't decide." M2 was writhing. His hands turned red as he wrung them together. The rims of his eyes reddened too. "I can't make a decision. You remember the last time I tried."

One time far back, just before Yossarian went begging to Milo for help in keeping Michael out of the Vietnam War, a much younger M2 had attempted to make up his mind independently on a subject of transcendent importance. He thought his idea a fine one: to answer the call of what he'd been told was his country and enlist in the army to kill Asian communists in Asia.

"You'll do no such thing!" determined his mother.

"The way to serve your government more," responded his father, in a manner more deliberative, "is to find out who the draft boards are not drafting, and then you'll see who's really needed. We'll look into that for you."

The two and a half years M2 spent in divinity school had scarred him for life and instilled in him a traumatic aversion to all things spiritual and a fear and distrust of men and women who did not smoke or drink, swear, wear makeup, walk around anywhere even partly disrobed, did not make sex jokes, smiled an awful lot, even when nothing humorous was said, and smiled when alone, and manifested a shared, beatific faith in a hygienic virtue and selfesteem they thought exclusively their own and which he found malicious and repulsive.

He had never married, and the women he'd kept company with were invariably ladies approximately his own age who dressed plainly in pleated skirts and prim blouses, wore very little makeup daintily, were shy, colorless, and quickly gone.

Make effort as he might, Yossarian could not put to rest the low surmise that M2 belonged to that class of solitary and vindictive men that largely comprised the less boisterous of the two main classes of resolute patrons of prostitutes to be seen in his high-rise apartment building, riding up the elevators for the sex cures in the opulent temple of love on top or downward into the bowels of the structure to the three or four massage parlors of secondary dignity in the sub-basements underlying the several general cinema houses on the first sub-level down from the public sidewalk.

Michael had remarked lightly already to Yossarian that M2 seemed to him to possess all the typical attributes of the serial sex killer: he was white.

"When we went to the terminal," he confided, "he was only interested in looking at the women. I don't think he could recognize the transvestites. Is his father that way?"

" Milo knows what a prostitute is and didn't like us going after them. He's always been chaste. I doubt he knows what a transvestite is or would see much difference if he found out."

"Why did you ask me," M2 asked Yossarian now, "if we still have our catering service?"

"I might have some business. There's this wedding-"

"I'm glad you mentioned that. I might have forgotten. My mother wants me to talk to you about our wedding."

"This is not your wedding," corrected Yossarian.

"My sister's wedding. My mother wants my sister married, and she wants it done at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She expects you to arrange it. She knows you're in ACACAMMA."

Yossarian was genially amazed. "The ceremony too?"

"It's been done before?"

"The actual ceremony? Not that I know of."

"You know trustees?"

"I'm with ACACAMMA. But it might be impossible."

"My mother won't accept that. She says-I'm reading now, from her fax-that if you can't manage that, she doesn't know what else you're good for."

Yossarian shook his head benignly. He was anything but insulted. "It will take money, and time. You would have to begin, I would say, with a donation to the museum of ten million dollars."

"Two dollars?" asked M2, as though repeating.

"Ten million dollars."

"I thought I heard two."

"I did say ten," said Yossarian. "For the construction of another new wing."

"We can handle that."

"With no strings attached."

"There'll be strings attached?"

"I said no strings attached, although of course there will be strings. Your father specializes in string. You're practically out-of-towners, and they just don't take ten million from every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wants to give it."

"Couldn't you persuade them to take it?"

"I think I could do that. And then there's no guarantee."

"There's a good guarantee?"

"There is no guarantee," Yossarian corrected again. "You and your father seem to have the same selective hearing impairment, don't you?"

"Collective hearing impairment?"

"Yes. And it will have to be wasteful."

"Tasteful?"

"Yes. Wasteful. It will have to be lavish and crude enough to get into the newspapers and high-fashion magazines."

"I think it's what they want."

"There might just be an opening they don't know about yet," Yossarian finally judged. "The wedding I mentioned will be in the bus terminal."

M2 reacted with a start, just as Yossarian had expected. "What's good about that?" he wanted to know.

"Innovation, Milo," Yossarian answered. "The museum isn't good enough for some people anymore. The bus terminal is just right for the Maxons."

"The Maxons?"

"Olivia and Christopher."

"The big industrialist?"

"Who never set foot in a factory and never laid eyes on a product any company of his ever manufactured, except maybe his Cuban cigars. I'm helping Maxon out with the logistics," he embroidered nonchalantly. "All the media will cover it, naturally. Will you take the bus terminal if we can't get the museum?"

"I'll have to ask my mother. Offhand-"

"If it's good enough for the Maxons," tempted Yossarian, "with the mayor, the cardinal, maybe even the White House amp;"

"That might make a difference."

"Of course, you could not be the first."

"We could be first?"

"You could not be first, unless your sister marries the Maxon girl or you want to make it a double wedding. I can talk to the Maxons for you, if your mother wants me to."

"What would you do," M2 asked, with a gaze that seemed circumspect, "with the whores at the bus terminal?"

The white light in M2's gray eyes as he said the word whores invested him instantaneously with the face of a ravenous man blistering with acquisitive desire.

Yossarian gave the answer he thought most fit.

"Use them or lose them," he answered carelessly. "As much as you want. The police will oblige. The opportunities are boundless. I'm being realistic about the museum. Your father sells things, Milo, and that's not elegant."

"My mother hates him for that."

"And she lives in Cleveland. When is your sister getting married?" j "Whenever you want her to."

"That gives us latitude. Who is she marrying?"

"Whoever she has to."

"That might open it up."

"My mother will want you to make up the guest list. We don't know anyone here. Our dearest friends all live in Cleveland, and many can't come."

"Why not do it at the museum in Cleveland? And your dearest friends could come."

"We would rather have your strangers." M2 seated himself gently in front of his computer. "I'll fax my mother."

"Can't you phone her?"

"She won't take my calls."

"Find out," said Yossarian, with more mischief in mind, "if she'll take a Maxon. They might just have an extra one."

"Would they take a Minderbinder?"

"Would you marry a Maxon, if all they have is a girl?"

"Would they take me? I have this Adam's apple."

"There's a good chance they might, even with the Adam's apple, once you fork over that ten million for another new wing."

"What would they name it?"

"The Milo Minderbinder Wing, of course. Or maybe the Temple of Milo, if you'd rather have that."

"I believe they would choose that," guessed M2. "And that would be appropriate. My father was a caliph of Baghdad, you know, one time in the war."

"I know," said Yossarian. "And the imam of Damascus. I was with him, and everywhere we went he was hailed."

"What would they put in the wing at the museum?"

"Whatever you give them, or stuff from the storeroom. They need more space for a bigger kitchen. They would certainly put in a few of those wonderful statues of your father at those stone altars red with human blood. Let me know soon."

And as M2 beat a bit faster on his keyboard, Yossarian walked away to his own office, to cope on the telephone with some matters of his own.

16 Gaffney

"She wants more money," Julian told him right off in his no-nonsense manner.

"She isn't getting it." Yossarian was equally brusque.

"For how much?" challenged his son.

"Julian, I don't want to bet with you."

"I'll advise her to sue," said his daughter, the judge.

"She'll lose. She'd have money enough if she called off those Private detectives."

"She swears she isn't employing any," said his other son Adrian, the cosmetics chemist without the graduate degree, whose wife had concluded, through an adult education course in assertiveness training, that she wasn't really as happy as she'd all along thought herself.

"But her lawyer might be, Mr. Yossarian," said Mr. Gaffney, when Yossarian phoned and brought him up-to-date.

"Her lawyer says he's not."

"Lawyers, Mr. Yossarian, have been known to lie. Of the eight people following you, Yo-Yo-"

"My name is Yossarian, Mr. Gaffney. Mr. Yossarian."

"I expect that will change, sir," said Gaffney, with no decrease in friendliness, "once we have met and become fast friends. In the meanwhile, Mr. Yossarian"-there was no insinuating emphasis -"I have good news for you, very good news, from both the credit checking services. You have been coming through splendidly, apart from one late alimony check to your first wife and an occasional late separate maintenance check to your second wife, but there is an overdue bill for eighty-seven dollars and sixty-nine cents from a defunct retail establishment formerly known as The Tailored Woman that is, or has been, in Chapter 11."

"I owe eighty-seven dollars to a store called The Tailored Woman?"

"And sixty-nine cents," said Mr. Gaffney, with his flair for the exact. "You might be held responsible for that charge by your wife Marian when the dispute is finally adjudicated."

"My wife wasn't Marian," Yossarian advised him, after cogitating several moments to make sure. "I had no wife named Marian. Neither of them."

Mr. Gaffney replied in a coddling tone. "I'm afraid you're mistaken, Mr. Yossarian. People frequently grow befuddled in matrimonial recollections."

"I am not befuddled, Mr. Gaffney," Yossarian retorted, with his hackles up. "There has been no wife of mine named Marian Yossarian. You can look that one up if you don't believe me. I'm in Who's Who."

"I find the Freedom of Information Act consistently a much better source, and I certainly will look it up, if only to clear the air between us. But in the meanwhile amp;" There was a pause. "May I call you John yet?"

"No, Mr. Gaffney."

"All the other reports are in mint condition, and you can obtain the mortgage anytime you want it."

"What mortgage? Mr. Gaffney, I intend no disrespect when I tell you categorically I have no idea what the fuck you are talking about when you mention a mortgage!"

"We live in encumbering times, Mr. Yossarian, and sometimes things befall us too rapidly."

"You are talking like a mortician."

"The real estate mortgage, of course. For a house in the country or at the seashore, or perhaps for a much better apartment right here in the city."

"I'm not buying a house, Mr. Gaffney," replied Yossarian. "And I'm not thinking of an apartment."

"Then perhaps you should begin thinking about it, Mr. Yossarian. Sometimes Señor Gaffney knows best. Real estate values can only go up. There is only so much land on the planet, my father used to say, and he did well in the long run. All we'll need with your application is a specimen of your DNA."

"My DNA?" Yossarian repeated, with a brain bewildered. "I confess I'm baffled."

"That's your deoxyribonucleic acid, Mr. Yossarian, and contains your entire genetic coding."

"I know it's my deoxyribonucleic acid, God damn it! And I know what it does."

"No one else can fake it. It will prove you are you."

"Who the hell else could I be?"

"Lending institutions are careful now."

"Mr. Gaffney, where will I get that sample of my DNA to submit with my mortgage application for a house I don't know about that I will never want to buy?"

"Not even in East Hampton?" tempted Gaffney.

"Not even East Hampton."

"There are excellent values there now. I can handle the DNA for you."

"How will you get it?"

"Under the Freedom of Information Act. It's on file in your sperm with your Social Security number. I can get a certified photocopy-"

"Of my sperm?"

"Of your deoxyribonucleic acid. The sperm cell is just a medium of transportation. It's the genes that count. I can get the photocopy of your DNA when you're ready with your application. Leave the driving to me. And indeed, I have more good news. One of the gentlemen who is following you isn't."

"I will resist the wisecrack."

"I don't see the wisecrack."

"Do you mean that he isn't a gentleman or that he isn't following me?"

"I still don't see it. Isn't following you. He is following one or more of the others who are following vou."

"Why?"

"We will have to guess. That was blacked out on the Freedom of Information report. Perhaps to protect you from abduction, torture, or murder, or maybe merely to find out about you what the others find out. There are a thousand reasons. And the Orthodox Jew-excuse me, are you Jewish, Mr. Yossarian?"

"I am Assyrian, Mr. Gaffney."

"Yes. And the Orthodox Jewish gentleman parading in front of your building really is an Orthodox Jewish gentleman and does live in your neighborhood. But he is also an FBI man and he is sharp as a tack. So be discreet."

"What does he want from me?"

"Ask him if you wish. Maybe he's just walking, if he's not ther on assignment. You know how those people are. It may not be yQu. You have a CIA front in your building masquerading as a CIA front and a Social Security Administration office there too, not to mention all those sex parlors, prostitutes, and other business establishments. Try to hold on to your Social Security number. It always pays to be discreet. Discretion is the better part of valor, Señor Gaffney tells his friends. Have no fear. He will keep you posted. Service is his middle name."

Yossarian felt the need to take a stand. "Mr. Gaffney," he said "how soon can I see you? I'm afraid I insist."

There was a moment of chortling, a systematic bubbling suffused with overtones of self-satisfaction. "You already have seen me, Mr. Yossarian, and you didn't notice, did you?"

"Where?"

"At the bus terminal, when you went below with Mr. McBride. You looked right at me. I was wearing a fawn-colored single-breasted herringbone woolen jacket with a thin purple cross-pat tern, brown trousers, a light-blue Swiss chambray shirt of finest Egyptian cotton, and a complementing tie of solid rust, with matching socks. I have a smooth tan complexion and am bald on top, with black hair trimmed very close at the sides and very dark brows and eyes. I have noble temples and fine cheekbones. You didn't recognize me, did you?"

"How could I, Mr. Gaffney? I'd never seen you before."

The quiet laughter returned. "Yes, you did, Mr. Yossarian, more than once. Outside the hotel restaurant after you stopped in there that day with Mr. and Mrs. Beach following the ACA-CAMMA meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In front of the Frank Campbell Funeral Home across the street. Do you remember the red-haired man with a walking stick and green rucksack on his back who was with the uniformed guard at the entrance?"

"You were the redheaded man with the rucksack?"

"I was the uniformed guard."

"You were in disguise?"

"I'm in disguise now."

"I'm not sure I get that one, Mr. Gaffney."

"Perhaps it's a joke, Mr. Yossarian. It's told very widely in my profession. Maybe my next sally will be better. And I really believe you ought to call your nurse. She's back on the day shift and free for dinner tonight. She can bring that friend."

"Her roommate?"

"No, not Miss Moorecock."

"Her name is Miss Moore." Yossarian reproved him coldly.

"You call her Miss Moorecock."

"You will call her Miss Moore, if you wish to keep working for me. Mr. Gaffney, keep out of my private life."

"No life is private anymore, I'm sad to say."

"Mr. Gaffney, when do we meet?" Yossarian demanded. "I want to look you in the eye and see who the hell I'm dealing with. I'm not easy with you, Mr. Gaffney."

"I'm sure that will change."

"I'm not sure it will. I don't think I like you."

"That will change also, after we talk in Chicago."

" Chicago?"

"When we meet in the airport and you see that I'm trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, and kind. Better?"

"No. I'm not going to Chicago."

"I believe you will be, Mr. Yossarian. You could make reservations now."

"What will I be doing in Chicago?"

"Changing planes."

"For where?"

"To come back, Mr. Yossarian. From Kenosha, Wisconsin, after your visit to Mrs. Tappman. Probably, you will want to continue to Washington directly for your meetings with Mr. Minderbinder and Mr. Wintergreen, and perhaps Noodles Cook too."

Yossarian sighed. "You know all that about me now?"

"I hear things in my work, Mr. Yossarian."

"Who else do you work for when you hear things about me?"

"For whoever will pay me, Mr. Yossarian. I don't discriminate. We have laws now against discrimination. And I don't play favorites. I'm always objective and don't make distinctions. Distinctions are odious. And invidious too."

"Mr. Gaffney, I haven't paid you yet. You haven't sent me a bill or discussed the fees."

"Your credit is good, Mr. Yossarian, if the credit rating companies can be believed, and you can get that mortgage anytime you want. There are excellent lakefront properties available now in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, and good seashore values too in Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Long Island. I can help you with the mortgage forms, if you like, as well as with your DNA. This is a good time for a mortgage and a very good time to buy."

"I don't want a mortgage and I don't want to buy. And who was that friend you mentioned before?"

"Of your nurse?"

"'I have no nurse, damn it. I'm in excellent health, if you're still keeping track, and by now she's a friend. Melissa."

"Nurse MacIntosh," Mr. Gaffney disagreed formally. "I am reading from the records, Mr. Yossarian, and the records never lie. They may be mistaken or out-of-date, but they never lie. They are inanimate, Mr. Y."

"Don't dare call me that!"

"They are not able to lie, and they are always official and authoritative, even when they are in error and contradict each other. Her friend is the nurse in the postoperative surgical recovery room you expressed a desire to meet. Her given name is Wilma but people are prone to call her angel, or honey, particularly patients as they emerge from anesthesia after surgery, and two or three physicians there, who now and then entertain ambitions of, as they put it, not I, getting into her pants. That may be a medical term. You may be joined by Miss Moore."

"Miss Moore?" Yossarian, with senses awhirl, was finding (t still harder to keep up. "Who the hell is Miss Moore?"

"You call her Moorecock," reminded Gaffney, in a dropped tone of admonition. "Forgive me for inquiring, Mr. Yossarian. But our listeners have not picked up sounds of sexual activity in your apartment in some time. Are you all right?"

"I've been doing it on the floor, Mr. Gaffney," answered Yossarian steadily, "below the air conditioner, as you advised me to, and in the bathtub with the water running."

"I'm relieved. I was concerned. And you really should call Miss MacIntosh now. Her telephone is free at this moment. She has troubling news about the Belgian's blood chemistry, but she seems eager to see you. I would predict that despite the differences in your respective ages-"

"Mr. Gaffney?"

"Forgive me. And Michael is just about finishing up and making ready to return, and you might forget."

"You see that too?"

"I see things too, Mr. Yossarian. That's also essential to my work. He's putting on his jacket and will soon be back with his first sketches of this new Milo Minderbinder wing. You'll permit Señor Gaffney that little wisecrack? I thought you might find it funnier than my first one."

"I'm grateful, Jerry," said Yossarian, with no doubt left that he was finding Mr. Gaffney a jumbo pain in the ass. He kept to himself his temper of hostile sarcasm.

"Thank you amp; John. I'm pleased we are friends now. You'll phone Nurse MacIntosh?"

"No fancy lingerie yet?" Melissa taunted when he did. "No Paris, or Florence?"

"Use your own for tonight," Yossarian bantered back. "We ought to keep seeing how we get along before we take off on a trip. And bring your roommate, if she wants to come."

"You can call her Angela," Melissa told him tartly. "I know what you did with her. She told me all about you."

"That's too bad, I think," Yossarian said, taken somewhat aback. With these two, he saw, he must keep on his mettle. "For that matter," he charged, "she told me all about you. It must be a nightmare. You could enter a convent. Your antiseptic terrors are almost unbelievable."

"I don't care," Melissa said with a hint of fanatical resolution. "I work in a hospital and I see sick people. I'm not going to take chances anymore with herpes or AIDS or even chlamydia, or vaginitis or strep throat or any of those other things you men like to pass around. I know about diseases."

"Do what you want. But bring that other friend of yours. The one that works in the surgical recovery room. I might as well start getting friendly with her now."

"Wilma?"

"They call her angel, don't they, and honey?"

"Only when they're recovering."

"Then I will too. I want to look ahead."

BOOK SIX

17 Sammy

Knee-action wheels.

I doubt I know more than a dozen people from the old days who might remember those automobile ads with the knee-action wheels, because I don't think there's more than a dozen of us left I could find. None live in Coney Island now, or even in Brooklyn. All that is gone, closed, except for the boardwalk and the beach and the ocean. We live in high-rise apartment houses like the one I'm in now, or in suburbs in traveling distance of Manhattan, like Lew and Claire, or in retirement villages in condominiums in West Palm Beach, Florida, like my brother and sister, or, if they have more money, in Boca Raton or Scottsdale, Arizona. Most of us have done much better than we ever thought we would or our parents dreamed we could.

Lifebuoy soap. Halitosis.

Fleischmann's Yeast, for acne. Ipana toothpaste for the smile of beauty, and Sal Hepatica for the smile of health.

When nature forgets, remember Ex-Lax.

Pepsi-Cola hits the spot

(When I drink it, how I fot).

Twice as much for a nickel too.

Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.

None of us wise guys in Coney Island then believed this new drink Pepsi-Cola, notwithstanding the "Twelve full ounces, that's a lot" in the original ditty of that musical radio commercial, stood a chance in competition against the Coca-Cola drink we knew and loved, in the icy, smaller, sweating, somewhat greenish glass bottle with the willowy ripples on the surface that fit like balm into hands of every size and was by far the prevailing favorite. Today they taste to me identically the same. Both companies have grown mightier than any business enterprise ever ought to be allowed to do, and the six-ounce bottle is just about another extinct delight of the past. Nobody wants to sell a popular soft drink of just six ounces for only a nickel today, and nobody but me, perhaps, wants to buy one.

There was a two-cent "deposit" charged on every small soda bottle, a nickel on sodas of larger size that sold for ten cents, and none of the members in all of the families on that West Thirty-first Street block in Coney Island were inattentive to the value of those empty soda bottles. You could buy things of value for two pennies then. Sometimes as kids we'd go treasure hunting for deposit bottles in likely places on the beach. We would turn them in for cash at the Steinberg candy store right on my street at the corner of Surf Avenue and use the coins to play poker or twenty-one for pennies once we knew how, or spend them at once on things to eat. For two cents you could buy a nice-sized block of Nestle's or Hershey's chocolate, a couple of pretzels or frozen twists, or, in the fall, a good piece of the halvah we all went crazy about for a while. For a nickel you could get a Milky Way or Coca-Cola, a Melorol or Eskimo Pie, a hot dog in Rosenberg 's delicatessen store on Mermaid Avenue or at Nathan's about a mile down in the amusement area, or a ride on the carousel. For two cents you could buy a newspaper. When Robby Kleinline's father worked at Tilyou's Steeplechase we got free passes and with a few cents could usually win a coconut at the penny pitch game there. We learned how. Prices were lower then and so was income. Girls skipped rope and played jacks and potsy. We played punch-ball, stoopball, stickball, and harmonicas and kazoos. In the early evening after dinner-we called it supper-we might play blind-man's bluff on the sidewalk with our parents looking on, and all of us knew, and the parents saw, that we not-so-blind boys were using the game mainly as a chance to fumble with the titties of the girls for a few seconds every time we caught one and felt around pretending we were not yet set to identify her. That was before we boys began to masturbate and before they began to menstruate.

Early every weekday morning, all of the fathers on the block, and all of the brothers and sisters already out of school, would begin materializing soundlessly from their buildings and turn toward the stop of the Norton's Point trolley cars on Railroad Avenue that would take them to the elevated Stillwell Avenue terminus of the four separate subway lines, following different routes, that ended in Coney Island, to the subway cars that would then transport them into the city to their various places of work or, as with me when I was just seventeen and a half with my high school diploma, to the succession of employment agencies in Manhattan in timorous search of a job. Several would walk the mile to the train station for the exercise or the nickel saved. At night, in the rush hour, they would plod back home. In winter it would already be dark. And on most evenings from late spring into early fall, my father would walk by himself to the beach with his ever-present smile, in a fluffy bathrobe with a towel draped over his shoulders, to go for his relaxing dip or swim, sometimes staying until darkness was falling and the rest of us were contracting the fear from my mother that this time he would really drown if someone did not fetch him in a hurry.

"Go get him," she would instruct the one of us nearest her "Tell him to come eat."

It probably was the one hour in the day he could enjoy being alone and contemplate whatever hopeful thoughts gave to him that pleasant demeanor and brought that tranquil smile to his tan face. We were all in excellent health then, and that good fact was certainly one of them. He had his job. He had his Jewish newspaper, and both parents had the music they loved from the radio: Puccini especially; The Bell Telephone Hour; the NBC Symphony of the Air; WQXR, the radio station of the New York Times; and WNYC, the radio station, said the announcer, "of the City of New York, where seven million people live in peace and harmony ancj enjoy the benefits of democracy."

I went beyond them in music, from Count Basic, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman into Beethoven and Bach, chamber music and piano sonatas, and now Wagner and Mahler again.

And Hitler and his brave legionnaires would have murdered us all.

The forty-hour workweek was a watershed in social reform I was just barely in time to appreciate and a step into a better way of life that my children and grandchildren take for granted. They are stepchildren, for Glenda had already had her tubes tied by the time I met her. Suddenly we all had jobs in places that closed Saturdays. We could stay up late Friday nights. Whole families could have whole weekends off. The minimum wage and the child labor laws were other blessings flowing from FDR and his New Deal, although the latter seemed obscure. Not until college did I learn that children twelve and under everywhere in the industrialized Western world had always been putting in workdays twelve hours and longer in coal mines and factories; and not until I got into the army and began associating with people from outside Coney Island did I find out that a Coney Island "fot" was really a fart.

The minimum wage then was twenty-five cents an hour. When Joey Heller in the apartment house across the street turned old enough to get his working papers at age sixteen and found a job with Western Union delivering telegrams in the city four hours a day after high school, he brought home five dollars a week every Friday. And out of that, he almost never failed to buy a new secondhand phonograph record for the social club on Surf Avenue we already had in which we learned to dance the lindy hop, smoke cigarettes, and muzzle girls in the back room if we were lucky enough to trick or induce any into going back there with us. While my friend Lew Rabinowitz and his other friend Leo Weiner and a couple of the other bolder guys were already screwing them on the couches and in other places too. Joey Heller's father was dead and his older brother and sister worked too whenever they could, mainly part time in Woolworth's or in summer on the boardwalk at the frozen custard and hot dog stands. His mother, a seamstress when a girl, now did work for my mother, taking in and letting out dresses, and raising and lowering hems, and turning the frayed collars on shirts for the local laundry, for two or three cents apiece, I think, maybe a nickel.

They got by. Joey wanted to be a writer too. It was from Joey I first heard that variation on the Pepsi-Cola radio commercial. I remember the first verse of another parody he did on a popular song that was up near the top of the Lucky Strike Hit Parade, one you can still hear today on records by some of the better singers we had at the time: If there's a gleam in her eye Each time she unzips your fly, You know the lady's in love with you.

I wish I could remember the rest. He wanted to write comedy sketches for the radio, movies, and theater. I wanted to do these with him and also to write short stories someday good enough to be published in The New Yorker magazine, or anywhere else. Together we collaborated on skits for our Boy Scout troop, Troop 148, and later, older, for dance-night entertainments at our social club, when we charged ten cents or a quarter admission for people from a dozen of the other social clubs in Coney Island and Brighton Beach, girls free. One of our longer Boy Scout skits, "The Trials and Tribulations of Toby Tenderfoot," was so comical, I remember, that we were asked to put it on again at one of the regular assemblies that were conducted every Friday at our elementary public school, P.S.188. Joey went into the air corps too and became an officer and a bombardier, and he also taught college in Pennsylvania. By then he was no longer "Joey" and I was no longer "Sammy." He was Joe and I was Sam. We were younger than we thought we were, but we were no longer kids. But Marvin Winkler still talks of him as Joey when he looks back, and thinks of me as Sammy.

"They laughed when I sat down at the piano."

That ad became the most successful direct-mail advertising campaign ever run, and possibly it still is. You filled out a coupon and received a packet of instructions that taught you, they said, to play the piano in ten or so easy lessons. It helped, of course, if, like Winkler, you had a piano, although he never cared to study it.

We had a Ford in our future, the manufacturer told us, and there was no-knock gasoline at Gulf or at the sign of the flying red horse at the filling stations for the automobiles with knee-action wheels we could not yet afford to buy. Lucky Strike meant fine tobacco in those days of the knee-action wheels, and people called for Philip Morris and would walk a mile for a Camel and for the other cigarettes and cigars that gave my father the lung cancer that spread to his liver and his brain and then very quickly killed him. He was on in years when he passed away, but Glenda was not old when stricken with her ovarian cancer and died exactly thirty days after the diagnosis. She began feeling ill with different things after Michael did away with himself and today we might guess her affliction resulted from stress. She was the one who found him. There was one stunted tree in the backyard of the house we'd rented for the summer on Fire Island, and he'd managed to hang himself from that. I cut him down, aware I ought not to, rather than leave him dangling to be stared at by us and the women and children from neighboring houses for the two hours it might take for the police and the medical examiner to come in their beach buggies.

A dollar an hour amp; a mile a minute amp; a hundred a week amp; a hundred miles an hour, wow!

These were all possible. We knew there were cars that sped that fast, and all of us there in Coney Island had relatives living elsewhere who were better off than we were and had those cars that might go a mile a minute or more. Ours lived for the most part in New Jersey, in Paterson and Newark, and came in their automobiles on summer Sundays, to walk the boardwalk to the carousel or as far as Steeplechase, to use the beach or wade in the ocean. They would stay for the dinner that my mother liked to cook, my sister helping, to serve them the breaded veal cutlets with roasted fried potatoes she made deliciously, to "give them good eat." Civil service jobs were coveted, for the pay, the steady, white-collar work, and the vacation and pension benefits, and because they went to Jews too, and those who obtained them were looked up to as professionals. You could start as an apprentice in the U.S. Government Printing Office, my older brother read to me from a civil service newspaper, and then work as a printer at a starting salary of sixty dollars a week-there was that dollar an hour, almost in reach, and more-once the apprenticeship was over. But I would have to live and work in Washington, and none of us was sure I ought to leave home for that. A shorter stint at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia, as a blacksmith's helper, with a bunch of the other guys from Coney Island working in the navy yard too, seemed a more inspiring idea, while we waited to see if the war would be over before I reached nineteen and whether or not I was going to be drafted into the army or navy. At 30 Bank Street in the city of Norfolk, we'd been told, a ferry ride across from Portsmouth, was a cathouse, a brothel, but I never had nerve enough to go, and lacked the time. I lasted at hard physical labor there close to two months, working fifty-six consecutive days for the time and a half on Saturdays and Sundays, before I gave up in total exhaustion and came back home, and finally found a job as a file clerk with an automobile casualty insurance company for much less money, in the same building in Manhattan, coincidentally, the old General Motors building at 1775 Broadway, in which Joey Heller had worked in his uniform as a Western Union messenger, delivering and picking up telegram messages.

Where were you?

When you heard about Pearl Harbor. When the atom bomb went off. When Kennedy was killed.

I know where I was when the radio gunner Snowden was killed on the second mission to Avignon, and that meant more to me then than the Kennedy assassination did later, and still does. I was in the tail section of my B-25 medium bomber in a dead faint, after coming around from the crack on the head that knocked me out for a while when the copilot lost control of himself and put the plane into a sheer drop and then wailed on the intercom for everyone in the plane to help everyone else in the plane who wasn't answering him. Each time I came to and heard Snowden moaning and saw Yossarian doing something else in his vain struggle to help him, I fainted again.

Before that mission, I had crash-landed once with a pilot we all called Hungry Joe, who had loud nightmares when he was not on combat duty, and I had ditched once with a pilot named Orr, who they said later wound up safe in Sweden somehow; but I was not injured either time, and I still could not make myself believe it was not honestly only like the movies. But then I saw Snowden with his insides out, and after that saw a skinny man frolicking on a raft at the beach cut in half by a propeller, and I believe now that if I'd thought earlier that either one of those things could occur in my presence, I might not have been able to make myself want to go. My mother and father both knew that war was a more dreadful thing than any of us kids in the neighborhood could picture. They were appalled later when I told them I had been accepted for flying duty as an aerial gunner. Neither had ever been up in a plane. Nor had I, or anyone else I knew.

Both walked with me to the trolley stop on Railroad Avenue, near the second candy store we had on our street. From there I would ride to Stillwell Avenue and, with the three others, take the Sea Beach subway line into Manhattan to Pennsylvania Station to report for duty on my first day in. I learned years later that after my mother hugged me good-bye with a gentle smile and a straight face and I'd gone away on the trolley, she collapsed in tears right there and wept inconsolably, and it was nearly a half hour before my father and my sister could get her back down the street into our apartment.

The day I went into the army my standard of living practically doubled. I was making sixty dollars a month as a file clerk in the insurance company and had to pay my carfare and buy my lunches, or bring them. In the army I was paid seventy-five dollars a month as a buck private from day one, and food and clothes and rent and doctors and dentists were all free. And before I was out, as a sergeant with flight pay, overseas pay, and combat pay, I was making more a month than a government printer and was already closer as a young man to that hundred dollars a week than I'd believed I ever would be able to get.

Where did all that money come from?

As my mother might say, in Yiddish: On Monday one third of the nation was ill-housed, ill-clothed, and ill-fed. And on Thursday there were ten million people in the military making more than most had been able to earn before, and two million civilian employees, and tanks, airplanes, ships, aircraft carriers, and hundreds of thousands of jeeps and trucks and other vehicles pouring out of the factories almost too rapidly to count. Suddenly there was enough for everything. Does all the credit belong to Hitler? Capitalism, my father probably would answer with a smile of resignation, as though for this humane socialist all of the evils of inequality could be clarified in that sinful single word. "For war there is always enough. It's peace that's too expensive."

From that first train ride out from Pennsylvania Station to the reception center on Long Island, I experienced in the army a loss of personal importance and individual identity that I found, to my amazement, I welcomed. I was part of a directed herd, and I found myself relieved to have everything mapped out for me, to be told what to do, and to be doing the same things as the rest. I felt unburdened, more free than as a civilian. I had more free time too, a sense of greater liberty, once the orientation phases were over.

The four of us who'd enlisted together came back unharmed, although I had a pretty bad time of it on both missions to Avignon, and Lew was taken prisoner and kept in a prison camp in Germany for half a year before he was set free by the Russians. He knows what a long shot it was that he survived at all after Dresden was bombed while he was there. But Irving Kaiser, who had been our Toby Tenderfoot in the skit by Joey Heller and me, was blown apart in Italy by artillery fire and I never saw him again, and Sonny Ball was killed there too.

By the time of Vietnam I did know what war was like, and White House wickedness, and I swore to Glenda I would do everything conceivable, legal and illegal, to keep the boy Michael from going if he came even close to passing his physical and being called up. I had doubts that could happen. Even before he was old enough to be on drugs or medication he showed signs of behaving like someone who was. He was good at facts and figures but was lost with things like maps and floor plans. His memory for things statistical was phenomenal. But he was not much good at algebra or geometry, at anything abstract. I let Glenda continue to think he'd been affected that way by the divorce. I outlined heroic plans to move to Canada if the draft board called him. I would even go to Sweden with him if that looked safer. I gave her my word but did not have to keep it.

Lew wanted the paratroops or a tank with a cannon in front to roll over Germans who were persecuting Jews, but wound up in the infantry after training in the field artillery. Overseas, he made it to sergeant when his own sergeant was killed. Even earlier, in Holland, he had taken that position of command when his sergeant grew unsure of himself and began relying on Lew for orders to give. I wanted to be a fighter pilot and fly the P-38, because it looked so fast and flashy. But I had no depth perception, so I became an aerial gunner instead. I saw the posters stressing the need for gunners and volunteered. It was the most dangerous game of all, rumor had it, and it was going to be a cinch. And for me, as it turned out, it pretty much was.

I was small enough to be a ball-turret gunner on a Flying Fortress in England, but luckily nobody noticed, and I wound up as a tail gunner in the sunnier Mediterranean on the easier, safer B-25 instead.

In training, I always liked very much the feel of the grip on the.50 caliber machine gun. I liked being aloft and firing away with real live bullets at tow targets in the air and at stationary targets on the ground, walking the tracer bullets with their white streamers up to them from in front. I learned quickly about inertia and relative movement, that a bomb or bullet from a plane going three hundred miles an hour starts out moving in that same direction at that identical speed, and that gravity is at work from the first instant, and I was put to work at a blackboard occasionally by our first gunnery officer, helping some with difficulties try to understand. I learned electrifying things about Isaac Newton's laws of motion: if you were in motion or the target was, you would never hit it by aiming right at it. I have one that still surprises me: if a bullet is fired from a horizontal weapon at the same moment an identical bullet is dropped at the spot from the same height, they will strike the ground at the same time, even though the first one may land half a mile away. I liked the combat-simulation trainers less, because the guns were not real, although they were almost as diverting as the gun games in the boardwalk penny arcades. You sat in an enclosed contraption and fighter planes of different makes flew at you on a screen from different directions and heights for a fraction of a second, and it was realistically impossible to distinguish friend from foe that quickly and bring your sights to bear and depress the trigger. No one scored impressively on these; on the other hand, no one washed out. Two guys I knew of were reassigned because of fear. From these trainers I grew skeptical: if that was the way it was going to be, the only thing to do was to let go in a general direction as quickly as possible with as many rounds as you could in the few seconds you had. And that is the way it turned out to be, just about everywhere. The side that could bring the most firepower into play was the side that always won.

People don't want to know that the ancient battle of Thermopylae and the heroic Spartan stand to the last man there was not a Greek triumph but a crushing defeat. All that valor was wasted. It's the kind of fact I like to throw out at people to shake them up a little and get them going.

I had faith in my machine gun, but it never crossed my mind that I would always be firing away at someone who would be flying in to fire at me.

I liked the horsing around and I found myself friendly with more people I enjoyed than I'd had even in Coney Island. In the army I had personality advantages. I had read more and knew more. I found it practical to let people learn right off that I indeed was as Jewish as they might have guessed, and I would find some way of working that in and adding as well that I was from Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. I had uncomplicated and close relationships with people with names like Bruce Suggs from High Point, North Carolina, and Hall A. Moody from Mississippi, with Jay Matthews and Bruce J. Palmer from different places in Georgia, who did not exactly like each other, with Art Schroeder, and with Tom Sloane from Philadelphia. In a barracks at Lowry Field, Colorado, where I was shipped for power-turret training, I saw hostility and threat from Bob Bowers, who also was from Brooklyn, from a rougher neighborhood of Norwegians and Irishmen that was known to us for its anti-Semites, and John Rupini, from somewhere upstate, and we were notably careful to keep out of each other's way. I knew how they felt and they knew that I knew, and they were almost equally unfriendly with just about everyone else. Lew would have had it out with them right off the bat, I suppose. In a poker game the second or third day on the troop train carrying me from Arizona to Colorado, I thought I heard one of the other players say something about a Jew, but wasn't sure. Then the one opposite me, who had already said he was from a small place down south, smirked and remarked, "We've got some too, that own a clothing store. You ought to see how they look." Now I was sure and knew I had to speak up.

"Just one moment, please, if you don't mind," I told him abruptly and somewhat pompously. Inwardly, I was rattled. It was not my voice. "But I happen to be Jewish and don't like to hear you talking that way. I'll leave the game right now if you want me to. But if you want me to keep playing, you have to stop saying things that hurt my feelings and make me feel bad. I don't know why you want to do that to me anyway."

The game had come to a stop, and we swayed and listened to the sound of the train. If I left the game, Lesko would leave with me, and if it came near anything violent, they knew that Lesko would be on my side. But the one I'd spoken to, Cooper, was stricken with guilt and mumbled his apology. "I'm sorry, Singer. I didn't know you were."

Lew would have broken his back, I guess, and gone to jail. I had made a temporary friend of someone who always wanted to atone. Lew is Lew, and I am not.

My name is Samuel Singer, no middle initial-Sammy NMI Singer-and I was born short and grew up smaller than most and physically unimpressive. Not like another good neighborhood friend, Ike Solomon, who was no taller but had burly biceps and a deeper chest and could lift weights and enjoy himself on a chinning bar. All my life I've been wary of fistfights, so I've done what I could not to get into any. I could be witty and sympathetic, and I have always managed to make friends. I've always been good at getting things going with needling questions and keeping a conversation lively with the clever revelations of iconoclasm.

"Do you think the country would have been better off if we'd lost the Revolutionary War against the British?" I would inquire searchingly, as though really mystified, and was ready with critical questions for whatever answer came.

"If Lincoln was so smart, why didn't he let the South secede? How would it hurt as much as the war did?"

"Is the Constitution constitutional?"

"Can democracy ever be created democratically?"

"Wasn't the Virgin Mary Jewish?"

I knew things other people didn't. I knew that if we walked into a floor of any barracks with no fewer than forty people, there would almost always be two with the same birthday, and half the time another two who shared a different birthday. I could make bets even with people from Nevada and California that Reno, Nevada, was farther west than Los Angeles, and almost make bets with them a second time after we'd looked it up, so determined were they to cling to an old concept. I've got one ready for the cardinal should I ever find myself sitting next to him and feel like fooling around.

"Whose genes did Jesus have?" And with a look of innocence I would remind, when given whatever response the poor figure could find, that he was born as a baby and grew to a man, and was circumcised on the eighth day.

In class in gunnery school I did come close to trouble with the decorated warrant officer instructing us when he remarked that the average life of an aerial gunner in combat was three minutes and later invited questions. He had completed his tour of duty in a B-17 with the battered Eighth Air Force in England, and I wasn't baiting him-I was curious.

"How could they tell, sir?" I asked, and I've never trusted surveys and estimates since.

"What do you mean?"

"How could they measure something like that? Sir, you must have been in combat for at least an hour."

"Much more than one hour."

"Then for every hour you lasted, nineteen others had to die in even less than the first second to average out to three minutes. And why is it more dangerous for gunners than for pilots and bombardiers? Sir, they're shooting at the whole plane, aren't they?"

"Singer, you're a wiseass, aren't you? You hang on a bit when the others go."

He let me know that I must never contradict him in the classroom again and introduced me to what I later came, with Yossarian, to call the Korn Laws, after Lieutenant Colonel Korn in Pianosa: under Korn's laws, the only ones ever permitted to question ainything were those who never did. But he put me to work tutoring others with simple examples from algebra and geometry in the reasons one must always shoot well ahead of a target moving in relation to you-and in order to shoot ahead of a plane you had to shoot behind. If a plane is so many yards away and a cartridge travels at so many yards a second, how many seconds will it take for your cartridge to reach it? If the plane is traveling at so many feet per second, how many feet will it travel by the time the bullet reaches it? They saw it in practice in the hours we spent skeet shooting and firing on the gunnery range from a moving truck. But though I taught it and knew it, even I had trouble with the principle that you fired ahead of a plane coming in on attack by always aiming behind it, between the target and your tail, because of the forward airspeed of the bullets from your own plane land the swerving path that plane would have to follow to fire in front of you.

The friends I've made have always been of a generous nature. And somehow or other, a bigger, tougher guy was always around as a buddy in case things went wrong, like Lew Rabinowitz and Sonny Bartolini, one of the bolder Italians in a family in Coney Island. And Lesko, the young coal miner from Pennsylvania, whom I'd met in gunnery school. And Yossarian in operational training in Carolina and later in Pianosa in combat, after the five of us, Yossarian, Appleby, Kraft, Schroeder, and I, had flown overseas as a crew.

The fear of being beaten up had always been with me, looming larger in my meditations than the fear of being shot down. In South Carolina one night, it began to come to pass. This was after another training flight into darkness in which Yossarian could not find his way around to places like Athens, Georgia, and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Appleby from Texas again had to bring us back with his radio compass. We had gone to our enlisted men's mess hall for a midnight meal, Schroeder and I and Yossarian. The officers' club was closed. Yossarian was always hungry. He had taken off his insignia to pose as an enlisted man, with a right to be there. People were always milling around outside at night. As we moved through them, I was jostled suddenly by a big, drunken lout, a private, bumped so hard as to leave no doubt the act had been deliberate. I whirled around with instinctive surprise. Before I could speak, he was at me, he shoved me furiously backward into a group of soldiers who had already turned to watch. It was happening almost too fast to understand. While I was still dumbfounded, staggering, he came charging after me with his arms raised and a fist cocked back to punch. He was taller than I and broad and heavier too, and there was no way I could fend him off. It was like that time I had tried to teach Lew how to box. I could not even run. I don't know why he picked me out and can only guess. But then, before he could strike, Yossarian was there between us to break it up, with his arms extended and his palms open, urging him to hold it, attempting to cajole him into calming down. And before he could even complete his first sentence, the man let go and hit him squarely on the side of the head and then hit him hard again with a punch from his other fist, and Yossarian went falling back in a helpless daze as the man followed up, hitting him about the head with both hands while Yossarian reeled with each blow, and before I knew what I was doing, I had flung myself forward to grab one of the man's thick arms and hang on. When that didn't work, I slid down to grasp him about the waist and dug my feet into the ground to strain with all my might to shove him off balance if I could. By that time Schroeder had also pounced on him, from the other side, and I heard Schroeder talking away. "You dumb fuck, he's an officer, you dumb fuck!" I could hear him rasping into the man's ear. "He's an officer!" Then Yossarian, who was pretty strong himself, was at him from in front and managed to tie up both his arms and propel him backward until he lost his footing and had to hold on. I felt all the fight go out of him as Schroeder's words sank in. He looked sick by the time we turned him loose.

"Better put your bars back on, Lieutenant," I reminded Yossarian softly, panting, and added as I saw him feeling his face: "There's no blood. You'd better get away and put your bars back on, before somebody comes. We can pass up the meal."

From then on I was always on Yossarian's side in his frictions with Appleby, even at the time of what we both came to call the Splendid Atabrine Insurrection, although I would conscientiously take the antimalarial tablets as we flew through the equatorial climates when we traveled overseas, and he would not. The Atabrine would temper the effects of malaria, we'd been briefed before our first stop in Puerto Rico, while having no effect upon the disease itself. Regulations or not, Yossarian saw no sensible need for treating the symptoms before he suffered any. The disagreement between them crystallized into a controversy to save face. Kraft, the copilot, was as usual neutral. Kraft spoke little, smiled a lot, seemed unaware often of much that was going on. When he was killed in action over Ferrara not long afterward, I still thought of him as neutral.

"I'm the captain of this ship," Appleby made the mistake of telling Yossarian in front of us in Puerto Rico, our first stop after jumping off from Florida for the fourteen-day flight overseas. "And you'll have to follow my orders."

"Shit," said Yossarian. "It's a plane, Appleby, not a boat." They were of equal height and equal rank, second lieutenant then. "And we're on the ground, not at sea."

"I'm still the captain." Appleby spoke slowly. "As soon as we start flying again, I'm going to order you to take them."

"And I'm going to refuse."

"Then I'm going to report you," said Appleby. "I won't like doing it, but I'm going to report you to our commanding officer, as soon as we have one."

"Go ahead," Yossarian resisted stubbornly. "It's my body and my health, and I can do what I want with it."

"Not according to regulations."

"They're unconstitutional."

We were introduced to the aerosol bomb, the first time I saw one, now the spray can, and instructed to use it in the interior of the plane as soon as we climbed in, as a defense against mosquitoes and the diseases they might transmit as we headed down through the Caribbean into South America. On each leg of the trip to Natal in Brazil, we were asked to keep our eyes peeled for signs of the wreckage of a plane or two that had disappeared from the skies into the seas or jungle a day or so before. This should have been more sobering than it was. The same was true on the eight-hour nights over ocean from Brazil to Ascension Island in a plane designed to go no more than four, and from there, two days later, into Liberia in Africa and then up to Dakar in Senegal. All through these boring long flights over water we kept our eyes peeled for debris and yellow rafts, when we remembered to. In Florida we had time and evenings free, and there were dance floors there in saloons and cafes.

I wanted to start getting laid. Older guys from Coney Island like Chicky Ehrenman and Mel Mandlebaum, who had gone into the army sooner, would come back on leave from far-off places like Kansas and Alabama with similar reports of women who were all too willing to lie down for our brave boys in the service, and now that I was a boy in the service, I wanted to get laid too.

But I still didn't know how. I was shy. I could make jokes, but I was bashful. I was too easily entranced by some quality in a face or figure I found pretty. I was too quickly aroused, and inhibited by the concern it might show. I could be premature, I knew, but that was better than nothing for most of us then. When I danced close with a girl, just about any girl, I always grew an erection almost immediately and, with great embarrassment, would back myself away. Now I know I should have pressed it in against them harder to leave no doubt it was there and begin making suggestive jokes about what I wanted and was going to get, and I would have made out better. When I moved into the back room with a girl to begin muzzling her or joined them in some apartment when they were baby-sitting, I usually got what I wanted quickly enough and felt pretty good about myself until I was forced to remember there was a lot more. I was short, I knew, and always thought I had a little cock and that most of the others had pretty big ones, until one summer day in the locker room of the Steeplechase swimming pool, I looked in the mirror intrepidly while standing alongside Lew as we were washing up and saw that mine was just as good.

But he was using his. And I was always coming too quickly, or not at all. The first time that Lew and his other friend Leo Weiner set me up with a girl they'd found who had come to the Island for the summer to work in a soda fountain and was not unwilling to put out for anyone who asked her to-they were both very good at talking that way to girls-I came in the rubber before I even got in. The first time I fixed myself up, with a girl in the clubroom who'd let me know while I was still using my hand that she wanted to go all the way, I lost my erection as soon as we bared ourselves, although I'd certainly been hard enough and ready before we both took down our pants. Glenda loved those stories.

I can't be positive, but I don't think I finally did get laid until I was already overseas. There, it was effortless, as one in a body of guys all doing the same things with youthful self-assurance and a general taste for rowdy good times, near bunches of local girls in the main city of Bastia close by who did not speak our language and then especially in Rome, where the women we met on the streets smiled to let us know what they were doing there and expected us to approach with solicitations and cash and cigarettes and chocolate bars and with careless gaiety and our flies already half open. We could not think of them as prostitutes or whores, only as streetwalkers. I can't be positive I'd not really done it before because of that incident with a sweet southern girl in the dance hall in West Palm Beach, Florida, where we'd been flown to check out the plane given us for the flight overseas and to calibrate the various instruments for faults and deviations.

I still don't know if that one counted or not. She was perky as could be, with very black hair and eyes almost lavender, an inch shorter than I, with dimples too, and very much dazzled by my sharp New York lindy hop routines, which she had never beheld and wanted to learn. Schroeder had not seen them either, or Lieutenant Kraft, who had requisitioned from the motor pool the jeep in which we had gone there. After a while we went outside for some air. I walked with my arm still around her waist and we drifted without talking about it to one of the darker areas of the parking lot. We passed couples embracing in different sheltered places. I gave her a helping hand up to a seat on the fender of a low sports car.

"Oh, no, Sammy honey, we are not going to do that thing tonight, not here, not now," she let me know very strictly, holding me off with her hands on my chest, and placed a quick friendly kiss on my nose.

I had eased myself in between her legs, close enough to keep kissing, and I had just slid my hands up under her dress along her thighs to the elastic band of her panties, with my thumbs rubbing on the insides. Until she spoke, that was almost as far as I hoped to get in that parking lot.

Staring into her eyes, I confessed with a smile, "I wouldn't even know how, I think. I've never done it before." We were leaving the following day for the hop to Puerto Rico, and I could risk being truthful.

She laughed at that one as though I were still making wisecracks. She could hardly believe that a sharpie like me was still a virgin.

"Oh, you poor boy," she commiserated with me mellifluously. "You've been greatly deprived, haven't you?"

"I taught you to dance," I hinted.

"Then I'll show you how we do it," she agreed. "But you mustn't put it in. You must promise me that. Now stand back a minute and let me twist myself a little. That's better. See? Oh, that's a very nice one you have, isn't it? And all ready to go like the best little boy, ain't he?"

"I was circumcised by a sculptor."

"Now, not so fast, Sammy honey. And not so quick. Not there, baby, not there. That's almost my belly button. You've got to learn to give me a chance to put my thing up there where you can get at it. That's why we call it putting out, honey, see? Now, I'm not going to do that for you tonight. Understood? Come back a little closer. That's more like it, right? But you mustn't put it in! Don't put it in! You're putting it in!"

This last was a cry that could have shaken the neighborhood. She bounced about under me wildly for about fifteen seconds or so, trying frantically to wriggle free, and all I was trying to do was raise my weight to help, and then the next thing I knew I was up and watching myself shoot in midair across the hood of the car. The stuff spurted a mile. Shoot is just the right word for a boy of nineteen or twenty. When a man is past sixty-eight, he comes. When he can. If he wants to.

I never thought I'd be this old, wake with stiff joints, and have nothing really to occupy myself with most days but my volunteer fund-raising work for cancer relief. I read late at night, as the poet said, and many mornings too, and go south in the winter with a lady friend with a house in Naples, Florida, to be near the ocean, and sometimes to a daughter who lives in Atlanta and sometimes to Houston, Texas, to visit my other daughter, who lives there with her husband. I play bridge and meet people that way. I have a small summer house in East Hampton, near the ocean, with one guest room with a private bathroom. Each time Lew goes back into treatment, I travel to see him at least once a week by bus from the bus terminal. It takes all day. I never thought I'd live longer than he would, and maybe I won't, because in the long remissions he's enjoyed in the more than twenty years I've known about his Hodgkin's disease, he is hardier than I am and does much more. This time, though, he seems thinner longer, downhearted, fatalistic, but Claire, who talks to Teemer, is more concerned about his mental attitude than his illness.

"I'm sick of feeling nauseous," he told me last time, when we were talking alone, as though getting ready to give up, and I could not tell if he was intending a joke.

So I tried one of my own. "The word is nauseated."

"What?"

"The correct word is nauseated, Lew. Not nauseous."

"Sammy, don't be a prick again. Not now."

He made me feel foolish.

It's not in the cards for me to live with my children when old. so I've put money away for my nursing home. I am waiting for my prostate cancer. I might marry again soon if my well-off widowed lady friend ever overcomes her pecuniary mistrusts and tells me we ought to. But for how long? Seven more years? I do miss family life.

Glenda decided the one outside the dance hall didn't count "Cheese!" she said with a laugh, shaking her head in disbelief whenever we recalled that experience. "You didn't know anything, did you?"

"No, I didn't."

"And don't try that come-help-me act now."

It was not always solely an act. Just about all the women I've ever been with seemed always to have had more experience than I did. There are two kinds of men, I think, and I belong to the second kind.

She herself had done it: first in college her first time away from home, with the man she married soon after graduation, who came down with cancer before she did, with his melanoma, and then married two more times, and even fathered another child. I didnw get my chance to go to college until after the war, and by then it was hardly much trouble getting a girl to go to bed, because I was less inexperienced, and most girls were doing it too.

Appleby made it to Ascension Island from Natal in Brazil navigating all the way by radio compass, with an auxiliary fue tank installed in the bomb bay for the extended journey. He had no, faith left in Yossarian's compass directions. Yossarian had none either and was offended only slightly. Appleby was the one with the growing grudge. The gamble in relying only on the radio compass, I found out from Yossarian, who'd learned at least that much, was that we approached the island eight hours away on a circular path instead of straight on and consumed more gasoline.

I learned more about war and capitalism and Western society in Marrakech in Morocco when I saw affluent Frenchmen drinking aperitifs on the terraces of luxurious hotels with their children and well-turned-out wives while they bided their time complacently until others invaded at Normandy and later in southern France to recapture their country and enable them to return and regain their estates. At the immense American replacement center in Constantine in Algeria, where we waited two weeks for our final assignment to a bomber group, I first learned a little bit specific about Sigmund Freud. There, I shared a tent with a medical assistant, older than I, also waiting assignment, who also wished to write short stories like William Saroyan and was also positive he could. Neither of us understood that there was no need for more than one Saroyan. Today we might conclude from the insignificance of Saroyan that there had not been great need for even one. We exchanged books we had finished.

"Do you ever have dreams your teeth are falling out?" he inquired of me slyly one day apropos of nothing else we were discussing. We had nothing to do while we sat around waiting. We could play softball or volleyball if we chose. We'd been cautioned against going into Constantine to roam about carelessly for whiskey or women, cautioned by the tale of a murdered GI who'd been found castrated, with his scrotum sewn into his mouth, which we thought probably apocryphal. We ate from mess kits.

His question hit home. I reacted with a start, as though discovering myself with some magical mind reader. "Yeah, I do dream that!" I admitted gullibly. "I had one last night."

He nodded smugly. "You jerked off yesterday," he alleged, with no hesitation.

"You're full of shit!" I answered right back heatedly, and wondered guiltily how he had found out.

"It's no crime," he defended himself reassuringly. "It isn't even a sin. Women do it too."

I put no trust in that last part then. I would be surprised, he guaranteed.

After landing at Pianosa we looked around with enchantment at the mountains and woods so near to the sea as we waited for the vehicles that would drive us with our bags to the orderly room of our squadron to report with our orders and receive our tent assignments. It was May and sunny, and in all ways beautiful. Not much was stirring. We were relieved to find ourselves safely there.

"Good job, Appleby." Yossarian commended him humbly speaking for all of us. "We would never have made it if you'd had to rely on me."

"I don't much care about that part," Appleby told him unforgivingly, in his moderate Texas accent. "You broke regulations and I said I would report you."

In the orderly room, where we were welcomed by the obliging first sergeant, Sergeant Towser, Appleby could hardly restrain himself until the formalities were completed. Then, through tightened lips in a face just about quivering with insulted fury, he asked, demanded, to see the squadron commander about the daily insubordination of a crew member who'd refused to take his Atabrine tablets and had disobeyed direct orders to do so. Towser repressed his surprise.

"Is he in?"

"Yes, sir. But you will have to wait a bit."

"And I would like to speak with him while all of us are still here together, so the others can bear witness."

"Yes, I understand. You can all sit down if you wish."

The commanding officer of the squadron was a major, and his surname was Major too, I saw, and was amused by the oddity.

"Yes, I think I will sit down," said Appleby. The rest of us kept silent. "Sergeant, about how long will I have to wait? I've still got a lot to get done today so that I can be fully prepared bright and early tomorrow morning to go into combat the minute they want me to."

To me it peemed that Towser could not believe his ears.

"Sir?"

"What's that, Sergeant?"

"What was your question?"

"I About how long will I have to wait before I can go in to see the major?"

"Just until he goes out to lunch," Sergeant Towser replied. "Then you can go right in."'

"But he won't be there then. Will he?"

"No, sir. Major Major won't be back in his office until after lunch."

"I see," Appleby decided uncertainly. "I think I'd better come back after lunch, then."

Schroeder and I stood mute, as we always did when the officers were settling things. Yossarian was listening with an appearance of incisive inquiry.

Appleby walked first out the door. He stopped abruptly as soon as I stepped out behind him and drew back against me with a gasp. My gaze followed his, and I was sure I saw a tall, dark officer wearing the gold leaf of a major come jumping out the window of the orderly room and go scooting out of sight around the corner. Appleby was squeezing his eyes closed and shaking his head as though in fear he was ill.

"Did you-" he began, and then Sergeant Towser was tapping him on the shoulder and telling him he could now go in to see Major Major if he still wished to do that, since Major Major had just gone out. Appleby regained his good military posture.

"Thank you, Sergeant," he replied very formally. "Will he be back soon?"

"He'll be back after lunch. Then you'll have to go right out and wait for him in front till he leaves for dinner. Major Major never sees anyone in his office when he's in his office."

"Sergeant, what did you just say?"

"I said that Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in his office."

Appleby stared at Sergeant Towser intently a few moments and then adopted a stern tone of rebuking formality. "Sergeant," he said, and paused, as though waiting until certain he was commanding his undivided attention, "are you trying to make a fool out of me just because I'm new in the squadron and you've been overseas a long time?"

"Oh, no, sir," answered Towser. "Those are my orders. You can ask Major Major when you see him."

"That's just what I intend to do, Sergeant. When can I see him?"

"Never."

But Appleby could make his report in writing, if he chose. In two or three weeks we were practically veterans, and the matter was no longer of consequence even to Appleby.

Appleby was soon a lead pilot and was paired with a bombardier of longer experience named Havermeyer. Yossarian was good enough at first to be lead bombardier and was matched with a sweet-tempered pilot named McWatt. Later I preferred Yossarian for his quicker bomb runs.

We had everything, it seemed to me. The tents were comfortable and there was no hostility that I could see toward anyone. We were at peace with each other in a way we would not find feasible; anywhere else. Where Lew was, with the infantry in Europe, there was death, terror, blame. We were all of us fun-loving for the most part and did not grieve deeply over our occasional losses. The officer in charge of both our mess halls then was Milo Minderbinder, the industrialist and big export-import man now, and he did an excellent job, the best in the whole Mediterranean Theater of Operations, everyone knew. We had fresh eggs every morning. The workers in the kitchen under Corporal Snark were Italian laborers recruited by Milo Minderbinder, and he found local families nearby who were pleased to do our laundry for practically nothing. All we had to do to eat was follow orders. We had ice cream sodas every weekend, the officers had them every day. Only after I ditched off France with Orr did we find out that the carbonation for the ice cream sodas from Milo was coming from the carbon dioxide cylinders that were supposed to be in our Mae West life jackets to inflate them. When Snowden died, we found out Milo had taken the Syrettes of morphine from the first-aid kits too.

As I was moving into my tent that first day, I stopped at the sound of many planes and, looking up, watched three flights of six returning from a mission in perfect formation against the clear blue backdrop of the windless sky. They had gone that morning to bomb a railroad bridge on the near side of Italy outside a town called Pietrasanta, and they were back in time for lunch. There had been no flak. There were no enemy planes. There were never enemy planes in all the time I was there. This war looked just right to me, dangerous and safe, exactly as I'd hoped. I had an occupation I enjoyed that was respectable too.

Two days later I flew my first mission, to a bridge at a place called Piambino. I regretted there was no flak.

Not until I saw a kid my own age, Snowden, bleed and die just a few yards away from me in the back of a plane did the truth finally dawn that they were trying to kill me too, really trying to kill me. People I did not know were shooting cannons at me almost every time I went up on a mission to drop bombs on them, and it was not funny anymore. After that I wanted to go home. There were other things that weren't funny either, because the number of missions I had to complete had gone up first from fifty to fifty-five and then to sixty and sixty-five, and might go up even further before I could get there, with the ghastly chance I might not survive that far. I had thirty-seven missions then, and twenty-three more to fly, then twenty-eight. They had gotten rougher too, and after Snowden, I prayed on every one as soon as we were aloft and I had taken my place on my bicycle seat in the tail, facing backward, before I prepared to load and test-fire my machine gun when we were in formation and setting out over the water. I remember my prayer: "Dear God, please get me home safe, and I swear I will never go into an airplane again." Later on I broke that promise for a sales conference without a second thought. I never told Glenda or anyone else I ever prayed.

My second week there I found myself riding to Bastia in a jeep with a lieutenant named Pinkard I'd already made friends with on a mission, who had the car from the motor pool and invited me along to see the place. When we weren't on missions our time was our own. Not long after that, Pinkard went down over Ferrara in the plane with Kraft and was presumed dead with the rest. Along the straight road heading north on the level terrain near the beaches we came upon two grinning girls hitchhiking, and he screeched to a stop to take them aboard. A few minutes later he turned off the road into a flat patch of ground shielded by bushes, where he brought the car to another skidding stop, pointing out and downward and talking gibberish.

"Ficky-fick?" the elder of the two inquired, when she guessed she understood.

"Ficky-fick," Pinkard answered.

The girls glanced at each other and agreed, and we dismounted and paired off in different directions. I had the older one and we walked with our arms around each other. Mine went to the ground near the rusting pair of railroad tracks that ran down that coast of the island and were no longer in use. Between the tracks lay the metal pipeline that brought us our gasoline from the docks in Bastia. She knew what to do. She prepared herself quickly and put me inside. I did not feel as much contact as I had expected would be there, but I had no doubt I was at last doing it. I even reared up once and enjoyed looking down to make sure. I finished before Pinkard did, but I was ready for a second one sooner. By then we were back in the jeep and none of the others wanted to stop again.

A week or so after that the Germans pulled out of Rome and the Americans came in, by coincidence on D day in France. Within hours, it seemed, the executive officer in our squadron-I still don't know what an executive officer is, but ours was a major named de Coverley-rented two apartments there for us to use on short leaves, the one for the officers an elegant establishment of four bedrooms for four men, appointed with marble, mirrors, curtains, and sparkling bathroom fixtures on a broad thoroughfare called Via Nomentana, which was out of the way and a fairly long walk. Ours lay on two entire floors at the top of a building with a creeping elevator just off the Via Veneto in the center of; the city, and because of the convenience of location, the officers on leave at the same time were there a lot, even to eat and occasionally to make time with the girls who were always around. We came in larger groups with supplies of food rations, and thanks to Milo and Major de Coverley, there were women to cook for us all day long. We had maids to clean who had a good time working there and being with us, and friends of theirs would come to visit and stay the evening, often the night, for the food and the fun. Any unplanned urge could be appeased simply. Once I walked into Snowden's room and came upon Yossarian in bed on top of a maid still holding her broom, whose green panties were on the mattress beside them.

I'd never had so good a time as those I had in that apartment; I doubt I've had many better ones since.

On the second day of my first leave there I returned from a short stroll alone and came back just as the pilot called Hungry Joe was getting down from a horse-drawn cab with two girls who looked lively and lighthearted. He had a camera.

"Hey, Singer, Singer, come along," he yelled out at me in the excited, high-pitched voice with which he always seemed to say everything. "We'll need two rooms up there. I'll pay, I'll treat you. They said they'd pose."

He let me start out with the pretty one-black hair, plump, round face with dimples, good-sized breasts-and it was very good, as Hemingway might say, thrilling, relaxing, fulfilling. We liked each other. When we switched and I was with the wiry one, it was even better. I saw it was true that women could enjoy doing it too. And after that it has always been pretty easy for me, especially after I'd moved into New York in my own small apartment and was cheerily at work in the promotion department at Time magazine. I could talk, I could flirt, I could spend, I could seduce women into deciding to seduce me, which is how I lured Glenda into luring me into moving in with her after many weekends away together and then marrying.

Back at the squadron after that, I felt secure and adventurous, a ladies' man, almost a swashbuckler. I had a decent role in a pretty good film. We called them movies then. Everything ran very well, it seemed to me, with no effort on my part. We had our fresh eggs every morning, the bombs had already been loaded each time we came to our plane. Everything necessary was seen to by others, and none of the logistical work that went into it was mine. I was living with Gentiles and getting along.

Among us when I arrived were a number of aerial gunners and officers who had already completed their combat tours. They had flown their fifty missions and many had been wheedled into going on one or two more when personnel for some reason or another was short for a day or so, and they were waiting for the orders to come that would ship them back to the States. Before the transfer of the bomb group from the mainland to the island, they had been on missions to Monte Cassino and Anzio while the Germans still had fighter planes in the region to attack them, and more recently, with most of the others there before me, to hot targets they talked about like Perugia and Arezzo. Ferrara, Bologna, and Avignon still lay ahead, in my future. When the number of missions constituting a tour of duty was raised from fifty to fifty-five, those who'd not yet shipped out to Naples for the trip home to the States were ordered back to combat duty to fly the additional missions now designated. And they went, I noted, these veteran combat fliers with more knowledge than I had, without dread or outrage, with some irritation at inconvenience, but with no panic or protest. I found that encouraging. They survived without harm and in time went home. Most were not much older than I was. They had come through untouched. I would too. I felt my life as a grown-up was about to begin. I stopped masturbating.

18 Dante

"In what language?"

"In translation, of course. I know you don't read Italian."

"Three or four times," Yossarian remembered about Dante's Divine Comedy, as they waited for the elevator after Michael had dropped off the finished artwork. "Once as a kid-I used to read more than you ever wanted to. One time in a course in Renaissance literature, with Noodles Cook. Maybe a couple of times since, just the Inferno part. I never did get as much satisfaction out of it as I should have. Why?"

"It reminds me of it," said Michael, alluding to the PABT building, to which they both now were scheduled separately to go, Michael with M2 to clock the actions on the video monitors, Yossarian with McBride, with cops in flak jackets, if needed, arme with tranquilizer guns for the dogs at the bottom of the first stair case. "Even that name. Port, authority, terminal. I know what terminal means. I never tried," he went on in a tone of truculent braggadocio. "But each time I think of that bus terminal, I imagine it's what Dante's Inferno might represent."

"That's a fresh concept," Yossarian observed wryly. They were the sole passengers.

"Except," amended Michael, as they descended, "the PABT building is out in the open. Like something normal."

"That makes it worse, doesn't it?" said Yossarian.

"Than hell?" Michael shook his head.

"Sartre says hell is other people. You should read him."

"I don't want to read him. That's silly, if he was serious. It sounds like something said just for people like you to quote him."

"You're smart."

"We get used to this one," said Michael.

"Doesn't that make it worse? Do you think in hell they don't get used to it?" Yossarian added with a laugh. "In Dante they answer questions, pause in their tortures to tell long stories about themselves. Nothing God did ever came out right, did it? Not hell. Not even evolution."

Michael was an educated man who had not found magic in The Magic Mountain. He had not read Schweik, although he harbored favorable notions about him. He'd found Kafka and Joseph K. amusing but clumsy and unexciting, Faulkner passe, and Ulysses a novelty that had seen its time, but Yossarian had elected to like him anyway.

Starting out as a young father, with children amounting in time to four, Yossarian had never considered, not once, that in his declining years he might still be related to them.

"And I'm beginning to feel the same way about this office building of yours," said Michael, when they were out of the elevator and leaving the lobby.

"Ours," corrected Yossarian.

Michael had a spring in his step and an M amp; M paycheck in his pocket, and his animated spirit was in striking disharmony with his sulky observations.

"And all the rest of the buildings here in Rockefeller Center. They used to be taller, like real skyscrapers. Now they seem to be going to hell too, shrinking."

Michael might indeed be on to something, Yossarian reflected, as they came out on a sunlit street clogged with vehicles and astir with pedestrians. In fact, the slender edifices of rigid line and uniform silver stone constituting the original, true Rockefeller Center were overshadowed throughout the city now by taller structures of more extravagant style and more daring design. Old buildings had made way for new ones. These no longer meant much. The rooftops did indeed look lower, and Yossarian wondered impractically if all could indeed be sinking slowly into the mysterious muddy depths of some unreal sea of obsolescence somewhere.

Down the block toward Sixth Avenue, their job interviews for executive positions over, the line of well-dressed beggars in three-piece business suits had already taken up station, some soliciting alms with outstretched paper drinking cups from McDonald's, others looking almost too insensible to beg, their staring faces sunk to the neck into their bodies below. Across the street was the skating rink, reflecting the brilliant space of its own presence with a marvelous clarity. The rising, boxed structures of the office buildings around it climbed in slabs of windowed stone like flat, dull monoliths carved by a single mason. One pausing to listen could easily distinguish the resonance of trains traveling beneath the ground and feel the vibrations issued by their frictions. On street level, in letters cut in stone or in mosaics on small round escutcheons of gold and blue, appeared the epigraph of the principal corporate tenant in each of the buildings. Soon, when the existing lease was renegotiated, the old Time-Life headquarters would be renamed as the new M amp; M Building.

On the loftiest construction of all in that complex architectural exploit, at number 30 Rockefeller Center, a transformation of notable significance had already taken place. The institutional name of the original corporate tenant, the Radio Corporation of America, a famed organization pioneering in radio and television broadcasting and the production of popular, vulgar entertainments for grateful international multitudes, had been expunged without trace and replaced by the epigraph of the grander business entity that had bought it, the General Electric Company, a leading producer of military wares, locomotives, jet airplane engines, river pollutants, and electric toasters, blankets, and lightbulbs suitable for home use.

The synthetic gold used in the lettering of the newer name was of a longer-lasting glisten than real gold and, though poorer, of better value. Overlooking the skating rink was an airy metal sculpture of a male figure in polished lemon-yellow gilt, alleged to be a representation of the mythical Prometheus, an incongruous choice overlooking ice for the demigod who had brought fire to man.

"Come cross," said Yossarian prudently, to get out of the way of youths in sneakers and high spirits bearing down toward them fearlessly through black and white pedestrians hastily clearing an opening.

At the rink itself, on the oval of ice below street level, a cleansing intermission between sessions was in progress, performed by grinning Japanese attendants on ice skates with red jackets and green jockey caps and conspicuous button badges on lapels, with a cartoon drawing of a grinning pink face with too many teeth on a glossy white background. Moisture sparkled in drops like frozen tears atop the prominent cheekbones of the Asiatic workers in red and green. In gentle coordination these uniformed attendants of subservient mien now sporting the Tilyou Steeplechase insignia on snow-white buttons glided their machines smoothly over the blade-scarred surface of the ice, applying a fresh coat of water for a new frigid glaze for the next bunch of newcomers. The earliest among them were already on line; almost all were eating something, raw fish and rice, salt-covered bagels, or a southern pork barbecue sandwich, with nothing more to do until the hour struck.

Recalling Dante, Yossarian was unable to name what lay beneath that lake of ice in hell, if not the domain of shaggy, hideous Satan himself. He knew what underlay the skating rink and the buildings around it: refrigeration tubes for the ice, water mains, electric cables, telephone lines, pipes of steam to bring heat in winter to the offices. And also below street level were the pedestrian passageways fanning out on different courses with shops that were no longer smart, and at least one subway line from another borough with transfer points to other lines in other directions. It took ages, perhaps, but a rider with time could make connections to just about anywhere he had to go.

"Cross back," said Yossarian again, rather than brush by the middle-class mendicants, whose stupefied faces always discombobulated him. He had not thought American free-market capitalism had undone so many of its disciples.

A chorus of chittering laughter behind him caused him to look back toward one of the liver-spotted marble planters on the observation level. He saw a redheaded man with a walking stick and a loose green rucksack obligingly taking snapshots of a merry pack of subdued, dark-haired, Oriental tourists. Yossarian had the idea he had seen him before. The man had thin lips, orange lashes, a straight, sharp nose, and his face was of the fragile, milk-white complexion not uncommon among people with hair that color. As he gave back the camera, he turned Yossarian's way with an arrogant air that implied he knew perfectly well precisely the person he was going to find. Their eyes locked, and all at once Yossarian thought he had met him before, at the North Cemetery in Munich at the entrance to the mortuary chapel at the start of the famous Mann novella, the mysterious red-haired man whose presence and swift disappearance had been unsettling to Gustav Aschenbach- one glimpse and he was out of sight, gone from the story. This man flaunted a fuming cigarette recklessly, as though equally contemptuous of him and cancer. And while Yossarian stared back at him in defiant and indignant scrutiny, the man grinned brazenly, and Yossarian suffered an inner shudder just as a long, pearl-white limousine with smoked windows eased to a stop between them, although there were no cars in front. The car was longer than a hearse, with a swarthy driver. When the limousine drove forward again, he saw wide streaks of red on the ground disfigured by tire treads, like blood dripping from the wheels, and the man with red hair and green rucksack was gone. The Asians remained with faces turned upward, as though straining to read some inscrutable message in the blank walls and vitreous mirrors of the windows.

Walking westward to Eighth Avenue, he knew, would bring them to the sex parlors and cramped adult theaters on the asphalt boulevard linking the PABT building on the left to his high-rise luxury apartment building to the right, which was already in bankruptcy but functioning no less well than before.

The days were growing shorter again, and he did not want Michael to know that he would be dating Melissa MacIntosh a third time and taking her to dinner and another movie, where he would tease with his fingertips her neck and ear again, which had caused her to stiffen and smile grimly to herself the first time, blushing up to her eyes, which were small and blue, and fondle her knees, which she'd kept pressed together all through the film and in the taxi to her apartment, where, she had already made clear, she did not want him to enter that night, and where he did not truly want to go, and had not, even by indirection, asked to be admitted. She liked movies more than he did. Two of the men following him did not seem to like movies at all but had followed him in anyway, and a woman in a red Toyota went distraught finding a parking space in which to wait and was getting fat from bags of candies and pastries she ate from gluttonously. His second time with Melissa, she had relaxed her knees as though accustomed to his touch and sat: enjoying the film thoroughly, but with her back straight and her hands clasped firmly across her lower thighs, the forearms determined. He prized the resistance. He'd learned enough from her now, and even more from Angela, to know that Melissa, when younger, thinner, lighter, swifter, and more nimble, had found sex bawdy fun in dexterous ways.

"I had to tell her how," laughed Angela. "Most men are stupid and don't know anything. Do you?"

"I get complaints," he answered.

"You're tricky." Angela eyed him doubtfully. "Ain't you?" she added with a smirk.

Yossarian shrugged. Melissa herself refused to speak of specifics and would put on airs of staunch decorum when he hinted of past and prospective licentious escapades.

Looking ahead in pleasurable inventions, Yossarian had to bring into solemn contemplation the handicaps of his own weight, years, joints, agility, and virility. What he did not doubt was his eventual success in seducing her back into that same playful state of salacious enthusiasm and ready acquiescence that reputedly was hers formerly. She was not buxom above the waist, and that helped keep his ardor temperate. He calculated the risks and cost: he might even have to take her dancing once or twice and perhaps go to rock concerts and musical comedies, maybe even watch television together, news broadcasts. He was confident he could overwhelm her fear of germs with reel roses by the dozens and his evocative promises of lingerie in Paris, Florence, and Munich, and that he could win her heart with the magical romantic vow in his inventory of bantering tricks, uttered tenderly at exactly the correct moment: "If you were my girl, Melissa, I know I would want to fuck you every day."

He also knew it would be a lie.

But he could think of few pleasures more satisfying than the silly bliss of new sexual triumph shared by parties who knew, liked, and laughed with each other. And at least he had a goal now more enticing than most.

He lied a little more and swore his divorce was final.

On the corner ahead a crowd was collecting before a policeman on a horse. Yossarian gave a dollar to a black man with a hand with cracked skin and a dollar to a white one with a hand like a skeleton's. He was amazed it was alive.

"This must be," despaired Michael, "the worst fucking city in the world."

Yossarian withheld agreement dubiously. "It's the only city we have," he decided finally, "and one of the few real cities in the world. It's as bad as the worst and better than the rest."

Michael looked wan as they wove their way with others of reputable pursuit through more idle bums, beggars, and prostitutes counting abstractly on windfalls. Many of the women and girls wore nothing down below beneath their black, pink, and white vinyl raincoats, and several of the enticing harpies were fleet to flash themselves hairy and bare, with shaving rashes at the joints, when police were not observing alertly.

"I would hate to be poor," Michael murmured. "I wouldn't know how."

"And we wouldn't be smart enough to learn," said Yossarian. He was sardonically glad he'd soon be out of it all. It was another consolation of age. "Come this way, cross back now-that one looks mad enough to stab, Let him get someone else. What is that on the corner? Have we seen it before?"

They had seen it before. Hardened onlookers were watching with smiles a spindly, shabby man at work with a razor blade, cutting away the rear trouser pocket of a drunk on the sidewalk to gain nonviolent possession of the wallet inside, while two neatly uniformed policemen stood waiting patiently for him to finish before taking him into custody, with the ill-gotten fruits of his labor already on his person. Contemplating the scene was a third policeman, the one on a large chestnut horse, supervising like a doge or a demi-deity. He was armed with a revolver in a leather holster and looking, with his glistening belt of cartridges, as though armed with arrows too. The man with the razor glanced up every few seconds to stick his tongue out at him. Everything was in order, no peace was disturbed. All played their roles out jointly, like conspirators in a tapestry of symbolic collaboration overripe with meaning that defied explanation. It was as peaceful as heaven and as disciplined as hell.

Yossarian and Michael turned away uptown, stepping around an elderly lady snoozing soundly on the sidewalk against a wall, more soundly than Yossarian was accustomed to sleeping since the breakup-and the beginning, and the middle-of his second marriage. She was snoring contentedly and had no pocketbook, Yossarian noted as he was seized by a brown man in a gray military doublet with black stitching and a maroon turban who jabbered unintelligibly while steering each into the revolving door of the uncrowded Indian restaurant in which Yossarian had made a reservation for lunch that now proved unnecessary. In a roomy booth, Yossarian ordered Indian beer for both and knew he would drink Michael's too.

"How can you eat all this now?" Michael inquired.

"With relish," said Yossarian, and spooned more of the tangy condiments onto his plate. For Michael, Yossarian ordered a salad and tandoori chicken, for himself a lamb vindaloo, after a spicy soup. Michael feigned disgust.

"If I ate that I'd be nauseous."

"Nauseated."

"Don't be a pedant."

"That's what I said the first time I was corrected."

"In school?"

"In Columbia, South Carolina," said Yossarian. "By that smart little wiseass tail gunner I've told you about, Sam Singer, from Coney Island. He was Jewish."

Michael smiled in a patronizing way. "Why do you point that out?"

"At that time it was important. And I'm going back to that time. What about me, with this name Yossarian? It wasn't always that easy, with rednecked Southerners and bigots from Chicago who hated Roosevelt, Jews, blacks, and everyone else except bigots from Chicago. You'd think with the war over, everything ugly would change for the better. Not much did. In the army everyone asked me, sooner or later, about the name Yossarian, and everyone was satisfied when I told them I was Assyrian. Sam Singer knew I was extinct. He'd read a short story by a writer named Saroyan that's probably no longer in print anywhere. That's extinct too, like Saroyan. And me."

"We're not Assyrian," Michael reminded. "We're Armenian. I'm only half Armenian."

"I said Assyrian to be funny, jerk. They took it as fact." Yossarian looked fondly at him, "Only Sam Singer caught on why. wI bet I could be Assyrian too,' he said to me once, and I knew just what he meant. I think I was an inspiration to him. When the showdown came, he and I were the only ones who declined to fly any more than the seventy missions we had. Shit, the war was practically over. wFuck my superiors,' I decided, when I saw that most of my superiors were not superior. Years later I read where Camus said that the only freedom we have is the freedom to say no. You ever read Camus?"

"I don't want to read Camus."

"You don't want to read anything?"

"Only when I'm really bored. It takes time. Or when I feel all alone."

"That's a good time. In the army I never felt all alone. Singer was a bookish little prick and began to act like a comic smartass with me once he saw I would let him. wWouldn't it be better if the country had lost the Revolutionary War?' he asked me once. That was before I'd found out they were slamming people into prison for criticizing the new political party. Michael, which is farther west-Reno, Nevada, or Los Angeles?"

" Los Angeles, of course. Why?"

"Wrong. That's another thing I learned from him. In South Carolina one night a big drunken bully from somewhere began to knock him around for no reason. It was no contest. I was the; officer, although I had taken my bars off to get a midnight meal in the enlisted men's mess hall. I felt I had to protect him, and as soon as I stepped between them to try to break it up, the guy began beating the shit out of me." Yossarian broke into hearty laughter.

"Oh, God," moaned Michael.

Yossarian laughed again, softly, when he saw Michael's dismay. "The funny part is-and it was funny: I almost laughed even when he was hitting me, I was filled with such surprise-that none of it hurt. He was punching me in the head and face, and I didn't feel pain. In a little while I tied up his arms, and then people pulled us apart. Sam Singer had jumped on him from the side and this other gunner with us, Art Schroeder, had jumped on his back. When they quieted him down and told him I was an officer, he sobered up fast and nearly died. The next morning, even before breakfast, he showed up at my room in the officers' barracks to beg forgiveness and got down on his knees. I mean that. I never saw anyone cringe like that. And he just about started to pray to me. I mean that too. And he wouldn't stop, even after I told him to go away and forget it. I think I might have gotten into trouble too for taking off my lieutenant's bars just to eat in the enlisted men's mess hall, but he didn't think of that. I didn't tell him howl much it disgusted me to see him cowering that way. That's when I hated him, that's when I got angry and ordered him away, never want to see anybody so abject again, I like to tell myself." Michael was through eating after that story. Yossarian changed plates with him and finished his chicken and mopped up the leftover rice and bread. "My digestion is still good too, thank God."

"What isn't good?" said Michael.

"My sex drive."

"Oh, fuck that. What else?"

"My memory, for names and telephone numbers, I can't always find the words I know I know, I can't always remember what I meant to remember. I talk a lot and say things twice. I talk a lot and say things twice. My bladder a little, and my hair," added Yossarian. "It's white now, and Adrian tells me I shouldn't be satisfied with that. He's still trying to find a dye to turn it gray. When he finds it I won't use it. I'm going to tell him to try genes."

"What's in a gene? It's in your talk a lot."

"That's because of my genes, I guess. Blame that on Teemer. My God, that fistfight was forty years ago and seems like only yesterday. Everybody I meet now from way back then has back problems or prostate cancer. Little Sammy Singer, they called him. I wonder now what ever became of him."

"After forty years?"

"Almost fifty, Michael."

"You just said forty."

"See how fast a decade passes? That's true, Michael. You were born a week ago-I remember it like it was only yesterday-and I was born a week before that. You've no idea, Michael, you can't imagine-yet-how laughable it is, how disorienting, to walk into a room for something and forget what you came for, to look into a refrigerator and not remember what you wanted, and to be talking to so many people like you who have never even heard of Kilroy."

"I've heard of him now," Michael argued. "But I still don't know a thing about him."

"Except that he was probably here in this restaurant too," said Yossarian. "Kilroy was everywhere you went in World War II- you saw it written on a wall. We don't know anything about him either. That's the only reason we still like him. The more you find out about anyone, the less you're able to respect him. After that fight, Sam Singer thought I was the best person in the world. And after that, I wasn't ever afraid to get into a real fistfight again. Today I would be."

"Were there others?"

"No, almost one, with a pilot named Appleby, the one I flew overseas with. We never got along. I couldn't navigate and I don't know why they expected me to. One time I got lost on a training mission and gave him a compass heading that would have taken us out over the Atlantic Ocean toward Africa. We would have died right then if he hadn't been better at his job than I was at mine. What a schmuck I was, as a navigator. No wonder he was sore. Am I talking too much? I know I talk a lot now, don't I?"

"You're not talking too much."

"Sometimes I do talk too much, because I find I'm more interesting than the people I'm talking to, and even they know that. You can talk too. No, I never had to actually get in a fistfight again. I used to look pretty strong."

"I wouldn't do it," Michael said, almost proudly.

"I wouldn't do it either, now. Today people kill. I think you might anyway, if you saw brutality and you didn't take time to think about it. The way that little Sammy Singer jumped at that big guy when he saw him beating me up. If we took the time, we'd think of calling 911 or look the other way. Your big brother Julian sneers at me because I won't get into an argument with anyone over a parking space and because I'll always give the right of way to any driver that wants to take it from me."

"I wouldn't fight over that either."

"You won't even learn to drive."

"I'd be afraid."

"I'd take that chance. What else are you afraid of?"

"You don't want to know."

"One thing I can guess," said Yossarian, ruthlessly. "You're afraid for me. You're afraid I will die. You're afraid I'll get sick. And it's a fucking good thing you are, Michael. Because it's all going to happen, even though I pretend it won't. I've promised you seven more years of my good health, and now it's more like six. When I reach seventy-five, kiddo, you're on your own. And I'm not going to live forever, you know, even though I'm going to die trying."

"Do you want to?"

"Why not? Even when sad. What else is there?"

"When are you sad?"

"When I remember I'm not going to live forever," Yossarian joked. "And in the mornings, if I wake up alone. That happens to people, especially those people like me with a predisposition to late-life depression."

"Late-life depression?"

"You'll find that out too, if you're lucky enough to last. You'll find it in the Bible. You'll see it in Freud. I'm pretty much out of interests. I wish I knew what to wish. There's this girl I'm after."

"I don't want to hear about it."

"But I'm not sure I can ever really fall in love again," Yossarian went on, despite him, knowing he was talking too much. "I'm afraid that might be gone too. There's this vile habit I've gotten into lately. No, I'm going to tell you anyway. I think of women I've known far back and try to picture what they look like now. Then I wonder why I ever went crazy over them. I've got another one I can't control, one that's even worse. When a woman turns, I always, every time now, have to look down at her backside before I can decide if she's attractive or not. I never used to do that. I don't know why I have to do it now. And they all of them almost always get too broad there. I don't think I'd ever want my friend Frances Beach to know I do that. Desire is starting to fail me, and that joy that cometh in the morning, as you'll read in the Bible-"

"I don't like the Bible," Michael interrupted.

"Nobody does. Try King Lear instead. But you don't like to read anything."

"It's why I decided to become an artist."

"You never really tried, did you?"

"I never really wanted to. It's much easier to want to succeed at nothing at all, isn't it?"

"No. It's good to want something. I'm finding that out. I used to wake up each day with a brain full of plans I couldn't wait to get started on. Now I wake up listless and wonder what I can find to keep me entertained. It happened overnight. One day I was old, just like that. I've run out of youth, and I'm barely sixty-nine."

Michael gazed at him with love. "Dye your hair. Dye it black if you can't get it gray. Don't wait for Adrian."

"Like Aschenbach?"

"Aschenbach?"

"Gustav Aschenbach."

"From Death in Venice again? I never liked that story much and can't see why you do. I bet I can tell you a few things wrong with it."

"So can I. But it remains unforgettable."

"To you."

"To you too someday, maybe."

Aschenbach too had run out of interests, although he distracted himself with his ridiculous obsession and the conceit that there was still much left for him to do. He was an artist of the intellect, who had tired of working on projects that would no longer yield to even his most patient effort, and knew he now was faking it. But he did not know that his true creative life was over and that he and his era were coming to a close, whether he liked it or not. And he was only just past fifty. Yossarian had the advantage over him there. He had never had much that he had allowed himself to enjoy. A strange nature for Yossarian to empathize with now, this man who lived like a tightened fist and began each day with the same cold shower, who worked in the morning and wished nothing more than to be able to continue his work in the evening.

"He dyed his hair black," Yossarian related, like a lecturer, "easily allowed a barber to persuade him to do that, to put makeup around his eyes for the illusion of a glisten, to color his cheeks with a touch of red, to plump up his eyebrows, to erase the age from his skin with a face cream and round out his lips with tints and with shadows, and he gave up the ghost anyway, right on the dot. And got nothing in return for his trouble but the tormenting delusion that he had fallen in love with a boy with crooked teeth and a sandy nose. Our Aschenbach could not even bring himself to die dramatically, not even of the plague. He simply bowed his head and gave up the ghost."

"I think," said Michael, "you might be trying to make it sound better than it really is."

"Maybe," said Yossarian, who felt qualms it might be so, "but that's where I stand. Here's what Mann wrote then: that a menace had hung over Europe for months."

"World War II?" Michael guessed, indulging him.

"World War I!" Yossarian corrected emphatically. "Even back then, Mann could see where this ungovernable machine we call our civilization was heading. And here's what's been my fate in this latter half of my life. I make money from Milo, whom I don't care for and condemn. And I find myself identifying in self-pity with a fictional German with no humor or any other likable trait. Soon I'll be going down deeper into PABT with McBride to fine out what's there. Is that my Venice? I met a man in Paris once, cultured book publisher, who could not bring himself ever to go to Venice, because of that story. I met another man who could not vacation for as long as a week at any resort in the mountain because of The Magic Mountain. He'd have the hideous dream that he was dying there and would never get away alive if he stayed, and he'd get the hell out the next day."

"Is a Minderbinder going to marry a Maxon?"

"They both have brides to offer. I've suggested M2."

"When are you going back there with McBride?"

"Soon as the President says he might come and we get permission to examine the place. When are you going with M2?"

"As soon as he's hot to look at dirty pictures again. I draw my pay from M amp; M too."

"If you want to live under water, Michael, you must learn to breathe like a fish."

"How do you feel about that?"

"That we never had a choice. I don't feel good about it, but I won't feel bad. It's our natural destiny, as Teemer might say. Biologically, we are a new species and haven't learned to fit into nature yet. He thinks we're cancers."

"Cancers?"

"But he likes us anyway, and he doesn't like cancer."

"I think he's crazy," Michael protested.

"He thinks so too," Yossarian replied, "and has moved into the psychiatric ward of the hospital for treatment while he continues work as an oncologist. Does that seem crazy?"

"It doesn't seem sane."

"That doesn't mean he's mistaken. We can see the social pathology. What else worries you, Michael?"

"I'm pretty much alone, I told you," said Michael. "And I'm starting to get scared. About money too. You've managed to get me worried about that."

"I'm glad I've been useful."

"I wouldn't know where to get it if I didn't have any. I couldn't even mug anybody. I don't know how."

"And would probably get mugged trying to learn."

"I can't even learn how to drive a car."

"You would do what I would do if I had no money."

"What's that, Dad?"

"Kill myself, son."

"You're a barrel of laughs, Dad."

"It's what I would do. It's no worse than dying. I couldn't learn to be poor either, and I'd sooner give up."

"What will happen to those drawings I did?"

"They'll be printed in brochures and taken to Washington for the next meeting on the plane. I may have to go there too. You made money on that one, that flying wing."

"Finishing something I never even wanted to start."

"If you want to live like a fish amp; Michael, there are things you and I won't do for money, but there are some things we have to, or we won't have any. You've got those few more years to find out how to take care of yourself. For Christ sakes, learn how to drive! You can't live anywhere else if you can't do that."

"Where would I go?"

"To whoever you want to see."

"There's no one I want to see."

"To drive away from people you don't want to be with."

"I just know I'll kill somebody."

"Let's take that chance."

"You said that before. Is there really going to be a wedding at the bus terminal? I'd like to go."

"I'll get you an invitation."

"Make it two?" Michael moved his eyes away sheepishly. "Marlene is back in the city and needed a place for a while. She'll probably like that."

"Arlene?"

"Marlene, the one who just left. Maybe this time she'll stay. She says she doesn't think she'd mind if I have to work as a lawyer. My God, a wedding in that bus terminal. What kind of people would hold a wedding in a place like that just to get their name in the newspapers?"

"Their kind."

"And what kind of asshole came up with a crazy notion like that one?"

"My kind," said Yossarian, roaring. "It was your dad's idea."

19 MASSPOB

"And what does a flying wing look like?"

"Other flying wings," Wintergreen interposed adroitly, with Milo struck dumb by a query he had not anticipated.

"And what do other flying wings look like?"

"Our flying wing," answered Milo, his composure restored.

"Will it look," asked a major, "like the old Stealth?"

"No. Only in appearance."

"Absolutely, Colonel Pickering?"

"Positively, Major Bowes."

Since the first session on the M amp; M defensive second-strike offensive attack bomber, Colonel Pickering had elected early retirement with full pension benefits to capitalize on the opportunity for a more remunerative, if less showy, position with the Airborne Division of M amp; M Enterprises amp; Associates, where his opening yearly income was precisely half a hundred times richer than his earnings in federal employ. General Bernard Bingam, at Milo 's request, was delaying a similar move in hopes of promotion and eventual elevation to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and after that, given half a break with a good war, perhaps the White House itself.

It was fortunate Pickering was there to help, for this newest session on the Minderbinder bomber was proving more prickly than the others. A hint of difficulties in store had come with the unexpected attendance of the fat man from the State Department and the skinny one from the National Security Council. It was now no secret they were partisans of the competitive Strangelove entry, and they had placed themselves on opposite ends of the curved table to project the impression they were speaking separately with independent voices.

Both were career diplomats who regularly spent time away as Strangelove Associates, replenishing with newly acquired supplies the secondhand influence and fine contacts that, with bombast, were the stock-in-trade of the Strangelove empire. Another cause of consternation for Milo was the absence of an ally he'd counted on, C. Porter Lovejoy, who was otherwise occupied, perhaps, Milo feared, at a similar meeting in MASSPOB on the Strangelove B-Ware, as an ally of that one.

General Bingam was obviously delighted to be parading his aptitudes before officers from other branches who outranked him and masters in atomic matters and related abstruse scientific areas. Bingam knew a feather in his cap when he had one. There were thirty-two others in this elite enclave, and all were eager to speak, even though there were no television cameras.

"Tell them about the technology, Milo," General Bingam suggested, to move things along advantageously.

"Let me distribute these pictures first," answered Milo, as rehearsed, "so we can see what our planes look like."

"These are lovely," said a bespectacled lieutenant colonel with experience in design. "Who drew them?"

"An artist named Yossarian."

"Yossarian?"

"Michael Yossarian, He is a specialist in military art and works exclusively for us."

Coming down as instructed from the MASSPOB basement through the door to Sub-Basement A, Milo and Wintergreen had been met by three armed MASSPOB guards in uniforms they had not seen before: red battle jackets, green pants, and black leather combat boots, with name tags in cerise letters against a lustrous fabric of silken mother-of-pearl. They were checked against a roster and replied correctly when asked the password: Bingam's Baby. They were handed round pasteboard passes with numbers in a border of blue, to be worn around the neck on a skimpy whit string, and instructed to proceed directly to the Bingam's Baby conference room in Sub-Basement A, the circular chamber in which Michael's pictures were now making so auspicious an impression.

All present were reminded that the plane was a second-strike weapon designed to slip through remaining defenses and destroy weapons and command posts surviving the first strike.

"Now, everything you see in these pictures is absolutely right," continued Milo, "except those that are wrong. We don't want to show anything that will allow others to counter the technology or copy it. That make sense, General Bingam?"

"Absolutely, Milo."

"But how will any of us here know," objected the fat man from the State Department, "what it will really look like?"

"Why the fuck must you know?" countered Wintergreen.

"It's invisible," added Milo. "Why must you see it?"

"I guess we don't have to know, do we?" conceded a lieutenant general, and looked toward an admiral.

"Why do we have to know?" wondered the other.

"Sooner or later," fumed the skinny Strangelove partisan, "the press will want to know."

"Fuck the press," said Wintergreen. "Show them these."

"Are they true?"

"What the fuck difference does it fucking make if they're fucking true or not?" asked Wintergreen. "It gives them another fucking story when they find out we lied."

"Now you're talking my fucking language, sir," said the adjutant to the commandant of marines.

"And I applaud your fucking honesty," admitted a colonel. "Admiral?"

"I can live with that. Where's the fucking cockpit?"

"Inside the fucking wing, sir, with everything else."

"Will a crew of two," asked someone, "be as effective as a fucking crew of four?"

"More," said Milo.

"And what the fuck fucking difference does it fucking make if they're fucking effective or not?" asked Wintergreen.

"I get your fucking point, sir," said Major Bowes.

"I don't."

"I can live with that fucking point."

"I'm not sure I get that fucking point."

" Milo, what's your angle?"

There were no angles. The flying wing allowed the aircraft to be fabricated with rounded edges in material deflecting radar. What was being fucking offered, explained Wintergreen, was a fucking long-range airplane to roam over fucking enemy territory with only two fucking fliers. Even without midair refueling, the plane could go from there to San Francisco with a full load of bombs.

"Does this mean we could bomb San Francisco from here and get back without more gas?"

"We could bomb New York too on the way back."

"Guys, get serious," commanded the major general there. "This is war, not social planning. How many refuelings to China or the Soviet Union?"

"Two or three on the way in, maybe none coming back, if you don't get sentimental."

And just one M amp; M bomber could carry the same bomb load as all thirteen fighter-bombers used in the Ronald Reagan air raid in Libya in-in-April 1986.

"It seems like only yesterday," mused an elderly air force man drearily.

"We can give you a plane," promised Wintergreen, "that will do it yesterday."

"Shhhhh!" Milo said.

"The Shhhhh!?" said the expert on military nomenclature. "That's a perfect name for a noiseless bomber."

"Then the Shhhhh! is the name of our plane. It goes faster than sound."

"It goes faster than light."

"You can bomb someone before you even decide to do it. Decide it today, it's done-yesterday!"

"I don't really think," said someone, "we have need for a plane can bomb someone yesterday."

"But think of the potential," argued Wintergreen. "They attack Pearl Harbor. You shoot them down the day before."

"I could live with that one. How much more-"

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," begged someone else among several now stirring rebelliously. "How can that be? Artie, can anything go faster than light?"

"Sure, Marty. Light can go faster than light."

"Read your fucking Einstein!" yelled Wintergreen.

"And our first operational plane can go on alert in the year and give you something really to celebrate."

"What happens if we get in a nuclear war before then?"

"You won't have our product. You have to wait."

"Your bomber, then, is an instrument for peace?"

"Yes. And we also have a man we'll throw in," confided Milo, "who can produce heavy water for you internally."

"I want that man! At any price!"

"Absolutely, Dr. Teller?"

"Positively, Admiral Rickover."

"And our instrument for peace can be used to dump heavy bomb loads on cities too."

"We don't like to bomb civilians."

"Yes, we do. It's cost-effective. You can also arm our Shhhhh! with conventional bombs, for surprise attacks too. The big surprise will come when there's no nuclear explosion. You can use these against friendly nations, with no lasting radiation aftereffects. Will Strangelove do that?"

"What does Porter Lovejoy say?"

"Not guilty."

"I mean before his indictment."

"Buy both planes."

"Is there money for both?"

"It doesn't matter."

"I wouldn't want to tell the President that."

"We have a man who will talk to the President," volunteered Milo. "His name is Yossarian."

"Yossarian? I've heard that name."

"He's a very famous artist, Bernie."

"Sure, I know his work," said General Bingam.

"This is a different Yossarian."

"Isn't it time for another recess?"

"I may need Yossarian," muttered Milo, with his palm sheltering his mouth, "to talk to Noodles Cook. And where the fuck is that chaplain?"

"They keep moving him around, sir," whispered Colonel Pickering. "We don't know where the fuck he is."

This ten-minute recess turned out to be a five-minute recess in which six MASSPOB guards paraded in with a mulberry birthday cake for General Bernard Bingam and the papers promoting him from a brigadier general to a major general. Bingam blew out the candles on his first try and asked jovially: "Is there anything more?"

"Yes! Definitely yes!" cried the stout man from the State Department.

"I'll say there is!" cried just as loudly the slim one from National Security.

Fat and Skinny had a race to make the most of the fact that a number of features in the M amp; M Shhhhh! were identical to those of the old Stealth.

"Sir, your fucking ejection seats were originally in plans for the fucking old Stealth. Our reports show these fucking seats were shredding dummies in tests."

"We can supply you," said Milo, "with all the replacement dummies you need."

Fat fell down and broke his face.

"He was concerned, I believe," interposed the Dean of Humanities and Social Work at the War College, "about the men, not the fucking dummies."

"We can supply as many men as you need too."

Skinny was muddled, and Fat was struck dumb.

"We are inquiring as to their safety, sir. Your machines, you say, can stay aloft for long periods, even years. Our machines with men aboard must be able to come back."

"Why?"

"Why?"

"Yeah, what for?"

"Why the fuck do they have to come back?"

"What the fuck is wrong with all you fucking idiots anyway?" demanded Wintergreen, with a disbelieving shake of his head. "Our plane is a second-strike weapon. Colonel Pickering, will you talk to these fucking shitheads and explain?"

"Certainly, Mr. Wintergreen. Gentlemen, what the fuck difference does it make if the fucking planes come back or not?"

"None, Colonel Pickering."

"Thank you, Major Bowes, you fuck."

"Not at all, you bastard."

"Gentlemen," said Skinny, "I want the record to show I have never in my life been called a shithead, not since I was a young boy."

"We're not keeping a record."

"Shithead."

"Asshole."

"Prick, where would they escape to?" asked Wintergreen. "Most of everything here is gone then too."

"Permit me," snarled Skinny, leaving no doubt he was bitter. "Your fucking bombers, you say, carry nuclear bombs that will penetrate the fucking earth before exploding?"

"Your fucking missiles can't do that."

"Please tell us why the fuck we would want them to."

"Well, you fucking people, in your fucking assessments, always emphasize enemy underground bunkers for their fucking political and military leaders."

"Do we fucking emphasize that?"

"Does the President play Triage?"

"You should read what you write."

"We don't like to read."

"We hate to read."

"We can't read what we write."

"We have bombs that will go down a hundred miles before they explode. Your present depth of planning is to live forty-two miles underground. We can fuse our bombs to detonate so far past forty-two that they won't damage anybody on our side or theirs. You can wage a nuclear war that causes no damage to life or property on earth. That's humane, isn't it? That's fucking humane, I'd say."

"I'd call that fucking humane."

"Let me get one fucking thing straight. Please, Skinny, let me get a word in. These fucking units are for a second strike by us?"

"They will go after surviving enemy units that have not been used in their first strike."

"Why would they not use them in their first strike?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

"You guarantee your planes will work?"

"They've been working more than two years now. We've had models flying back and forth that long. You must tell us now if you want to go ahead. Otherwise we'll take our fucking Shhhhh! somewhere else."

"You could not do that," said Fat. "Excuse me, Skinny, let me continue."

"It's my turn, Fat. That would be against the law."

Milo 's laugh was benign. "How would you know? The planes are invisible and make no noise."

"Oh, shit, I can't believe these questions," said Wintergreen. "What the fuck difference does it make if it works or not? Its chief value is to deter. By the time it goes into action it has already failed."

"I still have a question. Let me proceed, Fat."

"It's my turn, you skinny prick."

"No, it isn't, you fat fuck."

"Don't listen to that shithead," persisted Fat. "If it's invisible and noiseless, what's to stop you from selling it to the enemy anyway?"

"Our patriotism."

And after that one, Bingam called a final recess.

"Wintergreen," whispered Milo, in the pause before they concluded, "do we really have a bomb that will go down a hundred miles before exploding?"

"We'll have to look. What about the old Stealth? Do you think they'll catch on?"

"They're not really the same. The Stealth was never built. So our Shhhhh! is newer."

"I'd say so too."

There were those on the panel who wanted more time, and others like Fat and Skinny who were insisting on a comparison check with the Strangelove B-Ware. They would need Yossarian, Milo grunted dejectedly, while the three senior military officers conferred in whispers. Bingam waited tensely. Wintergreen fumed visibly. Milo advised him to stop, since no one was watching. Finally, the rear admiral looked up.

"Gentlemen." His manner of speaking was unhurried. "We are after a weapon for the new century that will render all other armaments subsidiary and inconsequential."

"You need look no further," Milo advised hopefully.

"I myself," continued the admiral, as though he had heard nothing, "am inclined to put myself in the camp of General Bingam. Bernie, that's another feather in your cap. I want to recommend your Shhhhh! But before I put myself on record, there's a question of substance." He bent closer toward them, with his elbows on the table and his chin on clasped hands. "Your plane, Mr. Minderbinder. You must tell me honestly. If deployed in sufficient numbers, can it destroy the world?"

Milo exchanged a frantic look with Wintergreen. They chose to come clean. Wintergreen lowered his eyes while Milo responded sheepishly.

"I'm afraid not, sir," confessed Milo, with a blush. "We can make it uninhabitable, but we can't destroy it."

"I can live with that!"

"Absotively, Admiral Dewey?"

"Posilutely, General Grant."

"I'm sorry I called you a skinny prick," humbly apologized the diplomat from the Department of State.

"That's okay, you fat fuck."

BOOK SEVEN

20 Chaplain

Each time Chaplain Albert Taylor Tappman was transferred to a new location, he felt himself still in the same place, and with good reason. The lead-lined living space to which he was confined was; a railroad car, and neither before nor after each journey was he permitted to leave at will. His surroundings were no different.

The several laboratories, equipment cars, and medical examination rooms were also on wheels, as were, just past his kitchen, the carriages containing the offices and domiciles of the executive officers currently in charge of what by now had come to be called, in official parlance, the Wisconsin Project. His doors were locked and guarded by men in uniform bearing automatic assault weapons with short barrels and large ammunition clips. He had learned this about his train: there generally was no place to go but to another part of the train.

He was not permitted to dismount, except for infrequent invitations for restricted forms of recreation, which he now invariably declined. He was free to say no to that. He had never enjoyed exercise particularly and was not tempted now. While he sat in his leather easy chair, his muscle tone was improved through painless procedures of electrical stimulation. The advantages of vigorous aerobic exertions were as well obtained without effort from specialized machinery boosting his pulse beat and respiration and enlarging his blood flow. He was in hardier physical condition than before and, he noticed each morning when he shaved, looked better too.

Sometimes the travel from one place to another used up several days, and he quickly understood he was on a train with smoothly turning, quiet, tranquilizing wheels, a noiseless engine, and rails and a roadbed that were as close to perfection as anything conceived and engineered in this world could ever hope to come. He had all conveniences. His car was a pullman apartment with a walk-through bedroom and living room with gray wall-to-wall carpeting. He had a combination study-recreation room with a dark Mexican rug patterned in pink rose blossoms and white and yellow meadow flowers, on a knotty-pine floor bleached to a cream color with a patina of polyurethane. At the far end was a pullman kitchen with enough space for a table and two chairs, and there he took his meals and supplementary nourishment, always scrutinized intently as he chewed and swallowed by at least one sullen observer in a white laboratory coat, always making notes. He knew of nothing that was kept hidden from him. Everything he ate and drank was measured, sampled, analyzed, and inspected beforehand for radiation and mineral content. Somewhere nearby, he'd been informed, perhaps in another railroad car for the convenience of proximity, was at least one control group comprising individuals who consumed just what he did at the very same time, in the same portions and combinations, who did exactly as he did from morning to night. As yet there were no signs of an abnormality like his own. There were built-in Geiger counters in all his rooms, for his protection too, and these were tested twice daily. All the people who came near him-the chemists, physicists, medical doctors, technicians, and military officials, even the guards with their guns and the waiters who served him and cleared his table and the women who showed up to clean and help cook-wore name tags of mother-of-pearl and badges to register the stigmata of radioactivity immediately. He was still safe. They gave him everything he could ask for except the freedom to go home.

"Although?"

Although life at home, he admitted, had ceased being as pleasing as in the past, and he and his wife, overfull with television dramas, newscasts, and situation comedies, had speculated often about ways to bring back into the untroubled lives of their long marriage a greater amount of voluntary activities and pleasurable surprises. Trips abroad with tour groups had lost their flavor. They had fewer friends than before, a scarcity of energy and motivation, and their excitements and diversions resided almost wholly now in watching television and in contacts with their children and grandchildren, all of whom-they gave thanks daily for this-continued to reside in easy traveling distance of their home in Kenosha.

The malady of mind he outlined was not uncommon among Americans of his generation, said the understanding psychiatrist in uniform sent every other day to do what he could to ameliorate the stress of the chaplain's imprisonment and at the same time, as he admitted, pry out any knowledge germane to his remarkable condition that he was not yet consciously willing to bare.

"And at age seventy-two, Chaplain, you are probably a very likely candidate for what we label late-life depression," said the qualified medical man. "Shall I tell you what I mean?"

"I've been told that before," said the chaplain.

"I'm half your age, and I'm a good candidate too, if that brings you any solace."

He missed his wife, he confided, and knew that she missed him. She was well, he was assured at least three times weekly. They were not permitted to communicate directly, not even in writing. The youngest of his three children, a mere toddler when he was overseas, was now near fifty. The children were fine, the grandchildren too.

Nevertheless, the chaplain worried about all in his family inordinately ("Pathologically?" guessed the psychiatrist discreetly. "But of course, that would be normal too") and reverted in torment obsessively to other dreads he sensed were imminent yet could not name.

That was normal too.

In spite of himself, he regressed habitually to the same insistent fantasies of disaster with which he had tortured himself in the past in the desolating shock of loneliness and loss attending his first separation from his wife and children, during his tour of duty in the army.

There were accidents again to worry about and diseases like Ewing 's tumor, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, and other cancers. He saw himself young again on Pianosa and he saw his smallest son, an infant again, die two or three times every week because his wife still had not been taught how to stop arterial bleeding; watched again in tearful, paralyzed silence his whole family electrocuted, one after the other, at a baseboard socket because he had never told her that a human body would conduct electricity; all four still went up in flames almost every night when the water heater exploded and set the two-story wooden house afire; in ghastly, heartless, revolting detail he saw his poor wife's trim and fragile younger body again crushed to a viscous pulp against the brick wall of a market building by a half-witted drunken automobile driver and watched his hysterical daughter, now again about five, six, seven, ten, or eleven, being led away from the grisly scene by a kindly middle-aged gentleman with snow-white hair who raped and murdered her time and time again as soon as he had driven her off to a deserted sandpit, while his two younger children starved to death slowly in the house after his wife's mother, who had been baby-sitting then and had long since passed away peacefully in old age from natural causes, dropped dead from a heart attack when news of his dear wife's accident was given her over the telephone.

His memories of these illusions were merciless. Nostalgic and abject, he regressed repetitiously and helplessly with a certain disappointed yearning to these earlier times of young fatherhood nearly half a century back, when he was never without misery, and never without hope.

"That's another commonplace feature of late-life depression," advised the psychiatrist, with tender appreciation. "When you get older, you might find yourself regressing to times when you were even younger. I do that already."

He wondered where his memory would end. He did not want to speak about his extraordinary vision, perhaps a miracle, of that naked man in a tree, just outside the military cemetery in Pianosa at the sad burial of a young boy named Snowden, who'd been killed in his airplane on a mission bombing bridges over Avignon in southern France. Standing at the open grave with Major Danby to the left of him and Major Major to the right, across the gaping hole in the red earth from a short enlisted man named Samuel Singer, who had been on the mission in the same plane with the deceased, he could recall again with mortifying clarity how he had faltered with a shiver in his eulogy when he lifted his eyes toward tile heavens and they fell instead on the figure in the tree, halted in midsentence as though stricken speechless for the moment with all breath sucked out of him. The possibility that there really had been a naked man in a tree had still never entered his mind. He kept this memory to himself. He would not want the sensitive psychiatrist with whom he was on fine terms to conclude he was crazy.

No sign of similar divine immanence had been granted him since, although he begged for one now. Secretly, in shame, he prayed. He was not ashamed that he prayed but ashamed that someone should find out he prayed and challenge him about it. He prayed also for Yossarian to come swooping into the scene like a superman in another miracle-he could think of no one else to wish for-and set him free from the unfathomable crisis in which he was now helplessly enmeshed, so that he could go back home. Always in his lifetime he had wanted only to be home.

It was not his fault that he was passing heavy water.

At various times when not in transit he was led down the few steps from his carriage to walk briskly around it for twenty, thirty, then forty minutes, observed by armed guards positioned some distance away. Always someone paced alongside-a medical specialist, a scientist, an intelligence agent, an officer, or the general himself-and periodically there was a medical cuff on his arm to record his pressure and his pulse, and a mask with a canister covering his nose and his mouth in which his exhalations were recovered. From these sessions of exercise and exertion he perceived that he was underground at least much of the time.

Indoors in his quarters he could approach any of the windows on either side in all his rooms and see Paris, if he chose, Montmartre from the prominent rampart of the Arc de Triomphe, or a view from Montmartre enveloping the Louvre, the same triumphal arch, the Eiffel Tower, and the serpentine Seine. The receding spectacle of the rooftops was monumental too. Or he could look out a window and see, if he preferred, the Spanish city of Toledo from a choice of perspectives, the university city of Salamanca, the Alhambra, or move to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, or Saint Catherine's College at Oxford University. The controls on the consoles at each of the windows were simple to master. Each window was a video screen offering a virtually unlimited selection of locations.

In New York the default perspective was from a picture window on an upper floor of a high-rise apartment building. He could move about the city as expeditiously as he could move about the world. Across the avenue from the Port Authority Bus Terminal one day soon after he was taken into custody he was so positive he saw Yossarian dismounting from a taxicab that he nearly cried out his name. In Washington, D. C., he was enabled to pass indoors and window-shop in leisure in the lobby of MASSPOB and at any of the fabulous displays on the retail mezzanines. In all of his places the lighting and various colorations altered with the hours to match his own time of day. His favorite views in darkness were of the casinos in Las Vegas and of the city of Los Angeles at night from the Sunset Strip. He was free to look outside at almost any place he wanted from his windows except at what really was there. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, he had the sight of his city from the covered veranda at the front of his house and the equally reassuring picture at the back from the small patio bordering his small garden, where he was wont to sit with his wife on the swing at dusk on temperate moonlit nights and, while watching fireflies, wonder together in tristful reminiscence where all the time had gone, how fast the century had passed. His green thumb had lost its expert touch. He still loved weeding but tired quickly and was frequently discouraged by the aches in his legs and lower back from what his doctor called lumbago. Looking out the window of his train from the front of his house one time, he saw a neighbor across the street he was certain had passed away a few years before, and he was momentarily disoriented. He was stunned to think that beneath the surface of his familiar city, in which he had spent nearly his whole life, there might be this hidden, subterranean railway on which he was now an unwilling passenger.

By this time, everything and, though most did not know it, everyone in a broad vicinity surrounding the chaplain's home in Kenosha had been looked at, inspected, examined, and investigated by the most discerning and discriminating of advanced instruments and techniques: the food, the drinking water from wells and the reservoir, the air they breathed, the sewage, the garbage. Every flush of a toilet was logged for analysis, and every disposal by a home garbage disposal unit. There was no evidence yet of a contamination related however remotely to the one of which he himself was still uniquely the possessor. Nowhere in Kenosha was a molecule to be found of deuterium oxide, or, in plainer language, heavy water.

"It began as a urinary problem," Chaplain Albert Taylor Tappman repeated still one more time.

"I've had those too," revealed the psychiatrist, and emitted a sigh. "But not, of course, like yours. If I had, I suppose I would be in quarantine here with you. You really don't know how you do it, or what you did to start it?"

The chaplain said so again with an apologetic stammer. He sat with his soft fists resting on his thighs, and this doctor seemed to believe him. His doctor at home had sensed something not normal right away and had taken a second specimen.

"I don't know, Albert. It still feels funny to me, sort of heavy."

"What's it mean, Hector?"

"I'm not sure, but I don't think you're allowed to do what you're doing without a government license. Let's see what the laboratory says. They might have to report it."

In no time at all the government agents moved into his house and swarmed all through it; then came the chemists, the physicists, the radiologists and urologists, the endocrinologists and gastroenterologists. In short order he was plumbed medically by every conceivable kind of specialist and environmentalist in a determined and comprehensive effort to find out where that extra hydrogen neutron was coming from in every molecule of water he passed. It was not in his perspiration. That was clean, as were the fluids everywhere else inside him.

Then came the interrogations, mannerly at first, then abusive and filled with connotations of brutality. Had he been drinking liquid hydrogen? Not to his knowledge. Oh, he would know it if he had been. He'd be dead.

"Then why are you asking me?"

It was a trick question, they crowed, cackling. They all smoked cigarettes and their hands were yellow. Liquid oxygen? He wouldn't even know where to get it.

He would have to know in order to drink it.

He didn't even know what it was.

Then how could he be sure he had not been drinking it?

They put that one down for the record too. It was another trick question.

"And you fell for it, Chaplain. That was good, Ace. Right, Butch?"

"You said it, Slugger."

There were three, and they insisted on knowing whether he had friends, wives, or children in any of the countries formerly behind the iron curtain or had any now in the CIA.

"I don't have any in the CIA either," said the psychiatrist. "I don't know how I'd defend myself if I did."

Right off, they had confiscated his passport and tapped his telephone. His mail was intercepted, his bank accounts were frozen. His safe-deposit box was padlocked. Worst of all, they had taken away his Social Security number.

"No checks?" exclaimed the psychiatrist in horror.

The checks were continuing, but the Social Security number was gone. Without it, he had no identity.

The psychiatrist went ashen and trembled. "I can guess how you must feel," he commiserated. w"I couldn't live without mine. And you really can't tell them how you do it?"

The chemical physicists and physical chemists ruled out an insect bite. The entomologists agreed.

At the beginning, people on the whole tended to be kind and patronizing and to handle him considerately. The medical men approached him amiably as both a curiosity and opportunity. In short order, however, the sociability of all but the psychiatrist and the general grew strained and thinner. Accumulating frustration shortened tolerance. Tempers turned raw and the consultations turned adversarial. This was especially true with the intelligence agents. They were not from the FEU and not from the CIA but from someplace deeper under cover. His inability to illuminate insulted, and he was censured for an obstinate refusal to yield explanations that he did not possess.

"You are being willful," said the biggest of the bullying interrogators.

"The reports all agree," said the thin, mean-looking, swarthy one with a sharp, crooked nose, manic eyes that seemed ignited by hilarity, small, irregular teeth stained brown with nicotine, and almost no lips.

"Chaplain," said the chubby one, who smiled and winked a lot with no hint of merriment and always smelled sourly of beer. "About radiation. Have you been, before we brought you here- and we want the truth, buddy boy, we'd rather have nothing if we can't have the truth, got that?-had you been absorbing radiation illegally?"

"How would I know, sir? What is illegal radiation?"

"Radiation that you don't know about and we do."

"As opposed to what?"

"Radiation that you don't know about and we do."

"I'm confused. I don't hear a difference."

"It's implied, in the way we say it."

"And you missed it. Add that one to the list."

"You got him on that one. By the balls, I'd say."

"That's enough, Ace. We'll continue tomorrow."

"Sure, General."

There was palpable insolence in the manner in which Ace spoke to the general, and the chaplain was embarrassed.

The officer in overall charge of the Wisconsin Project was General Leslie R. Groves, of the earlier Manhattan Project, which had developed the first atom bombs in 1945, and he gave every indication of being genuinely solicitous, warmhearted, and shielding. By now the chaplain was comfortable with him. He had learned much from General Groves about the rationale warranting his despotic incarceration and ceaseless surveillance, as well as the differences between fission and fusion and the three states of hydrogen with which he appeared to be meddling, or which were meddling with him. After hydrogen 1, there was deuterium, with an extra neutron in each atom, which combined with oxygen to form heavy water. And then came tritium, the radioactive gas with two extra neutrons, which was used as paint in self-illuminating gauges and clock faces, including those of the new line of novelty pornographic bedroom clocks that overnight had captured the lustful fancy of the nation, and to boost the detonating process in thermonuclear devices like hydrogen bombs containing lithium deuteride, a deuterium compound. The earliest of these bombs, set off in 1952, had produced a destructive force one thousand times greater-one thousand times greater, emphasized General Groves -than the bombs dropped on Japan. And where did that deuterium come from? Heavy water.

And he'd been flushing his away.

"What have you been doing with mine?"

"Sending it out to be turned into tritium," answered General Groves.

"See what you've been pissing away, Chaplain?"

"That will do now, Ace."

With General Groves at his side, the chaplain had stepped down once from his pullman apartment onto a small playground with squares of white concrete in back of a blank-faced pebblestone building with a cross on top that looked like an ancient Italian church. There was a basketball hoop and backboard raised on a wooden beam whose dark varnish looked recent and the pattern of a shuffleboard court on the ground in paint of flat green. A soccer ball in black and white stitched sections that gave it the look of a large molecular model primed to explode lay in the center as though waiting to be kicked. In a corner was a sun-browned vendor at a souvenir stand featuring picture postcards, newspapers, and sailors' hats of ocean blue with white piping and white letters spelling the word VENEZIA, and the chaplain wondered aloud if they really were in Venice. The general said they were not but that it made a nice change to think so. Despite the illusion of sky and fresh air, they were still indoors, underground.

The chaplain did not want to play basketball or shuffleboard or to kick the soccer ball and wanted no souvenirs. The two walked around the railroad car for forty minutes, with General Groves setting a fairly energetic pace.

Another time, after they had dismounted near a small underpass going off on a course perpendicular to their tracks, he heard dim, tiny gunpowder reports, like those of small firecrackers, sounding somewhere from a hollow distance inside. It was a shooting gallery. The chaplain did not choose to try his luck and perhaps win a stuffed teddy bear. He did not want to pitch pennies on the chance of winning a coconut. He heard also from inside that space the music of a carousel and then the alternating roaring rise and fall of the squealing steel wheels and wrenching cars of a roller-coaster in motion. No, the chaplain had never been to Coney Island or heard of George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Amusement Park, and he had no wish to go there now. He had no desire either to meet Mr. Tilyou himself or to visit his resplendent carousel.

General Groves shrugged. "You seem sunk in apathy," he offered with some pity. "Nothing seems to interest you, not television comedy, news, or sports events."

"I know."

"Me neither," said the psychiatrist.

It was on the third trip back to his home in Kenosha that the first of the food packages from Milo Minderbinder was delivered to him. After that these parcels came every week on the same day. The gift card never changed: WHAT'S GOOD FOR MILO MINDERBINDER IS GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY.

The contents did not alter either. Neatly placed in a bed of excelsior were a new Zippo cigarette lighter, a packet of sterile swabs on sticks of pure Egyptian cotton, a fancy candy box containing one pound of M amp; M's premium chocolate-covered Egyptian cotton candy, a dozen eggs from Malta, a bottle of Scotch whisky from a distiller in Sicily, all made in Japan, and souvenir quantities of pork from York, ham from Siam, and tangerines from New Orleans, which also originated in the Orient. The chaplain gave consent when General Groves suggested he donate the package to people above who still had nowhere to live. The chaplain was surprised the first time.

"Are there homeless in Kenosha now?"

"We are not in Kenosha now," answered General Groves, and moved to the window to press the location button.

They were in New York again, looking out past the bootblacks and the sidewalk carts of the food vendors with their smoking charcoal fires lining the streets near the front entrance to the bus terminal, looking past the PABT building to the two barren architectural towers of the World Trade Center, still possibly the tallest commercial structures in the universe.

Another time, while certain he was in MASSPOB in Washington, the chaplain saw by default mode that he was inside PABT, parked somewhere below while they switched engines and laboratory cars. He was able to gaze out through his window even into the Operations Control Center of the terminal and tie into any of the video screens there, to watch the buses arrive and depart, the diurnal tides of people, the undercover policemen who dressed like drug dealers and drug dealers who dressed like undercover policemen, the prostitutes, addicts, and runaways, the sordid, torpid couplings and other squalid acts of community life in the emergency stairwells, and even to peek inside the different washrooms to see humans peeing and doing laundry and, if he wanted to, inside the toilet cubicles themselves to observe the narcotic injections, oral sex, and defecations. He did not want to. He had television sets that could bring in programs with excellent reception on three hundred and twenty-two channels, but he found it was not fun to watch anything without his wife watching with him. Television was not much fun when they were together either, but they could at least fix their faces on the common point of the set while they fished around for something new to talk about that might lighten the lethargy. This was old age. He was still merely just past seventy-two.

Another time in New York he looked through his window at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at an hour when a meeting of ACACAMMA was disbanding, and he was certain again that he saw Yossarian leaving in the company of an elderly woman in fashionable dress and a man taller than both, and he wanted to cry out again, for this time he observed a man with red hair and a green rucksack eyeing the three craftily and falling in behind them, and then two other men, with brighter orange hair, following also, and behind them came still another man, who unmistakably was following them all. He distrusted his eyes. He felt he must be seeing things again, like that time of the vision of the man in the tree.

"And what is that other noise I continue to hear?" the chaplain finally inquired of General Groves, when they were rolling again and moving out of the city.

"You mean of water? That stream or river?"

"I hear it often. Maybe all the time "

"I can't say." I "You don't know?"

"My orders are to tell you everything I do know. That one is out of my jurisdiction. It's more secret and lower down. We know from our sonar that it's a fairly narrow, slow-moving body of water and that small boats without power, maybe rowboats, come by on it regularly, moving always in one direction. There's music too. The pieces have been identified as the prelude and wedding march from the third act of the opera Lohengrin." And faintly underlying that music, from someplace deeper, was an unrelated children's chorus of anguish that the government musicologists had not yet been able to identify. Germany was consulted and was in anguish also over the existence in performance of a choral piece of advanced musical complexity, perhaps genius, of which they knew nothing. "The water is on my papers as the river Rhine. That's all I know."

"The Rhine River?" The chaplain was awed.

"No. The river Rhine. We are not in Germany now."

They were back in the nation's capital.

There was no good reason to doubt General Groves, who made a noticeable point of being present at all the sessions with Ace, Butch, and Slugger. The chaplain understood that even the general's friendship might be no more than a calculated tactic in a larger strategy involving a clandestine plot with the three intelligence men, of whom he was most in fear. There was no way of knowing anything, he knew, not even that there was no way of knowing anything.

"'I often feel that same way," the general was quick to agree, when he voiced his misgivings.

"Me too," admitted the psychiatrist.

Was the sympathizing psychiatrist also a trick?

"You've no right to do this to me," the chaplain protested to General Groves when they were again alone. "I think I know that much."

"You're mistaken, I'm afraid," answered the general. "I think you'll find that we have a right to do to you anything you can't stop us from doing. In this case, it's both legal and regular. You were a member of the army reserves. They've simply called you back into service."

"But I was discharged from the reserves," responded the chaplain with triumph. "I have the letter to prove it."

"I don't think you do anymore, Chaplain. And it doesn't show in our records."

"Oh, yes it does," said the chaplain, gloating. "You can find it in my Freedom of Information file. I saw it there with my own eyes."

"Chaplain, when you look again, you'll find it's been blacked out. You're not completely innocent, you know."

"Of what am I guilty?"

"Of offenses the intelligence agents don't know about yet. Why won't you say that you're guilty?"

"How can I say if they won't tell me what they are?"

"How can they tell you if they don't know? To begin with."

General Groves went on, in a more instructive tone, "there's this thing with the heavy water you're producing naturally and won't say how."

"I don't know how," protested the chaplain.

"It's not I who don't believe you. Then there's this second thing, with a man named Yossarian, John Yossarian. You paid him a mysterious visit in New York as soon as we found out about this. That's one of the reasons they picked you up."

"There was nothing mysterious about it. I went to see him when all of this started to happen. He was in a hospital."

"What was wrong with him?"

"Nothing. He wasn't sick."

"Yet in a hospital? Try to imagine, Albert, how most of this sounds. He was in that hospital at the same time a Belgian agent with throat cancer was there. That man is from Brussels, and Brussels is the center of the EEC. Is that coincidence too? He has cancer of the throat but doesn't get better and doesn't die. How come? In addition, there are these coded messages about him to your friend Yossarian. They go out to him four or five times a day from this woman who pretends she just likes to talk to him on the telephone. I've not met a woman like that. Have you? Now his kidney is failing again, she says, just yesterday. Why should his kidney be failing and not yours? You're the one with the heavy water. I have no opinion. I don't know any more about these things than I do about the prelude to Act III of Lohengrin or a chorus of children singing in anguish. I'm giving you the questions raised by others. There's even a deep suspicion the Belgian is with the CIA. There's even some belief that you're CIA."

"I'm not! I swear I've never been with the CIA!"

"I'm not the one you have to convince. These messages go out from the hospital through Yossarian's nurse."

"Nurse?" cried the chaplain. "Is Yossarian ill?"

"He is fit as a fiddle, Albert, and in better shape than you or I."

"Then why does he have a nurse?"

"For carnal gratification. They have been indulging themselves in sexual congress one way or another now four or five times a week"-the general looked down punctiliously at a line graph on his lap to make absolutely sure-"in his office, in her apartment, and in his apartment, often on the floor of the kitchen with the water running or on the floor of one of the other rooms, beneath the air conditioner. Although I see on this chart that the frequency of libidinous contact is diminishing sharply. The honeymoon may be ending. He no longer sends her long-stemmed red roses often or talks as much about lingerie, according to this latest Gaffney Report."

The chaplain was squirming beneath these accumulating personal details. "Please."

"I'm merely trying to fill you in." The general turned to another page. "And then there's this secret arrangement you seem to have with Mr. Milo Minderbinder that you have not seen fit to mention."

" Milo Minderbinder?" The chaplain's reaction was one of incredulity. "I know him, of course. He sends these packages. I don't know why. I was in the war with him, but I haven't seen or spoken to him in almost fifty years."

"Come, Chaplain, come." Now the general feigned a look of exaggerated disappointment. "Albert, Milo Minderbinder claims ownership of you, has a patent pending on you, has registered a trademark for your brand of heavy water, with a halo, no less. He has offered you to the government in conjunction with a contract for a military airplane for which he is vying, and he receives weekly a very, very hefty payment for every pint of heavy water we extract from you. You're amazed?"

"I've never heard any of this before!"

"Albert, he'd have no right to do that on his own."

"Leslie, now I'm sure I've got you." The chaplain came near to smiling. "You said just a while ago that people have a right to do whatever we can't stop them from doing."

"That's true, Albert. But in practice, it's an argument we can use and you cannot. We can go through all of this again at the weekly review tomorrow afternoon."

At the weekly assembly conducted every Friday, it was the general himself who got wind first of the newest development.

"Who farted?" he asked.

"Yeah, what is that smell?"

"I know it," said the chemical physicist on duty that week, "it's tritium."

"Tritium?"

The Geiger counters in the room were clicking. The chaplain dropped his eyes. An appalling transformation had just come to pass. There was tritium in his flatulence.

"That changes the game, Chaplain," the general reproved him gravely. Every test and procedure would have to be repeated and new ones initiated. "And immediately check everyone in all the other groups."

None of the people in any of the control groups were blowing anything out their asses but the usual methane and hydrogen sulfide.

"I almost hate to send this news on," said the general with gloom. "From now on, Chaplain, no more farting around."

"And no more pissing against the wall."

"That will do, Ace. Does it not strike you as odd," General Groves inquired philosophically one week later at the freewheeling brainstorming symposium, "that it should be a man of God who might be developing within himself the thermonuclear capability for the destruction of life on this planet?"

"No, of course not."

"Why should it?"

"Are you crazy?"

"What's wrong with you?"

"Who else would it be?"

"They molest altar boys, don't they?"

"Shouldn't the force that created the world be the one to end it?"

"It would be even odder," concurred the general, after weighing these contemplations, "if it were anyone else."

21 Lew

It's this feeling nauseous I don't like anymore. By now I can tell the difference. If I think it's nothing, it goes away. If I think it's something, the remission is over and the relapse is back. I'll soon be scratching myself in different places and sweating at night and running a fever. I can tell before anyone if I'm losing weight. The wedding ring gets loose on my finger. I like a few drinks every night before dinner, that same old kid's blend people laugh at now of Carstairs whiskey and Coke, a C amp; C. If I feel pain after drinking alcohol, in my neck again or shoulders or in my abdomen now, I know it's time to phone the doctor and start hoping it's not into the city again for another round with Teemer and maybe into his hospital for another session with one of his radiation sharpshooters. I always let Claire know when I feel something is up. I don't give her false scares. Heartburn is easy. That comes from eating too much. The nausea I'm tired of comes with the sickness and comes with the cure. There's no mistaking it. When I think of the nausea I think of my mother and her green apples. To my mind they taste like what I taste when I'm nauseous. One time as a kid I had an abscessed ear that was lanced at home by a specialist who came to the house with Dr. Abe Levine, and she told us, me and the doctors and anyone else around, that I must have been eating her green apples again. Because that's what you got when you ate green apples. I have to smile when I think of the old girl. She was cute, even toward the end, when she was not always all there. She would remember my name. She had trouble recognizing the others, even the old man, with his watery eyes, but not me. "Louie," she would call quietly. "Boychik. Loualeh. Kim aher to der momma."

By now I've grown sick of feeling sick.

Sammy gets a kick out of hearing me put it that way, so I always make sure to say it every time I see him, just to give him a laugh, when he's up here on another visit or in the city sometimes when we come in to go out. We go into the city for an evening now and then just to prove we still can. We don't know anyone who lives there anymore but him and one of my daughters. I'll go to plays with Claire and try hard not to sleep while I pretend to keep interested in what's happening on the stage. Or I'll sit with Sammy and eat or drink while she goes to museums or art galleries with my daughter Linda or alone. Sometimes Sammy brings along a nice woman with a good personality, but it's easy to see there's nothing hot going on. Winkler calls from California every few weeks just to see how things are and to tell me who died out there we know and to get the latest on people we're still in touch with here. He's selling shoes now, real leather shoes, he tells me, to stores in big chains with shoe departments, and using the cash flow from the shoes to tide him over the slow seasons with his chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies. He's doing something else I don't want to know more about, with overstocks of frozen foods, mainly meats. Sammy still gets a smile out of Marvelous Marvin's business enterprises too. Sammy doesn't seem to have much to enjoy himself with since he's been living alone in that new high-rise apartment building of his. He still doesn't know what to do with his time, except for that work raising money for cancer relief. He's got a good pension from his Time magazine, he says, and had money put away, so that's not a problem. I give him ideas. He doesn't move.

"Go to Las Vegas and play with some hookers awhile."

Claire even approves of that one. I'm still crazy about her. Her breasts are still big and look as good as new since she had them prettied up again. Or he could go to Bermuda or the Caribbean and find a nice secretary on vacation to treat like a princess. Or to Boca Raton for a nifty middle-aged widow or divorced woman past fifty who really wants to remarry.

"Sammy, you really ought to think about getting married again. You're not the kind who can live alone."

"I used to."

"Now you're too old," Claire tells him. "You really can't cook a thing, can you?"

We forget that Sammy is still shy with women until the ice is broken and doesn't know how to pick up a girl. I tell him I'll go with him when I'm better and help him find some we like.

"I'll come too," says Claire, who's always ready to go off anywhere. "I can sound them out and spot the cuckoos."

"Sammy," I press him, "get up off your ass and take a trip around the world. We ain't kids anymore, you and me, and the time might be short to start doing things we always thought we wanted to. Don't you want to go to Australia again and see that friend of yours there?"

Sammy got to go everywhere when he was moved into the international division of that Time Incorporated job he used to have and still knows people in different places.

I'm even thinking myself I might be willing to take a trip around the world once I get my weight back this time, because Claire would like that. Lately, I enjoy seeing all of them get the things they want.

Maybe it's my age too, along with the Hodgkin's, but I feel better knowing they'll all be left okay when I'm gone. At least for a start. Now that Michael is a CPA in a place he likes, they all seem set. Claire still has her face and her figure, thanks to the trips to the health farms and the secret nips and tucks she sneaks away for every now and then. Along with all else, I've got a good piece of beach property in Saint Maarten just right for development that's in her name too, and another piece in California she doesn't know about yet, even though that's in her name also. I've got more than one safe-deposit box, with things inside she's not been taught to handle yet. I wish she were better at arithmetic, but Michael's there now to help her with that part, and Andy in Arizona has got some business sense too. Michael seems to know his stuff, along with a number of things he learned from me I know they didn't teach him in accounting school. I trust my lawyer and my other people as long as I'm around to make sure they know what I want and see they do it right away, but after that I wouldn't bet. They get lazy. Emil Adler has gotten lazy with age too and is quick to pass you on to another kind of specialist. The kids have all given him up for new doctors of their own. I'm training Claire to be tougher with lawyers than I am, to be independent.

"Bring in anyone else you want to anytime you like. You can handle it all for me from now on. Don't let them brush you off for a second. We don't owe them anything. They're sure to ask for it anytime we do."

None in my family gamble, not even on the stock market. And only Andy has a taste for extravagant things, but he married well, a nice-looking girl with good personality, and seems to be solidlv settled in partnership with his father-in-law in a couple of lively automobile dealerships in Tempe and Scottsdale in Arizona. But he'll never be able to afford a divorce, which might be good, and she will. I own a piece of his share, but that's already been made over to him. Susan has children nearby and is married to a well-mannered carpenter I helped put into building houses, and so far that seems to be working out okay too. Linda is set for life in a teaching job that gives her long vacations and a good pension. She knows how to attract men and maybe she'll marry again. I sometimes wish that Michael was more like me, bolder, had more force of character, asserted himself more loudly and more often, but that could be my doing, and Claire thinks that maybe it is.

"Lew, what else?" she says, when I ask. "You're not an easy act to follow."

"I wouldn't be happy if I thought I was."

Claire won't cooperate when I want to talk about my estate plans and refuses to listen for long.

"Sooner or later-" I tell her.

"Make it later. Change the subject."

"I don't enjoy it either. Okay, I'll change the subject. Eight percent interest on a hundred-thousand-dollar investment will bring you how much a year?"

"Not enough for the new house I want to buy! Lew, for God sakes, will you stop? Have a drink instead. I'll fix it."

She's got more confidence in Teemer now than I have and than he seems to have in himself. Dennis Teemer has moved into the nut ward of his hospital, he tells me, for treatment, although he keeps the same office hours and hospital practice. That sounds crazy to me. So maybe he does know what he's doing, as Sammy says in a wisecrack. When Emil can't help me in the hospital up here, I start going back into the city to Teemer, to be MOPPed up again with those injections that give me that nausea I hate, at least one time a week, at best. MOPP is the name of the mixture in the chemotherapy they give me now, and Teemer lets me think the "mopped up" joke I made is original with me and that he's still never heard it from anyone else.

By now I hate going back to him. I'm in dread and I'm weary. I have to, Emil tells me, and I know that too. By now I think I hate Teemer also. But not enough to break his back. He's become the disease. There's always gloom in his waiting room. When Claire doesn't bring me, I go down and back in the black or pearl-gray limousine from the car service with the same driver, this guy Frank, from Venice, and going in is a drag too. From Teemer's office, to get back uptown to go home or the hospital, you have to ride past that funeral parlor near the corner, and I don't like that part either. There's almost always at least one attendant waiting outside, looking too tidy to be normal, and usually a guy with a knapsack and a walking stick, who must work there, he looks like a hiker, and they eye each car that slows down for the intersection. They eye me too.

By now I'm scared of going back inside Teemer's hospital, but I'll never let it show. With Sammy's Glenda gone and Winkler and his wife living in California, Claire has to stay in a hotel, alone or with one of the girls, and that's not much fun for her. It's the nausea that's going to put me away. I remember what it feels like, and that makes me nauseous too. I'm tired a lot, tired from age, I guess, and tired from the ailment, and by now, I think, I really am sick of amp; it! I worry about that time coming up when I go into the hospital and can't make it out on my own feet.

No one has to tell me I've lived longer than any of us thought I would. And nobody does. If anyone tried to, I think I would jump right up like the Lew Rabinowitz from Coney Island of old and really break a back. Teemer thinks I'm setting some kind of record. I tell him he is. The last time I was in to see him he had a bone man look at a CAT scan of my leg that turned out to be all right. They're starting to think it could have come from a virus. That's okay with me. It makes no difference to Teemer, who would have to deal with it the same way, but it cheers me to know I might not be passing it along as something hereditary. My kids get symptoms when I do. I can tell by their faces when they talk to me. They look nauseous. And they think of running right off to a doctor every time they feel queasy or wake up with a stiff neck. I'm not the unluckiest person who ever lived, but I don't think that makes any difference now.

I'm not young anymore. I have to remember that. I keep forgetting, because between spells I feel as good as ever and can find more ways to have fun than most people I know. But when Marty Kapp died on a golf course in New Jersey and then Stanley Levy did from a heart attack too, and David Goodman almost did at only thirty-eight, and Betty Abrams died of cancer in Los Angeles and Lila Gross from cancer here, and Mario Puzo had a triple bypass and Casey Lee too, and Joey Heller got that paralysis from that crazy Guillain-Barre syndrome no one ever heard of and has to consider now how much his weakened muscles will weaken as he gets older, I had to start getting used to the idea that time was closing in on Lew Rabinowitz too, that I had reached the age where even healthy people got sick and died, and I was not going to live forever either. I picked up a taste for French wines along with my appetite for cheeses on our Caribbean vacations in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and Claire hasn't noticed that I've begun opening all our better ones. I'm emptying my wine cellar. It's harder for me to score a lot of money now than it used to be, and maybe that's another sign I've gotten older. Each time we go someplace now we both take more bottles of different medicines with us. It was easy to see that things like my personal plumbing were going to just stop working right and that sooner or later the serious ailments were going to start piling in. I already had one of mine.

Way back, I never felt that way, that life for me ever could be short, not even in the army in my infantry combat in Europe. I knew there was danger, I saw it right off the bat, but I never thought it could touch me. Coming through in August as a replacement into a French town called Falaise after the big battle there, I saw enough dead Germans rotting in stacks on the ground to last me a lifetime. I saw dozens more before I was through. I saw dead Americans. I saw Eisenhower there reviewing the victory scene, and I thought he looked sick too. In a town called Grosshau past Belgium at the German border near another town, called Hürtgen, I was standing no more than two feet away from Hammer, who was telling me the Germans had pulled out and the place was clear, when he was hit by a sniper in the back of the head. He was still reporting it was safe when he fell forward into my arms and sank down into the snow. It didn't surprise me that it was him, not me. I took for granted I would always be lucky. It turned out I was right. Even in the prison camp I was lucky and not really afraid. The day we finally got there after that miserable train trip and were put on line to be registered in, I saw this cold-looking skinny officer in a clean uniform staring at another Jewish prisoner, named Siegel, in a way I didn't like, and without even thinking I decided to speak up and do something. I was filthy like the rest, lousy, dead tired too, and stank of diarrhea also, but I moved to the officer, making myself look timid, and smiling very politely asked him: "Bist Du auch Jude?"

His mouth opened and he gaped at me like I was mad. I've never seen anyone look more surprised. I have to laugh again when I think of it. I don't think he'd been asked very often in his German army if he also was Jewish.

"Sag das noch einmal," he ordered sharply. He couldn't believe it.

I did what he told me and said it again. Shaking his head, he began to chuckle to himself, and he tossed me a hard biscuit from a small pack he was holding.

"No, I'm afraid not," he answered in English, with a laugh. "Why do you wish to know if I am Jewish?"

Because I was, I told him in German, and showed him that letter J on my dog tags. My name was Rabinowitz, Lewis Rabinowitz, I went on, and then added something I wanted him to think about. "And I can speak German a little."

He snickered again with a look like he couldn't believe me and then drifted away and left us alone.

"Hey, buddy, are you crazy?" said a tall guy behind me with curly, rusty hair, whose name was Vonnegut and who later wrote books. He couldn't believe it either.

They would have found out anyway at the front of the line, I figured.

I was still not afraid.

I was in love with my gun from the first day I had one, and nobody ever had to remind me to keep it clean. After all that junk in the old man's junkshop, it was something like heaven to find myself with a machine like new that worked and could be put to good use. I had great faith in all my guns. When I came into the squad overseas as a new guy and a replacement, I was happy to take the BAR, that Browning automatic rifle, even after I noticed the guys who knew better shying away from it and soon found out why. The man with the firepower was the one who would draw it. It was best never to fire at all unless we had to. I learned that one fast too. The man who gave our position away when there was nothing more important to shoot at than just another German soldier risked being battered around by the rest of us. I had faith in my guns, but I can't remember that I had to fire them much. As a corporal first and then a squad leader, I mostly told the rest of the twelve where to put themselves and what to go for. We were pushing forward into France toward Germany, and it's a fact that we did not often see the human figures we were shooting at until they were dead and we passed them lying stiff on the ground. That part was eerie. We saw empty space, we spotted gun bursts and directed fire there, we shrank from tanks and armored cars, and hugged ground from artillery shells; but in our own platoon we almost never laid eyes on the people we were warring with, and when they weren't charging or bombarding us, it was almost like being back in a Coney Island shooting gallery or a penny arcade.

Except it wasn't always much fun. We were wet, we were cold, we were dirty. The others had a tendency to huddle up together under barrages, and I had to keep bellowing at them to spread out and get away from me and each other, like they were supposed to. I didn't want anybody too close fouling up my own bright destiny.

I came as a replacement into a platoon already filled with replacements, and it didn't take long to figure out what that meant. No one lasted long. The only one I met who had lasted from D day was Buchanan, my sergeant, and he was losing his grip by the time I got there and was cut down later by machine gun fire in a dash from cover to some hedges across the road in this town of Grosshau in the Hürtgen forest that was supposed to be clear. Then there was David Craig, who had landed in Normandy on D day plus nine and took out the Tiger tank, and he was soon in a hospital with a leg wound from artillery outside a place called Luneville.

By the time of the tank, Buchanan did not know what to do when he got the order and he looked at me. I could see the poor guy was shaking. We had no guns with us that would pierce a Tiger. The tank had pinned down the rest of our platoon.

I made the call. "Who's got the bazooka?" I asked, and looked around. "David? Craig? You'll go. Slip through the street through the houses and come up on the back or side."

"Aw, shit, Lew!" By then he'd had enough too.

Aw, shit, I thought, and said, "I'll go with you. I'll handle the shells. Find out where to hit." A rocket from a bazooka would not go through a Tiger's armor plate either.

The instructions were good. Put a shell in the seam of the turret of the cannon. Put another in the tracks if we could, from no more than a hundred feet away. I carried four shells. Once past the houses and outside the village, we followed a gully with a thin stream of green water until we came to a bend, and then it was there, straddling the ditch, no more than thirty feet in front of us. All sixty tons of that big thing right up above us, with a soldier with binoculars in the open hatch, wearing a smile I couldn't stand that made that nerve in the side of rny jaw turn tight and start to tick. We made not a sound. I put a finger to my lips anyway, slipped in a shell and wired it up. Craig had hunted in Indiana. He landed right on target. The binoculars flew when the rocket shell exploded, and the German dropped down out of sight with his head limp. The tank started backing. The second shot hit the tracks and the wheels stopped turning. We watched long enough to see the guys from the rest of the platoon drop grenades down inside as they went charging past, and soon that whole thing was on fire.

Craig and I were put in for a Bronze Star for that one. He was wounded in the thigh from a tree burst outside that place called Luneville before he could get his, and I was a prisoner of war before I got mine. On the ground on the other side of me about five yards away when Craig got hit was a dead kid with his head opened by that same shell, and I wasn't touched. The tree burst got eight of our twelve.

That German soldier in the tank was the one German soldier I ever saw who wasn't dead or a prisoner, except for the ones who captured me, and those looked good as new.

Snow fell in December in the Hürtgen forest, and we knew we would not be home for Christmas. David Craig might be, but not us.

In the middle of the month we were packed up in a hurry in a convoy of troop trucks to be shipped south as reinforcements to a regiment outside a different forest, near a town called Ardennes. When we got there and dismounted, a captain was waiting in the clearing to greet us, and as soon as we were assembled to hear him, he announced: "Men, we're surrounded."

We had a funny guy named Brooks then, and he started yelling: "Surrounded? How can we be surrounded? We just got here. How could we get here if we're all surrounded?"

It was true, it turned out. The Germans had broken through that forest, and it wasn't so funny.

And the next day we found out, only by being told, that we'd surrendered, all of us, the whole regiment.

How could that be? We were armed, we were there, we were equipped. But someone in back had surrendered us all. We were to lay down our arms in a pile on the ground and just wait to be taken in as prisoners. That made no sense.

"Captain, can we try to get back?" someone called out nervously.

"When I turn my back, I'm no longer in command."

"Which way should we go?"

No one knew the answer to that.

Ten of us piled into a light-duty truck with the two drivers who'd brought us there and we took off. We gassed up at the motor pool, that's how calm things were there. We took extra woolen shawls for the face and the neck, dry socks. We had rifles, carbines, and grenades. Inside my shirt against my heavy army underwear I had cartons of food rations, cigarettes, packets cf Nescafe, sugar, matches, my good old reliable Zippo lighter to help start fires, a couple of candles.

We didn't get far.

We didn't even know where we were going. We headed away on the road we'd come in on and turned left onto a wider road when we hit an intersection, thinking we were heading back west toward our own lines. But then the road veered around and we saw we were going north again. We followed other cars. The snowfall turned thick. We began passing jeeps, staff cars, and trucks that had skidded off into drifts and been left there. Then we came to others that had been battered and burned. Some were still smoking. Windows had been shattered. We saw some with bodies. We heard rifle fire, mortars, machine guns, horns, strange whistles. When our own truck fishtailed off into an embankment, we left it and split up into smaller groups to try to go for it separately on foot.

I sloshed off to one side of the road, over the grade and down into the cover of the other side, slipping and sliding as I trudged along as fast as I could move. Two others came with me. Soon we heard cars, dogs, then voices calling orders in German. We moved apart and hid on the ground. They had no trouble finding us. They came right up to us from out of the whirl of snowflakes and had us at gunpoint before we could even make them out. They