this Fourth of July dance at the club. I didn't know her too well then, and I didn't think I
I didn't know him too well, but he was always hanging around the swimming pool. He
wore those white Lastex kind of swimming trunks, and he was always going off the high
dive. He did the same lousy old half gainer all day long. It was the only dive he could do,
but he thought he was very hot stuff. All muscles and no brains. Anyway, that's who Jane
dated that night. I couldn't understand it. I swear I couldn't. After we started going around
together, I asked her how come she could date a showoff bastard like Al Pike. Jane said
he wasn't a show-off. She said he had an inferiority complex. She acted like she felt sorry
for him or something, and she wasn't just putting it on. She meant it. It's a funny thing
about girls. Every time you mention some guy that's strictly a bastard--very mean, or very
conceited and all--and when you mention it to the girl, she'll tell you he has an inferiority
complex. Maybe he has, but that still doesn't keep him from being a bastard, in my
opinion. Girls. You never know what they're going to think. I once got this girl Roberta
Walsh's roommate a date with a friend of mine. His name was Bob Robinson and he
really had an inferiority complex. You could tell he was very ashamed of his parents and
all, because they said "he don't" and "she don't" and stuff like that and they weren't very
wealthy. But he wasn't a bastard or anything. He was a very nice guy. But this Roberta
Walsh's roommate didn't like him at all. She told Roberta he was too conceited--and the
reason she thought he was conceited was because he happened to mention to her that he
was captain of the debating team. A little thing like that, and she thought he was
conceited! The trouble with girls is, if they like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is,
they'll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don't like him, no matter how nice a
guy he is, or how big an inferiority complex he has, they'll say he's conceited. Even smart
girls do it.
Anyway, I gave old Jane a buzz again, but her phone didn't answer, so I had to
hang up. Then I had to look through my address book to see who the hell might be
available for the evening. The trouble was, though, my address book only has about three
people in it. Jane, and this man, Mr. Antolini, that was my teacher at Elkton Hills, and my
father's office number. I keep forgetting to put people's names in. So what I did finally, I
gave old Carl Luce a buzz. He graduated from the Whooton School after I left. He was
about three years older than I was, and I didn't like him too much, but he was one of these
very intellectual guys-- he had the highest I.Q. of any boy at Whooton--and I thought he
might want to have dinner with me somewhere and have a slightly intellectual
conversation. He was very enlightening sometimes. So I gave him a buzz. He went to
Columbia now, but he lived on 65th Street and all, and I knew he'd be home. When I got
him on the phone, he said he couldn't make it for dinner but that he'd meet me for a drink
at ten o'clock at the Wicker Bar, on 54th. I think he was pretty surprised to hear from me.
I once called him a fat-assed phony.
I had quite a bit of time to kill till ten o'clock, so what I did, I went to the movies
at Radio City. It was probably the worst thing I could've done, but it was near, and I
couldn't think of anything else.
I came in when the goddam stage show was on. The Rockettes were kicking their
heads off, the way they do when they're all in line with their arms around each other's
waist. The audience applauded like mad, and some guy behind me kept saying to his
wife, "You know what that is? That's precision." He killed me. Then, after the Rockettes,
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enjoy it much because I kept picturing him practicing to be a guy that roller-skates on the
stage. It seemed so stupid. I guess I just wasn't in the right mood. Then, after him, they
had this Christmas thing they have at Radio City every year. All these angels start coming
and the whole bunch of them--thousands of them--singing "Come All Ye Faithful!" like
mad. Big deal. It'
can't see anything religious or pretty, for God's sake, about a bunch of actors carrying
crucifixes all over the stage. When they were all finished and started going out the boxes
again, you could tell they could hardly wait to get a cigarette or something. I saw it with
and all. I said old Jesus probably would've puked if He could see it--all those fancy
costumes and all. Sally said I was a sacrilegious atheist. I probably am. The thing Jesus
really would've liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra. I've
with our parents and all, we used to move our seats and go way down so we could watch
him. He's the best drummer I ever saw. He only gets a chance to bang them a couple of
times during a whole piece, but he never looks bored when he isn't doing it. Then when
he does bang them
One time when we went to Washington with my father, Allie sent him a postcard, but I'll
bet he never got it. We weren't too sure how to address it.
After the Christmas thing was over, the goddam picture started. It was so putrid I
couldn't take my eyes off it. It was about this English guy, Alec something, that was in
the war and loses his memory in the hospital and all. He comes out of the hospital
carrying a cane and limping all over the place, all over London, not knowing who the hell
he is. He's really a duke, but he doesn't know it. Then he meets this nice, homey, sincere
girl getting on a bus. Her goddam hat blows off and he catches it, and then they go
upstairs and sit down and start talking about Charles Dickens. He's both their favorite
author and all. He's carrying this copy of Oliver Twist and so's she. I could've puked.
Anyway, they fell in love right away, on account of they're both so nuts about Charles
Dickens and all, and he helps her run her publishing business. She's a publisher, the girl.
Only, she's not doing so hot, because her brother's a drunkard and he spends all their
can't operate any more because his nerves are shot, so he boozes all the time, but he's
both make a hatful of dough on it. They're all set to get married when this other girl, old
Marcia, shows up. Marcia was Alec's fiancée before he lost his memory, and she
recognizes him when he's in this store autographing books. She tells old Alec he's really a
duke and all, but he doesn't believe her and doesn't want to go with her to visit his mother
and all. His mother's blind as a bat. But the other girl, the homey one, makes him go.
She's very noble and all. So he goes. But he still doesn't get his memory back, even when
his great Dane jumps all over him and his mother sticks her fingers all over his face and
one day, some kids are playing cricket on the lawn and he gets smacked in the head with
a cricket ball. Then right away he gets his goddam memory back and he goes in and
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kisses his mo
he forgets all about the homey babe that has the publishing business. I'd tell you the rest
of the story, but I might puke if I did. It isn't that I'd spoil it for you or anything. There
getting married, and the brother that's a drunkard gets his nerves back and operates on
because the great Dane comes in with a bunch of puppies. Everybody thought it was a
male, I suppose, or some goddam thing. All I can say is, don't see it if you don't want to
puke all over yourself.
The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through
the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried. You'd have thought she did it
she wouldn't take him. She kept telling him to sit still and behave himself. She was about
as kindhearted as a goddam wolf. You take somebody that cries their goddam eyes out
over phony stuff in the movies, and nine times out of ten they're mean bastards at heart.
I'm not kidding.
After the movie was over, I started walking down to the Wicker Bar, where I was
supposed to m
Those war movies always do that to me. I don't think I could stand it if I had to go to war.
I really couldn't. It wouldn't be too bad if they'd just take you out and shoot you or
something, but you have to stay in the Army so goddam long. That's the whole trouble.
My brother D.B. was in the Army for four goddam years. He was in the war, too--he
landed on D-Day and all--but I really think he hated the Army worse than the war. I was
practically a child at the time, but I remember when he used to come home on furlough
e in the living
room. Later, when he went overseas and was in the war and all, he didn't get wounded or
anything and he didn't have to shoot anybody. All he had to do was drive some cowboy
general around all day in a command car. He once told Allie and I that if he'd had to
shoot anybody, he wouldn't've known which direction to shoot in. He said the Army was
practically as full of bastards as the Nazis were. I remember Allie once asked him wasn't
a lot to
write about and all. He made Allie go get his baseball mitt and then he asked him who
was the best war poet, Rupert Brooke or Emily Dickinson. Allie said Emily Dickinson. I
don't know too much about it myself, because I don't read much poetry, but I do know it'd
drive me crazy if I had to be in the Army and be with a bunch of guys like Ackley and
Stradlater and old Maurice all the time, marching with them and all. I was in the Boy
Scouts once, for about a week, and I couldn't even stand looking at the back of the guy's
neck in front of me. They kept telling you to look at the back of the guy's neck in front of
you. I swear if there's ever another war, they better just take me out and stick me in front
of a firing squad. I wouldn't object. What gets me about D.B., though, he hated the war so
much, and yet he got me to read this book A Farewell to Arms last summer. He said it
was so terrific. That's what I can't understand. It had this guy in it named Lieutenant
Henry that was supposed to be a nice guy and all. I don't see how D.B. could hate the
Army and war and all so much and still like a phony like that. I mean, for instance, I don't
that other one he's so crazy about, The Great Gatsby. D.B. got sore when I said that, and
said I was too young and all to appreciate it, but I don't think so. I told him I liked Ring
Old Gatsby. Old sport. That killed me. Anyway, I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic
bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll
volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.
In case you don't live in New York, the Wicker Bar is in this sort of swanky hotel,
the Seton Hotel. I used to go there quite a lot, but I don't any more. I gradually cut it out.
come out and play the piano and sing about three times every night. One of them played
the piano--strictly lousy--and the other one sang, and most of the songs were either pretty
microphone before she sang. She'd say, "And now we like to geeve you our impression of
Vooly Voo Fransay. Eet ees the story of a leetle Fransh girl who comes to a beeg ceety,
just like New York, and falls een love wees a leetle boy from Brookleen. We hope you
d sing some
too. He was a big snob. He didn't talk to you at all hardly unless you were a big shot or a
celebrity or something. If you were a big shot or a celebrity or something, then he was
even more nauseating. He'd go up to you and say, with this big charming smile, like he
was a helluva swell guy if you knew him, "Well! How's Connecticut?" or "How's
Florida?" It was a terrible place, I'm not kidding. I cut out going there entirely, gradually.
ordered them so they could see how tall I was and all and not think I was a goddam
minor. Then I watched the phonies for a while. Some guy next to me was snowing hell
me. The other end of the bar was full of flits. They weren't too flitty-looking--I mean they
didn't have their hair too long or anything--but you could tell they were flits anyway.
Finally old Luce showed up.
Old Luce. What a guy. He was supposed to be my Student Adviser when I was at
night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about sex,
around having affairs with sheep, and guys that go around with girls' pants sewed in the
lining of their hats and all. And flits and Lesbians. Old Luce knew who every flit and
Lesbian in the United States was. All you had to do was mention somebody--anybody--
and old Luce'd tell you if he was a flit or not. Sometimes it was hard to believe, the
people he said were flits and Lesbians and all, movie actors and like that. Some of the
ones he said were flits were even married, for God's sake. You'd keep saying to him,
"You mean Joe Blow's a flit? Joe Blow? That big, tough guy that plays gangsters and
cowboys all the time?" Old Luce'd say, "Certainly." He was always saying "Certainly."
He said it didn't matter if a guy was married or not. He said half the married guys in the
world were flits and didn't even know it. He said you could turn into one practically
waiting to turn into a flit or something. The funny thing about old Luce, I used to think he
was sort of flitty himself, in a way. He was always saying, "Try this for size," and then
went to the can, he always left the goddam door open and talked to you while you were
brushing your teeth or something. That stuff's sort of flitty. It really is. I've known quite a
few real flits, at schools and all, and they're always doing stuff like that, and that's why I
always had my
He never said hello or anything when he met you. The first thing he said when he
sat down was that he could only stay a couple of minutes. He said he had a date. Then he
ordered a dry Martini. He told the bartender to make it very dry, and no olive.
"Hey, I got a flit for you," I told him. "At the end of the bar. Don't look now. I
been saving him for ya."
"Very funny," he said. "Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?"
I bored him a lot. I really did. He amused me, though. He was one of those guys
that sort of amuse me a lot.
"How's your sex life?" I asked him. He hated you to ask him stuff like that.
"Relax," he said. "Just sit back and relax, for Chrissake."
"I'm relaxed," I said. "How's Columbia? Ya like it?"
"Certainly I like it. If I didn't like it I wouldn't have gone there," he said. He could
be pretty boring himself sometimes.
"What're you majoring in?" I asked him. "Perverts?" I was only horsing around.
"What're you trying to be--funny?"
"No. I'm only kidding," I said. "Listen, hey, Luce. You're one of these intellectual
guys. I need your advice. I'm in a terrific--"
He let out this big groan on me. "Listen, Caulfield. If you want to sit here and
have a quiet, peaceful drink and a quiet, peaceful conver--"
"All right, all right," I said. "Relax." You could tell he didn't feel like discussing
anything serious with me. That's the trouble with these intellectual guys. They never want
topics in general with him. "No kidding, how's your sex life?" I asked him. "You still
going around with that same babe you used to at Whooton? The one with the terrffic--"
"Good God, no," he said.
"How come? What happened to her?"
"I haven't the faintest idea. For all I know, since you ask, she's probably the
Whore of New Hampshire by this time."
you at least shouldn't talk about her that way."
want to know right now."
"No," I said, "but it isn't nice anyway. If she was decent and nice enough to let
"Must we pursue this horrible trend of thought?"
I didn't say anything. I was sort of afraid he'd get up and leave on me if I didn't
"Who're you going around with now?" I asked him. "You feel like telling me?"
"Nobody you know."
"Yeah, but who? I might know her."
"Girl lives in the Village. Sculptress. If you must know."
"Yeah? No kidding? How old is she?"
"I've never asked her, for God's sake."
"Well, around how old?"
"I should imagine she's in her late thirties," old Luce said.
"In her late thirties? Yeah? You like that?" I asked him. "You like 'em that old?"
one of the few guys I knew that did. He lost his virginity when he was only fourteen, in
Nantucket. He really did.
"I like a mature person, if that's what you mean. Certainly."
"You do? Why? No kidding, they better for sex and all?"
"Listen. Let's get one thing straight. I refuse to answer any typical Caulfield
questions tonight. When in hell are you going to grow up?"
another Martini and told the bartender to make it a lot dryer.
"Listen. How long you been going around with her, this sculpture babe?" I asked
him. I was really interested. "Did you know her when you were at Whooton?"
"Hardly. She just arrived in this country a few months ago."
"She did? Where's she from?"
"She happens to be from Shanghai."
"No kidding! She Chinese, for Chrissake?"
"No kidding! Do you like that? Her being Chinese?"
"Why? I'd be interested to know--I really would."
"I simply happen to find Eastern philosophy more satisfactory than Western.
Since you ask."
"You do? Wuddaya mean 'philosophy'? Ya mean sex and all? You mean it's better
in China? That what you mean?"
"Not necessarily in China, for God's sake. The East I said. Must we go on with
this inane conversation?"
"Listen, I'm serious," I said. "No kidding. Why's it better in the East?"
"It's too involved to go into, for God's sake," old Luce said. "They simply happen
and all. I really do. But it depends on who the hell I'm doing it with. If I'm doing it with
somebody I don't even--"
"Not so loud, for God's sake, Caulfield. If you can't manage to keep your voice
down, let's drop the whole--"
loud. Sometimes I talk a little loud when I get excited. "This is what I mean, though," I
said. "I know it'
mean is, you can't do it with everybody--every girl you neck with and all--and make it
come out that way. Can you?"
"Let's drop it," old Luce said. "Do you mind?"
"All right, but listen. Take you and this Chinese babe. What's so good about you
"Drop it, I said."
things about Luce. When we were at Whooton, he'd make you describe the most personal
stuff that happened to you, but if you started asking him questions about himself, he got
sore. These intellectual guys don't like to have an intellectual conversation with you
up, and go back to your room when they go back to their room. When I was at Whooton
his sex talk to a bunch of us in his room we stuck around and chewed the fat by ourselves
for a while. I mean the other guys and myself. In somebody else's room. Old Luce hated
that. He always wanted everybody to go back to their own room and shut up when he was
something smarter than he had. He really amused me.
"Maybe I'll go to China. My sex life is lousy," I said.
"Naturally. Your mind is immature."
e is? I can
never get really sexy--I mean really sexy--with a girl I don't like a lot. I mean I have to
like her a lot. If I don't, I sort of lose my goddam desire for her and all. Boy, it really
screws up my sex life something awful. My sex life stinks."
"Naturally it does, for God's sake. I told you the last time I saw you what you
"You mean to go to a psychoanalyst and all?" I said. That's what he'd told me I
ought to do. His father was a psychoanalyst and all.
"It's up to you, for God's sake. It's none of my goddam business what you do with
I didn't say anything for a while. I was thinking.
"Supposing I went to your father and had him psychoanalyze me and all," I said.
"What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?"
"He wouldn't do a goddam thing to you. He'd simply talk to you, and you'd talk to
him, for God's sake. For one thing, he'd help you to recognize the patterns of your mind."
"The patterns of your mind. Your mind runs in-- Listen. I'm not giving an
elementary course in psychoanalysis. If you're interested, call him up and make an
appointment. If you're not, don't. I couldn't care less, frankly."
I put my hand on his shoulder. Boy, he amused me. "You're a real friendly
bastard," I told him. "You know that?"
He was looking at his wrist watch. "I have to tear," he said, and stood up. "Nice
seeing you." He got the bartender and told him to bring him his check.
"Me? Why do you ask?"
"No reason. Did he, though? Has he?"
"Not exactly. He's helped me to adjust myself to a certain extent, but an extensive
analysis hasn't been necessary. Why do you ask?"
"No reason. I was just wondering."
"Have just one more drink," I told him. "Please. I'm lonesome as hell. No
He said he couldn't do it, though. He said he was late now, and then he left.
vocabulary. He had the largest vocabulary of any boy at Whooton when I was there. They
gave us a test.
and do their stuff, but they weren't there. A flitty-looking guy with wavy hair came out
and played the piano, and then this new babe, Valencia, came out and sang. She wasn't
standing practically right next to me. I sort of gave her the old eye, but she pretended she
didn't even see me. I probably wouldn't have done it, but I was getting drunk as hell.
When she was finished, she beat it out of the room so fast I didn't even get a chance to
invite her to join me for a drink, so I called the headwaiter over. I told him to ask old
Valencia if she'd care to join me for a drink. He said he would, but he probably didn't
even give her my message. People never give your message to anybody.
Boy, I sat at that goddam bar till around one o'clock or so, getting drunk as a
to get boisterous or anything. I didn't want anybody to notice me or anything or ask how
old I was. But, boy, I could hardly see straight. When I was really drunk, I started that
stupid business with the bullet in my guts again. I was the only guy at the bar with a
bullet in their guts. I kept putting my hand under my jacket, on my stomach and all, to
keep the blood from dripping all over the place. I didn't want anybody to know I was
I felt like, I felt like giving old Jane a buzz and see if she was home yet. So I paid my
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