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7. I’m Crazy                        
(Colliers, December, 1945)


   It was about eight o'clock at night, and dark, and raining, and freezing, and the wind was noisy the way it is in spooky movies on the night the old slob with the will gets murdered.  I stood by the cannon on the top of Thomsen Hill, freezing to death, watching the big south windows of the gym--shining big and bright and dumb, like the windows of a gymnasium, and nothing else (but maybe you never went to a boarding school).
   I just had on my reversible and no gloves.  Somebody had swiped my camel's hair the week before, and my gloves were in the pocket.  Boy, I was cold.  Only a crazy guy would have stood there.  That's me.  Crazy.  No kidding, I have a screw loose.  But I had to stand there to feel the goodbye to the youngness of the  lace, as though I were an old man.  The whole school was down below in the gym for the basketball game with the Saxon Charter slobs, and I was standing there to feel the goodbye.
   I stood there--boy, I was freezing to death--and I kept saying goodbye to myself.  "Goodbye, Caulfield.  Goodbye, you slob.""  I kept seeing myself throwing a football around, with Buhler and Jackson, just before it got dark on the September evenings, and I knew I'd never throw a football around ever again with the same guys at the same time.  It was as though Buhler and Jackson and I had done something that had died and been buried, and only I knew about it, and no one was at the funeral but me.  So I stood there, freezing.
   The game with the Saxon Charter slobs was in the second half, and you could hear everybody yelling:  deep and terrific on the Pentey side of the gym, and scrawny and faggoty on the Saxon Charter side, because the Saxon bunch never brought more than the team with them and a few substitutes and managers.  You could tell all right when Schutz or Kinsella or Tuttle had sunk one on the slobs, because then the Pentey side of the gym went crazy.  But I only half cared who was winning.  I was freezing and I was only there anyway to feel the goodbye, to be at the funeral of me and Buhler and Jackson throwing a football around in the September evenings--and finally on one of the cheers I felt the goodbye like a real knife.  I was strictly at the funeral.
   So all of a sudden, after it happened, I started running down Thomsen Hill, with my suitcases banging the devil out of my legs.  I ran all the way down to the Gate;  then I stopped and got my breath; then I ran across Route 202--it was icy and I fell and nearly broke my knee--and then I disappeared into Hessey Avenue.  Disappeared.  You disappeared every time you crossed a street that night.  No kidding.
   When I got to old Spencer's house--that's where I was going--I put down my bags on the porch, rang the bell hard and fast and put my hands on my ears--boy, they hurt.  I started talking to the door.  "C'mon, c'mon!" I said.  "Open up.  I'm freezing."  Finally Mrs. Spencer came.
   "Holden!" she said.  "Come in, dear!"  She was a nice woman.  Her hot chocolate on Sundays was strictly lousy, but you never minded.
   I got inside the house fast.
   "Are you frozen to death?  You must be soaking wet," Mrs. Spencer said.  She wasn't the kind of woman that you could just be a little wet around:  you were either real dry or soaking.  But she didn't ask me what I was doing out of bounds, so I figured old Spencer had told her what happened.
   I put down my bags in the hall and took off my hat--boy, I could hardly work my fingers enough to grab my hat.  I said, "How are you, Mrs. Spencer?  How's Mr. Spencer's grippe?  He over it okay?"
   "Over it!" Mrs. Spencer said.  "Let me take your coat, dear.  Holden he's behaving like a perfect I-don't-know-what.  Go right in, dear.  He's in his room."
   Old Spencer had his own room next to the kitchen.  He was about sixty years old, maybe even older, but he got a kick out of things in a half-shot way.  If you though about old Spencer you wondered what he was living for, everything about over for him and all.  But if you though about him that way, you were thinking about him the wrong way:  you were thinking too much.  If you thought about him just enough, not too much, you knew he was doing all right for himself.  In a half-shot was he enjoyed almost everything all the time.  I enjoy thing terrifically, but just once in a while.  Sometimes it makes you think maybe old people get a better deal.  But I wouldn't trade places.  I wouldn't want to enjoy almost everything all the time if it had to be in just a half-shot way. 
   Old Spencer was sitting in the big easy chair in his bedroom, all wrapped up in the Navajo blanket he and Mrs. Spencer bought in Yellowstone Park about eighty years ago.  They probably got a big bang out of buying it off the Indians.
   "Come in, Caulfield!" old Spencer yelled at me.  "Come in, boy!"
   I went in.

There was an opened copy of the Atlantic Monthly face down on his lap, and pills all over the place and bottles and a hot-water bottle.  I hate seeing a hot-water bottle, especially an old guy's.  That isn't nice, but that's the way I feel. . . . Old Spencer certainly looked beat out.  He certainly didn't look like a guy who ever behaved like a perfect I-don't-know-what.  Probably Mrs. Spencer just like to think he was acting that way, as if she wanted to think maybe the old guy was still full of beans.
   "I got your note, sir," I told him.  "I would have come over anyway before I left.  How's your grippe?"
   "If I felt any better, boy, I'd have to send for the doctor,," old Spencer said.  That really knocked him out.  "Sit down, boy," he said, still laughing.  "Why in the name of Jupiter aren't you down at the game?"
   I sat down on the edge of the bed.  It sort of looked like an old guy's bed.  I said, "Well, I was at the game a while, sir.  But I'm going home tonight instead of tomorrow.  Dr. Thurmer said I could go tonight if I really wanted to.  So I'm going."
   "Well, you certainly picked a honey of a night," old Spencer said.  He really thought that over.  "Going home tonight, eh?" he said.
   "Yes, sir," I said.
   He said to me, "What did Dr. Thurmer say to you, boy?"
   "Well, he was pretty nice in his way, sir," I said.  "He said about life being a game.  You know.  How you should play it by the rules and all.  Stuff like that.  He wished me a lot of luck.  In the future and all.  That kind of stuff."
   I guess Thurmer really was pretty nice to me in his slobby way, so I told old Spencer a few other things Thurmer had said to me.  About applying myself in life if I wanted to get ahead and all.  I even made up some stuff, old Spencer was listening so hard and nodding all the while.
   Then old Spencer asked me,  "Have you  communicated with your parents yet?"
   "No, sir," I said.  "I haven't communicated with them because I'll see them tonight."
   Old Spencer nodded again.  He asked me, "How will they take the news?"
   "Well," I said, "they hate this kind of stuff.  This is the third school I've been kicked out of.  Boy!  No kidding," I told him.
   Old Spencer didn't nod this time.  I was bothering him, poor guy.  He suddenly lifted the Atlantic Monthly off his lap, as though it had got too heavy for him, and chucked it towards the bed.  He missed.  I got up and picked it up and laid it on the bed.  All of  a sudden I wanted to get the heck out of there.
   Old Spencer said, "What's the matter with you, boy?  How many subjects did you carry this term?"
   "Four," I said.
   "And how many did you flunk?" he said.
   "Four," I said.
   Old Spencer started staring at the spot on the rug where the Atlantic Monthly had fallen when he tried to chuck it on the bed.  He said, "I flunked you in history because you knew absolutely nothing.  You were never once prepared, either for examinations or for daily recitations.  Not once.  I doubt if you opened your textbook once during the term; did you?"
   I told him I'd glanced through it a couple of times, so's not to hurt his feelings.  He thought history was really hot.  It was all right with me if he thought I was a real dumb guy, but I didn't want him to think I'd given his book the freeze.
   "Your exam paper is on my chiffonier over there," he said.  "Bring it over here."
   I went over and got it and handed it to him and sat down on the edge of the bed again.
   Old Spencer handled my exam paper as though it were something catching that he had to handle for the good of science or something, like Pasteur or one of those guys.
   He said.  "We studied the Egyptians from November 3d to December 4th.  You chose to write about them for the essay question, from a selection of twenty-five topics.  This is what you had to say:
   "' The Egyptians were an ancient race of people living in one of the northernmost sections of North Africa, which is one of the largest continents in the Eastern Hemisphere as we all know.  The Egyptians are also interesting to us today for numerous reasons.  Also, you read about them frequently in the Bible.  The Bible is full of amusing anecdotes about the old Pharaohs.  They were all Egyptians as we all know.'"
   Old Spencer looked up at me.  "New paragraph," he  said.  "'What is most interesting about the Egyptians was their habits.  The Egyptians had many interesting ways of doing things.  Their religion was also very interesting.  They buried their dead in tombs in a very interesting way.  The dead Pharaohs had their faces wrapped up in specially treated cloths to prevent their features from rotting.  Even to this day physicians don't know what that chemical formula was, thus all our faces rot when we are dead for a certain length of time.'"  Old Spencer looked over the paper at me again.  I stopped looking at him.  If he was going to look up at me every time he hit the end of a paragraph, I wasn't going to look at him.
   "Do  you blame me for flunking you, boy?" old Spencer asked me.  "What would you have done in my place?"
   "The same thing," I said.  "Down with the morons."  But I wasn't giving it much thought at the minute.  I was sort of wondering if the lagoon in Central Park would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was frozen over would everybody be ice skating when you looked out the window in the morning, and where did the ducks go, what happened to the ducks when the lagoon was frozen over.  But I couldn't have told all that to old Spencer.
   He asked me, "How do you feel about all this, boy?"
   "You mean my flunking out and all, sir?" I said.
   "Yes," he said.
   Well, I tried to give it some thought because he was a nice guy and because he kept missing the bed all the time when he shucked something at it.
   "Well, I'm sorry I'm flunking out, for lots of reasons," I said.  I knew I could never really get it over to him.  Not about standing on Thomsen Hill and thinking about Buhler and Jackson and me.  "Some of the reasons would be hard to explain right off, sir," I told him.  "But tonight, for instance, "I said.  "Tonight I had to pack my bags and put my ski boots in them.  The ski boots made me sorry I'm leaving.  I could see my mother chasing around stores, asking the salesmen a million dumb questions.  Then she bought me the wrong kind anyway.  Boy, she's nice, though.  No kidding.  That's mostly why I'm sorry I'm flunking out.  On account of my mother and the wrong ski boots."  That's all I said.  I had to quit.


   Old Spencer was nodding the whole time, as though he understood it all, but you couldn't tell whether he was nodding because he was going to understand anything I might tell him, or if he was only nodding because he was just a nice old guy with the grippe and a screwball on his hands.
   "You'll miss the school, boy," he said to me.
   He was a nice guy.  No kidding.  I tried to tell him some more.  I said, "Not exactly, sir.  I'll miss some stuff.  I'll miss going and coming to Pentey on the train; going back to the dining car and ordering a chicken sandwich and a Coke, and reading five new magazines with all the pages slick and new.  And I'll miss the Pentey stickers on my bag.  Once a lady saw them and asked me if I knew Andrew Warbach.  She was Warbach's mother, and you know Warbach, sir.  Strictly a louse.  He's the kind of a guy, when you were a little kid, that twisted your wrist to get the marbles out of your hand.  But his mother was all right.  She should have been in a nut house, like most mothers, but she loved Warbach.  You could see in her nutty eyes that she thought he was hot stuff.  So I spent nearly an hour on the train telling her what a hot shot Warbach is at school, how none of the guys ever make a move and all without going to Warbach first.  It knocked Mrs. Warbach out.  She nearly rolled in the aisle.  She probably half knew he was a louse in her heart, but I changed her mind.  I like mothers.  They give me a terrific kick."
   I stopped.  Old Spencer wasn't following.  Maybe he was a little bit, but not enough to make me want to get into it deep.  Anyway, I wasn't saying much that I wanted to say.  I never do.  I'm crazy.  No kidding.
   Old Spencer said:  "Do you plan to go to college, boy?"
   "I have no plans, sir," I said.  "I live from one day to the next."  It sounded phony, but I was beginning to feel phony.  I was sitting there on the edge of that bed too long.  I got up suddenly.
   "I guess I better go, sir,," I said.  "I have to catch a train.  You've been swell.  No kidding."
   Well, Old Spencer asked me if I didn't want a cup of hot chocolate before I left, but I said no thanks.  I shook hands with him.  He was sweating pretty much.  I told him I'd write him a letter sometime, that he shouldn't worry about me, that he oughtn't to let me get him down.  I told him that I knew I was crazy.  He asked me if I were sure I didn't want any hot chocolate, that it wouldn't take long.
   "No," I said, "goodbye, sir.  Take it easy with your grippe now."
   "Yes," he said, shaking hands with me again.  "Goodbye, boy."
   He called something after me while I was leaving, but I couldn't hear him.  I think it was good luck.  I really felt sorry for him.  I knew what he was thinking:  how young I was, how I didn't know anything about the world and all, what happened to guys like me and all.  I probably got him down for a while after I left, but I'll bet later on he talked me over with Mrs. Spencer and felt better, and he probably had Mrs. Spencer hand him his Atlantic Monthly before she left the room.
   It was after one that night when I got home, because I shot the bull for around a half hour with Pete, the elevator boy.  He was telling me all about his brother-in-law.  His brother-in-law is a cop, and he shot a guy; he didn't need to, but he did it to be a big shot, and now Pete's sister didn't like to be around Pete's brother-in-law any more.  It was tough.  I didn't feel so sorry for Pete's sister, but I felt sorry for Pete's brother-in-law, the poor slob.

   Jeannette, our colored maid, let me in.  I lost my key somewhere.  She was wearing one of those aluminum jobs in her hair, guaranteed to remove the kink.
   "What choo doin' home, boy?" she said.  "What choo doin' home, boy?"  She says everything twice.
   I was pretty sick and tired of people calling me "boy," so I just said, "Where are the folks?"
   "They playin' bridge," she said.  "They playin' bridge.  What choo doin' home, boy?"
   "I cam home for the race," I said.
   "What race?" the doe said.
   "The human race.  Ha, ha, ha," I said.  I dropped my bags and coat in the hall and got away from her.  I shoved my hat on the back of my head, feeling pretty good for a change, and walked down the hall and opened Phoebe and Viola's door.  It was pretty dark, even with the door open,,, and I nearly broke my neck getting over to Phoebe's bed.
   I sat down on her bed.  She was asleep, all right.
   "Phoebe," I said.  "Hey, Phoebe!"
   She waked up pretty easily.
   "Holden!" she said anxiously.  "What are you doing home?  What's the matter?  What happened?"
   "Aah, the same old stuff," I said.  "What's new?"
   "Holdie, what  are you doing home?" she said.  She's only ten, but when she wants an answer she wants an answer.
   "What's the matter with your arm?" I asked her.  I noticed a hunk of adhesive tape on her arm.
   "I banged it on the wardrobe doors," she said.  "Miss Keefe made me Monitor of the Wardrobe.  I'm in charge of everybody's garments."  But she got right back to it again.  "Holdie," she said, "what are you doing home?"
   She sounds like a goody-good, but it was only when it came to me.  That's because she likes me.  She's no goody-good, though.  Phoebe's strictly one of us, for a kid.
   "I'll be back in a minute," I told her, and I went back in the living room and got some cigarettes out of one of the boxes, put them in my pocket; then I went back.  Phoebe was sitting up straight, looking fine.  I sat down on her bed again..
   "I got kicked out again," I told her.
   "Holden!" she said,  "Daddy'll kill you."
   "I couldn't help it, Phoeb," I said.  "They kept shoving stuff at me, exams and all, and study periods, and everything was compulsory all the time.  I was going crazy.  I just didn't like it."
   "But, Holden," Phoebe said, "you don't like anything."  She really looked worried.
   "Yes, I do.  Yes, I do.  Don't say that, Phoeb," I said.  "I like a heck of a lot of stuff."
   Phoebe said, "What?  Name one thing."
   "I don't know.  Gosh, I don't know," I told her.  "I can't think any more today.  I like girls I haven't met yet; girls that you can just see the backs of their heads, a few seats ahead of you on the train.   I like a million things.  I like sitting here with you.  No kidding, Phoeb.  I like just sitting her with you."
   "Go to bed, Viola," Phoebe said.  Viola was up.  "She squeezes right out through the bars," Phoebe told me.
   I picked up Viola and sat her on my lap.  A crazy kid if ever there was one, but strictly one of  us.
   "Holdie," Viola said, "make Jeannette give me Donald Duck."
   "Viola insulted Jeannette, and Jeannette took away her Donald Duck," Phoebe said.
   "Her breath is always all the time bad," Viola told me.
   "Her breath," Phoebe said.  "She told Jeannette her breath was bad.  When Jeannette was putting on her leggings."
   "Jeannette breathes on me all the time," Viola said, standing on me.
   I asked Viola if she had missed me, but she looked as though she weren't sure whether or not I'd been away. 
   "Go on back to bed no, Viola," Phoebe said.  "She squeezes right out through the bars."
   "Jeannette breathes on me all the time and she took away Donald Duck," Viola told me again.
   "Holden'll get it back," Phoebe  told her.  Phoebe wasn't like other kids.  She didn't take sides with the maid.

   I got up and carried Viola back to her crib and put her in it.  She asked me to bring her something, but I couldn't understand her.
   "Ovvels," Phoebe said.  "Olives.  She's crazy about olives now.  She wants to eat olives all the time.  She rang the elevator bell when Jeannette was out this afternoon and had Pete open up a can of olives for her."
   "Ovvels," Viola said.  "Bring ovvels, Holdie."
   "Okay," I said.
   "With the red in them," Viola said.
   I told her okay, and said to go to sleep.  I tucked her in, then I started to go back where Phoebe was, only I stopped so short it almost hurt.  I heard them come in.
   "That's them!" Phoebe whispered.  "I can hear Daddy!"
   I nodded, and walked toward the door.  I took off my hat.
   "Holdie!" Phoebe whispered at me.  "Tell 'em how sorry you are.  All that stuff. and how you'll do better next time!"
   I just nodded.
   "Come back!" Phoebe said.   "I'll stay awake!"
   I went out and shut the door.  I wished I had hung up my coat and put away my bags.  I knew they'd tell me how much the coat cost and how people tripped over bags and broke their necks.
   When they were all done with me I sent back to the kids' room.  Phoebe was asleep, and I watched her a while.  Nice kid.  Then I went over to Viola's crib.  I lifted her blanket and put her Donald Duck in there with her; then I took some olives I had in my left hand and laid them on by one in a row along the railing of her crib.  One of them fell on the floor.  I picked it up, felt dust on it, and put it in my jacket pocket.  Then I left the room.
   I went into my own room, turned the radio on, but it was broken.  So I went to bed.
   I lay awake for a pretty long time, feeling lousy.  I knew everybody was right and I was wrong.  I knew that I wasn't going to one of  those successful guys, that I was never going to be like Edward Gonzales or Theodore Fisher or Lawrence Meyer.  I knew that this time when Father said that I was going to work in that man's office that he meant it, that I wasn't going back to school again ever, that I wouldn't like working in an office.  I started wondering again where the ducks in Central Park went when the lagoon was frozen over, and finally I went to sleep.
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8. Last Day of The Last Furlough            
(Saturday Evening Post, July, 1944)


              Technical Sergeant John F. Gladwaller, Jr., ASN 32325200, had on a pair of gray-flannel slacks, a white shirt with the collar open, Argyle socks, brown brogues and a dark brown hat with a black band.  He had his feet up on his desk, a pack of cigarettes within reach, and any minute his mother was coming in with a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk.
   Books were all over the floor--opened books, closed books, best sellers, worst sellers, classic books, dated books, Christmas-present books, library books, borrowed books.
   At the moment, the sergeant was at the studio of Mihailov, the painter, with Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky.  A few minutes ago he had stood with Father Zossima and Alyosha Karamazov on the portico below the monastery.  An hour ago he had crossed the great sad lawns belonging to Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz.  Now the sergeant tried to go through Mihailov's studio quickly, to make time to stop at the corner of Fifth and 46th Street.  He and a big cop named Ben Collins were expecting a girl named Edith Dole to drive by. . . . There were so many people the sergeant wanted to see again, so many places worth ----
   "Here we are!" said his mother, coming in with the cake and milk.
   Too late, he thought.  Time's up.  Maybe I can take them with me.  Sir, I've brought my books.  I won't shoot anybody just yet.  You fellas go ahead.  I'll wait here with the books.
   "Oh, thanks, mother," he said, coming out of Mihailov's studio.  "That looks swell."
   His mother set down the tray on his desk.  "The milk is ice cold," she said, giving it a build-up, which always amused him.  Then she sat down on the foot-stool by his chair, watching her son's face, watching his thin, familiar hand pick up the fork--watching, watching, loving.
   He took a bite of the cake and washed it down with milk.  It was ice cold.  Not bad.  "Not bad," he commented.
   "It's been on the ice since this morning," his mother said, happy with the negative compliment.  "Dear, what time is the Corfield boy coming?"
   "Caulfield.  He's not a boy, mother.  He's twenty-nine.  I'm going to meet the six-o'clock train.  Do we have any gas?"
   "No, don't believe so, but your father said to tell you that the coupons are in the compartment.  There's enough for six gallons of gas, he said."  Mrs. Gladwaller suddenly discovered the condition of the floor.  "Babe, you will pick up those books before you go out, won't you?"
   "M'm'm," said Babe unenthusiastically, with a mouthful of cake.  He swallowed it and took another drink of milk--boy, it was cold.  "What time's Mattie get out of school?" he asked.
   "About three o'clock, I think.  Oh, Babe, please call for her!  She'll get such a kick out of it.  In your uniform and all."
   "Can't wear the uniform," Babe said, munching.  "Gonna take the sled."
   "The sled?"
   "Uh-huh."
   "Well, goodness gracious!  A twenty-four-year-old boy."
   Babe stood up, picked up his glass and drank the last of the milk--the stuff was really cold.  Then he side-stepped through his books on the floor, like a halfback in pseudo-slow motion, and went to his window.  He raised it high.
   "Babe, you'll catch your death of cold."
   "Naa."
   He scooped up a handful of snow from the sill and packed it into a ball; it was the right kind for packing, not too dry.
   "You've been so sweet to Mattie," his mother remarked thoughtfully.
   "Good kid," Babe said.
   "What did the Corfield boy do before he was in the Army?"
   "Caulfield.  He directed three radio programs:  I Am Lydia Moore, Quest for Life, and Marcia Steele, M.D."
   "I listen to I Am Lydia Moore all the time," said Mrs. Gladwaller excitedly.  "She's a girl veterinarian."
   "He's a writer too."
   "Oh, a writer!  That's nice for you.  Is he awfully sophisticated?"
   The snowball in his hands was beginning to drip.  Babe tossed it out the window.  "He's a fine guy," he said.  He has a kid brother in the Army who flunked out of a lot of schools.  He talks about him a lot.  Always pretending to pass him off as a nutty kid."
   "Babe, close the window.  Please," Mrs. Gladwaller said.
   Babe closed the window and walked over to his closet.  He opened it casually.  All his suits were hung up, but he couldn't see them because they were enveloped in tar paper.  He wondered if he would ever wear them again.  Vanity, he thought, thy name is Gladwaller.  All the girls on a million busses, on a million streets, at a million noisy parties, who had never seen him in that white coat Doc Weber and Mrs. Weber brought him from Bermuda.  Even Frances had never seen it.  He ought to have a chance to come in some room where she was, wearing that white coat.  He always felt he looked so homely, that his nose was bigger and longer than ever, when he was around her.  But that white coat.  He'd have killed her in that white coat.
   "I had your white coat cleaned and pressed before I put it away," his mother said, as though reading his thoughts--which irritated him slightly.
   He put on his navy-blue sleeveless sweater over his shirt, then his suede windbreaker.  "Where's the sled, mom?" he asked.
   "In  the garage, I suppose," his mother said.
   Babe walked past where she still sat on the footstool , where she still sat watching, loving.  He slapped her gently on the upper arm.  "See ya later.  Stay sober," he said.
   "Stay sober!"

   Late in October you could window-write, and now, before November was through, Valdosta, New York, was white--tun-too-the-window white, take-a-deep-breath white, throw-your-books-in-the-hall-and-get-out-in-it white.  But even so, when the school bell rang at three o'clock these afternoons the passionate few--all girls--stayed behind to hear adorable Miss Galtzer read another chapter of Wuthering Heights.  So Babe sat on the sled, waiting.  It was nearly three-thirty.  C'mon out, Mattie, he thought.  I don't have much time.
   Abruptly, the big exit door swung open and about twelve or fourteen little girls pushed and shoved their way into the open air, chattering, yelling.  Babe thought they hardly looked like an intellectual bunch.  Maybe they didn't like Wuthering Heights.  Maybe they were just bucking for rank, polishing apples.  Not Mattie though.   I'll bet she's nuts about it, Babe thought.  I'll bet she wants Cathy to marry Heathcliff instead of Linton.
   Then he saw Mattie, and she saw him at the same instant.  When she saw him, her face lit up like nothing he ever saw before, and it was worth fifty wars.  She ran over to him crazily in the knee-deep, virgin snow.
   "Babe!" she said.  "Gee!"
   "Hiya, Mat.  Hiya, kid," Babe said low and easy.  "I thought maybe you'd like to go for a ride."
   "Gee!"
   "How was the book?" Babe asked.
   "Good!  Did you read it?"
   "Yep."
   "I want Cathy to marry Heathcliff.  Not that other droop, Linton.  He gives me a royal pain," Mattie said.  "Gee!  I didn't know you were coming!  Did mamma tell you what time I got out?"
   "Yes.  Get on the sled and I'll give ya a ride."
   "No.  I'll walk with you."
   Babe bent down and picked up the drag rope of the sled; then he walked through the snow toward the street, with Mattie beside him.  The other kids, the rest of the Wuthering Heights crowd, stared.  Babe thought, This is for me.  I'm happier than I've ever been in my life.  This is better than my books, this is better than Frances, this is better and bigger than myself.  All right.  Shoot me, all you sneaking Jap snipers that I've seen in the newsreels.  Who cares?
   They were in the street now.  Babe took up the slack of the drag rope, attached it out of the way and straddled his sled.
   "I'll get on first," he said.  He got into position.  "Okay.  Get on my back, Mat."
   "Not down Spring Street," Mattie said nervously.  "Not down Spring Street, Babe."  If you went down spring Street you coasted right into Locust, and Locust was all full of cars and trucks.
   Only the big, tough, dirty-words boys coasted down Spring.  Bobby Earhardt was killed doing it last year, and his father picked him up and Mrs. Earhardt was crying and everything.
   Babe aimed the nose of the sled down Spring and got ready.  "Get on my back," he instructed Mattie again.
   "Not down Spring.  I can't go down Spring, Babe.  How 'bout Randolph Avenue?  Randolph is swell!"
   "It's all right.  I wouldn't kid you, Mattie.  It's all right with me."
   Mattie suddenly got on his back, pushing her books under her stomach.
   "Ready?" said Babe.
   She couldn't answer him.
   "You're shaking," Babe said, finally aware.
   "No."
   "Yes!  You're shaking.  You don't have to go, Mattie."
   "No, I'm not. Honest."
   "Yes," said Babe.  "You are.  You can get up.  It's all right.  Get up, Mat."
   "I'm okay!" Mattie said. "Honest I am, Babe.  Honest!  Look!"
   "No.  Get up, honey."
   Mattie got up.
Babe stood up, too, and banged the snow free from the runners of the sled.
"I'll go down Spring with you, Babe.  Honest.  I'll go down Spring with you," Mattie said anxiously.
"I know that," said her brother.  "I know that."  I'm happier than I ever was, he thought.  "C'mon," he said.  "Randolph is just as good.  Better."  He took her hand.


   When Babe and Mattie got home, the door was opened for them by Corp. Vincent Caulfield in uniform.  He was a pale young man with large ears and a blanched scar on his neck from a boyhood operation.  He had a wonderful smile which he used infrequently.  "How do you do," he said, dead-pan, opening the door.  "If you've come to read the gas meter, you two, you've come to the wrong house.  We don't use gas.  We burn the children for heat.  Always have.  Good day."
   He started to close the door.  Babe put his foot in the doorway, which his guest proceeded to kick violently.
   "Ow! I thought you were coming on the six o'clock!"
   Vincent opened the door.  "Come in," he said.  "There's a woman here who'll give you both a piece of leaden cake."
   "Old Vincent!" Babe said, shaking his hand.
   "Who's this?" asked Vincent, looking at Mattie, who looked slightly frightened.  "It's Matilda," he answered himself.  "Matilda, there's no use in our waiting to get married.  I've loved you ever since that night in Monte Carlo when you put your last diaper on Double-O.  This was can't last----"
   "Mattie," Babe said, grinning, "this is Vincent Caulfield."
   "Hiya," said Mattie, with her mouth open.
   Mrs. Gladwaller stood bewildered by the fireplace.
   "I have a sister just your age," Vincent told Mattie.  "She's not the beauty that you are, but she's probably far brighter."
   "What's her grades?" Mattie demanded.
   "Thirty in arithmetic, twenty in spelling, fifteen in history and zero in geography.   She can't seem to bring her geography grades up with the others," Vincent said.
   Babe was very happy, listening to Vincent with Mattie.  He'd known that Vincent would be nice with her.
   "Those are terrible grades," Mattie said, giggling.
   "All right, you're so smart," said Vincent.  "If A has three apples, and B leaves at three o'clock, how long will it take C to row five thousand miles upstream, bounded on the north by Chile? . . . Don't tell her, sergeant. the child must learn to do things by herself."
   "C'mon upstairs," Babe said, slapping him on the back.  "Hiya, mom!  He said your cake was leaden."
   "He ate two pieces."
   "Where're your bags?" Babe asked his guest.
   "Upstairs, the pretties," said Vincent, Following Babe up the stairs.
   "I understand you're a writer, Vincent!" Mrs. Gladwaller called before they had reached the top.
   Vincent leaned over the banister.  "No, no.  I'm an opera singer, Mrs. Gladwaller.  I've brought all my music with me, you'll be glad to hear."
   "Are you the guy that's in I Am Lydia Moore?" Mattie asked him.
   "I am Lydia Moore.  I've shaved off my mustache."


   "How was New York, Vince?" Babe wanted to know, when they were relaxed in his room and smoking.
   "Why are you in civilian clothes, sergeant?"
   "Been indulging in athletics.  I went sledding with Mattie.  Not kidding.  How was New York?"
   "No more horsecars.  They've taken the horsecars off the streets since I enlisted."  Vincent picked up a book from the floor and examined the cover.  "Books," he said contemptuously.  "I used to read 'em all.  Standish, Alger, Nick Carter.  Book learning never did me no good.  Remember that, young feller."
   "I will.  For the last time, how was Yew York?"
   "No good, sergeant.  My brother Holden is missing.  The letter came while I was home."
   "No, Vincent!" Babe said, taking his feet off the desk.
   "Yes," said Vincent.  He pretended to look through the pages of the book in his hand.  "I used to bump into him at the old Joe College Club on Eighteenth and Third in New York.  A beer joint for college kids and prep-school kids.  I'd go there just looking for him, Christmas and Easter vacations when he was home.  I'd drag my date through the joint, looking for him, and I'd find him way in the back.  The noisiest, tightest kid in the place.  He'd be drinking Scotch and every other kid in the place would be sticking to beer.  I'd say to him, 'Are you okay, you moron?  Do you wanna go home?  Do you need any dough?'  And he'd say, 'Naaa.  Not me.  Not me, Vince.  Hiya boy.  Hiya.  Who's the babe' And I'd leave him there, but I'd worry about him because I remembered all the crazy, lost summertimes when the nut used to leave his trunks in a wet lump at the foot of the staircase instead of putting them on the line.  I used to pick them up because he was me all over again."  Vincent closed the book he was pretending to look through.  With a circuslike flourish he took a nail file from his blouse pocket and started filing his nails.  "Does your father send his guests away from the table if their nails aren't tidy?"
   "Yes."
   "What does he teach?  You told me, but I forgot."
   "Biology. . . . How old was he, Vincent?"
   "Twenty," Vincent said.
   "Nine years younger than you," Babe calculated inanely.  "Do your folks--I mean do your folks know you're going overseas next week?"
   "No," said Vincent." Yours?"
   "No.  I guess I'll have to tell them before the train leaves in the morning.  I don't know how to tell mother.  Her eyes fill up if somebody even mentions the word 'gun.'"
   "Have you had fun, Babe?" Vincent asked seriously.
   "Yes, a lot," Babe answered. . . . "The cigarettes are behind you."
   Vincent reached for them.  "Seen a lot of Frances?" he asked.
   "Yes.  She's wonderful, Vince.  The folks don't like her, but she's wonderful for me."
   "Maybe you should have married her," Vincent said.  Then, sharply,  "He wasn't even twenty, Babe.  Not till next month.  I want to kill so badly I can't sit still.  Isn't that funny?  I'm notoriously yellow.  All my life I've even avoided fist fights, always getting out of them by talking fast.  Now I want to shoot it out with people.  What do you think of that?"
   Babe said nothing for a minute.  Then, "Did you have a good time--I mean till that letter came?"
   "No.  I haven't had a good time since I was twenty-five.  I should have got married when I was twenty-five.  I'm too old to make conversation at bars or neck in taxicabs with new girls."
   "Did you see Helen at all?" Babe asked.
   "No.  I understand she and the gentleman she married are going to have a little stranger."
   "Nice," said Babe dryly.
   Vincent smiled.  "It's good to see you, Babe.  Thanks for asking me.  G.I.'s--especially G.I.'s who are friends--belong together these days.  It's no good being with civilians any more.  They don't know what we know and we're no longer used to what they know.  It doesn't work out so hot."
   Babe nodded and thoughtfully took a drag from his cigarette.
   "I never really knew anything about friendship before I was in the Army.  Did you, Vince?"
   "Not a thing.  It's the best thing there is.  Just about."
   Mrs. Gladwaller's voice shrilled up the stairs and into the room, "Babe!  Your father's home!  Dinner!"
   The two soldiers stood up.

   When the meal was over, Professor  Gladwaller held forth at the dinner table.  He had been in the "last one" and he was acquainting Vincent with some of the trials the men in the "last one" had undergone.  Vincent, the son of an actor, listened with the competent expression of a good player on-stage with the star.  Babe sat back in his seat, staring at the glow of his cigarette, occasionally lifting his cup of coffee.  Mrs. Gladwaller watched Babe, not listening to her husband, searching out her son's face, remembering it when it was round and pink, remembering the summer when it had started to get long and dark and intense.  It was the best face, she thought.  It wasn't handsome like his father's, but it was the best face in the family.  Mattie was under the table, untying Vincent's shoes.  He was holding his feet still, letting her, pretending not to notice.
   "Cockroaches," said Professor Gladwaller impressively.  "Everywhere you looked, cockroaches."
   "Please, Jack," said Mrs. Gladwaller absently.  "At the table."
   "Everywhere you looked," her husband repeated.  "Couldn't get rid of 'em."
   "They must have been a nuisance," Vincent said.
   Annoyed that Vincent had to make a series of perfunctory remarks to humor his father, Babe suddenly said, "Daddy, I don't mean to sound pontifical, but sometimes you talk about the last war--all you fellas do--as though it had been some kind of rugged, sordid game by which society of your day weeded out the men from the boys.  I don't mean to be tiresome, but you men from the last was, you all agree that war is hell, but--I don't know--you all seem to think yourselves a little superior for having been participants in it.  It seems to me that men in Germany who were in the last one probably talked the same way, or thought the same way, and when Hitler provoked this one, the younger generation in Germany were ready to prove themselves as good or better than their fathers."  babe paused, self-consciously.  "I believe in this war.  If I didn't, I would have gone to a conscientious objectors' camp and swung an ax for the duration.  I believe in killing Nazis and Fascists and Japs, because there's no other way that I know of.  But I believe, as I've never believed in anything else before, that it's the moral duty of all the men who have fought and will fight in this war to keep our mouths shut, once it's over, never again to mention it in any way.  It's time we let the dead die in vain.  It's never worked to the other way, God knows."  Babe clenched his left hand under the table.  "But if we come back, if German men come back, if British men come back, and Japs, and French, and all the other men, all of us talking, writing, painting, making movies of heroism and cockroaches and foxholes and blood, then future generations will always be doomed to future Hitlers.  It's never occurred to boys to have contempt for wars, to point to soldiers' pictures in history books, laughing at them.  If  German boys had learned to be contemptuous of  violence, Hitler would have had to take up knitting to keep his ego warm."
   Babe stopped talking, afraid that he had made a terrible fool of himself in front of his father and Vincent.  His father and Vincent made no comment.  Mattie suddenly came up from under the table, wriggled onto her chair, in cahoots with herself.  Vincent moved his feet, looking at her accusingly.  The laces of one shoe were tied to the laces of the other.
   "You think I'm talking through my hat, Vincent?" Babe asked, rather shyly.
   "Nope.  But I think you ask too much of human nature."
   Professor Gladwaller grinned.  "I didn't mean to romanticize my cockroaches," he said.
   He laughed and the others laughed with him, except Babe, who resented slightly that what he felt so deeply could be reduced to a humor.
   Vincent looked at him, understanding that, liking his friend immensely.  "What I really want to know," Vincent said, "is who do I have a date with tonight.  Whom."
   "Jackie Benson," Babe answered.
   "Oh, she's a lovely girl, Vincent," Mrs. Gladwaller said.
   "The way you say it, Mrs. Gladwaller, I'm sure she's as homely as sin," Vincent said.
   "No, she's lovely. . . . Isn't she, Babe?"
   Babe nodded, still thinking of what he had said.  He felt immature and a complete fool.  He had been windy and trite.
   "Oh, I remember the name now," Vincent recalled.  "Isn't she one of your old flames?"
   "Babe went with her for two years," Mrs. Gladwaller said fondly, possessively.  "She's a grand girl.  You'll love her, Vincent."
   "That'll be nice.  I haven't been in love this week. . . . Who are you taking, Vincent, as if I didn't know."
   Mrs. Gladwaller laughed and stood up.  The others stood up too.
   "Somebody has tied my shoelaces together," Vincent announced.  "Mrs. Gladwaller.  At your age."
   Mattie nearly had a fit.  She slammed Vincent on the back, laughing till she was almost hysterical.  Vincent watched her, dead-pan, and Babe came around the table, smiling again, picked up his sister and sat her high on his shoulder.  He took off Mattie's shoes with his right hand and gave them to Vincent, who solemnly opened the side flaps of his blouse and put the shoes in his pockets.  Mattie howled with laughter, and her brother set her down and walked into the living room.
   He went to the window where his father was standing, and put a hand on his shoulder.  "It's snowing again," he said to him.

Late at night, Babe couldn't sleep.  He tossed and twisted in the dark, then suddenly relaxed, lying on his back.  He had known how Vincent would react to Frances, but he had hoped that Vincent wouldn't say how he felt.  What was the good of telling a guy what he knew anyway?  But Vincent had said it.  He had said it not thirty minutes ago, in this very room.  "Boy, use your head," he had said.  "Jackie is twice the girl Frances is.  She runs rings around her.  She's better-looking than Frances, she's warmer, she's smarter; she'll give you ten times the understanding that Frances would ever give you.  Frances will give you nothing.  And if ever a guy needed understanding, it's you, brother."
   Brother.  The "brother" had irritated Babe as much as anything.  Even from Vincent.
   He doesn't know, thought Babe, lying in the dark.  He doesn't know what Frances does to me, what she's always done to me.  I tell strangers about her.  Coming home on the train, I told a strange G.I. about her.  I've always done that.  The more unrequited my love for her becomes, the longer I love her, the oftener I whip out my dumb heart like crazy X-ray pictures, the greater urge I have to trace the bruises:  "Look, stranger, here is where I was seventeen and borrowed Joe Mackay's Ford and drove her up to Lake Womo for the day. . . . Here, right here, is where she said what she said about big elephants and little elephants. . . . Here, over here, is where I let her cheat Bunny Haggerty at gin rummy at Rye Beach; there was a heart in her diamond run, and she knew it. . . . Here, ah, here, is where she yelled 'Babe!' when she saw me serve an ace to Bobby Teemers.  I had to serve an ace to hear it, but when I heard it my heart--you can see it right here--flopped over, and it's never been the same since. . . . And here--I hate it here--here is where I was twenty-one and I saw her in one of the booths at the drugstore with Waddell, and she was sliding her fingers back and forth through the knuckle grooves of his hand."
   He doesn't know what Frances does to me, Babe thought.  She make me miserable, she makes me feel rotten, she doesn't understand me--nearly all of the time.  But some of the time, some of the time, she's the most wonderful girl in the world, and that's something nobody else is.  Jackie never makes me miserable, but Jackie never really makes me anything.  Jackie answers my letters the day she gets them.  Frances takes anywhere from two weeks to two months, and sometimes never, and when she does, she never writes what I want to read.  But I read her letters a hundred times and I only read Jackie's once.  When I just see the handwriting on the envelope of  Frances' letters--the silly, affected handwriting--I'm the happiest guy in the world.
   I've been this way for seven years, Vincent.  There are things you don't know.  There are things you don't know, brother.
   Babe rolled over on his left side and tried to sleep.  He lay on his left side for ten minutes, then he rolled over on his right side.  That was no good either.  He got up.  He walked around his room in the dark, tripped over a book, but finally found a cigarette and a match.  He lighted up, inhaled till it almost hurt, and as he exhaled he knew there was something he wanted to tell Mattie.  But what?  He sat down on the edge of his bed and thought it out before he put on his robe.
   "Mattie," he said silently to no one in the room, "you're a little girl.  But nobody stays a little girl or a little boy long--take me, for instance.  All of a sudden little girls wear lipstick, all of a sudden little boys shave and smoke.  So it's a quick business, being a kid.  Today you're ten years old, running to meet me in the snow, ready, so ready, to coast down Spring Street with me; tomorrow you'll be twenty, with guys sitting in the living room waiting to take you out.  All of a sudden you'll have to tip porters, you'll worry about expensive clothes, meet girls for lunch, wonder why you can't find a guy who's right for you.  And that's all as it should be.  But my point, Mattie--if I have a point, Mattie--is this: kind of try to live up to the best that's in you.  If you give your word to people, let them know that they're getting the word of the best.  If you room with some dopey girl at college, try to make her less dopey.  If you're standing outside a theater and some old gal comes up selling gum, give her a buck if you're got a buck--but only if you can do it without patronizing her.  That's the trick, baby.  I could tell you a lot, Mat, but I wouldn't be sure that I'm right.  You're a little girl, but you understand me. You're going to be smart when you grow up.  But if you can't be smart and a swell girl, too, then I don't want to see you grow up.  Be a swell girl, Mat."
   Babe stopped talking to no one in the room.  He suddenly wanted to tell Mattie herself.  He got up from the edge of his bed, put on his robe, sniped his cigarette in his ash tray and closed the door of the room behind him.
   There was a hall light burning outside Mattie's room, and when Babe opened the door, the room was adequately lighted.  He went over to her bed and sat on the edge of it.  Her arm was outside the cover, and he rocked it back and forth gently, but strongly enough to wake her.  She opened her eyes, startled, but the light in the room wasn't strong enough to hurt.
   "Babe," she said.
   "Hello, Mat," Babe said awkwardly.  "What are ya doing?"
   "Sleeping," said Mattie logically.
   "I just wanted to talk to you," Babe said.
   "what, Babe?"
   "I just wanted to talk to you.  I wanted to tell you to be a good girl."
   "I will, Babe."  She was awake now, listening to him.
   "Good," said babe heavily.  "Okay.  Go back to sleep."
   He stood up, started to leave the room.
   "Babe!"
   "Sh-h-h!"
   "You're going to war.  I saw you.  I saw you kick Vincent under the table once.  When I was tying his shoelaces.  I saw you."
   He went over to her and sat down on the edge of the bed again, his face serious.  "Mattie, don't say anything to mother," he told her.
   "Babe, don't you get hurt!  Don't you get hurt!"
   "No.  I won't, Mattie.  I won't," Babe promised.  "Mattie, listen.  You mustn't tell mother.  Maybe I'll have a chance to tell her at the train.  But don't you tell her, Mat."
   "I won't.  Babe!  Don't you get hurt!"
   "I won't, Mattie. I swear I won't.  I'm lucky," Babe said.  He bent over and kissed her good night.  "go back to sleep," he told her.  And he left the room.
   He went back to his own room, turned on his lights.  Then he went to his window and stood there, smoking another cigarette.  It was snowing hard again, big flakes that you couldn't really see till they popped big and wet against the windowpane.  But the flakes would get drier before the night was over, and by morning the snow would be deep and good and fresh all over Valdosta.
   This is my home, Babe thought.  This is where I was a boy.  This is where Mattie is growing up.  this is where mother used to play the piano.  This is where dad dubbed his tee shots.  This is where Frances lives and brings me happiness in her way.  But this is where Mattie is sleeping.  No enemy is banging on our door, waking her up, frightening her.  But it could happen if I don't go out and meet him with my gun.  And I will, and I'll kill him.  I'd like to come back too.  It would be swell to come back.  It would be----
   Babe turned, wondering who it was.  "Come in," he said.
   His mother came in, in her dressing gown.  She came over to him, and he put his arm around her.
   "Well, Mrs. Gladwaller," he said, pleased, "the etching department is right over----"
   "Babe," his mother said, "you're going over, aren't you?
   Babe said, "What makes you say that?"
   "I can tell."
   "Old Hawkshaw," Babe said, trying to be casual.
   "I'm not worried," his mother said--calmly--which amazed Babe.  "You'll do your job and you'll come back.  I have a feeling."
   "Do you, mother?"
   "Yes, I do, Babe."
   "Good."
   His mother kissed him and started to leave, turning at the door.  "There's some cold chicken in  the icebox.  Why don't you wake Vincent, and you two go down to the kitchen?"
   "Maybe I will," Babe said happily.
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9. Once a Week Won’t Kill You            
(Story, November-December, 1944)




   He had a cigarette in his mouth while he packed, and his face squinted to avoid smoke in the eyes; so there was no way of telling by his expression whether he was bored or apprehensive, annoyed or resigned.  The young woman sitting in the big man's chair, looking like a guest, had her pretty face caught in a blotch of early morning sunshine; it did her no harm.  But her arms were probably the best of her.  They were brown and round and good.
   "Sweetie," she said, "I don't see why Billy couldn't be doing all that.  I mean."
   "What?" said the young man.  He had a thick, chain-smoker's voice.
   "I mean I don't see why Billy couldn't be doing all that."
   "He's too old," he answered.  "How 'bout turning on the radio.  There might be some canned music on at this time.  Try 1010."
   The young woman reached behind her, using the hand with the gold-band wedding ring and on the little finger beside it the incredible emerald; she opened some white compartment doors, snapped something, turned something.  She sat back and waited, and suddenly, without any pretext, she yawned.  The young man glanced at her.
   "What a horrible time to start, I mean," she said.
   "I'll tell them," said the young man, examining a stack of folded handkerchiefs.  "My wife says it's a horrible time to start out."
   "Sweetie, I am going to miss you horribly."
   "I'll miss you, too.  I have more white handkerchiefs than this."
   "I mean, I will," she said.  "It's all so stinking.  I mean.  And all."
   "Well, that's that," said the young man, closing the valise.  He lighted a cigarette, looked at the bed, and dropped himself on it. . . .
   Just as he stretched himself out the tubes of the radio were warmed, and a Sousa march, featuring what seemed to be an unlimited fife section, triumphed voluminously into the room  His wife swung back one of her marvelous arms and put a stop to it.
   "There might have been something else on."
   "Not at this crazy time."
   The young man blew a faulty smoke ring at the ceiling.
   "You didn't have to get up," he told her.
   "I wanted to."
   It had been three years and she had never stopped talking to him in italics.
   "Not get up!" she said.
   "Try 570," he said.  "There might be something there."
   His wife tried the radio again, and they both waited, he closing his eyes.  In a moment some reliable jazz came through.
   "Do you have enough time to lay down like that?  I mean."
   "To lie down like that--yes.  It's early."
   His wife suddenly seemed to be struck with a rather serious conjecture.  "I hope they put you in the Calvary.   The Calvary's lovely," she said.  "I'm mad about those little sword do-hickies they wear on their collars.  And you love to ride and all."
   "The Cavalry," said the young man, with his eyes shut.  "There's not much chance of that stuff.  Everybody's going to the Infantry, these days."
   "Horrible, Sweetie, I wish you'd phone that man with the thing on his face.   The Colonel.  The one at Phyll and Kenny's last week.  In Intelligence and all.  I mean you speak French and German and all.  He'd certainly get you at least a commission.  I mean you know how miserable you'll be just being a private or something.  I mean you even hate to talk to people and everything."
   "Please," he said.  "Keep quiet about that.  I told you about that.  That commission business."
   "Well, I hope at least they send you to London.  I mean where there's some civilized  people.  Do you have Bubby's APO number?"
   "Yes," he lied.
   His wife was making another apparently grave conjecture.  "I'd love some material.  Some tweed.  Anything."  Then, almost instantly, she yawned, and said the wrong thing:   "Did you say good-by to your aunt?"
   Her husband opened his eyes, sat up rather sharply, and swung his feet over to the floor.  "Virginia.  Listen.  I didn't get a chance to finish last night," he said.  " I want you to take her to the movies once a week."
   "The movies?"
   "It won't kill you," he said.  "Once a week won't kill you."
   "No, of course not, Sweetie, but--"
   "No buts," he said.  "Once a week won't kill you."
   "Of course I'll take her, you crazy.  I only meant--"
   "It isn't too much to ask.  She isn't young or anything any more."
   "But, Sweetie, I mean she's getting worse again.  I mean she's so batty, it isn't even funny.  I mean you're not in the house with her all day."
   "Neither are you," he said.   "And besides, she doesn't ever leave her rooms unless I take her out somewhere or something. "  He leaned closer to her, almost sitting off the edge of the bed.  "Virginia, once a week won't kill you.  I'm not kidding."
   "Of course, Sweetie.  If that's what you want.  I mean."
   The young man stood up suddenly.  "Will you tell cook I'm ready for breakfast?" he asked, starting to leave for somewhere.
   "Give us a teeny kiss first," she said.  "You ole soldier boy."
   He bent over and kissed her wonderful mouth and left the room.

   He climbed a flight of wide, thickly carpeted steps, and at the top landing turned to his left.  He rapped twice at the second door, on the outside of which was tacked a white, formal card from the old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York:  Please Do Not Disturb.  There was a faded notation in ink, written in the margin of the card:  "Going to Liberty Bond rally.  Be back.  Meet Tom for me in lobby at six.  His left shoulder is higher than his right and he smokes a darling little pipe.  Love, Me."  The note was written to the young mans mother, and he had read it when he was a small boy, and a hundred times since, and he read it now:  in March, 1944.
   "Come in, come in!" called a busy voice.  And the young man entered.
   By the window, a very nice-looking woman in her early fifties sat at a fold-leg card table.  She wore a charming beige morning gown, and on her feet a pair of extremely dirty white gym shoes.  "Well, Dickie Camson," she said.  "How did you ever get up so early, you lazy boy?"
   "One of those things," said the young man, smiling easily.  He kissed her on the cheek, and with one hand on the back of her chair casually examined the huge leather-bound book opened before her.  "How's the collection coming?" he asked.
   "Lovely.  Simply lovely.  "This book--you haven't even seen it, you terrible boy--is brand new.  Billy and Cook are going to save me all theirs, and you can same me all yours."
   "Just canceled American two-cent stamps, eh?" said the young man.  "Quite an idea."  He looked around the room.  "How's the radio going?"
   It was tuned to the same station he had had on downstairs.
   "Lovely.  I took the exercises this morning."
   "Now, Aunt Rena, I asked you to stop taking those crazy exercises.  I mean you'll strain yourself.  I mean there's no sense to it."
   "I like them," said his aunt firmly, turning a page in her album.  "I like the music they play with them  All the old tunes.  And it certainly doesn't seem fair to listen to the music and not take the exercises."
   "It is fair.  Now please cut it out.  A little less integrity," her nephew said.  He walked around the room a bit, then sat down heavily on the window seat.  He looked out across the park, searching between the trees for the way to tell her that he was leaving.  He had wanted her to be the one woman in 1944 who did not have someone's hourglass to watch.  Now he knew he had to give her his.  A gift to the woman in the dirty white gym shoes.  The woman with the canceled American two-cent stamp collection.  The woman who was his mother's sister, who had written notes to her in the margins of old Waldorf Please Do Not Disturb cards. . . .Must she be told?  Must she have his absurd, shiny little hourglass to watch?
   "You look just like your mother when you do that with your forehead.  Yes.  Just like her.  Do you remember her at all, Richard?"
   "Yes."  He took his time.  "She never used to walk.  She always ran, and then she'd stop short in a room.  And she always used to whistle through her teeth when she was drawing the blinds in my room.  The same tune most of the time.  It was always with me when I was a boy, but I forgot it as I got older.  Then in college--I had a roommate from Memphis, and he was playing some old phonograph records one afternoon, some Bessie Smiths, some Tea Gardens, and one of the numbers nearly knocked me out.  It was the tune Mother used to whistle through her teeth, all right.  It was called 'I Can't Behave on Sundays 'Cause I'm Bad Seven Days a Week.'  A guy named Altrievi stepped on it when he was tight later on in the term, and I've never heard it since."  He stopped.  "That's about all I remember.  Just dumb stuff."
   "Do you remember how she looked?"
   "No."
   "She was quite a package."  His aunt placed her chin in the cup of one of her thin, elegant hands.  "Your father couldn't sit still, like a human being, in a room if your mother had left it.  He'd just nod idiotically when someone talked to him, keeping those peculiar little eyes of his on the door she'd left by.  He was a strange, rather rude little man.  He did nothing with interest except make money and stare at your mother.  And take your mother sailing in that weird boat he bought.  He used to wear a funny little English sailor hat.  He said it was his father's.  Your mother used to hide it on the days she had to go sailing."
   "It was all they found, wasn't it?" asked the young man.  "That hat."
   But his aunt's glance had fallen on her album page.
   "Oh, here's a beauty," she said, and she held one of her stamps up to the daylight.  "He has such a strong, bashed-nose face.  Washington."
   The young man got up from the window seat.  "Virginia told Cook to fix breakfast.  I'd better go downstairs," he said.  but instead of leaving he walked over to his aunt's card table.  "Aunt Rena," he said, "give me your attention a minute."
   His aunt's intelligent face turned up to him.
   "Aunt--Uh--There's a war on.  Uh--I mean you've seen it in the newsreels.  I mean you've heard it on the radio and all, haven't you?"
   "Certainly," she snorted.
   "Well, I'm going.  I have to go.  I'm leaving this morning."
   "I knew you'd have to," said his aunt, without panic, without bitter-sentimental reference to "the last one."  She was wonderful, he thought.  She was the sanest woman in the world.
   The young man stood up, setting his hourglass flippantly on the table--the only way to do it.  "Virginia'll come to see you a lot, Kiddo," he told her.  "And she'll take you to the movies pretty often.  There's an old W. C. Fields picture coming to the Sutton next week.  You like Fields."
   His aunt stood up, too, but moved briskly past him.  "I have a letter of introduction for you," she announced.  "To a friend of mine."
   She was over at her writing desk now.  She opened the topmost left-hand drawer, positively, and took out a white envelope.  Then she went back to her stamp-album table again and casually handed the envelope to her nephew.  "I didn't seal it," she said, "and you can read it if you like."
   The young man looked at the envelope in his hand.  It was addressed in his aunt's rather strong handwriting to a Lieutenant Thomas E. Cleve, Jr.
   "He's a wonderful young man," said his aunt.  "He's with the Sixty-Ninth.  He'll look after you, I'm not at all worried."  She added impressively, "I knew this would happen two years ago, and immediately I thought of Tommy.  He'll be marvelously considerate of you."  She turned around, rather vaguely this time, and walked less briskly back to her writing desk.  Again she opened a drawer.  She took out a large, framed photograph of a young man in the high-collared, 1917 uniform of a second lieutenant.
   She moved unsteadily back to her nephew, holding the picture out for him to see.  "This is his picture," she informed him,  "This is Tom Cleve's picture."
   "I have to go now, Aunt," the young man said.  "Good-by.  You won't need anything.  I mean you won't need anything.  I'll write to you."
   "Good-by, my dear, dear boy," his aunt said, kissing him.  "You find Tom Cleve now.  He'll look after you, till you get settled and all."
   "Yes.  Good-by."
   His aunt said absently, "Good-by my darling boy."
   "Good-by."  He left the room and nearly stumbled down the stairs.
   At the lower landing he took the envelope, tore it in halves, quarters, then eighths.  He didn't seem to know what to do with the wad, so he jammed it into his trouser pocket.
   "Sweetie.  Everything's cold.  Your eggs and all."
   "You can take her to the movies once a week," he said.  "It won't kill you."
   "Who said it would?  Did I ever once say it would?"
   "No."  He walked into the dining room.
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10. Personal Notes of an Infantryman      
(Colliers 110, December 12, 1942)


   He came into my Orderly Room wearing a gabardine suit.  He was several years past the age--is it about forty?--when American men make living-room announcements to their wives that they're going to start going to gym twice a week--to which their wives reply:  "That's nice, dear--will you please use the ash tray?  That's what it's for."  His coat was open and you could see a fine set of carefully trained beer muscles.  His shirt collar was wringing wet.  He was out of breath.
   He came up to me with all his papers in his hand, and laid them down on my desk.  "Will you look these over?" he said.
   I told him I wasn't the recruiting officer.  He said, "Oh," and started to pick up his papers, but I took them from him and looked them over.
   "This isn't an Induction Station, you know," I said.
   "I know.  I understand enlistments are taken here now, though."
   I nodded.  "You realize that if you enlist at this post you'll probably take your basic training here.  This is Infantry.  We're a little out of fashion.  We walk.  How are your feet?"
   "They're all right."
   "You're out of breath," I said.
   "But my feet are all right.  I can get my wind back.  I've quit smoking."
   I turned the pages of his application papers.  My first sergeant swung his chair around, the better to watch.
   "You're a technical foreman in a key war industry," I pointed out to this man, Lawlor.  "Have you stopped to consider that a man your age might be of greatest service to his country if he just stuck to his job?"
   "I've found a bright young man with a 1-A mind and a 4-F body to take over my job," Lawlor said.
   "I should think," I said, lighting a cigarette, "that the man taking your place would require years of training and experience."
   "I used to think so myself," Lawlor said.
   My first sergeant looked at me , raising one hoary eyebrow.
   "You're married and have two sons," I said to Lawlor.  "How does your wife feel about your going to war?"
   "She's delighted.  Didn't you know?  All wives are anxious to see their husbands go to war," Lawlor said, smiling peculiarly.  "Yes, I have two sons.  One in the Army, one in the Navy--till he lost an arm at Pearl Harbor.  Do you mind if I don't take up any more of your time?  Sergeant, do you mind telling me where the recruiting officer is?"
   Sergeant Olmstead didn't answer him.  I flipped Lawlor's papers across the desk.  He picked them up, and waited.
   "Down the company street," I said.  "Turn left.  First building on the right."
   "Thanks.  Sorry to have bothered you," Lawlor said sarcastically.  He  left the Orderly Room, mopping the back of his neck with a handkerchief.
   I don't think he was out of the Orderly Room five minutes before the phone rang.  It was his wife.  I explained to her that I was not the recruiting officer and that there was nothing I could do.  If he wanted to join the Army and was mentally, physically, and morally fit--then there wasn't anything the recruiting officer could do either, except swear him in.  I said there was always the possibility that he wouldn't pass the physical exam.
   I talked to Mrs. Lawlor for quite a while, even though it wasn't a strictly G.I. phone call.  She has the sweetest voice I know.  She sounds as though she'd spent most of her life telling little boys where to find the cookies.
   I wanted to tell her not to phone me any more.  But I couldn't be unkind to that voice.  I never could.
   I had to hang up finally.  My first sergeant was ready with a short lecture on the importance of getting tough with dames.
   I kept an eye on Lawlor all through his basic training.  There wasn't any one call-it-by-a-name phase of Army life that knocked him out or even down.  He pulled K.P. for a solid week, too, and he was as good a sink admiral as the next one.  Nor did he have trouble learning to march, or learning to make up his bunk properly, or learning to sweep out his barrack.
   He was a darned good soldier, and I wanted to see him get on the ball.

   
   After his basic, Lawlor was transferred to "F" Company of the First Battalion, commanded by George Eddy, a darn' good man.  That was late last spring.  Early in summer Eddy's outfit got orders to go across.  At the last minute, Eddy dropped Lawlor's name from the shipping list.
   Lawlor came to see me out it.  He was hurt and just a little bit insubordinate.  Twice I had to cut him short.
   "Why tell me about it?" I said.  "I'm not your C. O."
   "You probably had something to do with it.  You didn't want me to join up in the first place."
   "I had nothing to do with it," I said.  And I hadn't.  I had never said a word to George Eddy, either pro or con.
   "Then Lawlor said something to me that sent a terrific thrill up my back.  He bent over slightly and leaned across my desk.  "I want action," he said.  "Can't you understand that?  I want action."
   I had to avoid his eyes.  I don't know quite why.  He stood up straight again.
   He asked me if his wife had telephoned me again.
   I said she hadn't.
   "She probably phoned Captain Eddy," Lawlor said bitterly.
   "I don't think so," I said.
   Lawlor nodded vaguely. Then he saluted me, faced about, and left the Orderly Room.  I watched him.  He was beginning to wear his uniform.  He had dropped about fifteen pounds and his shoulders were back and his stomach, what was left of it, was sucked in.  He didn't look bad.  He didn't look bad at all.
   Lawlor was transferred again, to Company "L" of the Second Battalion.  He made corporal in August, go his buck sergeant stripes early in October.   Bud Ginnes was his C. O. and Bud said Lawlor was the best man in his company.
   Late in winter, just about the time I was ordered to take over the basic training school, the Second Battalion was shipped across.  I wasn't able to phone Mrs. Lawlor for several days after Lawlor was shipped.  Not until his outfit had officially landed abroad.  Then I long-distanced her.
   She didn't cry.  her voice got very low, though, and I could hardly hear her.  I wanted to say just the right thing to her; I wanted to bring her wonderful voice up to normal.  I thought of alluding to Lawlor as being one of our gallant boys now.  But she knew he was gallant.  Anybody knew that.  And  he wasn't a boy.  And, in the first place, the allusion was labored and phony.  I thought of a few other phrases, but they were all on the long-haired side, too.
   Then I knew that I couldn't bring her voice up to normal--at least not on such short order.  But I could make her happy.  I knew that I could make her happy.
   "I sent for Pete," I said.  "And he was able to go to the boat.  Dad started to salute us, but we kissed him goodbye.  He looked good.  He really looked good, Ma."
   Pete's my brother.  He was an ensign in the Navy.

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11. Slight Rebellion Off Madison         
(The New Yorker, December, 1946)


On vacation from Pencey Preparatory School for Boys ("An Instructor for Every Ten Students"), Holden Morrisey Caulfield usually wore his chesterfield and a hat with a cutting edge at the "V" in the crown.  While riding in Fifth Avenue buses, girls who knew Holden often thought they saw him walking past Saks' or Altman's or Lord & Taylor's, but it was usually somebody else.
   This year, Holden's Christmas vacation from Pencey Prep broke at the same time as Sally Hayes' from Mary A. Woodruff School for Girls ("Special Attention to Those Interested in Dramatics"),.  On vacation from Mary A. Woodruff, Sally usually went hatless and wore her new silverblue muskrat coat.  While riding in Fifth Avenue, boys who knew Sally often thought they saw her walking past Saks' or Altman's or Lord & Taylor's.  It was usually somebody else.
   As soon as Holden got into New York, he took a cab home, dropped his Gladstone in the foyer, kissed his mother, lumped his hat and coat into a convenient chair, and dialed Sally's number.
   "Hey!" he said into the mouthpiece.  "Sally?"
   "Yes.  Who's that?"
   "Holden Caulfield.  How are ya?"
   "Holden!  I'm fine!  How are you?"
   "Swell," said Holden.  "Listen.  How are ya, anyway?  I mean how's school?"
   "Fine," said Sally.  "I mean--you know."
   "Swell," said Holden.  "Well, listen.  What are you doing tonight?"

   Holden took her to the Wedgwood Room that night, and they both dressed, Sally wearing her new turquoise job.  They danced a lot.  Holden's style was long, slow wide steps back and forth, as though he were dancing over an open manhole.  They danced cheek to cheek, and when their faces got sticky from contact, neither of them minded.  It was a long time between vacations.
   They made a wonderful thing out of the taxi ride home.  Twice, when the cab stopped short in traffic, Holden fell off the seat.
   "I love you," he swore to Sally, removing his mouth from hers.
   "Oh, darling, I love you, too," Sally said, and added less passionately, "Promise me you'll let your hair grow out.  Crew cuts are corny."

   The next day was a Thursday and Holden took Sally to the matinee of "O Mistress Mine," which neither of them had seen.  During the first intermission, they smoked in the lobby and vehemently agreed with each other that the Lunts were marvelous.  George Harrison, of Andover, also was smoking in the lobby and he recognized Sally, as she hoped he would.  They had been introduced once at a party and had never seen each other since.  Now, in the lobby at the Empire, they greeted each other with the gusto of two who might have taken baths together as small children.  Sally asked George if h didn't think the show was marvelous.  George gave himself some room for his reply, bearing down on the foot of the woman behind him.  He said that the play itself certainly was no masterpiece, but that the Lunts, of course, were absolute angels.
   "Angels," Holden thought.  "Angels.  For Chrissake.  Angels."
    After the matinee, Sally told Holden that she had a marvelous idea.  "Let's go ice skating at Radio City tonight."
   "All right," Holden said.  "Sure."
   "Do you mean it?" Sally said.  "Don't just say it unless you mean it.  I mean I don't give  a darn,, one way or the other."
   "No," said Holden.  "Let's go.  It might be fun."

   Sally and Holden were both horrible ice skaters.  Sally's ankles had a painful, unbecoming way of collapsing towards each other and Holden's weren't much better.  That night there were at least a hundred people who had nothing better to do than watch the skaters.
   "Let's get a table and have a drink," Holden suggested suddenly.
   "That's the most marvelous idea I've heard all day," Sally said.
   They removed their skates and sat down at a table in the warm inside lounge.  Sally took off her red woolen mittens.  Holden began to light matches.  He let them burn down until he couldn't hold them, then he dropped what was left into an ashtray.
   "Look," Sally said, "I have to know--are you or aren't you going to help me trim the tree Christmas Eve?"
   "Sure," said Holden, without enthusiasm.
   "I mean I have to know," Sally said.
   Holden suddenly stopped lighting matches.  He leaned forward over the table.  "Sally, did you ever get fed up?  I mean did you ever get so scared that everything was gonna go lousy unless you did something?"
   "Sure," said Sally.
   "Do you like school?" Holden inquired.
   "It's a terrific bore."
   "Do you hate it, I mean?"
   "Well, I don't hate it."
   "Well, I hate it," said Holden.  "Boy, do I hate it!  But it isn't just that.  It's everything.  I hate living in New York.  I hate Fifth Avenue buses and Madison Avenue buses and getting out at the center doors.  I hate the Seventy-second Street movie, with those fake clouds on the ceiling, and being introduced to guys like George Harrison, and going down in elevators when you wanna go out, and guys fitting your pants all the time at Brooks."  His voice got more excited.  "Stuff like that.  Know what I mean?  You know something?  You're the only reason I came home this vacation."
   "You're sweet," Sally said, wishing he'd change the subject.
   "Boy, I hate school!  You oughta go to a boys' school sometime.  All you do is study, and make believe you give a damn if the football team wins, and talk about girls and clothes and liquor, and--"
   "Now, listen," Sally interrupted.  "Lots of boys get more out of school than that."
   "I agree," said Holden.  "But that's all I get out of it.  See?  That's what I mean.  I don't get anything out of anything.  I'm in bad shape.  I'm in lousy shape.  Look, Sally.  How would you like to just beat it?  Here's my idea.  I'll borrow Fred Halsey's car and tomorrow morning we'll drive up to Massachusetts and Vermont and around there, see?  It's beautiful.  I mean it's wonderful up there, honest to God.  We'll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till my money runs out.  I have a hundred and twelve dollars with me.  Then, when the money runs out, I'll get a job and we'll live somewhere with a brook and stuff.  Know what I mean?  Honest to God, Sally, we'll have a swell time.  Then, later on, we'll get married or something.  Wuddaya say?  C'mon!  Wuddaya say?  C'mon!  Let's do it, huh?"
   "You can't just do something like that," Sally said.
   "Why not?" Holden asked shrilly.  "why the hell not?"
   "Because you can't," Sally said.  "You just can't, that's all.  Supposing your money ran out and you didn't get a job--then what?"
   "I'd get a job.  Don't worry about that.  You don't have to worry about that part of it.  What's the matter?  Don't you wanna go with me?"
   "It isn't that," Sally said.  "It's not that at all.  Holden, we'll have lots of time to do those things--all those things.  After you go to college and we get married and all.  There'll be oodles of marvelous places to go to."
   "No, there wouldn't be," Holden said.  "It'd be entirely different."
   Sally looked at him, he had contradicted her so quietly.
   "It wouldn't be the same at all.  we'd have to go downstairs in elevators with suitcases and stuff.  We'd have to call up everyone and tell 'em goodbye and send 'e, postcards.  And I'd have to work at my father's and ride in Madison Avenue buses and read newspapers.  We'd have to go to the Seventy-second Street all the time and see newsreels.  Newsreels!  There's always a dumb horse race and some dame breaking a bottle over a ship.  You don't see what I mean at all."
    "Maybe I don't.  Maybe you don't, either," Sally said.
   Holden stood up, with his skates swung over one shoulder.  "You give me a royal pain," he announced quite dispassionately.

   A little after midnight, Holden and a fat, unattractive boy named Carl Luce sat at the Wadsworth Bar, drinking Scotch-and-sodas and eating potato chips.  Carl was at Pencey Prep, too, and led his class.
   "Hey, Carl," Holden said, "you're one of these intellectual guys.  Tell me something.  Supposing you were fed up.  Supposing you were going stark, staring mad.  Supposing you wanted to quit school and everything and get the hell out of New York.  What would you do?"
   "Drink up," Carl said.  "The hell with that."
   "No, I'm serious," Holden pleaded.
   "You've always got a bug," Carl said, and got up and left.
   Holden went on drinking.  He drank up nine dollars' worth of Scotch-and-sodas and at 2 A.M. made his way from the bar into the little anteroom, where there was a telephone.  He dialed three numbers before he got the proper one.
   "Hullo!" Holden shouted into the phone.
   "Who is this?" inquired a cold voice.
   "This is me, Holden Caulfield.  Can I speak to Sally, please?"
   "Sally's asleep.  This is Mrs. Hayes.  Why are you calling up at this hour, Holden?"
   "Wanna talk Sally, Mrs. Hayes.  Very 'portant.  Put her on."
   "Sally's asleep, Holden.  Call tomorrow.  Good night."
   "Wake 'er up.  Wake 'er up, huh? Wake 'er up, Mis' Hayes."
   "Holden," Sally said, from the other end of the wire.  "This is me.  What's the idea?"
   "Sally?  Sally, that you?"
   "Yes.  You're drunk."
   "Sally, I'll come over Christmas Eve.  Trim the tree for ya.  Huh?  Wuddaya say?  Huh?"
   "Yes, go to bed now.  Where are you?  Who's with you?"
   "I'll trim the tree for ya.  Huh?  Wuddaya say?  Huh?"
   "Yes, go to bed now.  Where are you?  Who's with you?"
   "I'll trim the tree for ya.  Huh?  Wuddaya say?  Huh?  O.K?"
   "Yes!  Good night!"
   "G'night.  G'night, Sally baby.  Sally sweetheart, darling."
   Holden hung up and stood by the phone for nearly fifteen minutes.  then he put another nickel in the slot and dialed the same number again.
   "Hullo!" he yelled into the mouthpiece.  "Speak to Sally, please."
   There was a sharp click as the phone was hung up, and Holden hung up, too.  He stood swaying for a moment.  Then he made his way into the men's room and filled one of the washbowls with cold water.  He immersed his head to the ears, after which he walked, dripping, to the radiator and sat down on it.  he sat there counting the squares in the tile floor while the water dripped down his face and the back of his neck, soaking his shirt collar and necktie.  twenty minutes later the barroom piano player came in to comb his wavy hair.
   "Hiya, boy!" Holden greeted him from the radiator.  "I'm on the hot seat.  They pulled the switch on me.  I'm getting fried."
   The piano player smiled.
   "Boy, you can play!" Holden said.  "You really can play the piano.  You oughta go on the radio.  You know that?  You're damned good, boy."
   "You wanna towel, fella?" asked the piano player.
   "Not me," said Holden.
   "Why don't you go home, kid?"
   Holden shook his head.  "Not me,' he said.  "Not me."

   The piano player shrugged and replaced the lady's comb in his inside pocket.  When he left the room, Holden stood up from the radiator and blinked several times to let the tears out of his eyes.  Then he went to the cloakroom.  He put on his chesterfield without buttoning it and jammed his hat on the back of his soaking-wet head.
   His teeth chattering violently, Holden stood on the corner and waited for a Madison Avenue bus.  It was a long wait.
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12. Soft Boiled Sergeant               
(Saturday Evening Post, April, 1944)


Juanita, she's always dragging me to a million movies, and we see these here shows all about war and stuff. You see a lot of real handsome guys always getting shot pretty neat, right where it don't spoil their looks none, and they always got plenty of time, before they croak, to give their love to some doll back home, with who, in the beginning of the pitcher, they had a real serious misunderstanding about what dress she should ought to wear to the college dance. Or the guy that’s croaking nice and slow has got plenty of time to hand over the papers he captured off the enemy general or to explain what the whole pitcher’s about in the first place. And meantime, all the other real handsome guys, his buddies, got plenty of time to watch the handsomest guy croak. Then you don’t see no more, except you hear some guy with a bugle handy take time off to blow taps. Then you see the dead guy’s home town, and around a million people, including the mayor and the dead guy’s folks and his doll, and maybe the President, all around the guy’s box, making speeches and wearing medals and looking spiffier in mourning duds than most folks do all dolled up for a party.
   Juanita, she eats that stuff up. I tell her it sure is a nice way to croak; then she gets real sore and says she’s never going to no show with me again; then next week we see the same show all over again, only the war’s in Dutch Harbor this time instead of Guadalcanal.
   Juanita, she went home to San Antonio yesterday to show our kid’s hives to her old lady- better than having the old lady jump in on us with eighty-five suitcases. But I told her about Burke just before she left. I wish I hadn’t of. Juanita, she ain’t no ordinary dame. If she sees a dead rat laying on the road, she starts smacking you with her fists, like as if it was you that run over it. So I’m sorry that I told her about Burke, sort of. I just figured it’d stop her from making me go to all them war movies all the time. But I’m sorry I told her. Juanita, she ain’t no ordinary dame. Don’t never marry no ordinary dame. You can buy the ordinary dames with a few beers, maybe trip the light fantastic with them, like that, but don’t never marry them. Wait for the kind that starts smacking you with their fists when they see a dead rat laying in the road.
   If I’m gonna tell you about Burke, I gotta go back a long ways, explain a couple a things, like. You ain’t been married to me for twelve years and you don’t know about Burke from the beginning.
   I’m in the Army, see.
   That ain’t right. I’ll start over, like.
   You hear guys that come in on the draft kick about the Army, say how they wish they was out of it and back home, eating good chow again, sleeping in good bunks again - stuff like that. They don’t mean no harm, but it ain’t nice to hear. The chow ain’t bad and there ain’t nothing wrong with the bunks. When I first come in the Army, I hadn’t eat in three days, and where I been sleeping - well, that don’t matter.
   I met more guys in the Army than I ever knowed when I was a civilian. And I seen big things in the Army. I been married twelve years now, and I wisht I had a buck for every time I told my wife, Juanita, about something big I seen that’s made her say, “That gives me goose pimples, Philly.” Juanita, she gets goose pimples when you tell her about something big you seen. Don’t marry no dame that don’t get goose pimples when you tell her about something big you seen.
   I come in the Army about four years after the last war ended. They got me down in my service record as being eighteen, but I was only sixteen.
   I met Burke the first day I was in. He was a young guy then, maybe twenty-five, twenty-six, but he wasn’t the kind of guy that would have ever looked like a young guy. He was a real ugly guy, and real ugly guys don’t never look very young or very old. Burke, he had bushy black hair that stood up like steel wool, like, on his head. He had them funny, slopy-like, peewee shoulders, and his head was too big for them. And he had real Barney Google goo-goo-googly eyes. But, it was his voice that was craziest, like. There ain’t no other voice like Burke’s was. Get this: it was two-toned. Like a fancy whistle. I guess that’s part why he never talked much.
   But, Burke, he could do things. You take a real ugly guy, with a two-toned voice, with a head that’s too big for their shoulders, with them goo-goo-googly eyes - well, that’s the kind of guy that can do things. I’ve knowed lots of Handsome Harrys that wasn’t so bad when the chips was down, but there was never one of them that could do the big things I’m talking about. If a Handsome Harry’s hair ain’t combed just right, or if he ain’t heard from his girl lately, or if somebody ain’t watching him at least part of the time, Harry ain’t gonna put on such a good show. But a real ugly guy’s just got himself from the beginning to the end, and when a guy’s just got himself, and nobody’s ever watching, some really big things can happen. In my whole life I only knowed one other guy beside Burke that could do the big things I’m talking about, and he was a ugly guy too. He was a little lop-eared tramp with TB on a freight car. He stopped two big gorillas from beating me up when I was thirteen years old - just by insulting them, like. He was like Burke, only not as good. It was part because he had TB and was almost dead that made him good. Burke, he was good when he was healthy like.
   First off, you wouldn’t think what Burke done for me was real big stuff. But maybe, too, you was never sixteen years old, like I was, sitting on a G.I. bunk in your long underwear, not knowing nobody, scared of all the big guys that walked up the barracks floor on their way to shave, looking like they was tough, without trying - the way real tough guys look. That was a tough outfit, and you could take my word for it. Them boys was nearly all quiet tough. I’d like to have a nickel for every shrapnel or mustard-scar that I seen on them boys. It was Capt. Dickie Pennington’s old company during the war, and they was all regulars, and they wasn’t busted up after the war, and they’d been in every dirty business in France.
   So I sat there on my bunk, sixteen years old, in my long underwear, crying my eyes out because I didn’t understand nothing, and those big tough guys kept walking up and down the barracks floor, swearing and talking to themselves easy like. And so I sat there crying, in my long underwear, from five in the afternoon till seven that night. It wasn’t that the guys didn’t try to snap me out of it. They did. But, like I said, it’s only a couple of guys in the world that really know how to do things.
   Burke, he was a staff sergeant then, and in them days staffs only talked to other staffs. I mean staffs except Burke. Because Burke come over to where I was sitting on my bunk; bawling my head off - but quiet like - and he stood over me for around twenty minutes, just watching me like, not saying nothing. Then he went away and come back again. I looked up at him a couple of times, I figured I seen about the ugliest-looking guy I ever seen in my life. Even in uniform Burke was no beaut, but that first time I seen him he had on a fancy store bath robe, and in the old Army only Burke could get away with that.
   For a long time, Burke just stood there over me. Then, sudden like, he took something out of the pocket of his fancy store bathrobe and chucked it on my bunk. It chinked like it had dough in it, whatever it was. It was wrapped up in a handkerchief and it was about the size of a kid’ fist.
   I looked at it, and then up Burke.
   “Untie them ends and open it up,” Burke says.
   So I opened up the handkerchief. Inside was a hunk of medals, all pinned together by the ribbons. There was a bunch of them, and they was the best ones. I mean the best ones.
   “Put ‘em on,” Burke says, in that cockeyed voice of his.
   “What for?” I says.
   “Just put ‘em on,” Burke says. “You know what any of them are?”
   One of them was loose and I had it in my hand. I knowed what it was, all right. It was one of the best ones, all right.
   “Sure,” I says. “I know this one. I knowed a guy that had this one. A cop in Seattle He give me a handout.”
   Then I give Burke’s whole bunch of medals the once-over. I seen most of them on guys somewheres.
   “They all yours?” I says.
   “Yeah,” says Burke. “What’s your name, Mac?”
   “Philly,” I says. “Philly Burns.”
   “My names Burke,” he says. “Put them medals on, Philly.”
   “On my underwear?” I says.
   “Sure,” says Burke.
   So I done it. I untangled Burke’s bunch of medals and pinned every one of them on my G.I. underwear. It was just like I got an order to do it. The googly-eyed guy with the cockeyed voice told me to. So I pinned them on - straight acrost my chest, and some of them right underneath. I didn’t even know enough to put them on the left side. Right smack in the middle of my chest I put them. Then I looked down at them, and I remember a big, fat, kid’s tear run out of my eye and splashed right on Burke’s Crah de Gairry. I looked up at Burke, scared that maybe he’d get sore about it, but he just watched me. Burke, he really knowed how to do big things.
   Then, when all Burke’s medals was on my chest, I sat up a little off my bunk, and come down hard so that I bounced, and all Burke’s medals chimed, like - like church bells, like. I never felt so good. Then I sort of looked up at Burke.
   “You ever seen Charlie Chaplin?” Burke says.
   “I heard of him,” I says. “He’s in movie pitchers.”
   “Yeah,” Burke says. Then he says “Get dressed. Put your coat on over your medals.”
   “Just right over them, like?” I says.
   And Burke says, “Sure. Just right over them.”
   I got up from my bunk with all of them medals chiming, and looked around for my pants. But I says to Burke, “I ain’t got one of them passes to get out the gate. The fella in that little house said it wouldn’t be wrote out for a couple days yet.”
   Burke says, “Get dressed, Mac.”
   So I got dressed and Burke got dressed. Then he went in the orderly room and come out in about two minutes with my name wrote out on a pass. Then we walked into town, me with Burke’s medals chiming and clanking around under my blouse, me feeling like a hotshot, happy like. Know what I mean.
   I wanted Burke to feel sort of happy like too. He didn’t talk much. You couldn’t never tell what he was thinking about. I called him “Mister” Burke most of the time. I didn’t even know you was supposed to call him sergeant. But, thinking it over, most of the time I didn’t call him nothing; the way it is when you think a guy’s really hot - you don’t call him nothing, like as if you don’t feel you should ought to get too clubby with him.
   Burke, he took me to a restaurant. I eat everything like a horse, and Burke paid for the whole thing. He didn’t eat nothing much.
   I says to him, “You ain’t eating nothing.”
   “I ain’t hungry,” Burke says. Then he says, “I keep thinking about this girl.”
   “What girl?” I says.
   “This here girl I know,” Burke says. “Got red hair. Don’t wiggle much when she walks. Just kind of walks straight like.”
   He didn’t make no sense to a sixteen-year-old kid.
   “She just got married,” Burke says. Then he says, “I knowed her first though.”
   That didn’t interest me none, so I goes on feeding my face.
   After we eat - after I eat - we went to the show. It was Charlie Chaplin, like Burke said.
   We went inside and the lights wasn’t out yet, and when we was walking down the aisle Burke said “Hello” to somebody. It was a girl with red hair, and she said “Hello” back to Burke, and she was sitting with a fella in civvies. Then me and Burke sat down somewheres. I asked him if that was the redhead he was talking about when we was eating. Burke nodded like, and then the pitcher started.
   I jiggled around in my seat the whole show, so’s people would hear those medals clanking. Burke, he didn’t stay for the whole show. About halfways through the Chaplin pitcher he says to me, “Stay and see it, Mac. I’ll be outside.”
   When I come outside after the show I says to Burke, “What’s the matter, Mr. Burke? Don’t you like Charlie Chaplin none?” My sides was hurting from laughing at Charlie.
   Burke says, “ He’s all right. Only I don’t like no funny-looking little guys always getting chased by big guys. Never getting no girl, like. For keeps, like”
   Then me and Burke walked back to camp. You never knowed what kind of sad-like thoughts Burke was thinking while he walked, but all I was thinking was, Will he want these here medals back right away?. I always have kind of wished that I would have knowed enough that night to say something nice like to Burke. I wisht I’d of told him that he was way better than that there redhead that he knowed first. Maybe not that, but I could have said something. Funny, ain’t it? A guy like Burke could live a whole life being a great man, a really great man, and only about twenty or thirty guys, at most, probably knowed about it, and I bet there wasn’t one of us that ever kinda tipped him off about it. And never no women. Maybe a coupla ordinary dames, but never the kind that don’t wiggle when they walk, the kind that sort of walks straight like. Them kind of girls, the kind Burke really liked, was stopped by his face and that rotten joke of a voice of his. Ain’t that nice?
   When we got back to the barracks, Burke says, “You want to keep them medals a while, don’t you, Mac?”
   “Yeah,” I says. “Could I?”
   “Sure,” says Burke. “You can keep ‘em if you want ‘em.”
   “Don’t you want ‘em?” I says.
   Burke says, “They don’t look so good on me. Good night, Mac.” Then he goes inside.

   I sure was a kid. I wore them medals of Burke’s on my G.I. underwear for three weeks straight. I even wore them when I washed up in the mornings. And none of them tough birds razzed me none. They was Burke’s medals I had on. They didn’t know what made Burke tick, but about sixty percent of the guys in that  outfit had been in France with Burke. If Burke had give me them medals to wear on my G.I.’s, it was all right with them. So nobody laughed or give me the razz.
   I only took them medals off to give them back to Burke. It was the day he was made first sergeant. He was sitting alone in the orderly room - the guy was always alone - at about half past eight at night. I went over to him and laid his medals down on the desk; they was all pinned together and wrapped in a handkerchief, like when he chucked them on my bunk.
   But Burke, he didn’t look up. He had a set of kid’s crayons on his desk, and he was drawing a pitcher of a girl with red hair. Burke, he could draw real good.
   “I don’t need them no more,” I says. To him. “Thanks.”
   “Okay, Mac,” Burke says, and he picks up his crayon again. He was drawing the girls hair. He just let his medals lay there.
   I started to take off, but Burke calls me back. “Hey, Mac.” He don’t stop drawing though.
   I comes back over to his desk.
   “Tell me,” Burke says. “Tell me if I’m wrong, like. When you was settin’ on your bunk cryin’-“
   “I wasn’t crying,” I sad. (What a kid.)
   “Okay. When you was settin’ on your bunk laughin’ your head off, was you thinking that you wanted to be laying on your back in a boxcar on a train that was stopped in a town, with the doors rolled open halfways and the sun in your face?”
   “Kind of,” I says. “How’d you know?”
   “Mac, I ain’t in this Army straight out of West Point,” Burke says.
   I didn’t know what West Point was, so I just watched him draw the pitcher of the girl.
   “That sure looks like her,” I says.
   “Yeah, don’t it?” says Burke. Then he says, “Good night, Mac.”
   I starts to leave again. Burke calls after me, like, “You’re transferrin’ out of here tomorrow, Mac. I’m getting you sent to the Air Corps. It’s gonna be big stuff.”
   “Thanks,” I says.
   Burke, he give me some last advice just as I goes out the door. “Grow up and don’t cut nobody’s throat,” he says.
   I shipped out of that outfit at ten o’clock the next morning, and I never saw Burke again in my whole life. All these years I just never met up with him. I didn’t know how to write in them days. I mean I didn’t write much in them days. And even if I would have knowed how, Burke wasn’t the kind of guy you’d write to. He was too big, like. Too big for me, anyways.
   I never even knowed Burke transferred to the Air Corps himself, if I hadn’t of got this letter from Frankie Miklos. Frankie, he was at Pearl Harbor. He wrote me this letter. He wanted to tell me about this fella with this crazy voice - a master, Frankie said, with nine hash marks. Named Burke.
   Burke, he’s dead now. His number come up there at Pearl Harbor. Only it didn’t exactly come up like other guys’ numbers do. Burke put up his own. Frankie seen Burke put his own number up, and this here is what Frankie wrote me:
   The Jap heavy stuff was coming over low, right over the barracks area, and dropping their load. And the light stuff was strafing the whole area. The barracks was no place to be safe like, and Frankie said the guys without no big guns was running and zigzagging for any kind of halfways decent shelter. Frankie said you couldn’t get away from the Zeros. They seemed to be hunting special-like for guys that was zigzagging down the streets for shelter. And the bombs kept dropping, too, Frankie said, and you thought you was going nuts.
   Frankie and Burke and one other guy made it to the shelter okay. Frankie said that him and Burke was in the shelter for about ten minutes, then three other guys run in.
   One of the guys that come in the shelter started telling about what he just seen. He seen three buck privates that just reported to the mess hall for K.P. lock themselves in the big mess-hall refrigerator, thinking they was safe there.
   Frankie said when the guy told that, Burke sudden-like got up and started, slapping the guy’s face around thirty times, asking him if he was nuts or something, leaving them guys in that there refrigerator. Burke said that was no safe place at all, that if the bombs didn’t make no direct hit, the vibration like would kill them buck privates anyhow, on account of the refrigerator being all shut up like.
   Then Burke beat it out of the shelter to get them guys out of the refrigerator. Frankie said he tried to make Burke not go, but Burke started slapping his face real hard too.
   Burke, he got them guys out of the refrigerator, but he got gunned by a Zero on the way, and when he finally got them refrigerator doors open and told them kids to get the hell out of there, he give up for good. Frankie said Burke had four holes between his shoulders, close together, like group shots, and Frankie said half of Burke’s jaw was shot off.
   He died all by himself, and he didn’t have no message to give to no girl or nobody, and there wasn’t nobody throwing a big classy funeral for him here in the states, and no hot-shot bugler blowed taps for him.
   The only funeral Burke got was when Juanita cried for him when I read her Frankie’s letter and when I told her again what I knowed. Juanita, she ain’t no ordinary dame. Don’t never marry no ordinary dame, bud. Get one that’ll cry for a Burke
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13. The Hang of It                  
(Colliers, July, 1941)


   This country lost one of the most promising young men ever to tilt a pinball table when my son, Harry, was conscripted into the Army.  As his father, I realize Harry wasn't born yesterday, but every time I look at the boy I'd swear it all happened sometime early last week.  So offhand I'd say the Army was getting another Bobby Pettit.
   Back in 1917 Bobby Pettit wore the same look that Harry wears so well.  Pettit was a skinny kid from Crosby, Vermont, which is in the United States too.  Some of the boys in the company figured Pettit had spent his tender years letting that Vermont maple syrup drip slowly on his forehead.
   Also one of the dancing girls in that 1917 company was Sergeant Grogan.  The boys in camp had all kinds of ideas about the sarge's origin; good, sound, censorable ideas that I won't bother to repeat.
   Well, on Pettit's first day in ranks the sarge was drilling the platoon in the manual of arms.  Pettit had a clever, original way of handling his rifle.  When the sarge hollered "Right shoulder arms!" Bobby Pettit did left shoulder arms.  When the sarge requested "Port arms!" Pettit complied with present arms.  It was a sure way of attracting the sarge's attention, and came over to Pettit smiling.
   "Well, dumb guy," greeted the sarge, "what's the matter with you?"
   Pettit laughed.  "I get a little mixed up at times," he explained briefly.
   "What's your name, Bud?" asked the sarge.
   "Bobby.  Bobby Pettit."
   "Well, Bobby Pettit," said the sarge, "I'll just call ya Bobby.  I always call the men by their first names.  And they all call me mother.  Just like they was at home."
   "Oh," said Pettit.
   Then it went off.  Every fuse has two ends; the one that's lighted and the one that's clubby with the T.N.T.
   "Listen, Pettit!" boomed the sarge.  "I ain't runnin' no fifth grade.  You're in the Army, dumb guy.  You're supposed t'know ya ain't got two left shoulders and that port arms ain't present arms.  Wutsa matter with ya?  Ain'tcha got no brains?"
   "I'll get the hang of it," Pettit predicted.


   The next day we had practice in tent pitching and pack making.  When the sarge came around to inspect, it developed that Pettit hadn't bothered to hammer the tent pegs slightly below the surface of the ground.  Observing the subtle flaw, the sarge, with one yank of his hand, collapsed entirely Bobby Pettit's little canvas home.
   "Pettit," cooed the sarge.  "You are.  . .  without a doubt . . .the dumbest . . .the stupidest . . .the clumsiest gink I ever seen.  Are ya nuts, Pettit?  Wutsa matter with ya?  Ain'tcha got no brains?"
   Pettit predicted, "I'll get the hang of it."
   Then everybody made up full packs.  Pettit made up his like a veteran--just like one of the Boys in Blue.  Then the sarge came around to inspect.  It was his cheery custom to pass in the rear of the men, and with a short, bludgeon-like stroke of his forearm slam down on the regulation burden on the back of every mother's son.
   He came to Pettit's pack.  I'll spare the details.  I'll just say that everything came apart save the last five segments in Bobby Pettit's vertebrae.  It was a sickening sound.  The sarge came around to face Pettit, what was left of him.
   "Pettit.  I met lotsa dumb guys in my time," related the sarge.  "Lots of 'em.  But you, Pettit, you're in a class by yourself.  Because you're the dumbest!"
   Pettit stood there on his three feet.
   "I'll get the hang of it," he managed to predict.

   First day of target practice, six men at a time fired at six targets, prone position exclusively.  The sarge passed up and down, examining firing positions.
   "Hey, Pettit.  Which eye are you lookin' through?"
   "I don't know," said Pettit.  "The left, I guess."
   "Look through the right!" bellowed the sarge.  "Pettit, you're takin' twenny years offa my life.  Wutsa matter with ya?  Ain'tcha got no brains?"
   That was nothing.  When, after the men had fired, the targets were rolled in, there was a gay surprise for all.  Pettit had fired all his shots at the target of the man on his right.
   The sarge almost had an attack of apoplexy.  "Pettit," he said, "you got no place in this man's army.   You got six feet.  You got six hands.  Everybody else only got two!"
   "I'll get the hang of it," said Pettit.
   "Don't say that to me again.  Or I'll kill ya.  I'll akchally kill ya, Pettit.  Because I hatecha, Pettit.  You hear me?  I hatecha!"'   
   "Gee," said Pettit.  "No kidding?"
   "No kidding, brother," said the sarge.
   "Wait'll I get the hang of it," said Pettit.  "You'll see.  No kidding.  Boy, I like the Army.  Some day I'll be a colonel or something.  No kidding."

   Naturally I didn't tell my wife that our son, Harry, reminds me of Bob Pettit back in '17.  But he does nevertheless.  In fact, the boy is even having sergeant trouble at  Fort Iroquois.  It seems, according to my wife, that Fort Iroquois nurses to its bosom one of the toughest, meanest first sergeants in the country.  There is no necessity, declares my wife, in being mean to the boys.  Not that Harry's complained.  He likes the Army, only he just can't seem to please this terrible first sergeant.  Just because he hasn't got the hang of it yet.
   And the colonel of this regiment.  He's no help at all, my wife feels.  All he does is walk around and look important.  A colonel should help the boys, see to it that mean first sergeants don't take advantage of the boys, destroy their spirit.  A colonel, my wife feels, should do more than just walk around the place.
   Well, a few Sundays ago the boys at Fort Iroquois put on their first spring parade.  My wife and I were there in the reviewing stand, and with a yelp that nearly took my hat off she picked out our Harry as he marched along.
   "He's out of step," I told my wife.
   "Oh, don't be that way," said she.
   "But he is out of step," I said.
   "I suppose that's a crime.  I suppose he'll be shot for that.  See!  He's in step again.  He was only out for a minute."
   Then, when the National Anthem was played, and the boys were standing with their rifles at presents arms, one of them dropped his rifle.  It makes quite a clatter on a hard field.
   "That was Harry," I said.
   "It could happen to anybody," retorted my wife.  "Keep quiet."
   Then, when the parade was over and the men had been dismissed, First Sergeant Grogan came over to say hello.  "How do, Mrs. Pettit."
   "How do you do," said my wife, very chilly.
   "Think there's any hope for our boy, sergeant?" I asked.
   The sarge grinned and shook his head.  "Not a chance," he said.  "Not a chance, colonel."

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14. The Heart of a Broken Story         
(Esquire 16, September, 1941)

Every day Justin Horgenschlag, thirty-dollar-a-week printer's assistant, saw at close quarters approximately sixty women whom he had never seen before. Thus in the four years he had lived in New York, Horgenschlag had seen at close quarters about 75,120 different women. Of these 75,120 women, roughly 25,000 were under thirty years of age and over fifteen years of age. Of the 25,000 only 5,000 weighed between one hundred five and one hundred twenty-five pounds. Of these 5,000 only 1,000 were not ugly. Only 500 were reasonably attractive; only 100 were quite attractive; only 25 could have inspired a long, slow whistle. And with only 1 did Horgenschlag fall in love with at first sight.
   Now, there are two kinds of  femme fatale.  There is the femme fatale in every sense of the word, and there is the femme fatale who is not a femme fatale in every sense of the word.
   Her name was Shirley Lester.  She was twenty years old (eleven years younger than Horgenschlag), was five-foot-four (bringing her head to the level of Horgenschlag's eyes), weighed 117 pounds (light as a feather to carry).  Shirley was a stenographer, lived with and supported her mother, Agnes Lester, an old Nelson Eddy fan.  In references to Shirley's looks people often put it this way: "Shirley's as pretty as a picture."
   And in the Third Avenue Bus early one morning, Horgenschlag stood over Shirley Lester, and was a dead duck.  All because Shirley's mouth was open in a peculiar way.  Shirley was reading a cosmetic advertisement in the wall panel of the bus; and when Shirley read, Shirley relaxed slightly at the jaw.  And in that short moment while Shirley's mouth was open, lips were parted, Shirley was probably the most fatal one in all Manhattan.  Horgenschlag saw in her a positive cure-all for a gigantic monster of loneliness which had been stalking around his heart since he had come to New York.  Oh, the agony of it!  The agony of standing over Shirley Lester and not being able to bend down and kiss Shirley's parted lips.  The inexpressible agony of it!

   That was the beginning of the story I started to write for Collier's. I was going to write a lovely tender boy-meets-girl story.  What could be finer, I thought.  The world needs boy-meets-girl stories.  But to write one, unfortunately, the writer must go about the business of having the boy meet the girl.  I couldn't do it with this one.  Not and have it make sense.  I couldn't get Horgenschlag and Shirley together properly.  And here are the reasons:
   Certainly it was impossible for Horgenschlag to bend over and say in all sincerity:
   "I beg your pardon.  I love you very much.  I'm nuts about you.  I <I>know</I> it.  I could love you all my life.  I'm a printer's assistant and I make thirty dollars a week.  Gosh, how I love you.  Are you busy tonight?"
   This Horgenschlag might be a goof, but not that big a goof.  He may have been born yesterday, but not today.  You can't expect Collier's readers to swallow that kind of bilge.  A nickel's a nickel, after all.
   I couldn't, of course, all of a sudden give Horgenschlag a suave serum, mixed from William Powell's old cigarette case and Fred Astaire's old top hat.
   "Please don't misunderstand me, Miss.  I'm a magazine illustrator.  My card.  I'd like to sketch you more than I've ever wanted to sketch anyone in my life.  Perhaps such an undertaking would be to a mutual advantage.  May I telephone you this evening, or in the very near future? (Short, debonair laugh.)  I hope I don't sound too desperate. (Another one.)  I suppose I am, really."
   Oh, boy.  Those lines delivered with a weary, yet gay, yet reckless smile.  If only Horgenschlag had delivered them.  Shirley, of course, was an old Nelson Eddy fan herself, and an active member of the Keystone Circulating Library.
   Maybe you're beginning to see what I was up against.
   True, Horgenschlag might have said the following:
   "Excuse me, but aren't you Wilma Pritchard?"
   To which Shirley would have replied coldly, and seeking a neutral point on the other side of the bus:
   "No."
   "That's funny," Horgenschlag could have gone on, "I was willing to swear you were Wilma Pritchard.  Uh, you don't by any chance come from Seattle?"
   "No."--More ice where that came from.
   "Seattle's my home town."
   Neutral point.
   "Great little town, Seattle.  I mean it's really a great little town.  I've only been here--I mean in New York--for four years.  I'm a printer's assistant.  Justin Horgenschlag is my name."
   "I'm really not interested."
   Oh, Horgenschlag wouldn't have gotten anywhere with that kind of line.  He had neither the looks, personality, or good clothes to gain Shirley's interest under the circumstances.  He didn't have a chance.  And, as I said before, to write a really good boy-meets-girl story it's wise to have the boy meet the girl.
   Maybe Horgenschlag might have fainted, and in doing so grabbed for support: the support being Shirley's ankle.  He could have torn the stocking that way, or succeeded in ornamenting it with a fine long run.  People would have made room for the stricken Horgenschlag, and he would have got to his feet, mumbling: "I'm all right, thanks," then "Oh, say! I'm terribly sorry, Miss.  I've torn your stocking.  You must let me pay for it.  I'm short of cash just now, but just give me your address."
   Shirley wouldn't have given him her address.  She just would have become embarrassed and inarticulate.  "It's all right," she would have said, wishing Horgenschlag hadn't been born.  And besides, the whole idea is illogical.  Horgenschlag, a Seattle boy, wouldn't have dreamed of clutching at Shirley's ankle.  Not in the Third Avenue Bus.
   But what is more logical is the possibility that Horgenschlag might have got desperate.  There are still a few men who love desperately.  Maybe Horgenschlag was one.  He might have snatched Shirley's handbag and run with it towards the rear exit door.  Shirley would have screamed.  Men would have heard her, and remembered the Alamo or something.  Horgenschlag's flight, let's say, is now arrested.  The bus is stopped.  Patrolman Wilson, who hasn't made a good arrest in a long time, reports on the scene.  What's going on here?  Officer, this man tried to steal my purse.
   Horgenschlag is hauled into court.  Shirley, of course, must attend session.  They both give their addresses; thereby Horgenschlag is informed of the location of Shirley's divine abode.
   Judge Perkins, who can't even get a good, a really good cup of coffee in his own house, sentences Horgenschlag to a year in jail.  Shirley bites her lip, but Horgenschlag is marched away.
   In prison, Horgenschlag writes the following letter to Shirley Lester:


   "Dear Miss Lester:

   "I did not really mean to steal your purse.  I just took it because I love you.  You see I only wanted to get to know you.  Will you please write me a letter sometime when you get the time?  It gets pretty lonely here and I love you very much and maybe even you would come to see me some time if you get the time.

   Your friend,

   Justin Horgenschlag"


   Shirley shows the letter to all her friends.  They say, "Ah, it's cute, Shirley."  Shirley agrees that it's kind of cute in a way.  Maybe she'll answer it.  "Yes!  Answer it.  Give'm a break.  What've ya got t'lose?"  So Shirley answers Horgenschlag's letter.


   "Dear Mr. Horgenschlag:

   "I received your letter and really feel sorry about what has happened.  Unfortunately there is very little we can do about it at this time, but I do feel abominable concerning the turn of events.  However, your sentence is a short one and soon you will be out.  The best of luck to you.

   Sincerely yours,

   Shirley Lester"


   "Dear Miss Lester:

   You will never know how cheered up you made me feel when I received your letter.  You should not feel abominable at all.  It was all my fault for being so crazy so don't feel that way at all.  We get movies here once a week so it really is not so bad.  I am 31 years of age and come from Seattle.  I have been in New York 4 years and think it is a great town only once in a while you get pretty lonesome.  You are the prettiest girl I have ever seen even in Seattle.  I wish you would come to see me some Saturday afternoon during visiting hours 2 to 4 and I will pay your train fare.

   Your friend,

   Justin Horgenschlag"


   Shirley would have shown this letter, too, to all her friends.  But she would not answer this one.  Anyone could see that this Horgenschlag was a goof.  And after all.  She had answered the first letter.  If she answered this silly letter the thing might drag on for months and everything.  She did all she cold do for the man.  And what a name.  Horgenschlag.
   Meanwhile, in prison Horgenschlag is having a terrible time, even thought they have movies once a week.  His cell-mates are Snipe Morgan and Slicer Burke, two boys from the back room, who see in Horgenschlag's face a resemblance to a chap in Chicago who once ratted on them.  They are convinced that Ratface Ferrero and Justin Horgenschlag are one and the same person.
   "But I'm not Ratface Ferrero," Horgenschlag tells them.
   "Don't gimme that," says Slicer, knocking Horgenschlag's meager food rations to the floor.
   "Bash his head in," says Snipe.
   "I tell ya I'm just here because I stole a girl's purse on the Third Avenue Bus," pleads Horgenschlag.  "Only I didn't really steal it.  I fell in love with her, and it was the only way I could get to know her."
   "Don't gimme that," says Slicer.
   "Bash his head in," says Snipe.
   Then there is the day when seventeen prisoners try to make an escape.  During play period in the recreation yard, Slicer Burke lures the warden's niece, eight-year-old Lisbeth Sue, into his clutches.  He puts his eight-by-twelve hands around the child's waist and holds her up for the warden to see.
   "Hey, warden!" yells Slicer.  "Open up them gates or it's curtains for the kid!"
   "I'm not afraid, Uncle Bert!" calls out Lisbeth Sue.
   "Put down that child, Slicer!" commands the warden, with all the impotence at his command.
   But Slicer knows he has the warden just where he wants him.  Seventeen men and a small blonde child walk out the gates.  Sixteen men and a small blonde child walk out safely.  A guard in the high tower thinks he sees a wonderful opportunity to shoot Slicer in the head, and thereby destroy the unity of the escaping group.  But he misses, and succeeds only in shooting the small man walking nervously behind Slicer, killing him instantly.
   Guess who?

   And, thus, my plan to write a boy-meets-girl story for Collier's, a tender, memorable love story, is thwarted by the death of my hero.
   Now, Horgenschlag would never have been among those seventeen desperate men if only he had not been made desperate and panicky by Shirley's failure to answer his second letter.  But the fact remains that she did not answer his second letter.  She never in a hundred years would have answered it.  I can't alter facts.
   And what a shame.  What a pity that Horgenschlag, in prison, was unable to write the following letter to Shirley Lester:

   "Dear Miss Lester:

   " I hope a few lines will not annoy or embarrass you.  I'm writing, Miss Lester, because I'd like you to know that I am not a common thief.  I stole your bag, I want you to know, because I fell in love you the moment I saw you on the bus.  I could think of no way to become acquainted with you except by acting rashly--foolishly, to be accurate.  But then, one is a fool when one is in love.
   I loved the way your lips were so slightly parted.  You represented the answer to everything to me.  I haven't been unhappy since I came to New York four years ago, but neither have I been happy.  Rather, I can best describe myself as having been one of the thousands of young men in New York who simply exist.
   "I came to New York from Seattle.  I was going to become rich and famous and well-dressed and suave.  But in four years I've learned that I am not going to become rich and famous and well-dressed and suave.  I'm a good printer's assistant, but that's all I am.  One day the printer got sick, and I had to take his place.  What a mess I made of things, Miss Lester.  No one would take my orders.  The typesetters just sort of giggled when I would tell them to get to work.  And I don't blame them.  I'm a fool when I give orders.  I suppose I'm one of millions who was never meant to give orders.  But I don't mind anymore.  There's a twenty-three-year-old kid my boss just hired.  He's only twenty-three, and I am thirty-one and have worked at the same place for four years.  But I know that one day he will become head printer, and I will be his assistant.  But I don't mind knowing this any more.
   "Loving you is the important thing, Miss Lester.  There are some people who think that love is sex and marriage and six-o'clock kisses and children, and perhaps it is, Miss Lester.  But do you know what I think?  I think that love is a touch and yet not a touch.
   "I suppose it's important to a woman that other people think of her as the wife of a man who is either rich, handsome, witty, or popular.  I'm not even popular.  I'm not even hated.  I'm just--I'm just--Justin Horgenschlag.  I never make people gay, sad, angry, or even disgusted.  I think people regard me as a nice guy, but that's all.
   "When I was a child no one pointed me out as being cute or bright or good-looking.  If they had to say something they said I had sturdy little legs.
   "I don't expect an answer to this letter, Miss Lester.  I would like an answer more than anything else in the world, but truthfully I don't expect one.  I merely wanted you to know the truth.  If my love for you has led me to a new and great sorrow, only I am to blame.
   "Perhaps one day you will understand and forgive your blundering admirer.
   Justin Horgenschlag

   Such a letter would be no more unlikely than the following:

   "Dear Mr. Horgenschlag:

   "I got your letter and loved it.  I feel guilty and miserable that events have taken the turn they have.  If only you had spoken to me instead of taking my purse!  But then, I suppose I should have turned the conventional chill on you.
   "It's lunch hour at the office, and I'm alone here writing to you.  I felt that I wanted to be alone today at lunch hour.  I felt that if I had to go to lunch with the girls at the Automat and they jabbered through the meal as usual, I'd suddenly scream.
   "I don't care if you're not a success, or that you're not handsome, or rich, or famous, or suave.  Once upon a time I would have cared.  When I was in high school I was always in love with the Joe Glamour boys.  Donald Nicolson, the boy who walked in the rain and knew all Shakespeare's sonnets backwards.  Bob Lacey, the handsome gink who could shoot a basket from the middle of the floor, with the score tied and the chukker almost over.  Harry Miller, who was shy and had such nice, durable brown eyes.
   "But that crazy part of my life is over.
   "The people in your office who giggled when you gave them orders are on my black list.  I hate them as I've never hated anybody.
   "You saw me when I had all my make-up on.  Without it, believe me, I'm no raving beauty.  Please write me when you're allowed to have visitors.  I'd like you to take a second look at me.  I'd like to be sure you didn't catch me at a phony best.
   "Oh, how I wish you'd told the judge why you stole my purse!  We might be together and able to talk over all the many things I think we have in common.
   "Please let me know when I may come to see you.

   Yours sincerely,

   Shirley Lester"


   But Justin Horgenschlag never got to know Shirley Lester.  She got off at Fifth-Sixth Street, and he got off at Thirty-Second Street.  That night Shirley went to the movies with Howard Lawrence with whom she was in love.  Howard thought she was a darn good sport, but that was a far as it went.  And Justin Horgenschlag that night stayed home and listened to the Lux Toilet Soap radio play.  He thought about Shirley all night, all the next day, and very often during that month.  Then all of a sudden he was introduced to Doris Hillman who was beginning to be afraid she wasn't going to get a husband  And then before Justin Horgenschlag knew it, Doris Hillman and things were filing away Shirley Lester in the back of his mind.  And Shirley Lester, the thought of her, no longer was available.
   And that's why I never wrote a boy-meets-girl story for Collier's.  In a boy-meets-girl story the boy should always meet the girl.
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15. The Inverted Forest               
(Cosmopolitan, December, 1947)

1. deo

The Inverted Forest



To say that this short novel is unusual magazine fare is, we think, a wild understatement. We're not going to tell you what it's about. We merely predict you will find it the most original story you've read in a long time-and the most fascinating

The following diary extract is dated December 31, 1917. It was written in Shoreview, Long Island by a little girl named Corinne von Nordhoffen. She was the daughter of Sarah Keyes Montross von Nordhoffen, the Montross Orthopedic Appliances heiress, who had committed suicide in 1915, and Baron Otho von Nordhoffen, who was still alive, or at least, under his gray mask of expatriation, was still breathing. Corinne entered this chapter in her diary on the night before her eleventh birthday.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I am going to have a party. I have invited Raymond Ford and Miss Aigletinger and Lorraine Pederson and Dorothy Wood
and Marjorie Pheleps and Lawrence Pheleps and Mr. Miller. Miss Aigletinger said I had to invite Lawrence Pheleps on account of Marjorie is coming. I have to invite Mr. Miller on account of he works for father now. Father said Mr. Miller will drive to New York in the morning and bring back 2 cow boy movies and show them in the libery after dinner. I got Raymond a real cow boy hat to wear just like that cow boy he likes wears. I got everybody else hats also only paper ones. Miss Aigletinger is going to give me Parade Prejudice by Jane Orsten she said. She is also going to give me the elsie I don't have. She is the most adorable teacher I have had since Miss Calahan. Father is also going to give me more room in the kennles for Sandys puppys
and I already saw the doll house from Wanamakers. Dorothy Wood is going to give me an autograph album and gave it to me already 3 weeks ago. She write in the front of it in your golden chain of friendship consider me a link. I
nearly cried Dorothy is so adorable. I don't know what Lorraine and Marjorie are going to give me. I wish that mean Lawrence Pheleps did not have to come to my party. I don't want Raymond Ford to give me anything for my birthday just so he comes is all. He is so poor and not rich at all and you can tell by his cloths. I wish Dorothy had not written on the first page of the album because I wanted Raymond. Mr. Miller is going to give me an alligator. He has this brother in Florida that has alligators and T. B. like Miss Calahan had. I love Raymond Ford. I love him better then my father. Anybody that opens this dairy and reads this page will drop dead in 24 hours. Tomorrow night!!! Please dear lord don’t let Lawrence Pheleps be mean at my party and don’t let father and Mr. Miller talk German at the table or anything because I just know they would all go home and tell there parents about it except Raymond and Dorothy. I love you Raymond because you are the nicest boy in the world and I am going to marry you. Any body that reads this without my permission will drop dead in 24 hours or get sick.

Close to nine o'clock on the night of Corinne's birthday party, Mr. Miller, the Baron's new secretary, leaned forward and volunteered down-table straight at Corinne, "Well, let's go get this boy. No use sittin' around mopin' about it all night. Where's he live, birthday girl?" Corinne, at the end of the table, shook her head and blinked violently. Under the table her hands were caught hard between her knees.
   "He lives right on Winona," spoke up Marjorie. "His mother's a waiter at the Lobster Palace. They live over the restaurant." She looked around, pleased.
   "Waitress," corrected her brother Lawrence, with contempt.
   Little Dorothy Wood, seated at Corinne's right, shot one of her high strung glances uptable toward the baron. But the old gentleman was busy examining, somewhat morosely, the cuff of his dinner jacket-he had just brushed his sleeve into his ice cream-the sort of thing that often happened to him. Dorothy's high-strung glances in his direction were unnecessary, anyway. The baron's hearing device was seldom aimed at table talk, birthday parties not excepted, and regularly all evening he had been missing Lawrence Phelps's smart-boy alto.
   "Well, waitress," conceded Marjorie Phelps. "Any. ways, he lives where I said, because Hermine Jackson's cousin followed him home once."
   "Winona Avenue." Mr. Miller stood up confidently. He dropped his napkin on the table and removed his pale green, unfestive-looking paper hat. He was a baldheaded man with a jolly, humorless face. "Let's go, birthday kiddo," he said.
   Again the hostess shook her head and blinkedwildly, this time.
   Miss Aigletinger leaned forward, a committee-of one for smooth-running birthday parties. "Corinne, dear. Go with Mr. Mueller, why don't you,
honey?"
   "Miller," corrected Miller.
   "Miller. Excuse me. . . Go with Mr. Miller, dear, why don't you? It'll only take a teensy minute. And we'll all be right here when you get back."
Miss Aigletinger turned rather coyly to the baron, on whose left she was sitting. "Won't we, Baron?" she asked.
   "He isn't a baron any more. He's an American citizen. Corinne said so,"
Dorothy Wood stated firmly-and immediately blushed.
   "What is it, please?" inquired the baron, aiming his hearing apparatus at Miss Aigletinger.
To the never stale interest of all the children present –except Corinne--Miss Aigletinger picked up the baron's speaking tube and shouted thinly into it, "I say we'll all be right here when they get back, won't we? They're going into town to look for the Ford boy." She started to relinquish the tube but instead took a firmer hold on it. "Very strange child. Came to us in October," she shouted elaborately. "Not a good mixer."
   Though he hadn't understood a word, the baron nodded pleasantly.
   Dispirited, Miss Aigletinger placed a protective hand to her throat where all the volume had passed through, and willingly gave over to Mr. Miller, who was standing ready beside her chair. Miller picked up the tube and shouted into it, "Wir werden sofort zur|ck "
   "Kindly speak English," interrupted the baron.
   Miller flushed slightly but shouted, "We'll be right back. We're going to
look for the youngster who didn't come to the party."
   The baron understood Miller and nodded; then he glared down-table at
Dorothy Wood, a favorite of his, whom he regularly frightened to death.
"You didn't eat anything." he accused her. "Eat."
   Dorothy was too rattled to do anything but blush.
   "She doesn t eat anything," the baron complained to no one in particular.
   "Get your coat, birthday girl," Miller said to Corinne, standing directly over her.
   "No," said Corinne. "Please."
   "Corinne, dear," intervened Miss Aigletinaer, "it's just possible that Raymond Ford forgot your party. Those things happen in the best of families. There's no harm, surely, if you just remind---"
   "I reminded him this morning. I told him at recess." It was the longest
remark Corinne had made all evening.
   "Yes, dear, but he may not be well. He may be ill. He might just be in bed
You could--you could take him a lovely piece of birthday cake--couldn't
she, Mr. Miller?"
   "Sure." Miller placed a hand on the back of Miss Aigletinger's chair.
"Must be quite a youngster," he mused, sucking his tooth. "What is he, the
Frank Merriwell of his class or something?"
   "The who?" coolly inquired Miss Aigletinger, addressing the hand on the back of her chair.
   "The school athalete. You know. All the gals after him. The demon of the cinder path, the---"
   "Him an athalete?" interrupted Lawrence Phelps. "He can't even catch a football. You know what? Robert Selridge saw Ford coming across the playground and yelled at him and chucked a football at him, not even fast, and you know what Ford did?"
   Mr. Miller, inserting the nail of his little finger between two molars, shook his head.
   "He jumped outa the way. Honest ! He wouldn't even chase it afterwards.
Boy, Robert Selridge nearly socked him one." Lawrence Phelps turned his
burly little face toward his hostess. "Where'd Ford come from anyways,
Corinne? He didn't come from around here anywheres."
   "Mmm," Corinne replied inaudibly.
   "What?" said Lawrence.
   "She said none of your beeswax," Dorothy Wood translated loyally.
   "Corinne," rebuked Mr. Miller, removing his finger from his mouth. "Is 'at nice?"
   "Tell 'em about his back," Marjorie Phelps suggested to her brother. She turned brightly to the others, informing them, "Lawrence saw his back at
Doctor's Hour. It's all things all over it. Big awful marks, like."
   "Oh, that. Yeah," said her brother. "His mother heats him up."

The hostess stood up. "You're a liar," she accused, trembling. "He hurt
himself. He fell and hurt himself."
   "Children, children!" This from Miss Aigletinger, with a nervous glance at the baron, who, undisturbed, went on staring profoundly at an embroidered pattern in the tablecloth.
   "All right, all right, he fell and hurt himself," Lawrence Phelps said.
   Corinne sat down, still trembling.
   "Lawrence, I don't ever want to hear you say anything like that again,"
Miss Aigletinger said. "It does not happen to be true, in the first place. The school board investigates those things-all those things. If that boy's mother "
   "Oh, I know why she likes Ford," Lawrence interrupted ambiguously. "I
don't wanna tell, though." He glanced over at his hostess's suddenly upjerked, burning little face. Then, efficiently, as though he were dealing with butterfly wings, he tore his hostess's horror apart on the spot. "Because Louise Selfridge was sore Corinne won the elocution and -right in front of everybody in the wardrobe closet-Louise called Corinne a Heinie spy. And Louise said even her father said why don't Corinne and her father go to Germany where all the Heinies are-the Kaiser and all. And Corinne started to cry. And Raymond Ford was wardrobe monitor that day, and he chucked Louise Selridge's coat out in the aisle," Lawrence said, taking a breath, but not quite finished. "And last week Corinne brought her dog after school to show Ford. And she wrote his name on the blackboard at recess and tried to erase it, but everybody saw it." No more butterfly wings on hand Lawrence looked vaguely in the direction of the foot. Man behind him. "Can I please have another spoon? Mine fell."
   "Lawrence! We don't repeat those things."
   "Honest!" said Lawrence, as though his integrity, were in jeopardy. "You can ask my sister. Ask anybody. Ford was giving Louise Selridge her coat when she said it. Only he didn't give it to her. He chucked it right out in
the aisle. Everybody---"
   "What time is it, Miller?" the baron asked suddenly.
   Everyone in the room became still. Miller pushed back the sleeve of his coat.
   "Twenty past nine, Baron." Miller turned to Corinne. "What's it gonna be, kiddo? You wanna look for this boy or not?"
   "Yes," said Corinne, and walked with adult dignity out of the dining room.
The dark road was icy, and there were no skid chains on Mr. Miller's
automobile-he didn't believe in 'em.
   "Yours'll be here tomorrow," he promised Corinne in the unfraternal darkness. He was speaking incessantly of his brother's alligators. "Little bit of a fella. But he'll grow. He'll grow, all right." He chuckled, tobaccobreathily, toward Corinne.
   "Please don't go so fast."
   "What's 'at? Somebody scared?"
   "It's this street," Corinne said excitedly. "Right here, please---"
   "Where?" said Miller.
   "You passed it! "
   "Well, we can fix that," said Miller.
   The car skidded, selected its own direction, and came to a stop with its
forewheels up on the sidewalk.
   Corinne, shivering, let herself out of the car and ran the slippery quarter of a block to the place where the Lobster Palace should have been shining yellowly.
   But something was wrong. The Lobster Palace wasn't shining at all. Both the front show window and the electric sign were as black as the night itself.
   "Closed, eh?" Miller said, reaching Corinne. His breath in the sub-zero
air was almost more visible than he was.
   "The house can't be closed. The restaurant may be. but the house can't be. People live upstairs. Raymond Ford lives upstairs."
   Instantly, as though in proof of part of Corinne's remark, a woman carrying two suitcases charged out of the black doorway, brushing past Corinne. No kind of hall light preceded or followed her. She snorted visibly over to the curb, dropped her two suitcases on the icy walk and faced the doorway from which she had emerged. Then, just as Corinne felt Mr. Miller pull her neutrally out of the way, another figure, that of a small boy, came out of the building. Corinne excitedly called his name, but the boy didn't seem to hear her. He went directly to the woman with the suitcases, stood beside her and faced as she was facing. He took something out of his pocket, unfolded it, put it on his ad and pulled it down over his ears. Corinne knew at it was his aviator's cap.
   "Listen," said the lady with Raymond Ford harshly. "I'm entitled to my
galoshes."
   Corinne saw with a start that the lady was not addressing Raymond Ford, but something in the doorway-a glowing cigar.
   "I toldya," said the cigar. "The restront's locked. And it's gonna stay locked the whole time the boss is his brudda's funeral. Listen. You had all affernoona ick up ya galoshes. '
   "Yeah?" said the lady with Raymond Ford.
   "Yeah," said the cigar, and got even redder. "You in't supposa leave no
galoshes in no kitchen. You now that."
   "Listen," said the lady with Raymond Ford. "I'm gonna stop at the damn pleece station on my way to the station, hear me? A person's entitleda
their property."
   "Let's go. Please," Raymond Ford said, taking the lady's arm. "Please.
He's not gonna give ya the galoshes; can'tcha see?"
   "Leggo, you. Don't rush me," the lady said. "I'm not leavin' the vicinity
without them galoshes."
   Something like laughter came from the doorway.
   "If ya feet get cold, break open one a them bagsa yours," suggested the cigar. "You got plenty t'keep ya warm. You got plenty to keep you warm."
   "Mother, c'mon. Please," Raymond Ford said. "Can'tcha see he's not gonna give 'em to ya?"
   "I want them galoshes."
   A door banged. Frightened, Corinne looked and saw that the cigar was gone.

Raymond Ford's mother ran a few wild steps on the ice, stopped perilously short, recovered her balance, and began to pound with her fist against the dark show window of the restaurant--at the place where normally the lobsters could be seen winking on cracked ice. She screamed as she pounded, articulating words that Corinne had nervously read from walls and fences. Corinne felt Mr. Miller's grip tighten on her arm, but Corinne stayed where she was, because Raymond Ford was now standing before her.
   He spoke to Corinne just loud enough to be heard over his mother's activities directly behind him.
   "I'm sorry I couldn't come to your party."
   "That's all right."
   "How's your dog?" said Raymond Ford.
   "He's fine."
   "That's good," said Raymond Ford, and went over to his mother and began to pull her by the arm. But she wrenched successfully away from him, scarcely losing the rhythm of her violence.

Mr. Miller came forward, cupping his cold ears with his hands. "I'd be glad to drive you people to the station, if that's where you're going," he shouted.
   Raymond Ford's mother stopped pounding and shouting. She turned away from the show window, glanced briefly at Miller in the darkness, then at
Corinne, then back at Miller. Raymond Ford indicated Corinne with his thumb. "She's a friend of mine," he said.
   "You got a car?" Mrs. Ford asked Miller.
   "How could I take you to the station if I didn't?"
   "Where it is?"
   Miller pointed. "Right there."
   Mrs. Ford nodded, absently. She then turned around and, using an Anglo-Saxon verb, gave the dark show window a short, obscene command. She turned back to Miller. "Let's get otta here before I get mad," she told him. She sat beside Miller in the front seat, and the two children sat in back with the suitcases. The car moved off on a slippery tangent, straightened out, and went on.
   "He wasn't the guy that engaged me for the position," Mrs. Ford announced suddenly. "The guy that engaged me was a gentleman." She was addressing Miller's profile.
"Hey, haven't I seen you in the restront?"
   "I don't believe so," Miller said stiffly.
   "Live in this lousy burgh?"
   "No, I do not."
   "Just work here, ah?"
   "Mother, don't ask the man so many questions. Why do you wanna ask the man so many questions?"
   She turned savagely around in her seat. "Listen, you. Stay otta the discussion," . she ordered. "When I'm innarested in your two cents I'll letcha"
   "I'm Baron von Nordhoffen's secretary," Miller said quickly, to keep peace in his automobile.
   "Yeah? The Heinie on the hill?" She sounded suspicious. "How come you're ridin' around in this tin lizzy? Where's all the lemazeens?"
   "This happens to be my own car," Miller said coldly.
   "That's different. I wondered." Mrs. Ford seemed to reflect for a moment, then sharply and hostilely spoke to Miller's profile. "Don't you high-hat me, Charlie. I don't feel like bein' high-hatted, the mood I'm in."
   Miller, a little frightened, cleared his throat. "I can assure you," he
said, "nobody's high-hatting anybody."
   Mrs. Ford abruptly lowered her window, removed something from her mouth, and flicked it into the night. Closing the window, she said, "I come from a damn good family. I had everything. Money. Social position. Class." She looked at Miller. "You happen to have any cigarettes with ya, by any chance?"
   "I'm afraid not."
   She shrugged. "Listen, I could-go home right now and say to Dad, 'Dad, I'm tireda bein' an adventuress. l wanna settle down and take it easy for a while.' He'd be tickleda death. I'd make him the happiest Dad in the
world."

Raymond Ford's mother was silent for a moment. When she spoke again her
voice sounded more glum than inflamed.
   My trouble is, I married beneath me. I married a chap that was way beneath me, was my trouble. Every way you look at it."
   Miller's curiosity got the better of him. "Your husband dead?" he asked coldly.
   "I was just a beautiful, dumb kid," Raymond Ford's mother mused with affection.
   Miller repeated his question.
   "I don't know what the hell he is, dead or what," she said. Then, abruptly? she sat up straight in her seat and began to clear away frost from her window, using the heel of her hand. "We're here," she announced dispassionately, and turned in her seat to address her son. "Now, listen," she said to him. "I mean what I toleya. You let that bag flop open like last time, and I'll break your back.    "The straps broke," Raymond Ford said.
   "You heard me. I'll break your back," said his mother, working the handle of the door. She turned to Miller, saying, "Thanks for the ride, snob," and got out of the car. Without another glance toward the car or her son or her luggage she began to walk toward the glowing station waiting room.
   Raymond Ford opened his door and got out. He then lifted out the two
suitcases, one at a time."
   Corinne let down her window. "You want me to tell Miss Aigletinger you won't be in school tomorrow?' You can if you want to, I guess."
   "Where're you going?"
   "I don't know," Raymond Ford said. "Good-by."
   He picked up the two suitcases and began to walk after his mother, who had already disappeared. The suitcases were huge and looked dead-weight. Corinne saw him fall once on the hard snow. Then he disappeared.

Corinne's father died, with equal parts of courage and an alien's confusion, when she was sixteen. When she was seventeen the Shoreview estate was sold, and Eric, the chauffeur, performed his last duty for the von Nordhoffen menage by driving Corinne to Wellesley.
   At seventeen Corinne was nearly six feet tall with low heels. She walked rather like an umpire measuring out yards on a football field. You had to get right up close to her to see that she was a beauty. Actually, her long legs were very interesting-looking. But not only her legs; all of her. Although her fair hair was just a little anemic-it would later call for tact on the part of her hairdresser, if Madame's suggestions were a little too fashionable-it didn't really matter. It was the kind of hair that lets the ears be visible now and then, and Corinne's ears happened to be extraordinary: delicate. almost sweet, in formation and position, with bladethin edges. Her nose was long, but very slender and very high-bridged, it looked lovely even on the coldest day. Her eyes were hazel and, though not enormous, enormously kind. When her lips were ajar-which was seldom, as her face was nearly always caught tight in some private insecurity-but when they were ajar you saw that they were not thin at all; you saw that the middle of her lower lip was full and round. She was a wonderful-looking girl.
   When she was seventeen, though, most boys she knew found her anything but wonderful. For one reason, her speech was rapid and uncloying to the point of being brusque, and to go with it, unfortunately, her conversation stuck very close to the facts. While some boy, for example, was giving her the exact figures on the number of highballs he had consumed just the other night, Corinne was entirely apt to break in with some terrible remark, like "If we hurry we can catch the twelve thirty-one instead of the twelve forty. Do you feel like running?"
   There was something else. Young men sensed, or actually found out, that Corinne did not like to be touched unnecessarily. When she was, she either jumped or apologized. It was the sort of thing that can play hell with a man-going-to-Yale-next-year's Saturday night. So Corinne went right on jumping or apologizing for a long time. Perhaps none of her young men could
have helped her anyway. It takes a certain amount of genius to touch anybody properly, let alone a mixed-up young girl.
   In college Corinne came out of herself a little bit. Not much, but a little bit. The girls discovered behind her diffidence a sense of humor, and they made her use it; but that wasn't all. It gradually leaked out all over the dormitory that Corinne could keep a secret, and very early in her freshman year she was unofficially elected Dormitory Kid. On many a cold Massachusetts night, consequently, she was obliged to get out of a warm bed
to put out some body else's cat of guilt or innocence. To some extent the functions of her office were good for her own well-being. Giving out midnight advice can be highly instructive after it comes poisonously home a few times. But if you're kept at the job too long-straight through your senior year, say-all the knowledge you pick up finally turns academic and useless.

After graduating from Wellesley she went to Europe. She preferred doing that to going straight to Philadelphia to live with her maternal second cousin. Besides, she had an old, undisciplined urge to visit her dead father's estate in Germany. She had a feeling that on arriving there she would respond more poignantly to he memory of things long over and ungracefully done with.
   Although nothing daughter-sized turned up for her when she did finally see her father's estate, she stayed on in Europe for three years. She studied  and played, more or less after a fashion, in Paris, in Vienna, Rome, Berlin, St. Anton, Cannes, Lausanne. She prescribed for herself some of the usual American-in-Europe neurotic fun, plus some accessible exclusively to girls who happen to be millionairesses. Over a period of thirty-odd months she bought herself nine cars. Not all of them bored her. Some she gave away. Nobody, of course, can make the American rich feel quite as filthy as can a poor-but-clean European.

Corinne knew a great number of men and boys during her three years in Europe, but her only real friend was a young man from Detroit. His name was Pat, but I don't know whether it stood for Patrick or Patterson. Anyway he was very probably the first young man who had ever successfully ordered
Corinne to close her eyes while she was being kissed. He most certainly was the first person whom Corinne had ever allowed to pass vicariously along the streets of her childhood to see a small boy in a woolen aviator's cap. The young man from Detroit was no fool. When he found out just how regularly Corinne was making private trips back to her childhood, he tried to do something about it. With the best intentions he tried to set up some kind of detour in Corinne's mind. But he never really got a chance. He fell off the running board of Corinne's ninth car, in his swimming trunks, and was killed.

Corinne went back to America after his death. She went to Philadelphia, to her cousin's house, where she had spent all her college vacations. But she stayed only a month. A girl from Wellesley told her over the telephone about a darling, oversized, overpriced apartment in the East Sixties in New York. The girl said it was just perfect for Corinne.
   Corinne took the apartment in New York and sat in it for nearly six months. She read a great deal. The young man from Detroit had first approached her on a like-melike-the-books-I-read basis, and she was now a heavy reader. She met-a few ex-Wellesley girls for lunch or theater. She signed a few papers when her late father's lawyer asked her to. But she had been a New Yorker almost seven months before anything significant happened to her.
   She was having a few dates with the brother of her last roommate in college. The young man was one of the most successful tomcats in town, and
Corinne was young enough to inform him one evening that he had a simply terrible Oedipus complex. Displeased with the information, the young gentleman threw his highball at her, catching her in the right eye with a fresh ice cube. The shiner that developed started Corinne off as a career girl, because when it disappeared she felt she ought to do something constructive by way of celebration. So she telephoned Robert Waner, had lunch with him, and asked him if he could get her a job on the news magazine he was working for.

I think I'll say here, and then let it go, that I am Robert Waner. I don't really have a good reason for taking myself out of the third person. Corinne had not seen Waner in nearly four years. During her college years she had seen more of him than any other boy. She had thought he was funny. When Waner had finally found that out, of course, he had begun to get even funnier. He'd got so funny at Senior Prom at Wellesley that Corinne had broken into tears and asked him to please go back to his own college. Waner, in love with Corinne, had left Wellesley immediately. He had written to her while she had been in Europe, sending her as many letters as he could salvage from his wastebasket.
   Waner's boss at the magazine liked Corinne immediately and gave her a job pinning news items together for a rewrite man. Corinne did that for about a year. Then, when the rewrite man wrote a hot novel and went to Hollywood, she took over his job stringing adjectives: tall, gaunt, left-handed
Anthony Creep, accompanied by his wife-ninety-three-year-old, web-footed, ex-manicurist, etc. Thereafter, Corinne's name began to move up the masthead quite steadily until, in another four years, it was on a line with only four other names. Which meant, roughly, that less than forty people on the magazine had a right to push her copy around.
   Her career was entirely remarkable. She had started out on it unable to understand just what she had to lose were she to fail as a career girl. In consequence, she was so cool about the whole setup that, in an office full of tense, ambitious people, she was taken at face value for efficient. It wasn't hard for her later to live up to her own reputation. She happened to be a really good magazine woman. She was not only a competent all-round reporter and editor, but she developed also into a good, if not brilliant, drama critic.
   As for Corinne's personal life during the first five years she worked for the magazine, I guess it could be recorded on a single sheet of any interoffice memo pad:
   Her wire-haired terrier, Malcolm, isn't properly housebroken and probably never will be.
   She is an easy, anonymous touch for any institution or individual depending upon charity.
   She likes cherrystone clams and usually takes a double order.
   She does not lie.
   She is very likely to turn around in a taxicab to watch a child cross a street.
She will not discuss the idiosyncrasy.
   She regularly renews her subscription to Psychoanalytic Quarterly, a
publication she barely glances through. She herself has never been psychoanalyzed.  Her legs grow lovelier each year.


Robert Waner bought two things to give to Corinne on her thirtieth birthday. One of them, an engagement ring, Corinne retreated from, and Waner (still the funny man) tried to drop it into the fare box of a Madison Avenue bus. The other gift--a book of poems, called, "The Cowardly Morning"--Waner put on Corinne's desk at the office, with a note saying,
"This man is Coleridge and Blake and Rilke all in one, and more."
   Corinne took the book home with her in a taxi and tossed it on her  edspread.
   She didn't pick up the book again until she was in bed, late that night. Then she glanced at the cover and opened the book with a dim impression that she was about to read some poems by someone who was not T. S. Eliot or Marianne Moore; someone-named Fane or Flood or Wilson.
   She raced through the first two poems in the book, both of which happened to be cerebral enough to require the reader's co-operation, and started emptily on the third poem. But she suddenly felt sorry for the poet for having her as a reader, and she politely turned back to the first poem. She had once done the same thing to Marianne Moore.
   The first poem was the title poem. This time Corinne read it through aloud. But still she didn't hear it. She read it through a third time, and heard some of it. She read it through a fourth time, and heard all of it. It was the poem containing the lines:

Not wasteland, but a great inverted forest
with all foliage underground.

   As though it might be best to look immediately for shelter, Corinne had to put the book down. At any moment the apartment building seemed liable to lose its balance and topple across Fifth Avenue into Central Park. She waited. Gradually the deluge of truth and beauty abated. Then she glanced at the cover of the book. She began to stare at it. Then suddenly she got out of bed and dialed Robert Waner's number on the telephone.
   "Bobby?" she said. "Corinne."
   "It's all right. I wasn't asleep. It isn't even four o'clock."
   "Bobby, who is this Ray Ford?"
   "Who ?"
   "Ray Ford. The man who wrote the poems you gave me."
   "Lemme sleep over it awhile. I'll see ya at the office."
   "Bobby, please. I think I know him. I may know him. I knew someone named Ray Ford-Raymond Ford. Really."
   "Good. I'll wait for you at the office. Good ni---"
   "Bobby, wake up. Please. This is terribly important. Don't you know anything about him?"
   "I only read the blurb on the back flap. That's all I---"
   Corinne hung up. In her excitement she hadn't thought of looking at the back flap of the dust jacket. She rushed back to her bed and read the few
notes on Ray Ford.
   She read that this Ray Ford was twice the winner of the Rice  fellowship for Poetry and three times the winner of the Annual Strauss and that he no divided his time "between his creative work and his duties as an instructor at Columbia University in New York." He was born in Boise, Idaho-an upsetting fact, as it should have been a decisive one, but Corinne had no idea where "her" Ray Ford had been born.
   But the notes said that he was thirty years old. Which was exactly, electrically, right.
   Corinne looked to see if there were a dedication. There was. The book was dedicated to the memory of a Mrs. Rizzio. This piece of information might have been a little puncturing, but Corinne's imagination was already off the ground. It was very simple. Mrs. Rizzio was Raymond Ford's mother  remarried. Corinne didn't even bother to consider, much less get around, the unlikelihood of an author (or anybody else), referring to his mother in the third person. She didn't need logic. She needed more excitement. She jumped back into bed with her book. Sitting erectly in bed, without lighting cigarettes, Corinne read "The Cowardly Morning" until the maid came in to wake her for breakfast. And even all the while she was getting dressed she felt Ray Ford's poems standing upright all over her room. She even kept an eye on them in her dressing-table mirror, lest they escape into their natural vertical ascent. And when she left for her office she closed her door securely.
   From her office, later that morning she twice telephoned Columbia, but
didn't get to speak to the author of "The Cowardly Morning." He was either in class or "not in the building just now."
   At noon she quit work and went home and slept until four o'clock. Then she called Columbia number again. This time she spoke to Ray Ford.

CORINNE began with a good strong apology. "I hope I'm not taking you away
from something," she said rapidly, "but my name is Corinne von Nordhoffen and I used to know someone--
   "Who?" interrupted the voice on the other end.
   She said her name again.
   "Oh! How are you, Corinne?"
   Corinne said she was fine and then supplied quite a gap in the conversation. She was much less taken aback by the fact that this was actually "her" Ray Ford than she was by the fact that her Ray Ford remembered her at all. After all he was not salvaging her name out of an old cocktail party, but out of a childhood partitioned off by nineteen years.
   She became very nervous. "I never expected you to remember me," she said. She began to think and talk in jumps. "I read your book of poems last night. I'd like to tell you how-beautiful-I thought they were. I know that
isn't the right word. I mean, the right word."
   "It's very nice," said Ford evenly.
   "Thank you, Corinne."
   "I live in New York," Corinne said.
   "I was just wondering about that. You don't live in Bayonne any more?"
   "Shoreview, Long Island," she quickly corrected.
   "Shoreview--of course! Don't you live there any more?"
   "No. My father died and I sold the house," Corinne said, finding her own voice dissonant. "How-how's your mother? "
   "She died a long time ago. Corinne."
   "I'm not keeping you from a class or something?" Corinne demanded abruptly.
   "No, no."
   Corinne stood up, as though someone wanted her seat. "Well. I just wanted to tell you how much I loved them-your poems."
   "It's very nice of you, Corinne. Really."
   She sat down again. She laughed. "It certainly is remarkable that you're the same Ray Ford. I mean who wrote those poems It isn't an extraor dinary name."
   "No. No, it isn't."
   "Where--where did you go after you left Shoreview?" Without wanting a cigarette she reached for a cigarette box.
   "I don't really remember, Corinne. It's such a long time ago."
   "It certainly is," she agreed, and stood up. "I'm probably taking your
time. I just wanted to tell you how---"
   "Will you have lunch with me one day next week, Corinne?" Ford asked.
   Corinne fumbled with a cigarette lighter. "I'd love to," she said.
   Ford said, "There's a little Chinese restaurant very near here. Do you
like Chinese food?"
   "I love it." The lighter slipped out of her hand and fell on the telephone
table.
   They arranged for lunch the following Tuesday at one o'clock. Then Corinne had a chance to run to her phonograph flick it on and turn the volume knob all the way to the right.
   She listened ecstatically as the music The Moldau-flowed into the room, very sensibly drawing everything in sight.

JANUARY 9, 1937, was a sharp, raw day. The Chinese restaurant was four blocks from Columbia-not, as Corinne had imagined, around the corner from it. Her cab driver had trouble finding it. It was off Broadway and squeezed between a delicatessen and a hardware store. The driver, sounding tricked and annoyed, kept saying that he didn't know the neighborhood. Finally Corinne told him to pull over to the curb. She got out and on foot found the restaurant herself. Inside the restaurant Corinne selected a boothed-in table opposite the door. She sat down aware that she was probably the only person in the place who hadn't either a textbook or a notebook within reach. She felt conspicuous, mink-coatish. Her face ached from the raw January weather. Her table, just vacated by a couple of beefy students, was wet with spilled tea.
   Although she was ten minutes early she began at once to watch the door. She and Ford had not described themselves over the telephone, and all shehad to go on was Robert Waner's melba-toast remark about poets almost never looking like poets because they would be infringing on the rights of all the chiropodists who are dead ringers for Byronthis and a badly-lighted image in her mind of a small-featured. light-haired little boy. She began unsnapping and snapping the silver catch on her wristwatch band. Finally she broke the thing. While she was trying to fix it, a man's voice spoke over her head. "Corinne?"
   "Yes."
   She pushed her disabled wrist watch into her handbag and quickly extended her hand to a man in a gray overcoat. Ford was suddenly seated and smiling directly at her. She had to look at him squarely now. There wasn't even glass for her to reach for.
   Even if Ford had been a cyclops Corinne probably would have flinched a kind of happy, integrating flinch. Actually, the other extremity was the case. Ford was a man. Only the glasses he wore saved him from gorgeousness. I won't attempt to estimate the head-on effect of his looks on Corinne's unused secret equipment. She was badly rattled, certainly and immediately had to use her social wits. "I almost thought I'd better wear my middie blouse," she said.
   Ford started to make some comment but he didn't get a chance. The Chinese waiter, clinging to some greasy mimeographed menus, was suddenly hanging over him. The waiter knew Ford and immediately made some report to him about a book that had been left at a table the day before. Ford spoke to the waiter at some length, explaining that the book was not his, that it belonged to the other man and that the other man would be in late:. Before the waiter could pass this bit of information along to the boss, Ford ordered lunch for Corinne and himself Then Ford turned to Corinne, smiling kindly and with real warmth.
   "That certainly was quite a night," he said to Corinne-as though resuming an interrupted discussion of last Saturday night at the Smiths'. "What even happened to that man? Your father's secretary. Or whatever he was."
   "Mr. Miller? He stole a lot of money from Father and went to Mexico. I
guess his case is outlawed by now."
   Ford nodded. "And your dog?" he asked.
   "He died when I was in college."
   "He was a nice dog. Are you doing anything now, Corinne? Some kind of work, I mean? You were a very rich little girl, weren't you?"
   They began to talk--that is, Corinne began to talk. She told Ford about her job; about Europe; about college; about her father. She suddenly told him all she knew about her lovely, wild mother, who had, in 1912, in full evening dress, climbed over the promenade deck railing of the S.S. Majestic. She told him about the Detroit boy who had fallen off the running board of her car in Cannes. She told him about her sinus operation. She told him-just about everything. Ordinarily Corinne was not a talker but nothing could have stopped her that afternoon. She had whole years and even days full of information which suddenly seemed transferable. Apropos, Ford happened to have a high talent for listening.
   "You're not eating," Corinne observed suddenly. "You haven't touched your food at all!"
   "Yes, I have. I'm listening to you."
   Corinne's mind jumped happily to something else.
   "A friend of mine, Bobby Waner--he's my boss at the magazine—told me something yesterday. He said there are two lines in American poetry which  regularly blow off the top of his head. That's the way Bobby talks."   "What are the lines?"
   "Uh--Whitman's 'I am the man, I suffered, I was there,' and one of  yours, but I won't say it in front of--I don't know-the chow mein and stuff. But the one about the man on the island inside the other island."
   Ford nodded. He was quite a nodder as a matter of fact. It was a defense mechanism, surely, but a nice one.
   "How--how did you become a poet?" Corinne asked--and stopped to qualify her excited question. "I don't mean that. How did you get an education? You were --you weren't exactly on the right track when I last saw you."
   Ford removed his glasses, and, squinting, cleaned them with his pocket handkerchief. "No, I wasn't," he agreed.
   "You went to college. What did you do work your way through?" Corinne pressed innocently.
   "No, no. I'd already made enough money to go, before that. When I was in high school, in Florida, I worked for a bookmaker."
   "A bookie? Really? Horse races and all?"
   "Dog races. They were at night, and I could go to school during the day."
   "But isn't there a law preventing minors from working for bookies?"
   Ford smiled. "I wasn't a minor, Corinne. I didn't go to high school until
I was nineteen. I'm thirty now and I'm only out of college three years."
   "Do you like teaching?"
   He took his time answering.
   "I can't write poetry all day long. When I'm not writing it, I suppose I like to talk about it."
   "Don't you have any other interests? I mean--don't you have any other interests?"
   This time he took even more time answering.
   "I don't think so," he said carefully.
   "I used to. But I've lost them. Or used them up. Or just got rid of them. I don't know any more. Not exactly, anyway."
   Corinne thought she understood and nodded appreciatively, but her mind was still clicking like a lover's. Her next question was entirely uncharacteristic of her--but, then, it was that kind of afternoon.
   "Have you ever been in love or anything?" she asked him, suddenly wanting to know about the women he had known how many and what kinds.
   One can guess, however, that she put this question to Ford less inexcusably than it records. Some of her lovely, lopsided charm must have come through with it, because Ford responded to the question with a real laugh.
   He shifted a little in his seat--the booth was both narrow and hard—and replied "No. I've never been in love." But he frowned over his own statement, as though his craftsman's mind suspected itself of oversimplifying--or of having bad material to work with. He looked up at Corinne, as though he hoped she was already losing interest in her question. She wasn't. His handsome face frowned again. Then he undoubtedly took a guess at what Corinne really wanted to know--or at what she ought to have wanted to know. At any rate his mind began to select and juxtapose its own facts. At last, perhaps solely for Corinne's benefit, he began to talk. Ford's voice was not very good. It was overly husky and just missed being monotonous.

"CORINNE, until I was eighteen I had never even had a date with a girl-except when I was a child and you invited me to your party. And that time you brought your dog to show me-you remember that?"
   Corinne nodded. She was very excited.
   But Ford frowned again. He seemed dissatisfied with the way he was beginning. For a moment he seemed likely to chuck the whole idea. . . Probably Corinne's immodestly responsive face helped lead him through his own strange story.
   "Until I was almost twenty-three," he said abruptly, "the only books I had read--outside school--were the Rover Boys and Tom Swift series." The sound of italics was in this sentence, but he was speaking with a subsurface equanimity now, as though things were going quite in the right direction. "The only poems I knew," he told Corinne, "were the chanting little ballads
I'd had to memorize in grade school. When I was in high school, somehow
Milton and Shakespeare never quite got over the teacher's desk." He smiled.
"Anyway, they never got to my aisle."
   The waiter came and picked up their half-full bowls and plates of chow
mein and fried rice. Corinne asked him to leave the tea.
   "I was a grown man a long time before I knew that real poetry even exists," Ford said, when the waiter had left. "I'd nearly died looking for it. It's--it's a legitimate enough death, incidentally. It'll get you into some kind of cemetery." He smiled at Corinne--not self-consciously, and added, "They may write on your tombstone that you fell off a girl's running board in Cannes, for example. Or that you climbed over the railing of a transatlantic liner. I m sure, though, the real cause of death is accurately recorded in more intelligent circles." He interrupted himself. "You feel cold, Corinne?" he asked solicitously.
   "No."
   "Do you want to hear all this? It's long."
   Ford nodded. He blew into his hands and then set them on the table.
   "There was a woman, "he told Corinne, "who used to come to the track every evening, in Florida. Woman in her late sixties. She had bright henna hair and wore a lot of make-up. Her face was pretty jaded and all that, but you could tell that she had once been very wonderful-looking." He blew into his hands again. "Her name was Mrs. Rizzio. She was a widow. She always wore Silver foxes, no matter how hot it was.
   "I saved her a lot of money at the track one evening-several thousand
dollars. She was a heavy, crazy bettor.
   "She was very grateful to me and wanted to do something about it. First she wanted to send me to her dentist. (My mouth was full of gaps in those days. I'd had some dental work done, but not much. When I was fourteen some two dollar dentist in Racine had pulled nearly all my teeth.) But I just thanked her and told her I went to high school during the day and that I hadn't time to go to the dentist. She seemed very disappointed. She sort of wanted me to become a movie actor, I think.
   "I thought that was the end of it. But it wasn't. She had another way of showing her gratitude." Ford said. "Are you sure you're not cold, Corinne?"
   Corinne shook her head
   He nodded, and took what seemed to be an extraordinarily deep breath. Exhaling he said, "She began to push little white slips of paper into my hand every evening when she saw me at the track
   "She always wrote me in green ink and in a small but very legible
handwriting. She printed.
   "The first slip of paper she gave me had 'William Butler Yeats' written at the top of it, and under Yeats' name the title, 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree.' Under the title, the complete poem was written out for me.
   "I didn't think it was a gag. I just thought she was nuts.
   "But I read the poem," he told Corinne looking at her. "I read it under
the arc lights. And then, just for the hell of it I memorized it.
   "I started reciting it to myself under my breath while I waited for the
first race to start. And suddenly part of the beauty of it caught on. I got very excited. I had to leave the track after the first race.
   "I went straight to a drugstore where I knew they had dictionaries. I
wanted to find out what 'wattles' were and what a 'glade' was and what a
'linnet' was. I couldn't wait to know."
   For the third time Ford blew into his long hands.
   "Mrs. Rizzio gave me a poem every evening" he said. "I memorized, and learned all of them. Everything she gave me was fine. I've never really reconciled her taste in poetry with her idea about my going into the movies. Maybe she just approved of money. Anyway, she gave me the best of Coleridge, Yeats. Keats, Wordsworth. Byron. Shelley. Some Whitman. A little Eliot . . .
   "I never once thanked her for the poems. Or even told her what they were meaning to me. I was afraid of breaking the spell--the whole thing seemed magic to me.
   "I knew I'd have to take some kind of action before the racing season was all over. I didn't want the poems to stop reaching me because the season was over. I didn't have sense enough to do any investigating in a public library on my own. I could very well have used our high-school library, for that matter, but somehow I didn't connect our high-school library with poetry.
   "I waited till the last evening of the season. Then I asked her where she was getting all the poems.
   "She was very kind. She invited me to her house to see her library. I went along with her that same night. My heart nearly pounded me out of the cab.
   "The day after she showed me her library I was supposed to tell my boss whether I'd join him in Miami after my graduation from high school. Graduation was only a week away. I made up my mind not to go to Miami. Mrs. Rizzio had told me I could use her library whenever I wanted. She lived in Tallahassee, and I figured I could hitchhike there in less than an hour,
any time of day. So I quit my job.
   "As soon as I got my high-school diploma, I started spending eighteen,
nineteen hours a day in Mrs. Rizzio's library. Never less.
   "I did that for two months, until my eyes finally gave out under the strain. I didn't wear glasses in those days, and my eyes are very bad. The left eye, particularly; I don't see much of anything out of it.
   "But I kept coming to her library anyway I was afraid she'd stop letting me use it if she knew I could no longer read the print in her books. So I didn't say anything to her at all about my eyes. For about three weeks I sat in her library from early morning until late at night, with a book in front of me, pretending to be reading, in case anyone came into the room.
   "That was how I began to write poetry myself.
   "I began writing eight or ten words of my own on a sheet of paper, in very large letters that I could read without any trouble. I did that for over a month, filling a couple of small, dime-store writing tablets. Then suddenly I quit. For no particular reason. Chiefly, I was saddened by my own ignorance, I think. Then, too, I was a little afraid I was going blind. There's never just one reason for anything. But, anyway, I quit.
   "It happened to be October. So I went to college."
   His voice now clearly implied that he was either coming to an end or  had already reached it. He smiled at Corinne.
   "You look as though you're still in school, Corinne. Look at your hands."
   Corinne's hands were folded on the table, classroom style.
   "The point is----" he said suddenly--and broke off.
   Corinne didn't prompt him. He began again at his own convenience.
   "The point is," he said, looking at Corinne's folded hands. "that for seven and a half years I've had nothing in my life except poetry. And the years before that I had nothing but"--he hesitated-"well, discord. And malnutrition. And-well, the Rover Boys." He stopped dead again and Corinne thought he was going to tell her point blank how his equipment for survival differed from that of other men. But when he spoke again there still was mostly organized information in his voice. He still was not really using his own poetry for the occasion.
   "I've never taken a drink in my life," he said very quietly, as though to
take the edge of confession off his statement. "And not because my mother was an alcoholic. I've never smoked, either. It's just that somebody told me when I was a small boy that drinking and smoking would dull my sense of taste. I thought it would be a good thing to have a perfect, unimpaired sense of taste. I still think that, in a way. I can't get past half my childhood dogmas." At this point Ford sat back rather stiffly in his seat. The little movement was quite unobtrusive, but Corinne caught it. It was the first time he had shown even the very slightest need for self-control of any kind. But he continued-easily enough it seemed, "Every time I buy a ticket on a train I wonder that I have to pay full price. I feel momentarily cheated-gypped -when I see an ordinary, adult's ticket in my hand. Until I was fifteen my mother used to tell conductors I was under twelve."
   Casually, Ford looked at his wrist watch, saying, "I really have to get
back, Corinne. It's been very nice seeing you."
   Corinne cleared her throat. "Will you can you come to my apartment Friday night?" she asked rapidly. "I'm having a few very good friends," she said specifically. "Can you? Please."
   If he hadn't already seen, Ford saw now that Corinne was in love with him, and he gave her a brief look that is fairly difficult to describe yet extremely easy to overanalyze. It had in it nothing quite so melodramatic as a naked warning, but surely a strong suggestion of, "Why don't you try to be very careful? That is, about me and all." The admonition of a man who either is in love with someone or something he doesn't happen to be regarding at the moment, or who suspects himself of having, at sometime in his life, either lost or forfeited some natural interior dimension of mysterious importance.
   Corinne pushed the look away and fumbled in her handbag. "I'll give you my
address," she said. "Please try to come. I mean, if you can."
   "I certainly will," he said.


THE week Corinne looked forward to seeing Ford again was an unfamiliar, rather awful week in which she-nervously, willfully-reclassified her whole person, calling her beautiful, high-bridged nose too big and her symmetrical, tall body big-boned and hideous. She read Ford's poetry constantly. In her lunch hours she wandered intensely through Brentano's basement, searching literary magazines for poems by, or articles about, her love. Evenings, she went so far as to get out her dictionary to translate Gide’s now well-known essay on Ford, "Chanson . . . enfin" (which first appeared, rather incongruously, in a Harper's Bazaar-ish French magazine called Madame Chic.)
   At ten o'clock on the evening Ford was expected, Corinne's telephone rang. She had somebody turn down the volume of her phonograph while she listened to Ford apologize for not having arrived He explained that he was working.
   "I understand," Corinne said. Then, immediately, "How long do you think you'll be working?"
   "I don't know. Corinne. I'm just in the middle of something."
   "Oh," she said.
   Ford said, "How long do you think your party will keep going?"
   "It isn't a party," she denied.
   "Well your friends. How long will they be there?"
   She made her friends stay until four in the morning, but Ford didn't show up.
   He did telephone her again, though, at noon the next day. He tried her
apartment first, where the maid gave him her office number.
   "Corinne, I m terribly sorry about last night. I worked all night."
   That's all right."
   "Can you have dinner with me tonight, Corinne?"
   "Yes."
   At this point I could very nicely use two old Hollywood characters. The calendar that gets its days blown off by an unseen electric fan. And the glorious studio tree that bursts, in about two seconds, out of the bitterest winter into the lushest early spring.
   During the next four months Corinne saw Ford at least three times a week Always uptown. Always surrounded by the marquees of third-run movie houses and nearly always over bowls of Chinese food. But she didn't mind. Neither did she especially mind that her evenings with him seldom-if at all-lasted until later than eleven, at which hour, Ford who imposed deadlines on
himself, felt that he had to go back to work.
   Sometimes they went to a movie, but usually they stayed in the Chinese restaurant until it closed.
   She did almost all the talking. If he now talked at any length at all he talked about poetry or poets. On a couple of rare evenings he talked whole essays away. One on Rilke, one on Eliot. But nearly all of the time he listened to Corinne, who had her life to talk away.
   He took her home every evening--via subway and crosstown bus--but he cam up to her apartment only once. He looked at Corinne's Rodin (which had once belonged to Clara Rilke), and he looked at her books. She played two records for him on the phonograph. Then he went home.
   Although Corinne was accustomed to moderate drinking--most of her friends were either middling-heavy or downright heavy drinkers--she never ordered even one cocktail in Ford's company. Or near it, for that matter. She was afraid he might have a sudden, untimely impulse to take her in his arms--perhaps in the shadow of some familiar uptown landmark: a haberdashery or an optometrist's shop for example--and find her breath repulsive to some degree.
   When he finally did kiss her she had inevitably, just arrived from an
impromptu  cocktail party at the office.
   The kiss happened in the Chinese restaurant. About ten weeks after they had first met there. Corinne was reading proof on some of her own copy for the magazine--waiting for Ford. He came up to her, kissed her, took off his overcoat and sat down. It was the average, disenchanted kiss of the average, disenchanted husband just checked into the living room straight from the office. Corinne, however, was much too happy with it to wonder just when he passed through a period of enchantment. Later, when she gave the incident a little thought she arrived at the entirely satisfactory conclusion that the evolution of their kisses was going to take place backwards.
   The same evening he kissed her she asked him whether he couldn't find time to meet some of her friends.
   "I have such nice friends," she told him enthusiastically. "They all know your poetry. Some of them even live on it."
   "Corinne, I don't mix too well----"
   Corinne leaned forward joyfully, remembering something.
   "That's what Miss Aigletinger once yelled about you into my father's thing. Do you remember Miss Aigletinger?"
   Ford nodded unnostalgically. "What would I have to do if I met them?" he asked.
   "My friends?'- said Corinne. But she saw that he was serious. So she wasn't. "Oh, just juggle a couple of Indian clubs; tell 'em who your favorite movie stars are."
   But her jokes around Ford never had any follow-through. She reached for his hand across the table. "Darling, you wouldn't have to do anything. These people just want to see you."
   A thought struck her--fell across her. "You don't realize, do you, what
your poetry means to people?"
   "Yes. I guess I do." But he had hesitated. Anyway, it wasn't Corinne's idea of a good answer.
   She began rather intensely, "Darling, you can't pick up a literary magazine in Brentano's without seeing your name. And that man you introduced me to? The trustee or something? He said he knows three people who are writing books about 'The Cowardly Morning.' One man in England." She ran her fingers through the knuckle-grooves of Ford's hand. "Thousands of people are waiting for Wednesday," she said tenderly. (Ford's second book of poems was due to come out, she meant by that.)
   
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The Inverted Forest

He nodded. Something else was on his mind, however. "There won't be any dancing at your party, will there? I can't dance."

A WEEK or so later a tableful of Corinne's best friends met Ford at Corinne's apartment. Robert Waner arrived first. Then came Louise and Elliot Seermeyer, Corinne's sensible Tuckahoe friends. Then came Alice Hepburn, who taught something at Wellesley--or had. Seymour and Frances Hertz, Corinne's intellectual friends, arrived next, in the same elevatorload with Ginnie and Wesley Fowler, Corinne's badminton friends. At least five of these people had read both of Ford's books. (The brand-new one "Man on a Carousel," had just come out.) And at least three of the five were honestly and permanently excited by Ford's genius.
   Ford arrived nearly an hour late, and his shyness lasted almost to the dessert course. Then all of a sudden his guest-of-honor behavior turned gently perfect.
   For a full hour he spoke to--and with --Robert Waner and Elliot Seermeyer on Hopkins's poetry.
   He gave Sy Hertz not only the right attitude for Sy's book (then in preparation) on the Wordsworths, but the title and the first three chapters too.
   He took on without batting an eyelash all of Alice Hepburn's strident, suffragette-ish interruptions.
   He very kindly and uselessly explained to Wesley Fowler why Walt Whitman isn't "dirty."
   Nothing he said or did during the evening even faintly smacked of performance. He simply was a great man whose greatness had been cornered at a dinner party, and who fought his way out not with theatrical aphorisms or with boorish taciturnity, but--generously, laboriously --with himself. It was a great evening. If not everyone actually knew it, everyone at least felt it.
   The next day, at the magazine office, Corinne had an interoffice telephone call from Robert Waner.
   As generally happens to people who overload themselves with any one
virtue, Waner's voice over the phone was so full of control that some of it could not help but leak out.
   "Nice party," he began.
   "Bobby you were wonderful!" Corinne responded ecstatically. "Everybody was wonderful. Listen. Speak to the operator. Find out if I can kiss you."
   "Nothing doing." Waner cleared his throat. "Here on a mission for my
government."
   "No kidding!" Corinne felt almost sick with affection for Bobby-he was
really wonderful. "What government?" she demanded happily.
   "He doesn't love you, Corinne."
   "What?" Corinne said. She had heard Waner perfectly.
   "He doesn't love you," Waner courageously repeated. "He isn't even
considering loving you."
   "Shut up," Corinne said.
   "All right."
   There was a long pause. But Waner's voice came in again. It sounded quite far off.
   "Corinne. I remember a long time ago kissing you in a cab. When you first got back from Europe. It was sort of an unfair, Scotch-and-soda kiss---maybe you remember. I bumped your hat." Waner cleared his throat again. But he put the whole thing through: "There was something about the way you raised your arms to straighten your hat, and the way your face looked in the mirror over the driver's photograph. I don't know. The way you looked and all. You're the greatest hat-straightener that ever lived."
   Corinne broke in coldly. "What's the point?" Nevertheless, Waner had
touched her, probably deeply.
   "None, I guess." Then: "Yes, there is a point. Of course there's a point.
I'm trying to tell you that Ford's long past noticing that you're the greatest hat-straightener that ever lived. I mean a man just can't reach the kind of poetry Ford's reaching and still keep intact the normal male ability to spot a fine hat-straightener---"
   "You sound rehearsed," Corinne interrupted cruelly.
   "Maybe I am."
   "What makes you think---" She broke off; started over. "I thought poets were supposed to know more about those things than anyone else"---defiantly.
   "They do if they feel like writing verse. They don't if they stick to poetry," Waner said. "Listen, Corinne. In both of Ford's books there's hardly a line of verse. It's nearly all poetry. Do you have any idea what that means?"
   "You tell me," Corinne said coldly.
   "All right. It means that he writes under pressure of dead-weight beauty. The only kind of men who write that way---"
   "You are rehearsed," Corinne cut in.
   "I wasn't going to phone you without having something to say. If I were---"
   "Listen," Corinne said. "You're implying that he's some kind of psychotic. I won't have it, Bobby. In the first place it isn't true. He's-he's serene. He's kind, he's gentle, he's---"
   "Don't be a fool, Corinne. He's the most gigantic psychotic you'll ever know. He has to be. Don't be a fool. He's standing up to his eyes in psychosis."
   "What makes you think he doesn't like me?" Corinne demanded ambiguously. "He likes me very much."
   "Sure he does. But he doesn't love you."
   "You said that. Please shut up."
   But Waner distinctly ordered, "Corinne, don't marry him."
   "Now, listen." She was very angry. "If he doesn't love me--as you've so gallantly pointed out--my chances of marrying him aren't very hot, are
they?"
   Waner tried to avoid sounding smug, but his text was against him. "He'll marry you," he said.
   "Really. Why?"
   "Because he just will, that's all. He likes you and he's cold, and he won't be able to think of any reason why he shouldn't--or he'll refuse to think of a reason why he shouldn't. At any rate---"
   "He's not cold," Corinne interrupted angrily.
   "Of course he's cold. I don't care how tender you find him. Or how kind. He's cold. He's cold as ice."
   "That doesn't make any sense."
   "Corinne. Please. Stay out of it. Don't try to find out if it makes sense."

CORINNE and Ford were married on April 20, 1937 (about four months after they had met as adults), in the chapel at Columbia. Corinne's matron-of-honor was Ginnie Fowler, and Dr. Funk, of the English Department  stood up for Ford. About sixty of Corinne's friends came to the wedding. Only two people besides Funk came expressly to watch Ford get married: his publisher, Rayburn Clapp and a very tall, very pale man, an instructor of Elizabethan Literature at Columbia, who remarked at least three times that
the flowers bothered his "nasal passages."
   Dr. Funk canceled Ford's lectures for ten days, insisting that Ford and Corinne take a short honeymoon.
   They drove to Canada, in Corinne's car They returned to New York, to Corinne's apartment, on the first Sunday in May. I know nothing at all about their honeymoon.
   That's a statement, not an apology, I'd like to point out. If I had really
needed the facts I probably could have got them.
   The Monday morning following their return to New York, Corinne got a
letter in the first mail. which she considered rather touching. It read as follows:
   32 MacReady Road
   Harkins, Vermont
   April 30, 1937

Dear Mrs. Ford,
   I saw last week in the Sunday edition of the New York Times that you and Mr. Ford were married, and I am taking the liberty of writing to you, hoping that Columbia will know your home address and forward this letter accordingly.
   I have read Mr. Ford's new book of poems, "Man on a Carousel," and feel that I must somehow ask him for advice. But rather than risk disturbing him at his work I am writing first to you.
   I am twenty and a junior at Creedmore College here in Harkins. My parents are dead, and since early childhood I have lived with my aunt in what is  probably the oldest, largest and ugliest house in America.
   To be as brief as possible, I have written some poems that I would very much like Mr. Ford to see, and I am enclosing them. I beg you to show them to him, as I feel I need his advice so badly. I know I haven't the right to ask Mr. Ford to sit down and write me a letter of detailed criticism, but if he could possibly just read or even look through my poems, that would be enough. You see, our spring vacation begins next Friday, and my aunt and I are coming to New York City next Saturday, May eighth. on the way to attend my cousin's wedding in Newport. I could very easily speak to you on the telephone about the poems.
   I shall be everlastingly grateful to you both for any kind of guidance, and may I, at this time wish you both all happiness for your married life?
   Yours sincerely.
               Mary Gates Croft

The letter came in a huge manila envelope. Enclosed with it was a heavy sheaf of yellow first-draft paper folded into overly compact eighths. Unlike the letter. which had been typewritten, the verses were written in hard lead pencil and were cramped together unprovocatively. The bride scarcely glanced at them ---they looked too untidy to go nicely with her morning orange juice. However, she pushed verses, letter and envelope—the whole business--across the breakfast table toward the groom.
   If it were said now that Corinne pushed the verses over to Ford because she had been touched by the young-sounding appeal of the letter and because she wanted her qualified, brand-new husband to meet the appeal, the greatest part of the truth would be told. But the truth in its entirety seldom comes in one big neat peace. She had another reason. Ford was eating his corn flakes without cream or sugar. Absolutely dry and unsweetened. Corinne wanted a legitimate excuse to make him look up so that she could suggest, preferably in a casual voice, that he try eating his corn flakes with cream and sugar.
   "Darling," she said.
   The groom looked up politely from his dry corn flakes and his lecture notes.
   "If you have time today, would you read this?"
   Corinne felt like hearing her own voice in the quiet breakfast room.  She went into details:
   "It's a letter and Some poems from a college girl in Vermont. The letter's sweet. You can see she spent hours and hours writing it. Anyway if you can possibly decipher her handwriting and can read the verses, you're to make some comment to me . . ." As she looked at her new husband's handsome, Monday-morning-go-to-work-for-the-first-time face her trend of thought drifted away from her. She reached across the table, stroked his hand, and finished weakly, "She's coming to New York and plans to phone me for you  criticism. All very complicated."
   Ford nodded. "Be glad to," he said, and stuffed the letter and verses into his jacket pocket.
   But it was a much too simple and final reply. Corinne wanted to draw him closer, physically and otherwise, to her. She wanted the oblique shafts of
breakfast table sunshine to fall on them together, not singly, not one at a time.
   "Wait a minute, darling. Just give me her address for a second. I'll drop her a line and ask her to tea Sunday."
   "All right. Fine." Ford handed over the envelope, smiled, and finished his corn flakes.
   But as late as the following Sunday noon Ford still hadn't read the verses. Corinne finally rapped on his door.
   "Ray. Darling. That girl I wrote to is coming here in a couple of hours," she said gently. "Do you think you could just glance through her verses? Just so you can say a few words to her?"
   "Sure! I was just looking at some things here. Where are they?"
   "You have them, darling. They're probably still in the coat of your blue suit."
   "I'll get dressed and look at them right away," he said efficiently.
   But he stayed at his desk, working, until at three o'clock the front doorbell rang.
   Corinne rushed back to his study. "Darling, have you read them?"
   "Is she here already?" Ford asked in credulously.
   "I'll entertain her. You read. Come out when you're finished." Corinne  closed the door hurriedly. Rita, the maid, had already answered the doorbell.
   "How do you do, Miss Croft," Corinne said--all hostess--moving forward toward her guest in the living room.
   She was addressing a slight, fair-haired girl with a receding chin. Who might almost have passed for eighteen instead of twenty. She was hatless and wearing a good gray flannel suit--very new.
   "It's awfully nice of you to let me come, Mrs. Ford."
   "Won't you sit down? I'm afraid my husband will be a little late."
   Both women sat down, Miss Croft saying, "I think I'll recognize him. I saw his picture in 'Poetry Survey.' Wasn't it a wonderful picture? I never saw anyone so handsome." Her voice wasn't giddy but it had in it all the reputed frankness of youth. She looked at her hostess enthusiastically.
   Corinne laughed. "I never did either," she said. "How do you like New
York, Miss Croft?"
   Corinne sat with her guest for an hour and a half without an appearance of Ford.
   Conversation was not difficult, however. On the contrary. Miss Croft seemed to have arrived forewarned of the deadly platitudes usually exchanged between out-of-towners and resident New Yorkers. It seemed she had brought her own fresh dialogue. She confessed to Corinne, to begin with, that she liked New York, but only to live here, not to visit. Corinne was genuinely amused--as had been intended--and began to feel sorry for her guest's little receding chin and to notice that her calves and ankles were really quite nice.
   "I'm trying," Miss Croft suddenly confided, a little glumly, "to persuade my aunt to let me stay on in New York to study. I don't have much hope, though. Especially after last night. A drunken man came into the dining room at the hotel." She grinned. "I'm not even allowed to wear lipstick."
   Corinne leaned forward on an impulse. "Look. Would you really like to stay and study?"
   "More than anything else in the world, I guess."
   "What about Creedmore? You'd want to finish there, wouldn't you?"
   "I could go to Barnard. Then I could study at Columbia in the evening,"
Miss Croft said readily.
   "Do you think it would help if I spoke with your aunt? I mean, an older woman? I'd be very glad to, if it's what you really want," Corinne offered with characteristic kindness.

   "Oh, golly, that's awfully nice!" said Miss Croft. But she shook her head immediately. "But, thanks. I think I'd better fight it out alone for the few more days we're here. You couldn't help anyway, I'm afraid. You don't know Aunt Cornelia." She looked down self-consciously at her hands. "I've never really been away from home. I live in a way that---" She broke off with a smile Corinne found extremely winning. "What's the difference? I'm really very grateful to be here at all."
   Corinne asked quietly, "Where are you staying, dear?"
   "At the Waldorf. I think we're going back next Sunday." Miss Croft giggled. "Aunt Cornelia doesn't trust the servants with the silver. Especially the 'new' cook --she's only been with us nine years and hasn't really proved herself."
   Corinne laughed--really laughed. She suddenly disapproved the possibility of this bright small person going back to Vermont with all or surely most of her challenges unmet.
   "Mary-may I call you Mary?" Corinne began.
   "Bunny. Nobody calls me Mary."
   "Bunny, you're perfectly welcome to stay here for a while after your aunt leaves. If shell let you. Really. We have a lovely room that we don't
even---"
   Emotionally, Bunny Croft pressed Corinne's hand. Then she placed both her hands into the side pockets of her suit Her fingernails were bitten down to the quick.
   "I'll work out something," she said with confidence, and smiled.
   Apparently it was not her nature ,to be hopelessly depressed by adverse circumstances. With considerable tea-table enterprise she began, verbally, to conduct Corinne around her home in Vermont, pointing out with mixed affection and abhorrence things that had stood or greenly stretched or lay unrepaired all through her childhood. Aunt Cornelia came into focus: a funny, humorless spinster who evidently was carrying on a private war on many fronts, chiefly against progress and dust and fun. Corinne listened attentively, sometimes laughing out loud, sometimes vicariously oppressed,
shaking her head.
   But it was when the servants began to move through the house that Corinne was most personally moved. As Bunny began to speak tenderly and inclusively of an old butler named Harry, who had built kites for her to sail high above her unquestionably gray childhood, whom she had unqualifiedly loved and depended upon. Corinne was acutely, almost painfully reminded of Eric, her father's old chauffeur, so long dead.
   "And Ernestine!" Bunny exclaimed with great warmth. "Golly, I wish you could meet Ernestine. She's Aunt Cornelia's maid. She's a terrible kleptomaniac," she fondly classified. "Has been ever since I can remember. But when I first came to Aunt Cornelia's, Ernestine was the only one in the house-- except Harry--who had any idea that a little girl-wasn't just a young, short adult." She giggled. A gleam of real mischief came into her eyes--her eyes were very pretty: graygreen and quite large. "For years I confessed to all kinds of petty thefts around the house. I still do. Golly, Aunt Cornelia would discharge Ernestine in a minute if she knew about her--her 'trouble.'" She grinned.
   "What did your aunt do--I mean when you were a child--when you  look the blame for Ernestine?" Corinne asked, amused and interested. Interested in, and somewhat envious of, the apparent resourcefulness by which her guess (apparently unscathed) had passed through her childhood.
   "What would she do?" Bunny shrugged her shoulders--a gesture curiously immature for her age, Corinne thought. Bunny grinned. "She wouldn't do much about it. Forbid me the use of the library. Ernestine would get the key for me anyway. Or tell me I couldn't ride in the horse show. Something like that."
   Corinne looked at her wrist watch suddenly. "Ray should be here," she
apologized. "I'm awfully sorry he's so late."
   "Sorry!" Bunny looked shocked. "Golly. Mrs. Ford. To think that he'd--I
mean. that he'd find time to see me at all . . ." Self-consciously she scratched her frail wrist, but asked, "Has he had a chance at all to look at my poems? I mean, has he had time at all?"
   "Well, so far as I know---" Corinne started to stall. but turned in her chair gratefully, as she heard the double doors to the living room open.
"Ray! Finally. Come in, darling."
   Corinne attended to the introductions. Bunny Croft was visibly flustered.
   "Sit down, darling," the bride addressed the groom. "You look a little dragged. Have some tea."
   Ford sat down on the chair between the two women, pushed it back a little, and immediately asked, "Have you tried to have published any of these poems you have written, Miss Croft?"
   Involuntarily Corinne arched her back a little. Her husband's question was ice-cold.
   "Well, no, Mr. Ford. I didn't think they were -no, I haven't," Bunny Croft said.
   "May I ask why you sent them to me?"
   "Well, golly, Mr. Ford--I don't know. I just thought--well, I thought Iought to find out whether I'm any good or not . . . I don't know." Bunny's eyes flashed Corinne an appeal for help.
   "Darling, have some tea," Corinne suggested, confused. Her husband had not come into the room altogether intact. He had brought his handsome head. And probably all of his genius. But where was his kindness?
   "No tea, Corinne, thank you," Ford declined, looking a little naked
without his kindness.
   Corinne handed Bunny Croft a fresh cup of tea, and looked at her husband evenly. "Are the poems interesting, darling?" she asked.
   "How do you mean, interesting?"
   Corinne carefully put cream in her own tea "Well, I mean are they lovely?"
   "Are your poems lovely, Miss Croft?" Ford asked.
   "Well, I--I hope so, Mr. Ford---"
   "No, you don't," Ford contradicted quietly. "Don't say that."
   "Ray," Corinne said, upset. "What's the matter, darling?"
   But Ford was looking at Bunny Croft. "Don't say that," he said to her again.
   "Gol-lee, Mr. Ford. If my poems aren't --well, at all lovely--I don't  know what they are. I mean--golly!" Bunny Croft flushed and put her hands into her jacket pocket, out of sight.
   Ford abruptly stood up. He looked down at Corinne. "I have to go, Corinne. I'll be back in an hour."
   "Go?" Corinne said.
   "I promised Dr. Funk I'd drop by if we got back today."
   It was a lie, however unelaborate. It waylaid deftly any oral response
from Corinne. She looked up at her husband and just nodded. Ford turned to
Bunny Croft, saying, "Good-by," and sounding curiously logical.
   The groom bent over and kissed the bride, who immediately got her voice back. "Darling. If you could just give Miss Croft a little constructive criticism that might . . ."
   "Oh, no!" Bunny Croft protested. "Please. It isn't--I mean it isn't at all
necessary--really!"
   Ford, who had caught a head cold during the drive back from Canada, used his handkerchief. He replaced it, saying slowly, "Miss Croft, I've read every one of the poems you sent to me. I can't tell you you're a poet. Because you're not. And I'm not saying that because your language is dissonant, or because your metaphors are either hackneyed or false, or because your few attempts to write simply are so flashy that I have a splitting headache. Those things can happen sometimes."
   He sat down suddenly--as though he had been waiting for hours for a chance to sit down.
   "But you're inventive," he informed his guest--without a perceptible note of accusation in his voice.
   He looked at the carpet, concentrating and pushed back the hair at his temples with his finger tips
   "A poet doesn't invent his poetry--he finds it," he said, to no one in particular. "The place," he added slowly, "where Alph the sacred river ran--was found out not invented."
   He looked out the window from where he sat. He seemed to look as far out of the room as he could. "I can't stand any kind of inventiveness," he said.
   Nothing led away from this statement.
   He sat still for a moment. Then, as abruptly as he had sat down, he stood up. He took Miss Croft's sheaf of poems out of his jacket pocket and rather anonymously placed them on the tea table, not directly in front of anyone. He then removed his reading glasses, narrowing his eyes as people with extremely bad eyesight usually do when they undress their eyes. He put on his other pair of glasses, his street glasses. Then once more he bent over and kissed his bride good-by.
   "Ray. Darling. Miss Croft is terribly young. Isn't it possible that---"
   "Corinne, I'm late now," Ford said, and stood up straight. "Good-by," he said inclusively. He left the room, looking pressed for time.

CORINNE'S right-and-wrong reflexes had been uncomfortably overactive most of her life, and at four thirty in the afternoon her husband's walkout, his general behavior toward his guest, his unelaborate but obvious lie—all had, to her, a very high unacceptableness, whether taken singly or collectively. But around six in the evening, one of those connubial accidents happened to her which disable a wife--sometimes for months—from speaking up. She happened to open a closet door and one of Ford's suit jackets--one she had never seen--fell across her face. Besides having a certain natural olfactory value to her, the jacket had two great holes at the elbows. Either hole alone could have pledged her to loving silence. At any rate, when at seven Ford came home, she had been ready for at least an hour to be the last person in the world to ask him for an explanation.
   Not once all evening did Ford himself allude to the afternoon in any way. He was quiet at dinner but, as he was often reflectively quiet, his quietness at dinner wasn't obtrusive, didn't necessarily imply that he was carrying around some new X-quantity.
   After dinner the Fowlers dropped by-unannounced and disconcertingly
tight-to see the returned newlyweds. They stayed until after midnight, Wesley Fowler incessantly one-fingering the keyboard of the piano, and Ginnie Fowler obviously postponing a crying jag and smoking handfuls of cigarettes. By the time the Fowlers had pulled out, Corinne had half forgotten the afternoon, or had informally convinced herself that there is nothing real about a Sunday afternoon, anyway.
   Monday noon, when Bunny Croft telephoned Corinne at the magazine, the call came almost as a surprise. But her second reaction was annoyance. Annoyance with herself for having asked Bunny Croft to "Look, why don't you call me at the magazine tomorrow, and let's have lunch together," and annoyance with Bunny Croft not only for taking advantage of yesterday's sincere invitation, but for still being in New York. Trying people's loyalty to their husbands, keeping people from running over to Saks' Fifth Avenue in their lunch hours.
   "Do you know where the Colony is?" Corinne asked Bunny over the telephone --aware that there was something unkind about the question.
   "No, I don't. I can find it though."
   Corinne gave directions. But she suddenly didn't like the way her own voice was sounding, and broke in with, "Do you think your Aunt Cornelia would like to join us? I'd love to meet her."
   "She would I know, but she's in Poughkeepsie. She's visiting somebody she used to go to Vassar with, that has to be fed through tubes or something."
     "Oh---Well . . ."
   "Mrs Ford, are you sure I'm not inconveniencing you? I mean I don't want ---"
   "No, no! Not at all. One o'clock then?"
   In the taxi, on the way to the Colony, Corinne planned to be perfectly pleasant at lunch, but at the same time to let it be known that once dessert was over her term of hospitality would naturally expire.

LUNCH, however, was different from what Corinne had vaguely expected or allowed for. Lunch was nice. Lunch was really quite nice, Corinne had to admit. Lunch was gay-lunch was really quite gay. On the first Martini Bunny Croft began describing, with mixed indifference and penetration, two of her young men callers in Harkins, Vermont, one of them a medical student, theother a dramatics student. Both young men sounded extremely young and serious and funny to Corinne and several times she laughed out loud. And as Bunny's casual, superior dormitory talk kept coming across the table, and as the waiter brought a third round of Martinis, Corinne herself began to feel distinctly collegiate. Characteristically, she looked around for something generous to say in repayment.
   "Let me get you a date while you're here," she offered abruptly. "The magazine staff is full of young men Some of them quite nice and bright . . . I'm getting tight."
   Bunny looked on the verge of showing interest in Corinne's offer. But she shook her head. "I don't think so," she said thoughtfully. "I want to go to some lectures while I'm here. And--well, I write a little when I don't have to chase around looking at lamps or something with Aunt Cornelia. Thank you though." She looked down at her Martini glass, then up at Corinne. She removed her hands from the table. "I suppose if I had any sense," she said uncomfortably, "I'd quit writing altogether. I mean-well, golly. After what Mr. Ford said."
   Corinne sat up straighter in her seat. "You mustn't feel that way," she ordered uneasily. "Ray has a nasty cold he caught on the drive back from Canada. He's not at all himself. It's all in his chest. He really feels horrible."
   "Oh, I guess I won't really quit. I mean, not really." Bunny smiled, but
averted her eyes self-consciously.
   Corinne gave in to the nearest impulse.
   "Come to the theater with us tonight. I have to see this play, for the magazine. I have a ticket for my husband and I'm sure I can get another. The show's lovely in places."
   She saw that Bunny, though attracted to the idea, was going to make the proper gesture under the circumstances.
   "Do you think Mr. Ford would---" Bunny broke off awkwardly. "Since yesterday I've been feeling like--golly, I don't know. Like an old crone that goes around with a sack of poisoned apples."
   Corinne laughed. "Now stop that. You just come along with us. We'll pick you up at the Waldorf?"
   "Are you sure it's all right?" Bunny asked anxiously. "I mean I don't have to go."
   "Of course you have to go." Corinne's voice lowered itself to fill up with love. "Really," she said. "You're very much mistaken. My husband is the kindest man in the world."
   "I'd love to come," Bunny responded simply.
   "Good. We'll pick you up at the Waldorf. Let's eat. I'm getting tight as a coot. I must say you seem to be able to hold ' your liquor like an old trooper."
   "Could I meet you at the theater? I have to see somebody with my aunt at six."
   "Certainly, if you like."
   Here is a note Corinne sent to me:
Bobby,
   I didn't mean to hold out on you when I came to the Big Business. It was just that I didn't feel up to talking about it. I've written it down for you though. I've written it down in the form of a private detective's log a technique straight out of a Freshman English Comp I wrote at Wellesley when I thought it might be nice to become a lady detective later on. I got a C-plus for the  comp along with an infuriating note from the instructor saying I was quite original  but a little precious and that we don't really"tail" a scarlet tanager, do we Miss von Nordhoffen . . .
I'll take the same grade and a similar remark from you, and gladly, in exchange for the comfortable delusion that I couldn't possibly have known--in person, I mean--any of the ladies mentioned in the report. Anyway here it is. Sleep no more.
Love
       C.
:ballbounce:
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