J.D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye (Chap. 6)
Some things are hard to remember. I'm thinking now of when Stradlater got back from his date with Jane. I mean I can't remember exactly what I was doing when I heard his goddam stupid footsteps coming down the corridor. I probably was still looking out the window, but I swear I can't remember. I was so damn worried, that's why. When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don't go. I'm too worried to go. I don't want to interrupt my worrying to go. If you knew Stradlater, you'd have been worried, too. I'd double-dated with that bastard a couple of times, and I know what I'm talking about. He was unscrupulous. He really was.
Anyway, the corridor was all linoleum and all, and you could hear his goddam footsteps coming right towards the room. I don't even remember where I was sitting when he came in--at the window, or in my chair or his. I swear I can't remember.
He came in griping about how cold it was out. Then he said, "Where the hell is everybody? It's like a goddam morgue around here." I didn't even bother to answer him. If he was so goddam stupid not to realize it was Saturday night and everybody was out or asleep or home for the week end, I wasn't going to break my neck telling him. He started getting undressed. He didn't say one goddam word about Jane. Not one. Neither did I. I just watched him. All he did was thank me for letting him wear my hound's-tooth. He hung it up on a hanger and put it in the closet.
Then when he was taking off his tie, he asked me if I'd written his goddam composition for him. I told him it was over on his goddam bed. He walked over and read it while he was unbuttoning his shirt. He stood there, reading it, and sort of stroking his bare chest and stomach, with this very stupid expression on his face. He was always stroking his stomach or his chest. He was mad about himself.
All of a sudden, he said, "For Chrissake, Holden. This is about a goddam baseball glove."
"So what?" I said. Cold as hell.
"Wuddaya mean so what? I told ya it had to be about a goddam room or a house or something."
"You said it had to be descriptive. What the hell's the difference if it's about a baseball glove?"
"God damn it." He was sore as hell. He was really furious. "You always do everything backasswards." He looked at me. "No wonder you're flunking the hell out of here," he said. "You don't do one damn thing the way you're supposed to. I mean it. Not one damn thing."
"All right, give it back to me, then," I said. I went over and pulled it right out of his goddam hand. Then I tore it up.
"What the hellja do that for?" he said.
I didn't even answer him. I just threw the pieces in the wastebasket. Then I lay down on my bed, and we both didn't say anything for a long time. He got all undressed, down to his shorts, and I lay on my bed and lit a cigarette. You weren't allowed to smoke in the dorm, but you could do it late at night when everybody was asleep or out and nobody could smell the smoke. Besides, I did it to annoy Stradlater. It drove him crazy when you broke any rules. He never smoked in the dorm. It was only me.
He still didn't say one single solitary word about Jane. So finally I said, "You're back pretty goddam late if she only signed out for nine-thirty. Did you make her be late signing in?"
He was sitting on the edge of his bed, cutting his goddam toenails, when I asked him that. "Coupla minutes," he said. "Who the hell signs out for nine-thirty on a Saturday night?" God, how I hated him.
"Did you go to New York?" I said.
"Ya crazy? How the hell could we go to New York if she only signed out for nine-thirty?"
He looked up at me. "Listen," he said, "if you're gonna smoke in the room, how 'bout going down to the can and do it? You may be getting the hell out of here, but I have to stick around long enough to graduate."
I ignored him. I really did. I went right on smoking like a madman. All I did was sort of turn over on my side and watched him cut his damn toenails. What a school. You were always watching somebody cut their damn toenails or squeeze their pimples or something.
"Did you give her my regards?" I asked him.
The hell he did, the bastard.
"What'd she say?" I said. "Did you ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row?"
"No, I didn't ask her. What the hell ya think we did all night--play checkers, for Chrissake?"
I didn't even answer him. God, how I hated him.
"If you didn't go to New York, where'd ya go with her?" I asked him, after a little while. I could hardly keep my voice from shaking all over the place. Boy, was I getting nervous. I just had a feeling something had gone funny.
He was finished cutting his damn toenails. So he got up from the bed, in just his damn shorts and all, and started getting very damn playful. He came over to my bed and started leaning over me and taking these playful as hell socks at my shoulder. "Cut it out," I said. "Where'd you go with her if you didn't go to New York?"
"Nowhere. We just sat in the goddam car." He gave me another one of those playtul stupid little socks on the shoulder.
"Cut it out," I said. "Whose car?"
Ed Banky was the basketball coach at Pencey. Old Stradlater was one of his pets, because he was the center on the team, and Ed Banky always let him borrow his car when he wanted it. It wasn't allowed for students to borrow faculty guys' cars, but all the
Athletic bastards stuck together. In every school I've gone to, all the athletic bastards stick together.
Stradlater kept taking these shadow punches down at my shoulder. He had his toothbrush in his hand, and he put it in his mouth. "What'd you do?" I said. "Give her the time in Ed Banky's goddam car?" My voice was shaking something awful.
"What a thing to say. Want me to wash your mouth out with soap?"
"That's a professional secret, buddy."
This next part I don't remember so hot. All I know is I got up from the bed, like I was going down to the can or something, and then I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddam throat open. Only, I missed. I didn't connect. All I did was sort of get him on the side of the head or something. It probably hurt him a little bit, but not as much as I wanted. It probably would've hurt him a lot, but I did it with my right hand, and I can't make a good fist with that hand. On account of that injury I told you about.
Anyway, the next thing I knew, I was on the goddam floor and he was sitting on my chest, with his face all red. That is, he had his goddam knees on my chest, and he weighed about a ton. He had hold of my wrists, too, so I couldn't take another sock at him. I'd've killed him.
"What the hell's the matter with you?" he kept saying, and his stupid race kept getting redder and redder.
"Get your lousy knees off my chest," I told him. I was almost bawling. I really was. "Go on, get off a me, ya crumby bastard."
He wouldn't do it, though. He kept holding onto my wrists and I kept calling him a sonuvabitch and all, for around ten hours. I can hardly even remember what all I said to him. I told him he thought he could give the time to anybody he felt like. I told him he didn't even care if a girl kept all her kings in the back row or not, and the reason he didn't care was because he was a goddam stupid moron. He hated it when you called a moron. All morons hate it when you call them a moron.
"Shut up, now, Holden," he said with his big stupid red face. "just shut up, now."
"You don't even know if her first name is Jane or Jean, ya goddam moron!"
"Now, shut up, Holden, God damn it--I'm warning ya," he said--I really had him going. "If you don't shut up, I'm gonna slam ya one."
"Get your dirty stinking moron knees off my chest."
"If I letcha up, will you keep your mouth shut?"
I didn't even answer him.
He said it over again. "Holden. If I letcha up, willya keep your mouth shut?"
He got up off me, and I got up, too. My chest hurt like hell from his dirty knees. "You're a dirty stupid sonuvabitch of a moron," I told him.
That got him really mad. He shook his big stupid finger in my face. "Holden, God damn it, I'm warning you, now. For the last time. If you don't keep your yap shut, I'm gonna--"
"Why should I?" I said--I was practically yelling. "That's just the trouble with all you morons. You never want to discuss anything. That's the way you can always tell a moron. They never want to discuss anything intellig--"
Then he really let one go at me, and the next thing I knew I was on the goddam floor again. I don't remember if he knocked me out or not, but I don't think so. It's pretty hard to knock a guy out, except in the goddam movies. But my nose was bleeding all over the place. When I looked up old Stradlater was standing practically right on top of me. He had his goddam toilet kit under his arm. "Why the hell don'tcha shut up when I tellya to?" he said. He sounded pretty nervous. He probably was scared he'd fractured my skull or something when I hit the floor. It's too bad I didn't. "You asked for it, God damn it," he said. Boy, did he look worried.
I didn't even bother to get up. I just lay there in the floor for a while, and kept calling him a moron sonuvabitch. I was so mad, I was practically bawling.
"Listen. Go wash your face," Stradlater said. "Ya hear me?"
I told him to go wash his own moron face--which was a pretty childish thing to say, but I was mad as hell. I told him to stop off on the way to the can and give Mrs. Schmidt the time. Mrs. Schmidt was the janitor's wife. She was around sixty-five.
I kept sitting there on the floor till I heard old Stradlater close the door and go down the corridor to the can. Then I got up. I couldn't find my goddam hunting hat anywhere. Finally I found it. It was under the bed. I put it on, and turned the old peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I went over and took a look at my stupid face in the mirror. You never saw such gore in your life. I had blood all over my mouth and chin and even on my pajamas and bath robe. It partly scared me and it partly fascinated me. All that blood and all sort of made me look tough. I'd only been in about two fights in my life, and I lost both of them. I'm not too tough. I'm a pacifist, if you want to know the truth.
I had a feeling old Ackley'd probably heard all the racket and was awake. So I went through the shower curtains into his room, just to see what the hell he was doing. I hardly ever went over to his room. It always had a funny stink in it, because he was so crumby in his personal habits.
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