J.D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye (Chap. 7)
A tiny bit of light came through the shower curtains and all from our room, and I could see him lying in bed. I knew damn well he was wide awake. "Ackley?" I said. "Y'awake?"
It was pretty dark, and I stepped on somebody's shoe on the floor and danm near fell on my head. Ackley sort of sat up in bed and leaned on his arm. He had a lot of white stuff on his face, for his pimples. He looked sort of spooky in the dark. "What the hellya doing, anyway?" I said.
"Wuddaya mean what the hell am I doing? I was tryna sleep before you guys started making all that noise. What the hell was the fight about, anyhow?"
"Where's the light?" I couldn't find the light. I was sliding my hand all over the wall.
"Wuddaya want the light for? . . . Right next to your hand."
I finally found the switch and turned It on. Old Ackley put his hand up so the light wouldn't hurt his eyes.
"Jesus!" he said. "What the hell happened to you?" He meant all the blood and all.
"I had a little goddam tiff with Stradlater," I said. Then I sat down on the floor. They never had any chairs in their room. I don't know what the hell they did with their chairs. "Listen," I said, "do you feel like playing a little Canasta?" He was a Canasta fiend.
"You're still bleeding, for Chrissake. You better put something on it."
"It'll stop. Listen. Ya wanna play a little Canasta or don'tcha?"
"Canasta, for Chrissake. Do you know what time it is, by any chance?"
"It isn't late. It's only around eleven, eleven-thirty."
"Only around!" Ackley said. "Listen. I gotta get up and go to Mass in the morning, for Chrissake. You guys start hollering and fighting in the middle of the goddam--What the hell was the fight about, anyhow?"
"It's a long story. I don't wanna bore ya, Ackley. I'm thinking of your welfare," I told him. I never discussed my personal life with him. In the first place, he was even more stupid than Stradlater. Stradlater was a goddam genius next to Ackley. "Hey," I said, "is it okay if I sleep in Ely's bed tonight? He won't be back till tomorrow night, will he?" I knew damn well he wouldn't. Ely went home damn near every week end.
"I don't know when the hell he's coming back," Ackley said.
Boy, did that annoy me. "What the hell do you mean you don't know when he's coming back? He never comes back till Sunday night, does he?"
"No, but for Chrissake, I can't just tell somebody they can sleep in his goddam bed if they want to."
That killed me. I reached up from where I was sitting on the floor and patted him on the goddam shoulder. "You're a prince, Ackley kid," I said. "You know that?"
"No, I mean it--I can't just tell somebody they can sleep in--"
"You're a real prince. You're a gentleman and a scholar, kid," I said. He really was, too. "Do you happen to have any cigarettes, by any chance?--Say 'no' or I'll drop dead."
"No, I don't, as a matter of fact. Listen, what the hell was the fight about?"
I didn't answer him. All I did was, I got up and went over and looked out the window. I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead.
"What the hell was the fight about, anyhow?" Ackley said, for about the fiftieth time. He certainly was a bore about that.
"About you," I said.
"About me, for Chrissake?"
"Yeah. I was defending your goddam honor. Stradlater said you had a lousy personality. I couldn't let him get away with that stuff."
That got him excited. "He did? No kidding? He did?"
I told him I was only kidding, and then I went over and laid down on Ely's bed. Boy, did I feel rotten. I felt so damn lonesome.
"This room stinks," I said. "I can smell your socks from way over here. Don'tcha ever send them to the laundry?"
"If you don't like it, you know what you can do," Ackley said. What a witty guy. "How 'bout turning off the goddam light?"
I didn't turn it off right away, though. I just kept laying there on Ely's bed, thinking about Jane and all. It just drove me stark staring mad when I thought about her
And Stradlater parked somewhere in that fat-assed Ed Banky's car. Every time I thought about it, I felt like jumping out the window. The thing is, you didn't know Stradlater. I knew him. Most guys at Pencey just talked about having sexual intercourse with girls all the time--like Ackley, for instance--but old Stradlater really did it. I was personally acquainted with at least two girls he gave the time to. That's the truth.
"Tell me the story of your fascinating life, Ackley kid," I said.
"How 'bout turning off the goddam light? I gotta get up for Mass in the morning."
I got up and turned it off, if it made him happy. Then I laid down on Ely's bed again.
"What're ya gonna do--sleep in Ely's bed?" Ackley said. He was the perfect host, boy.
"I may. I may not. Don't worry about it."
"I'm not worried about it. Only, I'd hate like hell if Ely came in all of a sudden and found some guy--"
"Relax. I'm not gonna sleep here. I wouldn't abuse your goddam hospitality."
A couple of minutes later, he was snoring like mad. I kept laying there in the dark anyway, though, trying not to think about old Jane and Stradlater in that goddam Ed Banky's car. But it was almost impossible. The trouble was, I knew that guy Stradlater's technique. That made it even worse. We once double-dated, in Ed Banky's car, and Stradlater was in the back, with his date, and I was in the front with mine. What a technique that guy had. What he'd do was, he'd start snowing his date in this very quiet, sincere voice--like as if he wasn't only a very handsome guy but a nice, sincere guy, too. I damn near puked, listening to him. His date kept saying, "No--please. Please, don't. Please." But old Stradlater kept snowing her in this Abraham Lincoln, sincere voice, and finally there'd be this terrific silence in the back of the car. It was really embarrassing. I don't think he gave that girl the time that night--but damn near. Damn near.
While I was laying there trying not to think, I heard old Stradlater come back from the can and go in our room. You could hear him putting away his crumby toilet articles and all, and opening the window. He was a fresh-air fiend. Then, a little while later, he turned off the light. He didn't even look around to see where I was at.
It was even depressing out in the street. You couldn't even hear any cars any more. I got feeling so lonesome and rotten, I even felt like waking Ackley up.
"Hey, Ackley," I said, in sort of a whisper, so Stradlater couldn't hear me through the shower curtain.
Ackley didn't hear me, though.
He still didn't hear me. He slept like a rock.
He heard that, all right.
"What the hell's the matter with you?" he said. "I was asleep, for Chrissake."
"Listen. What's the routine on joining a monastery?" I asked him. I was sort of toying with the idea of joining one. "Do you have to be a Catholic and all?"
"Certainly you have to be a Catholic. You bastard, did you wake me just to ask me a dumb ques--"
"Aah, go back to sleep. I'm not gonna join one anyway. The kind of luck I have, I'd probably join one with all the wrong kind of monks in it. All stupid bastards. Or just bastards."
When I said that, old Ackley sat way the hell up in bed. "Listen," he said, "I don't care what you say about me or anything, but if you start making cracks about my goddam religion, for Chrissake--"
"Relax," I said. "Nobody's making any cracks about your goddam religion." I got up off Ely's bed, and started towards the door. I didn't want to hang around in that stupid atmosphere any more. I stopped on the way, though, and picked up Ackley's hand, and gave him a big, phony handshake. He pulled it away from me. "What's the idea?" he said.
"No idea. I just want to thank you for being such a goddam prince, that's all," I said. I said it in this very sincere voice. "You're aces, Ackley kid," I said. "You know that?"
"Wise guy. Someday somebody's gonna bash your--"
I didn't even bother to listen to him. I shut the damn door and went out in the corridor.
Everybody was asleep or out or home for the week end, and it was very, very quiet and depressing in the corridor. There was this empty box of Kolynos toothpaste outside Leahy and Hoffman's door, and while I walked down towards the stairs, I kept giving it a boot with this sheep-lined slipper I had on. What I thought I'd do, I thought I might go down and see what old Mal Brossard was doing. But all of a sudden, I changed my mind. All of a sudden, I decided what I'd really do, I'd get the hell out of Pencey--right that same night and all. I mean not wait till Wednesday or anything. I just didn't want to hang around any more. It made me too sad and lonesome. So what I decided to do, I decided I'd take a room in a hotel in New York--some very inexpensive hotel and all--and just take it easy till Wednesday. Then, on Wednesday, I'd go home all rested up and feeling swell. I figured my parents probably wouldn't get old Thurmer's letter saying I'd been given the ax till maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. I didn't want to go home or anything till they got it and thoroughly digested it and all. I didn't want to be around when they first got it. My mother gets very hysterical. She's not too bad after she gets something thoroughly digested, though. Besides, I sort of needed a little vacation. My nerves were shot. They really were.
Anyway, that's what I decided I'd do. So I went back to the room and turned on the light, to start packing and all. I already had quite a few things packed. Old Stradlater didn't even wake up. I lit a cigarette and got all dressed and then I packed these two Gladstones I have. It only took me about two minutes. I'm a very rapid packer.
One thing about packing depressed me a little. I had to pack these brand-new ice skates my mother had practically just sent me a couple of days before. That depressed me. I could see my mother going in Spaulding's and asking the salesman a million dopy questions--and here I was getting the ax again. It made me feel pretty sad. She bought me the wrong kind of skates--I wanted racing skates and she bought hockey--but it made me sad anyway. Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.
After I got all packed, I sort of counted my dough. I don't remember exactly how much I had, but I was pretty loaded. My grandmother'd just sent me a wad about a week before. I have this grandmother that's quite lavish with her dough. She doesn't have all her marbles any more--she's old as hell--and she keeps sending me money for my
Birthday about four times a year. Anyway, even though I was pretty loaded, I figured I could always use a few extra bucks. You never know. So what I did was, I went down the hail and woke up Frederick Woodruff, this guy I'd lent my typewriter to. I asked him how much he'd give me for it. He was a pretty wealthy guy. He said he didn't know. He said he didn't much want to buy it. Finally he bought it, though. It cost about ninety bucks, and all he bought it for was twenty. He was sore because I'd woke him up.
When I was all set to go, when I had my bags and all, I stood for a while next to the stairs and took a last look down the goddam corridor. I was sort of crying. I don't know why. I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" I'll bet I woke up every bastard on the whole floor. Then I got the hell out. Some stupid guy had thrown peanut shells all over the stairs, and I damn near broke my crazy neck.
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