In a way the C.I.D. man was pretty lucky, because outside the hospital the war was still going on. Men went madand were rewarded with medals. All over the world, boys on every side of the bomb line were laying down theirlives for what they had been told was their country, and no one seemed to mind, least of all the boys who werelaying down their young lives. There was no end in sight. The only end in sight was Yossarian's own, and hemight have remained in the hospital until doomsday had it not been for that patriotic Texan with hisinfundibuliform jowls and his lumpy, rumpleheaded, indestructible smile cracked forever across the front of hisface like the brim of a black ten-gallon hat. The Texan wanted everybody in the ward to be happy but Yossarianand Dunbar. He was really very sick.
But Yossarian couldn't be happy, even though the Texan didn't want him to be, because outside the hospitalthere was still nothing funny going on. The only thing going on was a war, and no one seemed to notice butYossarian and Dunbar. And when Yossarian tried to remind people, they drew away from him and thought hewas crazy. Even Clevinger, who should have known better but didn't, had told him he was crazy the last timethey had seen each other, which was just before Yossarian had fled into the hospital.
Clevinger had stared at him with apoplectic rage and indignation and, clawing the table with both hands, hadshouted, “You're crazy!”
“Clevinger, what do you want from people?” Dunbar had replied wearily above the noises of the officers' club.
“I'm not joking,” Clevinger persisted.
“They're trying to kill me,” Yossarian told him calmly.
“No one's trying to kill you,” Clevinger cried.
“Then why are they shooting at me?” Yossarian asked.
“They're shooting at everyone,” Clevinger answered. “They're trying to kill everyone.”
“And what difference does that make?”
Clevinger was already on the way, half out of his chair with emotion, his eyes moist and his lips quivering andpale. As always occurred when he quarreled over principles in which he believed passionately, he would end upgasping furiously for air and blinking back bitter tears of conviction. There were many principles in whichClevinger believed passionately. He was crazy.
“Who's they?” he wanted to know. “Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?”
“Every one of them,” Yossarian told him.
“Every one of whom?”
“Every one of whom do you think?”
“I haven't any idea.”
“Then how do you know they aren't?”
“Because” Clevinger sputtered, and turned speechless with frustration.
Clevinger really thought he was right, but Yossarian had proof, because strangers he didn't know shot at himwith cannons every time he flew up into the air to drop bombs on them, and it wasn't funny at all. And if thatwasn't funny, there were lots of things that weren't even funnier. There was nothing funny about living like abum in a tent in Pianosa between fat mountains behind him and a placid blue sea in front that could gulp down aperson with a cramp in the twinkling of an eye and ship him back to shore three days later, all charges paid,bloated, blue and putrescent, water draining out through both cold nostrils.
The tent he lived in stood right smack up against the wall of the shallow, dull-colored forest separating his ownsquadron from Dunbar's. Immediately alongside was the abandoned railroad ditch that carried the pipe thatcarried the aviation gasoline down to the fuel trucks at the airfield. Thanks to Orr, his roommate, it was the mostluxurious tent in the squadron. Each time Yossarian returned from one of his holidays in the hospital or restleaves in Rome, he was surprised by some new orgfort Orr had installed in his absencerunning water, wood-burning fireplace, cement floor. Yossarian had chosen the site, and he and Orr had raised the tent together. Orr,who was a grinning pygmy with pilot's wings and thick, wavy brown hair parted in the middle, furnished all theknowledge, while Yossarian, who was taller, stronger, broader and faster, did most of the work. Just the two ofthem lived there, although the tent was big enough for six. When summer came, Orr rolled up the side flaps toallow a breeze that never blew to flush away the air baking inside.
Immediately next door to Yossarian was Havermeyer, who liked peanut brittle and lived all by himself in thetwo-man tent in which he shot tiny field mice every night with huge bullets from the .45 he had stolen from thedead man in Yossarian's tent. On the other side of Havermeyer stood the tent McWatt no longer shared withClevinger, who had still not returned when Yossarian came out of the hospital. McWatt shared his tent now withNately, who was away in Rome courting the sleepy whore he had fallen so deeply in love with there who wasbored with her work and bored with him too. McWatt was crazy. He was a pilot and flew his plane as low as hedared over Yossarian's tent as often as he could, just to see how much he could frighten him, and loved to gobuzzing with a wild, close roar over the wooden raft floating on empty oil drums out past the sand bar at theimmaculate white beach where the men went swimming naked. Sharing a tent with a man who was crazy wasn'teasy, but Nately didn't care. He was crazy, too, and had gone every free day to work on the officers' club thatYossarian had not helped build.
Actually, there were many officers' clubs that Yossarian had not helped build, but he was proudest of the one onPianosa. It was a sturdy and orgplex monument to his powers of determination. Yossarian never went there tohelp until it was finished; then he went there often, so pleased was he with the large, fine, rambling, shingledbuilding. It was truly a splendid structure, and Yossarian throbbed with a mighty sense of acorgplishment eachtime he gazed at it and reflected that none of the work that had gone into it was his.
There were four of them seated together at a table in the officers' club the last time he and Clevinger had calledeach other crazy. They were seated in back near the crap table on which Appleby always managed to win.
Appleby was as good at shooting crap as he was at playing ping-pong, and he was as good at playing ping-pongas he was at everything else. Everything Appleby did, he did well. Appleby was a fair-haired boy from Iowa whobelieved in God, Motherhood and the American Way of Life, without ever thinking about any of them, andeverybody who knew him liked him.
“I hate that son of a bitch,” Yossarian growled.
The argument with Clevinger had begun a few minutes earlier when Yossarian had been unable to find amachine gun. It was a busy night. The bar was busy, the crap table was busy, the ping-gong table was busy. Thepeople Yossarian wanted to machine-gun were busy at the bar singing sentimental old favorites that nobody elseever tired of. Instead of machine-gunning them, he brought his heel down hard on the ping-pong ball that camerolling toward him off the paddle of one of the two officers playing.
“That Yossarian,” the two officers laughed, shaking their heads, and got another ball from the box on the shelf.
“That Yossarian,” Yossarian answered them.
“Yossarian,” Nately whispered cautioningly.
“You see what I mean?” asked Clevinger.
The officers laughed again when they heard Yossarian mimicking them. “That Yossarian,” they said moreloudly.
“That Yossarian,” Yossarian echoed.
“Yossarian, please,” Nately pleaded.
“You see what I mean?” asked Clevinger. “He has antisocial aggressions.”
“Oh, shut up,” Dunbar told Clevinger. Dunbar liked Clevinger because Clevinger annoyed him and made thetime go slow.
“Appleby isn't even here,” Clevinger pointed out triumphantly to Yossarian.
“Who said anything about Appleby?” Yossarian wanted to know.
“Colonel Cathcart isn't here, either.”
“Who said anything about Colonel Cathcart?”
“What son of a bitch do you hate, then?”
“What son of a bitch is here?”
“I'm not going to argue with you,” Clevinger decided. “You don't know who you hate.”
“Whoever's trying to poison me,” Yossarian told him.
“Nobody's trying to poison you.”
“They poisoned my food twice, didn't they? Didn't they put poison in my food during Ferrara and during theGreat Big Siege of Bologna?”
“They put poison in everybody's food,” Clevinger explained.
“And what difference does that make?”
“And it wasn't even poison!” Clevinger cried heatedly, growing more emphatic as he grew more confused.
As far back as Yossarian could recall, he explained to Clevinger with a patient smile, somebody was alwayshatching a plot to kill him. There were people who cared for him and people who didn't, and those who didn'thated him and were out to get him. They hated him because he was Assyrian. But they couldn't touch him, hetold Clevinger, because he had a sound mind in a pure body and was as strong as an ox. They couldn't touch himbecause he was Tarzan, Mandrake, Flash Gordon. He was Bill Shakespeare. He was Cain, Ulysses, the FlyingDutchman; he was Lot in Sodom, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees. He wasmiracle ingredient Z-247. He was“Crazy!” Clevinger interrupted, shrieking. “That's what you are! Crazy!”
“immense. I'm a real, slam-bang, honest-to-goodness, three-fisted humdinger. I'm a bona fide supraman.”
“Superman?” Clevinger cried. “Superman?”
“Supraman,” Yossarian corrected.
“Hey, fellas, cut it out,” Nately begged with embarrassment. “Everybody's looking at us.”
“You're crazy,” Clevinger shouted vehemently, his eyes filling with tears. “You've got a Jehovah orgplex.”
“I think everyone is Nathaniel.”
Clevinger arrested himself in mid-declamation, suspiciously. “Who's Nathaniel?”
“Nathaniel who?” inquired Yossarian innocently.
Clevinger skirted the trap neatly. “You think everybody is Jehovah. You're no better than Raskolnkov““Who?”
“yes, Raskolnikov, who““Raskolnikov!”
“whoI mean itwho felt he could justify killing an old woman““No better than?”
“yes, justify, that's rightwith an ax! And I can prove it to you!” Gasping furiously for air, Clevingerenumerated Yossarian's symptoms: an unreasonable belief that everybody around him was crazy, a homicidalimpulse to machine-gun strangers, retrospective falsification, an unfounded suspicion that people hated him andwere conspiring to kill him.
But Yossarian knew he was right, because, as he explained to Clevinger, to the best of his knowledge he hadnever been wrong. Everywhere he looked was a nut, and it was all a sensible young gentleman like himself coulddo to maintain his perspective amid so much madness. And it was urgent that he did, for he knew his life was inperil.
Yossarian eyed everyone he saw warily when he returned to the squadron from the hospital. Milo was away, too,in Smyrna for the fig harvest. The mess hall ran smoothly in Milo's absence. Yossarian had respondedravenously to the pungent aroma of spicy lamb while he was still in the cab of the ambulance bouncing downalong the knotted road that lay like a broken suspender between the hospital and the squadron. There was shishkabobfor lunch, huge, savory hunks of spitted meat sizzling like the devil over charcoal after marinatingseventy-two hours in a secret mixture Milo had stolen from a crooked trader in the Levant, served with Iranianrice and asparagus tips Parmesan, followed by cherries jubilee for dessert and then steaming cups of fresh coffeewith Benedictine and brandy. The meal was served in enormous helpings on damask tablecloths by the skilledItalian waiters Major —— de Coverley had kidnaped from the mainland and given to Milo.
Yossarian gorged himself in the mess hall until he thought he would explode and then sagged back in a contentedstupor, his mouth filmy with a succulent residue. None of the officers in the squadron had ever eaten so well asthey ate regularly in Milo's mess hall, and Yossarian wondered awhile if it wasn't perhaps all worth it. But thenhe burped and remembered that they were trying to kill him, and he sprinted out of the mess hall wildly and ranlooking for Doc Daneeka to have himself taken off orgbat duty and sent home. He found Doc Daneeka insunlight, sitting on a high stool outside his tent.
“Fifty missions,” Doc Daneeka told him, shaking his head. “The colonel wants fifty missions.”
“But I've only got forty-four!”
Doc Daneeka was unmoved. He was a sad, birdlike man with the spatulate face and scrubbed, tapering featuresof a well-groomed rat.
“Fifty missions,” he repeated, still shaking his head. “The colonel wants fifty missions.”