Actually, no one was around when Yossarian returned from the hospital but Orr and the dead man in Yossarian'stent. The dead man in Yossarian's tent was a pest, and Yossarian didn't like him, even though he had never seenhim. Having him lying around all day annoyed Yossarian so much that he had gone to the orderly room severaltimes to orgplain to Sergeant Towser, who refused to admit that the dead man even existed, which, of course, heno longer did. It was still more frustrating to try to appeal directly to Major Major, the long and bony squadronorgmander, who looked a little bit like Henry Fonda in distress and went jumping out the window of his officeeach time Yossarian bullied his way past Sergeant Towser to speak to him about it. The dead man in Yossarian'stent was simply not easy to live with. He even disturbed Orr, who was not easy to live with, either, and who, onthe day Yossarian came back, was tinkering with the faucet that fed gasoline into the stove he had startedbuilding while Yossarian was in the hospital.
“What are you doing?” Yossarian asked guardedly when he entered the tent, although he saw at once.
“There's a leak here,” Orr said. “I'm trying to fix it.”
“Please stop it,” said Yossarian. “You're making me nervous.”
“When I was a kid,” Orr replied, “I used to walk around all day with crab apples in my cheeks. One in eachcheek.”
Yossarian put aside the musette bag from which he had begun removing his toilet articles and braced himselfsuspiciously. A minute passed. “Why?” he found himself forced to ask finally.
Orr tittered triumphantly. “Because they're better than horse chestnuts,” he answered.
Orr was kneeling on the floor of the tent. He worked without pause, taking the faucet apart, spreading all the tinypieces out carefully, counting and then studying each one interminably as though he had never seen anythingremotely similar before, and then reassembling the whole apparatus, over and over and over and over again, withno loss of patience or interest, no sign of fatigue, no indication of ever concluding. Yossarian watched himtinkering and felt certain he would be orgpelled to murder him in cold blood if he did not stop. His eyes movedtoward the hunting knife that had been slung over the mosquito-net bar by the dead man the day he arrived. Theknife hung beside the dead man's empty leather gun holster, from which Havermeyer had stolen the gun.
“When I couldn't get crab apples,” Orr continued, “I used horse chestnuts. Horse chestnuts are about the samesize as crab apples and actually have a better shape, although the shape doesn't matter a bit.”
“Why did you walk around with crab apples in your cheeks?” Yossarian asked again. “That's what I asked.”
“Because they've got a better shape than horse chestnuts,” Orr answered. “I just told you that.”
“Why,” swore Yossarian at him approvingly, “you evil-eyed, mechanically-aptituded, disaffiliated son of a bitch,did you walk around with anything in your cheeks?”
“I didn't,” Orr said, “walk around with anything in my cheeks. I walked around with crab apples in my cheeks.
When I couldn't get crab apples I walked around with horse chestnuts. In my cheeks.”
Orr giggled. Yossarian made up his mind to keep his mouth shut and did. Orr waited. Yossarian waited longer.
“One in each cheek,” Orr said.
Orr pounced. “Why what?”
Yossarian shook his head, smiling, and refused to say.
“It's a funny thing about this valve,” Orr mused aloud.
“What is?” Yossarian asked.
“Because I wanted“Yossarian knew. “Jesus Christ! Why did you want““apple cheeks.”
“apple cheeks?” Yossarian demanded.
“I wanted apple cheeks,” Orr repeated. “Even when I was a kid I wanted apple cheeks someday, and I decided towork at it until I got them, and by God, I did work at it until I got them, and that's how I did it, with crab applesin my cheeks all day long.” He giggled again. “One in each cheek.”
“Why did you want apple cheeks?”
“I didn't want apple cheeks,” Orr said. “I wanted big cheeks. I didn't care about the color so much, but I wantedthem big. I worked at it just like one of those crazy guys you read about who go around squeezing rubber ballsall day long just to strengthen their hands. In fact, I was one of those crazy guys. I used to walk around all daywith rubber balls in my hands, too.”
“Why did you walk around all day with rubber balls in your hands?”
“Because rubber balls“ said Orr.
“are better than crab apples?”
Orr sniggered as he shook his head. “I did it to protect my good reputation in case anyone ever caught mewalking around with crab apples in my cheeks. With rubber balls in my hands I could deny there were crabapples in my cheeks. Every time someone asked me why I was walking around with crab apples in my cheeks,I'd just open my hands and show them it was rubber balls I was walking around with, not crab apples, and thatthey were in my hands, not my cheeks. It was a good story. But I never knew if it got across or not, since it'spretty tough to make people understand you when you're talking to them with two crab apples in your cheeks.”
Yossarian found it pretty tough to understand him then, and he wondered once again if Orr wasn't talking to himwith the tip of his tongue in one of his apple cheeks.
Yossarian decided not to utter another word. It would be futile. He knew Orr, and he knew there was not achance in hell of finding out from him then why he had wanted big cheeks. It would do no more good to ask thanit had done to ask him why that whore had kept beating him over the head with her shoe that morning in Rome inthe cramped vestibule outside the open door of Nately's whore's kid sister's room. She was a tall, strapping girlwith long hair and incandescent blue veins converging populously beneath her cocoa-colored skin where theflesh was most tender, and she kept cursing and shrieking and jumping high up into the air on her bare feet tokeep right on hitting him on the top of his head with the spiked heel of her shoe. They were both naked, andraising a rumpus that brought everyone in the apartment into the hall to watch, each couple in a bedroomdoorway, all of them naked except the aproned and sweatered old woman, who clucked reprovingly, and thelecherous, dissipated old man, who cackled aloud hilariously through the whole episode with a kind of avid andsuperior glee. The girl shrieked and Orr giggled. Each time she landed with the heel of her shoe, Orr giggledlouder, infuriating her still further so that she flew up still higher into the air for another shot at his noodle, herwondrously full breasts soaring all over the place like billowing pennants in a strong wind and her buttocks andstrong thighs shim-sham-shimmying this way and that way like some horrifying bonanza. She shrieked and Orrgiggled right up to the time she shrieked and knocked him cold with a good solid crack on the temple that madehim stop giggling and sent him off to the hospital in a stretcher with a hole in his head that wasn't very deep anda very mild concussion that kept him out of orgbat only twelve days.
Nobody could find out what had happened, not even the cackling old man and clucking old woman, who were ina position to find out everything that happened in that vast and endless brothel with its multitudinous bedroomson facing sides of the narrow hallways going off in opposite directions from the spacious sitting room with itsshaded windows and single lamp. Every time she met Orr after that, she'd hoist her skirts up over her tight whiteelastic panties and, jeering coarsely, bulge her firm, round belly out at him, cursing him contemptuously and thenroaring with husky laughter as she saw him giggle fearfully and take refuge behind Yossarian. Whatever he had done or tried to do or failed to do behind the closed door of Nately's whore's kid sister's room was still a secret.
The girl wouldn't tell Nately's whore or any of the other whores or Nately or Yossarian. Orr might tell, butYossarian had decided not to utter another word.
“Do you want to know why I wanted big cheeks?” Orr asked.
Yossarian kept his mouth shut.
“Do you remember,” Orr said, “that time in Rome when that girl who can't stand you kept hitting me over thehead with the heel of her shoe? Do you want to know why she was hitting me?”
It was still impossible to imagine what he could have done to make her angry enough to hammer him over thehead for fifteen or twenty minutes, yet not angry enough to pick him up by the ankles and dash his brains out.
She was certainly tall enough, and Orr was certainly short enough. Orr had buck teeth and bulging eyes to gowith his big cheeks and was even smaller than young Huple, who lived on the wrong side of the railroad tracks inthe tent in the administration area in which Hungry Joe lay screaming in his sleep every night.
The administration area in which Hungry Joe had pitched his tent by mistake lay in the center of the squadronbetween the ditch, with its rusted railroad tracks, and the tilted black bituminous road. The men could pick upgirls along that road if they promised to take them where they wanted to go, buxom, young, homely, grinninggirls with missing teeth whom they could drive off the road and lie down in the wild grass with, and Yossariandid whenever he could, which was not nearly as often as Hungry Joe, who could get a jeep but couldn't drive,begged him to try. The tents of the enlisted men in the squadron stood on the other side of the road alongside theopen-air movie theater in which, for the daily amusement of the dying, ignorant armies clashed by night on acollapsible screen, and to which another U.S.O. troupe came that same afternoon.
The U.S.O. troupes were sent by General P. P. Peckem, who had moved his headquarters up to Rome and hadnothing better to do while he schemed against General Dreedle. General Peckem was a general with whomneatness definitely counted. He was a spry, suave and very precise general who knew the circumference of theequator and always wrote “enhanced” when he meant “increased”. He was a prick, and no one knew this betterthan General Dreedle, who was incensed by General Peckem's recent directive requiring all tents in theMediterranean theater of operations to be pitched along parallel lines with entrances facing back proudly towardthe Washington Monument. To General Dreedle, who ran a fighting outfit, it seemed a lot of crap. Furthermore,it was none of General Peckem's goddam business how the tents in General Dreedle's wing were pitched. Therethen followed a hectic jurisdictional dispute between these overlords that was decided in General Dreedle's favorby ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, mail clerk at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters. Wintergreen determined theoutorge by throwing all orgmunications from General Peckem into the wastebasket. He found them too prolix.
General Dreedle's views, expressed in less pretentious literary style, pleased ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen and weresped along by him in zealous observance of regulations. General Dreedle was victorious by default.
To regain whatever status he had lost, General Peckem began sending out more U.S.O. troupes than he had eversent out before and assigned to Colonel Cargill himself the responsibility of generating enough enthusiasm forthem.
But there was no enthusiasm in Yossarian's group. In Yossarian's group there was only a mounting number ofenlisted men and officers who found their way solemnly to Sergeant Towser several times a day to ask if theorders sending them home had orge in. They were men who had finished their fifty missions. There were moreof them now than when Yossarian had gone into the hospital, and they were still waiting. They worried and bittheir nails. They were grotesque, like useless young men in a depression. They moved sideways, like crabs. Theywere waiting for the orders sending them home to safety to return from Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquartersin Italy, and while they waited they had nothing to do but worry and bite their nails and find their way solemnlyto Sergeant Towser several times a day to ask if the order sending them home to safety had orge.
They were in a race and knew it, because they knew from bitter experience that Colonel Cathcart might raise thenumber of missions again at any time. They had nothing better to do than wait. Only Hungry Joe had somethingbetter to do each time he finished his missions. He had screaming nightmares and won fist fights with Huple'scat. He took his camera to the front row of every U.S.O. show and tried to shoot pictures up the skirt of theyellow-headed singer with two big ones in a sequined dress that always seemed ready to burst. The picturesnever came out.
Colonel Cargill, General Peckem's troubleshooter, was a forceful, ruddy man. Before the war he had been analert, hardhitting, aggressive marketing executive. He was a very bad marketing executive. Colonel Cargill wasso awful a marketing executive that his services were much sought after by firms eager to establish losses for taxpurposes. Throughout the civilized world, from Battery Park to Fulton Street, he was known as a dependableman for a fast tax write-off. His prices were high, for failure often did not orge easily. He had to start at the topand work his way down, and with sympathetic friends in Washington, losing money was no simple matter. Ittook months of hard work and careful misplanning. A person misplaced, disorganized, miscalculated, overlookedeverything and opened every loophole, and just when he thought he had it made, the government gave him a lakeor a forest or an oilfield and spoiled everything. Even with such handicaps, Colonel Cargill could be relied on torun the most prosperous enterprise into the ground. He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success tonobody.
“Men,” Colonel Cargill began in Yossarian's squadron, measuring his pauses carefully. “You're Americanofficers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it.”
Sergeant Knight thought about it and then politely informed Colonel Cargill that he was addressing the enlistedmen and that the officers were to be found waiting for him on the other side of the squadron. Colonel Cargillthanked him crisply and glowed with self-satisfaction as he strode across the area. It made him proud to observethat twenty-nine months in the service had not blunted his genius for ineptitude.
“Men,” he began his address to the officers, measuring his pauses carefully. “You're American officers. Theofficers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it.” He waited a moment to permitthem to think about it. “These people are your guests!” he shouted suddenly. “They've traveled over threethousand miles to entertain you. How are they going to feel if nobody wants to go out and watch them? What'sgoing to happen to their morale? Now, men, it's no skin off my behind. But that girl that wants to play theaccordion for you today is old enough to be a mother. How would you feel if your own mother traveled over three thousand miles to play the accordion for some troops that didn't want to watch her? How is that kid whosemother that accordion player is old enough to be going to feel when he grows up and learns about it? We allknow the answer to that one. Now, men, don't misunderstand me. This is all voluntary, of course. I'd be the lastcolonel in the world to order you to go to that U.S.O. show and have a good time, but I want every one of youwho isn't sick enough to be in a hospital to go to that U.S.O. show right now and have a good time, and that's anorder!”
Yossarian did feel almost sick enough to go back into the hospital, and he felt even sicker three orgbat missionslater when Doc Daneeka still shook his melancholy head and refused to ground him.
“You think you've got troubles?” Doc Daneeka rebuked him grievingly. “What about me? I lived on peanuts foreight years while I learned how to be a doctor. After the peanuts, I lived on chicken feed in my own office until Icould build up a practice decent enough to even pay expenses. Then, just as the shop was finally starting to showa profit, they drafted me. I don't know what you're orgplaining about.”
Doc Daneeka was Yossarian's friend and would do just about nothing in his power to help him. Yossarianlistened very carefully as Doc Daneeka told him about Colonel Cathcart at Group, who wanted to be a general,about General Dreedle at Wing and General Dreedle's nurse, and about all the other generals at Twenty-seventhAir Force Headquarters, who insisted on only forty missions as a orgpleted tour of duty.
“Why don't you just smile and make the best of it?” he advised Yossarian glumly. “Be like Havermeyer.”
Yossarian shuddered at the suggestion. Havermeyer was a lead bombardier who never took evasive action goingin to the target and thereby increased the danger of all the men who flew in the same formation with him.
“Havermeyer, why the hell don't you ever take evasive action?” they would demand in a rage after the mission.
“Hey, you men leave Captain Havermeyer alone,” Colonel Cathcart would order. “He's the best damnedbombardier we've got.”
Havermeyer grinned and nodded and tried to explain how he dumdummed the bullets with a hunting knife beforehe fired them at the field mice in his tent every night. Havermeyer was the best damned bombardier they had, buthe flew straight and level all the way from the I.P. to the target, and even far beyond the target until he saw thefalling bombs strike ground and explode in a darting spurt of abrupt orange that flashed beneath the swirling pallof smoke and pulverized debris geysering up wildly in huge, rolling waves of gray and black. Havermeyer heldmortal men rigid in six planes as steady and still as sitting ducks while he followed the bombs all the way downthrough the plexiglass nose with deep interest and gave the German gunners below all the time they needed to settheir sights and take their aim and pull their triggers or lanyards or switches or whatever the hell they did pullwhen they wanted to kill people they didn't know.
Havermeyer was a lead bombardier who never missed. Yossarian was a lead bombardier who had been demotedbecause he no longer gave a damn whether he missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt,and his only mission each time he went up was to orge down alive.
The men had loved flying behind Yossarian, who used to orge barreling in over the target from all directionsand every height, climbing and diving and twisting and turning so steeply and sharply that it was all the pilots ofthe other five planes could do to stay in formation with him, leveling out only for the two or three seconds it tookfor the bombs to drop and then zooming off again with an aching howl of engines, and wrenching his flightthrough the air so violently as he wove his way through the filthy barrages of flak that the six planes were soonflung out all over the sky like prayers, each one a pushover for the German fighters, which was just fine withYossarian, for there were no German fighters any more and he did not want any exploding planes near his whenthey exploded. Only when all the Sturm und Drang had been left far behind would he tip his flak helmet backwearily on his sweating head and stop barking directions to McWatt at the controls, who had nothing better towonder about at a time like that than where the bombs had fallen.
“Bomb bay clear,” Sergeant Knight in the back would announce.
“Did we hit the bridge?” McWatt would ask.
“I couldn't see, sir, I kept getting bounced around back here pretty hard and I couldn't see. Everything's coveredwith smoke now and I can't see.”
“Hey, Aarfy, did the bombs hit the target?”
“What target?” Captain Aardvaark, Yossarian's plump, pipe-smoking navigator, would say from the confusionof maps he had created at Yossarian's side in the nose of the ship. “I don't think we're at the target yet. Are we?”
“Yossarian, did the bombs hit the target?”
“What bombs?” answered Yossarian, whose only concern had been the flak.
“Oh, well,” McWatt would sing, “what the hell.”
Yossarian did not give a damn whether he hit the target or not, just as long as Havermeyer or one of the otherlead bombardiers did and they never had to go back. Every now and then someone grew angry enough atHavermeyer to throw a punch at him.
“I said you men leave Captain Havermeyer alone,” Colonel Cathcart warned them all angrily. “I said he's thebest damned bombardier we've got, didn't I?”
Havermeyer grinned at the colonel's intervention and shoved another piece of peanut brittle inside his face.
Havermeyer had grown very proficient at shooting field mice at night with the gun he had stolen from the deadman in Yossarian's tent. His bait was a bar of candy and he would presight in the darkness as he sat waiting forthe nibble with a finger of his other hand inside a loop of the line he had run from the frame of his mosquito netto the chain of the unfrosted light bulb overhead. The line was taut as a banjo string, and the merest tug would snap it on and blind the shivering quarry in a blaze of light. Havermeyer would chortle exultantly as he watchedthe tiny mammal freeze and roll its terrified eyes about in frantic search of the intruder. Havermeyer would waituntil the eyes fell upon his own and then he laughed aloud and pulled the trigger at the same time, showering therank, furry body all over the tent with a reverberating crash and dispatching its timid soul back to his or herCreator.
Late one night, Havermeyer fired a shot at a mouse that brought Hungry Joe bolting out at him barefoot, rantingat the top of his screechy voice and emptying his own .45 into Havermeyer's tent as he came charging down oneside of the ditch and up the other and vanished all at once inside one of the slit trenches that had appeared likemagic beside every tent the morning after Milo Minderbinder had bombed the squadron. It was just before dawnduring the Great Big Siege of Bologna, when tongueless dead men peopled the night hours like living ghosts andHungry Joe was half out of his mind because he had finished his missions again and was not scheduled to fly.
Hungry Joe was babbling incoherently when they fished him out from the dank bottom of the slit trench,babbling of snakes, rats and spiders. The others flashed their searchlights down just to make sure. There wasnothing inside but a few inches of stagnant rain water.
“You see?” cried Havermeyer. “I told you. I told you he was crazy, didn't I?”