McWatt went, and McWatt was not crazy. And so did Yossarian, still walking with a limp, and when Yossarian had gone two more times and then found himself menaced by the rumor of another mission to Bologna, he limped determinedly into Dobbs’s tent early one warm afternoon, put a finger to his mouth and said, ‘Shush!’
‘What are you shushing him for?’ asked Kid Sampson, peeling a tangerine with his front teeth as he perused the dog-eared pages of a comic book. ‘He isn’t even saying anything.’
‘Screw,’ said Yossarian to Kid Sampson, jerking his thumb back over his shoulder toward the entrance of the tent.
Kid Sampson cocked his blond eyebrows discerningly and rose to co-operate. He whistled upward four times into his drooping yellow mustache and spurted away into the hills on the dented old green motorcycle he had purchased secondhand months before. Yossarian waited until the last faint bark of the motor had died away in the distance. Things inside the tent did not seem quite normal. The place was too neat. Dobbs was watching him curiously, smoking a fat cigar. Now that Yossarian had made up his mind to be brave, he was deathly afraid.
‘All right,’ he said. ‘Let’s kill Colonel Cathcart. We’ll do it together.’ Dobbs sprang forward off his cot with a look of wildest terror. ‘Shush!’ he roared. ‘Kill Colonel Cathcart? What are you talking about?’
‘Be quiet, damn it,’ Yossarian snarled. ‘The whole island will hear. Have you still got that gun?’
‘Are you crazy or something?’ shouted Dobbs. ‘Why should I want to kill Colonel Cathcart?’
‘Why?’ Yossarian stared at Dobbs with an incredulous scowl. ‘Why? It was your idea, wasn’t it? Didn’t you come to the hospital and ask me to do it?’ Dobbs smiled slowly. ‘But that was when I had only fifty-eight missions,’ he explained, puffing on his cigar luxuriously. ‘I’m all packed now and I’m waiting to go home. I’ve finished my sixty missions.’
‘So what?’ Yossarian replied. ‘He’s only going to raise them again.’
‘Maybe this time he won’t.’
‘He always raises them. What the hell’s the matter with you, Dobbs? Ask Hungry Joe how many time he’s packed his bags.’
‘I’ve got to wait and see what happens,’ Dobbs maintained stubbornly. ‘I’d have to be crazy to get mixed up in something like this now that I’m out of combat.’ He flicked the ash from his cigar. ‘No, my advice to you,’ he remarked, ‘is that you fly your sixty missions like the rest of us and then see what happens.’ Yossarian resisted the impulse to spit squarely in his eye. ‘I may not live through sixty,’ he wheedled in a flat, pessimistic voice. ‘There’s a rumor around that he volunteered the group for Bologna again.’
‘It’s only a rumor,’ Dobbs pointed out with a self-important air. ‘You mustn’t believe every rumor you hear.’
‘Will you stop giving me advice?’
‘Why don’t you speak to Orr?’ Dobbs advised. ‘Orr got knocked down into the water again last week on that second mission to Avignon. Maybe he’s unhappy enough to kill him.’
‘Orr hasn’t got brains enough to be unhappy.’ Orr had been knocked down into the water again while Yossarian was still in the hospital and had eased his crippled airplane down gently into the glassy blue swells off Marseilles with such flawless skill that not one member of the six-man crew suffered the slightest bruise. The escape hatches in the front and rear sections flew open while the sea was still foaming white and green around the plane, and the men scrambled out as speedily as they could in their flaccid orange Mae West life jackets that failed to inflate and dangled limp and useless around their necks and waists. The life jackets failed to inflate because Milo had removed the twin carbon-dioxide cylinders from the inflating chambers to make the strawberry and crushed-pineapple ice-cream sodas he served in the officers’ mess hall and had replaced them with mimeographed notes that read: ‘What’s good for M & M Enterprises is good for the country.’ Orr popped out of the sinking airplane last.
‘You should have seen him!’ Sergeant Knight roared with laughter as he related the episode to Yossarian. ‘It was the funniest goddam thing you ever saw. None of the Mae Wests would work because Milo had stolen the carbon dioxide to make those ice-cream sodas you bastards have been getting in the officers’ mess. But that wasn’t too bad, as it turned out. Only one of us couldn’t swim, and we lifted that guy up into the raft after Orr had worked it over by its rope right up against the fuselage while we were all still standing on the plane. That little crackpot sure has a knack for things like that. Then the other raft came loose and drifted away, so that all six of us wound up sitting in one with our elbows and legs pressed so close against each other you almost couldn’t move without knocking the guy next to you out of the raft into the water. The plane went down about three seconds after we left it and we were out there all alone, and right after that we began unscrewing the caps on our Mae Wests to see what the hell had gone wrong and found those goddam notes from Milo telling us that what was good for him was good enough for the rest of us. That bastard! Jesus, did we curse him, all except that buddy of yours, Orr, who just kept grinning as though for all he cared what was good for Milo might be good enough for the rest of us.
‘I swear, you should have seen him sitting up there on the rim of the raft like the captain of a ship while the rest of us just watched him and waited for him to tell us what to do. He kept slapping his hands on his legs every few seconds as though he had the shakes and saying, “All right now, all right,” and giggling like a crazy little freak, then saying, “All right now, all right,” again, and giggling like a crazy little freak some more. It was like watching some kind of a moron. Watching him was all that kept us from going to pieces altogether during the first few minutes, what with each wave washing over us into the raft or dumping a few of us back into the water so that we had to climb back in again before the next wave came along and washed us right back out. It was sure funny. We just kept falling out and climbing back in. We had the guy who couldn’t swim stretched out in the middle of the raft on the floor, but even there he almost drowned, because the water inside the raft was deep enough to keep splashing in his face. Oh, boy!
‘Then Orr began opening up compartments in the raft, and the fun really began. First he found a box of chocolate bars and he passed those around so we sat there eating salty chocolate bars while the waves kept knocking us out of the raft into the water. Next he found some bouillon cubes and aluminum cups and made us some soup. Then he found some tea. Sure, he made it! Can’t you see him serving us tea as we sat there soaking wet in water up to our ass? Now I was falling out of the raft because I was laughing so much. We were all laughing. And he was dead serious, except for that goofy giggle of his and that crazy grin. What a jerk! Whatever he found he used. He found some shark repellent and he sprinkled it right out into the water. He found some marker dye and he threw it into the water. The next thing he finds is a fishing line and dried bait, and his face lights up as though the Air-Sea Rescue launch had just sped up to save us before we died of exposure or before the Germans sent a boat out from Spezia to take us prisoner or machine-gun us. In no time at all, Orr had that fishing line out into the water, trolling away as happy as a lark. “Lieutenant, what do you expect to catch?” I asked him. “Cod,” he told me. And he meant it. And it’s a good thing he didn’t catch any, because he would have eaten that codfish raw if he had caught any, and would have made us eat it, too, because he had found this little book that said it was all right to eat codfish raw.
‘The next thing he found was this little blue oar about the size of a Dixie-cup spoon, and, sure enough, he began rowing with it, trying to move all nine hundred pounds of us with that little stick. Can you imagine? After that he found a small magnetic compass and a big waterproof map, and he spread the map open on his knees and set the compass on top of it. And that’s how he spent the time until the launch picked us up about thirty minutes later, sitting there with that baited fishing line out behind him, with the compass in his lap and the map spread out on his knees, and paddling away as hard as he could with that dinky blue oar as though he was speeding to Majorca. Jesus!’ Sergeant Knight knew all about Majorca, and so did Orr, because Yossarian had told them often of such sanctuaries as Spain, Switzerland and Sweden where American fliers could be interned for the duration of the war under conditions of utmost ease and luxury merely by flying there. Yossarian was the squadron’s leading authority on internment and had already begun plotting an emergency heading into Switzerland on every mission he flew into northernmost Italy. He would certainly have preferred Sweden, where the level of intelligence was high and where he could swim nude with beautiful girls with low, demurring voices and sire whole happy, undisciplined tribes of illegitimate Yossarians that the state would assist through parturition and launch into life without stigma; but Sweden was out of reach, too far away, and Yossarian waited for the piece of flak that would knock out one engine over the Italian Alps and provide him with the excuse for heading for Switzerland. He would not even tell his pilot he was guiding him there. Yossarian often thought of scheming with some pilot he trusted to fake a crippled engine and then destroy the evidence of deception with a belly landing, but the only pilot he really trusted was McWatt, who was happiest where he was and still got a big boot out of buzzing his plane over Yossarian’s tent or roaring in so low over the bathers at the beach that the fierce wind from his propellers slashed dark furrows in the water and whipped sheets of spray flapping back for seconds afterward.
Dobbs and Hungry Joe were out of the question, and so was Orr, who was tinkering with the valve of the stove again when Yossarian limped despondently back into the tent after Dobbs had turned him down. The stove Orr was manufacturing out of an inverted metal drum stood in the middle of the smooth cement floor he had constructed. He was working sedulously on both knees. Yossarian tried paying no attention to him and limped wearily to his cot and sat down with a labored, drawn-out grunt. Prickles of perspiration were turning chilly on his forehead. Dobbs had depressed him. Doc Daneeka depressed him. An ominous vision of doom depressed him when he looked at Orr. He began ticking with a variety of internal tremors. Nerves twitched, and the vein in one wrist began palpitating.
Orr studied Yossarian over his shoulder, his moist lips drawn back around convex rows of large buck teeth. Reaching sideways, he dug a bottle of warm beer out of his foot locker, and he handed it to Yossarian after prying off the cap. Neither said a word. Yossarian sipped the bubbles off the top and tilted his head back. Orr watched him cunningly with a noiseless grin. Yossarian eyed Orr guardedly. Orr snickered with a slight, mucid sibilance and turned back to his work, squatting. Yossarian grew tense.
‘Don’t start,’ he begged in a threatening voice, both hands tightening around his beer bottle. ‘Don’t start working on your stove.’ Orr cackled quietly. ‘I’m almost finished.’
‘No, you’re not. You’re about to begin.’
‘Here’s the valve. See? It’s almost all together.’
‘And you’re about to take it apart. I know what you’re doing, you bastard. I’ve seen you do it three hundred times.’ Orr shivered with glee. ‘I want to get the leak in this gasoline line out,’ he explained. ‘I’ve got it down now to where it’s only an ooze.’
‘I can’t watch you,’ Yossarian confessed tonelessly. ‘If you want to work with something big, that’s okay. But that valve is filled with tiny parts, and I just haven’t got the patience right now to watch you working so hard over things that are so goddam small and unimportant.’
‘Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘When I’m not around. You’re a happy imbecile and you don’t know what it means to feel the way I do. Things happen to me when you work over small things that I can’t even begin to explain. I find out that I can’t stand you. I start to hate you, and I’m soon thinking seriously about busting this bottle down on your head or stabbing you in the neck with that hunting knife there. Do you understand?’ Orr nodded very intelligently. ‘I won’t take the valve apart now,’ he said, and began taking it apart, working with slow, tireless, interminable precision, his rustic, ungainly face bent very close to the floor, picking painstakingly at the minute mechanism in his fingers with such limitless, plodding concentration that he seemed scarcely to be thinking of it at all.
Yossarian cursed him silently and made up his mind to ignore him. ‘What the hell’s your hurry with that stove, anyway?’ he barked out a moment later in spite of himself. ‘It’s still hot out. We’re probably going swimming later. What are you worried about the cold for.’
‘The days are getting shorter,’ Orr observed philosophically. ‘I’d like to get this all finished for you while there’s still time. You’ll have the best stove in the squadron when I’m through. It will burn all night with this feed control I’m fixing, and these metal plates will radiate the heat all over the tent. If you leave a helmet full of water on this thing when you go to sleep, you’ll have warm water to wash with all ready for you when you wake up. Won’t that be nice? If you want to cook eggs or soup, all you’ll have to do is set the pot down here and turn the fire up.’
‘What do you mean, me?’ Yossarian wanted to know. ‘Where are you going to be?’ Orr’s stunted torso shook suddenly with a muffled spasm of amusement. ‘I don’t know,’ he exclaimed, and a weird, wavering giggle gushed out suddenly through his chattering buck teeth like an exploding jet of emotion. He was still laughing when he continued, and his voice was clogged with saliva. ‘If they keep on shooting me down this way, I don’t know where I’m going to be.’ Yossarian was moved. ‘Why don’t you try to stop flying, Orr? You’ve got an excuse.’
‘I’ve only got eighteen missions.’
‘But you’ve been shot down on almost every one. You’re either ditching or crash-landing every time you go up.’
‘Oh, I don’t mind flying missions. I guess they’re lots of fun. You ought to try flying a few with me when you’re not flying lead. Just for laughs. Tee-hee.’ Orr gazed up at Yossarian through the corners of his eyes with a look of pointed mirth.
Yossarian avoided his stare. ‘They’ve got me flying lead again.’
‘When you’re not flying lead. If you had any brains, do you know what you’d do? You’d go right to Piltchard and Wren and tell them you want to fly with me.’
‘And get shot down with you every time you go up? What’s the fun in that?’
‘That’s just why you ought to do it,’ Orr insisted. ‘I guess I’m just about the best pilot around now when it comes to ditching or making crash landings. It would be good practice for you.’
‘Good practice for what?’
‘Good practice in case you ever have to ditch or make a crash landing. Tee-hee-hee.’
‘Have you got another bottle of beer for me?’ Yossarian asked morosely.
‘Do you want to bust it down on my head?’ This time Yossarian did laugh. ‘Like that whore in that apartment in Rome?’ Orr sniggered lewdly, his bulging crab apple cheeks blowing outward with pleasure. ‘Do you really want to know why she was hitting me over the head with her shoe?’ he teased.
‘I do know,’ Yossarian teased back. ‘Nately’s whore told me.’ Orr grinned like a gargoyle. ‘No she didn’t.’ Yossarian felt sorry for Orr. Orr was so small and ugly. Who would protect him if he lived? Who would protect a warm-hearted, simple-minded gnome like Orr from rowdies and cliques and from expert athletes like Appleby who had flies in their eyes and would walk right over him with swaggering conceit and self-assurance every chance they got? Yossarian worried frequently about Orr. Who would shield him against animosity and deceit, against people with ambition and the embittered snobbery of the big shot’s wife, against the squalid, corrupting indignities of the profit motive and the friendly neighborhood butcher with inferior meat? Orr was a happy and unsuspecting simpleton with a thick mass of wavy polychromatic hair parted down the center. He would be mere child’s play for them. They would take his money, screw his wife and show no kindness to his children. Yossarian felt a flood of compassion sweep over him.
Orr was an eccentric midget, a freakish, likable dwarf with a smutty mind and a thousand valuable skills that would keep him in a low income group all his life. He could use a soldering iron and hammer two boards together so that the wood did not split and the nails did not bend. He could drill holes. He had built a good deal more in the tent while Yossarian was away in the hospital. He had filed or chiseled a perfect channel in the cement so that the slender gasoline line was flush with the floor as it ran to the stove from the tank he had built outside on an elevated platform. He had constructed andirons for the fireplace out of excess bomb parts and had filled them with stout silver logs, and he had framed with stained wood the photographs of girls with big breasts he had torn out of cheesecake magazines and hung over the mantelpiece. Orr could open a can of paint. He could mix paint, thin paint, remove paint. He could chop wood and measure things with a ruler. He knew how to build fires. He could dig holes, and he had a real gift for bringing water for them both in cans and canteens from the tanks near the mess hall. He could engross himself in an inconsequential task for hours without growing restless or bored, as oblivious to fatigue as the stump of a tree, and almost as taciturn. He had an uncanny knowledge of wildlife and was not afraid of dogs or cats or beetles or moths, or of foods like scrod or tripe.
Yossarian sighed drearily and began brooding about the rumored mission to Bologna. The valve Orr was dismantling was about the size of a thumb and contained thirty-seven separate parts, excluding the casing, many of them so minute that Orr was required to pinch them tightly between the tips of his fingernails as he placed them carefully on the floor in orderly, catalogued rows, never quickening his movements or slowing them down, never tiring, never pausing in his relentless, methodical, monotonous procedure unless it was to leer at Yossarian with maniacal mischief. Yossarian tried not to watch him. He counted the parts and thought he would go clear out of his mind. He turned away, shutting his eyes, but that was even worse, for now he had only the sounds, the tiny maddening, indefatigable, distinct clicks and rustles of hands and weightless parts. Orr was breathing rhythmically with a noise that was stertorous and repulsive. Yossarian clenched his fists and looked at the long bone-handled hunting knife hanging in a holster over the cot of the dead man in the tent. As soon as he thought of stabbing Orr, his tension eased. The idea of murdering Orr was so ridiculous that he began to consider it seriously with queer whimsy and fascination. He searched the nape of Orr’s neck for the probable site of the medulla oblongata. Just the daintiest stick there would kill him and solve so many serious, agonizing problems for them both.
‘Does it hurt?’ Orr asked at precisely that moment, as though by protective instinct.
Yossarian eyed him closely. ‘Does what hurt?’
‘Your leg,’ said Orr with a strange, mysterious laugh. ‘You still limp a little.’
‘It’s just a habit, I guess,’ said Yossarian, breathing again with relief. ‘I’ll probably get over it soon.’ Orr rolled over sideways to the floor and came up on one knee, facing toward Yossarian. ‘Do you remember,’ he drawled reflectively, with an air of labored recollection, ‘that girl who was hitting me on the head that day in Rome?’ He chuckled at Yossarian’s involuntary exclamation of tricked annoyance. ‘I’ll make a deal with you about that girl. I’ll tell you why that girl was hitting me on the head with her shoe that day if you answer one question.’
‘What’s the question?’
‘Did you ever screw Nately’s girl?’ Yossarian laughed with surprise. ‘Me? No. Now tell me why that girl hit you with her shoe.’
‘That wasn’t the question,’ Orr informed him with victorious delight. ‘That was just conversation. She acts like you screwed her.’
‘Well, I didn’t. How does she act?’
‘She acts like she don’t like you.’
‘She doesn’t like anyone.’
‘She likes Captain Black,’ Orr reminded.
‘That’s because he treats her like dirt. Anyone can get a girl that way.’
‘She wears a slave bracelet on her leg with his name on it.’
‘He makes her wear it to needle Nately.’
‘She even gives him some of the money she gets from Nately.’
‘Listen, what do you want from me?’
‘Did you ever screw my girl?’
‘Your girl? Who the hell is your girl?’
‘The one who hit me over the head with her shoe.’
‘I’ve been with her a couple of times,’ Yossarian admitted. ‘Since when is she your girl? What are you getting at?’
‘She don’t like you, either.’
‘What the hell do I care if she likes me or not? She likes me as much as she likes you.’
‘Did she ever hit you over the head with her shoe?’
‘Orr, I’m tired. Why don’t you leave me alone?’
‘Tee-hee-hee. How about that skinny countess in Rome and her skinny daughter-in-law?’ Orr persisted impishly with increasing zest. ‘Did you ever screw them?’
‘Oh, how I wish I could,’ sighed Yossarian honestly, imagining, at the mere question, the prurient, used, decaying feel in his petting hands of their teeny, pulpy buttocks and breasts.
‘They don’t like you either,’ commented Orr. ‘They like Aarfy, and they like Nately, but they don’t like you. Women just don’t seem to like you. I think they think you’re a bad influence.’
‘Women are crazy,’ Yossarian answered, and waited grimly for what he knew was coming next.
‘How about that other girl of yours?’ Orr asked with a pretense of pensive curiosity. ‘The fat one? The bald one? You know, that fat bald one in Sicily with the turban who kept sweating all over us all night long? Is she crazy too?’
‘Didn’t she like me either?’
‘How could you do it to a girl with no hair?’
‘How was I supposed to know she had no hair?’
‘I knew it,’ Orr bragged. ‘I knew it all the time.’
‘You knew she was bald?’ Yossarian exclaimed in wonder.
‘No, I knew this valve wouldn’t work if I left a part out,’ Orr answered, glowing with cranberry-red elation because he had just duped Yossarian again. ‘Will you please hand me that small composition gasket that rolled over there? It’s right near your foot.’
‘No it isn’t.’
‘Right here,’ said Orr, and took hold of something invisible with the tips of his fingernails and held it up for Yossarian to see. ‘Now I’ll have to start all over again.’
‘I’ll kill you if you do. I’ll murder you right on the spot.’
‘Why don’t you ever fly with me?’ Orr asked suddenly, and looked straight into Yossarian’s face for the first time. ‘There, that’s the question I want you to answer. Why don’t you ever fly with me?’ Yossarian turned away with intense shame and embarrassment. ‘I told you why. They’ve got me flying lead bombardier most of the time.’
‘That’s not why,’ Orr said, shaking his head. ‘You went to Piltchard and Wren after the first Avignon mission and told them you didn’t ever want to fly with me. That’s why, isn’t it?’ Yossarian felt his skin turn hot. ‘No I didn’t,’ he lied.
‘Yes you did,’ Orr insisted equably. ‘You asked them not to assign you to any plane piloted by me, Dobbs or Huple because you didn’t have confidence in us at the controls. And Piltchard and Wren said they couldn’t make an exception of you because it wouldn’t be fair to the men who did have to fly with us.’
‘So?’ said Yossarian. ‘It didn’t make any difference then, did it?’
‘But they’ve never made you fly with me.’ Orr, working on both knees again, was addressing Yossarian without bitterness or reproach, but with injured humility, which was infinitely more painful to observe, although he was still grinning and snickering, as though the situation were comic. ‘You really ought to fly with me, you know. I’m a pretty good pilot, and I’d take care of you. I may get knocked down a lot, but that’s not my fault, and nobody’s ever been hurt in my plane. Yes, sir—if you had any brains, you know what you’d do? You’d go right to Piltchard and Wren and tell them you want to fly all your missions with me.’ Yossarian leaned forward and peered closely into Orr’s inscrutable mask of contradictory emotions. ‘Are you trying to tell me something?’
‘Tee-hee-hee-hee,’ Orr responded. ‘I’m trying to tell you why that big girl with the shoe was hitting me on the head that day. But you just won’t let me.’
‘Will you fly with me?’ Yossarian laughed and shook his head. ‘You’ll only get knocked down into the water again.’ Orr did get knocked down into the water again when the rumored mission to Bologna was flown, and he landed his single-engine plane with a smashing jar on the choppy, windswept waves tossing and falling below the warlike black thunderclouds mobilizing overhead. He was late getting out of the plane and ended up alone in a raft that began drifting away from the men in the other raft and was out of sight by the time the Air-Sea Rescue launch came plowing up through the wind and splattering raindrops to take them aboard. Night was already falling by the time they were returned to the squadron. There was no word of Orr.
‘Don’t worry,’ reassured Kid Sampson, still wrapped in the heavy blankets and raincoat in which he had been swaddled on the boat by his rescuers. ‘He’s probably been picked up already if he didn’t drown in that storm. It didn’t last long. I bet he’ll show up any minute.’ Yossarian walked back to his tent to wait for Orr to show up any minute and lit a fire to make things warm for him. The stove worked perfectly, with a strong, robust blaze that could be raised or lowered by turning the tap Orr had finally finished repairing. A light rain was falling, drumming softly on the tent, the trees, the ground. Yossarian cooked a can of hot soup to have ready for Orr and ate it all himself as the time passed. He hard-boiled some eggs for Orr and ate those too. Then he ate a whole tin of Cheddar cheese from a package of K rations.
Each time he caught himself worrying he made himself remember that Orr could do everything and broke into silent laughter at the picture of Orr in the raft as Sergeant Knight had described him, bent forward with a busy, preoccupied smile over the map and compass in his lap, stuffing one soaking-wet chocolate bar after another into his grinning, tittering mouth as he paddled away dutifully through the lightning, thunder and rain with the bright-blue useless toy oar, the fishing line with dried bait trailing out behind him. Yossarian really had no doubt about Orr’s ability to survive. If fish could be caught with that silly fishing line, Orr would catch them, and if it was codfish he was after, then Orr would catch a codfish, even though no codfish had ever been caught in those waters before. Yossarian put another can of soup up to cook and ate that too when it was hot. Every time a car door slammed, he broke into a hopeful smile and turned expectantly toward the entrance, listening for footsteps. He knew that any moment Orr would come walking into the tent with big, glistening, rain-soaked eyes, cheeks and buck teeth, looking ludicrously like a jolly New England oysterman in a yellow oilskin rain hat and slicker numerous sizes too large for him and holding up proudly for Yossarian’s amusement a great dead codfish he had caught. But he didn’t.
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