Clevinger was dead. That was the basic flaw in his philosophy. Eighteen planes had let
down through a beaming white cloud off the coast of Elba one afternoon on the way
back from the weekly milk run to Parma; seventeen came out. No trace was ever
found of the other, not in the air or on the smooth surface of the jade waters below.
There was no debris. Helicopters circled the white cloud till sunset. During the night
the cloud blew away, and in the morning there was no more Clevinger.
The disappearance was astounding, as astounding, certainly, as the Grand Conspiracy
of Lowery Field, when all sixty-four men in a single barrack vanished one payday and
were never heard of again. Until Clevinger was snatched from existence so adroitly,
Yossarian had assumed that the men had simply decided unanimously to go AWOL the
same day. In fact, he had been so encouraged by what appeared to be a mass
desertion from sacred responsibility that he had gone running outside in elation to
carry the exciting news to ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen.
'What's so exciting about it?' ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen sneered obnoxiously, resting his
filthy GI shoe on his spade and lounging back in a surly slouch against the wall of one
of the deep, square holes it was his military specialty to dig.
Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen was a snide little punk who enjoyed working at cross-purposes.
Each time he went AWOL, he was caught and sentenced to dig and fill up holes six
feet deep, wide and long for a specified length of time. Each time he finished his
sentence, he went AWOL again. Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen accepted his role of digging
and filling up holes with all the uncomplaining dedication of a true patriot.
'It's not a bad life,' he would observe philosophically.
'And I guess somebody has to do it.'
He had wisdom enough to understand that digging holes in Colorado was not such a
bad assignment in wartime. Since the holes were in no great demand, he could dig
them and fill them up at a leisurely pace, and he was seldom overworked. On the
other hand, he was busted down to buck private each time he was court-martialed.
He regretted this loss of rank keenly.
'It was kind of nice being a P.F.C.,' he reminisced yearningly. 'I had status - you know
what I mean? - and I used to travel in the best circles.' His face darkened with
resignation. 'But that's all behind me now,' he guessed. 'The next time I go over the
hill it will be as a buck private, and I just know it won't be the same.' There was no
future in digging holes. 'The job isn't even steady. I lose it each time I finish serving
my sentence. Then I have to go over the hill again if I want it back.

And I can't even keep doing that. There's a catch. Catch-22. The next time I go
over the hill, it will mean the stockade. I don't know what's going to become of me. I
might even wind up overseas if I'm not careful.' He did not want to keep digging
holes for the rest of his life, although he had no objection to doing it as long as
there was a war going on and it was part of the war effort. 'It's a matter of duty,'
he observed, 'and we each have our own to perform.
My duty is to keep digging these holes, and I've been doing such a good job of it that
I've just been recommended for the Good Conduct Medal. Your duty is to screw
around in cadet school and hope the war ends before you get out. The duty of the
men in combat is to win the war, and I just wish they were doing their duty as well as
I've been doing mine. It wouldn't be fair if I had to go overseas and do their job too,
would it?'
One day ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen struck open a water pipe while digging in one of his
holes and almost drowned to death before he was fished out nearly unconscious.
Word spread that it was oil, and Chief White Halfoat was kicked off the base. Soon
every man who could find a shovel was outside digging frenziedly for oil. Dirt flew
everywhere; the scene was almost like the morning in Pianosa seven months later
after the night Milo bombed the squadron with every plane he had accumulated in his
M & M syndicate, and the airfield, bomb dump and repair hangars as well, and all the
survivors were outside hacking cavernous shelters into the solid ground and roofing
them over with sheets of armor plate stolen from the repair sheds at the field and
with tattered squares of waterproof canvas stolen from the side flaps of each
other's tents. Chief White Halfoat was transferred out of Colorado at the first
rumor of oil and came to rest finally in Pianosa as a replacement for Lieutenant
Coombs, who had gone out on a mission as a guest one day just to see what combat
was like and had died over Ferrara in the plane with Kraft. Yossarian felt guilty each
time he remembered Kraft, guilty because Kraft had been killed on Yossarian's
second bomb run, and guilty because Kraft had got mixed up innocently also in the
Splendid Atabrine Insurrection that had begun in Puerto Rico on the first leg of
their flight overseas and ended in Pianosa ten days later with Appleby striding
dutifully into the orderly room the moment he arrived to report Yossarian for
refusing to take his Atabrine tablets. The sergeant there invited him to be seated.
'Thank you, Sergeant, I think I will,' said Appleby. 'About how long will I have to
wait? I've still got a lot to get done today so that I can be fully prepared bright and
early tomorrow morning to go into combat the minute they want me to.'
'What's that, Sergeant?'

'What was your question?'
'About how long will I have to wait before I can go in to see the major?'
'Just until he goes out to lunch,' Sergeant Towser replied. 'Then you can go right in.'
'But he won't be there then. Will he?'
'No, sir. Major Major won't be back in his office until after lunch.'
'I see,' Appleby decided uncertainly.
'I think I'd better come back after lunch, then.'
Appleby turned from the orderly room in secret confusion. The moment he stepped
outside, he thought he saw a tall, dark officer who looked a little like Henry Fonda
come jumping out of the window of the orderly-room tent and go scooting out of
sight around the corner. Appleby halted and squeezed his eyes closed. An anxious
doubt assailed him. He wondered if he were suffering from malaria, or, worse, from
an overdose of Atabrine tablets. Appleby had been taking four times as many
Atabrine tablets as the amount prescribed because he wanted to be four times as
good a pilot as everyone else. His eyes were still shut when Sergeant Towser tapped
him lightly on the shoulder and told him he could go in now if he wanted to, since
Major Major had just gone out. Appleby's confidence returned.
'Thank you, Sergeant. Will he be back soon?'
'He'll be back right after lunch. Then you'll have to go right out and wait for him in
front till he leaves for dinner. Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's
in his office.'
'Sergeant, what did you just say?'
'I said that Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in his office.'
Appleby stared at Sergeant Towser intently and attempted a firm tone. 'Sergeant,
are you trying to make a fool out of me just because I'm new in the squadron and
you've been overseas a long time?'
'Oh, no, sir,' answered the sergeant deferentially. 'Those are my orders.
You can ask Major Major when you see him.'
'That's just what I intend to do, Sergeant. When can I see him?'

Crimson with humiliation, Appleby wrote down his report about Yossarian and the
Atabrine tablets on a pad the sergeant offered him and left quickly, wondering if
perhaps Yossarian were not the only man privileged to wear an officer's uniform
who was crazy .
By the time Colonel Cathcart had raised the number of missions to fifty-five,
Sergeant Towser had begun to suspect that perhaps every man who wore a uniform
was crazy. Sergeant Towser was lean and angular and had fine blond hair so light it
was almost without color, sunken cheeks, and teeth like large white marshmallows. He
ran the squadron and was not happy doing it. Men like Hungry Joe glowered at him
with blameful hatred, and Appleby subjected him to vindictive discourtesy now that
he had established himself as a hot pilot and a ping-pong player who never lost a
point. Sergeant Towser ran the squadron because there was no one else in the
squadron to run it. He had no interest in war or advancement. He was interested in
shards and Hepplewhite furniture.
Almost without realizing it, Sergeant Towser had fallen into the habit of thinking of
the dead man in Yossarian's tent in Yossarian's own terms as a dead man in
Yossarian's tent. In reality, he was no such thing. He was simply a replacement pilot
who had been killed in combat before he had officially reported for duty. He had
stopped at the operations tent to inquire the way to the orderly-room tent and had
been sent right into action because so many men had completed the thirty-five
missions required then that Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren were finding it
difficult to assemble the number of crews specified by Group. Because he had never
officially gotten into the squadron, he could never officially be gotten out, and
Sergeant Towser sensed that the multiplying communications relating to the poor
man would continue reverberating forever.
His name was Mudd. To Sergeant Towser, who deplored violence and waste with equal
aversion, it seemed like such an abhorrent extravagance to fly Mudd all the way
across the ocean just to have him blown into bits over Orvieto less than two hours
after he arrived. No one could recall who he was or what he had looked like, least of
all Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren, who remembered only that a new officer had
shown up at the operations tent just in time to be killed and who colored uneasily
every time the matter of the dead man in Yossarian's tent was mentioned. The only
one who might have seen Mudd, the men in the same plane, had all been blown to bits
with him.
Yossarian, on the other hand, knew exactly who Mudd was. Mudd was the unknown
soldier who had never had a chance, for that was the only thing anyone ever did know
about all the unknown soldiers - they never had a chance.

They had to be dead. And this dead one was really unknown, even though his
belongings still lay in a tumble on the cot in Yossarian's tent almost exactly as he had
left them three months earlier the day he never arrived - all contaminated with
death less than two hours later, in the same way that all was contaminated with
death in the very next week during the Great Big Siege of Bologna when the moldy
odor of mortality hung wet in the air with the sulphurous fog and every man
scheduled to fly was already tainted.
There was no escaping the mission to Bologna once Colonel Cathcart had volunteered
his group for the ammunition dumps there that the heavy bombers on the Italian
mainland had been unable to destroy from their higher altitudes. Each day's delay
deepened the awareness and deepened the gloom. The clinging, overpowering
conviction of death spread steadily with the continuing rainfall, soaking mordantly
into each man's ailing countenance like the corrosive blot of some crawling disease.
Everyone smelled of formaldehyde. There was nowhere to turn for help, not even to
the medical tent, which had been ordered closed by Colonel Korn so that no one could
report for sick call, as the men had done on the one clear day with a mysterious
epidemic of diarrhea that had forced still another postponement. With sick call
suspended and the door to the medical tent nailed shut, Doc Daneeka spent the
intervals between rain perched on a high stool, wordlessly absorbing the bleak
outbreak of fear with a sorrowing neutrality, roosting like a melancholy buzzard
below the ominous, hand-lettered sign tacked up on the closed door of the medical
tent by Captain Black as a joke and left hanging there by Doc Daneeka because it was
no joke. The sign was bordered in dark crayon and read:
The fear flowed everywhere, into Dunbar's squadron, where Dunbar poked his head
inquiringly through the entrance of the medical tent there one twilight and spoke
respectfully to the blurred outline of Dr. Stubbs, who was sitting in the dense
shadows inside before a bottle of whiskey and a bell jar filled with purified drinking
'Are you all right?' he asked solicitously.
'Terrible,' Dr. Stubbs answered.
'What are you doing here?'
'I thought there was no more sick call.'
'There ain't.'

'Then why are you sitting here?'
'Where else should I sit? At the goddamn officers' club with Colonel Cathcart
and Korn? Do you know what I'm doing here?'
'In the squadron, I mean. Not in the tent. Don't be such a goddam wise guy. Can you
figure out what a doctor is doing here in the squadron?'
'They've got the doors to the medical tents nailed shut in the other squadrons,'
Dunbar remarked.
'If anyone sick walks through my door I'm going to ground him,' Dr. Stubbs vowed. 'I
don't give a damn what they say.'
'You can't ground anyone,' Dunbar reminded. 'Don't you know the orders?'
'I'll knock him flat on his ass with an injection and really ground him.' Dr. Stubbs
laughed with sardonic amusement at the prospect. 'They think they can order sick
call out of existence. The bastards. Ooops, there it goes again.' The rain began
falling again, first in the trees, then in the mud puddles, then, faintly, like a soothing
murmur, on the tent top. 'Everything's wet,' Dr. Stubbs observed with revulsion.
'Even the latrines and urinals are backing up in protest. The whole goddam world
smells like a charnel house.'
The silence seemed bottomless when he stopped talking. Night fell. There was a
sense of vast isolation.
'Turn on the light,' Dunbar suggested.
'There is no light. I don't feel like starting my generator. I used to get a big kick out
of saving people's lives. Now I wonder what the hell's the point, since they all have to
die anyway.
'Oh, there's a point, all right,' Dunbar assured him.
'Is there? What is the point?'
'The point is to keep them from dying for as long as you can.'
'Yeah, but what's the point, since they all have to die anyway?'
'The trick is not to think about that.'

'Never mind the trick. What the hell's the point?'
Dunbar pondered in silence for a few moments. 'Who the hell knows?'
Dunbar didn't know. Bologna should have exulted Dunbar, because the minutes
dawdled and the hours dragged like centuries. Instead it tortured him, because he
knew he was going to be killed.
'Do you really want some more codeine?' Dr. Stubbs asked.
'It's for my friend Yossarian. He's sure he's going to be killed.'
'Yossarian? Who the hell is Yossarian? What the hell kind of a name is Yossarian,
anyway? Isn't he the one who got drunk and started that fight with Colonel Korn at
the officers' club the other night?'
'That's right. He's Assyrian.'
'That crazy bastard.'
'He's not so crazy,' Dunbar said. 'He swears he's not going to fly to Bologna.'
'That's just what I mean,' Dr. Stubbs answered. 'That crazy bastard may be the
only sane one left.'

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