- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
CHAPTER 22 - MILO THE MAYOR
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 22 - MILO THE MAYOR
That was the mission on which Yossarian lost his nerve. Yossarian lost his nerve on
the mission to Avignon because Snowden lost his guts, and Snowden lost his guts
because their pilot that day was Huple, who was only fifteen years old, and their copilot was Dobbs, who was even worse and who wanted Yossarian to join with him in a
plot to murder Colonel Cathcart. Huple was a good pilot, Yossarian knew, but he was
only a kid, and Dobbs had no confidence in him, either, and wrested the controls away
without warning after they had dropped their bombs, going berserk in mid-air and
tipping the plane over into that heart-stopping, ear-splitting, indescribably petrifying
fatal dive that tore Yossarian's earphones free from their connection and hung him
helplessly to the roof of the nose by the top of his head.
*Oh, God!* Yossarian had shrieked soundlessly as he felt them all falling. *Oh, God!
Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!* he had shrieked beseechingly through lips that could not
open as the plane fell and he dangled without weight by the top of his head until
Huple managed to seize the controls back and leveled the plane out down inside the
crazy, craggy, patchwork canyon of crashing antiaircraft fire from which they had
climbed away and from which they would now have to escape again. Almost at once
there was a thud and a hole the size of a big fist in the plexiglass. Yossarian's cheeks
were stinging with shimmering splinters. There was no blood.
'What happened? What happened?' he cried, and trembled violently when he could
not hear his own voice in his ears. He was cowed by the empty silence on the intercom
and almost too horrified to move as he crouched like a trapped mouse on his hands
and knees and waited without daring to breathe until he finally spied the gleaming
cylindrical jack plug of his headset swinging back and forth in front of his eyes and
jammed it back into its receptacle with fingers that rattled. *Oh, God!* he kept
shrieking with no abatement of terror as the flak thumped and mushroomed all about
him. *Oh, God!*
Dobbs was weeping when Yossarian jammed his jack plug back into the intercom
system and was able to hear again.
'Help him, help him,' Dobbs was sobbing. 'Help him, help him.'
'Help who? Help who?' Yossarian called back. 'Help who?'
'The bombardier, the bombardier,' Dobbs cried. 'He doesn't answer. Help the
bombardier, help the bombardier.'
'I'm the bombardier,' Yossarian cried back at him. 'I'm the bombardier. I'm all
right. I'm all right.'
'Then help him, help him,' Dobbs wept. 'Help him, help him.'
'Help who? Help who?'
'The radio-gunner,' Dobbs begged. 'Help the radio-gunner.'
'I'm cold,' Snowden whimpered feebly over the intercom system then in a bleat of
plaintive agony. 'Please help me. I'm cold.'
And Yossarian crept out through the crawlway and climbed up over the bomb bay and
down into the rear section of the plane where Snowden lay on the floor wounded and
freezing to death in a yellow splash of sunlight near the new tail-gunner lying
stretched out on the floor beside him in a dead faint.
Dobbs was the worst pilot in the world and knew it, a shattered wreck of a virile
young man who was continually striving to convince his superiors that he was no longer
fit to pilot a plane. None of his superiors would listen, and it was the day the number
of missions was raised to sixty that Dobbs stole into Yossarian's tent while Orr was
out looking for gaskets and disclosed the plot he had formulated to murder Colonel
Cathcart. He needed Yossarian's assistance.
'You want us to kill him in cold blood?' Yossarian objected.
'That's right,' Dobbs agreed with an optimistic smile, encouraged by Yossarian's
ready grasp of the situation. 'We'll shoot him to death with the Luger I brought
back from Sicily that nobody knows I've got.'
'I don't think I could do it,' Yossarian concluded, after weighing the
idea in silence awhile.
Dobbs was astonished. 'Why not?'
'Look. Nothing would please me more than to have the son of a bitch break his neck
or get killed in a crash or to find out that someone else had shot him to death. But I
don't think I could kill him.'
'He'd do it to you,' Dobbs argued. 'In fact, you're the one who told me he *is* doing
it to us by keeping us in combat so long.'
'But I don't think I could do it to him. He's got a right to live, too, I guess.'
'Not as long as he's trying to rob you and me of our right to live. What's the matter
with you?' Dobbs was flabbergasted. 'I used to listen to you arguing that same thing
with Clevinger. And look what happened to him. Right inside that cloud.'
'Stop shouting, will you?' Yossarian shushed him.
'I'm not shouting!' Dobbs shouted louder, his face red with revolutionary fervor. His
eyes and nostrils were running, and his palpitating crimson lower lip was splattered
with a foamy dew. 'There must have been close to a hundred men in the group who
had finished their fifty-five missions when he raised the number to sixty. There
must have been at least another hundred like you with just a couple more to fly. He's
going to kill us all if we let him go on forever. We've got to kill him first.'
Yossarian nodded expressionlessly, without committing himself.
'Do you think we could get away with it?'
'I've got it all worked out. I -'
'Stop shouting, for Christ's sake!'
'I'm not shouting. I've got it -'
'Will you stop shouting!'
'I've got it all worked out,' Dobbs whispered, gripping the side of Orr's cot with
white-knuckled hands to constrain them from waving. 'Thursday morning when he's
due back from that goddam farmhouse of his in the hills, I'll sneak up through the
woods to that hairpin turn in the road and hide in the bushes. He has to slow down
there, and I can watch the road in both directions to make sure there's no one else
around. When I see him coming, I'll shove a big log out into the road to make him
stop his jeep. Then I'll step out of the bushes with my Luger and shoot him in the
head until he's dead. I'll bury the gun, come back down through the woods to the
squadron and go about my business just like everybody else.
What could possibly go wrong?'
Yossarian had followed each step attentively. 'Where do I come in?'
he asked in puzzlement.
'I couldn't do it without you,' Dobbs explained. 'I need you to tell me to go ahead.'
Yossarian found it hard to believe him. 'Is that all you want me to do?
Just tell you to go ahead?'
'That's all I need from you,' Dobbs answered. 'Just tell me to go ahead and I'll blow
his brains out all by myself the day after tomorrow.' His voice was accelerating with
emotion and rising again. 'I'd like to shoot Colonel Korn in the head, too, while we're
at it, although I'd like to spare Major Danby, if that's all right with you.
Then I'd murder Appleby and Havermeyer also, and after we finish murdering
Appleby and Havermeyer I'd like to murder McWatt.'
'McWatt?' cried Yossarian, almost jumping up in horror. 'McWatt's a friend of mine.
What do you want from McWatt?'
'I don't know,' Dobbs confessed with an air of floundering embarrassment. 'I just
thought that as long as we were murdering Appleby and Havermeyer we might as well
murder McWatt too. Don't you want to murder McWatt?'
Yossarian took a firm stand. 'Look, I might keep interested in this if you stop
shouting it all over the island and if you stick to killing Colonel Cathcart. But if you're
going to turn this into a blood bath, you can forget about me.'
'All right, all right,' Dobbs sought to placate him. 'Just Colonel Cathcart.
Should I do it? Tell me to go ahead.'
Yossarian shook his head. 'I don't think I could tell you to go ahead.'
Dobbs was frantic. 'I'm willing to compromise,' he pleaded vehemently. 'You don't
have to tell me to go ahead. Just tell me it's a good idea. Okay? Is it a good idea?'
Yossarian still shook his head. 'It would have been a great idea if you had gone ahead
and done it without even speaking to me. Now it's too late. I don't think I can tell you
anything. Give me some more time. I might change my mind.'
'Then it *will* be too late.'
Yossarian kept shaking his head. Dobbs was disappointed. He sat for a moment with a
hangdog look, then spurted to his feet suddenly and stamped away to have another
impetuous crack at persuading Doc Daneeka to ground him, knocking over Yossarian's
washstand with his hip when he lurched around and tripping over the fuel line of the
stove Orr was still constructing. Doc Daneeka withstood Dobbs's blustering and
gesticulating attack with a series of impatient nods and sent him to the medical tent
to describe his symptoms to Gus and Wes, who painted his gums purple with gentianviolet solution the moment he started to talk. They painted his toes purple, too, and
forced a laxative down his throat when he opened his mouth again to complain, and
then they sent him away.
Dobbs was in even worse shape than Hungry Joe, who could at least fly missions when
he was not having nightmares. Dobbs was almost as bad as Orr, who seemed happy as
an undersized, grinning lark with his deranged and galvanic giggle and shivering
warped buck teeth and who was sent along for a rest leave with Milo and Yossarian on
the trip to Cairo for eggs when Milo bought cotton instead and took off at dawn for
Istanbul with his plane packed to the gun turrets with exotic spiders and unripened
red bananas. Orr was one of the homeliest freaks Yossarian had ever encountered,
and one of the most attractive. He had a raw bulgy face, with hazel eyes squeezing
from their sockets like matching brown halves of marbles and thick, wavy
particolored hair sloping up to a peak on the top of his head like a pomaded pup tent.
Orr was knocked down into the water or had an engine shot out almost every time he
went up, and he began jerking on Yossarian's arm like a wild man after they had taken
off for Naples and come down in Sicily to find the scheming, cigar-smoking, ten-yearold pimp with the two twelve-year-old virgin sisters waiting for them in town in front
of the hotel in which there was room for only Milo. Yossarian pulled back from Orr
adamantly, gazing with some concern and bewilderment at Mt. Etna instead of Mt.
Vesuvius and wondering what they were doing in Sicily instead of Naples as Orr kept
entreating him in a tittering, stuttering, concupiscent turmoil to go along with him
behind the scheming ten-year-old pimp to his two twelve-year-old virgin sisters who
were not really virgins and not really sisters and who were really only twenty-eight.
'Go with him,' Milo instructed Yossarian laconically. 'Remember your mission.'
'All right,' Yossarian yielded with a sigh, remembering his mission. 'But at least let
me try to find a hotel room first so I can get a good night's sleep afterward.'
'You'll get a good night's sleep with the girls,' Milo replied with the same air of
intrigue. 'Remember your mission.'
But they got no sleep at all, for Yossarian and Orr found themselves jammed into the
same double bed with the two twelve-year-old twenty-eight-year-old prostitutes,
who turned out to be oily and obese and who kept waking them up all night long to ask
them to switch partners. Yossarian's perceptions were soon so fuzzy that he paid no
notice to the beige turban the fat one crowding into him kept wearing until late the
next morning when the scheming ten-year-old pimp with the Cuban panatella snatched
it off in public in a bestial caprice that exposed in the brilliant Sicilian daylight her
shocking, misshapen and denudate skull. Vengeful neighbors had shaved her hair to
the gleaming bone because she had slept with Germans.
The girl screeched in feminine outrage and waddled comically after the scheming
ten-year-old pimp, her grisly, bleak, violated scalp slithering up and down ludicrously
around the queer darkened wart of her face like something bleached and obscene.
Yossarian had never laid eyes on anything so bare before. The pimp spun the turban
high on his finger like a trophy and kept himself skipping inches ahead of her finger
tips as he led her in a tantalizing circle around the square congested with people who
were howling with laughter and pointing to Yossarian with derision when Milo strode
up with a grim look of haste and puckered his lips reprovingly at the unseemly
spectacle of so much vice and frivolity. Milo insisted on leaving at once for Malta.
'We're sleepy,' Orr whined.
'That's your own fault,' Milo censured them both selfrighteously. 'If you had spent
the night in your hotel room instead of with these immoral girls, you'd both feel as
good as I do today.'
'You told us to go with them,' Yossarian retorted accusingly. 'And we didn't have a
hotel room. You were the only one who could get a hotel room.'
'That wasn't my fault, either,' Milo explained haughtily. 'How was I supposed to know
all the buyers would be in town for the chick-pea harvest?'
'You knew it,' Yossarian charged. 'That explains why we're here in Sicily instead of
Naples. You've probably got the whole damned plane filled with chick-peas already.'
'Shhhhhh!' Milo cautioned sternly, with a meaningful glance toward Orr.
'Remember your mission.'
The bomb bay, the rear and tail sections of the plane and most of the top turret
gunner's section were all filled with bushels of chick-peas when they arrived at the
airfield to take off for Malta.
Yossarian's mission on the trip was to distract Orr from observing where Milo bought
his eggs, even though Orr was a member of Milo's syndicate and, like every other
member of Milo's syndicate, owned a share. His mission was silly, Yossarian felt, since
it was common knowledge that Milo bought his eggs in Malta for seven cents apiece
and sold them to the mess halls in his syndicate for five cents apiece.
'I just don't trust him,' Milo brooded in the plane, with a backward nod toward Orr,
who was curled up like a tangled rope on the low bushels of chick-peas, trying
torturedly to sleep. 'And I'd just as soon buy my eggs when he's not around to learn
my business secrets. What else don't you understand?'
Yossarian was riding beside him in the co-pilot's seat. 'I don't understand why you
buy eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell them for five cents.'
'I do it to make a profit.'
'But how can you make a profit? You lose two cents an egg.'
'But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and
a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an
egg. Of course, *I* don't make the profit. The syndicate makes the profit.
And everybody has a share.'
Yossarian felt he was beginning to understand. 'And the people you sell the eggs to at
four and a quarter cents apiece make a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece
when they sell them back to you at seven cents apiece. Is that right? Why don't you
sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from?'
'Because I'm the people I buy them from,' Milo explained. 'I make a profit of three
and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and a profit of two and three
quarter cents apiece when I buy them back from me. That's a total profit of six
cents an egg. I lose only two cents an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five
cents apiece, and that's how I can make a profit buying eggs for seven cents apiece
and selling them for five cents apiece. I pay only one cent apiece at the hen when I
buy them in Sicily.'
'In Malta,' Yossarian corrected. 'You buy your eggs in Malta, not Sicily.'
Milo chortled proudly. 'I don't buy eggs in Malta,' he confessed, with an air of slight
and clandestine amusement that was the only departure from industrious sobriety
Yossarian had ever seen him make. 'I buy them in Sicily for one cent apiece and
transfer them to Malta secretly at four and a half cents apiece in order to get the
price of eggs up to seven cents apiece when people come to Malta looking for them.'
'Why do people come to Malta for eggs when they're so expensive there?'
'Because they've always done it that way.'
'Why don't they look for eggs in Sicily?'
'Because they've never done it that way.'
'Now I really don't understand. Why don't you sell your mess halls the eggs for
seven cents apiece instead offor five cents apiece?'
'Because my mess halls would have no need for me then. Anyone can buy seven-centsapiece eggs for seven cents apiece.'
'Why don't they bypass you and buy the eggs directly from you in Malta at four and
a quarter cents apiece?'
'Because I wouldn't sell it to them.'
'Why wouldn't you sell it to them?'
'Because then there wouldn't be as much room for profit. At least this way I can
make a bit for myself as a middleman.'
'Then you do make a profit for yourself,' Yossarian declared.
'Of course I do. But it all goes to the syndicate. And everybody has a share. Don't
you understand? It's exactly what happens with those plum tomatoes I sell
to Colonel Cathcart.'
'*Buy*,' Yossarian corrected him. 'You don't *sell* plum tomatoes to Colonel
Cathcart and Colonel Korn . You *buy* plum tomatoes from them.'
'No, *sell*,' Milo corrected Yossarian. 'I distribute my plum tomatoes in markets all
over Pianosa under an assumed name so that Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn can
buy them up from me under their assumed names at four cents apiece and sell them
back to me the next day for the syndicate at five cents apiece. They make a profit
of one cent apiece. I make a profit of three and a half cents apiece, and everybody
comes out ahead.'
'Everybody but the syndicate,' said Yossarian with a snort. 'The syndicate is paying
five cents apiece for plum tomatoes that cost you only half a cent apiece. How does
the syndicate benefit?'
'The syndicate benefits when I benefit,' Milo explained, 'because everybody has a
share. And the syndicate gets Colonel Cathcart's and Colonel Korn's support so that
they'll let me go out on trips like this one. You'll see how much profit that can mean
in about fifteen minutes when we land in Palermo.'
'Malta,' Yossarian corrected him. 'We're flying to Malta now, not Palermo.'
'No, we're flying to Palermo,' Milo answered. 'There's an endive exporter in Palermo
I have to see for a minute about a shipment of mushrooms to Bern that were
damaged by mold.'
'Milo, how do you do it?' Yossarian inquired with laughing amazement and admiration.
'You fill out a flight plan for one place and then you go to another. Don't the people
in the control towers ever raise hell?'
'They all belong to the syndicate,' Milo said. 'And they know that what's good for
the syndicate is good for the country, because that's what makes Sammy run. The
men in the control towers have a share, too, and that's why they always have to do
whatever they can to help the syndicate.'
'Do I have a share?'
'Everybody has a share.'
'Does Orr have a share?'
'Everybody has a share.'
'And Hungry Joe? He has a share, too?'
'Everybody has a share.'
'Well, I'll be damned,' mused Yossarian, deeply impressed with the idea of a share
for the very first time.
Milo turned toward him with a faint glimmer of mischief. 'I have a sure-fire plan for
cheating the federal government out of six thousand dollars. We can make three
thousand dollars apiece without any risk to either of us. Are you interested?'
Milo looked at Yossarian with profound emotion. 'That's what I like about you,' he
exclaimed. 'You're honest! You're the only one I know that I can really trust. That's
why I wish you'd try to be of more help to me. I really was disappointed when you ran
off with those two tramps in Catania yesterday.'
Yossarian stared at Milo in quizzical disbelief. 'Milo, you told me to go with them.
Don't you remember?'
'That wasn't my fault,' Milo answered with dignity. 'I had to get rid of Orr some way
once we reached town. It will be a lot different in Palermo. When we land in Palermo,
I want you and Orr to leave with the girls right from the airport.'
'With what girls?'
'I radioed ahead and made arrangements with a four-year-old pimp to supply you and
Orr with two eight-year-old virgins who are half Spanish. He'll be waiting at the
airport in a limousine. Go right in as soon as you step out of the plane.'
'Nothing doing,' said Yossarian, shaking his head.
'The only place I'm going is to sleep.'
Milo turned livid with indignation, his slim long nose flickering spasmodically between
his black eyebrows and his unbalanced orange-brown mustache like the pale, thin
flame of a single candle. 'Yossarian, remember your mission,' he reminded reverently.
'To hell with my mission,' Yossarian responded indifferently. 'And to hell with the
syndicate too, even though I do have a share. I don't want any eight-year-old virgins,
even if they are half Spanish.'
'I don't blame you. But these eight-year-old virgins are really only thirty-two. And
they're not really half Spanish but only one-third Estonian.'
'I don't care for any virgins.'
'And they're not even virgins,' Milo continued persuasively. 'The one I picked out for
you was married for a short time to an elderly schoolteacher who slept with her only
on Sundays, so she's really almost as good as new.'
But Orr was sleepy, too, and Yossarian and Orr were both at Milo's side when they
rode into the city of Palermo from the airport and discovered that there was no
room for the two of them at the hotel there either, and, more important, that Milo
The weird, implausible reception for Milo began at the airfield, where civilian
laborers who recognized him halted in their duties respectfully to gaze at him with
full expressions of controlled exuberance and adulation. News of his arrival preceded
him into the city, and the outskirts were already crowded with cheering citizens as
they sped by in their small uncovered truck. Yossarian and Orr were mystified and
mute and pressed close against Milo for security.
Inside the city, the welcome for Milo grew louder as the truck slowed and eased
deeper toward the middle of town. Small boys and girls had been released from
school and were lining the sidewalks in new clothes, waving tiny flags. Yossarian and
Orr were absolutely speechless now. The streets were jammed with joyous throngs,
and strung overhead were huge banners bearing Milo's picture. Milo had posed for
these pictures in a drab peasant's blouse with a high collar, and his scrupulous,
paternal countenance was tolerant, wise, critical and strong as he stared out at the
populace omnisciently with his undisciplined mustache and disunited eyes. Sinking
invalids blew kisses to him from windows. Aproned shopkeepers cheered ecstatically
from the narrow doorways of their shops. Tubas crumped. Here and there a person
fell and was trampled to death. Sobbing old women swarmed through each other
frantically around the slow-moving truck to touch Milo's shoulder or press his hand.
Milo bore the tumultuous celebrations with benevolent grace. He waved back to
everyone in elegant reciprocation and showered generous handfuls of foilcovered
Hershey kisses to the rejoicing multitudes. Lines of lusty young boys and girls
skipped along behind him with their arms linked, chanting in hoarse and glassy-eyed
adoration, *'Milo! Mi-lo! Mi-lo!'*
Now that his secret was out, Milo relaxed with Yossarian and Orr and inflated
opulently with a vast, shy pride. His cheeks turned flesh-colored. Milo had been
elected mayor of Palermo - and of nearby Carini, Monreale, Bagheria, Termini
Imerese, Cefalu, Mistretta and Nicosia as well - because he
brought Scotch to Sicily.
Yossarian was amazed. 'The people here like to drink Scotch that much?'
'They don't drink any of the Scotch,' Milo explained. 'Scotch is very expensive,
and these people here are very poor.'
'Then why do you import it to Sicily if nobody drinks any?'
'To build up a price. I move the Scotch here from Malta to make more room for
profit when I sell it back to me for somebody else. I created a whole new industry
here. Today Sicily is the third largest exporter of Scotch in the world, and that's
why they elected me mayor.'
'How about getting us a hotel room if you're such a hotshot?'
Orr grumbled impertinently in a voice slurred with fatigue.
Milo responded contritely. 'That's just what I'm going to do,' he promised. 'I'm
really sorry about forgetting to radio ahead for hotel rooms for you two. Come along
to my office and I'll speak to my deputy mayor about it right now.'
Milo's office was a barbershop, and his deputy mayor was a pudgy barber from whose
obsequious lips cordial greetings foamed as effusively as the lather he began
whipping up in Milo's shaving cup.
'Well, Vittorio,' said Milo, settling back lazily in one of Vittorio's barber chairs,
'how were things in my absence this time?'
'Very sad, Signor Milo, very sad. But now that you are back,
the people are all happy again.'
'I was wondering about the size of the crowds. How come all the hotels are full?'
'Because so many people from other cities are here to see you, Signor Milo. And
because we have all the buyers who have come into town for the artichoke auction.'
Milo's hand soared up perpendicularly like an eagle and arrested Vittorio's shaving
brush. 'What's artichoke?' he inquired.
'Artichoke, Signor Milo? An artichoke is a very tasty vegetable that is popular
everywhere. You must try some artichokes while you are here, Signor Milo. We grow
the best in the world.'
'Really?' said Milo. 'How much are artichokes selling for this year?'
'It looks like a very good year for artichokes. The crops were very bad.'
'Is that a fact?' mused Milo, and was gone, sliding from his chair so swiftly that his
striped barber's apron retained his shape for a second or two after he had gone
before it collapsed. Milo had vanished from sight by the time Yossarian and Orr
rushed after him to the doorway.
'Next?' barked Milo's deputy mayor officiously. 'Who's next?'
Yossarian and Orr walked from the barbershop in dejection. Deserted by Milo, they
trudged homelessly through the reveling masses in futile search of a place to sleep.
Yossarian was exhausted. His head throbbed with a dull, debilitating pain, and he was
irritable with Orr, who had found two crab apples somewhere and walked with them
in his cheeks until Yossarian spied them there and made him take them out. Then Orr
found two horse chestnuts somewhere and slipped those in until Yossarian detected
them and snapped at him again to take the crab apples out of his mouth.
Orr grinned and replied that they were not crab apples but horse chestnuts and that
they were not in his mouth but in his hands, but Yossarian was not able to understand
a single word he said because of the horse chestnuts in his mouth and made him take
them out anyway. A sly light twinkled in Orr's eyes. He rubbed his forehead harshly
with his knuckles, like a man in an alcoholic stupor, and snickered lewdly.
'Do you remember that girl -' He broke off to snicker lewdly again. 'Do you
remember that girl who was hitting me over the head with that shoe in that
apartment in Rome, when we were both naked?' he asked with a look of cunning
expectation. He waited until Yossarian nodded cautiously. 'If you let me put the
chestnuts back in my mouth I'll tell you why she was hitting me. Is that a deal?'
Yossarian nodded, and Orr told him the whole fantastic story of why the naked girl in
Nately's whore's apartment was hitting him over the head with her shoe, but
Yossarian was not able to understand a single word because the horse chestnuts were
back in his mouth. Yossarian roared with exasperated laughter at the trick, but in
the end there was nothing for them to do when night fell but eat a damp dinner in a
dirty restaurant and hitch a ride back to the airfield, where they slept on the chill
metal floor of the plane and turned and tossed in groaning torment until the truck
drivers blasted up less than two hours later with their crates of artichokes and
chased them out onto the ground while they filled up the plane. A heavy rain began
falling. Yossarian and Orr were dripping wet by the time the trucks drove away and
had no choice but to squeeze themselves back into the plane and roll themselves up
like shivering anchovies between the jolting corners of the crates of artichokes that
Milo flew up to Naples at dawn and exchanged for the cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla
beans and pepper pods that he rushed right back down south with that same day to
Malta, where, it turned out, he was Assistant Governor-General. There was no room
for Yossarian and Orr in Malta either. Milo was Major Sir Milo Minderbinder in Malta
and had a gigantic office in the governor-general's building. His mahogany desk was
immense. In a panel of the oak wall, between crossed British flags, hung a dramatic
arresting photograph of Major Sir Milo Minderbinder in the dress uniform of the
Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
His mustache in the photograph was clipped and narrow, his chin was chiseled, and
his eyes were sharp as thorns. Milo had been knighted, commissioned a major in the
Royal Welsh Fusiliers and named Assistant Governor-General of Malta because he
had brought the egg trade there.
He gave Yossarian and Orr generous permission to spend the night on the thick
carpet in his office, but shortly after he left a sentry in battle dress appeared and
drove them from the building at the tip of his bayonet, and they rode out
exhaustedly to the airport with a surly cab driver, who overcharged them, and went
to sleep inside the plane again, which was filled now with leaking gunny sacks of cocoa
and freshly ground coffee and reeking with an odor so rich that they were both
outside retching violently against the landing gear when Milo was chauffeured up the
first thing the next morning, looking fit as a fiddle, and took right off for Oran,
where there was again no room at the hotel for Yossarian and Orr, and where Milo
was Vice-Shah. Milo had at his disposal sumptuous quarters inside a salmon-pink
palace, but Yossarian and Orr were not allowed to accompany him inside because they
were Christian infidels. They were stopped at the gates by gargantuan Berber guards
with scimitars and chased away. Orr was snuffling and sneezing with a crippling head
cold. Yossarian's broad back was bent and aching. He was ready to break Milo's neck,
but Milo was Vice-Shah of Oran and his person was sacred. Milo was not only the
Vice-Shah of Oran, as it turned out, but also the Caliph of Baghdad, the Imam of
Damascus, and the Sheik of Araby.
Milo was the corn god, the rain god and the rice god in backward regions where such
crude gods were still worshiped by ignorant and superstitious people, and deep inside
the jungles of Africa, he intimated with becoming modesty, large graven images of
his mustached face could be found overlooking primitive stone altars red with human
blood. Everywhere they touched he was acclaimed with honor, and it was one
triumphal ovation after another for him in city after city until they finally doubled
back through the Middle East and reached Cairo, where Milo cornered the market on
cotton that no one else in the world wanted and brought himself promptly to the
brink of ruin. In Cairo there was at last room at the hotel for Yossarian and Orr.
There were soft beds for them with fat fluffed-up pillows and clean, crisp sheets.
There were closets with hangers for their clothes.
There was water to wash with. Yossarian and Orr soaked their rancid, unfriendly
bodies pink in a steaming-hot tub and then went from the hotel with Milo to eat
shrimp cocktails and filet mignon in a very fine restaurant with a stock ticker in the
lobby that happened to be clicking out the latest quotation for Egyptian cotton when
Milo inquired of the captain of waiters what kind of machine it was. Milo had never
imagined a machine so beautiful as a stock ticker before.
'Really?' he exclaimed when the captain of waiters had finished his explanation. 'And
how much is Egyptian cotton selling for?' The captain of waiters told him,
and Milo bought the whole crop.
But Yossarian was not nearly so frightened by the Egyptian cotton Milo bought as he
was by the bunches of green red bananas Milo had spotted in the native market place
as they drove into the city, and his fears proved justified, for Milo shook him awake
out of a deep sleep just after twelve and shoved a partly peeled banana toward him.
Yossarian choked back a sob.
'Taste it,' Milo urged, following Yossarian's writhing face around with
the banana insistently.
'Milo, you bastard,' moaned Yossarian, 'I've got to get some sleep.'
'Eat it and tell me if it's good,' Milo persevered. 'Don't tell Orr I gave it to you.
I charged him two piasters for his.'
Yossarian ate the banana submissively and closed his eyes after telling Milo it was
good, but Milo shook him awake again and instructed him to get dressed as quickly as
he could, because they were leaving at once for Pianosa.
'You and Orr have to load the bananas into the plane right away,' he explained.
'The man said to watch out for spiders while you're handling the bunches.'
'Milo, can't we wait until morning?' Yossarian pleaded. 'I've got to get some sleep.'
'They're ripening very quickly,' answered Milo, 'and we don't have a minute to lose.
Just think how happy the men back at the squadron will be when they get these
But the men back at the squadron never even saw any of the bananas, for it was a
seller's market for bananas in Istanbul and a buyer's market in Beirut for the
caraway seeds Milo rushed with to Bengasi after selling the bananas, and when they
raced back into Pianosa breathlessly six days later at the conclusion of Orr's rest
leave, it was with a load of best white eggs from Sicily that Milo said were from
Egypt and sold to his mess halls for only *four* cents apiece so that all the
commanding officers in his syndicate would implore him to speed right back to Cairo
for more bunches of green red bananas to sell in Turkey for the caraway seeds in
demand in Bengasi. And everybody had a share.
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- Terry Pratchett
- Darren Shan
- Samantha Young
- Gav Thorpe
- Pamela Palmer
- Gene Wolfe
- F. Paul Wilson
- Amanda Maxlyn
- Jodi Ellen Malpas
- Jill Shalvis
- Susan Hill
- Sherrilyn Kenyon
- Megan Shepherd
- Colleen Gleason
- Kylie Scott
- Courtney Summers
- Elizabeth Kostova
- Yanna Lee
- Tobias S. Buckell
- Jennifer Estep
- Georgia Cates
- Emma Chase
- J.C. Reed
- C.J. Ellisson
- Brent Weeks
- Kendare Blake
- Sam Sykes
- Meg Cabot
- Nicole Peeler
- Philip Athans
- Lauren Kate
- S.D. Perry
- Max Brooks
- Fritz Leiber
- MaryJanice Davidson
- James S.A. Corey
- R.K. Lilley
- Molly McAdams
- Robert McCammon
- Katja Millay