It was already some time since the chaplain had first begun wondering what
everything was all about. Was there a God? How could he be sure? Being an
Anabaptist minister in the American Army was difficult enough under the best of
circumstances; without dogma, it was almost intolerable.
People with loud voices frightened him. Brave, aggressive men of action like Colonel
Cathcart left him feeling helpless and alone. Wherever he went in the Army, he was a
stranger. Enlisted men and officers did not conduct themselves with him as they
conducted themselves with other enlisted men and officers, and even other chaplains
were not as friendly toward him as they were toward each other. In a world in which
success was the only virtue, he had resigned himself to failure. He was painfully
aware that he lacked the ecclesiastical aplomb and savoir-faire that enabled so many
of his colleagues in other faiths and sects to get ahead. He was just not equipped to
excel. He thought of himself as ugly and wanted daily to be home with his wife.
Actually, the chaplain was almost good-looking, with a pleasant, sensitive face as pale
and brittle as sandstone. His mind was open on every subject.
Perhaps he really was Washington Irving, and perhaps he really had been signing
Washington Irving's name to those letters he knew nothing about. Such lapses of
memory were not uncommon in medical annals, he knew. There was no way of really
knowing anything. He remembered very distinctly - or was under the impression he
remembered very distinctly - his feeling that he had met Yossarian somewhere
before the first time he *had* met Yossarian lying in bed in the hospital. He
remembered experiencing the same disquieting sensation almost two weeks later
when Yossarian appeared at his tent to ask to be taken off combat duty. By that
time, of course, the chaplain *had* met Yossarian somewhere before, in that odd,
unorthodox ward in which every patient seemed delinquent but the unfortunate
patient covered from head to toe in white bandages and plaster who was found dead
one day with a thermometer in his mouth. But the chaplain's impression of a prior
meeting was of some occasion far more momentous and occult than that, of a
significant encounter with Yossarian in some remote, submerged and perhaps even
entirely spiritual epoch in which he had made the identical, foredooming admission
that there was nothing, absolutely nothing, he could do to help him.
Doubts of such kind gnawed at the chaplain's lean, suffering frame insatiably. Was
there a single true faith, or a life after death? How many angels could dance on the
head of a pin, and with what matters did God occupy himself in all the infinite aeons
before the Creation?

Why was it necessary to put a protective seal on the brow of Cain if there *were* no
other people to protect him from? *Did* Adam and Eve produce daughters? These
were the great, complex questions of ontology that tormented him. Yet they never
seemed nearly as crucial to him as the question of kindness and good manners. He was
pinched perspinngly in the epistemological dilemma of the skeptic, unable to accept
solutions to problems he was unwilling to dismiss as unsolvable. He was never without
misery, and never without hope.
'Have you ever,' he inquired hesitantly of Yossarian that day in his tent as Yossarian
sat holding in both hands the warm bottle of Coca-Cola with which the chaplain *had*
been able to solace him, 'been in a situation which you felt you had been in before,
even though you knew you were experiencing it for the first time?' Yossarian nodded
perfunctorily, and the chaplain's breath quickened in anticipation as he made ready
to join his will power with Yossarian's in a prodigious effort to rip away at last the
voluminous black folds shrouding the eternal mysteries of existence.
'Do you have that feeling now?'
Yossarian shook his head and explained that *d‚j… vu* was just a momentary
infinitesimal lag in the operation of two coactive sensory nerve centers that
commonly functioned simultaneously. The chaplain scarcely heard him. He was
disappointed, but not inclined to believe Yossarian, for he had been given a sign, a
secret, enigmatic vision that he still lacked the boldness to divulge. There was no
mistaking the awesome implications of the chaplain's revelation: it was either an
insight of divine origin or a hallucination; he was either blessed or losing his mind.
Both prospects filled him with equal fear and depression. It was neither *d‚j… vu,
presque *vu* nor *jamais vu*. It was possible that there were other *vus* of which
he had never heard and that one of these other *vus* would explain succinctly the
bafing phenomenon of which he had been both a witness and a part; it was even
possible that none of what he thought had taken place, really *had* taken place, that
he was dealing with an aberration of memory rather than of perception, that he
never really *had* thought he had seen, that his impression now that he once had
thought so was merely the *illusion* of an illusion, and that he was only now imagining
that he had ever once imagined seeing a naked man sitting in a tree at the cemetery.
It was obvious to the chaplain now that he was not particularly well suited to his
work, and he often speculated whether he might not be happier serving in some other
branch of the service, as a private in the infantry or field artillery, perhaps, or even
as a paratrooper. He had no real friends. Before meeting Yossarian, there was no one
in the group with whom he felt at ease, and he was hardly at ease with Yossarian,
whose frequent rash and insubordinate outbursts kept him almost constantly on edge
and in an ambiguous state of enjoyable trepidation.

The chaplain felt safe when he was at the officers' club with Yossarian and Dunbar,
and even with just Nately and McWatt. When he sat with them he had no need to sit
with anyone else; his problem of where to sit was solved, and he was protected
against the undesired company of all those fellow officers who invariably welcomed
him with excessive cordiality when he approached and waited uncomfortably for him
to go away. He made so many people uneasy. Everyone was always very friendly
toward him, and no one was ever very nice; everyone spoke to him, and no one ever
said anything. Yossarian and Dunbar were much more relaxed, and the chaplain was
hardly uncomfortable with them at all.
They even defended him the night Colonel Cathcart tried to throw him out of the
officers' club again, Yossarian rising truculently to intervene and Nately shouting
out, '*Yossarian!*' to restrain him. Colonel Cathcart turned white as a sheet at the
sound of Yossarian's name, and, to everyone's amazement, retreated in horrified
disorder until he bumped into General Dreedle, who elbowed him away with annoyance
and ordered him right back to order the chaplain to start coming into the officers'
club every night again.
The chaplain had almost as much trouble keeping track of his status at the officers'
club as he had remembering at which of the ten mess halls in the group he was
scheduled to eat his next meal. He would just as soon have remained kicked out of
the officers' club, had it not been for the pleasure he was now finding there with his
new companions. If the chaplain did not go to the officers' club at night, there was
no place else he could go. He would pass the time at Yossarian's and Dunbar's table
with a shy, reticent smile, seldom speaking unless addressed, a glass of thick sweet
wine almost untasted before him as he toyed unfamiliarly with the tiny corncob pipe
that he affected self-consciously and occasionally stuffed with tobacco and smoked.
He enjoyed listening to Nately, whose maudlin, bittersweet lamentations mirrored
much of his own romantic desolation and never failed to evoke in him resurgent tides
of longing for his wife and children. The chaplain would encourage Nately with nods
of comprehension or assent, amused by his candor and immaturity. Nately did not
glory too immodestly that his girl was a prostitute, and the chaplain's awareness
stemmed mainly from Captain Black, who never slouched past their table without a
broad wink at the chaplain and some tasteless, wounding gibe about her to Nately.
The chaplain did not approve of Captain Black and found it difficult not to
wish him evil.
No one, not even Nately, seemed really to appreciate that he, Chaplain Robert Oliver
Shipman, was not just a chaplain but a human being, that he *could* have a charming,
passionate, pretty wife whom he loved almost insanely and three small blue-eyed
children with strange, forgotten faces who would grow up someday to regard him as a
freak and who might never forgive him for all the social embarrassment his vocation
would cause them.

Why couldn't anybody understand that he was not really a freak but a normal, lonely
adult trying to lead a normal, lonely adult life? If they pricked him, didn't he bleed?
And if he was tickled, didn't he laugh? It seemed never to have occurred to them
that he, just as they, had eyes, hands, organs, dimensions, senses and affections,
that he was wounded by the same kind of weapons they were, warmed and cooled by
the same breezes and fed by the same kind of food, although, he was forced to
concede, in a different mess hall for each successive meal. The only person who did
seem to realize he had feelings was Corporal Whitcomb, who had just managed to
bruise them all by going over his head to Colonel Cathcart with his proposal for
sending form letters of condolence home to the families of men killed or
wounded in combat.
The chaplain's wife was the one thing in the world he *could* be certain of, and it
would have been sufficient, if only he had been left to live his life out with just her
and the children. The chaplain's wife was a reserved, diminutive, agreeable woman in
her early thirties, very dark and very attractive, with a narrow waist, calm intelligent
eyes, and small, bright, pointy teeth in a childlike face that was vivacious and petite;
he kept forgetting what his children looked like, and each time he returned to their
snapshots it was like seeing their faces for the first time. The chaplain loved his wife
and children with such tameless intensity that he often wanted to sink to the ground
helplessly and weep like a castaway cripple. He was tormented inexorably by morbid
fantasies involving them, by dire, hideous omens of illness and accident.
His meditations were polluted with threats of dread diseases like Ewing's tumor
and leukemia; he saw his infant son die two or three times every week because he
had never taught his wife how to stop arterial bleeding; watched, in tearful,
paralyzed silence, his whole family electrocuted, one after the other, at a baseboard
socket because he had never told her that a human body would conduct electricity;
all four went up in flames almost every night when the water heater exploded and set
the two-story wooden house afire; in ghastly, heartless, revolting detail he saw his
poor dear wife's trim and fragile body crushed to a viscous pulp against the brick
wall of a market building by a half-wined drunken automobile driver and watched his
hysterical five-year-old daughter being led away from the grisly scene by a kindly
middle-aged gentleman with snow-white hair who raped and murdered her repeatedly
as soon as he had driven her off to a deserted sandpit, while his two younger children
starved to death slowly in the house after his wife's mother, who had been babysitting, dropped dead from a heart attack when news of his wife's accident was given
to her over the telephone.
The chaplain's wife was a sweet, soothing, considerate woman, and he yearned to
touch the warm flesh of her slender arm again and stroke her smooth black hair, to
hear her intimate, comforting voice.

She was a much stronger person than he was. He wrote brief, untroubled letters to
her once a week, sometimes twice. He wanted to write urgent love letters to her all
day long and crowd the endless pages with desperate, uninhibited confessions of his
humble worship and need and with careful instructions for administering artificial
respiration. He wanted to pour out to her in torrents of self-pity all his unbearable
loneliness and despair and warn her never to leave the boric acid or the aspirin in
reach of the children or to cross a street against the traffic light. He did not wish
to worry her. The chaplain's wife was intuitive, gentle, compassionate and responsive.
Almost inevitably, his reveries of reunion with her ended in explicit acts
of love-making.
The chaplain felt most deceitful presiding at funerals, and it would not have
astonished him to learn that the apparition in the tree that day was a manifestation
of the Almighty's censure for the blasphemy and pride inherent in his function. To
simulate gravity, feign grief and pretend supernatural intelligence of the hereafter
in so fearsome and arcane a circumstance as death seemed the most criminal of
offenses. He recalled - or was almost convinced he recalled - the scene at the
cemetery perfectly. He could still see Major Major and Major Danby standing somber
as broken stone pillars on either side of him, see almost the exact number of enlisted
men and almost the exact places in which they had stood, see the four unmoving men
with spades, the repulsive coffin and the large, loose, triumphant mound of reddishbrown earth, and the massive, still, depthless, muffling sky, so weirdly blank and blue
that day it was almost poisonous. He would remember them forever, for they were all
part and parcel of the most extraordinary event that had ever befallen him, an event
perhaps marvelous, perhaps pathological - the vision of the naked man in the tree.
How could he explain it? It was not already seen or never seen, and certainly not
almost seen; neither *d‚j… vu*, *jamais vu* nor *presque vu* was elastic enough to
cover it. Was it a ghost, then? The dead man's soul? An angel from heaven or a
minion from hell? Or was the whole fantastic episode merely the figment of a
diseased imagination, his own, of a deteriorating mind, a rotting brain? The possibility
that there really had been a naked man in the tree - two men, actually, since the first
had been joined shortly by a second man clad in a brown mustache and sinister dark
garments from head to toe who bent forward ritualistically along the limb of the tree
to offer the first man something to drink from a brown goblet - never crossed the
chaplain's mind.
The chaplain was sincerely a very helpful person who was never able to help anyone,
not even Yossarian when he finally decided to seize the bull by the horns and visit
Major Major secretly to learn if, as Yossarian had said, the men in Colonel Cathcart's
group really were being forced to fly more combat missions than anyone else. It was a
daring, impulsive move on which the chaplain decided after quarreling with Corporal
Whitcomb again and washing down with tepid canteen water his joyless lunch of Milky
Way and Baby Ruth.

He went to Major Major on foot so that Corporal Whitcomb would not see him
leaving, stealing into the forest noiselessly until the two tents in his clearing were
left behind, then dropping down inside the abandoned railroad ditch, where the
footing was surer. He hurried along the fossilized wooden ties with accumulating
mutinous anger. He had been browbeaten and humiliated successively that morning by
Colonel Cathcart, Colonel Korn and Corporal Whitcomb. He just *had* to make
himself felt in some respect! His slight chest was soon puffing for breath. He moved
as swiftly as he could without breaking into a run, fearing his resolution might
dissolve if he slowed. Soon he saw a uniformed figure coming toward him between the
rusted rails. He clambered immediately up the side of the ditch, ducked inside a
dense copse of low trees for concealment and sped along in his original direction a
narrow, overgrown mossy path he found winding deep inside the shaded forest.
It was tougher going there, but he plunged ahead with the same reckless and
consuming determination, slipping and stumbling often and stinging his unprotected
hands on the stubborn branches blocking his way until the bushes and tall ferns on
both sides spread open and he lurched past an olive-drab military trailer on cinder
blocks clearly visible through the thinning underbrush. He continued past a tent with
a luminous pearl-gray cat sunning itself outside and past another trailer on cinder
blocks and then burst into the clearing of Yossarian's squadron. A salty dew had
formed on his lips. He did not pause, but strode directly across the clearing into the
orderly room, where he was welcomed by a gaunt, stoop-shouldered staff sergeant
with prominent cheekbones and long, very light blond hair, who informed him
graciously that he could go right in, since Major Major was out.
The chaplain thanked him with a curt nod and proceeded alone down the aisle
between the desks and typewriters to the canvas partition in the rear. He bobbed
through the triangular opening and found himself inside an empty office. The flap fell
closed behind him. He was breathing hard and sweating profusely. The office
remained empty. He thought he heard furtive whispering. Ten minutes passed. He
looked about in stern displeasure, his jaws clamped together indomitably, and then
turned suddenly to water as he remembered the staff sergeant's exact words: he
could go right in, since Major Major was out. *The enlisted men were playing a
practical joke!* The chaplain shrank back from the wall in terror, bitter tears
springing to his eyes. A pleading whimper escaped his trembling lips. Major Major was
elsewhere, and the enlisted men in the other room had made him the butt of an
inhuman prank.
He could almost see them waiting on the other side of the canvas wall, bunched up
expectantly like a pack of greedy, gloating omnivorous beasts of prey, ready with
their barbaric mirth and jeers to pounce on him brutally the moment he reappeared.

He cursed himself for his gullibility and wished in panic for something like a mask or
a pair of dark glasses and a false mustache to disguise him, or for a forceful, deep
voice like Colonel Cathcart's and broad, muscular shoulders and biceps to enable him
to step outside fearlessly and vanquish his malevolent persecutors with an
overbearing authority and self-confidence that would make them all quail and slink
away cravenly in repentance. He lacked the courage to face them. The only other way
out was the window. The coast was clear, and the chaplain jumped out of Major
Major's office through the window, darted swiftly around the corner of the tent,
and leaped down inside the railroad ditch to hide.
He scooted away with his body doubled over and his face contorted intentionally into
a nonchalant, sociable smile in case anyone chanced to see him. He abandoned the
ditch for the forest the moment he saw someone coming toward him from the
opposite direction and ran through the cluttered forest frenziedly like someone
pursued, his cheeks burning with disgrace. He heard loud, wild peals of derisive
laughter crashing all about him and caught blurred glimpses of wicked, beery faces
smirking far back inside the bushes and high overhead in the foliage of the trees.
Spasms of scorching pains stabbed through his lungs and slowed him to a crippled
walk. He lunged and staggered onward until he could go no farther and collapsed all at
once against a gnarled apple tree, banging his head hard against the trunk as he
toppled forward and holding on with both arms to keep from falling.
His breathing was a rasping, moaning din in his ears. Minutes passed like hours before
he finally recognized himself as the source of the turbulent roar that was
overwhelming him. The pains in his chest abated. Soon he felt strong enough to stand.
He cocked his ears craftily. The forest was quiet. There was no demonic laughter, no
one was chasing him. He was too tired and sad and dirty to feel relieved. He
straightened his disheveled clothing with fingers that were numb and shaking and
walked the rest of the way to the clearing with rigid self-control. The chaplain
brooded often about the danger of heart attack.
Corporal Whitcomb's jeep was still parked in the clearing. The chaplain tiptoed
stealthily around the back of Corporal Whitcomb's tent rather than pass the
entrance and risk being seen and insulted by him. Heaving a grateful sigh, he slipped
quickly inside his own tent and found Corporal Whitcomb ensconced on his cot, his
knees propped up. Corporal Whitcomb's mud-caked shoes were on the chaplain's
blanket, and he was eating one of the chaplain's candy bars as he thumbed with
sneering expression through one of the chaplain's Bibles.
'Where've you been?' he demanded rudely and disinterestedly, without looking up.
The chaplain colored and turned away evasively.
'I went for a walk through the woods.'

'All right,' Corporal Whitcomb snapped. 'Don't take me into your confidence. But
just wait and see what happens to my morale.' He bit into the chaplain's candy bar
hungrily and continued with a full mouth.
'You had a visitor while you were gone. Major Major.'
The chaplain spun around with surprise and cried: 'Major Major?
Major Major was *here?*'
'That's who we're talking about, isn't it?'
'Where did he go?'
'He jumped down into that railroad ditch and took off like a frightened rabbit.'
Corporal Whitcomb snickered. 'What a jerk!'
'Did he say what he wanted?'
'He said he needed your help in a matter of great importance.'
The chaplain was astounded. 'Major Major said *that*?'
'He didn't *say* that,' Corporal Whitcomb corrected with withering precision. 'He
wrote it down in a sealed personal letter he left on your desk.'
The chaplain glanced at the bridge table that served as his desk and saw only the
abominable orange-red pear-shaped plum tomato he had obtained that same morning
from Colonel Cathcart, still lying on its side where he had forgotten it like an
indestructible and incamadine symbol of his own ineptitude. 'Where is the letter?'
'I threw it away as soon as I tore it open and read it.' Corporal Whitcomb slammed
the Bible shut and jumped up. 'What's the matter? Won't you take my word for it?'
He walked out. He walked right back in and almost collided with the chaplain, who was
rushing out behind him on his way back to Major Major. 'You don't know how to
delegate responsibility,' Corporal Whitcomb informed him sullenly. 'That's another
one of the things that's wrong with you.'
The chaplain nodded penitently and hurried past, unable to make himself take the
time to apologize. He could feel the skillful hand of fate motivating him imperatively.
Twice that day already, he realized now, Major Major had come racing toward him
inside the ditch; and twice that day the chaplain had stupidly postponed the destined
meeting by bolting into the forest. He seethed with self-recrimination as he
hastened back as rapidly as he could stride along the splintered, irregularly spaced
railroad ties.

Bits of grit and gravel inside his shoes and socks were grinding the tops of his toes
raw. His pale, laboring face was screwed up unconsciously into a grimace of acute
discomfort. The early August afternoon was growing hotter and more humid. It was
almost a mile from his tent to Yossarian's squadron. The chaplain's summer-tan shirt
was soaking with perspiration by the time he arrived there and rushed breathlessly
back inside the orderly room tent, where he was halted peremptorily by the same
treacherous, soft-spoken staff sergeant with round eyeglasses and gaunt cheeks,
who requested him to remain outside because Major Major was inside and told him he
would not be allowed inside until Major Major went out . The chaplain looked at him in
an uncomprehending daze. Why did the sergeant hate him? he wondered. His lips
were white and trembling. He was aching with thirst. What was the matter with
people? Wasn't there tragedy enough? The sergeant put his hand out and held the
chaplain steady.
'I'm sorry, sir,' he said regretfully in a low, courteous, melancholy voice. 'But those
are Major Major's orders. He never wants to see anyone.'
'He wants to see me,' the chaplain pleaded. 'He came to my tent to see me while I
was here before.'
'Major Major did that?' the sergeant asked.
'Yes, he did. Please go in and ask him.'
'I'm afraid I can't go in, sir. He never wants to see me either.
Perhaps if you left a note.'
'I don't want to leave a note. Doesn't he ever make an exception?'
'Only in extreme circumstances. The last time he left his tent was to attend the
funeral of one of the enlisted men. The last time he saw anyone in his office was a
time he was forced to. A bombardier named Yossarian forced -'
'Yossarian?' The chaplain lit up with excitement at this new coincidence. Was this
another miracle in the making? 'But that's exactly whom I want to speak to him
about! Did they talk about the number of missions Yossarian has to fly?'
'Yes, sir, that's exactly what they did talk about. Captain Yossarian had flown fiftyone missions, and he appealed to Major Major to ground him so that he wouldn't have
to fly four more. Colonel Cathcart wanted only fifty-five missions then.'
'And what did Major Major say?'

'Major Major told him there was nothing he could do.'
The chaplain's face fell. 'Major Major said that?'
'Yes, sir. In fact, he advised Yossarian to go see you for help. Are you certain you
wouldn't like to leave a note, sir? I have a pencil and paper right here.'
The chaplain shook his head, chewing his clotted dry lower lip forlornly, and walked
out. It was still so early in the day, and so much had already happened. The air was
cooler in the forest. His throat was parched and sore. He walked slowly and asked
himself ruefully what new misfortune could possibly befall him a moment before the
mad hermit in the woods leaped out at him without warning from behind a mulberry
bush. The chaplain screamed at the top of his voice.
The tall, cadaverous stranger fell back in fright at the chaplain's cry and shrieked,
'Don't hurt me!'
'Who are you?' the chaplain shouted.
'Please don't hurt me!' the man shouted back.
'I'm the chaplain!'
'Then why do you want to hurt me?'
'I don't want to hurt you!' the chaplain insisted with a rising hint of exasperation,
even though he was still rooted to the spot. 'Just tell me who you are and what you
want from me.'
'I just want to find out if Chief White Halfoat died of pneumonia yet,' the man
shouted back. 'That's all I want. I live here. My name is Flume. I belong to the
squadron, but I live here in the woods. You can ask anyone.'
The chaplain's composure began trickling back as he studied the queer, cringing
figure intently. A pair of captain's bars ulcerated with rust hung on the man's ragged
shirt collar. He had a hairy, tar-black mole on the underside of one nostril and a
heavy rough mustache the color of poplar bark.
'Why do you live in the woods if you belong to the squadron?'
the chaplain inquired curiously.
'I have to live in the woods,' the captain replied crabbily, as though the chaplain
ought to know. He straightened slowly, still watching the chaplain guardedly although
he towered above him by more than a full head.

'Don't you hear everybody talking about me? Chief White Halfoat swore he was going
to cut my throat some night when I was fast asleep, and I don't dare lie down in the
squadron while he's still alive.'
The chaplain listened to the implausible explanation distrustfully. 'But that's
incredible,' he replied. 'That would be premeditated murder. Why didn't you report
the incident to Major Major?'
'I did report the incident to Major Major,' said the captain sadly, 'and Major Major
said *he* would cut my throat if I ever spoke to him again.' The man studied the
chaplain fearfully. 'Are you going to cut my throat, too?'
'Oh, no, no, no,' the chaplain assured him. 'Of course not.
Do you really live in the forest?'
The captain nodded, and the chaplain gazed at his porous gray pallor of fatigue and
malnutrition with a mixture of pity and esteem. The man's body was a bony shell
inside rumpled clothing that hung on him like a disorderly collection of sacks. Wisps
of dried grass were glued all over him; he needed a haircut badly. There were great,
dark circles under his eyes. The chaplain was moved almost to tears by the harassed,
bedraggled picture the captain presented, and he filled with deference and
compassion at the thought of the many severe rigors the poor man had to endure
daily. In a voice hushed with humility, he said,
'Who does your laundry?'
The captain pursed his lips in a businesslike manner. 'I have it done by a
washerwoman in one of the farmhouses down the road. I keep my things in my trailer
and sneak inside once or twice a day for a clean handkerchief or a change of
'What will you do when winter comes?'
'Oh, I expect to be back in the squadron by then,' the captain answered with a kind
of martyred confidence. 'Chief White Halfoat kept promising everyone that he was
going to die of pneumonia, and I guess I'll have to be patient until the weather turns
a little colder and damper.' He scrutinized the chaplain perplexedly. 'Don't you know
all this? Don't you hear all the fellows talking about me?'
'I don't think I've ever heard anyone mention you.'

'Well, I certainly can't understand that.' The captain was piqued, but managed to
carry on with a pretense of optimism. 'Well, here it is almost September already, so
I guess it won't be too long now. The next time any of the boys ask about me, why,
just tell them I'll be back grinding out those old publicity releases again as soon as
Chief White Halfoat dies of pneumonia. Will you tell them that? Say I'll be back in
the squadron as soon as winter comes and Chief Halfoat dies of pneumonia. Okay?'
The chaplain memorized the prophetic words solemnly, entranced further by their
esoteric import. 'Do you live on berries, herbs and roots?' he asked.
'No, of course not,' the captain replied with surprise. 'I sneak into the mess hall
through the back and eat in the kitchen. Milo gives me sandwiches and milk.'
'What do you do when it rains?'
The captain answered frankly. 'I get wet.'
'Where do you sleep?'
Swiftly the captain ducked down into a crouch and began backing away.
'You too?' he cried frantically.
'Oh, no,' cried the chaplain. 'I swear to you.'
'You *do* want to cut my throat!' the captain insisted.
'I give my word,' the chaplain pleaded, but it was too late, for the homely hirsute
specter had already vanished, dissolving so expertly inside the blooming, dappled,
fragmented malformations of leaves, light and shadows that the chaplain was already
doubting that he had even been there. So many monstrous events were occurring
that he was no longer positive which events *were* monstrous and which *were*
really taking place. He wanted to find out about the madman in the woods as quickly
as possible, to check if there ever really *had* been a Captain Flume, but his first
chore, he recalled with reluctance, was to appease Corporal Whitcomb for neglecting
to delegate enough responsibility to him. He plodded along the zigzagging path
through the forest listlessly, clogged with thirst and feeling almost too exhausted to
go on. He was remorseful when he thought of Corporal Whitcomb

He prayed that Corporal Whitcomb would be gone when he reached the clearing so
that he could undress without embarrassment, wash his arms and chest and shoulders
thoroughly, drink water, lie down refreshed and perhaps even sleep for a few
minutes; but he was in for still another disappointment and still another shock, for
Corporal Whitcomb was *Sergeant* Whitcomb by the time he arrived and was sitting
with his shirt off in the chaplain's chair sewing his new sergeant's stripes on his
sleeve with the chaplain's needle and thread. Corporal Whitcomb had been promoted
by Colonel Cathcart, who wanted to see the chaplain at once about the letters.
'Oh, no,' groaned the chaplain, sinking down dumbfounded on his cot. His warm
canteen was empty, and he was too distraught to remember the lister bag hanging
outside in the shade between the two tents. 'I can't believe it.
I just can't believe that anyone would seriously believe that I've been forging
Washington Irving's name.'
'Not those letters,' Corporal Whitcomb corrected, plainly enjoying the chaplain's
chagrin. 'He wants to see you about the letters home to the families of casualties.'
'Those letters?' asked the chaplain with surprise.
'That's right,' Corporal Whitcomb gloated. 'He's really going to chew you out for
refusing to let me send them. You should have seen him go for the idea once I
reminded him the letters could carry his signature. That's why he promoted me.
He's absolutely sure they'll get him into *The Saturday *Evening Post*.'
The chaplain's befuddlement increased.
'But how did he know we were even considering the idea?'
'I went to his office and told him.'
'You did what?' the chaplain demanded shrilly, and charged to his feet in an
unfamiliar rage. 'Do you mean to say that you actually went over my head to the
colonel without asking my permission?'
Corporal Whitcomb grinned brazenly with scornful satisfaction. 'That's right,
Chaplain,' he answered. 'And you better not try to do anything about it if you know
what's good for you.' He laughed quietly in malicious defiance. 'Colonel Cathcart isn't
going to like it if he finds out you're getting even with me for bringing him my idea.
You know something, Chaplain?' Corporal Whitcomb continued, biting the chaplain's
black thread apart contemptuously with a loud snap and buttoning on his shirt. 'That
dumb bastard really thinks it's one of the greatest ideas he's ever heard.'

'It might even get me into *The Saturday Evening Post*,' Colonel Cathcart boasted in
his office with a smile, swaggering back and forth convivially as he reproached the
chaplain. 'And you didn't have brains enough to appreciate it. You've got a good man
in Corporal Whitcomb, Chaplain. I hope you have brains enough to appreciate *that*.'
'Sergeant Whitcomb,' the chaplain corrected, before he could control himself.
Colonel Cathcart Oared. 'I *said* Sergeant Whitcomb,' he replied. 'I wish you'd try
listening once in a while instead of always finding fault.
You don't want to be a captain all your life, do you?'
'Well, I certainly don't see how you're ever going to amount to anything else if you
keep on this way. Corporal Whitcomb feels that you fellows haven't had a fresh idea
in nineteen hundred and forty-four years, and I'm inclined to agree with him. A
bright boy, that Corporal Whitcomb. Well, it's all going to change.' Colonel Cathcart
sat down at his desk with a determined air and cleared a large neat space in his
blotter. When he had finished, he tapped his finger inside it. 'Starting tomorrow,' he
said, 'I want you and Corporal Whitcomb to write a letter of condolence for me to
the next of kin of every man in the group who's killed, wounded or taken prisoner. I
want those letters to be sincere letters. I want them filled up with lots of personal
details so there'll be no doubt I mean every word you say. Is that clear?'
The chaplain stepped forward impulsively to remonstrate. 'But, sir, that's
impossible!' he blurted out. 'We don't even know all the men that well.'
'What difference does that make?' Colonel Cathcart demanded, and then smiled
amicably. 'Corporal Whitcomb brought me this basic form letter that takes care of
just about every situation. Listen: "Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. and Mrs.: Words
cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father
or brother was killed, wounded or reported missing in action." And so on. I think that
opening sentence sums up my sentiments exactly. Listen, maybe you'd better let
Corporal Whitcomb take charge of the whole thing if you don't feel up to it.' Colonel
Cathcart whipped out his cigarette holder and flexed it between both hands like an
onyx and ivory riding crop. 'That's one of the things that's wrong with you, Chaplain.
Corporal Whitcomb tells me you don't know how to delegate responsibility. He says
you've got no initiative either. You're not going to disagree with me, are you?'
'No, sir.' The chaplain shook his head, feeling despicably remiss because he did not
know how to delegate responsibility and had no initiative, and because he really had
been tempted to disagree with the colonel. His mind was a shambles.

They were shooting skeet outside, and every time a gun was fired his senses were
jarred. He could not adjust to the sound of the shots. He was surrounded by bushels
of plum tomatoes and was almost convinced that he had stood in Colonel Cathcart's
office on some similar occasion deep in the past and had been surrounded by those
same bushels of those same plum tomatoes. *D‚j… vu* again. The setting seemed so
familiar; yet it also seemed so distant. His clothes felt grimy and old, and he was
deathly afraid he smelled.
'You take things too seriously, Chaplain,' Colonel Cathcart told him bluntly with an air
of adult objectivity. 'That's another one of the things that's wrong with you. That
long face of yours gets everybody depressed. Let me see you laugh once in a while.
Come on, Chaplain. You give me a belly laugh now and I'll give you a whole bushel of
plum tomatoes.' He waited a second or two, watching, and then chortled victoriously.
'You see, Chaplain, I'm right. You can't give me a belly laugh, can you?'
'No, sir,' admitted the chaplain meekly, swallowing slowly with a visible effort.
'Not right now. I'm very thirsty.'
'Then get yourself a drink. Colonel Korn keeps some bourbon in his desk. You ought to
try dropping around the officers' club with us some evening just to have yourself a
little fun. Try getting lit once in a while. I hope you don't feel you're better than the
rest of us just because you're a professional man.'
'Oh, no, sir,' the chaplain assured him with embarrassment. 'As a matter of fact,
I have been going to the officers' club the past few evenings.'
'You're only a captain, you know,' Colonel Cathcart continued, paying no attention to
the chaplain's remark. 'You may be a professional man, but you're still only a captain.'
'Yes, sir. I know.'
'That's fine, then. It's just as well you didn't laugh before. I wouldn't have given you
the plum tomatoes anyway. Corporal Whitcomb tells me you took a plum tomato when
you were in here this morning.'
'This morning? But, sir! You gave it to me.'
Colonel Cathcart cocked his head with suspicion. 'I didn't say I didn't give it to you,
did I? I merely said you took it. I don't see why you've got such a guilty conscience if
you really didn't steal it. Did I give it to you?'
'Yes, sir. I swear you did.'

'Then I'll just have to take your word for it. Although I can't imagine why I'd want
to give you a plum tomato.' Colonel Cathcart transferred a round glass paperweight
competently from the right edge of his desk to the left edge and picked up a
sharpened pencil. 'Okay. Chaplain, I've got a lot of important work to do now if
you're through. You let me know when Corporal Whitcomb has sent out about a dozen
of those letters and we'll get in touch with the editors of *The Saturday Evening
Post*.' A sudden inspiration made his face brighten. 'Say! I think I'll volunteer the
group for Avignon again. That should speed things up!'
'For Avignon?'
The chaplain's heart missed a beat, and all his flesh began to prickle and creep.
'That's right,' the colonel explained exuberantly. 'The sooner we get some
casualties, the sooner we can make some progress on this. I'd like to get in the
Christmas issue if we can. I imagine the circulation is higher then.'
And to the chaplain's horror, the colonel lifted the phone to volunteer the group for
Avignon and tried to kick him out of the officers' club again that very same night a
moment before Yossarian rose up drunkenly, knocking over his chair, to start an
avenging punch that made Nately call out his name and made Colonel Cathcart blanch
and retreat prudently smack into General Dreedle, who shoved him off his bruised
foot disgustedly and order him forward to kick the chaplain right back into the
officers' club. It was all very upsetting to Colonel Cathcart, first the dreaded name
*Yossarian!* tolling out again clearly like a warning of doom and then General
Dreedle's bruised foot, and that was another fault Colonel Cathcart found in the
chaplain, the fact that it was impossible to predict how General Dreedle would react
each time he saw him. Colonel Cathcart would never forget the first evening General
Dreedle took notice of the chaplain in the officers' club, lifting his ruddy, sweltering,
intoxicated face to stare ponderously through the yellow pall of cigarette smoke at
the chaplain lurking near the wall by himself.
'Well, I'll be damned,' General Dreedle had exclaimed hoarsely, his shaggy gray
menacing eyebrows beetling in recognition. 'Is that a chaplain I see over there?
That's really a fine thing when a man of God begins hanging around a place like this
with a bunch of dirty drunks and gamblers.'
Colonel Cathcart compressed his lips primly and started to rise. 'I couldn't agree
with you more, sir,' he assented briskly in a tone of ostentatious disapproval. 'I just
don't know what's happening to the clergy these days.'
'They're getting better, that's what's happening to them,'
General Dreedle growled emphatically.

Colonel Cathcart gulped awkwardly and made a nimble recovery.
'Yes, sir. They are getting better. That's exactly what I had in mind, sir.'
'This is just the place for a chaplain to be, mingling with the men while they're out
drinking and gambling so he can get to understand them and win their confidence.
How the hell else is he ever going to get them to believe in God?'
'That's exactly what I had in mind, sir, when I ordered him to come here,' Colonel
Cathcart said carefully, and threw his arm familiarly around the chaplain's shoulders
as he walked him off into a corner to order him in a cold undertone to start reporting
for duty at the officers' club every evening to mingle with the men while they were
drinking and gambling so that he could get to understand them and
win their confidence.
The chaplain agreed and did report for duty to the officers' club every night to
mingle with men who wanted to avoid him, until the evening the vicious fist fight
broke out at the ping-pong table and Chief White Halfoat whirled without
provocation and punched Colonel Moodus squarely in the nose, knocking Colonel
Moodus down on the seat of his pants and making General Dreedle roar with lusty,
unexpected laughter until he spied the chaplain standing close by gawking at him
grotesquely in tortured wonder. General Dreedle froze at the sight of him. He
glowered at the chaplain with swollen fury for a moment, his good humor gone, and
turned back toward the bar disgruntedly, rolling from side to side like a sailor on his
short bandy legs. Colonel Cathcart cantered fearfully along behind, glancing anxiously
about in vain for some sign of help from Colonel Korn.
'That's a fine thing,' General Dreedle growled at the bar, gripping his empty shot
glass in his burly hand. 'That's really a fine thing, when a man of God begins hanging
around a place like this with a bunch of dirty drunks and gamblers.'
Colonel Cathcart sighed with relief. 'Yes, sir,' he exclaimed proudly.
'It certainly is a fine thing.'
'Then why the hell don't you do something about it?'
'Sir?' Colonel Cathcart inquired, blinking.
'Do you think it does you credit to have your chaplain hanging around here every
night? He's in here every goddam time I come.'
'You're right, sir, absolutely right,' Colonel Cathcart responded. 'It does me no
credit at all. And I *am* going to do something about it, this very minute.'

'Aren't you the one who ordered him to come here?'
'No, sir, that was Colonel Korn. I intend to punish him severely, too.'
'If he wasn't a chaplain,' General Dreedle muttered,
'I'd have him taken outside and shot.'
'He's not a chaplain, sir.' Colonel Cathcart advised helpfully.
'Isn't he? Then why the hell does he wear that cross on his collar
if he's not a chaplain?'
'He doesn't wear a cross on his collar, sir. He wears a silver leaf.
He's a lieutenant colonel.'
'You've got a chaplain who's a lieutenant colonel?'
inquired General Dreedle with amazement.
'Oh, no, sir. My chaplain is only a captain.'
'Then why the hell does he wear a silver leaf on his collar if he's only a captain?'
'He doesn't wear a silver leaf on his collar, sir. He wears a cross.'
'Go away from me now, you son of a bitch,' said General Dreedle.
'Or I'll have you taken outside and shot!'
'Yes, sir.'
Colonel Cathcart went away from General Dreedle with a gulp and kicked the chaplain
out of the officers' club, and it was exactly the way it almost was two months later
after the chaplain had tried to persuade Colonel Cathcart to rescind his order
increasing the number of missions to sixty and had failed abysmally in that endeavor
too, and the chaplain was ready now to capitulate to despair entirely but was
restrained by the memory of his wife, whom he loved and missed so pathetically with
such sensual and exalted ardor, and by the lifelong trust he had placed in the wisdom
and justice of an immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, humane, universal,
anthropomorphic, English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon, pro-American God, which had begun
to waver. So many things were testing his faith. There was the Bible, of course, but
the Bible was a book, and so were *Bleak House*, *Treasure Island*, *Ethan Frome*
and *The Last of the Mohicans*.

Did it then seem probable, as he had once overheard Dunbar ask, that the answers to
the riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand the
mechanics of rainfall? Had Almighty God, in all His infinite wisdom, really been afraid
that men six thousand years ago would succeed in building a tower to heaven? Where
the devil was heaven? Was it up? Down? There was no up or down in a finite but
expanding universe in which even the vast, burning, dazzling, majestic sun was in a
state of progressive decay that would eventually destroy the earth too.
There were no miracles; prayers went unanswered, and misfortune tramped with
equal brutality on the virtuous and the corrupt; and the chaplain, who had conscience
and character, would have yielded to reason and relinquished his belief in the God of
his fathers - would truly have resigned both his calling and his commission and taken
his chances as a private in the infantry or field artillery, or even, perhaps, as a
corporal in the paratroopers - had it not been for such successive mystic phenomena
as the naked man in the tree at that poor sergeant's funeral weeks before and the
cryptic, haunting, encouraging promise of the prophet Flume in the forest only that
afternoon: *'Tell them I'll be back when winter comes.'*

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