CHAPTER 3 - HAVERMEYER
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 3 - HAVERMEYER
Actually, no one was around when Yossarian returned from the hospital but Orr and
the dead man in Yossarian's tent. The dead man in Yossarian's tent was a pest, and
Yossarian didn't like him, even though he had never seen him. Having him lying around
all day annoyed Yossarian so much that he had gone to the orderly room several times
to complain to Sergeant Towser, who refused to admit that the dead man even
existed, which, of course, he no longer did. It was still more frustrating to try to
appeal directly to Major Major, the long and bony squadron commander, who looked a
little bit like Henry Fonda in distress and went jumping out the window of his office
each time Yossarian bullied his way past Sergeant Towser to speak to him about it.
The dead man in Yossarian's tent was simply not easy to live with. He even disturbed
Orr, who was not easy to live with, either, and who, on the day Yossarian came back,
was tinkering with the faucet that fed gasoline into the stove he had started building
while Yossarian was in the hospital.
'What are you doing?' Yossarian asked guardedly when he entered the tent,
although he saw at once.
'There's a leak here,' Orr said. 'I'm trying to fix it.'
'Please stop it,' said Yossarian. 'You're making me nervous.'
'When I was a kid,' Orr replied, 'I used to walk around all day with crab apples in my
cheeks. One in each cheek.'
Yossarian put aside the musette bag from which he had begun removing his toilet
articles and braced himself suspiciously. A minute passed. 'Why?' he found himself
forced to ask finally.
Orr tittered triumphantly. 'Because they're better than horse chestnuts,'
Orr was kneeling on the floor of the tent. He worked without pause, taking the
faucet apart, spreading all the tiny pieces out carefully, counting and then studying
each one interminably as though he had never seen anything remotely similar before,
and then reassembling the whole apparatus, over and over and over and over again,
with no loss of patience or interest, no sign of fatigue, no indication of ever
concluding. Yossarian watched him tinkering and felt certain he would be compelled to
murder him in cold blood if he did not stop. His eyes moved toward the hunting knife
that had been slung over the mosquito-net bar by the dead man the day he arrived.
The knife hung beside the dead man's empty leather gun holster, from which
Havermeyer had stolen the gun.
'When I couldn't get crab apples,' Orr continued, 'I used horse chestnuts. Horse
chestnuts are about the same size as crab apples and actually have a better shape,
although the shape doesn't matter a bit.'
'Why did you walk around with crab apples in your cheeks?' Yossarian asked again.
'That's what I asked.'
'Because they've got a better shape than horse chestnuts,' Orr answered.
'I just told you that.'
'Why,' swore Yossarian at him approvingly, 'you evil-eyed, mechanically-aptituded,
disaffiliated son of a bitch, did you walk around with *anything* in your cheeks?'
'I didn't,' Orr said, 'walk around with *anything* in my cheeks. I walked around with
crab apples in my cheeks. When I couldn't get crab apples I walked around with
horse chestnuts. In my cheeks.'
Orr giggled. Yossarian made up his mind to keep his mouth shut and did.
Orr waited. Yossarian waited longer.
'One in each cheek,' Orr said.
Orr pounced. 'Why what?'
Yossarian shook his head, smiling, and refused to say.
'It's a funny thing about this valve,' Orr mused aloud.
'What is?' Yossarian asked.
'Because I wanted -'
Yossarian knew. 'Jesus Christ! Why did you want -'
'- apple cheeks.'
'- apple cheeks?' Yossarian demanded.
'I wanted apple cheeks,' Orr repeated. 'Even when I was a kid I wanted apple cheeks
someday, and I decided to work at it until I got them, and by God, I did work at it
until I got them, and that's how I did it, with crab apples in my cheeks all day long.'
He giggled again. 'One in each cheek.'
'Why did you want apple cheeks?'
'I didn't want apple cheeks,' Orr said. 'I wanted *big* cheeks. I didn't care about
the color so much, but I wanted them big. I worked at it just like one of those crazy
guys you read about who go around squeezing rubber balls all day long just to
strengthen their hands. In fact, I was one of those crazy guys. I used to walk around
all day with rubber balls in my hands, too.'
'Why did you walk around all day with rubber balls in your hands?'
'Because rubber balls -' said Orr.
'- are better than crab apples?'
Orr sniggered as he shook his head. 'I did it to protect my good reputation in case
anyone ever caught me walking around with crab apples in my cheeks. With rubber
balls in my hands I could deny there were crab apples in my cheeks. Every time
someone asked me why I was walking around with crab apples in my cheeks, I'd just
open my hands and show them it was rubber balls I was walking around with, not crab
apples, and that they were in my hands, not my cheeks. It was a good story. But I
never knew if it got across or not, since it's pretty tough to make people understand
you when you're talking to them with two crab apples in your cheeks.'
Yossarian found it pretty tough to understand him then, and he wondered once again
if Orr wasn't talking to him with the tip of his tongue in one of his apple cheeks.
Yossarian decided not to utter another word. It would be futile. He knew Orr, and he
knew there was not a chance in hell of finding out from him then why he had wanted
big cheeks. It would do no more good to ask than it had done to ask him why that
whore had kept beating him over the head with her shoe that morning in Rome in the
cramped vestibule outside the open door of Nately's whore's kid sister's room. She
was a tall, strapping girl with long hair and incandescent blue veins converging
populously beneath her cocoa-colored skin where the flesh was most tender, and she
kept cursing and shrieking and jumping high up into the air on her bare feet to keep
right on hitting him on the top of his head with the spiked heel of her shoe.
They were both naked, and raising a rumpus that brought everyone in the apartment
into the hall to watch, each couple in a bedroom doorway, all of them naked except
the aproned and sweatered old woman, who clucked reprovingly, and the lecherous,
dissipated old man, who cackled aloud hilariously through the whole episode with a
kind of avid and superior glee.
The girl shrieked and Orr giggled. Each time she landed with the heel of her shoe,
Orr giggled louder, infuriating her still further so that she flew up still higher into
the air for another shot at his noodle, her wondrously full breasts soaring all over
the place like billowing pennants in a strong wind and her buttocks and strong thighs
shim-sham-shimmying this way and that way like some horrifying bonanza. She
shrieked and Orr giggled right up to the time she shrieked and knocked him cold with
a good solid crack on the temple that made him stop giggling and sent him off to the
hospital in a stretcher with a hole in his head that wasn't very deep and a very mild
concussion that kept him out of combat only twelve days.
Nobody could find out what had happened, not even the cackling old man and clucking
old woman, who were in a position to find out everything that happened in that vast
and endless brothel with its multitudinous bedrooms on facing sides of the narrow
hallways going off in opposite directions from the spacious sitting room with its
shaded windows and single lamp. Every time she met Orr after that, she'd hoist her
skirts up over her tight white elastic panties and, jeering coarsely, bulge her firm,
round belly out at him, cursing him contemptuously and then roaring with husky
laughter as she saw him giggle fearfully and take refuge behind Yossarian. Whatever
he had done or tried to do or failed to do behind the closed door of Nately's whore's
kid sister's room was still a secret. The girl wouldn't tell Nately's whore or any of
the other whores or Nately or Yossarian. Orr might tell, but Yossarian had decided
not to utter another word.
'Do you want to know why I wanted big cheeks?' Orr asked.
Yossarian kept his mouth shut.
'Do you remember,' Orr said, 'that time in Rome when that girl who can't stand you
kept hitting me over the head with the heel of her shoe? Do you want to know why
she was hitting me?'
It was still impossible to imagine what he could have done to make her angry enough
to hammer him over the head for fifteen or twenty minutes, yet not angry enough to
pick him up by the ankles and dash his brains out. She was certainly tall enough, and
Orr was certainly short enough.
Orr had buck teeth and bulging eyes to go with his big cheeks and was even smaller
than young Huple, who lived on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the tent in
the administration area in which Hungry Joe lay screaming in his sleep every night.
The administration area in which Hungry Joe had pitched his tent by mistake lay in
the center of the squadron between the ditch, with its rusted railroad tracks, and
the tilted black bituminous road.
The men could pick up girls along that road if they promised to take them where they
wanted to go, buxom, young, homely, grinning girls with missing teeth whom they
could drive off the road and lie down in the wild grass with, and Yossarian did
whenever he could, which was not nearly as often as Hungry Joe, who could get a jeep
but couldn't drive, begged him to try. The tents of the enlisted men in the squadron
stood on the other side of the road alongside the open-air movie theater in which,
for the daily amusement of the dying, ignorant armies clashed by night on a
collapsible screen, and to which another U.S.O. troupe came that same afternoon.
The U.S.O. troupes were sent by General P. P. Peckem, who had moved his
headquarters up to Rome and had nothing better to do while he schemed against
General Dreedle. General Peckem was a general with whom neatness definitely
counted. He was a spry, suave and very precise general who knew the circumference
of the equator and always wrote 'enhanced' when he meant 'increased'. He was a
prick, and no one knew this better than General Dreedle, who was incensed by
General Peckem's recent directive requiring all tents in the Mediterranean theater
of operations to be pitched along parallel lines with entrances facing back proudly
toward the Washington Monument. To General Dreedle, who ran a fighting outfit, it
seemed a lot of crap.
Furthermore, it was none of General Peckem's goddam business how the tents in
General Dreedle's wing were pitched. There then followed a hectic jurisdictional
dispute between these overlords that was decided in General Dreedle's favor by exP.F.C. Wintergreen, mail clerk at Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters.
Wintergreen determined the outcome by throwing all communications from General
Peckem into the wastebasket. He found them too prolix. General Dreedle's views,
expressed in less pretentious literary style, pleased ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen and were
sped along by him in zealous observance of regulations. General Dreedle was
victorious by default.
To regain whatever status he had lost, General Peckem began sending out more
U.S.O. troupes than he had ever sent out before and assigned to Colonel Cargill
himself the responsibility of generating enough enthusiasm for them
But there was no enthusiasm in Yossarian's group. In Yossarian's group there was
only a mounting number of enlisted men and officers who found their way solemnly to
Sergeant Towser several times a day to ask if the orders sending them home had
come in. They were men who had finished their fifty missions. There were more of
them now than when Yossarian had gone into the hospital, and they were still waiting.
They worried and bit their nails. They were grotesque, like useless young men in a
depression. They moved sideways, like crabs.
They were waiting for the orders sending them home to safety to return from
Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters in Italy, and while they waited they had
nothing to do but worry and bite their nails and find their way solemnly to Sergeant
Towser several times a day to ask if the order sending them home to
safety had come.
They were in a race and knew it, because they knew from bitter experience that
Colonel Cathcart might raise the number of missions again at any time. They had
nothing better to do than wait. Only Hungry Joe had something better to do each
time he finished his missions. He had screaming nightmares and won fist fights with
Huple's cat. He took his camera to the front row of every U.S.O. show and tried to
shoot pictures up the skirt of the yellow-headed singer with two big ones in a
sequined dress that always seemed ready to burst. The pictures never came out.
Colonel Cargill, General Peckem's troubleshooter, was a forceful, ruddy man. Before
the war he had been an alert, hardhitting, aggressive marketing executive. He was a
very bad marketing executive. Colonel Cargill was so awful a marketing executive that
his services were much sought after by firms eager to establish losses for tax
purposes. Throughout the civilized world, from Battery Park to Fulton Street, he was
known as a dependable man for a fast tax write-off. His prices were high, for failure
often did not come easily. He had to start at the top and work his way down, and with
sympathetic friends in Washington, losing money was no simple matter. It took
months of hard work and careful mis-planning. A person misplaced, disorganized,
miscalculated, overlooked everything and opened every loophole, and just when he
thought he had it made, the government gave him a lake or a forest or an oilfield and
spoiled everything. Even with such handicaps, Colonel Cargill could be relied on to run
the most prosperous enterprise into the ground. He was a self-made man who owed
his lack of success to nobody.
'Men,' Colonel Cargill began in Yossarian's squadron, measuring his pauses carefully.
'You're American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make
that statement. Think about it.'
Sergeant Knight thought about it and then politely informed Colonel Cargill that he
was addressing the enlisted men and that the officers were to be found waiting for
him on the other side of the squadron. Colonel Cargill thanked him crisply and glowed
with self-satisfaction as he strode across the area. It made him proud to observe
that twenty-nine months in the service had not blunted his genius for ineptitude.
'Men,' he began his address to the officers, measuring his pauses carefully. 'You're
American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that
statement. Think about it.' He waited a moment to permit them to think about it.
'These people are your guests!' he shouted suddenly. 'They've traveled over three
thousand miles to entertain you.
How are they going to feel if nobody wants to go out and watch them? What's going
to happen to their morale? Now, men, it's no skin off my behind. But that girl that
wants to play the accordion for you today is old enough to be a mother. How would
you feel if your own mother traveled over three thousand miles to play the accordion
for some troops that didn't want to watch her? How is that kid whose mother that
accordion player is old enough to be going to feel when he grows up and learns about
it? We all know the answer to that one. Now, men, don't misunderstand me. This is all
voluntary, of course. I'd be the last colonel in the world to order you to go to that
U.S.O. show and have a good time, but I want every one of you who isn't sick enough
to be in a hospital to go to that U.S.O. show right now and have a good time, and
that's an order!'
Yossarian did feel almost sick enough to go back into the hospital, and he felt even
sicker three combat missions later when Doc Daneeka still shook his melancholy head
and refused to ground him.
'You think you've got troubles?' Doc Daneeka rebuked him grievingly. 'What about
me? I lived on peanuts for eight years while I learned how to be a doctor. After the
peanuts, I lived on chicken feed in my own office until I could build up a practice
decent enough to even pay expenses. Then, just as the shop was finally starting to
show a profit, they drafted me. I don't know what you're complaining about.'
Doc Daneeka was Yossarian's friend and would do just about nothing in his power to
help him. Yossarian listened very carefully as Doc Daneeka told him about Colonel
Cathcart at Group, who wanted to be a general, about General Dreedle at Wing and
General Dreedle's nurse, and about all the other generals at Twenty-seventh Air
Force Headquarters, who insisted on only forty missions as a completed tour of duty.
'Why don't you just smile and make the best of it?' he advised Yossarian glumly.
'Be like Havermeyer.'
Yossarian shuddered at the suggestion. Havermeyer was a lead bombardier who never
took evasive action going in to the target and thereby increased the danger of all the
men who flew in the same formation with him.
'Havermeyer, why the hell don't you ever take evasive action?' they would demand in
a rage after the mission.
'Hey, you men leave Captain Havermeyer alone,' Colonel Cathcart would order.
'He's the best damned bombardier we've got.'
Havermeyer grinned and nodded and tried to explain how he dumdummed the bullets
with a hunting knife before he fired them at the field mice in his tent every night.
Havermeyer was the best damned bombardier they had, but he flew straight and
level all the way from the I.P. to the target, and even far beyond the target until he
saw the falling bombs strike ground and explode in a darting spurt of abrupt orange
that flashed beneath the swirling pall of smoke and pulverized debris geysering up
wildly in huge, rolling waves of gray and black. Havermeyer held mortal men rigid in
six planes as steady and still as sitting ducks while he followed the bombs all the way
down through the plexiglass nose with deep interest and gave the German gunners
below all the time they needed to set their sights and take their aim and pull their
triggers or lanyards or switches or whatever the hell they did pull when *they*
wanted to kill people they didn't know.
Havermeyer was a lead bombardier who never missed. Yossarian was a lead
bombardier who had been demoted because he no longer gave a damn whether he
missed or not. He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only
mission each time he went up was to come down alive.
The men had loved flying behind Yossarian, who used to come barreling in over the
target from all directions and every height, climbing and diving and twisting and
turning so steeply and sharply that it was all the pilots of the other five planes could
do to stay in formation with him, leveling out only for the two or three seconds it
took for the bombs to drop and then zooming off again with an aching howl of
engines, and wrenching his flight through the air so violently as he wove his way
through the filthy barrages of flak that the six planes were soon flung out all over
the sky like prayers, each one a pushover for the German fighters, which was just
fine with Yossarian, for there were no German fighters any more and he did not want
any exploding planes near his when they exploded. Only when all the *Sturm und
Drang* had been left far behind would he tip his flak helmet back wearily on his
sweating head and stop barking directions to McWatt at the controls, who had
nothing better to wonder about at a time like that than where the bombs had fallen.
'Bomb bay clear,' Sergeant Knight in the back would announce.
'Did we hit the bridge?' McWatt would ask.
'I couldn't see, sir, I kept getting bounced around back here pretty hard and I
couldn't see. Everything's covered with smoke now and I can't see.'
'Hey, Aarfy, did the bombs hit the target?'
'What target?' Captain Aardvaark, Yossarian's plump, pipe-smoking navigator, would
say from the confusion of maps he had created at Yossarian's side in the nose of the
ship. 'I don't think we're at the target yet. Are we?'
'Yossarian, did the bombs hit the target?'
'What bombs?' answered Yossarian, whose only concern had been the flak.
'Oh, well,' McWatt would sing, 'what the hell.'
Yossarian did not give a damn whether he hit the target or not, just as long as
Havermeyer or one of the other lead bombardiers did and they never had to go back.
Every now and then someone grew angry enough at Havermeyer to throw a
punch at him.
'I said you men leave Captain Havermeyer alone,' Colonel Cathcart warned them all
angrily. 'I said he's the best damned bombardier we've got, didn't I?'
Havermeyer grinned at the colonel's intervention and shoved another piece of peanut
brittle inside his face.
Havermeyer had grown very proficient at shooting field mice at night with the gun he
had stolen from the dead man in Yossarian's tent. His bait was a bar of candy and he
would presight in the darkness as he sat waiting for the nibble with a finger of his
other hand inside a loop of the line he had run from the frame of his mosquito net to
the chain of the unfrosted light bulb overhead. The line was taut as a banjo string,
and the merest tug would snap it on and blind the shivering quarry in a blaze of light.
Havermeyer would chortle exultantly as he watched the tiny mammal freeze and roll
its terrified eyes about in frantic search of the intruder. Havermeyer would wait
until the eyes fell upon his own and then he laughed aloud and pulled the trigger at
the same time, showering the rank, furry body all over the tent with a reverberating
crash and dispatching its timid soul back to his or her Creator.
Late one night, Havermeyer fired a shot at a mouse that brought Hungry Joe bolting
out at him barefoot, ranting at the top of his screechy voice and emptying his own
.45 into Havermeyer's tent as he came charging down one side of the ditch and up
the other and vanished all at once inside one of the slit trenches that had appeared
like magic beside every tent the morning after Milo Minderbinder had bombed the
squadron. It was just before dawn during the Great Big Siege of Bologna, when
tongueless dead men peopled the night hours like living ghosts and Hungry Joe was
half out of his mind because he had finished his missions again and was not scheduled
to fly. Hungry Joe was babbling incoherently when they fished him out from the dank
bottom of the slit trench, babbling of snakes, rats and spiders.
The others flashed their searchlights down just to make sure. There was nothing
inside but a few inches of stagnant rain water.
'You see?' cried Havermeyer. 'I told you. I told you he was crazy, didn't I?'