(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 36 - THE CELLAR
Nately's death almost killed the chaplain. Chaplain Shipman was seated in his tent,
laboring over his paperwork in his reading spectacles, when his phone rang and news
of the mid-air collision was given to him from the field. His insides turned at once to
dry clay. His hand was trembling as he put the phone down. His other hand began
trembling. The disaster was too immense to contemplate. Twelve men killed - how
ghastly, how very, very awful! His feeling of terror grew. He prayed instinctively that
Yossarian, Nately, Hungry Joe and his other friends would not be listed among the
victims, then berated himself repentantly, for to pray for their safety was to pray
for the death of other young men he did not even know.
It was too late to pray; yet that was all he knew how to do. His heart was pounding
with a noise that seemed to be coming from somewhere outside, and he knew he
would never sit in a dentist's chair again, never glance at a surgical tool, never
witness an automobile accident or hear a voice shout at night, without experiencing
the same violent thumping in his chest and dreading that he was going to die. He
would never watch another fist fight without fearing he was going to faint and crack
his skull open on the pavement or suffer a fatal heart attack or cerebral
hemorrhage. He wondered if he would ever see his wife again or his three small
children. He wondered if he ever *should* see his wife again, now that Captain Black
had planted in his mind such strong doubts about the fidelity and character of all
There were so many other men, he felt, who could prove more satisfying to her
sexually. When he thought of death now, he always thought of his wife, and when he
thought of his wife he always thought of losing her.
In another minute the chaplain felt strong enough to rise and walk with glum
reluctance to the tent next door for Sergeant Whitcomb. They drove in Sergeant
Whitcomb's jeep. The chaplain made fists of his hands to keep them from shaking as
they lay in his lap. He ground his teeth together and tried not to hear as Sergeant
Whitcomb chirruped exultantly over the tragic event. Twelve men killed meant twelve
more form letters of condolence that could be mailed in one bunch to the next of kin
over Colonel Cathcart's signature, giving Sergeant Whitcomb hope of getting an
article on Colonel Cathcart into *The Saturday Evening Post* in time for Easter.
At the field a heavy silence prevailed, overpowering motion like a ruthless, insensate
spell holding in thrall the only beings who might break it. The chaplain was in awe. He
had never beheld such a great, appalling stillness before. Almost two hundred tired,
gaunt, downcast men stood holding their parachute packs in a somber and unstirring
crowd outside the briefing room, their faces staring blankly in different angles of
stunned dejection. They seemed unwilling to go, unable to move.

The chaplain was acutely conscious of the faint noise his footsteps made as he
approached. His eyes searched hurriedly, frantically, through the immobile maze of
limp figures. He spied Yossarian finally with a feeling of immense joy, and then his
mouth gaped open slowly in unbearable horror as he noted Yossarian's vivid, beaten,
grimy look of deep, drugged despair. He understood at once, recoiling in pain from
the realization and shaking his head with a protesting and imploring grimace, that
Nately was dead. The knowledge struck him with a numbing shock.
A sob broke from him. The blood drained from his legs, and he thought he was going
to drop. Nately was dead. All hope that he was mistaken was washed away by the
sound of Nately's name emerging with recurring clarity now from the almost
inaudible babble of murmuring voices that he was suddenly aware of for the first
time. Nately was dead: the boy had been killed. A whimpering sound rose in the
chaplain's throat, and his jaw began to quiver. His eyes filled with tears, and he was
crying. He started toward Yossarian on tiptoe to mourn beside him and share his
wordless grief. At that moment a hand grabbed him roughly around the arm and a
brusque voice demanded,
'Chaplain Shipman?'
He turned with surprise to face a stout, pugnacious colonel with a large head and
mustache and a smooth, florid skin. He had never seen the man before. 'Yes. What is
it?' The fingers grasping the chaplain's arm were hurting him, and he tried in vain to
squirm loose.
'Come along.'
The chaplain pulled back in frightened confusion.
'Where? Why? Who are you, anyway?'
'You'd better come along with us, Father,' a lean, hawk-faced major on the chaplain's
other side intoned with reverential sorrow. 'We're from the government.
We want to ask you some questions.'
'What kind of questions? What's the matter?'
'Aren't you Chaplain Shipman?' demanded the obese colonel.
'He's the one,' Sergeant Whitcomb answered.
'Go on along with them,' Captain Black called out to the chaplain with a hostile and
contemptuous sneer. 'Go on into the car if you know what's good for you.'

Hands were drawing the chaplain away irresistibly. He wanted to shout for help to
Yossarian, who seemed too far away to hear. Some of the men nearby were beginning
to look at him with awakening curiosity. The chaplain bent his face away with burning
shame and allowed himself to be led into the rear of a staff car and seated between
the fat colonel with the large, pink face and the skinny, unctuous, despondent major.
He automatically held a wrist out to each, wondering for a moment if they wanted to
handcuff him. Another officer was already in the front seat. A tall M.P. with a
whistle and a white helmet got in behind the wheel. The chaplain did not dare raise
his eyes until the closed car had lurched from the area and the speeding wheels were
whining on the bumpy blacktop road.
'Where are you taking me?' he asked in a voice soft with timidity and guilt, his gaze
still averted. The notion came to him that they were holding him to blame for the
mid-air crash and the death of Nately. 'What have I done?'
'Why don't you keep your trap shut and let us ask the questions?' said the colonel.
'Don't talk to him that way,' said the major.
'It isn't necessary to be so disrespectful.'
'Then tell him to keep his trap shut and let us ask the questions.'
'Father, please keep your trap shut and let us ask the questions,'
urged the major sympathetically. 'It will be better for you.'
'It isn't necessary to call me Father,' said the chaplain. 'I'm not a Catholic.'
'Neither am I, Father,' said the major. 'It's just that I'm a very devout person,
and I like to call all men of God Father.'
'He doesn't even believe there are atheists in foxholes,' the colonel mocked, and
nudged the chaplain in the ribs familiarly. 'Go on, Chaplain, tell him. Are there
atheists in foxholes?'
'I don't know, sir,' the chaplain replied. 'I've never been in a foxhole.'
The officer in front swung his head around swiftly with a quarrelsome expression.
'You've never been in heaven either, have you? But you know there's a heaven,
don't you?'
'Or do you?' said the colonel.
'That's a very serious crime you've committed, Father,' said the major.

'What crime?'
'We don't know yet,' said the colonel. 'But we're going to find out. And we sure know
it's very serious.'
The car swung off the road at Group Headquarters with a squeal of tires, slackening
speed only slightly, and continued around past the parking lot to the back of the
building. The three officers and the chaplain got out. In single file, they ushered him
down a wobbly flight of wooden stairs leading to the basement and led him into a
damp, gloomy room with a low cement ceiling and unfinished stone walls. There were
cobwebs in all the corners. A huge centipede blew across the floor to the shelter of a
water pipe. They sat the chaplain in a hard, straight-backed chair that stood behind
a small, bare table.
'Please make yourself comfortable, Chaplain,' invited the colonel cordially, switching
on a blinding spotlight and shooting it squarely into the chaplain's face. He placed a
set of brass knuckles and box of wooden matches on the table.
'We want you to relax.'
The chaplain's eyes bulged out incredulously. His teeth chattered and his limbs felt
utterly without strength. He was powerless. They might do whatever they wished to
him, he realized; these brutal men might beat him to death right there in the
basement, and no one would intervene to save him, no one, perhaps, but the devout
and sympathetic major with the sharp face, who set a water tap dripping loudly into a
sink and returned to the table to lay a length of heavy rubber hose down beside the
brass knuckles.
'Everything's going to be all right, Chaplain,' the major said encouragingly. 'You've
got nothing to be afraid of if you're not guilty. What are you so afraid of? You're not
guilty, are you?'
'Sure he's guilty,' said the colonel. 'Guilty as hell.'
'Guilty of what?' implored the chaplain, feeling more and more bewildered and not
knowing which of the men to appeal to for mercy. The third officer wore no insignia
and lurked in silence off to the side. 'What did I do?'
'That's just what we're going to find out,' answered the colonel, and he shoved a pad
and pencil across the table to the chaplain. 'Write your name for us, will you? In your
own handwriting.'
'My own handwriting?'

'That's right. Anywhere on the page.' When the chaplain had finished, the colonel
took the pad back and held it up alongside a sheet of paper he removed from a
folder. 'See?' he said to the major, who had come to his side and was peering
solemnly over his shoulder.
'They're not the same, are they?' the major admitted.
'I told you he did it.'
'Did what?' asked the chaplain.
'Chaplain, this comes as a great shock to me,' the major accused in a
tone of heavy lamentation.
'What does?'
'I can't tell you how disappointed I am in you.'
'For what?' persisted the chaplain more frantically. 'What have I done?'
'For this,' replied the major, and, with an air of disillusioned disgust, tossed down on
the table the pad on which the chaplain had signed his name. 'This isn't your
The chaplain blinked rapidly with amazement. 'But of course it's my handwriting.'
'No it isn't, Chaplain. You're lying again.'
'But I just wrote it!' the chaplain cried in exasperation. 'You saw me write it.'
'That's just it,' the major answered bitterly. 'I saw you write it. You can't deny that
you did write it. A person who'll lie about his own handwriting will lie about anything.'
'But who lied about my own handwriting?' demanded the chaplain, forgetting his fear
in the wave of anger and indignation that welled up inside him suddenly. 'Are you
crazy or something? What are you both talking about?'
'We asked you to write your name in your own handwriting. And you didn't do it.'
'But of course I did. In whose handwriting did I write it if not my own?'
'In somebody else's.'

'That's just what we're going to find out,' threatened the colonel.
'Talk, Chaplain.'
The chaplain looked from one to the other of the two men with rising doubt and
hysteria. 'That handwriting is mine,' he maintained passionately. 'Where else is my
handwriting, if that isn't it?'
'Right here,' answered the colonel. And looking very superior, he tossed down on the
table a photostatic copy of a piece of V mail in which everything but the salutation
'Dear Mary' had been blocked out and on which the censoring officer had written, 'I
long for you tragically. R. O. Shipman, Chaplain, U.S. Army.' The colonel smiled
scornfully as he watched the chaplain's face turn crimson.
'Well, Chaplain? Do you know who wrote that?'
The chaplain took a long moment to reply;
he had recognized Yossarian's handwriting.
'You can read, though, can't you?' the colonel persevered sarcastically.
'The author signed his name.'
'That's my name there.'
'Then you wrote it. Q.E.D.'
'But I didn't write it. That isn't my handwriting, either.'
'Then you signed your name in somebody else's handwriting again,' the colonel
retorted with a shrug. 'That's all that means.'
'Oh, this is ridiculous!' the chaplain shouted, suddenly losing all patience. He jumped
to his feet in a blazing fury, both fists clenched. 'I'm not going to stand for this any
longer! Do you hear? Twelve men were just killed, and I have no time for these silly
questions. You've no right to keep me here, and I'm just not going to stand for it.'

Without saying a word, the colonel pushed the chaplain's chest hard and knocked him
back down into the chair, and the chaplain was suddenly weak and very much afraid
again. The major picked up the length of rubber hose and began tapping it menacingly
against his open palm. The colonel lifted the box of matches, took one out and held it
poised against the striking surface, watching with glowering eyes for the chaplain's
next sign of defiance. The chaplain was pale and almost too petrified to move. The
bright glare of the spotlight made him turn away finally; the dripping water was
louder and almost unbearably irritating. He wished they would tell him what they
wanted so that he would know what to confess. He waited tensely as the third
officer, at a signal from the colonel, ambled over from the wall and seated himself on
the table just a few inches away from the chaplain. His face was expressionless, his
eyes penetrating and cold.
'Turn off the light,' he said over his shoulder in a low, calm voice.
'It's very annoying.'
The chaplain gave him a small smile of gratitude.
'Thank you, sir. And the drip too, please.'
'Leave the drip,' said the officer. 'That doesn't bother me.' He tugged up the legs
of his trousers a bit, as though to preserve their natty crease. 'Chaplain,' he asked
casually, 'of what religious persuasion are you?'
'I'm an Anabaptist, sir.'
'That's a pretty suspicious religion, isn't it?'
'Suspicious?' inquired the chaplain in a kind of innocent daze. 'Why, sir?'
'Well, I don't know a thing about it . You'll have to admit that, won't you? Doesn't
that make it pretty suspicious?'
'I don't know, sir,' the chaplain answered diplomatically, with an uneasy stammer. He
found the man's lack of insignia disconcerting and was not even sure he had to say
'sir'. Who was he? And what authority had he to interrogate him?
'Chaplain, I once studied Latin. I think it's only fair to warn you of that before I ask
my next question. Doesn't the word Anabaptist simply mean that you're not a
'Oh, no, sir. There's much more.'
'Are you a Baptist?'

'No, sir.'
'Then you are not a Baptist, aren't you?'
'I don't see why you're bickering with me on that point. You've already admitted it.
Now, Chaplain, to say you're not a Baptist doesn't really tell us anything about what
you are, does it? You could be anything or anyone.' He leaned forward slightly and his
manner took on a shrewd and significant air. 'You could even be,' he added,
'Washington Irving, couldn't you?'
'Washington Irving?' the chaplain repeated with surprise.
'Come on, Washington,' the corpulent colonel broke in irascibly.
'Why don't you make a clean breast of it? We know you stole that plum tomato.'
After a moment's shock, the chaplain giggled with nervous relief. 'Oh, is *that* it!'
he exclaimed. 'Now I'm beginning to understand. I didn't steal that plum tomato, sir.
Colonel Cathcart gave it to me. You can even ask him if you don't believe me.'
A door opened at the other end of the room and Colonel Cathcart stepped into the
basement as though from a closet.
'Hello, Colonel. Colonel, he claims you gave him that plum tomato. Did you?'
'Why should I give him a plum tomato?' answered Colonel Cathcart.
'Thank you, Colonel. That will be all.'
'It's a pleasure, Colonel,' Colonel Cathcart replied, and he stepped back out of the
basement, closing the door after him.
'Well, Chaplain? What have you got to say now?'
'He did give it to me!' the chaplain hissed in a whisper that was both fierce and
fearful. 'He did give it to me!'
'You're not calling a superior officer a liar are you, Chaplain?'
'Why should a superior officer give you a plum tomato, Chaplain?'

'Is that why you tried to give it to Sergeant Whitcomb, Chaplain?
Because it was a hot tomato?'
'No, no, no,' the chaplain protested, wondering miserably why they were not able to
understand. 'I offered it to Sergeant Whitcomb because I didn't want it.'
'Why'd you steal it from Colonel Cathcart if you didn't want it?'
'I didn't steal it from Colonel Cathcard'
'Then why are you so guilty, if you didn't steal it?'
'I'm not guilty!'
'Then why would we be questioning you if you weren't guilty?'
'Oh, I don't know,' the chaplain groaned, kneading his fingers in his lap and shaking
his bowed and anguished head. 'I don't know.'
'He thinks we have time to waste,' snorted the major.
'Chaplain,' resumed the officer without insignia at a more leisurely pace, lifting a
typewritten sheet of yellow paper from the open folder, 'I have a signed statement
here from Colonel Cathcart asserting you stole that plum tomato from him.' He lay
the sheet face down on one side of the folder and picked up a second page from the
other side. 'And I have a notarized affidavit from Sergeant Whitcomb in which he
states that he knew the tomato was hot just from the way you tried to
unload it on him.'
'I swear to God I didn't steal it, sir,' the chaplain pleaded with distress,
almost in tears. 'I give you my sacred word it was not a hot tomato.'
'Chaplain, do you believe in God?'
'Yes, sir. Of course I do.'
'That's odd, Chaplain,' said the officer, taking from the folder another typewritten
yellow page, 'because I have here in my hands now another statement from Colonel
Cathcart in which he swears that you refused to co-operate with him in conducting
prayer meetings in the briefing room before each mission.'

After looking blank a moment, the chaplain nodded quickly with recollection. 'Oh,
that's not quite true, sir,' he explained eagerly. 'Colonel Cathcart gave up the idea
himself once he realized enlisted men pray to the same God as officers.'
'He did *what*?' exclaimed the officer in disbelief.
'What nonsense!' declared the red-faced colonel, and swung away from the chaplain
with dignity and annoyance.
'Does he expect us to believe that?' cried the major incredulously.
The officer without insignia chuckled acidly. 'Chaplain, aren't you stretching things a
bit far now?' he inquired with a smile that was indulgent and unfriendly.
'But, sir, it's the truth, sir! I swear it's the truth.'
'I don't see how that matters one way or the other,' the officer answered
nonchalantly, and reached sideways again toward the open folder filled with papers.
'Chaplain, did you say you did believe in God in answer to my question?
I don't remember.'
'Yes, sir. I did say so, sir. I do believe in God.'
'Then that really is very odd, Chaplain, because I have here another affidavit from
Colonel Cathcart that states you once told him atheism was not against the law. Do
you recall ever making a statement like that to anyone?'
The chaplain nodded without any hesitation, feeling himself on very solid ground now.
'Yes, sir, I did make a statement like that. I made it because it's true. Atheism is
not against the law.'
'But that's still no reason to say so, Chaplain, is it?' the officer chided tartly,
frowning, and picked up still one more typewritten, notarized page from the folder.
'And here I have another sworn statement from Sergeant Whitcomb that says you
opposed his plan of sending letters of condolence over Colonel Cathcart's signature
to the next of kin of men killed or wounded in combat. Is that true?'
'Yes, sir, I did oppose it,' answered the chaplain. 'And I'm proud that I did. Those
letters are insincere and dishonest.
Their only purpose is to bring glory to Colonel Cathcart.'

'But what difference does that make?' replied the officer. 'They still bring solace
and comfort to the families that receive them, don't they? Chaplain, I simply can't
understand your thinking process.'
The chaplain was stumped and at a complete loss for a reply. He hung his head,
feeling tongue-tied and naive.
The ruddy stout colonel stepped forward vigorously with a sudden idea. 'Why don't
we knock his goddamn brains out?' he suggested with robust enthusiasm to the
'Yes, we could knock his goddamn brains out, couldn't we?' the hawk-faced major
agreed. 'He's only an Anabaptist.'
'No, we've got to find him guilty first,' the officer without insignia cautioned with a
languid restraining wave. He slid lightly to the floor and moved around to the other
side of the table, facing the chaplain with both hands pressed flat on the surface.
His expression was dark and very stern, square and forbidding. 'Chaplain,' he
announced with magisterial rigidity, 'we charge you formally with being Washington
Irving and taking capricious and unlicensed liberties in censoring the letters of
officers and enlisted men. Are you guilty or innocent?'
'Innocent, sir.' The chaplain licked dry lips with a dry tongue and leaned forward in
suspense on the edge of his chair.
'Guilty,' said the colonel.
'Guilty,' said the major.
'Guilty it is, then,' remarked the officer without insignia, and wrote a word on a page
in the folder. 'Chaplain,' he continued, looking up, 'we accuse you also of the
commission of crimes and infractions we don't even know about yet. Guilty or
'I don't know, sir. How can I say if you don't tell me what they are?'
'How can we tell you if we don't know?'
'Guilty,' decided the colonel.
'Sure he's guilty,' agreed the major. 'If they're his crimes and infractions,
he must have committed them.'

'Guilty it is, then,' chanted the officer without insignia,
and moved off to the side of the room.
'He's all yours, Colonel.'
'Thank you,' commended the colonel. 'You did a very good job.'
He turned to the chaplain. 'Okay, Chaplain, the jig's up. Take a walk.'
The chaplain did not understand. 'What do you wish me to do?'
'Go on, beat it, I told you!' the colonel roared, jerking a thumb over his shoulder
angrily. 'Get the hell out of here.'
The chaplain was shocked by his bellicose words and tone and, to his own amazement
and mystification, deeply chagrined that they were turning him loose. 'Aren't you
even going to punish me?' he inquired with querulous surprise.
'You're damned right we're going to punish you. But we're certainly not going to let
you hang around while we decide how and when to do it. So get going. Hit the road.'
The chaplain rose tentatively and took a few steps away. 'I'm free to go?'
'For the time being. But don't try to leave the island. We've got your number,
Chaplain. Just remember that we've got you under surveillance twenty-four hours a
It was not conceivable that they would allow him to leave. The chaplain walked toward
the exit gingerly, expecting at any instant to be ordered back by a peremptory voice
or halted in his tracks by a heavy blow on the shoulder or the head. They did nothing
to stop him. He found his way through the stale, dark, dank corridors to the flight of
stairs. He was staggering and panting when he climbed out into the fresh air. As soon
as he had escaped, a feeling of overwhelming moral outrage filled him. He was
furious, more furious at the atrocities of the day than he had ever felt before in his
whole life. He swept through the spacious, echoing lobby of the building in a temper
of scalding and vindictive resentment. He was not going to stand for it any more, he
told himself, he was simply not going to stand for it. When he reached the entrance,
he spied, with a feeling of good fortune, Colonel Korn trotting up the wide steps
alone. Bracing himself with a deep breath, the chaplain moved courageously forward
to intercept him.
'Colonel, I'm not going to stand for it any more,' he declared with vehement
determination, and watched in dismay as Colonel Korn went trotting by up the steps
without even noticing him. 'Colonel Korn!'

The tubby, loose figure of his superior officer stopped, turned and came trotting
back down slowly. 'What is it, Chaplain?'
'Colonel Korn, I want to talk to you about the crash this morning. It was a terrible
thing to happen, terrible!'
Colonel Korn was silent a moment, regarding the chaplain with a glint of cynical
amusement. 'Yes, Chaplain, it certainly was terrible,' he said finally. 'I don't know
*how* we're going to write this one up without making ourselves look bad.'
'That isn't what I meant,' the chaplain scolded firmly without any fear at all. 'Some
of those twelve men had already finished their seventy missions.'
Colonel Korn laughed. 'Would it be any less terrible if they had all been new men?' he
inquired caustically.
Once again the chaplain was stumped. Immoral logic seemed to be confounding him at
every turn. He was less sure of himself than before when he continued, and his voice
wavered. 'Sir, it just isn't right to make the men in this group fly eighty missions
when the men in other groups are being sent home with fifty and fifty-five.'
'We'll take the matter under consideration,' Colonel Korn said with bored
disinterest, and started away. *'Adios*, Padre.'
'What does that mean, sir?' the chaplain persisted in a voice turning shrill.
Colonel Korn stopped with an unpleasant expression and took a step back down. 'It
means we'll think about it, Padre,' he answered with sarcasm and contempt. 'You
wouldn't want us to do anything without thinking about it, would you?'
'No, sir, I suppose not. But you have been thinking about it, haven't you?'
'Yes, Padre, we have been thinking about it. But to make you happy, we'll think about
it some more, and you'll be the first person we'll tell if we reach a new decision. And
now, *adios*.' Colonel Korn whirled away again and hurried up the stairs.
'Colonel Korn!' The chaplain's cry made Colonel Korn stop once more. His head swung
slowly around toward the chaplain with a look of morose impatience. Words gushed
from the chaplain in a nervous torrent. 'Sir, I would like your permission to take the
matter to General Dreedle. I want to bring my protests to Wing Headquarters.'

Colonel Korn's thick, dark jowls inflated unexpectedly with a suppressed guffaw, and
it took him a moment to reply. 'That's all right, Padre,' he answered with mischievous
merriment, trying hard to keep a straight face. 'You have my permission to speak to
General Dreedle.'
'Thank you, sir. I believe it only fair to warn you that I think I have some influence
with General Dreedle.'
'It's good of you to warn me, Padre. And I believe it only fair to warn you that you
won't find General Dreedle at Wing.' Colonel Korn grinned wickedly and then broke
into triumphant laughter. 'General Dreedle is out, Padre. And General Peckem is in.
We have a new wing commander.'
The chaplain was stunned. 'General Peckem!'
'That's right, Chaplain. Have you got any influence with him?'
'Why, I don't even know General Peckem,' the chaplain protested wretchedly.
Colonel Korn laughed again. 'That's too bad, Chaplain, because Colonel Cathcart knows
him very well.' Colonel Korn chuckled steadily with gloating relish for another second
or two and then stopped abruptly. 'And by the way, Padre,' he warned coldly, poking
his finger once into the chaplain's chest. 'The jig is up between you and Dr. Stubbs.
We know very well he sent you up here to complain today.'
'Dr. Stubbs?' The chaplain shook his head in baffled protest. 'I haven't seen Dr.
Stubbs, Colonel. I was brought here by three strange officers who took me down into
the cellar without authority and questioned and insulted me.'
Colonel Korn poked the chaplain in the chest once more. 'You know damned well Dr.
Stubbs has been telling the men in his squadron they didn't have to fly more than
seventy missions.' He laughed harshly. 'Well, Padre, they do have to fly more than
seventy missions, because we're transferring Dr. Stubbs to the Pacific.
So *adios*, Padre. *Adios*.'

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