CHAPTER 40 - CATCH-22
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 40 - CATCH-22
There was, of course, a catch.
'Catch-22?' inquired Yossarian.
'Of course,' Colonel Korn answered pleasantly, after he had chased the mighty guard
of massive M.P.s out with an insouciant flick of his hand and a slightly contemptuous
nod - most relaxed, as always, when he could be most cynical. His rimless square
eyeglasses glinted with sly amusement as he gazed at Yossarian. 'After all, we can't
simply send you home for refusing to fly more missions and keep the rest of the men
here, can we? That would hardly be fair to them.'
'You're goddamn right!' Colonel Cathcart blurted out, lumbering back and forth
gracelessly like a winded bull, puffing and pouting angrily. 'I'd like to tie him up hand
and foot and throw him aboard a plane on every mission. That's what I'd like to do.'
Colonel Korn motioned Colonel Cathcart to be silent and smiled at Yossarian. 'You
know, you really have been making things terribly difficult for Colonel Cathcart,' he
observed with flip good humor, as though the fact did not displease him at all. 'The
men are unhappy and morale is beginning to deteriorate. And it's all your fault.'
'It's your fault,' Yossarian argued, 'for raising the number of missions.'
'No, it's your fault for refusing to fly them,' Colonel Korn retorted. 'The men were
perfectly content to fly as many missions as we asked as long as they thought they
had no alternative. Now you've given them hope, and they're unhappy.
So the blame is all yours.'
'Doesn't he know there's a war going on?' Colonel Cathcart, still stamping back and
forth, demanded morosely without looking at Yossarian.
'I'm quite sure he does,' Colonel Korn answered.
'That's probably why he refuses to fly them.'
'Doesn't it make any difference to him?'
'Will the knowledge that there's a war going on weaken your decision to refuse to
participate in it?' Colonel Korn inquired with sarcastic seriousness,
mocking Colonel Cathcart.
'No, sir,' Yossarian replied, almost returning Colonel Korn's smile.
'I was afraid of that,' Colonel Korn remarked with an elaborate sigh, locking his
fingers together comfortably on top of his smooth, bald, broad, shiny brown head.
'You know, in all fairness, we really haven't treated you too badly, have we? We've
fed you and paid you on time. We gave you a medal and even made you a captain.'
'I never should have made him a captain,' Colonel Cathcart exclaimed bitterly.
'I should have given him a court-martial after he loused up that Ferrara mission
and went around twice.'
'I told you not to promote him,' said Colonel Korn, 'but you wouldn't listen to me.'
'No you didn't. You told me to promote him, didn't you?'
'I told you *not* to promote him. But you just wouldn't listen.'
'I should have listened.'
'You never listen to me,' Colonel Korn persisted with relish.
'That's the reason we're in this spot.'
'All right, gee whiz. Stop rubbing it in, will you?'
Colonel Cathcart burrowed his fists down deep inside his pockets and turned away in
a slouch. 'Instead of picking on me, why don't you figure out what we're
going to do about him?'
'We're going to send him home, I'm afraid.' Colonel Korn was chuckling triumphantly
when he turned away from Colonel Cathcart to face Yossarian. 'Yossarian, the war is
over for you. We're going to send you home. You really don't deserve it, you know,
which is one of the reasons I don't mind doing it. Since there's nothing else we can
risk doing to you at this time, we've decided to return you to the States. We've
worked out this little deal to -'
'What kind of deal?' Yossarian demanded with defiant mistrust.
Colonel Korn tossed his head back and laughed. 'Oh, a thoroughly despicable deal,
make no mistake about that. It's absolutely revolting.
But you'll accept it quickly enough.'
'Don't be too sure.'
'I haven't the slightest doubt you will, even though it stinks to high heaven. Oh, by
the way. You haven't told any of the men you've refused to fly more missions,
'No, sir,' Yossarian answered promptly.
Colonel Korn nodded approvingly. 'That's good. I like the way you lie.
You'll go far in this world if you ever acquire some decent ambition.'
'Doesn't he know there's a war going on?' Colonel Cathcart yelled out suddenly, and
blew with vigorous disbelief into the open end of his cigarette holder.
'I'm quite sure he does,' Colonel Korn replied acidly, 'since you brought that identical
point to his attention just a moment ago.' Colonel Korn frowned wearily for
Yossarian's benefit, his eyes twinkling swarthily with sly and daring scorn. Gripping
the edge of Colonel Cathcart's desk with both hands, he lifted his flaccid haunches
far back on the corner to sit with both short legs dangling freely. His shoes kicked
lightly against the yellow oak wood, his sludge-brown socks, garterless, collapsed in
sagging circles below ankles that were surprisingly small and white. 'You know,
Yossarian,' he mused affably in a manner of casual reflection that seemed both
derisive and sincere, 'I really do admire you a bit. You're an intelligent person of
great moral character who has taken a very courageous stand. I'm an intelligent
person with no moral character at all, so I'm in an ideal position to appreciate it.'
'These are very critical times,' Colonel Cathcart asserted petulantly from a far
corner of the office, paying no attention to Colonel Korn.
'Very critical times indeed,' Colonel Korn agreed with a placid nod. 'We've just had a
change of command above, and we can't afford a situation that might put us in a bad
light with either General Scheisskopf or General Peckem.
Isn't that what you mean, Colonel?'
'Hasn't he got any patriotism?'
'Won't you fight for your country?' Colonel Korn demanded, emulating Colonel
Cathcart's harsh, self-righteous tone. 'Won't you give up your life for Colonel
Cathcart and me?'
Yossarian tensed with alert astonishment when he heard Colonel Korn's concluding
words. 'What's that?' he exclaimed. 'What have you and Colonel Cathcart got to do
with my country? You're not the same.'
'How can you separate us?' Colonel Korn inquired with ironical tranquillity.
'That's right,' Colonel Cathcart cried emphatically.
'You're either for us or against us. There's no two ways about it.'
'I'm afraid he's got you,' added Colonel Korn.
'You're either for us or against your country. It's as simple as that.'
'Oh, no, Colonel. I don't buy that.'
Colonel Korn was unrufed. 'Neither do I, frankly, but everyone else will.
So there you are.'
'You're a disgrace to your uniform!' Colonel Cathcart declared with blustering wrath,
whirling to confront Yossarian for the first time. 'I'd like to know how you ever got
to be a captain, anyway.'
'You promoted him,' Colonel Korn reminded sweetly, stifling a snicker.
'Don't you remember?'
'Well, I never should have done it.'
'I told you not to do it,' Colonel Korn said. 'But you just wouldn't listen to me.'
'Gee whiz, will you stop rubbing it in?' Colonel Cathcart cried. He furrowed his brow
and glowered at Colonel Korn through eyes narrow with suspicion, his fists clenched
on his hips. 'Say, whose side are you on, anyway?'
'Your side, Colonel. What other side could I be on?'
'Then stop picking on me, will you? Get off my back, will you?'
'I'm on your side, Colonel. I'm just loaded with patriotism.'
'Well, just make sure you don't forget that.' Colonel Cathcart turned away
grudgingly after another moment, incompletely reassured, and began striding the
floor, his hands kneading his long cigarette holder. He jerked a thumb toward
Yossarian. 'Let's settle with him. I know what I'd like to do with him. I'd like to take
him outside and shoot him. That's what I'd like to do with him. That's what General
Dreedle would do with him.'
'But General Dreedle isn't with us any more,' said Colonel Korn, 'so we can't take him
outside and shoot him.' Now that his moment of tension with Colonel Cathcart had
passed, Colonel Korn relaxed again and resumed kicking softly against Colonel
Cathcart's desk. He returned to Yossarian.
'So we're going to send you home instead. It took a bit of thinking, but we finally
worked out this horrible little plan for sending you home without causing too much
dissatisfaction among the friends you'll leave behind. Doesn't that make you happy?'
'What kind of plan? I'm not sure I'm going to like it.'
'I know you're not going to like it.' Colonel Korn laughed, locking his hands
contentedly on top of his head again. 'You're going to loathe it. It really is odious and
certainly will offend your conscience. But you'll agree to it quickly enough. You'll
agree to it because it will send you home safe and sound in two weeks, and because
you have no choice. It's that or a court-martial. Take it or leave it.'
Yossarian snorted. 'Stop bluffing, Colonel. You can't court-martial me for desertion
in the face of the enemy. It would make you look bad and you probably couldn't get a
'But we can court-martial you now for desertion from duty, since you went to Rome
without a pass. And we could make it stick. If you think about it a minute, you'll see
that you'd leave us no alternative. We can't simply let you keep walking around in
open insubordination without punishing you. All the other men would stop flying
missions, too. No, you have my word for it. We will court-martial you if you turn our
deal down, even though it would raise a lot of questions and be a terrible black eye
for Colonel Cathcart.'
Colonel Cathcart winced at the words 'black eye' and, without any apparent
premeditation, hurled his slender onyx-and-ivory cigarette holder down viciously on
the wooden surface on his desk
. 'Jesus Christ!' he shouted unexpectedly. 'I hate this
goddam cigarette holder!' The cigarette holder bounced off the desk to the wall,
ricocheted across the window sill to the floor and came to a stop almost where he
was standing. Colonel Cathcart stared down at it with an irascible scowl. 'I wonder if
it's really doing me any good.'
'It's a feather in your cap with General Peckem, but a black eye for you with General
Scheisskopf,' Colonel Korn informed him with a mischievous look of innocence.
'Well, which one am I supposed to please?'
'How can I please them both? They hate each other. How am I ever going to get a
feather in my cap from General Scheisskopf without getting a black eye from
'Yeah, march. That's the only way to please him. March. March.' Colonel Cathcart
grimaced sullenly. 'Some generals! They're a disgrace to their uniforms. If people
like those two can make general, I don't see how I can miss.'
'You're going to go far.' Colonel Korn assured him with a flat lack of conviction, and
turned back chuckling to Yossarian, his disdainful merriment increasing at the sight
of Yossarian's unyielding expression of antagonism and distrust. 'And there you have
the crux of the situation. Colonel Cathcart wants to be a general and I want to be a
colonel, and that's why we have to send you home.'
'Why does he want to be a general?'
'Why? For the same reason that I want to be a colonel. What else have we got to do?
Everyone teaches us to aspire to higher things. A general is higher than a colonel, and
a colonel is higher than a lieutenant colonel. So we're both aspiring. And you know,
Yossarian, it's a lucky thing for you that we are. Your timing on this is absolutely
perfect, but I suppose you took that factor into account in your calculations.'
'I haven't been doing any calculating,' Yossarian retorted.
'Yes, I really do enjoy the way you lie,' Colonel Korn answered. 'Won't it make you
proud to have your commanding officer promoted to general - to know you served in
an outfit that averaged more combat missions per person than any other? Don't you
want to earn more unit citations and more oak leaf clusters for your Air Medal?
Where's your *esprit de corps?* Don't you want to contribute further to this great
record by flying more combat missions? It's your last chance to answer yes.'
'In that case, you have us over a barrel -' said Colonel Korn without rancor.
'He ought to be ashamed of himself!'
'- and we have to send you home. Just do a few little things for us, and -'
'What sort of things?' Yossarian interrupted with belligerent misgiving.
'Oh, tiny, insignificant things. Really, this is a very generous deal we're making with
you. We will issue orders returning you to the States - really, we will - and all you
have to do in return is'
'What? What must I do?'
Colonel Korn laughed curtly. 'Like us.'
Yossarian blinked. 'Like you?'
'That's right,' said Colonel Korn, nodding, gratified immeasurably by Yossarian's
guileless surprise and bewilderment. 'Like us. Join us. Be our pal. Say nice things
about us here and back in the States. Become one of the boys. Now, that isn't asking
too much, is it?'
'You just want me to like you? Is that all?'
'Just find it in your heart to like us.'
Yossarian wanted to laugh confidently when he saw with amazement that Colonel Korn
was telling the truth. 'That isn't going to be too easy,' he sneered.
'Oh, it will be a lot easier than you think,' Colonel Korn taunted in return, undismayed
by Yossarian's barb. 'You'll be surprised at how easy you'll find it to like us once you
begin.' Colonel Korn hitched up the waist of his loose, voluminous trousers. The deep
black grooves isolating his square chin from his jowls were bent again in a kind of
jeering and reprehensible mirth. 'You see, Yossarian, we're going to put you on easy
street. We're going to promote you to major and even give you another medal.
Captain Flume is already working on glowing press releases describing your valor over
Ferrara, your deep and abiding loyalty to your outfit and your consummate dedication
to duty. Those phrases are all actual quotations, by the way. We're going to glorify
you and send you home a hero, recalled by the Pentagon for morale and publicrelations purposes. You'll live like a millionaire. Everyone will lionize you. You'll have
parades in your honor and make speeches to raise money for war bonds. A whole new
world of luxury awaits you once you become our pal. Isn't it lovely?'
Yossarian found himself listening intently to the fascinating elucidation of details.
'I'm not sure I want to make speeches.'
'Then we'll forget the speeches. The important thing is what you say to people here.'
Colonel Korn leaned forward earnestly, no longer smiling. 'We don't want any of the
men in the group to know that we're sending you home as a result of your refusal to
fly more missions.
And we don't want General Peckem or General Scheisskopf to get wind of any
friction between us, either.
That's why we're going to become such good pals.'
'What will I say to the men who asked me why I refused to fly more missions?'
'Tell them you had been informed in confidence that you were being returned to the
States and that you were unwilling to risk your life for another mission or two. Just a
minor disagreement between pals, that's all.'
'Will they believe it?'
'Of course they'll believe it, once they see what great friends we've become and
when they see the press releases and read the flattering things you have to say
about me and Colonel Cathcart. Don't worry about the men. They'll be easy enough to
discipline and control when you've gone. It's only while you're still here that they
may prove troublesome. You know, one good apple can spoil the rest,' Colonel Korn
concluded with conscious irony. 'You know - this would really be wonderful - you might
even serve as an inspiration to them to fly more missions.'
'Suppose I denounce you when I get back to the States?'
'After you've accepted our medal and promotion and all the fanfare? No one would
believe you, the Army wouldn't let you, and why in the world should you want to?
You're going to be one of the boys, remember? You'll enjoy a rich, rewarding,
luxurious, privileged existence. You'd have to be a fool to throw it all away just for a
moral principle, and you're not a fool. Is it a deal?'
'I don't know.'
'It's that or a court-martial.'
'That's a pretty scummy trick I'd be playing on the men in the squadron, isn't it?'
'Odious,' Colonel Korn agreed amiably, and waited, watching Yossarian patiently with
a glimmer of private delight.
'But what the hell!' Yossarian exclaimed. 'If they don't want to fly more missions, let
them stand up and do something about it the way I did. Right?'
'Of course,' said Colonel Korn.
'There's no reason I have to risk my life for them, is there?'
'Of course not.'
Yossarian arrived at his decision with a swift grin.
'It's a deal!' he announced jubilantly.
'Great,' said Colonel Korn with somewhat less cordiality than Yossarian had expected,
and he slid himself off Colonel Cathcart's desk to stand on the floor. He tugged the
folds of cloth of his pants and undershorts free from his crotch and gave Yossarian a
limp hand to shake. 'Welcome aboard.'
'Thanks, Colonel. I -'
'Call me Blackie, John. We're pals now.'
'Sure, Blackie. My friends call me Yo-Yo. Blackie, I -'
'His friends call him Yo-Yo,' Colonel Korn sang out to Colonel Cathcart. 'Why don't
you congratulate Yo-Yo on what a sensible move he's making?'
'That's a real sensible move you're making, Yo-Yo,' Colonel Cathcart said, pumping
Yossarian's hand with clumsy zeal.
'Thank you, Colonel, I -'
'Call him Chuck,' said Colonel Korn.
'Sure, call me Chuck,' said Colonel Cathcart with a laugh that was hearty and
awkward. 'We're all pals now.'
'Exit smiling,' said Colonel Korn, his hands on both their shoulders as the three of
them moved to the door.
'Come on over for dinner with us some night, Yo-Yo,' Colonel Cathcart invited
hospitably. 'How about tonight? In the group dining room.'
'I'd love to, sir.'
'Chuck,' Colonel Korn corrected reprovingly.
'I'm sorry, Blackie. Chuck. I can't get used to it.'
'That's all right, pal.'
'Don't mention it, pal.'
'So long, pal.'
Yossarian waved goodbye fondly to his new pals and sauntered out onto the balcony
corridor, almost bursting into song the instant he was alone. He was home free: he
had pulled it off; his act of rebellion had succeeded; he was safe, and he had nothing
to be ashamed of to anyone. He started toward the staircase with a jaunty and
exhilarated air. A private in green fatigues saluted him. Yossarian returned the
salute happily, staring at the private with curiosity. He looked strangely familiar.
When Yossarian returned the salute, the private in green fatigues turned suddenly
into Nately's whore and lunged at him murderously with a bone-handled kitchen knife
that caught him in the side below his upraised arm. Yossarian sank to the floor with a
shriek, shutting his eyes in overwhelming terror as he saw the girl lift the knife to
strike at him again. He was already unconscious when Colonel Korn and Colonel
Cathcart dashed out of the office and saved his life by frightening her away.