CHAPTER 41 - SNOWDEN
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 41 - SNOWDEN
'Cut,' said a doctor.
'You cut,' said another.
'No cuts,' said Yossarian with a thick, unwieldy tongue.
'Now look who's butting in,' complained one of the doctors.
'Another county heard from. Are we going to operate or aren't we?'
'He doesn't need an operation,' complained the other. 'It's a small wound.
All we have to do is stop the bleeding, clean it out and put a few stitches in.'
'But I've never had a chance to operate before. Which one is the scalpel?
Is this one the scalpel?'
'No, the other one is the scalpel. Well, go ahead and cut already if you're going to.
Make the incision.'
'Not there, you dope!'
'No incisions,' Yossarian said, perceiving through the lifting fog of insensibility that
the two strangers were ready to begin cutting him.
'Another county heard from,' complained the first doctor sarcastically.
'Is he going to keep talking that way while I operate on him?'
'You can't operate on him until I admit him,' said a clerk.
'You can't admit him until I clear him,' said a fat, gruff colonel with a mustache and
an enormous pink face that pressed down very close to Yossarian and radiated
scorching heat like the bottom of a huge frying pan. 'Where were you born?'
The fat, gruff colonel reminded Yossarian of the fat, gruff colonel who had
interrogated the chaplain and found him guilty. Yossarian stared up at him through a
glassy film. The cloying scents of formaldehyde and alcohol sweetened the air.
'On a battlefield,' he answered.
'No, no. In what state were you born?'
'In a state of innocence.'
'No, no, you don't understand.'
'Let me handle him,' urged a hatchet-faced man with sunken acrimonious eyes and a
thin, malevolent mouth. 'Are you a smart aleck or something?' he asked Yossarian.
'He's delirious,' one of the doctors said.
'Why don't you let us take him back inside and treat him?'
'Leave him right here if he's delirious. He might say something incriminating.'
'But he's still bleeding profusely. Can't you see? He might even die.'
'*Good* for him!'
'It would serve the finky bastard right,' said the fat, gruff colonel.
'All right, John, let's speak out. We want to get to the truth.'
'Everyone calls me Yo-Yo.'
'We want you to co-operate with us, Yo-Yo. We're your friends and we want you to
trust us. We're here to help you. We're not going to hurt you.'
'Let's jab our thumbs down inside his wound and gouge it,'
suggested the hatchet-faced man.
Yossarian let his eyes fall closed and hoped they would think he was unconscious.
'He's fainted,' he heard a doctor say. 'Can't we treat him now before it's too late?
He really might die.'
'All right, take him. I hope the bastard does die.'
'You can't treat him until I admit him,' the clerk said.
Yossarian played dead with his eyes shut while the clerk admitted him by shuffling
some papers, and then he was rolled away slowly into a stuffy, dark room with searing
spotlights overhead in which the cloying smell of formaldehyde and sweet alcohol was
even stronger. The pleasant, permeating stink was intoxicating. He smelled ether too
and heard glass tinkling.
He listened with secret, egotistical mirth to the husky breathing of the two doctors.
It delighted him that they thought he was unconscious and did not know he was
listening. It all seemed very silly to him until one of the doctors said,
'Well, do you think we should save his life? They might be sore at us if we do.'
'Let's operate,' said the other doctor. 'Let's cut him open and get to the inside of
things once and for all. He keeps complaining about his liver. His liver looks pretty
small on this X ray.'
'That's his pancreas, you dope. This is his liver.'
'No it isn't. That's his heart. I'll bet you a nickel this is his liver.
I'm going to operate and find out. Should I wash my hands first?'
'No operations,' Yossarian said, opening his eyes and trying to sit up.
'Another county heard from,' scoffed one of the doctors indignantly.
'Can't we make him shut up?'
'We could give him a total. The ether's right here.'
'No totals,' said Yossarian.
'Another county heard from,' said a doctor.
'Let's give him a total and knock him out. Then we can do what we want with him.'
They gave Yossarian total anesthesia and knocked him out. He woke up thirsty in a
private room, drowning in ether fumes. Colonel Korn was there at his bedside, waiting
calmly in a chair in his baggy, wool, olive-drab shirt and trousers. A bland, phlegmatic
smile hung on his brown face with its heavy-bearded cheeks, and he was buffing the
facets of his bald head gently with the palms of both hands. He bent forward
chuckling when Yossarian awoke, and assured him in the friendliest tones that the
deal they had made was still on if Yossarian didn't die. Yossarian vomited, and Colonel
Korn shot to his feet at the first cough and fled in disgust, so it seemed indeed that
there was a silver lining to every cloud, Yossarian reflected, as he drifted back into a
suffocating daze. A hand with sharp fingers shook him awake roughly. He turned and
opened his eyes and saw a strange man with a mean face who curled his lip at him in a
spiteful scowl and bragged,
'We've got your pal, buddy. We've got your pal.'
Yossarian turned cold and faint and broke into a sweat.
'Who's my pal?' he asked when he saw the chaplain sitting where Colonel Korn had
'Maybe I'm your pal,' the chaplain answered.
But Yossarian couldn't hear him and closed his eyes. Someone gave him water to sip
and tiptoed away. He slept and woke up feeling great until he turned his head to smile
at the chaplain and saw Aarfy there instead. Yossarian moaned instinctively and
screwed his face up with excruciating irritability when Aarfy chortled and asked how
he was feeling. Aarfy looked puzzled when Yossarian inquired why he was not in jail.
Yossarian shut his eyes to make him go away. When he opened them, Aarfy was gone
and the chaplain was there. Yossarian broke into laughter when he spied the
chaplain's cheerful grin and asked him what in the hell he was so happy about.
'I'm happy about you,' the chaplain replied with excited candor and joy. 'I heard at
Group that you were very seriously injured and that you would have to be sent home
if you lived. Colonel Korn said your condition was critical. But I've just learned from
one of the doctors that your wound is really a very slight one and that you'll probably
be able to leave in a day or two. You're in no danger. It isn't bad at all.'
Yossarian listened to the chaplain's news with enormous relief. 'That's good.'
'Yes,' said the chaplain, a pink flush of impish pleasure creeping into his cheeks.
'Yes, that is good.'
Yossarian laughed, recalling his first conversation with the chaplain. 'You know, the
first time I met you was in the hospital. And now I'm in the hospital again. Just about
the only time I see you lately is in the hospital. Where've you been keeping
The chaplain shrugged. 'I've been praying a lot,' he confessed. 'I try to stay in my
tent as much as I can, and I pray every time Sergeant Whitcomb leaves the area, so
that he won't catch me.'
'Does it do any good?'
'It takes my mind off my troubles,' the chaplain answered with another shrug. 'And
it gives me something to do.'
'Well that's good, then, isn't it?'
'Yes,' agreed the chaplain enthusiastically, as though the idea had not occurred to
him before. 'Yes, I guess that is good.' He bent forward impulsively with awkward
solicitude. 'Yossarian, is there anything I can do for you while you're here,
anything I can get you?'
Yossarian teased him jovially. 'Like toys, or candy, or chewing gum?'
The chaplain blushed again, grinning self-consciously, and then turned very
respectful. 'Like books, perhaps, or anything at all. I wish there was something I
could do to make you happy. You know, Yossarian, we're all very proud of you.'
'Yes, of course. For risking your life to stop that Nazi assassin.
It was a very noble thing to do.'
'What Nazi assassin?'
'The one that came here to murder Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. And you saved
them. He might have stabbed you to death as you grappled with him on the balcony.
It's a lucky thing you're alive!'
Yossarian snickered sardonically when he understood. '
That was no Nazi assassin.'
'Certainly it was. Colonel Korn said it was.'
'That was Nately's girl friend. And she was after me, not Colonel Cathcart and
Colonel Korn. She's been trying to kill me ever since I broke the news to her that
Nately was dead.'
'But how could that be?' the chaplain protested in livid and resentful confusion.
'Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn both saw him as he ran away. The official report
says you stopped a Nazi assassin from killing them.'
'Don't believe the official report,' Yossarian advised dryly. 'It's part of the deal.'
'The deal I made with Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn. They'll let me go home a big
hero if I say nice things about them to everybody and never criticize them to anyone
for making the rest of the men fly more missions.'
The chaplain was appalled and rose halfway out of his chair. He bristled with
bellicose dismay. 'But that's terrible! That's a shameful, scandalous deal, isn't it?'
'Odious,' Yossarian answered, staring up woodenly at the ceiling with just the back of
his head resting on the pillow. 'I think "odious" is the word we decided on.'
'Then how could you agree to it?'
'It's that or a court-martial, Chaplain.'
'Oh,' the chaplain exclaimed with a look of stark remorse, the back of his hand
covering his mouth. He lowered himself into his chair uneasily.
'I shouldn't have said anything.'
'They'd lock me in prison with a bunch of criminals.'
'Of course. You must do whatever you think is right, then.' The chaplain nodded to
himself as though deciding the argument and lapsed into embarrassed silence.
'Don't worry,' Yossarian said with a sorrowful laugh after several moments had
passed. 'I'm not going to do it.'
'But you must do it,' the chaplain insisted, bending forward with concern.
'Really, you must. I had no right to influence you.
I really had no right to say anything.'
'You didn't influence me.' Yossarian hauled himself over onto his side and shook his
head in solemn mockery. 'Christ, Chaplain! Can you imagine that for a sin?
Saving Colonel Cathcart's life! That's one crime I don't want on my record.'
The chaplain returned to the subject with caution. 'What will you do instead?
You can't let them put you in prison.'
'I'll fly more missions. Or maybe I really will desert and let them catch me.
They probably would.'
'And they'd put you in prison. You don't want to go to prison.'
'Then I'll just keep flying missions until the war ends, I guess.
Some of us have to survive.'
'But you might get killed.'
'Then I guess I won't fly any more missions.'
'What will you do?'
'I don't know.'
'Will you let them send you home?'
'I don't know. Is it hot out? It's very warm in here.'
'It's very cold out,' the chaplain said.
'You know,' Yossarian remembered, 'a very funny thing happened - maybe I dreamed
it. I think a strange man came in here before and told me he's got my pal.
I wonder if I imagined it.'
'I don't think you did,' the chaplain informed him. 'You started to tell me about him
when I dropped in earlier.'
'Then he really did say it. "We've got your pal, buddy," he said. "We've got your pal."
He had the most malignant manner I ever saw. I wonder who my pal is.'
'I like to think that I'm your pal, Yossarian,' the chaplain said with humble sincerity.
'And they certainly have got me. They've got my number and they've got me under
surveillance, and they've got me right where they want me.
That's what they told me at my interrogation.'
'No, I don't think it's you he meant,' Yossarian decided. 'I think it must be someone
like Nately or Dunbar. You know, someone who was killed in the war, like Clevinger,
Orr, Dobbs, Kid Sampson or McWatt
.' Yossarian emitted a startled gasp and shook
his head. 'I just realized it,' he exclaimed. 'They've got all my pals, haven't they?
The only ones left are me and Hungry Joe.' He tingled with dread as he saw the
chaplain's face go pale. 'Chaplain, what is it?'
'Hungry Joe was killed.'
'God, no! On a mission?'
'He died in his sleep while having a dream. They found a cat on his face.'
'Poor bastard,' Yossarian said, and began to cry, hiding his tears in the crook of his
shoulder. The chaplain left without saying goodbye. Yossarian ate something and went
A hand shook him awake in the middle of the night. He opened his eyes and saw a
thin, mean man in a patient's bathrobe and pajamas who looked at him with a nasty
smirk and jeered.
'We've got your pal, buddy. We've got your pal.'
Yossarian was unnerved.
'What the *hell* are you talking about?' he pleaded in incipient panic.
'You'll find out, buddy. You'll find out.'
Yossarian lunged for his tormentor's throat with one hand, but the man glided out of
reach effortlessly and vanished into the corridor with a malicious laugh. Yossarian lay
there trembling with a pounding pulse. He was bathed in icy sweat. He wondered who
his pal was. It was dark in the hospital and perfectly quiet. He had no watch to tell
him the time. He was wide-awake, and he knew he was a prisoner in one of those
sleepless, bedridden nights that would take an eternity to dissolve into dawn. A
throbbing chill oozed up his legs. He was cold, and he thought of Snowden, who had
never been his pal but was a vaguely familiar kid who was badly wounded and freezing
to death in the puddle of harsh yellow sunlight splashing into his face through the
side gunport when Yossarian crawled into the rear section of the plane over the bomb
bay after Dobbs had beseeched him on the intercom to help the gunner, please help
the gunner. Yossarian's stomach turned over when his eyes first beheld the macabre
scene; he was absolutely revolted, and he paused in fright a few moments before
descending, crouched on his hands and knees in the narrow tunnel over the bomb bay
beside the sealed corrugated carton containing the first-aid kit.
Snowden was lying on his back on the floor with his legs stretched out, still burdened
cumbersomely by his flak suit, his flak helmet, his parachute harness and his Mae
West. Not far away on the floor lay the small tail-gunner in a dead faint. The wound
Yossarian saw was in the outside of Snowden's thigh, as large and deep as a football,
it seemed. It was impossible to tell where the shreds of his saturated coveralls
ended and the ragged flesh began.
There was no morphine in the first-aid kit, no protection for Snowden against pain
but the numbing shock of the gaping wound itself. The twelve syrettes of morphine
had been stolen from their case and replaced by a cleanly lettered note that said:
'What's good for M & M Enterprises is good for the country. Milo Minderbinder.'
Yossarian swore at Milo and held two aspirins out to ashen lips unable to receive
them. But first he hastily drew a tourniquet around Snowden's thigh because he
could not think what else to do in those first tumultuous moments when his senses
were in turmoil, when he knew he must act competently at once and feared he might
go to pieces completely.
Snowden watched him steadily, saying nothing. No artery was spurting, but Yossarian
pretended to absorb himself entirely into the fashioning of a tourniquet, because
applying a tourniquet was something he did know how to do. He worked with simulated
skill and composure, feeling Snowden's lack-luster gaze resting upon him. He
recovered possession of himself before the tourniquet was finished and loosened it
immediately to lessen the danger of gangrene. His mind was clear now, and he knew
how to proceed. He rummaged through the first-aid kit for scissors.
'I'm cold,' Snowden said softly. 'I'm cold.'
'You're going to be all right, kid,' Yossarian reassured him with a grin.
'You're going to be all right.'
'I'm cold,' Snowden said again in a frail, childlike voice. 'I'm cold.'
'There, there,' Yossarian said, because he did not know what else to say.
'I'm cold,' Snowden whimpered. 'I'm cold.'
'There, there. There, there.'
Yossarian was frightened and moved more swiftly. He found a pair of scissors at last
and began cutting carefully through Snowden's coveralls high up above the wound,
just below the groin. He cut through the heavy gabardine cloth all the way around the
thigh in a straight line. The tiny tailgunner woke up while Yossarian was cutting with
the scissors, saw him, and fainted again. Snowden rolled his head to the other side of
his neck in order to stare at Yossarian more directly. A dim, sunken light glowed in
his weak and listless eyes. Yossarian, puzzled, tried not to look at him. He began
cutting downward through the coveralls along the inside seam. The yawning wound -
was that a tube of slimy bone he saw running deep inside the gory scarlet flow behind
the twitching, startling fibers of weird muscle? - was dripping blood in several
trickles, like snow melting on eaves, but viscous and red, already thickening as it
dropped. Yossarian kept cutting through the coveralls to the bottom and peeled open
the severed leg of the garment.
It fell to the floor with a plop, exposing the hem of khaki undershorts that were
soaking up blotches of blood on one side as though in thirst. Yossarian was stunned at
how waxen and ghastly Snowden's bare leg looked, how loathsome, how lifeless and
esoteric the downy, fine, curled blond hairs on his odd white shin and calf. The
wound, he saw now, was not nearly as large as a football, but as long and wide as his
hand and too raw and deep to see into clearly. The raw muscles inside twitched like
live hamburger meat. A long sigh of relief escaped slowly through Yossarian's mouth
when he saw that Snowden was not in danger of dying.
The blood was already coagulating inside the wound, and it was simply a matter of
bandaging him up and keeping him calm until the plane landed. He removed some
packets of sulfanilamide from the first-aid kit.
Snowden quivered when Yossarian pressed against him gently
to turn him up slightly on his side.
'Did I hurt you?'
'I'm cold,' Snowden whimpered. 'I'm cold.'
'There, there,' Yossarian said. 'There, there.'
'I'm cold. I'm cold.'
'There, there. There, there.'
'It's starting to hurt me,' Snowden cried out suddenly with a plaintive, urgent wince.
Yossarian scrambled frantically through the first-aid kit in search of morphine again
and found only Milo's note and a bottle of aspirin. He cursed Milo and held two
aspirin tablets out to Snowden. He had no water to offer. Snowden rejected the
aspirin with an almost imperceptible shake of his head. His face was pale and pasty.
Yossarian removed Snowden's flak helmet and lowered his head to the floor.
'I'm cold,' Snowden moaned with half-closed eyes. 'I'm cold.'
The edges of his mouth were turning blue. Yossarian was petrified. He wondered
whether to pull the rip cord of Snowden's parachute and cover him with the nylon
folds. It was very warm in the plane. Glancing up unexpectedly, Snowden gave him a
wan, co-operative smile and shifted the position of his hips a bit so that Yossarian
could begin salting the wound with sulfanilamide. Yossarian worked with renewed
confidence and optimism. The plane bounced hard inside an air pocket, and he
remembered with a start that he had left his own parachute up front in the nose.
There was nothing to be done about that. He poured envelope after envelope of the
white crystalline powder into the bloody oval wound until nothing red could be seen
and then drew a deep, apprehensive breath, steeling himself with gritted teeth as he
touched his bare hand to the dangling shreds of drying flesh to tuck them up inside
Quickly he covered the whole wound with a large cotton compress and jerked his
hand away. He smiled nervously when his brief ordeal had ended. The actual contact
with the dead flesh had not been nearly as repulsive as he had anticipated, and he
found an excuse to caress the wound with his fingers again and again to convince
himself of his own courage.
Next he began binding the compress in place with a roll of gauze. The second time
around Snowden's thigh with the bandage, he spotted the small hole on the inside
through which the piece of flak had entered, a round, crinkled wound the size of a
quarter with blue edges and a black core inside where the blood had crusted.
Yossarian sprinkled this one with sulfanilamide too and continued unwinding the gauze
around Snowden's leg until the compress was secure. Then he snipped off the roll
with the scissors and slit the end down the center. He made the whole thing fast
with a tidy square knot. It was a good bandage, he knew, and he sat back on his heels
with pride, wiping the perspiration from his brow, and grinned at Snowden with
'I'm cold,' Snowden moaned. 'I'm cold.'
'You're going to be all right, kid,' Yossarian assured him, patting his arm
comfortingly. 'Everything's under control.'
Snowden shook his head feebly.
'I'm cold,' he repeated, with eyes as dull and blind as stone.
'There, there,' said Yossarian, with growing doubt and trepidation. 'There, there.
In a little while we'll be back on the ground and Doc Daneeka will take care of you.'
But Snowden kept shaking his head and pointed at last, with just the barest
movement of his chin, down toward his armpit. Yossarian bent forward to peer and
saw a strangely colored stain seeping through the coveralls just above the armhole of
Snowden's flak suit. Yossarian felt his heart stop, then pound so violently he found it
difficult to breathe. Snowden was wounded inside his flak suit. Yossarian ripped open
the snaps of Snowden's flak suit and heard himself scream wildly as Snowden's
insides slithered down to the floor in a soggy pile and just kept dripping out.
A chunk of flak more than three inches big had shot into his other side just
underneath the arm and blasted all the way through, drawing whole mottled quarts of
Snowden along with it through the gigantic hole in his ribs it made as it blasted out.
Yossarian screamed a second time and squeezed both hands over his eyes. His teeth
were chattering in horror. He forced himself to look again.
Here was God's plenty, all right, he thought bitterly as he stared - liver, lungs,
kidneys, ribs, stomach and bits of the stewed tomatoes Snowden had eaten that day
for lunch. Yossarian hated stewed tomatoes and turned away dizzily and began to
vomit, clutching his burning throat. The tail gunner woke up while Yossarian was
vomiting, saw him, and fainted again. Yossarian was limp with exhaustion, pain and
despair when he finished. He turned back weakly to Snowden, whose breath had
grown softer and more rapid, and whose face had grown paler. He wondered how in
the world to begin to save him.
'I'm cold,' Snowden whimpered. 'I'm cold.'
'There, there,' Yossarian mumbled mechanically in a voice too low to be heard.
Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking
all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled
all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was
matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to
him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage.
The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.
'I'm cold,' Snowden said. 'I'm cold.'
'There, there,' said Yossarian. 'There, there.'
He pulled the rip cord of Snowden's parachute and covered
his body with the white nylon sheets.