Joseph Heller, Catch 22, London 1955, chapter 12 - Bologna

By on July 27, 2009 8:17:26 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

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First few pages of chapter 12 - Bologna

Actually, itw as not Captain Black but Sergeant Knight who triggered the solemn panic of Bologna, slipping silently off the truck for two extra flak suits as soon as he learned the target and signaling the start of the grim procession back into the parachute tent that degenerated into a frantic stampede finally before all the extra flak suits were gone.

"Hey, what's going on?" Kid Sampson asked nervously. "Bologna can't be that rough, can it?" Nately, sitting trancelike on the floor of the truck, held his grave young face in both hands and did not answer him. It was Sergeant Knight and the cruel series of postponements, for just as they were climbig up into their planes that first morning, along came a jeep with news that it was raining in Bologna and that the mission would be delayed. It was raininig in Pianosa too by the time they were returned to the squadron, and they had the rest of the day to stare woodenly at the bomb line on the map under the awning of the intelligence tent and ruminate hypnotically on the fact that there was no escape. The evidence was there vividly in the narrow red ribbon tacked across the mainlad: the ground forces in Italy were pinned down forty-two insurmountable miles south of the target and could not possibly capture the city in time. Nothing could save the men in Pianosa from the mission to Bologna. They were trapped.

Their only hope was that it would never stop raining, and they had no hope because they all knew it would. When it did stop raining in Pianosa, it rained in Bologna. When it stopped raining in Bologna, it began again in Pianosa. If there was no rain at all, there were freakish, inexplicable phenomena like the epidemic of diarrhea or the bomb line that moved. Four times during the first six days they were assembled and briefed and then sent back. Once, they took off and were flying in formation when the control tower summoned them down. The more it rained, the worse they suffered. The worse they suffered, the more they prayed it would continue raining. All through the night, men looked at the sky and were saddened by the stars. All through the day, they looked at the bomb line on the big, wobbling easel map of Italy that blew over in the wind and was dragged in under the awning of the intelligence tent every time the rain began. The bomb line was a scarlet band of narrow satin ribbon that delineated the forwardmost position of the Allied ground forces in every sector of the italian mainland.

The morning after Hungy Joe's fist fight with Huple's cat, the rain stopped falling in both places. The landing strip began to dry. It would take a full twentyfour hours to harden; but the sky remained cloudless. The resentments incubating in each man hatched into hatred. First they hated the infantrymen on the mainland because they had failed to capture Bologna. Then they began to hate the bomb line itself. For hours they stared relentlessly at the scarlet ribbon on the map and hated it because it would not move up high enough to encompass the city. When night fell, they congregated in the darkness with flashlights, continuing their macabre vigil at the bomb line in brooding entreaty as though hoping to move the ribbon up by the collective weight of their sullen prayers.

"I really can't believe it," Clevinger exclaimed to Yossarian in a voice raising and falling into protest and wonder. "It's a complete reversion to primitive superstition. They're confusing cause and effect. It makes as much sense as knocking on wood or crossing your fingers. They really believe that we wouldn't have to fly that mission tomorrow if someone would only tiptoe up to the map in the middle of the night and move the bomb line over Bologna. Can you imagine? You and I must be the only rational ones left."

In the middle of the night Yossarian knocked on wood, crossed his fingers, and tiptoed out of his tent to move the bomb line up over Bologna.

Corporal Kolodny tiptoed stealthiliy into Captain Black's tent early the next morning, reached inside the mosquito net and gently shook the moist shoulder blade he found there until Captain Black opened his eyes. "What are zou waking me up for?" whimpered Captain Black. "They captured Bologna, sir," said Corporal Kolodny. "UI thought you'd want to know. Is the misison canceled?" Captain Black tugged himself errect and began scratching his scrawny long thighs methodically. In a little while he dressed and emerge from his tent, squinting, cross and unshaven. The sky was clear and warm. He peered without emotion at the map. Sure enough, they had captured Blologna. Inside the intelligence tent, Corporal Kolodny was already removing the maps of Bologna from the navigation kits. Captain Black seated himself with a loud yawn, lifted his feet to the top of his desk and phoned Colonel Korn. "They captured Bologna during the night, sir. Is the mission canceled?" "What are you talking about, Black?" Colonel Korn growled. "Why should tbe mission be canceled?""Because thez captured Bologna, sir. Isn't the mission canceled?" "Of course the mission is canceled. Do you think we're bombing our own troops now?" "What are zou waking me up for?" Colonel Cathcart whimpered to Colonel Korn. "They captured Bologna," Colonel Korn told him. "I thought you'd want to know." "Who captured Bologna?" "We did."

Colonel Cathcart was overjoyed, for he was relieved of the embarrassing commitment to bomb Bologna without blemish to the reputation for valor he had earned by volunteering his men to do it. General Dreedle was pleased with the capture of Bologna, too, although he was angry with Colonel Moodus for waking him up to tell him about it. Headquarters was also pleased and decided to award a medalto the officer who captured the city. There was no officer who had captured the city, so they gave the medal to General Peckem instead, because General Peckem was the only officer with sufficient initiative to ask for it.

As soon as General Peckem had recieved his medal, he began asking for increased responsibility. It was General Peckem's oppinion that all combat units in the theatre should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Special Service Corps, of which General Peckem himself was the commanding officer. If dropping bombs on the enemy was not a special service, he reflected aloud frequently with the martyred smile of sweet reasonableness that was his loyal confederate in every dispute, then he could not help wondering what in the world was. With amiable regret, he declined the offer of a combat post under General Dreedle.

"Flying combat missions for General Dreedle is not exactly what I hadi n mind," he explained indulgently with a smooth laugh. "I was thinking more in terms of replacing General Dreedle, or perhaps of something above General Dreedle where I could exercise supervision over a great many other generals too. You see, my most precious abilities are mainly administrative ones. I have a happy facility for getting different people to agree."

"He has a happy faciliy for getting different people to agree what a prick he is," Colonel Cargill confided invidiouslz to ex-PFC Wintergreen in the hope that ex-PFC Wintergreen would spread the unfavourable report along through 27th Air Force Headquarters. "If anyone deserves that combat post, I do. It was even my idea that we ask for the medal."

"You really want to go into combat?" ex-PFC Wintergreen inquired. "Combat?" Colonel Cargill was aghast. "Oh, no - you misunderstand me. Of course, I wouldn't actually mind going into combat, but my best abilities are mainly administrative ones. I too have a happy facility for getting different people to agree."

"He too has a happy facility for getting different people to agree what a prick he is," ex-PFC Wintergreen confided with a laugh to Yossarian, after he had come to Pianosa to learn if it was really true about Milo and the Egyptian cotton. "If anyone deserves a promotion, I do." Actually, he had risen already to ex-corporal, having shot through the ranks shortly after his transfer to 27th Air Force Headquarters as a mail clerk and been busted right down to private for making odious audible comparisons about the commissioned officers for whom he worked. The heady taste of success had infused him further with morality and fired him with ambition for loftier attainments. "Do you want to buy some Zippo lighters?" he asked Yossarian. "Thez were stolen right from quartermaster." "Does Milo known you're selling cigarette lighters?" "What's it his business? Milo's not carrying cigarette lighters too now, is he?" "He sure it," Yossarian told him. "And his aren't stolen." "That's what you think," ex-PFC Wintergreen answered with a laconic snort. "I'm selling mine for a buck apiece. What's he getting for his?" "A dollar and a penny." Ex-PFC Wintergreen snickered triumphantly. "I beat him every time," he gloated. "Say, what about all the Egyptian cotton he's stuck with? How much did he buy?" "All." "In the whole world? Well, I'll be damned!" ex-PFC Wintergreen crowed with malicious glee. "What a dope! You were in Cairo with him. Why'd you let him do it?" "Me?" Yossarian answered with a shrug. "I have no influence on him. It was those teletype machines they have in all the good restaurants there. Milo had never seen a stock ticker before, and the quotation for Egyptian cotton happened to be coming in just as he asked the headwaiter to explain it to him. 'Egyptian cotton?' Milo said with that look of his. 'How much is Egyptian cotton selling for?' The next thing I knew had had bought the whole goddamn harvest. And now he can't unload any of it." "He has no imagination. I can unload plenty of it inthe black market if he'll make a deal." "Milo knows the black market, There's no demand for cotton." "But there is a demand for medical supplies. I can roll the cotton up on wooden toothpicks and peddle them as sterile swabs. Will he sell to me at a good price?" "He won't sell to you at any price," Yossarian answered. "He's pretty sore at you for going into competition with him. In fact, he's pretty sore at everybody for getting diarrhea last weekend and giving his messhall a bad name. Say, you can help us." Yossarian suddenly seiyed his arm. "Couldn't you forge some official orders on that mimeograph machine of yours and get us out of lfying to Bologna?"

Ex-PFC Wintergreen pulled away slowly with a look of scorn. "Sure I could," he explained with pride. "But I would never dream of doing anything like that." "Why not?" "Because it's your job. We all have our jobs to do. My job is to unload these Zippo lighters at a profit if I can and pick up some cotton from Mllo. Your job is to bomb the ammunition dumbs at Bologna." "But I'm going to be killed at Bologna," Yossariab pleaded. "We're all going to be killed." "Then you'll just have to be killed," replied ex-PFC Wintergreen. "Why can't you be a fatalist about it he way I am? If I'm destined to unload these lighters at a profit and pick up some Egyptian cotton cheap from Milo, then that's what I'm going to do. And if you're destined to be killed over Bologna, then you're going to be killed, so you might just as well go out and die like a man. I hate to saz this, Yossarian, but you're turning into a chronic complainer."

Clevinger agreed with ex-PFC Wintergreen that it was Yossarian's job to get killed over Bologna and was livid with condemnation when Yossarian confessed that it was he who had moved the bomb line and caused the mission to be canceled. "Why the hell not?" Yossarian snarled, arguing all the more vehemently because he suspsected he was wrong. "Am I supposed to get my ass shot off just because the colonel wants to be a general?" "What about the men on the mainland?" Clevinger demanded with just as much emotion. "Are thez supposed to get their asses shot off just because you don't want ot go? Those men are entitled to air support!" "But not necessarily by me. Look, they don't care who knocks out those ammunition dumps. The only reason we're going is because that bastard Cathcart volunteered us." "Oh, I know all that," Clevinger assured him, his gaunt face pale and his agitated brown eyes swimming in sincerity. "But the fact remains that those ammunition dumps are still standing. You know very well that I don't approve of Colonel Cathcart anymore than you do." Clevinger paused for emphasis, his mouth quivering, and then beat his fist down softly against his sleeping bag. "But it's not for us to dtermine what targets must be destoyed or who's to destroy them or - " "Or who gets killed doing it? And why?" "Yes, even that. We have no right to question -" "You're insane!" " - no right to question -" "Do you really mean that it's not my business how or why I get killed and that it is Colonel Cathcart's? Do you really mean that?" "Yes, I do," Clevinger insisted, seeming unsure. "There are men entrusted with winning the war who are in a much better position than we are to decide what targets have to be bombed."

"We are talking about two different things," Yossarian answered with exaggerated weariness. "You are talking about the relationship of the Air Corps to the infantry, and I am talking about the relationship of me to Colonel Cathcart. You are talking about winning the war, and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive." "Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is more important?" "To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn't make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."

Clevinger sat for a moment as though he'd been slapped. "Congratulations!" he exclaimed bitterly, the thinnest milkwhite line enclosing his lips tightly in a bloodless, squeezing ring. "I can't think of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greater comfort to the enemy." "The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live."

But Clevinger did forget it, and now he was dead. At the time, Clevinger was so upset by the incident that Yossarian did not dare tell him he had also been responsible for the epidemic of diarrhea that had caused the other unneccessary postponement. Milo was even more upset by the possibility that someone had poisened his squadron again, and he came bustling fretfully to Yossarian for assistance.

"Please find out from Corporal Snark if he put laundry soap in the sweet potatoes again," he requested furtively. "Corporal Snark trusts you and will tell you the truth if you give him your word that you won't tell anyone else. As soon as he tells you, come and tell me."

"Of course I put laundry soap in the sweet potatoes," Corporal Snark admitted to Yossarian. "That's what you asked me to do, isn't it? Laundry soap is the best way." "He sears to God he didn't have a thing to do with it," Yossarian reported back to Milo.

...


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July 28, 2009 10:58:31 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

  This is copywrited material, not old enough to be "public domain" and you post it without crediting the author...isn't that a no-no?

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July 28, 2009 11:18:28 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

oops you're right.. I hadn't thought of that. I just wanted to show an example of the style the book is written in so people can get an idea about this great book. I'll edit the title.. copyright is really important. It would be plagiarism otherwise. Maybe Ill delete it in a few days.

 

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July 28, 2009 7:00:34 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

One of my all time favorites.  Problem is that most people think it is fiction.

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July 28, 2009 7:52:02 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

So you're saying that your military experience concurs with that depiction of madness, satire and chaos? And ex-PFC Wintergreens who secretly rule the world..

I fell in love with the story in the 1st chapter which had me giggle.. the way he censored letters, hiding out in the hospital. True tragedy is always also comedy, and I believe it without a problem that most of the little skits in the book are probably true to some degree.

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July 29, 2009 12:12:36 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Heller had an unbelievable sense of humor and turn of phrase.  So many situations in the book are just normal military experiences taken to the nth degree.  Yossarian's conversation with Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife about the God they didnt' believe it is priceless.  And the testimony at the court martial where they always didn't say that.  Yesss...one of the all time greatest books ever.  I still watch out for the Lepage Glue Gun.

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July 30, 2009 5:49:51 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

It can glue a whole formation together in the sky.. better watch out for that one, it really does sounds dangerous!

I just reread the conversation between Yossarian and Lt. Scheisskopfs wife.. whew. The logic in the illogical arguments is simply breathtaking throughout the book.

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