Read Nine Stories Online

Authors: J. D. Salinger

Nine Stories

Nine
Stories

written
by:

J.
D. Salenger

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Of the nine stories to the
book the following seven appeared originally in THE NEW YORKER;
"A Perfect Day for Bananafish," "Uncle Wiggily in
Connecticut," "Just Before the War with the Eskimos,"
"The Laughing Man," "For Esmi:-with Love and
Squalor," "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes," and
"Teddy." The author is grateful to THE NEW YORKER for
permission to reprint.

The author also wishes to
thank HARPER'S MAGAZINE for permission to reprint "Down at
the Dinghy."

Copyright, 1948, 1949,
1950, 1951, 1953, by J. D. Salinger.

TO DOROTHY OLDING and GUS
LOBRANO

We know the sound of two
hands clapping. But what is the sound of one hand clapping?

--A ZEN KOALA

Table
of Contents

A
Perfect Day for Bananafish

Uncle
Wiggily in Connecticut

Just
Before the War with the Eskimos

The
Laughing Man

Down
at the Dinghy

For
Esme:--with Love and Squalor

Pretty
Mouth and Green Eyes

De
Daumier-Smith's Blue Period

Teddy

A
Perfect
Day for Bananafish

THERE
WERE ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way
they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had
to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through. She
used the time, though. She read an article in a women's pocket-size
magazine, called "Sex Is Fun-or Hell." She washed her comb
and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She
moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly
surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room,
she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting
lacquer on the nails of her left hand.

She
was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She
looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she
had reached puberty.

With
her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over
the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She
then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up,
passed her left--the wet--hand back and forth through the air. With
her dry hand, she picked up a congested ashtray from the window seat
and carried it with her over to the night table, on which the phone
stood. She sat down on one of the made-up twin beds and--it was the
fifth or sixth ring--picked up the phone.

"Hello,"
she said, keeping the fingers of her left hand outstretched and away
from her white silk dressing gown, which was all that she was
wearing, except mules--her rings were in the bathroom.

"I
have your call to New York now, Mrs. Glass," the operator said.

"Thank
you," said the girl, and made room on the night table for the
ashtray.

A
woman's voice came through. "Muriel? Is that you?"

The
girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. "Yes,
Mother. How are you?" she said.

"I've
been worried to death about you. Why haven't you phoned? Are you all
right?"

"I
tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here's
been--"

"Are
you all right, Muriel?"

The
girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. "I'm
fine. I'm hot. This is the hottest day they've had in Florida in--"

"Why
haven't you called me? I've been worried to--"

"Mother,
darling, don't yell at me. I can hear you beautifully," said the
girl. "I called you twice last night. Once just after--"

"I
told your father you'd probably call last night. But, no, he had
to-Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth."

"I'm
fine. Stop asking me that, please."

"When
did you get there?"

"I
don't know. Wednesday morning, early."

"Who
drove?"

"He
did," said the girl. "And don't get excited. He drove very
nicely. I was amazed."

"He
drove? Muriel, you gave me your word of--"

"Mother,"
the girl interrupted, "I just told you. He drove very nicely.
Under fifty the whole way, as a matter of fact."

"Did
he try any of that funny business with the trees?"

"I
said he drove very nicely, Mother. Now, please. I asked him to stay
close to the white line, and all, and he knew what I meant, and he
did. He was even trying not to look at the trees-you could tell. Did
Daddy get the car fixed, incidentally?"

"Not
yet. They want four hundred dollars, just to--"

"Mother,
Seymour told Daddy that he'd pay for it. There's no reason for--"

"Well,
we'll see. How did he behave--in the car and all?"

"All
right," said the girl.

"Did
he keep calling you that awful--"

"No.
He has something new now."

"What?"

"Oh,
what's the difference, Mother?"

"Muriel,
I want to know. Your father--"

"All
right, all right. He calls me Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948," the
girl said, and giggled.

"It
isn't funny, Muriel. It isn't funny at all. It's horrible. It's sad,
actually. When I think how--"

"Mother,"
the girl interrupted, "listen to me. You remember that book he
sent me from Germany? You know--those German poems. What'd I do with
it? I've been racking my--"

"You
have it."

"Are
you sure?" said the girl.

"Certainly.
That is, I have it. It's in Freddy's room. You left it here and I
didn't have room for it in the--Why? Does he want it?"

"No.
Only, he asked me about it, when we were driving down. He wanted to
know if I'd read it."

"It
was in German!"

"Yes,
dear. That doesn't make any difference," said the girl, crossing
her legs. "He said that the poems happen to be written by the
only great poet of the century. He said I should've bought a
translation or something. Or learned the language, if you please."

"Awful.
Awful. It's sad, actually, is what it is. Your father said last
night--"

"Just
a second, Mother," the girl said. She went over to the window
seat for her cigarettes, lit one, and returned to her seat on the
bed. "Mother?" she said, exhaling smoke.

"Muriel.
Now, listen to me."

"I'm
listening."

"Your
father talked to Dr. Sivetski."

"Oh?"
said the girl.

"He
told him everything. At least, he said he did--you know your father.
The trees. That business with the window. Those horrible things he
said to Granny about her plans for passing away. What he did with all
those lovely pictures from Bermuda--everything."

"Well?"
said the girl.

"Well.
In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released
him from the hospital--my word of honor. He very definitely told your
father there's a chance--a very great chance, he said--that Seymour
may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor."

"There's
a psychiatrist here at the hotel," said the girl.

"Who?
What's his name?"

"I
don't know. Rieser or something. He's supposed to be very good."

"Never
heard of him."

"Well,
he's supposed to be very good, anyway."

"Muriel,
don't be fresh, please. We're very worried about you. Your father
wanted to wire you last night to come home, as a matter of f--"

"I'm
not coming home right now, Mother. So relax."

"Muriel.
My word of honor. Dr. Sivetski said Seymour may completely lose
contr--"

"I
just got here, Mother. This is the first vacation I've had in years,
and I'm not going to just pack everything and come home," said
the girl. "I couldn't travel now anyway. I'm so sunburned I can
hardly move."

"You're
badly sunburned? Didn't you use that jar of Bronze I put in your bag?
I put it right--"

"I
used it. I'm burned anyway."

"That's
terrible. Where are you burned?"

"All
over, dear, all over."

"That's
terrible."

"I'll
live."

"Tell
me, did you talk to this psychiatrist?"

"Well,
sort of," said the girl.

"What'd
he say? Where was Seymour when you talked to him?"

"In
the Ocean Room, playing the piano. He's played the piano both nights
we've been here."

"Well,
what'd he say?"

"Oh,
nothing much. He spoke to me first. I was sitting next to him at
Bingo last night, and he asked me if that wasn't my husband playing
the piano in the other room. I said yes, it was, and he asked me if
Seymour's been sick or something. So I said--"

"Why'd
he ask that?"

"I
don't know, Mother. I guess because he's so pale and all," said
the girl. "Anyway, after Bingo he and his wife asked me if I
wouldn't like to join them for a drink. So I did. His wife was
horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwit's
window? The one you said you'd have to have a tiny, tiny--"

"The
green?"

"She
had it on. And all hips. She kept asking me if Seymour's related to
that Suzanne Glass that has that place on Madison Avenue--the
millinery."

"What'd
he say, though? The doctor."

"Oh.
Well, nothing much, really. I mean we were in the bar and all. It was
terribly noisy."

"Yes,
but did--did you tell him what he tried to do with Granny's chair?"

"No,
Mother. I didn't go into details very much," said the girl.
"I'll probably get a chance to talk to him again. He's in the
bar all day long."

"Did
he say he thought there was a chance he might get--you know--funny or
anything? Do something to you!"

"Not
exactly," said the girl. "He had to have more facts,
Mother. They have to know about your childhood--all that stuff. I
told you, we could hardly talk, it was so noisy in there."

"Well.
How's your blue coat?"

"All
right. I had some of the padding taken out."

"How
are the clothes this year?"

"Terrible.
But out of this world. You see sequins--everything," said the
girl.

"How's
your room?"

"All
right. Just all right, though. We couldn't get the room we had before
the war," said the girl. "The people are awful this year.
You should see what sits next to us in the dining room. At the next
table. They look as if they drove down in a truck."

"Well,
it's that way all over. How's your ballerina?"

"It's
too long. I told you it was too long."

"Muriel,
I'm only going to ask you once more--are you really all right?"

"Yes,
Mother," said the girl. "For the ninetieth time."

"And
you don't want to come home?"

"No,
Mother."

"Your
father said last night that he'd be more than willing to pay for it
if you'd go away someplace by yourself and think things over. You
could take a lovely cruise. We both thought--"

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