Read Nine Stories Online

Authors: J. D. Salinger

Nine Stories (2 page)

BOOK: Nine Stories
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thanks," said the girl, and uncrossed her legs. "Mother,
this call is costing a for--"

I think of how you waited for that boy all through the war-I mean
when you think of all those crazy little wives who--"

said the girl, "we'd better hang up. Seymour may come in any

is he?"

the beach."

the beach? By himself? Does he behave himself on the beach?"

said the girl, "you talk about him as though he were a raving

said nothing of the kind, Muriel."

you sound that way. I mean all he does is lie there. He won't take
his bathrobe off."

won't take his bathrobe off? Why not?"

don't know. I guess because he's so pale."

goodness, he needs the sun. Can't you make him?

know Seymour," said the girl, and crossed her legs again. "He
says he doesn't want a lot of fools looking at his tattoo."

doesn't have any tattoo! Did he get one in the Army?"

Mother. No, dear," said the girl, and stood up. "Listen,
I'll call you tomorrow, maybe."

Now, listen to me."

Mother," said the girl, putting her weight on her right leg.

me the instant he does, or says, anything at all funny--you know what
I mean. Do you hear me?"

I'm not afraid of Seymour."

I want you to promise me."

right, I promise. Goodbye, Mother," said the girl. "My love
to Daddy." She hung up.

more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel
with her mother. "Did you see more glass?"

stop saying that. It's driving Mommy absolutely crazy. Hold still,

Carpenter was putting sun-tan oil on Sybil's shoulders, spreading it
down over the delicate, winglike blades of her back. Sybil was
sitting insecurely on a huge, inflated beach ball, facing the ocean.
She was wearing a canary-yellow two-piece bathing suit, one piece of
which she would not actually be needing for another nine or ten

was really just an ordinary silk handkerchief--you could see when you
got up close," said the woman in the beach chair beside Mrs.
Carpenter's. "I wish I knew how she tied it. It was really

sounds darling," Mrs. Carpenter agreed. "Sybil, hold still,

you see more glass?" said Sybil.

Carpenter sighed. "All right," she said. She replaced the
cap on the sun-tan oil bottle. "Now run and play, pussy. Mommy's
going up to the hotel and have a Martini with Mrs. Hubbel. I'll bring
you the olive."

loose, Sybil immediately ran down to the flat part of the beach and
began to walk in the direction of Fisherman's Pavilion. Stopping only
to sink a foot in a soggy, collapsed castle, she was soon out of the
area reserved for guests of the hotel.

walked for about a quarter of a mile and then suddenly broke into an
oblique run up the soft part of the beach. She stopped short when she
reached the place where a young man was lying on his back.

you going in the water, see more glass?" she said.

young man started, his right hand going to the lapels of his
terry-cloth robe. He turned over on his stomach, letting a sausaged
towel fall away from his eyes, and squinted up at Sybil.

Hello, Sybil."

you going in the water?"

was waiting for you," said the young man. "What's new?"

said Sybil.

new? What's on the program?"

daddy's coming tomorrow on a nairiplane," Sybil said, kicking

in my face, baby," the young man said, putting his hand on
Sybil's ankle. "Well, it's about time he got here, your daddy.
I've been expecting him hourly. Hourly."

the lady?" Sybil said.

lady?" the young man brushed some sand out of his thin hair.
"That's hard to say, Sybil. She may be in any one of a thousand
places. At the hairdresser's. Having her hair dyed mink. Or making
dolls for poor children, in her room." Lying prone now, he made
two fists, set one on top of the other, and rested his chin on the
top one. "Ask me something else, Sybil," he said. "That's
a fine bathing suit you have on. If there's one thing I like, it's a
blue bathing suit."

stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. "This
is a yellow," she said. "This is a yellow."

is? Come a little closer." Sybil took a step forward. "You're
absolutely right. What a fool I am."

you going in the water?" Sybil said.

seriously considering it. I'm giving it plenty of thought, Sybil,
you'll be glad to know."

prodded the rubber float that the young man sometimes used as a
head-rest. "It needs air," she said.

right. It needs more air than I'm willing to admit." He took
away his fists and let his chin rest on the sand. "Sybil,"
he said, "you're looking fine. It's good to see you. Tell me
about yourself." He reached in front of him and took both of
Sybil's ankles in his hands. "I'm Capricorn," he said.
"What are you?"

Lipschutz said you let her sit on the piano seat with you,"
Sybil said.

Lipschutz said that?"

nodded vigorously.

let go of her ankles, drew in his hands, and laid the side of his
face on his right forearm. "Well," he said, "you know
how those things happen, Sybil. I was sitting there, playing. And you
were nowhere in sight. And Sharon Lipschutz came over and sat down
next to me. I couldn't push her off, could I?"


no. No. I couldn't do that," said the young man. "I'll tell
you what I did do, though."


pretended she was you."

immediately stooped and began to dig in the sand. "Let's go in
the water," she said.

right," said the young man. "I think I can work it in."

time, push her off," Sybil said. "Push who off?"


Sharon Lipschutz," said the young man. "How that name comes
up. Mixing memory and desire." He suddenly got to his feet. He
looked at the ocean. "Sybil," he said, "I'll tell you
what we'll do. We'll see if we can catch a bananafish."


bananafish," he said, and undid the belt of his robe. He took
off the robe. His shoulders were white and narrow, and his trunks
were royal blue. He folded the robe, first lengthwise, then in
thirds. He unrolled the towel he had used over his eyes, spread it
out on the sand, and then laid the folded robe on top of it. He bent
over, picked up the float, and secured it under his right arm. Then,
with his left hand, he took Sybil's hand.

two started to walk down to the ocean.

imagine you've seen quite a few bananafish in your day," the
young man said.

shook her head.

haven't? Where do you live, anyway?"

don't know," said Sybil.

you know. You must know. Sharon Lipschutz knows where she lives and
she's only three and a half."

stopped walking and yanked her hand away from him. She picked up an
ordinary beach shell and looked at it with elaborate interest. She
threw it down. "Whirly Wood, Connecticut," she said, and
resumed walking, stomach foremost.

Wood, Connecticut," said the young man. "Is that anywhere
near Whirly Wood, Connecticut, by any chance?"

looked at him. "That's where I live," she said impatiently.
"I live in Whirly Wood, Connecticut." She ran a few steps
ahead of him, caught up her left foot in her left hand, and hopped
two or three times.

have no idea how clear that makes everything," the young man

released her foot. "Did you read `Little Black Sambo'?" she

very funny you ask me that," he said. "It so happens I just
finished reading it last night." He reached down and took back
Sybil's hand. "What did you think of it?" he asked her.

the tigers run all around that tree?"

thought they'd never stop. I never saw so many tigers."

were only six," Sybil said.

six!" said the young man. "Do you call that only?"

you like wax?" Sybil asked.

I like what?" asked the young man. "Wax."

much. Don't you?"

nodded. "Do you like olives?" she asked.

Olives and wax. I never go anyplace without 'em."

you like Sharon Lipschutz?" Sybil asked.

Yes, I do," said the young man. "What I like particularly
about her is that she never does anything mean to little dogs in the
lobby of the hotel. That little toy bull that belongs to that lady
from Canada, for instance. You probably won't believe this, but some
little girls like to poke that little dog with balloon sticks. Sharon
doesn't. She's never mean or unkind. That's why I like her so much."

was silent.

like to chew candles," she said finally.

doesn't?" said the young man, getting his feet wet. "Wow!
It's cold." He dropped the rubber float on its back. "No,
wait just a second, Sybil. Wait'll we get out a little bit."

waded out till the water was up to Sybil's waist. Then the young man
picked her up and laid her down on her stomach on the float.

you ever wear a bathing cap or anything?" he asked.

let go," Sybil ordered. "You hold me, now."

Carpenter. Please. I know my business," the young man said. "You
just keep your eyes open for any bananafish. This is a perfect day
for bananafish."

don't see any," Sybil said.

understandable. Their habits are very peculiar." He kept pushing
the float. The water was not quite up to his chest. "They lead a
very tragic life," he said. "You know what they do, Sybil?"

shook her head.

they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very
ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they
behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a
banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged
the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally,
after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't
fit through the door."

too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"

happens to who?"


you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the
banana hole?"

said Sybil.

I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."

asked Sybil.

they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."

comes a wave," Sybil said nervously.

ignore it. We'll snub it," said the young man. "Two snobs."
He took Sybil's ankles in his hands and pressed down and forward. The
float nosed over the top of the wave. The water soaked Sybil's blond
hair, but her scream was full of pleasure.

her hand, when the float was level again, she wiped away a flat, wet
band of hair from her eyes, and reported, "I just saw one."

what, my love?"


God, no!" said the young man. "Did he have any bananas in
his mouth?"

said Sybil. "Six."

young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil's wet feet, which were
drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.

said the owner of the foot, turning around.

yourselfl We're going in now. You had enough?"


he said, and pushed the float toward shore until Sybil got off it. He
carried it the rest of the way.

said Sybil, and ran without regret in the direction of the hotel.

young man put on his robe, closed the lapels tight, and jammed his
towel into his pocket. He picked up the slimy wet, cumbersome float
and put it under his arm. He plodded alone through the soft, hot sand
toward the hotel.

the sub-main floor of the hotel, which the management directed
bathers to use, a woman with zinc salve on her nose got into the
elevator with the young man.

BOOK: Nine Stories
6.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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