Read Nine Stories Online

Authors: J. D. Salinger

Nine Stories (4 page)

look at me," said Eloise.

Jane looked back at Ramona. "Oh, I see. Jimmy's just a
make-believe little boy. Marvellous." Mary Jane leaned forward
cordially. "How do you do, Jimmy?" she said.

won't talk to you," said Eloise. "Ramona, tell Mary Jane
about Jimmy."

her what?"

up, please. . . . Tell Mary Jane how Jimmy looks."

has green eyes and black hair."


mommy and no daddy."






don't know," said Ramona, and began to scratch herself again.

sounds beautiful!" Mary Jane said, and leaned even farther
forward in her chair. "Ramona. Tell me. Did Jimmy take off his
galoshes, too, when you came in?"

has boots," Ramona said.

Mary Jane said to Eloise.

just think so. I get it all day long. Jimmy eats with her. Takes a
bath with her. Sleeps with her. She sleeps way over to one side of
the bed, so's not to roll over and hurt him."

absorbed and delighted with this information, Mary Jane took in her
lower lip, then released it to ask, "Where'd he get that name,

Jimmereeno? God knows."

from some little boy in the neighborhood."

yawning, shook her head. "There are no little boys in the
neighborhood. No children at all. They call me Fertile Fanny behind

Ramona said, "can I go out and play?"

looked at her. "You just came in," she said.

wants to go out again."

may I ask?"

left his sword outside."

him and his goddam sword," Eloise said. "Well. Go ahead.
Put your galoshes back on."

I have this?" Ramona said, taking a burned match out of the

I have this. Yes. Stay out of the street, please."

Ramona!" Mary Jane said musically.

said Ramona. "C'mon, Jimmy."

lunged suddenly to her feet. "Gimme your glass," she said.

really, El. I'm supposed to be in Larchmont. I mean Mr. Weyinburg's
so sweet, I hate to--"

up and say you were killed. Let go of that damn glass."

honestly, El. I mean it's getting so terribly icy. I have hardly any
anti-freeze in the car. I mean if I don't--"

it freeze. Go phone. Say you're dead," said Eloise. "Gimme

. . . Where's the phone?"

went," said Eloise, carrying the empty glasses and walking
toward the dining room, "--this-a-way." She stopped short
on the floor board between the living room and the dining room and
executed a grind and a bump. Mary Jane giggled.

mean you didn't really know Walt," said Eloise at a quarter of
five, lying on her back on the floor, a drink balanced upright on her
small-breasted chest. "He was the only boy I ever knew that
could make me laugh. I mean really laugh." She looked over at
Mary Jane. "You remember that night--our last year--when that
crazy Louise Hermanson busted in the room wearing that black
brassiere she bought in Chicago?"

Jane giggled. She was lying on her stomach on the couch, her chin on
the armrest, facing Eloise. Her drink was on the floor, within reach.

he could make me laugh that way," Eloise said. "He could do
it when he talked to me. He could do it over the phone. He could even
do it in a letter. And the best thing about it was that he didn't
even try to be funny--he just was funny." She turned her head
slightly toward Mary Jane. "Hey, how 'bout throwing me a

can't reach 'em," Mary Jane said.

to you." Eloise looked up at the ceiling again. "Once,"
she said, "I fell down. I used to wait for him at the bus stop,
right outside the PX, and he showed up late once, just as the bus was
pulling out. We started to run for it, and I fell and twisted my
ankle. He said, `Poor Uncle Wiggily.' He meant my ankle. Poor old
Uncle Wiggily, he called it. . . . God, he was nice."

Lew have a sense of humor?" Mary Jane said.


Lew have a sense of humor?"

God! Who knows? Yes. I guess so. He laughs at cartoons and stuff."
Eloise raised her head, lifted her drink from her chest, and drank
from it.

Mary Jane said. "That isn't everything. I mean that isn't


. . . you know. Laughing and stuff."

says it isn't?" Eloise said. "Listen, if you're not gonna
be a nun or something, you might as well laugh."

Jane giggled. "You're terrible," she said.

God, he was nice," Eloise said. "He was either funny or
sweet. Not that damn little-boy sweet, either. It was a special kind
of sweet. You know what he did once?"

Mary Jane said.

were on the train going from Trenton to New York--it was just right
after he was drafted. It was cold in the car and I had my coat sort
of over us. I remember I had Joyce Morrow's cardigan on
underneath--you remember that darling blue cardigan she had?"

Jane nodded, but Eloise didn't look over to get the nod.

he sort of had his hand on my stomach. You know. Anyway, all of a
sudden he said my stomach was so beautiful he wished some officer
would come up and order him to stick his other hand through the
window. He said he wanted to do what was fair. Then he took his hand
away and told the conductor to throw his shoulders back. He told him
if there was one thing he couldn't stand it was a man who didn't look
proud of his uniform. The conductor just told him to go back to
sleep." Eloise reflected a moment, then said, "It wasn't
always what he said, but how he said it. You know."

you ever told Lew about him--I mean, at all?"

Eloise said, "I started to, once. But the first thing he asked
me was what his rank was."

was his rank?"

said Eloise.

I just meant--"

laughed suddenly, from her diaphragm. "You know what he said
once? He said he felt he was advancing in the Army, but in a
different direction from everybody else. He said that when he'd get
his first promotion, instead of getting stripes he'd have his sleeves
taken away from him. He said when he'd get to be a general, he'd be
stark naked. All he'd be wearing would be a little infantry button in
his navel." Eloise looked over at Mary Jane, who wasn't
laughing. "Don't you think that's funny?"

Only, why don't you tell Lew about him sometime, though?"

Because he's too damn unintelligent, that's why," Eloise said.
"Besides. Listen to me, career girl. If you ever get married
again, don't tell your husband anything. Do you hear me?"

said Mary Jane.

I say so, that's why," said Eloise. "They wanna think you
spent your whole life vomiting every time a boy came near you. I'm
not kidding, either. Oh, you can tell them stuff. But never honestly.
I mean never honestly. If you tell 'em you once knew a handsome boy,
you gotta say in the same breath he was too handsome. And if you tell
'em you knew a witty boy, you gotta tell 'em he was kind of a smart
aleck, though, or a wise guy. If you don't, they hit you over the
head with the poor boy every time they get a chance." Eloise
paused to drink from her glass and to think. "Oh," she
said, "they'll listen very maturely and all that. They'll even
look intelligent as hell. But don't let it fool you. Believe me.
You'll go through hell if you ever give 'em any credit for
intelligence. Take my word."

Jane, looking depressed, raised her chin from the armrest of the
couch. For a change, she supported her chin on her forearm. She
thought over Eloise's advice. "You can't call Lew not
intelligent," she said aloud.


mean isn't he intelligent?" Mary Jane said innocently.

said Eloise, "what's the use of talking? Let's drop it. I'll
just depress you. Shut me up."

wudga marry him for, then?" Mary Jane said.

God! I don't know. He told me he loved Jane Austen. He told me her
books meant a great deal to him. That's exactly what he said. I found
out after we were married that he hadn't even read one of her books.
You know who his favorite author is?"

Jane shook her head.

Manning Vines. Ever hear of him?"


did I. Neither did anybody else. He wrote a book about four men that
starved to death in Alaska. Lew doesn't remember the name of it, but
it's the most beautifully written book he's ever read. Christ! He
isn't even honest enough to come right out and say he liked it
because it was about four guys that starved to death in an igloo or
something. He has to say it was beautifully written."

too critical," Mary Jane said. "I mean you're too critical.
Maybe it was a good--"

my word for it, it couldn't've been," Eloise said. She thought
for a moment, then added, "At least, you have a job. I mean at
least you--"

listen, though," said Mary Jane. "Do you think you'll ever
tell him Walt was killed, even? I mean he wouldn't be jealous, would
he, if he knew Walt was--you know. Killed and everything."

lover! You poor, innocent little career girl," said Eloise.
"He'd be worse. He'd be a ghoul. Listen. All he knows is that I
went around with somebody named Walt--some wisecracking G.I. The last
thing I'd do would be to tell him he was killed. But the last thing.
And if I did--which I wouldn't--but if I did, I'd tell him he was
killed in action."

Jane pushed her chin farther forward over the edge of her forearm.

. ." she said.

won't you tell me how he was killed? I swear I won't tell anybody.
Honestly. Please."


Honestly. I won't tell anybody."

finished her drink and replaced the empty glass upright on her chest.
"You'd tell Akim Tamiroff," she said.

I wouldn't! I mean I wouldn't tell any--"

said Eloise, "his regiment was resting someplace. It was between
battles or something, this friend of his said that wrote me. Walt and
some other boy were putting this little Japanese stove in a package.
Some colonel wanted to send it home. Or they were taking it out of
the package to rewrap it--I don't know exactly. Anyway, it was all
full of gasoline and junk and it exploded in their faces. The other
boy just lost an eye." Eloise began to cry. She put her hand
around the empty glass on her chest to steady it.

Jane slid off the couch and, on her knees, took three steps over to
Eloise and began to stroke her forehead. "Don't cry, El. Don't

crying?" Eloise said.

know, but don't. I mean it isn't worth it or anything.

front door opened.

Ramona back," Eloise said nasally. "Do me a favor. Go out
in the kitchen and tell whosis to give her her dinner early. Willya?"

right, if you promise not to cry, though."

promise. Go on. I don't feel like going out to that damn kitchen
right this minute."

Jane stood up, losing and recovering her balance, and left the room.

was back in less than two minutes, with Ramona running ahead of her.
Ramona ran as flatfooted as possible, trying to get the maximum noise
out of her open galoshes.

wouldn't let me take her galoshes off," Mary Jane said.

still lying on her back on the floor, was using her handkerchief. She
spoke into it, addressing Ramona. "Go out and tell Grace to take
your galoshes off. You know you're not supposed to come into the--"

in the lavatory," Ramona said.

put away her handkerchief and hoisted herself to a sitting position.
"Gimme your foot," she said. "Sit down, first, please.
. . . Not there--here. God!"

her knees, looking under the table for her cigarettes, Mary Jane
said, "Hey. Guess what happened to Jimmy."

idea. Other foot. Other foot."

got runned over," said Mary Jane. "Isn't that tragic?"

saw Skipper with a bone," Ramona told Eloise.

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