Authors: J. D. Salinger
you put anything on it?"
brother carried his wound slightly forward from his chest and
unveiled it for Ginnie's benefit. "Just some goddam toilet
paper," he said. "Stopsa bleeding. Like when you cut
yourself shaving." He looked at Ginnie again. "Who are
you?" he asked. "Friend of the jerk's?"
in the same class."
What's your name?"
Ginnie?" he said, squinting at her through his glasses. "You
said Ginnie, uncrossing her legs.
brother turned back to his finger, obviously for him the true and
only focal point in the room. "I know your sister," he said
dispassionately. "Goddam snob."
arched her back.
is not a snob!"
hell she's not," said Selena's brother.
hell she's not. She's the queen. Queen of the goddam snobs."
watched him left up and peer under the thick folds of toilet paper on
don't even know my sister."
her name? What's her first name?" Ginnie demanded.
. . . Joan the Snob."
was silent. "What's she look like?" she asked suddenly.
she look like?" Ginnie repeated.
she was half as good-looking as she thinks she is, she'd be goddam
lucky," Selena's brother said. This had the stature of an
interesting answer, in Ginnie's secret opinion.
never heard her mention you," she said.
worries me. That worries hell outa me."
she's engaged," Ginnie said, watching him. "She's gonna be
married next month."
to?" he asked, looking up.
took full advantage of his having looked up. "Nobody you know."
resumed picking at his own first-aid work. "I pity him," he
still bleedin' like mad. Ya think I oughta put something on it?
What's good to put on it? Mercurochrome any good?"
better," Ginnie said. Then, feeling her answer was too civil
under the circumstances, she added, "Mercurochrome's no good at
all for that."
not? What's the matter with it?"
just isn't any good for that stuff, that's all. Ya need iodine."
looked at Ginnie. "It stings a lot, though, doesn't it?" he
asked. "Doesn't it sting a helluva lot?"
stings," Ginnie said, "but it won't kill you or anything."
without resenting Ginnie's tone, Selena's brother turned back to his
finger. "I don't like it when it stings," he said.
nodded in agreement. "Yeah," he said.
watched him for a minute. "Stop touching it," she said
though responding to an electric shock, Selena's brother pulled back
his uninjured hand. He sat up a trifle straighter--or rather, slumped
a trifle less. He looked at some object on the other side of the
room. An almost dreamy expression came over his disorderly features.
He inserted the nail of his uninjured index finger into the crevice
between two front teeth and, removing a food particle, turned to
Ginnie. "Jeat jet?" he asked.
shook her head. "I'll eat when I get home," she said. "My
mother always has lunch ready for me when I get home."
got a half a chicken sandwich in my room. Ya want it? I didn't touch
it or anything."
thank you. Really."
just played tennis, for Chrissake. Aren'tcha hungry?"
isn't that," said Ginnie, crossing her legs. "It's just
that my mother always has lunch ready when I get home. She goes
insane if I'm not hungry, I mean."
brother seemed to accept this explanation. At least, he nodded and
looked away. But he turned back suddenly. "How 'bout a glassa
milk?" he said.
thanks.... Thank you, though."
he bent over and scratched his bare ankle. "What's the name of
this guy she's marrying?" he asked.
you mean?" said Ginnie. "Dick Heffner."
brother went on scratching his ankle.
a lieutenant commander in the Navy," Ginnie said.
giggled. She watched him scratch his ankle till it was red. When he
began to scratch off a minor skin eruption on his calf with his
fingernail, she stopped watching.
do you know Joan from?" she asked. "I never saw you at the
house or anything."
been at your goddam house."
waited, but nothing led away from this statement. "Where'd you
meet her, then?" she asked.
a party? When?"
don't know. Christmas, '42." From his breast pajama pocket he
two-fingered out a cigarette that looked as though it had been slept
on. "How 'bout throwing me those matches?" he said. Ginnie
handed him a box of matches from the table beside her. He lit his
cigarette without straightening out its curvature, then replaced the
used match in the box. Tilting his head back, he slowly released an
enormous quantity of smoke from his mouth and drew it up through his
nostrils. He continued to smoke in this "French-inhale"
style. Very probably, it was not part of the sofa vaudeville of a
showoff but, rather, the private, exposed achievement of a young man
who, at one time or another, might have tried shaving himself
Joan a snob?" Ginnie asked.
Because she is. How the hell do I know why?"
but I mean why do you say she is?"
turned to her wearily. "Listen. I wrote her eight goddam
letters. Eight. She didn't answer one of 'em."
hesitated. "Well, maybe she was busy."
Busy. Busy as a little goddam beaver."
you have to swear so much?" Ginnie asked.
right I do."
giggled. "How long did you know her, anyway?" she asked.
I mean did you ever phone her up or anything? I mean didn't you ever
phone her up or anything?"
my gosh. If you never phoned her up or any--"
couldn't, for Chrissake!"
not?" said Ginnie.
in New York."
Where were you?"
were you in college?"
were you in the Army?"
With his cigarette hand, Selena's brother tapped the left side of his
chest. "Ticker," he said.
heart, ya mean?" Ginnie said. "What's the matter with it?"
don't know what the hell's the matter with it. I had rheumatic fever
when I was a kid. Goddam pain in the--"
aren't you supposed to stop smoking? I mean aren't you supposed to
not smoke and all? The doctor told my--"
they tellya a lotta stuff," he said.
briefly held her fire. Very briefly. "What were you doing in
Ohio?" she asked.
Working in a goddam airplane factory."
were?" said Ginnie. "Did you like it?"
you like it?'" he mimicked. "I loved it. I just adore
airplanes. They're so cute."
was much too involved now to feel affronted. "How long did you
work there? In the airplane factory."
don't know, for Chrissake. Thirty-seven months." He stood up and
walked over to the window. He looked down at the street, scratching
his spine with his thumb. "Look at 'em," he said. "Goddam
don't know. Anybody."
finger'll start bleeding more if you hold it down that way,"
heard her. He put his left foot up on the window seat and rested his
injured hand on the horizontal thigh. He continued to look down at
the street. "They're all goin' over to the goddam draft board,"
he said. "We're gonna fight the Eskimos next. Know that?"
who?" said Ginnie.
Eskimos.... Open your ears, for Chrissake."
don't know why. How the hell should I know why? This time all the old
guys're gonna go. Guys around sixty. Nobody can go unless they're
around sixty," he said. "Just give 'em shorter hours is
all. ... Big deal."
wouldn't have to go, anyway," Ginnie said, without meaning
anything but the truth, yet knowing before the statement was
completely out that she was saying the wrong thing.
know," he said quickly, and took his foot down from the window
seat. He raised the window slightly and snapped his cigarette
streetward. Then he turned, finished at the window. "Hey. Do me
a favor. When this guy comes, willya tell him I'll be ready in a
coupla seconds? I just gotta shave is all. O.K.?"
want me to hurry Selena up or anything? She know you're here?"
she knows I'm here," Ginnie said. "I'm in no hurry. Thank
brother nodded. Then he took a last, long look at his injured finger,
as if to see whether it was in condition to make the trip back to his
don't you put a Band-Aid on it? Don't you have any Band-Aid or
he said. "Well. Take it easy." He wandered out of the room.
a few seconds, he was back, bringing the sandwich half.
this," he said. "It's good."
I'm not at all--"
it, for Chrissake. I didn't poison it or anything."
accepted the sandwich half. "Well, thank you very much,"
chicken," he said, standing over her, watching her. "Bought
it last night in a goddam delicatessen."
looks very good."
eat it, then."
took a bite.
swallowed with difficulty. "Very," she said.
brother nodded. He looked absently around the room, scratching the
pit of his chest. "Well, I guess I better get dressed.... Jesus!
There's the bell. Take it easy, now!" He was gone.
alone, Ginnie looked around, without getting up, for a good place to
throw out or hide the sandwich. She heard someone coming through the
foyer. She put the sandwich into her polo-coat pocket.
young man in his early thirties, neither short nor tall, came into
the room. His regular features, his short haircut, the cut of his
suit, the pattern of his foulard necktie gave out no really final
information. He might have been on the staff, or trying to get on the
staff, of a news magazine. He might have just been in a play that
closed in Philadelphia. He might have been with a law firm.
he said, cordially, to Ginnie. "Hello."
Franklin?" he asked.
shaving. He told me to tell you to wait for him. He'll be right out."
Good heavens." The young man looked at his wristwatch. He then
sat down in a red damask chair, crossed his legs, and put his hands
to his face. As if he were generally weary, or had just undergone
some form of eyestrain, he rubbed his closed eyes with the tips of
his extended fingers. "This has been the most horrible morning
of my entire life," he said, removing his hands from his face.
He spoke exclusively from the larynx, as if he were altogether too
tired to put any diaphragm breath into his words.
happened?" Ginnie asked, looking at him.
. . . It's too long a story. I never bore people I haven't known for
at least a thousand years." He stared vaguely, discontentedly,
in the direction of the windows. "But I shall never again
consider myself even the remotest judge of human nature. You may
quote me wildly on that."
happened?" Ginnie repeated.
God. This person who's been sharing my apartment for months and
months and months--I don't even want to talk about him.... This
writer," he added with satisfaction, probably remembering a
favorite anathema from a Hemingway novel.