As they prepared themselves to go ashore no one doubted in theory that at least a certain percentage of them would remain on the island dead, once they set foot on it. But no one expected to be one of these. Still it was an awesome thought and as the first contingents came struggling up on deck in full gear to form up, all eyes instinctively sought out immediately this island where they were to be put, and left, and which might possibly turn out to be a friend's grave.
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I like it too, " Angelo said. "I love this country. Much you and anybody, and you know it." "I know it, " Prew said. "But I still hate this country. You love the Army. But I dont love the Army. This country's Army is why I hate this country. What did this country ever do for me? Gimme a right to vote for men I cant elect? You can have it. Gimme a right to work at a job I hate? You can have that too. Then tell I'm a Citizen of the greatest richest country on earth, if I dont believe it look at Park Avenue. Carnival prizes. All carnival prizes. [..] They shouldnt teach their immigrants' kids all about democracy unless they mean to let them have a little bit of it, it ony makes for trouble. Me and the United States is dissociating our alliance as of right now, until the United States can find time to read its own textbooks a little." Prew thought, a little sickly, of the little book, The Man Without A Country that his mother used to read to him so often, and how the stern patriotic judge condemned the man to live on a warship where no one could ever mention home to him the rest of his whole life, and how he had always felt that pinpoint of pleased righteous anger at seeing the traitor get what he deserved.
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I cant take it like this much longer, Milt, " Karen said muffledly into the big CKC shirt with its male smell, allowing herself the luxury of letting the bars all the way down for once, enjoying for just this moment the eternal degradation of being a woman. "I cant take it much longer, " she whimpered, tasting it, the eternally caught and held hard in the grasp of some man, the forever humiliated heavy weight it was impossible to squirm out from under, the forever helpless except for the mercy of him who always takes what he wants without any, and that all women learn instinctively not to expect [... ] That was all they wanted. That was all any of them wanted. You give them the greatest thing you possess, the most intimate secret, and they - just take it. Well, let them have it. Let them all have some of it. Let them root and rut and rowel, as if it was no more important than that why were they all so anxious to keep it away from each other?
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He could not believe that any of them might actually hit somebody. If one did, what a nowhere way to go: killed by accident; slain not as an individual but by sheer statistical probability, by the calculated chance of searching fire, even as he himself might be at any moment. Mathematics! Mathematics! Algebra! Geometry! When 1st and 3d Squads came diving and tumbling back over the tiny crest, Bell was content to throw himself prone, press his cheek to the earth, shut his eyes, and lie there. God, oh, God! Why am I here? Why am I here? After a moment's thought, he decided he better change it to: why are we here. That way, no agency of retribution could exact payment from him for being selfish.
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All right, he thought, okay; if thats the way it is; a savagery of anger in him now at the picture. They call them "pin-up girls" and think its cute how "our boys, " now that they're drafted, love to hang them in their wall lockers. And then close up all the whorehouses, every place they can, so our young men will not be contaminated.
One way, he thought, the whole thing of ring fighting was hurting somebody else, deliberately, and particularly when it was not necessary. Two men who have nothing against each other get in a ring and try to hurt each other, to provide vicarious fear for people with less guts than themselves. And to cover it up they called it sports and gambled on it. He had never looked at that way before, and if there was any single thing he could not endure it was to be a dupe.
But he had always believed in fighting for the underdog, against the top dog. He had learned it, not from The Home, or The School, or The Church, but from that fourth and other great moulder of social conscience, The Movies. From all those movies that had begun to come out when Roosevelt went in. He had been a kid back then, a kid who had not been on the bum yet, but he was raised up on all those movies that they made then, the ones that were between '32 and '37 and had not yet degenerated into commercial imitations of themselves like the Dead End Kid perpetual series that we have now. He had grown up with them, those movies like the every first Dead End, like Winternet, like Grapes Of Wrath, like Dust Be My Destiny, and those other movies starring John Garfield and the Lane girls, and the on-the-bum and prison pictures starring James Cagney and George Raft and Henry Fonda.
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Weary looked at him and shook his head and put the tailgate up and drove down the gravel towards the bivouac, carrying two drunks, who both fatuously imagined, that once in a dream somewhere, sometime, someplace, they had managed for a moment to touch another human soul and understand it.
When compared to the fact that he might very well be dead by this time tomorrow, whether he was courageous or not today was pointless, empty. When compared to the fact that he might be dead tomorrow, everything was pointless. It just didn't make any difference. It was pointless to the tree, it was pointless to every man in his outfit, pointless to everybody in the whole world. Who cared? It was not pointless only to him; and when he was dead, when he ceased to exist, it would be pointless to him too. More important: Not only would it be pointless, it would have been pointless all along. This was an obscure and rather difficult point to grasp. Understanding of it kept slipping in and out on the edges of his mind. It flickered, changing its time sense and tenses. At those moments when he understood it, it left him with a very hollow feeling.
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Sitting on the porch alone, listening to them fixing supper, he felt again the indignation he had felt before, the sense of loss and the aloneness, the utter defenselessness that was each man's lot, sealed up in his bee cell from all the others in the world. But the smelling of boiling vegetables and pork reached him from the inside, the aloneness left him for a while. The warm moist smell promised other people lived and were preparing supper. He listened to the pouring and the thunder rumblings that sounded hollow like they were in a rainbarrel, shared the excitement and the coziness of the buzzing insects that had sought refuge on the porch, and now and then he slapped detachedly at the mosquitoes, making a sharp crack in the pouring buzzing silence. The porch sheltered him from all but the splashes of the drops that hit the floor and their spray touched him with a pleasant chill. And he was secure, because someewhere out beyond the wall of water humanity still existed, and was preparing supper.
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And the strange thing was he had never loved her more than in that moment, because at that moment she had become himself. But thats not love, he thought, thats not what she wants, not what any of them want, they do not want you to find yourself in them, they want instead that you should lose yourself in them. And yet, he thought, they are always trying to find themselves in you. [... ] And it seemed to him then that every human was always looking for himself, in bars, in railway trains, in offices, in mirrors, in love, especially in love, for the self of him that is there, someplace, in every other human. Love was not to give oneself, but find oneself, describe oneself. And that the whole conception had been written wrong. Because the only part of any man that he can ever touch or understand is that part of himself he recognises in him. And that he is always looking for the way in which he can expose his sealed bee cell and reach the other airtight cells with which he is connected in the waxy comb. And the only way he had ever found, the only code, the only language by which he could speak and be heard by other men, could communicate himself, was with a bugle. If you had a bugle here, he told himself, you could speak to her and be understood, you could play Fatigue Call for her, with its tiredness, its heavy belly going out to sweep somebody else's streets when it would rather stay home and sleep, she would understand it then. But you havent got a bugle, himself said, not here nor any other place. Your tongue has been ripped out. All you got is two bottles, one nearly full, one nearly empty.
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Up until then it had only been himself. Up to then it had been a private wrestle between him and himself. Nobody else much entered into it. After the people came into it he was, of course, a different man. Everything had changed then and he was no longer the virgin, with the virgin's right to insist upon platonic love. Life, in time, takes every maidenhead, even if it has to dry it up; it does not matter how the owner wants to keep it. Up to then he had been the young idealist. But he could not stay there. Not after the other people entered into it.
He knew how to handle pain. You had to lie down with pain, not draw back away from it. You let yourself sort of move around the outside edge of pain like with cold water until you finally got up your nerve to take yourself in hand. Then you took a deep breath and dove in and let yourself sink down it clear to the bottom. And after you had been down inside pain a while you found that like with cold water it was not nearly as cold as you had thought it was when your muscles were cringing themselves away from the outside edge of it as you moved around it trying to get up your nerve. He knew pain.
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Everybody talks about freedom, citizens, " the big man said gently, seeming to draw upon that very sure source of personal knowledge again, "but they dont really want it. Half of them wants it but the other half dont. What they really want is to maintain an illusion of freedom in front of their wives and business associates. Its a satisfactory compromise, and as long they can have that they can get along without the other which is more expensive. The only trouble is, every man who declares himself free to his friends has to make a slave out of his wife and employees to keep up the illusion and prove it; the wife to be free in front of her bridgeclub has to command her Help, Husband and Heirs. It resolves itself into a battle; whoever wins, the other one loses. For every general in this world there have to be 6, 000 privates.
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He could not blame the Army, Angelo could blame the Army; Angelo hated the Army. But he didnt hate the Army, not even now. He remembered what Maureen had told him once that it was the system that was at fault. But he could not even blame the system, because the system was not anything, it was only a kind of accumulation of everybody, and you could not blame everybody, not unless you wanted the blame to become diluted into a meaningless term, a just nothing. Besides, this system here in this country was the best system the world had ever produced, wasnt it? This system was by far and above the best system anywhere else in the world today. He felt if he did not find somebody to blame pretty soon he would hate everybody.
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