来自塞林格

《九故事》第三篇:就在跟爱斯基摩人开战之前

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马飞 发布于 2011-5-25 20:22:00
    接连五个星期六的上午,吉尼·曼诺克斯都跟她在贝斯霍尔小姐学校的同班同学塞利纳·格拉夫一起,在东区网球场打网球。吉尼毫不掩饰地认为,在贝斯霍尔小姐的学校里——这所学校明摆着全都是大号的讨厌鬼——而塞利纳更个特大号的讨厌鬼,但同时她又从没听说过有人能像塞利纳那样带来一筒又一筒崭新的网球。莫非塞利纳她爸是造网球的不成。(有一天吃晚饭时,为了让曼诺克斯全家长点见识,吉尼描绘出一幅格拉夫家用餐时的景象;说是那儿有个她得挑不出一点毛病的仆人,他来到每位就餐者的左侧,送上的并非一杯番茄汁,而是一筒网球。)可是,每回打完球,都是先送塞利纳到她家门口下车,而全部的出租车车费却由吉尼一个人来出——哪一回都是这样——这事让吉尼很痛快。何况出了网球场坐出租车而不是乘公共汽车回家还是塞利纳的主意。到了第五个星期六,出租车开始沿着约克大街向北行驶时,吉尼突然发难了。
  “嗨,塞利纳……”
  “什么事?”塞利纳问,她正忙着用一只手在出租车地板上摸来摸去。“我找不到我的网球拍套子了!”她呻吟着说。
  尽管5月天气已经很暖和,两个姑娘还是在短球裤外面套了一件薄大衣。
  “你把它塞在衣服口袋里了,”吉尼说。“嗨,听我说——”
  “噢,上帝!你真是救了我一命!”
  “听着,”吉尼说,根本不想听塞利纳的甜言蜜语。
  “什么事儿?”
  吉尼决定直截了当把话挑明。出租车快到塞利纳住的那条街了。“我今天不想再一个人出全部的车费了,”她说。“我又不是百万富翁,你知道的。”
  塞利纳先是觉得惊奇,接下去则是感到受了伤害。“我不是每回都出一半的车钱吗?”她问,显得挺冤枉似的。
  “没有,”吉尼不客气地说。“你就头一个星期付了一半。那还是上个月月初的事。以后就一次也没有付过。我不是想斤斤计较,可是事实上我一星期就靠那四十五块钱活着。这笔钱我得用来——”
  “球每回都是我带来的,不是吗?”塞利纳挺不高兴地说。
  有时候,吉尼真想把塞利纳宰了。“那是你爸爸自个儿做的,反正差不多就是这么回事,”她说。“这些球不用你花一个子儿,而我却得出钱为你每一件小——”
  “行了,行了。”塞利纳说,声音很响而且摆出一副不必再谈的模样,以使自己显得占了上风。她很不耐烦似的摸遍了大衣的每一只口袋。“我只有三十五分,”她冷冰冰地说。“够了吧?”
  “不够。对不起,你欠我的是一元六十一分。我可记着账呢,关于每一次的——”
  “那我还得上楼去跟我妈要呢。就不能等到星期一啦?早知道你喜欢这样我是可以带着钱去体育馆的。”
  塞利纳的态度毫无妥协的余地。
  “不行,”吉尼说。“我今晚必须去看电影。我得用钱。”
  两个姑娘都憋着气,一言不发,各自往自己一边的窗外望着,直到车子在塞利纳所住的公寓前停下。接着,坐在靠便道一边的塞利纳钻出汽车。她只让汽车门留下一道缝,便轻快地而且是故作姿态地走进公寓楼,就像是去拜访好莱坞的大亨似的。吉尼脸都气红了,付了车费。接着她收拾起自己的打球用具——网拍、毛巾,还有遮阳帽,紧跟在塞利纳的后面。十五岁的吉尼大约身高 五英尺 九英寸 ,穿 9-B号网球鞋,她走进门厅时,自己也觉得她双橡皮跟球鞋太次,充分暴露出她是个一眼就能看出的业余生手。她这模样使塞利纳都不想看她,宁愿把双眼盯住在电梯顶头的指示灯上。
  “这下子你就欠我一块九了,”吉尼说,一边大步朝电梯走去。
  塞利纳扭过头来。“没准你会感到有趣,”她说,“我妈正病得厉害呢。”
  “她怎么啦?”
  “她可以说是得了肺炎,如果你以为我喜欢就为了钱的事去打扰她……“塞利纳尽了最大的努力沉着地说出了这半句话。
  事实上,吉尼情绪上已经为这个消息稍稍受了点影响,不管它在多大程度上是真实的,但是还没到使她心软的地步。“又不是我把病传染给她的,”她说,跟着塞利纳进了电梯。
  塞利纳按响她家套间的门铃,两个姑娘给让了进去——或者不如说,门让人朝里一拉任其半开着——开门的是个黑人女佣,看来塞利纳平时都跟她不搭话。吉尼把她的打网球用具扔在门厅的一把椅子上,跟着塞利纳往前走。进了起居间,塞利纳转过身来说,“你在这儿等一会儿好吗?我说不定还得叫醒妈妈什么的呢。”
  “好吧,”吉尼说,一屁股朝沙发上坐下去。
  “我怎么也没想到你居然会为一点点小事这么小气,”塞利纳说,她生气得很,用了“小气”这个词儿,但是胆子还不够大,没有在语气上加以强调。
  “现在你知道了吧,”吉尼说,打开放在她面前的一本《时尚》杂志。在塞利纳离开房间之前她一直都保持着这个姿势,然后才把它放回到收音机的顶上。她环顾了一下房间,在自己的想像中把家具都作了重新安排,那几只台灯得扔掉,那些假花得撤走。在她看来,这个房间丑陋不堪——钱花得不少却俗气得像蹩脚干酪。
  突然,一个男人的声音从公寓另一头传出来,“埃里克?那是你吗?”
  吉尼猜想这准是塞利纳的哥哥,此人她从末见到过。她叉起自己修长的双腿,把大衣下摆拉过膝盖,等着。
  一个戴眼镜,穿着睡衣睡裤,光着脚,嘴张开着的年轻人闯了进来。“哦, 我还以为是埃里克呢, 我的天,”他说。他没有站住,继续以他极不像样的步势穿过房间,把什么东西搂紧在自己狭窄的胸口前面。他在沙发空着的那头坐下。“我刚把我倒霉的手指割破了,”他挺激动地说。他看着吉尼像是早已想到她会坐在那儿似的。“你割破过手指吗?一直深到骨头那儿什么的?”他问。他吵吵闹闹的大嗓门里有一种真正恳求的声调,仿佛吉尼只要一回答,就可以免得他一个人出头独自受罪似的。
  吉尼盯着他看。“嗯,倒没一直割到骨头,”她说,割是割伤过的。“他是她见到过的模样最最可笑的男孩,或是男人了——到底该归到哪一类还真不好说。他的头发睡得乱蓬蓬的。稀稀落落的黄胡子有两三天没刮了。他显得——怎么说呢,挺傻的。”你是怎么割伤的?”她问。
  他正松开下巴低头盯看着自己受伤的手指。“什么?”他说。
  “你是怎么割伤的呢?”
  “妈的,我要知道才怪呢,”他说,语气里显得要回答这个问题那真是难上加难。“我方才在那只臭纸篓里寻找什么东西,那里却满是些刮脸的刀子。”
  “你是塞利纳的哥哥?”吉尼问道。
  “是的。天哪,我要流血致死了。别走开。没准我得输好多血呢。”
  “你抹药了吗?”
  塞利纳的哥哥把他的伤口从胸前往外伸伸,不再挡住好让吉尼看清楚。“就盖了他妈的一些手纸,”他说。“想止住血。刮脸刮破时也是这样做的。”他又看了看吉尼。“你是谁?”他问。“那蠢姑娘的朋友?”
  “我们是同一班级的。”
  “是吗?你叫什么名字?”
  “弗吉尼亚·曼诺克斯。”
  “你就是吉尼?”他说,透过眼镜斜瞟了她一眼,“你是吉尼·曼诺克斯?”
  “是的,”吉尼说,把她交叉的腿放平。
  塞利纳的哥哥的眼光又转回到自己的手指上去,显然,对他来说房间里只有这才是真正值得自己注意的焦点。“我认得你姐姐,”他毫无热情地说。“他妈的势利鬼一个。”
  吉尼像只猫似的拱起了自己的背。“你说谁是势利鬼?”
  “你听得清清楚楚的。”
  “她不是势利鬼!”
  “她不是才怪呢。她是大王。是势利鬼堆里的大势利鬼。”
  吉尼看着他抬起手指朝好几层手纸底下的伤口窥去。
  “你连我的姐姐都不认识。”
  “我怎么不认识。”
  “她叫什么名字?前面那个叫什么?”吉尼问道。
  “琼呗……大琼势利鬼。”
  吉尼不吭声了。“她长得什么模样?”突然,她又问道。
  没有回答。
  “她长得什么模样啊?”吉尼重复了句。
  “要是她长和有自己以为一半的那么好看,那就算撞上大运了,”塞利纳的哥哥说。
  吉尼暗自觉得,这样的回答倒挺有趣,有点水平。”我可从没听她提到过你嘛,“她说。
  “这就让我太担心了。这可让我担心得活不成了呢。”
  “再说,她反正也订了婚了,“吉尼说,盯看着他,”她下个月就要结婚了。”
  “跟谁?”他问,头抬了起来。
  吉尼充分利用他抬起了头的这个机会。“反正不是你认得的什么人。”
  他又重新去拨弄自己的急救措施。“我可怜他,”他说。
  吉尼嗤之以鼻。
  “血仍然流得很厉害呢。你看我是不是该上点药呢?上什么药好?红药水行吗?”
  “碘酒更好一些,”吉尼说。接着,觉得自己的回答在这样的情况下未免太客气了,又加了一句。“对那样的刀伤红药水根本不起作用。”
  “为什么不?道理何在?”
  “对那样的伤一点用也没有,反正就是没用。你得用碘酒。”
  他看着吉尼。“不过上碘酒珂疼哟,是不是?”他问。“疼得让人受不了吧。”
  “疼是疼,”吉尼说,“可是总不至于让你疼得死过去什么的吧。”
  塞利纳的哥哥显然对吉尼的口气根本不在意。他的注意力又转回到自己手指上去。“疼我可不喜欢,”他说。
  “没人喜欢疼。”
  他点点头表示同意。“是啊,”他说。
  吉尼看着他有一分钟。“别碰它了,”她突然说。
  就像受到电击似的,塞利纳的哥哥猛地缩回他那只未受伤的手。他稍稍坐直了些——或者不如说,身子稍往下缩了一些。他望着房间另一端的一件什么东西。那张邋里邋遢的脸上出现一种几乎是梦幻般的神情。他用那只末受伤食指的指甲去剔门牙缝,剔出了一粒食屑,他转向吉尼。“恰嘎啦?”他问。
  “什么?”
  “问你吃过午饭了吗?”
  吉尼摇摇头。“我回家再吃,”她说。“我回到家妈妈总给我准备她午饭的。”
  “我房间里还有半块鸡肉三明治。你要吃吗?我可一点儿也没碰过。”
  “不要,谢谢你。真的。”
  “你刚打过网球,这绝对错不了,你就不饿?”
  “倒不是那么回事,”吉尼说,又叉起了她的双腿。“只不过我回到家我妈妈总是把午饭准备好了。我的意思是,如果我吃不上她会发脾气的。”
  塞利纳的哥哥像是接受了这个解释。至少,他点了点头,目光转了开去。可是突然他又扭过头来。“来杯牛奶怎么样?”他说。
  “不了,谢谢……不管怎么说,还是谢谢你。”
  他心不在焉地弯下腰去,挠了挠没穿袜子的脚踝。“她要嫁的那家伙叫什么来着?”
  “你是说琼吧?”吉尼说。“叫,迪克·赫夫纳。”
  塞利纳的哥哥仍然在挠他的脚踝。
  “他是海军的一个少校,”吉尼说。
  “大买卖嘛。“
  吉尼格格地笑了。她看着他把脚踝都挠红了。到他开始用指甲把腿肚子上裂开的一小片皮刮下来时,她不再看了。
  “你在哪儿认识琼的?”她问。“我在家里和别处都从没见到过你嘛。”
  “压根儿就没去过你们那鬼家。”
  吉尼等着,可是这句话之后就没有下文了。“那你是在哪儿遇到她的呢?”她问。
  “在聚会上。”他说。
  “在一次聚会上?什么时候?”
  “我可说不清了。是1942年的圣诞节吧。”他用两根手指从睡衣胸前口袋里夹出一根香烟,看去像是睡觉时被压过的。“把那边的火柴扔给我行不行?”他说。吉尼把身边桌子上的一小盒火柴递给他。他连弯曲的香烟都不捏捏直便将它点燃,接着又把用过的那根火柴放回到小盒里去。他头往后一仰,慢慢地从嘴里吐出一大口烟,然后又把烟吸回到鼻孔里去。他继续以这种“法国式吸入法”抽烟。非常可能,这不是靠在沙发上显示的某种特技表演,而是一个在某段时间里没准曾试着用左手刮胡子的青年人那种想让人知道他个人能达成什么成就的炫耀。
  “为什么琼是势利鬼?”
  “为什么?因为她就是。我他妈的怎么会知道为什么?”
  “得,不守我问的是你为什么说她是?”
  他有气无力地转向她。“听着。我他妈的给她写过八封信。八封呢。她连一封也没有回。”
  吉尼迟疑了一下。“呃,说不定她那会儿正忙。”
  “是啊。忙。忙得他妈的像一只海狸。”
  “你说话非得带那么多脏话不行吗?”吉尼问道。
  “我他妈的就是非说不可。”
  吉尼格格地笑了。“说实在的,你认识她有多处啦?”她问。
  “时间够长的。”
  “哎,我的意思是你给打过电话什么的吗?我的意思是你打过电话什么的没有?”
  “那倒没有。”
  “嗨,我的天。如果你从来没给她打过电话什么的——”
  “我没法打,老天在上!”
  “干吗没法?”吉尼说。
  “那会儿我不在纽约。”
  “噢!那你在哪儿?”
  “我吗?在俄亥俄。”
  “噢,是上大学吗?”
  “不是,退学了。”
  “噢,那你在部队里?”
  “不是。”塞利纳的哥哥用捏着香烟的手敲击左胸。“这滴答响的玩意儿不行,”他说。
  “你的心脏,你是说?”吉尼说。“它怎么啦?”
  “我也说不上它他妈的有什么问题。我小时候得过风湿热。这儿他妈的疼——”
  “那么,你是不是不应该抽烟?我是说你是不是该戒烟什么的?医生告诉过我的——”
  “哎呀,他们就会说别这别那,”他说。
  吉尼控制住了自己。但只忍住很短的瞬间。“你在俄亥俄干什么来着?”她问。
  “我吗?在一家该死的飞机工厂里干活。”
  “你干过?”吉尼说。“你喜欢那活儿吗?”
  “‘你喜欢那活儿吗?'”他模仿地说。“我喜欢。我特爱飞机。它们是那么精巧绝伦。”
  吉尼此刻已经过于投入,以致都没觉出他是在说反话。“你在那儿干了多久?在哪家飞机厂?”“我说不上来,老天在上。三十七个月吧。”他站起来朝窗口走去。他朝底下的街道看去,一边用大拇指蹭刮自己的脊背。“瞧瞧他们,”他说。“十足的大傻瓜。”
  “谁?”吉尼说。
  “我说不上来。个个都是。”
  “如果你让手指这么往下垂,它又要开始流血了,”吉尼说。
  他听从了她的话。他把自己的左脚放到窗座上,把受伤的那只手搁在横着的大腿上。他继续朝下面街道看去。“这些人全都上他妈的征兵局去的,”他说。“我们挨下来就要跟爱斯基摩人开战了。知道不?”
  “跟谁?”吉尼说。
  “爱斯基摩人……竖起你的耳朵行不行,老天爷呀。”
  “为什么跟爱斯基摩人?”
  “为什么我可说不上来。我他妈的怎么会知道?这一回所有的老家伙都得上战场了。六十上下的老家伙。除了六十上下的,别人都去不了,“他说。”理由就是让老家伙早点儿死。……这笔买卖大赚了。”
  “你反正是不用去的了,”吉尼说,她也没什么用意只不过是说句实话罢了,可是话还没说完她就明白自己说了句不合适的话。
  “我知道,”他急急地说,一面把脚从窗座上放下来。他把窗子抬起一条缝,将烟屁股朝街上弹去。接着他转身,但转到窗前就停住了。“嗨,帮我个忙。那家伙来了,你能不能告诉他我一会儿就好。我最要紧的是得刮刮脸。行吗?”
  吉尼点点头。
  “你要我催催塞利纳还是怎么着?她知道你在这儿的吧?”
  “哦,她知道我在这儿,”吉尼说。“我不急。谢谢你。”
  塞利纳的哥哥点了点头,接着他朝他受伤的手指最后一次地看了许久,仿佛要研究伤口情况能不能允许他回自己房间去。
  “你为什么不用护创胶布贴一下呢?你就没有胶布这类东西吗?”
  “是没有,”他说,“哎,不要紧的。”他晃晃悠悠地走出房间。
  过了几秒钟,他又回来了,带着那半块三明治。
  “吃了吧,”他说。“味道不错的。”
  “真的,我一点也不——”
  “拿着,老天爷。我又没有投毒什么的。”
  吉尼接过那半块三明治。“那好,太谢谢你了,”她说。
  “是鸡肉的,”他说,站在她身边瞅着她。“是昨儿晚上在一家鬼样的熟食店买的。”
  “看上去不错。”
  “那好,吃了吧。”
  吉尼咬了一口。
  “是不错吧,嗯?”
  吉尼费劲地咽下去。“非常好,”她说。
  塞利纳的哥哥点点头。他心不在焉地扫视房内,挠了挠胸口凹陷处。“嗯,我咂摸我也得去穿衣服了……天哪!门铃响了。不过你不用慌!”说完他不见了。
  剩下她一个人,吉尼没有站起来,她环顾四周,找个合适的地方扔掉或是藏起三明治。她听到有人穿过门厅走来。她把三明治往自己运动外套口袋里一塞。
  一个年轻男子,三十刚出头,不高也不矮,走进房间。他面容没什么特点,头发留得短短的,西服样式、领带花纹也都很普通,让人看不出他的真实身份。他没准是一家新闻杂志社的工作人员,或是正打算去那儿谋职,他可能是个刚从费城的一场戏演出归来。他也可能是一家律师事务所里的人。
  “你好,”他亲切地对吉尼说。
  “你好。”
  “看到富兰克林了吗?”他问。
  “他在刮脸呢。他告诉我请你等一会儿。他马上就出来。”
  “刮脸。老天。”年轻人看了看自己的手表。接着他在一张大红缎子面的椅子上坐下来,跷起腿,用双手掩住脸。仿佛他一直很疲倦,或是刚干完一件很费眼力的工作,他用伸直的手指尖揉揉合上的又目。“这真是我整整一生中最最倒霉的一个下午了,”他说,一边把手从脸上挪开。他说话时光用喉头那口气发声,好像他真是精疲力竭,连横膈膜都动不了了。
  “出什么事啦?”吉尼问,朝他看去。
  “哦……说来话长了。不是我认识至少上千年的朋友,我是从来不拿自己的不顺心事让他们感到厌烦的。”他目光朦胧,充满失落感地朝窗口那边望去。“不过,我今后再也不认为自己对人性有任何最最细微的判断力了。我这话你可以随便引用。”
  “出什么事啦?”吉尼重又问了一遍。
  “哦,天哪。跟我同住一套公寓房间已有那么多月那么多月那么多月的那个人——我甚至都不想提起他……这个作家,”他得意地添上一句,也许是记起了海明威一部小说里的一个人人所共知的坏透了的人物形象。
  “他干什么啦?”
  “坦白地说,我宁愿不立刻进入细节描述,”那年轻人说,他从自己的烟盒里取出一根烟,没去理会桌子上的那个透明的保温烟罐,并且用自己的打火机点燃。他那双手挺大,看上去既不强有力也不灵活敏感。但是他使用双手时就仿佛它们本身就具有某种不易控制的艺术冲击力似的。“我已经下定决心连想都不去想这件事了。可是我实在是太气愤了,”他说。“我是说从宾夕法尼亚州阿尔土纳——或是某个这样的小地方,冒出来这么一个卑鄙小人。明摆着他都快要饿死了。我够好心仁义的——我十足是个好撒玛利亚人哪——竟把他收容进我的房间,这个绝对缩微的小套间连我自己在里面都几乎转不了身。我把他介绍给我所有的朋友,让他把他那些讨厌的稿纸、香烟屁股、生萝卜以及别的乱七八糟的东西塞满了整个套间。介绍他认识纽约的每一个戏剧界老板。到洗衣店去取送他那些肮脏的衬衣。这些都还不算——”年轻人打住了话头。“可是我全部的好心好意和高尚行为,”他又继续往下说了,“换来的却是他今天一清早五六点钟时的不辞而别——连张字条都没留下——带走了他那双下流肮脏的手够得着的所有东西。”他停下话头,懒洋洋地继续抽烟,并从嘴里吐出一股淡淡的带咝咝声音的烟。“我不想说这件事儿。我真的不想。”他朝吉尼身上看过来。“ 我喜欢你的外衣,”他说,已经从他椅子里站起身了。他走过来,把吉尼轻便大衣的翻领捏在自己几根手指之前。“这真可爱。这是战后我第一次见到的真正好驼绒。我能问问你是在哪儿买的吗?”
  “我妈妈从拿骚带回来的。”
  年轻人若有所思地点点头,退回到他椅子那边。“那可是能买到真正好驼绒的为数不多的地方之一。”他坐了下来。“她在那儿呆的时间长吗?”
  “什么?”吉尼说。
  “你母亲在那儿呆的时间长不长?我问你是因为我妈妈12月也在那儿,还有1月的上旬。我通常都是跟她一块儿去的,不过这一年里事情很乱我根本就抽不开身。”
  “我妈妈是 2 月份去的,”吉尼说。
  “太好了。她住在什么地方?你知道吗?”
  “我和姨住在一起。”
  他点了点头。“我能问你叫什么名字吗?我猜你是富兰克林妹妹的朋友吧?”
  “我们是同一班的,”吉尼说,只回答了他的第二个问题。
  “你不是塞利纳常提到的那位大名鼎鼎的马克辛吧?”
  “不是的,”吉尼说。
  那年轻人突然开始用手掌去擦拭他的裤腿口。“我浑身上下都是狗毛,”他说。“母亲去华盛顿度周末,把她的狗撂在我的公寓里了。那倒是条蛮有趣的狗,可是那些臭毛病真要不得。你有狗吗?”
  “没有。”
  “老实说,我认为把它们圈在城里是件残忍的事。”他不再拂拭了,往后靠着坐好,再次看了看他的手表。“我从来没听说这家伙哪次准时过。我们要去看科克托的《美女与野兽》,看这部电影你可真得准时。我是说如果你去晚了那整个魅力就全没了。你看过了吗?”
  “没有。”
  “噢,你可一定得看!我都看了八遍了。那可是纯粹的天才之作呀,”他说。“几个月以来,我一直在想方设法动员富兰克林去看。”他绝望地摇了摇头。“他的趣味呀。战争期间,我们俩在同一个鬼地方干活,那孩子硬要拖我去看世界上最最糟糕的影片。我们看了警匪片、西部片、音乐剧——”
  “你也在飞机厂干过活吗?”吉尼问道。
  “老天在上,正是这样。干了一年一年又一年。咱们不谈这个了,好吗?”
  “你也是心脏不好?”
  “上帝保佑,没有什么不好。咱们敲敲木头吧 [ 注:有种说法认为用手碰碰木头可以避邪 ] 。”他两次敲击了椅子的扶手。“我的体质可是——”
  塞利纳走进房间时,吉尼快快地站起身来迎上前去。塞利纳已经把短裤换成了一条裙子。在一般情况下,这样的事会使吉尼很不愉快的。
  “真对不起,让你久等了,“塞利纳言不由衷地说,”但我必须等我母亲醒过来……你好,埃里克。”
  “你好,你好!”
  “这钱我还是不收算了,”吉尼说,把嗓子压得低低的只上塞利纳一人能听见。
  “什么?”
  “我方才想了。我的意思是,每回球都是你出的,我把这事儿给忘了。”
  “可是人方才说因为我这些球不用花钱买的——”
  “送我到门口去吧,”吉尼说,自己先走在头里,也没跟埃里克说声再见。
  “可是我记得你说过,你今晚要去看电影所以需要这笔钱什么的嘛!”塞利纳在门厅里说。
  “我太累了,”吉尼说,她弯下腰去捡起她的打网球的用具。“听着。晚饭后我会给你打个电话。今天晚上你没什么特别的事吧?说不定我能上你这儿来。”
  塞利纳瞪大了眼睛,说了句,“好吧。”
  吉尼推开大门,走向电梯。她按了电梯铃。“我方才见到你哥哥了,”她说。
  “你见到啦?他有点儿怪吧?”
  “对了,他是干什么工作的?”吉尼随便问道。“他工作了呢还是在做别的事儿?”
  “他刚退下来。爸爸要他重新念大学,可是他不愿意去。”
  “为什么不愿意?”
  “我可不知道,他说他年纪太大了什么的。”
  “他有多大?”
  “我也说不清楚。二十四吧。”
  电梯门开了。“呆会儿我给你打电话!”吉尼说。
  出了楼,她往西走,到莱克星顿去乘公共汽车。走在第三大街和莱克星顿待之间,她伸手到外衣口袋里去掏钱包,却摸到了那半块三明治。她把它拿出来,把手往下垂,想把三明治扔在街上。但是,她还是放回到兜里。几年前,她足足用了三天,才把在废纸篓锯森屑上发现的一只复活节死小鸡处理掉。

Just Before the War with the Eskimos
FIVE STRAIGHT SATURDAY MORNINGS, Ginnie Mannox had played tennis at the East Side Courts with Selena Graff, a classmate at Miss Basehoar's. Ginnie openly considered Selena the biggest drip at Miss Basehoar's--a school ostensibly abounding with fair-sized drips--but at the same time she had never known anyone like Selena for bringing fresh cans of tennis balls. Selena's father made them or something. (At dinner one night, for the edification of the entire Mannox family, Ginnie had conjured up a vision of dinner over at the Graffs'; it involved a perfect servant coming around to everyone's left with, instead of a glass of tomato juice, a can of tennis balls.) But this business of dropping Selena off at her house after tennis and then getting stuck--every single time--for the whole cab fare was getting on Ginnie's nerves. After all, taking the taxi home from the courts instead of the bus had been Selena's idea. On the fifth Saturday, however, as the cab started north in York Avenue, Ginnie suddenly spoke up.
   "Hey, Selena. . ."
   "What?" asked Selena, who was busy feeling the floor of the cab with her hand. "I can't find the cover to my racket!" she moaned.
   Despite the warm May weather, both girls were wearing topcoats over their shorts.
   "You put it in your pocket," Ginnie said. "Hey, listen--"
   "Oh, God! You've saved my life!"
   "Listen," said Ginnie, who wanted no part of Selena's gratitude.
   "What?"
   Ginnie decided to come right out with it. The cab was nearly at Selena's street. "I don't feel like getting stuck for the whole cab fare again today," she said. "I'm no millionaire, ya know."
   Selena looked first amazed, then hurt. "Don't I always pay half?" she asked innocently.
   "No," said Ginnie flatly. "You paid half the first Saturday. Way in the beginning of last month. And since then not even once. I don't wanna be ratty, but I'm actually existing on four-fifty a week. And out of that I have to--"
   "I always bring the tennis balls, don't I?" Selena asked unpleasantly.
   Sometimes Ginnie felt like killing Selena. "Your father makes them or something," she said. "They don't cost you anything. I have to pay for every single little--"
   "All right, all right," Selena said, loudly and with finality enough to give herself the upper hand. Looking bored, she went through the pockets of her coat. "I only have thirty-five cents," she said coldly. "Is that enough?"
   "No. I'm sorry, but you owe me a dollar sixty-five. I've been keeping track of every--"
   "I'll have to go upstairs and get it from my mother. Can't it wait till Monday? I could bring it to gym with me if it'd make you happy."
   Selena's attitude defied clemency.
   "No," Ginnie said. "I have to go to the movies tonight. I need it."
   In hostile silence, the girls stared out of opposite windows until the cab pulled up in front of Selena's apartment house. Then Selena, who was seated nearest the curb, let herself out. Just barely leaving the cab door open, she walked briskly and obliviously, like visiting Hollywood royalty, into the building. Ginnie, her face burning, paid the fare. She then collected her tennis things--racket, hand towel, and sun hat--and followed Selena. At fifteen, Ginnie was about five feet nine in her 9-B tennis shoes, and as she entered the lobby, her self-conscious rubber-soled awkwardness lent her a dangerous amateur quality. It made Selena prefer to watch the indicator dial over the elevator.
   "That makes a dollar ninety you owe me," Ginnie said, striding up to the elevator.
   Selena turned. "It may just interest you to know," she said, "that my mother is very ill."
   "What's the matter with her?"
   "She virtually has pneumonia, and if you think I'm going to enjoy disturbing her just for money . . ." Selena delivered the incomplete sentence with all possible aplomb.
   Ginnie was, in fact, slightly put off by this information, whatever its degree of truth, but not to the point of sentimentality. "I didn't give it to her," she said, and followed Selena into the elevator.
   When Selena had rung her apartment bell, the girls were admitted--or rather, the door was drawn in and left ajar--by a colored maid with whom Selena didn't seem to be on speaking terms. Ginnie dropped her tennis things on a chair in the foyer and followed Selena. In the living room, Selena turned and said, "Do you mind waiting here? I may have to wake Mother up and everything."
   "O.K.," Ginnie said, and plopped down on the sofa.
   "I never in my life would've thought you could be so small about anything," said Selena, who was just angry enough to use the word "small" but not quite brave enough to emphasize it.
   "Now you know," said Ginnie, and opened a copy of Vogue in front of her face. She kept it in this position till Selena had left the room, then put it back on top of the radio. She looked around the room, mentally rearranging furniture, throwing out table lamps, removing artificial flowers. In her opinion, it was an altogether hideous room--expensive but cheesy.
   Suddenly, a male voice shouted from another part of the apartment, "Eric? That you?"
   Ginnie guessed it was Selena's brother, whom she had never seen. She crossed her long legs, arranged the hem of her polo coat over her knees, and waited.
   A young man wearing glasses and pajamas and no slippers lunged into the room with his mouth open. "Oh. I thought it was Eric, for Chrissake," he said. Without stopping, and with extremely poor posture, he continued across the room, cradling something close to his narrow chest. He sat down on the vacant end of the sofa. "I just cut my goddam finger," he said rather wildly. He looked at Ginnie as if he had expected her to be sitting there. "Ever cut your finger? Right down to the bone and all?" he asked. There was a real appeal in his noisy voice, as if Ginnie, by her answer, could save him from some particularly isolating form of pioneering.
   Ginnie stared at him. "Well, not right down to the bone," she said, "but I've cut myself." He was the funniest-looking boy, or man--it was hard to tell which he was--she had ever seen. His hair was bed-dishevelled. He had a couple of days' growth of sparse, blond beard. And he looked-well, goofy. "How did you cut it?" she asked.
   He was staring down, with his slack mouth ajar, at his injured finger. "What?" he said.
   "How did you cut it?"
   "Goddam if I know," he said, his inflection implying that the answer to that question was hopelessly obscure. "I was lookin' for something in the goddam wastebasket and it was fulla razor blades."
   "You Selena's brother?" Ginnie asked.
   "Yeah. Christ, I'm bleedin' to death. Stick around. I may need a goddam transfusion."
   "Did you put anything on it?"
   Selena's 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?"
   "We're in the same class."
   "Yeah? What's your name?"
   "Virginia Mannox."
   "You Ginnie?" he said, squinting at her through his glasses. "You Ginnie Mannox?"
   "Yes," said Ginnie, uncrossing her legs.
   Selena's 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."
   Ginnie arched her back.
   "Who is?"
   "You heard me."
   "She is not a snob!"
   "The hell she's not," said Selena's brother.
   "She is not!"
   "The hell she's not. She's the queen. Queen of the goddam snobs."
   Ginnie watched him left up and peer under the thick folds of toilet paper on his finger.
   "You don't even know my sister."
   "Hell I don't."
   "What's her name? What's her first name?" Ginnie demanded.
   "Joan. . . . Joan the Snob."
   Ginnie was silent. "What's she look like?" she asked suddenly.
   No answer.
   "What's she look like?" Ginnie repeated.
   "If 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.
   "I never heard her mention you," she said.
   "That worries me. That worries hell outa me."
   "Anyway, she's engaged," Ginnie said, watching him. "She's gonna be married next month."
   "Who to?" he asked, looking up.
   Ginnie took full advantage of his having looked up. "Nobody you know."
   He resumed picking at his own first-aid work. "I pity him," he said.
   Ginnie snorted.
   "It's still bleedin' like mad. Ya think I oughta put something on it? What's good to put on it? Mercurochrome any good?"
   "Iodine's better," Ginnie said. Then, feeling her answer was too civil under the circumstances, she added, "Mercurochrome's no good at all for that."
   "Why not? What's the matter with it?"
   "It just isn't any good for that stuff, that's all. Ya need iodine."
   He looked at Ginnie. "It stings a lot, though, doesn't it?" he asked. "Doesn't it sting a helluva lot?"
   "It stings," Ginnie said, "but it won't kill you or anything."
   Apparently without resenting Ginnie's tone, Selena's brother turned back to his finger. "I don't like it when it stings," he said.
   "Nobody does."
   He nodded in agreement. "Yeah," he said.
   Ginnie watched him for a minute. "Stop touching it," she said suddenly.
   As 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.
   "What?"
   "Jeat lunch yet?"
   Ginnie shook her head. "I'll eat when I get home," she said. "My mother always has lunch ready for me when I get home."
   "I got a half a chicken sandwich in my room. Ya want it? I didn't touch it or anything."
   "No, thank you. Really."
   "You just played tennis, for Chrissake. Aren'tcha hungry?"
   "It 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."
   Selena's 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.
   "No, thanks.... Thank you, though."
   Absently, he bent over and scratched his bare ankle. "What's the name of this guy she's marrying?" he asked.
   "Joan, you mean?" said Ginnie. "Dick Heffner."
   Selena's brother went on scratching his ankle.
   "He's a lieutenant commander in the Navy," Ginnie said.
   "Big deal."
   Ginnie 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.
   "Where do you know Joan from?" she asked. "I never saw you at the house or anything."
   "Never been at your goddam house."
   Ginnie waited, but nothing led away from this statement. "Where'd you meet her, then?" she asked.
   "Party," he said.
   "At a party? When?"
   "I 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 lefthanded.
   "Why's Joan a snob?" Ginnie asked.
   "Why? Because she is. How the hell do I know why?"
   "Yes, but I mean why do you say she is?"
   He turned to her wearily. "Listen. I wrote her eight goddam letters. Eight. She didn't answer one of 'em."
   Ginnie hesitated. "Well, maybe she was busy."
   "Yeah. Busy. Busy as a little goddam beaver."
   "Do you have to swear so much?" Ginnie asked.
   "Goddam right I do."
   Ginnie giggled. "How long did you know her, anyway?" she asked.
   "Long enough."
   "Well, I mean did you ever phone her up or anything? I mean didn't you ever phone her up or anything?"
   "Naa."
   "Well, my gosh. If you never phoned her up or any--"
   "I couldn't, for Chrissake!"
   "Why not?" said Ginnie.
   "Wasn't in New York."
   "Oh! Where were you?"
   "Me? Ohio."
   "Oh, were you in college?"
   "Nope. Quit."
   "Oh, were you in the Army?"
   "Nope." With his cigarette hand, Selena's brother tapped the left side of his chest. "Ticker," he said.
   "Your heart, ya mean?" Ginnie said. "What's the matter with it?"
   "I don't know what the hell's the matter with it. I had rheumatic fever when I was a kid. Goddam pain in the--"
   "Well, aren't you supposed to stop smoking? I mean aren't you supposed to not smoke and all? The doctor told my--"
   "Aah, they tellya a lotta stuff," he said.
   Ginnie briefly held her fire. Very briefly. "What were you doing in Ohio?" she asked.
   "Me? Working in a goddam airplane factory."
   "You were?" said Ginnie. "Did you like it?"
   "'Did you like it?'" he mimicked. "I loved it. I just adore airplanes. They're so cute."
   Ginnie was much too involved now to feel affronted. "How long did you work there? In the airplane factory."
   "I 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 fools."
   "Who?" said Ginnie.
   "I don't know. Anybody."
   "Your finger'll start bleeding more if you hold it down that way," Ginnie said.
   He 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?"
   "The who?" said Ginnie.
   "The Eskimos.... Open your ears, for Chrissake."
   "Why the Eskimos?"
   "I 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."
   "You 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.
   "I 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.?"
   Ginnie nodded.
   "Ya want me to hurry Selena up or anything? She know you're here?"
   "Oh, she knows I'm here," Ginnie said. "I'm in no hurry. Thank you."
   Selena's 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 room.
   "Why don't you put a Band-Aid on it? Don't you have any Band-Aid or anything?"
   "Naa," he said. "Well. Take it easy." He wandered out of the room.
   In a few seconds, he was back, bringing the sandwich half.
"Eat this," he said. "It's good."
   "Really, I'm not at all--"
   "Take it, for Chrissake. I didn't poison it or anything."
   Ginnie accepted the sandwich half. "Well, thank you very much," she said.
   "It's chicken," he said, standing over her, watching her. "Bought it last night in a goddam delicatessen."
   "It looks very good."
   "Well, eat it, then."
   Ginnie took a bite.
   "Good, huh?"
   Ginnie swallowed with difficulty. "Very," she said.
   Selena's 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.
   Left 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.
   A 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.
   "Hello," he said, cordially, to Ginnie. "Hello."
   "Seen Franklin?" he asked.
   "He's shaving. He told me to tell you to wait for him. He'll be right out."
   "Shaving. 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.
   "What happened?" Ginnie asked, looking at him.
   "Oh. . . . 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."
   "What happened?" Ginnie repeated.
   "Oh, 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.
   "What'd he do?"
   "Frankly, I'd just as soon not go into details," said the young man. He took a cigarette from his own pack, ignoring a transparent humidor on the table, and lit it with his own lighter. His hands were large. They looked neither strong nor competent nor sensitive. Yet he used them as if they had some not easily controllable aesthetic drive of their own. "I've made up my mind that I'm not even going to think about it. But I'm just so furious," he said. "I mean here's this awful little person from Altoona, Pennsylvania--or one of those places. Apparently starving to death. I'm kind and decent enough--I'm the original Good Samaritan--to take him into my apartment, this absolutely microscopic little apartment that I can hardly move around in myself. I introduce him to all my friends. Let him clutter up the whole apartment with his horrible manuscript papers, and cigarette butts, and radishes, and whatnot. Introduce him to every theatrical producer in New York. Haul his filthy shirts back and forth from the laundry. And on top of it all--" The young man broke off. "And the result of all my kindness and decency," he went on, "is that he walks out of the house at five or six in the morning--without so much as leaving a note behind--taking with him anything and everything he can lay his filthy, dirty hands on." He paused to drag on his cigarette, and exhaled the smoke in a thin, sibilant stream from his mouth. "I don't want to talk about it. I really don't." He looked over at Ginnie. "I love your coat," he said, already out of his chair. He crossed over and took the lapel of Ginnie's polo coat between his fingers. "It's lovely. It's the first really good camel's hair I've seen since the war. May I ask where you got it?"
   "My mother brought it back from Nassau."
   The young man nodded thoughtfully and backed off toward his chair. "It's one of the few places where you can get really good camel's hair." He sat down. "Was she there long?"
   "What?" said Ginnie.
   "Was your mother there long? The reason I ask is my mother was down in December. And part of January. Usually I go down with her, but this has been such a messy year I simply couldn't get away."
   "She was down in February," Ginnie said.
   "Grand. Where did she stay? Do you know?"
   "With my aunt."
   He nodded. "May I ask your name? You're a friend of Franklin's sister, I take it?"
   "We're in the same class," Ginnie said, answering only his second question.
   "You're not the famous Maxine that Selena talks about, are you?"
   "No," Ginnie said.
   The young man suddenly began brushing the cuffs of his trousers with the flat of his hand. "I am dog hairs from head to foot," he said. "Mother went to Washington over the weekend and parked her beast in my apartment. It's really quite sweet. But such nasty habits. Do you have a dog?"
   "No."
   "Actually, I think it's cruel to keep them in the city." He stopped brushing, sat back, and looked at his wristwatch again. "I have never known that boy to be on time. We're going to see Cocteau's 'Beauty and the Beast' and it's the one film where you really should get there on time. I mean if you don't, the whole charm of it is gone. Have you seen it?"
   "No."
   "Oh, you must! I've seen it eight times. It's absolutely pure genius," he said. "I've been trying to get Franklin to see it for months." He shook his head hopelessly. "His taste. During the war, we both worked at the same horrible place, and that boy would insist on dragging me to the most impossible pictures in the world. We saw gangster pictures, Western pictures, musicals--"
   "Did you work in the airplane factory, too?" Ginnie asked.
   "God, yes. For years and years and years. Let's not talk about it, please."
   "You have a bad heart, too?"
   "Heavens, no. Knock wood." He rapped the arm of his chair twice. "I have the constitution of--"
   As Selena entered the room, Ginnie stood up quickly and went to meet her halfway. Selena had changed from her shorts to a dress, a fact that ordinarily would have annoyed Ginnie.
   "I'm sorry to've kept you waiting," Selena said insincerely, "but I had to wait for Mother to wake up.... Hello, Eric."
   "Hello, hello!"
   "I don't want the money anyway," Ginnie said, keeping her voice down so that she was heard only by Selena.
   "What?"
   "I've been thinking. I mean you bring the tennis balls and all, all the time. I forgot about that."
   "But you said that because I didn't have to pay for them--"
   "Walk me to the door," Ginnie said, leading the way, without saying goodbye to Eric.
   "But I thought you said you were going to the movies tonight and you needed the money and all!" Selena said in the foyer.
   "I'm too tired," Ginnie said. She bent over and picked up her tennis paraphernalia. "Listen. I'll give you a ring after dinner. Are you doing anything special tonight? Maybe I can come over."
   Selena stared and said, "O.K."
   Ginnie opened the front door and walked to the elevator. She rang the bell. "I met your brother," she said.
   "You did? Isn't he a character?"
   "What's he do, anyway?" Ginnie asked casually. "Does he work or something?"
   "He just quit. Daddy wants him to go back to college, but he won't go."
   "Why won't he?"
   "I don't know. He says he's too old and all."
   "How old is he?"
   "I don't know. Twenty-four."
   The elevator doors opened. "I'll call you laterl" Ginnie said.
   Outside the building, she started to walk west to Lexington to catch the bus. Between Third and Lexington, she reached into her coat pocket for her purse and found the sandwich half. She took it out and started to bring her arm down, to drop the sandwich into the street, but instead she put it back into her pocket. A few years before, it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found dead on the sawdust in the bottom of her wastebasket.

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