J. D. Salinger, Un dia esplèndid pels peixos plàtans (1948)

   "Un dia esplèndid pels peixos plàtans" ("A Perfect Day for Bananafish") va ser publicat el gener de 1948 al setmanari The New Yorker i, cinc anys després, al llibre Nou contes (Nine Stories).
   El 1986 Editorial Empúries en va publicar la traducció al català, de Quim Monzó. "Un dia esplèndid pels peixos plàtans" és el primer dels nous contes. Els altres vuit són:
   "L'oncle Wiggily a Connecticut" ("Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut").
   "Just abans de la guerra amb els esquimals" ("Just Before the War with the Eskimos").
   "L'home rialler" ("The Laughing Man").
   "Allà baix a la barca" ("Down at the Dinghy").
   "A Esmé, amb amor i abjecció" ("For Esmé – with Love and Squalor").
   "Boca preciosa i verds els meus ulls" ("Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes").
   "El període blau de De Daumier-Smith" ("De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period").
   "Teddy" ("Teddy").


UN DIA ESPLÈNDID PELS PEIXOS PLÀTANS


HI HAVIA noranta-set publicitaris novaiorquesos a l'hotel, i monopolitzaven les línies telefòniques de llarga distància de tal manera que la noia de la 507 va haver d'esperar-se des del migdia fins a gairebé dos quarts de tres perquè li passessin la trucada. No va perdre el temps, però. En una revista femenina de butxaca va llegir un article titulat «El sexe és divertit… o infernal». Va netejar la pinta i el raspall. Va treure la taca de la faldilla del vestit beix. Va desplaçar el botó de la brusa de Saks. Es va pinçar dos pèls que li havien sortit feia poc a la piga. Quan, a la fi, la telefonista li va trucar, estava asseguda al costat de la finestra i gairebé havia acabat de pintar-se les ungles de la mà esquerra.
   No era pas d'aquelles noies que ho deixen caure tot, quan senten sonar el telèfon. Era com si el telèfon hagués estat trucant contínuament des que va arribar a la pubertat.
   Mentre sonava el telèfon es va repassar l'ungla del dit petit amb el pinzellet de l'esmalt, accentuant-ne el contorn de la lluna. En acabar va posar el tap a l'ampolleta d'esmalt, es va aixecar i va moure la mà esquerra (la pintada de fresc) en l'aire, endavant i enrera. Amb la mà eixuta va agafar un cendrer ple que hi havia al seient a tocar de la finestra i el va dur fins a la tauleta de nit, on era el telèfon. Va asseure's en un dels llits bessons, ja fets, i —era el cinquè o sisè truc— va despenjar el telèfon.
   —Digui'm? —va fer, tot mantenint els dits de la mà esquerra estesos i lluny de la bata de seda blanca, que era l'únic que duia posat, a excepció de les sabatiles (els anells eren al lavabo).
   —Ja tinc la seva conferència amb Nova York, senyora Glass va dir la telefonista.
   Gràcies -va respondre la noia, i va fer lloc, a la tauleta de nit, pel cendrer.
   Li va arrivar una veu de dona.
   Muriel, ets tu?
   La noia va separar una mica l'auricular de l'orella.
   Sí, mare. Com estàs?
   —He estat preocupadíssima per tu. Per què no has telefonat? Estàs bé?
   —Vaig tractar de trucar-te, anit, i la nit abans. Però el telèfon ha estat
   —Estàs bé Muriel?
   La noia va augmentar la distància entre l'auricular i l'orella.
   —Estic perfectament bé. Fa calor. Avui és el dia més calorós que hi ha hagut a Florida des
   —Per què no m'has telefonat? He estat preocupadíssima per
   —Mare, carinyo, no cridis. Et sento perfectament —va dir la noia—. Ahir et vaig trucar dues vegades. Una d'elles just després
   —Li deia a ton pare que segur que trucaries anit. Però no: ell ha hagut de… Estàs bé, Muriel? Digue'm la veritat.
   —Estic perfectament. Sisplau, deixa de preguntar-m'ho.
   —Quan vau arribar?
   —No ho sé. Dimecres al matí, d'hora.
   —Qui conduïa?
   —Ell —va dir la noia—. No et posis nerviosa. Va conduir molt be. N'estava ben sorpresa, jo.
   Ell va conduir? Muriel, em vas prometre que
   —Mare —va interrompre la noia—, ja t'ho he dit: va conduir molt bé. Tot el camí a menys de vuitanta; de debò.
   —¿No li va agafar cap d'aquelles ximpleries amb els arbres?
   —Ja t'he fit, mare, que va conduir molt bé. Vinga, sisplau. Li vaig demanar que es mantingués prop de la ratlla blanca, i tal, i entenia què volia dir, i ho va fer. Fins i tot tractava de no mirar els arbres…, es notava. Per cert, ¿el papà ha dut el cotxe a arreglar?
   —Encara no. En volen quatre-cents dòlars, només per…
   —Mare, Seymour li va dir al papà que ell ho pagaria. No hi ha cap motiu per…
   —Bé, ja ho veurem. ¿Com s'ha portat…, al cotxe i tot això?
   —Molt bé —va dir la noia.
   —T'ha continuat dient aquell horrible…?
   —No. Ara me'n diu un de nou.
   —Quin?
   —Tant se val, mare, vinga…
   —Muriel, vull saber-ho. Ton pare…
   —D'acord, d'acord. Em diu miss Puta Espiritual 1948 —va respondre la noia, amb una rialleta sufocada.
   —No és divertit, Muriel. No és gens divertit. És horrible. És trist, de debò. Quan penso com…
   —Mare —va interrompre la noia—, escolta'm. ¿Recordes el llibre que em va enviar des d'Alemanya? Ja saps… aquells poemes alemanys. Què n'he fet? M'hi he trencat el cap…
   —El tens tu
   —N'estàs segura? —va dir la noia.
   —I tant. És a dir: el tinc jo. És a l'habitació de Freddy. El vas deixar aquí i no hi havia lloc a la… Per què? ¿Que el vol?
   —No. És que, quan veníem cap aquí, m'ha preguntat pel llibre. Volia saber si l'havia llegit.
   —Però si és en alemany!
   —Sí. Però tant hi fa —va dir la noia, creuant les cames—. Diu que són poemes escrits per l'únic gran poeta del segle. Diu que n'hauria d'haver comprat una traducció, i tal. O haver après l'idioma; imagina't!
   —Horrorós, horrorós. És trist, de debò: això és el que és. Anit, ton pare em va dir…
   —Un moment, mare —va dir la noia. Va anar fins al seient a tocar de la finestra a buscar-hi els cigarrets, en va encendre un, va tornar al llit i s'hi va asseure—. Mare? —va dir, exhalant fum.
   —Muriel. Ara, escolta'm.
   —T'escolto.
   —Ton pare ha parlat amb el doctor Sivetski.
   —I?
   —L'hi ha explicat tot. Almenys és el que diu: ja saps com és ton pare… Els arbres. Allò de la finestra. Aquelles coses terribles que li va dir a l'àvia, sobre com planejar la mort. El que va fer amb aquelles fotos precioses de les Bermudes… Tot.
   —I doncs?
   —Doncs, en primer loc, el metge li ha dit que era un veritable crim que l'exèrcit l'hagués deixar marxar de l'hospital… T'ho juro. I li ha dit, ben clarament, que és probable, que és molt probable, ha dit…, que Seymour perdi totalment el seny. T'ho juro.
   —Aquí, a l'hotel, hi ha un psiquiatre —va dir la noia.
   —Qui? Com se diu?
   —No ho sé. Rieser o alguna cosa així. Diuen que és molt bo.
   —Muriel, no siguis fresca, sisplau. Estem molt preocupats per tu. Anit ton pare volia telegrafiar-te que tornessis a casa, de f…
   —No penso tornar a casa, per ara, mare. Així que calma't.
   —Muriel, t'ho juro: el doctor Sivetski ha dit que Seymour pot perdre el seny totalm…
   —Acabo d'arribar, mare. Aquestes són les meves primeres vacances de fa anys, i no tinc cap intenció de fer les maletes i tornar a casa —va dir la noia—. A més, ara no puc viatjar. Estic tan torrada del sol que amb prou feines si em puc moure.
   —T'has cremat molt? ¿Que no has fet servir aquell pot de Bronze que et vaig ficar a la bossa? El vaig ficar just…
   —L'he fet servir. Però m'he salsit iguament.
   —És terrible. On t'has cremat?
   —Pertot arreu, maca, pertot arreu.
   —És terrible.
   —Sobreviuré
   —Digue'm: has parlat amb aquest psiquiatre que dius?
   —Bé… Com si diguéssim —va respondre la noia.
   —I què ha dit? On era Seymour quan hi has parlat?
   —A l'Ocean Room, tocant el piano. Hi ha tocat el piano les dues nits que portem aquí.
   —I què ha dit?
   —No gran cosa. Ell em va parlar primer. Ahir a la nit jo estava asseguda al seu costat, al bingo, i em va preguntar si no era el meu marit qui tocava el piano a l'altra sala. LI vaig dir que sí que l'era, i ell em va preguntar si Seymour havia estat malalt o alguna cosa semblant. Llavors li vaig dir…
   —Per què et va preguntar això?
   —No ho sé, mare. Suposo que perquè és tan pàl·lid i tal —va dir la noia—. De tota manera, després del bingo, em van preguntar, ell i la seva dona, si m'agradaria anar a fer una copa amb ells. Els vaig dir que sí. La seva dona és horrible. ¿Recordes aquell vestit de nit tan lleig que vam veure a l'aparador de Bonwit? Aquell que deies que calia tenir un dallonses ben petit…
   —El verd?
   —El duia posat. I té uns malucs… No va parar de preguntar-me, tota l'estona, si Seymour és parent de la Suzanne Glass que té aquell lloc a Madison Avenue…, la capelleria.
   —Però què en va dir, doncs? El doctor.
   —Eh… Doncs no gaire cosa; de debò. Vull dir que érem al bar i tal. Hi havia molt de soroll.
   —Sí, però… ¿li…, li vas esplicar el que volia fer amb la cadira de l'àvia?
   —No, mare. No vaig entrar gaire en detalls —va dir la noia—. És probable que torni a tenir una altra oportunitat de trobar-me'l i de parlar-hi. Es passa tot el dia al bar.
   —¿No et va dir si li semblava que podria posar-se…, ja saps…, a fer ximpleries o alguna cosa així? ¿O fer-te alguna cosa?
   —No me'n va dir gran cosa —va dir la noia—. N'ha de saber més dades, mare. Han de saber detalls sobre la seva infància…, i tot això. Ja et dic que amb prou feines si podíem parlar, de tant soroll com hi havia.
   —Entesos. I el teu abric blau, què?
   —Molt bé. Li he tret una mica de buata.
   —Com és la roba, aquest any?
   —Meravellosa. Com d'un altre planeta. Es veuen lluentons…, de tot —va dir la noia.
    —I la teva habitació, què tal?
   —Correcta. Correcta i prou, però. No ens han pogut donar l'habitació on vam estar abans de la guera —va dir la noia—. La gent és horrible, aquest any. Hauries de veure els que seuen al costat nostre, al menjador. A la taula del costat. Sembla com si haguessin vingut en camió.
   —A tot arreu és igual. I el teu vestit de ball?
   —És massa llarg. Ja t'ho deia, que era masa llarg.
   —Muriel, només t'ho preguntaré un cop més… ¿Estàs bé, de debò?
   —, mare —va dir la noia—. T'ho repeteixo per enèsima vegada.
   —I no vols tornar a casa?
   —No, mare.
   —Ton pare em va dir, anit, que estaria disposat a pagar-t'ho, si volguessis anar a algun lloc tota sola i rumiar-t'ho bé. Podries fer un creuer preciós. Hem pensat que
   —No, gràcies —va dir la noia, i va desencreuar les cames—. Mare, aquesta telefonada costa una for
   —Quan penso que vas esperar-lo durant tota la guerra… Vull dir: quan penses en totes aquestes esposes boges que…
   —Mare —va dir la noia—, val més que pengem. Seymour pot tornar a qualsevol moment.
   —On és?
   —A la platja.
   —A la platja? Tot sol? Ja es porta bé, a la platja?
   —Mare —va dir la noia—, en parles com si fos un maníac…
   —No ho he dit pas, Muriel.
   —Doncs ho sembla. Vull dir: hi jeu i prou, a la platja. Ni tan sols es treu el barnús.
   —Que no es treu el barnús? Per què no?
   —No ho sé pas. Suposo que perquè és molt pàl·lid.
   —Però, Déu meu, necessita prendre el sol. ¿No l'en pots convèncer?
   —Ja saps com és Seymour —va dir la noia, creuant novament les cames—. Diu que no vol que es formi una rotllana de ximples al seu voltant, mirant-li el tatuatge.
   —Però si no en té cap de tatuatge! ¿O se'n va fer algun, a l'exèrcit?
   —No, mare. No, carinyo —va dir la noia, i es va aixecar—. Escolta: et trucaré demà, potser.
   —Muriel, ara escolta'm.
   —Sí, mare —va dir la noia, carregant tot el pes en la cama dreta. 
   —Truca'm de seguida que faci, o digui, cap ximpleria… Ja saps què vull dir. Em sents?
   —Mare, no tinc por de Seymour.
   —Muriel, vull que m'ho prometis.
   —D'acord. T'ho prometo. Adéu, mare —va dir la noia—. Petons al papà. —Va penjar.


   —Veig més vidre* —va dir Sybil Carpenter, que s'estava a l'hotel amb sa mare—. Has vist més vidre? 
*Joc de paraules entre Seymour Glass i See more glass, "veig més vidre", de pronunciació gairebé idèntica.
   —Carinyo, deixa de dir això. O faràs parar boja la mamà. Estigues quieta, sisplau.
   La senyora Carpenter posava bronzejador a les espatlles de Sybil, i l'escampava cap avall, pels omòplats, delicats com ales. Sybil seia precàriament sobre una gran pilota de platja inflada, de cara a l'oceà. Duia un vestit de bany groc canari, de dues peces, una de les quals, de fet, no la necessitaria fins nou o deu anys més tard.
   —De fet, no era més que un simple mocador de seda… Quan el miraves de prop, es veia de seguida —va dir la dona que seia a la gandula al costat de la senyora Carpenter—. El que m'agradaria és saber com en van fer el nus. Era preciós.
    —Pel que diu, devia ser-ho, de preciós —va assentir la senyora Carpenter—. Sybil, estigues quieta, carinyo.
   —Has vist més vidre? —va dir Sybil. 
   La senyora Carpenter va sospirar.
   —D'acord —va dir. Va tornar a posar el tap a l'ampolla d'oli bronzejador—. Ara corre a jugar, carinyo. La mamà se'n va a l'hotel a fer un dry martini amb la senyora Hubbel. Et portaré l'oliva.
   Alliberada, Sybil va arrencar a córrer immediatament cap a la part plana de la platja i, en acabat, va començar a caminar en direcció a la Llotja dels Pescadors. Es va deturar només per ficar un peu en un castell de sorra xop i enfonsat, i de seguida va ser fora de la zona reservada als clients de l'hotel.
   Va caminar prop de mig quilòmetre i, de sobte, va arrencar a córrer obliquament cap on la sorra era tova. Es va deturar de cop quan va arribar on un home jove jeia panxa enlaire.
   —Que vas a banyar-te, veus més vidre?
   El jove es va sobresaltar; es va dur la mà dreta a les solapes del barnús. Es va girar bocaterrosa, tot deixant que la tovallola, cargolada com una botifarra, li caigués dels ulls i, clucs pel sol, els va enlairar cap a Sybil.
   —Ei. Hola, Sybil.
   —Que no et banyes?
   —T'esperava —va dir el jove—. Què hi ha de nou?
   —Què? —va dir la Sybil.
   —Què hi ha de nou? Quin programa tenim?
   —Mon pare ve demà en un avió —va dir Sybil, clavant puntades de peu a la sorra.
   —No me la llencis a la cara, nena —va dir el jove, agafant amb la mà el turmell de Sybil—. Bé, ja era hora que vingués, ton pare. L'he esperat constantment. Constantment.
   —On és la senyora? —va dir Sybil.
   —La senyora? —el jove es va treure una mica de sorra dels cabells, escassos—. Fa de mal dir, Sybil. Pot ser en mil llocs diferents. A la perruqueria. Fent que la tenyeixin de color visó. O a l'habitació, fent nines pels nens pobres. —De bocaterrosa, va tancar els dos punys, en va col·locar un sobre l'altre i va descansar la barbeta sobre el de dalt—. Pregunta'm alguna altra cosa, Sybil —va dir—. Quin vestit de bany més maco que duus. Els vestits de bany blaus m'agraden molt.
   Sybil el va mirar fixament; en acabat es va mirar l'estómac prominent.
   —Aquest és un groc —va dir—. Aquest és un groc.
   —De debò? Acosta't una mica més. Sybil va fer un pas endavant.
   —Tens tota la raó. Que ximple que sóc.
   —Que et penses banyar? —va dir Sybil.
   —Ho estic considerant de forma seriosa. Hi penso força, Sybil; suposo que t'agradarà saber-ho.
   Sybil va palpar el flotador de goma que de vegades el jove feia servir com a coixí.
   —Hi fa falta aire —va dir.
   —Tens raó. Hi fa falta més aire del que estic disposat a reconèixer. —Va enretirar els punys i va deixar reposar la barbeta a la sorra—. Sybil —va dir— estàs molt guapa. Estic content de veure't. Parla'm de tu. —Va allargar els braços cap endavant i va agafar els turmells de la Sybil amb les mans—. Jo sóc capricorn —va dir—. Tu, què ets?
   —Sharon Lipschutz m'ha dit que la vas deixar seure al tamboret del piano, amb tu —va fer Sybil.
   —Sharon Lipschutz ha dit això?
    Sybil va fer que sí amb el cap, vigorosament.
   Ell li va deixar anar els turmells, va doblegar les mans cap a dins i va reposar la galta en l'avantbraç dret.
   —Bé va dir—. Ja saps com van aquesta mena de coses, Sybil. Jo estava allà, assegut, tocant. I a tu no se't veia per enlloc. I va venir Sharon Lipschultz i es va asseure al meu costat. No podia pas fer-la fora a empentes, oi?
   —Sí que podies.
   —Ah, no. No podia pas —va dir el jove—. Et diré què vaig fer, però.
   —Què?
   —Vaig fer com si ella fos tu.
   Sybil es va doblegar immediatament i va començar a cavar en la sorra.
   —Anem a l'aigua —va dir ella.
   —D'acord —va dir el jove—. Em penso que podré arribar-hi.
   —La pròxima vegada, fes-la fora a empentes —va dir Sybil.
   —Fer fora qui? 
   —Sharon Lipschutz.
   —Ah, Sharon Lipschutz —va dir el jove—. És un nom que apareix sempre. Barrejant memòria i desig*. —De sobte es va posar dempeus. Va mirar l'oceà—. Sybil —va dir—, goita què farem. Mirarem si podem pescar un peix plàtan.
*Dels primers versos de T.S. Eliot a La terra erma: "Abril és el mes més cruel (…) barreja memoria i desig".
   —Un què?
   —Un peix plàtan. —va dir, i es va desfer el cinyell del barnús. Es va treure el barnús. Tenia les espatlles blanques i estretes, i el vestit de bany blau elèctric. Va doblegar el barnús: primer longitudinalment i en acabar en tres plecs. Va desenrotllar la tovallola que duia sobr els ulls, la va estendre sobre la sorra, i al damunt hi va deixar el barnús plegat. Es va ajupir, va recollir el flotador i el va assegurar sota el braç dret. Aleshores, amb la mà esquerra, va agafar la mà de Sybil.
   Tots dos van començar a caminar cap a l'oceà.
   —Suposo que a la teva edat ja deus haver vist uns quants peixos plàtans —va dir el jove.
   Sybil féu que no amb el cap.
   —No? On vius, per cert?
   —No ho sé —va dir Sybil.
   —Segur que sí. Ho has de saber. Sharon Lipschultz sap on viu i només té tres anys i mig.
   Sybil va deixar de caminar i, d'una estrebada, va enretirar la seva mà de la d'ell. Va recollir una petxina vulgar i la va contemplar amb un interès estudiat. La va llençar.
   —A Whirly Wood, Connecticut —va dir, i va arrencar a caminar de bell nou, amb la panxa pel davant.
   —Whirly Wood, Connecticut —va repetir el jove—. ¿No deu pas ser a prop, per casualitat, de Whirly Wood, Connecticut?
   Sybil el va mirar.
   —Aquest que dius és el lloc on visc —va dir, impacient—. ViscWhirly Wood, Connecticut.
   Va córrer unes quantes passes davant d'ell, es va agafar el peu esquerre amb la mà esquerra i va fer dos o tres bots.
   —No tens ni idea com això ho aclareix tot —va dir el jove.
   Sybil va deixar anar el peu.
   —Has llegit El negret*? —va preguntar.
El negret (o El mulatet) és Little Black Sambo, un llibre molt popular entre la canalla de l'època, amb personatges negres. Actualment, pel paternalisme més o menys racista que l'impregna, és un llibre no autoritzat als EUA.
   —Té gràcia que m'ho preguntis —va dir ell—. Casualment, vaig acabar de llegir-lo ahir a la nit. —Es va ajupir i va tornar a agafar la mà de Sybil—. Què et va semblar? —li va preguntar.
   —Els tigres corrien tot al voltant de l'arbre?
   —Em pensava que no es deturarien mai. Mai no n'havia vist tants, de tigres.
   —Només n'hi havien sis —va dir Sybil.
   —Només sis! —va dir el jove—. D'això en dius només?
   —T'agrada la cera? —va preguntar Sybil.
   —Que si m'agrada què? —va preguntar el jove.
   —La cera.
   —Molt. A tu no?
   Sybil va fer que sí amb el cap.
   —T'agraden les olives? —va preguntar.
   —Olives…? Sí. Les olives i la cera. Mai no vaig enlloc sense dur-ne.
   —T'agrada Sharon Lipschutz? —Va preguntar Sybil.
   —Sí. Sí, m'agrada —va dir el jove—. El que més m'agrada d'ella és que mai no fa maleses als gossets en el hall de l'hotel. A aquell buldog petit d'aquella senyora del Canadà, per exemple. Potser no t'ho creuràs , però algunes nenes s'ho passen bé burxant aquest gosset amb els palets dels globus. Sharon no. Ella no és mai dolenta ni cruel. Per això m'agrada tant.
   Sybil callava.
   —M'agrada mastegar espelmes —va dir finalment.
   —I a qui no?  —va dir el jove, mullant-se els peus—. Brrr! És freda. —Va deixar caure el flotador de goma—. No, espera un moment, Sybil. Espera fins que siguem una mica més endins.
   Van caminar per l'aigua fins que a Sybil li va arribar a la cintura. Aleshores el jove la va aixecar i la va deixar estirada de panxa sobre el flotador.
   —Mai no et poses barret de bany o alguna cosa?  —va preguntar.
   —No em deixis anar —va ordenar Sybil—. M'agafes,  eh?
   —Sisplau, senyoreta Carpenter. Conec el meu ofici —va dir el jove—. Tu dedica't a tenir els ulls ben oberts, a veure si trobem cap peix plàtan. Avui és un dia esplèndid pels peixos plàtans.
   —No en veig cap  —va dir Sybil.
   —És comprensible. Tenen costums molt peculiars. —Va continuar empenyent el flotador. L'aigua no li arribava encara al pit—. Duen una vida molt tràgica —va dir— ¿Saps què fan, Sybil? 
   Ella va sacsejar la testa.
   —Doncs neden fins a un forat on hi hagi molts plàtans. Quan hi entren semblen peixos molt vulgars. Però un cop són dins es porten com porcs. Sí: he conegut alguns peixos plàtans que entren en un forat de plàtans i mengen fins setanta-vuit plàtans. —Va empènyer flotador i passatgera un pam més cap a l'horitzó—. I, és clar, després d'això es posen tan fatis que no poden tornar a sortir del forat. No passen per la porta.
   —No anem gaire lluny —va dir Sybil—. Què els passa?
   —Què passa a qui?
   —Als peixos plàtans.
   —Ah, ¿vols dir després que han menjat tants plàtans que no poden sortir pel forat dels plàtans?
   —Sí —va dir Sybil.
   —Em sap greu dir-t'ho, Sybil. Es moren.
   —Per què? —va preguntar Sybil.
   —Doncs perquè els agafa la febre dels plàtans. És una malaltia terrible.
   —Que ve una onada —va dir Sybil nerviosa.
   —La ignorarem. La menysprearem —va dir el jove—. Com si fóssim dos bufanúvols. —Va agafar els turmells de Sybil amb les mans i els va empènyer cap avall i endavant. El flotador es va alçar pel damunt del dors de l'onada. L'aigua li va deixar xops els cabells rossos, però Sybil va cridar de plaer.
   Quan el flotador va tornar a la posició horitzontal, amb la mà la noia es va apartar dels ulls un floc de cabells molls i va anunciar:
   —N'he vist un.
   —Has vist què, maca?
   —Un peix plàtan.
   —Per l'amor de Déu, no! —va dir el jove—. ¿Duia cap plàtan a la boca?
   —Sí —va dir Sybil—. Sis.
   De cop, el jove va agafar un dels peus de Sybil, molls, que penjaven del flotador, i en va besar l'empenya.
   —Ei! —va dir la propietària del peu, girant-se.
   —Com que ei? Vinga, sortim. N'has tingut prou?
   —No!
   —Doncs em sap greu —va dir ell, i va clavar empenta al flotador, cap a la platja, fins que Sybil en va poder baixar. El va dur sota l'aixella la resta del camí.
   —Adéu —va dir Sybil, i va córrer, sense lamentar-ho, cap a l'hotel.


   El jove es va posar el barnús, es va creuar bé les solapes, i es va ficar la tovallola a la butxaca. Va recollir el flotador, humit, llefiscós i incòmode, i se'l va posar sota l'aixella. Pesadament va caminar tot sol per la sorra calenta, cap a l'hotel.
   Al primer soterrani de l'hotel —que era la planta que la direcció de l'hotel demanava als banyistes que fessin servir—, una dona amb ungüent de zenc al nas va entrar a l'ascensor amb ell.
   —Veig que em mira els peus —li va dir quan l'ascensor va començar a moure's.
   —Perdó? —va dir la dona.
   —Dic que veig que em mira els peus.
   —Perdoni'm. Però mirava a terra —va dir la dona, i es va girar cap a la porta.
   —Si em vol mirar els peus, digui-ho —va dir el jove—. Però, punyetera, no me'ls miri d'amagatotis.
   —Sisplau, dixi'm baixar aquí —va dir ràpidament la dona a l'ascensorista.
   La porta es va obrir i la dona va sortir sense mirar enrera.
   —Tinc dos peus ben normals i no veig cap mena de raó per la qual me'ls hagin de mirar —va dir el jove—. Cinquè pis, sisplau. —De la butxaca del barnús va treure la clau de l'habitació.
   Va baixar al cinquè pis, va caminar passadís avall i va entrar a la 507. L'habitació feia olor de maletes noves, de pell de vedell, i de dissolvent per l'esmalt d'ungles.
   Va donar un cop d'ull a la noia que dormia en un dels llits bessons. Va anar aleshores fins a una de les maletes, la va obrir i, de sota d'una pila de calçotets i samarretes, en va agafar una Ortgies del calibre 7,65, automàtica. Va desallotjar el carregador, el va mirar i el va tornar a ficar. En va treure el ressort de seguretat. En acabat va anar fins al llit bessó lliure, s'hi va asseure, va mirar la noia, va apuntar la pistola i es va disparar un tret a la templa dreta.


THERE WERE ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through. She used the time, though. She read an article in a women's pocket-size magazine, called "Sex Is Fun-or Hell." She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand.She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.
With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left--the wet--hand back and forth through the air. With her dry hand, she picked up a congested ashtray from the window seat and carried it with her over to the night table, on which the phone stood. She sat down on one of the made-up twin beds and--it was the fifth or sixth ring--picked up the phone.
"Hello," she said, keeping the fingers of her left hand outstretched and away from her white silk dressing gown, which was all that she was wearing, except mules--her rings were in the bathroom.
"I have your call to New York now, Mrs. Glass," the operator said.
"Thank you," said the girl, and made room on the night table for the ashtray.
A woman's voice came through. "Muriel? Is that you?"
The girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. "Yes, Mother. How are you?" she said.
"I've been worried to death about you. Why haven't you phoned? Are you all right?"
"I tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here's been--"
"Are you all right, Muriel?"
The girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. "I'm fine. I'm hot. This is the hottest day they've had in Florida in--"
"Why haven't you called me? I've been worried to--"
"Mother, darling, don't yell at me. I can hear you beautifully," said the girl. "I called you twice last night. Once just after--"
"I told your father you'd probably call last night. But, no, he had to-Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth."
"I'm fine. Stop asking me that, please."
"When did you get there?"
"I don't know. Wednesday morning, early."
"Who drove?"
"He did," said the girl. "And don't get excited. He drove very nicely. I was amazed."
"He drove? Muriel, you gave me your word of--"
"Mother," the girl interrupted, "I just told you. He drove very nicely. Under fifty the whole way, as a matter of fact."
"Did he try any of that funny business with the trees?"
"I said he drove very nicely, Mother. Now, please. I asked him to stay close to the white line, and all, and he knew what I meant, and he did. He was even trying not to look at the trees-you could tell. Did Daddy get the car fixed, incidentally?"
"Not yet. They want four hundred dollars, just to--"
"Mother, Seymour told Daddy that he'd pay for it. There's no reason for--"
"Well, we'll see. How did he behave--in the car and all?"
"All right," said the girl.
"Did he keep calling you that awful--"
"No. He has something new now."
"What?"
"Oh, what's the difference, Mother?"
"Muriel, I want to know. Your father--"
"All right, all right. He calls me Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948," the girl said, and giggled.
"It isn't funny, Muriel. It isn't funny at all. It's horrible. It's sad, actually. When I think how--"
"Mother," the girl interrupted, "listen to me. You remember that book he sent me from Germany? You know--those German poems. What'd I do with it? I've been racking my--"
"You have it."
"Are you sure?" said the girl.
"Certainly. That is, I have it. It's in Freddy's room. You left it here and I didn't have room for it in the--Why? Does he want it?"
"No. Only, he asked me about it, when we were driving down. He wanted to know if I'd read it."
"It was in German!"
"Yes, dear. That doesn't make any difference," said the girl, crossing her legs. "He said that the poems happen to be written by the only great poet of the century. He said I should've bought a translation or something. Or learned the language, if you please."
"Awful. Awful. It's sad, actually, is what it is. Your father said last night--"
"Just a second, Mother," the girl said. She went over to the window seat for her cigarettes, lit one, and returned to her seat on the bed. "Mother?" she said, exhaling smoke.
"Muriel. Now, listen to me."
"I'm listening."
"Your father talked to Dr. Sivetski."
"Oh?" said the girl.
"He told him everything. At least, he said he did--you know your father. The trees. That business with the window. Those horrible things he said to Granny about her plans for passing away. What he did with all those lovely pictures from Bermuda--everything."
"Well?" said the girl.
"Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him from the hospital--my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there's a chance--a very great chance, he said--that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor."
"There's a psychiatrist here at the hotel," said the girl.
"Who? What's his name?"
"I don't know. Rieser or something. He's supposed to be very good."
"Never heard of him."
"Well, he's supposed to be very good, anyway."
"Muriel, don't be fresh, please. We're very worried about you. Your father wanted to wire you last night to come home, as a matter of f--"
"I'm not coming home right now, Mother. So relax."
"Muriel. My word of honor. Dr. Sivetski said Seymour may completely lose contr--"
"I just got here, Mother. This is the first vacation I've had in years, and I'm not going to just pack everything and come home," said the girl. "I couldn't travel now anyway. I'm so sunburned I can hardly move."
"You're badly sunburned? Didn't you use that jar of Bronze I put in your bag? I put it right--"
"I used it. I'm burned anyway."
"That's terrible. Where are you burned?"
"All over, dear, all over."
"That's terrible."
"I'll live."
"Tell me, did you talk to this psychiatrist?"
"Well, sort of," said the girl.
"What'd he say? Where was Seymour when you talked to him?"
"In the Ocean Room, playing the piano. He's played the piano both nights we've been here."
"Well, what'd he say?"
"Oh, nothing much. He spoke to me first. I was sitting next to him at Bingo last night, and he asked me if that wasn't my husband playing the piano in the other room. I said yes, it was, and he asked me if Seymour's been sick or something. So I said--"
"Why'd he ask that?"
"I don't know, Mother. I guess because he's so pale and all," said the girl. "Anyway, after Bingo he and his wife asked me if I wouldn't like to join them for a drink. So I did. His wife was horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwit's window? The one you said you'd have to have a tiny, tiny--"
"The green?"
"She had it on. And all hips. She kept asking me if Seymour's related to that Suzanne Glass that has that place on Madison Avenue--the millinery."
"What'd he say, though? The doctor."
"Oh. Well, nothing much, really. I mean we were in the bar and all. It was terribly noisy."
"Yes, but did--did you tell him what he tried to do with Granny's chair?"
"No, Mother. I didn't go into details very much," said the girl. "I'll probably get a chance to talk to him again. He's in the bar all day long."
"Did he say he thought there was a chance he might get--you know--funny or anything? Do something to you!"
"Not exactly," said the girl. "He had to have more facts, Mother. They have to know about your childhood--all that stuff. I told you, we could hardly talk, it was so noisy in there."
"Well. How's your blue coat?"
"All right. I had some of the padding taken out."
"How are the clothes this year?"
"Terrible. But out of this world. You see sequins--everything," said the girl.
"How's your room?"
"All right. Just all right, though. We couldn't get the room we had before the war," said the girl. "The people are awful this year. You should see what sits next to us in the dining room. At the next table. They look as if they drove down in a truck."
"Well, it's that way all over. How's your ballerina?"
"It's too long. I told you it was too long."
"Muriel, I'm only going to ask you once more--are you really all right?"
"Yes, Mother," said the girl. "For the ninetieth time."
"And you don't want to come home?"
"No, Mother."
"Your father said last night that he'd be more than willing to pay for it if you'd go away someplace by yourself and think things over. You could take a lovely cruise. We both thought--"
"No, thanks," said the girl, and uncrossed her legs. "Mother, this call is costing a for--"
"When 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--"
"Mother," said the girl, "we'd better hang up. Seymour may come in any minute."
"Where is he?"
"On the beach."
"On the beach? By himself? Does he behave himself on the beach?"
"Mother," said the girl, "you talk about him as though he were a raving maniac--"
"I said nothing of the kind, Muriel."
"Well, you sound that way. I mean all he does is lie there. He won't take his bathrobe off."
"He won't take his bathrobe off? Why not?"
"I don't know. I guess because he's so pale."
"My goodness, he needs the sun. Can't you make him?
"You know Seymour," said the girl, and crossed her legs again. "He says he doesn't want a lot of fools looking at his tattoo."
"He doesn't have any tattoo! Did he get one in the Army?"
"No, Mother. No, dear," said the girl, and stood up. "Listen, I'll call you tomorrow, maybe."
"Muriel. Now, listen to me."
"Yes, Mother," said the girl, putting her weight on her right leg.
"Call me the instant he does, or says, anything at all funny--you know what I mean. Do you hear me?"
"Mother, I'm not afraid of Seymour."
"Muriel, I want you to promise me."
"All right, I promise. Goodbye, Mother," said the girl. "My love to Daddy." She hung up.

"See more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel with her mother. "Did you see more glass?"
"Pussycat, stop saying that. It's driving Mommy absolutely crazy. Hold still, please."
Mrs. 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 years.
"It 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 darling."
"It sounds darling," Mrs. Carpenter agreed. "Sybil, hold still, pussy."
"Did you see more glass?" said Sybil.
Mrs. 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."
Set 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.
She 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.
"Are you going in the water, see more glass?" she said.
The 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.
"Hey. Hello, Sybil."
"Are you going in the water?"
"I was waiting for you," said the young man. "What's new?"
"What?" said Sybil.
"What's new? What's on the program?"
"My daddy's coming tomorrow on a nairiplane," Sybil said, kicking sand.
"Not 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."
"Where's the lady?" Sybil said.
"The 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."
Sybil stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. "This is a yellow," she said. "This is a yellow."
"It is? Come a little closer." Sybil took a step forward. "You're absolutely right. What a fool I am."
"Are you going in the water?" Sybil said.
"I'm seriously considering it. I'm giving it plenty of thought, Sybil, you'll be glad to know."
Sybil prodded the rubber float that the young man sometimes used as a head-rest. "It needs air," she said.
"You're 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?"
"Sharon Lipschutz said you let her sit on the piano seat with you," Sybil said.
"Sharon Lipschutz said that?"
Sybil nodded vigorously.
He 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?"
"Yes."
"Oh, no. No. I couldn't do that," said the young man. "I'll tell you what I did do, though."
"What?"
"I pretended she was you."
Sybil immediately stooped and began to dig in the sand. "Let's go in the water," she said.
"All right," said the young man. "I think I can work it in."
"Next time, push her off," Sybil said. "Push who off?"
"Sharon Lipschutz."
"Ah, 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."
"A what?"
"A 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.
The two started to walk down to the ocean.
"I imagine you've seen quite a few bananafish in your day," the young man said.
Sybil shook her head.
"You haven't? Where do you live, anyway?"
"I don't know," said Sybil.
"Sure you know. You must know. Sharon Lipschutz knows where she lives and she's only three and a half."
Sybil 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.
"Whirly Wood, Connecticut," said the young man. "Is that anywhere near Whirly Wood, Connecticut, by any chance?"
Sybil 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.
"You have no idea how clear that makes everything," the young man said.
Sybil released her foot. "Did you read `Little Black Sambo'?" she said.
"It's 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.
"Did the tigers run all around that tree?"
"I thought they'd never stop. I never saw so many tigers."
"There were only six," Sybil said.
"Only six!" said the young man. "Do you call that only?"
"Do you like wax?" Sybil asked.
"Do I like what?" asked the young man. "Wax."
"Very much. Don't you?"
Sybil nodded. "Do you like olives?" she asked.
"Olives--yes. Olives and wax. I never go anyplace without 'em."
"Do you like Sharon Lipschutz?" Sybil asked.
"Yes. 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."
Sybil was silent.
"I like to chew candles," she said finally.
"Who 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."
They 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.
"Don't you ever wear a bathing cap or anything?" he asked.
"Don't let go," Sybil ordered. "You hold me, now."
"Miss 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."
"I don't see any," Sybil said.
"That's 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?"
She shook her head.
"Well, 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."
"Not too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"
"What happens to who?"
"The bananafish."
"Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the banana hole?"
"Yes," said Sybil.
"Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."
"Why?" asked Sybil.
"Well, they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."
"Here comes a wave," Sybil said nervously.
"We'll 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.
With 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."
"Saw what, my love?"
"A bananafish."
"My God, no!" said the young man. "Did he have any bananas in his mouth?"
"Yes," said Sybil. "Six."
The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil's wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.
"Hey!" said the owner of the foot, turning around.
"Hey, yourself We're going in now. You had enough?"
"No!"
"Sorry," he said, and pushed the float toward shore until Sybil got off it. He carried it the rest of the way.
"Goodbye," said Sybil, and ran without regret in the direction of the hotel.
The 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.
On 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.
"I see you're looking at my feet," he said to her when the car was in motion.
"I beg your pardon?" said the woman.
"I said I see you're looking at my feet."
"I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
"If you want to look at my feet, say so," said the young man. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it."
"Let me out here, please," the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
The car doors opened and the woman got out without looking back.
"I have two normal feet and I can't see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them," said the young man. "Five, please." He took his room key out of his robe pocket.
He got off at the fifth floor, walked down the hall, and let himself into 507. The room smelled of new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover.
He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, then reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.

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