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Holden, Ten Years Later
IF YOU really want to know, the first thing you’d probably want to hear about is what happened to me while I was at that goddam place and what they did to me, and what happened between my parents and me and all that crap, but I’d rather not go into it. To tell the truth, that stuff made no difference on me. And besides, my parents would be in way over their heads if I told you anything personal about them. They’re as touchy as hell, they are. What I will tell you about is what happened after I left that goddam place, after that sonuvabitch finally let me out.
The day I left that goddam place, that one psychoanalyst kept on bringing up the subject of school. “Try hard, son. You’ve got a bright mind! Learn to use it! Be a good boy and go back to school, will ya? Do it for me, Holden, do it for me.”
“Yeah,” I said. I meant it, too. I really did go back to school. Back to old Pencey Prep. They let me back in, as a matter of fact. Only didn’t stay long. The place was still filled with phonies.
Anyway, the day I left that sonuvabitch, I didn’t go straight home. I’d have been a madman to go straight home. I decided I’d finally ring up Jane Gallagher.
“Afternoon, Mrs. Gallagher. Holden Caulfield here, is Jane there? Can I speak to her?” I waited anxiously while she went to get Jane. I was excited as a madman.
“Hello?” came a sweet voice. God, her voice was sweet. It really was.
“Hey Jane,” I said, suave as hell. “It’s me, Holden. Holden Caulfield, remember? Next-door neighbor....”
“Holden! Oh, it’s been years! Well, are you on your way home? Your parents are very worried...the neighborhood’s been searching for hours...and your mother, she’s crying...and there’s never been so much--”
“My mother’s crying?” I asked. That didn’t seem right. My mother wouldn’t give a damn where I was after all that crap that happened, and even if she did, she sure as hell wouldn’t cry. “What for? And what’s the neighborhood searching for? Me?” I was getting goddam confused.
“What? Oh no, not you, Holden. Nobody told you yet? It’s your sister, Phoebe...Holden, she’s missing!”
I was damn scared after I heard that. I hung up, but not before I told Jane that I was coming home.
I got home, and there was my mother, crying. That was helluva sight. That was the only time I’d ever see my mother cry. In 26 goddam years, that was the only time. She didn’t even cry at Allie’s goddam funeral.
“Holden!” I turned around. Jane Gallagher was running towards me. She looked great as hell. “Oh, Holden! It’s been so long! I’ve missed you!”
I gave her a kiss on the cheek. I probably would’ve done more, but I was too jittery. “When’d Phoebe go missimg?” I was getting really nervous.
“Well, I heard the poilce here early on this morning. Holden, you should really talk to your mother. You’re the only person who can calm her down...and you’re probably the only person who can figure out where Phoebe is.”
I didn’t want to, but I talked to my mother. For Jane, though. I felt like I owed her. I don’t know why. I was a madman, I really was.
I don’t want go over the whole damn conversation again, but my mother pretty much just told me that Phoebe hadn’t been kidnapped, like I’d thought, she’d actually run away. I was mad as hell when I heard that, but I wasn’t much surprised. Phoebe’s a smart kid.
“Did you guys search D.B.’s room?” I asked.
“Yes, and we searched her own room too...the only thing she left was this note, and it didn’t help at all. Here, read it.”
DEAR MOTHER AND FATHER,
I have gone to Alice Holmborg’s house. I know you guys said I wasn’t allowed to, but I wanted to real bad. Please don’t come looking for me. Her mother is taking us to the movies. And I’m also going to find Holden and visit him. I might even stay with him for a while.
“We called Alice Holmborg’s mother, and she said that Phoebe never showed up, and we called the psychoanalyst up but he said you’d already gone, and Phoebe never knew you went there in the first place....”
That killed me. Old Phoebe would’ve known where I was. If you don’t think she’s smart, you’re mad. I knew that she hadn’t gone over to Alice Holmborg’s house. I knew she was looking for me. I closed my eyes for a minute, and thought hard about all the goddam places we’ve been at together before I got sent away. I knew old Phoebe woulda went to one of those places to find me. I’m not kidding. She can be as mad as me sometimes.
“I know where she is. Well, not exactly, but I know where she might be,” I said. And it was true, I did know exactly where she was.
“I’m coming with you,” came a voice. I turned around and there Jane was, with this determined as hell look on her face. God, she knocked me out.
“No kidding. C’mon, then. Let’s go.”
We made it to the zoo, and we stopped our fast-walk for a little bit just to catch our breaths. I don’t have any wind. They took away my cigarettes, but my lungs were already too crapped up for it to make any difference.
“Hey, hey Jane,” I said.
“Do you still leave your kings in the back row, by any chance? In checkers, I mean. Do ya? Hey, do you still play checkers at all?”
She laughed this pretty little laugh. God, I’ve missed that. She never answered my question, though.
We went inside the zoo, and I headed straight for the carousel. And sure enough, old Phoebe was there. The way I spotted her, she had on my red hunting hat. That killed me. I was excited to see Phoebe again, I really was. It was as if she knew I was there, because she turned around right at the second I saw her.
“Holden!” Phoebe came running straight towards me. She put her arms around me and all. “Oh, Holden!” She’s very affectionate, for a child. Then all of a sudden, I felt something wet on my shirt. I looked down and saw that Phoebe’s face was all red and funny-looking. She was crying.
“Phoeb? Hey, c’mon Phoeb. Stop that. Stop crying. Whatsa matter, anyway?” She didn’t say anything. She just shook her head, back and forth. I let her catch her breath for a second. “You still got that old crazy hat. eh?”
She finally stopped crying after a few minutes. “Holden, I’ve missed you! Oh, how I’ve missed you!” She really was quite affectionate.
“Why’d you run away, Phoeb? You scared hell outa Mother.”
“I didn’t mean to! I just...I don’t know, Holden! I wanted to find you! Mother wouldn’t tell me where you went, and I thought maybe you went to Colorado, but then I overheard her talking to D.B. on the phone and saying something about a psycho...a psycho-something and I went through her stuff to find the address of the place but I couldn’t!”
Man, old Pheobe kills me. “Yeah?” I said. “It’s psychoanalyst. How’d you end up here then, at the zoo?”
“I thought maybe you got kicked out of wherever you were, and you were coming to see me, and I know you always go the way ‘round the zoo to get home, and I wanted to see you fast.”
That knocked me out. No kidding. I gave Phoebe the biggest hug I’ve ever given anybody. She was one helluva kid. I never got over that. I never did. “Let’s get on home so Mother can know you’re still alive, alright?” I took her hand, and I led the three of us out.
“Holden!” Phoebe said all of a sudden. “Mrs. Mullither, my 6th grade teacher, made us write a story of our hero, and I wrote about you! I wrote about how you were the best brother I’ve ever had, and about how you wanted to catch little kids before they hurt themselves. It’s supposed to be a biography, so I also told about how you got kicked out of school, and how I had no idea where you were anymore. You know what she told me, though?” She went on before I had a chance to answer. “She told me that you were a bad role model. She said ‘anybody who gets kicked out of school is not a good role model’. Then I told her, ‘You don’t know my brother.”’
“She didn’t know Holden,” said Jane. I hadn’t heard her talk this whole time. I almost forgot she was there. But, honestly, I couldn’t have forgotten she wasn’t there. She’s not the type of person you would forget. “If she knew Holden, she wouldn’t have said that.”
Jane turned her head and looked at me when she said that. She looked straight into my eyes without smiling or any expression or anything, but there was something real sweet and pretty about how she looked at me that sent a shiver down my spine. God, I’ve missed her.
It was getting pretty late as we walked on home, and Phoebe started to sing.
“If a body meet a body coming through the rye
If a body kiss a body need a body cry?
If a body meet a body coming through the glen
If a body kiss a body need the world ken?”
THAT’S ALL I’m going to tell about. I could probably tell you what happened once we got home and stuff, and how school went and all, but I don’t feel like it. I really don’t. That stuff doesn’t interest me too much right now.
Jane and I moved out together and bought ourselves a little house. We’re not married or anything, if that’s what you think, but I don’t give a crap about what the goddam society thinks of us. Old Phoebe’s in college now down South. She’s grown to be quite an intellectual young lady now. She visits me quite often, whenever she can. I still chew the fat over the phone with her every once in a while.
What I do now, I’m a grade-school teacher. A kindergarten teacher, to be exact. Old Phoebe suggested me to it, and I’m not gonna lie, I goddam enjoy it. I especially love play time. It kills me when all the little kids run around together, all goddam happy and not caring one way or another about the rest of the world. All they know is what’s in front of them, and hell, that’s all they need to know. That’s all anybody ever needs to know.