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6 HUNGRY JOE

Hungry Joe did have fifty missions, but they were no help. He had his bags packed and was waiting again to go home. At night he had eerie, ear-splitting nightmares that kept everyone in the squadron awake but Huple, the fifteen-year-old pilot who had lied about his age to get into the Army and lived with his pet cat in the same tent with Hungry Joe. Huple was a light sleeper, but claimed he never heard Hungry Joe scream. Hungry Joe was sick.

“So what?” Doc Daneeka snarled resentfully. “I had it made, I tell you. Fifty grand a year I was knocking down, and almost all of it tax-free, since I made my customers pay me in cash. I had the strongest trade association in the world backing me up. And look what happened. Just when I was all set to really start stashing it away, they had to manufacture fascism and start a war horrible enough to affect even me. I gotta laugh when I hear someone like Hungry Joe screaming his brains out every night. I really gotta laugh. He’s sick? How does he think I feel?”

Hungry Joe was too firmly embedded in calamities of his own to care how Doc Daneeka felt. There were the noises, for instance. Small ones enraged him and he hollered himself hoarse at Aarfy for the wet, sucking sounds he made puffing on his pipe, at Orr for tinkering, at McWatt for the explosive snap he gave each card he turned over when he dealt at blackjack or poker, at Dobbs for letting his teeth chatter as he went blundering clumsily about bumping into things. Hungry Joe was a throbbing, ragged mass of motile irritability. The steady ticking of a watch in a quiet room crashed like torture against his unshielded brain.

“Listen, kid,” he explained harshly to Huple very late one evening, “if you want to live in this tent, you’ve got to do like I do. You’ve got to roll your wrist watch up in a pair of wool socks every night and keep it on the bottom of your foot locker on the other side of the room.”

Huple thrust his jaw out defiantly to let Hungry Joe know he couldn’t be pushed around and then did exactly as he had been told.

Hungry Joe was a jumpy, emaciated wretch with a fleshless face of dingy skin and bone and twitching veins squirming subcutaneously in the blackened hollows behind his eyes like severed sections of snake. It was a desolate, cratered face, sooty with care like an abandoned mining town. Hungry Joe ate voraciously, gnawed incessantly at the tips of his fingers, stammered, choked, itched, sweated, salivated, and sprang from spot to spot fanatically with an intricate black camera with which he was always trying to take pictures of naked girls. They never came out. He was always forgetting to put film in the camera or turn on lights or remove the cover from the lens opening. It wasn’t easy persuading naked girls to pose, but Hungry Joe had the knack.

“Me big man,” he would shout. “Me big photographer from Life magazine. Big picture on heap big cover. Si, si, si! Hollywood star. Multi dinero. Multi divorces. Multi ficky-fick all day long.”

Few women anywhere could resist such wily cajolery, and prostitutes would spring to their feet eagerly and hurl themselves into whatever fantastic poses he requested for them. Women killed Hungry Joe. His response to them as sexual beings was one of frenzied worship and idolatry. They were lovely, satisfying, maddening manifestations of the miraculous, instruments of pleasure too powerful to be measured, too keen to be endured, and too exquisite to be intended for employment by base, unworthy man. He could interpret their naked presence in his hands only as a cosmic oversight destined to be rectified speedily, and he was driven always to make what carnal use of them he could in the fleeting moment or two he felt he had before Someone caught wise and whisked them away. He could never decide whether to furgle them or photograph them, for he had found it impossible to do both simultaneously. In fact, he was finding it almost impossible to do either, so scrambled were his powers of performance by the compulsive need for haste that invariably possessed him. The pictures never came out, and Hungry Joe never got in. The odd thing was that in civilian life Hungry Joe really had been a photographer for Life magazine.

He was a hero now, the biggest hero the Air Force had, Yossarian felt, for he had flown more combat tours of duty than any other hero the Air Force had. He had flown six combat tours of duty. Hungry Joe had finished flying his first combat tour of duty when twenty-five missions were all that were necessary for him to pack his bags, write happy letters home and begin hounding Sergeant Towser humorously for the arrival of the orders rotating him back to the States. While he waited, he spent each day shuffling rhythmically around the entrance of the operations tent, making boisterous wisecracks to everybody who came by and jocosely calling Sergeant Towser a lousy son of a bitch every time Sergeant Towser popped out of the orderly room.

Hungry Joe had finished flying his first twenty-five missions during the week of the Salerno beachhead, when Yossarian was laid up in the hospital with a burst of clap he had caught on a low-level mission over a Wac in bushes on a supply flight to Marrakech. Yossarian did his best to catch up with Hungry Joe and almost did, flying six missions in six days, but his twenty-third mission was to Arezzo, where Colonel Nevers was killed, and that was as close as he had ever been able to come to going home. The next day Colonel Cathcart was there, brimming with tough pride in his new outfit and celebrating his assumption of command by raising the number of missions required from twenty-five to thirty. Hungry Joe unpacked his bags and rewrote the happy letters home. He stopped hounding Sergeant Towser humorously. He began hating Sergeant Towser, focusing all blame upon him venomously, even though he knew Sergeant Towser had nothing to do with the arrival of Colonel Cathcart or the delay in the processing of shipping orders that might have rescued him seven days earlier and five times since.

Hungry Joe could no longer stand the strain of waiting for shipping orders and crumbled promptly into ruin every time he finished another tour of duty. Each time he was taken off combat status, he gave a big party for the little circle of friends he had. He broke out the bottles of bourbon he had managed to buy on his four-day weekly circuits with the courier plane and laughed, sang, shuffled and shouted in a festival of inebriated ecstasy until he could no longer keep awake and receded peacefully into slumber. As soon as Yossarian, Nately and Dunbar put him to bed he began screaming in his sleep. In the morning he stepped from his tent looking haggard, fearful and guilt-ridden, an eaten shell of a human building rocking perilously on the brink of collapse.

The nightmares appeared to Hungry Joe with celestial punctuality every single night he spent in the squadron throughout the whole harrowing ordeal when he was not flying combat missions and was waiting once again for the orders sending him home that never came. Impressionable men in the squadron like Dobbs and Captain Flume were so deeply disturbed by Hungry Joe’s shrieking nightmares that they would begin to have shrieking nightmares of their own, and the piercing obscenities they flung into the air every night from their separate places in the squadron rang against each other in the darkness romantically like the mating calls of songbirds with filthy minds. Colonel Korn acted decisively to arrest what seemed to him to be the beginning of an unwholesome trend in Major Major’s squadron. The solution he provided was to have Hungry Joe fly the courier ship once a week, removing him from the squadron for four nights, and the remedy, like all Colonel Korn’s remedies, was successful.

Every time Colonel Cathcart increased the number of missions and returned Hungry Joe to combat duty, the nightmares stopped and Hungry Joe settled down into a normal state of terror with a smile of relief. Yossarian read Hungry Joe’s shrunken face like a headline. It was good when Hungry Joe looked bad and terrible when Hungry Joe looked good. Hungry Joe’s inverted set of responses was a curious phenomenon to everyone but Hungry Joe, who denied the whole thing stubbornly.

“Who dreams?” he answered, when Yossarian asked him what he dreamed about.

“Joe, why don’t you go see Doc Daneeka?” Yossarian advised.

“Why should I go see Doc Daneeka? I’m not sick.”

“What about your nightmares?”

“I don’t have nightmares,” Hungry Joe lied.

“Maybe he can do something about them.”

“There’s nothing wrong with nightmares,” Hungry Joe answered. “Everybody has nightmares.”

Yossarian thought he had him. “Every night?” he asked.

“Why not every night?” Hungry Joe demanded.

And suddenly it all made sense. Why not every night, indeed? It made sense to cry out in pain every night. It made more sense than Appleby, who was a stickler for regulations and had ordered Kraft to order Yossarian to take his Atabrine tablets on the flight overseas after Yossarian and Appleby had stopped talking to each other. Hungry Joe made more sense than Kraft, too, who was dead, dumped unceremoniously into doom over Ferrara by an exploding engine after Yossarian took his flight of six planes in over the target a second time. The group had missed the bridge at Ferrara again for the seventh straight day with the bombsight that could put bombs into a pickle barrel at forty thousand feet, and one whole week had already passed since Colonel Cathcart had volunteered to have his men destroy the bridge in twenty-four hours. Kraft was a skinny, harmless kid from Pennsylvania who wanted only to be liked, and was destined to be disappointed in even so humble and degrading an ambition. Instead of being liked, he was dead, a bleeding cinder on the barbarous pile whom nobody had heard in those last precious moments while the plane with one wing plummeted. He had lived innocuously for a little while and then had gone down in flame over Ferrara on the seventh day, while God was resting, when McWatt turned and Yossarian guided him in over the target on a second bomb run because Aarfy was confused and Yossarian had been unable to drop his bombs the first time.

“I guess we do have to go back again, don’t we?” McWatt had said somberly over the intercom.

“I guess we do,” said Yossarian.

“Do we?” said McWatt.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, well,” sang McWatt, “what the hell.”

And back they had gone while the planes in the other flights circled safely off in the distance and every crashing cannon in the Hermann Goering Division below was busy crashing shells this time only at them.

Colonel Cathcart had courage and never hesitated to volunteer his men for any target available. No target was too dangerous for his group to attack, just as no shot was too difficult for Appleby to handle on the ping-pong table. Appleby was a good pilot and a superhuman ping-pong player with flies in his eyes who never lost a point. Twenty-one serves were all it ever took for Appleby to disgrace another opponent. His prowess on the ping-pong table was legendary, and Appleby won every game he started until the night Orr got tipsy on gin and juice and smashed open Appleby’s forehead with his paddle after Appleby had smashed back each of Orr’s first five serves. Orr leaped on top of the table after hurling his paddle and came sailing off the other end in a running broad jump with both feet planted squarely in Appleby’s face. Pandemonium broke loose. It took almost a full minute for Appleby to disentangle himself from Orr’s flailing arms and legs and grope his way to his feet, with Orr held off the ground before him by the shirt front in one hand and his other arm drawn back in a fist to smite him dead, and at that moment Yossarian stepped forward and took Orr away from him. It was a night of surprises for Appleby, who was as large as Yossarian and as strong and who swung at Yossarian as hard as he could with a punch that flooded Chief White Halfoat with such joyous excitement that he turned and busted Colonel Moodus in the nose with a punch that filled General Dreedle with such mellow gratification that he had Colonel Cathcart throw the chaplain out of the officers’ club and ordered Chief White Halfoat moved into Doc Daneeka’s tent, where he could be under a doctor’s care twenty-four hours a day and be kept in good enough physical condition to bust Colonel Moodus in the nose again whenever General Dreedle wanted him to. Sometimes General Dreedle made special trips down from Wing Headquarters with Colonel Moodus and his nurse just to have Chief White Halfoat bust his son-in-law in the nose.

Chief White Halfoat would much rather have remained in the trailer he shared with Captain Flume, the silent, haunted squadron public-relations officer who spent most of each evening developing the pictures he took during the day to be sent out with his publicity releases. Captain Flume spent as much of each evening as he could working in his darkroom and then lay down on his cot with his fingers crossed and a rabbit’s foot around his neck and tried with all his might to stay awake. He lived in mortal fear of Chief White Halfoat. Captain Flume was obsessed with the idea that Chief White Halfoat would tiptoe up to his cot one night when he was sound asleep and slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume had obtained this idea from Chief White Halfoat himself, who did tiptoe up to his cot one night as he was dozing off, to hiss portentously that one night when he, Captain Flume, was sound asleep he, Chief White Halfoat, was going to slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume turned to ice, his eyes, flung open wide, staring directly up into Chief White Halfoat’s, glinting drunkenly only inches away.

“Why?” Captain Flume managed to croak finally.

“Why not?” was Chief White Halfoat’s answer.

Each night after that, Captain Flume forced himself to keep awake as long as possible. He was aided immeasurably by Hungry Joe’s nightmares. Listening so intently to Hungry Joe’s maniacal howling night after night, Captain Flume grew to hate him and began wishing that Chief White Halfoat would tiptoe up to his cot one night and slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Actually, Captain Flume slept like a log most nights and merely dreamed he was awake. So convincing were these dreams of lying awake that he woke from them each morning in complete exhaustion and fell right back to sleep.

Chief White Halfoat had grown almost fond of Captain Flume since his amazing metamorphosis. Captain Flume had entered his bed that night a buoyant extrovert and left it the next morning a brooding introvert, and Chief White Halfoat proudly regarded the new Captain Flume as his own creation. He had never intended to slit Captain Flume’s throat open for him from ear to ear. Threatening to do so was merely his idea of a joke, like dying of pneumonia, busting Colonel Moodus in the nose or challenging Doc Daneeka to Indian wrestle. All Chief White Halfoat wanted to do when he staggered in drunk each night was go right to sleep, and Hungry Joe often made that impossible. Hungry Joe’s nightmares gave Chief White Halfoat the heebie-jeebies, and he often wished that someone would tiptoe into Hungry Joe’s tent, lift Huple’s cat off his face and slit his throat open for him from ear to ear, so that everybody in the squadron but Captain Flume could get a good night’s sleep.

Even though Chief White Halfoat kept busting Colonel Moodus in the nose for General Dreedle’s benefit, he was still outside the pale. Also outside the pale was Major Major, the squadron commander, who had found that out the same time he found out that he was squadron commander from Colonel Cathcart, who came blasting into the squadron in his hopped-up jeep the day after Major Duluth was killed over Perugia. Colonel Cathcart slammed to a screeching stop inches short of the railroad ditch separating the nose of his jeep from the lopsided basketball court on the other side, from which Major Major was eventually driven by the kicks and shoves and stones and punches of the men who had almost become his friends.

“You’re the new squadron commander,” Colonel Cathcart had bellowed across the ditch at him. “But don’t think it means anything, because it doesn’t. All it means is that you’re the new squadron commander.”

And Colonel Cathcart had roared away as abruptly as he’d come, whipping the jeep around with a vicious spinning of wheels that sent a spray of fine grit blowing into Major Major’s face. Major Major was immobilized by the news. He stood speechless, lanky and gawking, with a scuffed basketball in his long hands as the seeds of rancor sown so swiftly by Colonel Cathcart took root in the soldiers around him who had been playing basketball with him and who had let him come as close to making friends with them as anyone had ever let him come before. The whites of his moony eyes grew large and misty as his mouth struggled yearningly and lost against the familiar, impregnable loneliness drifting in around him again like suffocating fog.

Like all the other officers at Group Headquarters except Major Danby, Colonel Cathcart was infused with the democratic spirit: he believed that all men were created equal, and he therefore spurned all men outside Group Headquarters with equal fervor. Nevertheless, he believed in his men. As he told them frequently in the briefing room, he believed they were at least ten missions better than any other outfit and felt that any who did not share this confidence he had placed in them could get the hell out. The only way they could get the hell out, though, as Yossarian learned when he flew to visit ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen, was by flying the extra ten missions.

“I still don’t get it,” Yossarian protested. “Is Doc Daneeka right or isn’t he?”

“How many did he say?”

“Forty.”

“Daneeka was telling the truth,” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen admitted. “Forty missions is all you have to fly as far as Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters is concerned.”

Yossarian was jubilant. “Then I can go home, right? I’ve got forty-eight.”

“No, you can’t go home,” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen corrected him. “Are you crazy or something?”

“Why not?”

“Catch-22.”

“Catch-22?” Yossarian was stunned. “What the hell has Catch-22 got to do with it?”

“Catch-22,” Doc Daneeka answered patiently, when Hungry Joe had flown Yossarian back to Pianosa, “says you’ve always got to do what your commanding officer tells you to.”

“But Twenty-seventh Air Force says I can go home with forty missions.”

“But they don’t say you have to go home. And regulations do say you have to obey every order. That’s the catch. Even if the colonel were disobeying a Twenty-seventh Air Force order by making you fly more missions, you’d still have to fly them, or you’d be guilty of disobeying an order of his. And then Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters would really jump on you.”

Yossarian slumped with disappointment. “Then I really have to fly the fifty missions, don’t I?” he grieved.

“The fifty-five,” Doc Daneeka corrected him.

“What fifty-five?”

“The fifty-five missions the colonel now wants all of you to fly.”

Hungry Joe heaved a huge sigh of relief when he heard Doc Daneeka and broke into a grin. Yossarian grabbed Hungry Joe by the neck and made him fly them both right back to ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen.

“What would they do to me,” he asked in confidential tones, “if I refused to fly them?”

“We’d probably shoot you,” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen replied.

We?” Yossarian cried in surprise. “What do you mean, we? Since when are you on their side?”

“If you’re going to be shot, whose side do you expect me to be on?” ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen retorted.

Yossarian winced. Colonel Cathcart had raised him again.

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