soldier in white, she read his thermometer and discovered that he was dead.

‘Murderer,’ Dunbar said quietly.

The Texan looked up at him with an uncertain grin.

‘Killer,’ Yossarian said.

‘What are you fellas talkin’ about?’ the Texan asked nervously.

‘You murdered him,’ said Dunbar.

‘You killed him,’ said Yossarian.

The Texan shrank back. ‘You fellas are crazy. I didn’t even touch him.’

‘You murdered him,’ said Dunbar.

‘I heard you kill him,’ said Yossarian.

‘You killed him because he was a nigger,’ Dunbar said.

‘You fellas are crazy,’ the Texan cried. ‘They don’t allow niggers in here. They got a special place for niggers.’

‘The sergeant smuggled him in,’ Dunbar said.

‘The Communist sergeant,’ said Yossarian.

‘And you knew it.’ The warrant officer on Yossarian’s left was unimpressed by the entire incident of the soldier in white. The warrant officer was unimpressed by everything and never spoke at all unless it was to show irritation.

The day before Yossarian met the chaplain, a stove exploded in the mess hall and set fire to one side of the kitchen. An intense heat flashed through the area. Even in Yossarian’s ward, almost three hundred feet away, they could hear the roar of the blaze and the sharp cracks of flaming timber. Smoke sped past the orange-tinted windows. In about fifteen minutes the crash trucks from the airfield arrived to fight the fire. For a frantic half hour it was touch and go. Then the firemen began to get the upper hand. Suddenly there was the monotonous old drone of bombers returning from a mission, and the firemen had to roll up their hoses and speed back to the field in case one of the planes crashed and caught fire. The planes landed safely. As soon as the last one was down, the firemen wheeled their trucks around and raced back up the hill to resume their fight with the fire at the hospital. When they got there, the blaze was out. It had died of its own accord, expired completely without even an ember to be watered down, and there was nothing for the disappointed firemen to do but drink tepid coffee and hang around trying to screw the nurses.

The chaplain arrived the day after the fire. Yossarian was busy expurgating all but romance words from the letters when the chaplain sat down in a chair between the beds and asked him how he was feeling. He had placed himself a bit to one side, and the captain’s bars on the tab of his shirt collar were all the insignia Yossarian could see. Yossarian had no idea who he was and just took it for granted that he was either another doctor or another madman.

‘Oh, pretty good,’ he answered. ‘I’ve got a slight pain in my liver and I haven’t been the most regular of fellows, I guess, but all in all I must admit that I feel pretty good.’

‘That’s good,’ said the chaplain.

‘Yes,’ Yossarian said. ‘Yes, that is good.’

‘I meant to come around sooner,’ the chaplain said, ‘but I really haven’t been well.’

‘That’s too bad,’ Yossarian said.

‘Just a head cold,’ the chaplain added quickly.

‘I’ve got a fever of a hundred and one,’ Yossarian added just as quickly.

‘That’s too bad,’ said the chaplain.

‘Yes,’ Yossarian agreed. ‘Yes, that is too bad.’ The chaplain fidgeted. ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ he asked after a while.

‘No, no.’ Yossarian sighed. ‘The doctors are doing all that’s humanly possible, I suppose.’

‘No, no.’ The chaplain colored faintly. ‘I didn’t mean anything like that. I meant cigarettes… or books… or… toys.’

‘No, no,’ Yossarian said. ‘Thank you. I have everything I need, I suppose—everything but good health.’

‘That’s too bad.’

‘Yes,’ Yossarian said. ‘Yes, that is too bad.’ The chaplain stirred again. He looked from side to side a few times, then gazed up at the ceiling, then down at the floor. He drew a deep breath.

‘Lieutenant Nately sends his regards,’ he said.

Yossarian was sorry to hear they had a mutual friend. It seemed there was a basis to their conversation after all. ‘You know Lieutenant Nately?’ he asked regretfully.

‘Yes, I know Lieutenant Nately quite well.’

‘He’s a bit loony, isn’t he?’ The chaplain’s smile was embarrassed. ‘I’m afraid I couldn’t say. I don’t think I know him that well.’

‘You can take my word for it,’ Yossarian said. ‘He’s as goofy as they come.’ The chaplain weighed the next silence heavily and then shattered it with an abrupt question. ‘You are Captain Yossarian, aren’t you?’

‘Nately had a bad start. He came from a good family.’

‘Please excuse me,’ the chaplain persisted timorously. ‘I may be committing a very grave error. Are you Captain Yossarian?’

‘Yes,’ Captain Yossarian confessed. ‘I am Captain Yossarian.’

‘Of the 256th Squadron?’

‘Of the fighting 256th Squadron,’ Yossarian replied. ‘I didn’t know there were any other Captain Yossarians. As far as I know, I’m the only Captain Yossarian I know, but that’s only as far as I know.’

‘I see,’ the chaplain said unhappily.

‘That’s two to the fighting eighth power,’ Yossarian pointed out, ‘if you’re thinking of writing a symbolic poem about our squadron.’

‘No,’ mumbled the chaplain. ‘I’m not thinking of writing a symbolic poem about your squadron.’ Yossarian straightened sharply when he spied the tiny silver cross on the other side of the chaplain’s collar. He was thoroughly astonished, for he had never really talked with a chaplain before.

‘You’re a chaplain,’ he exclaimed ecstatically. ‘I didn’t know you were a chaplain.’

‘Why, yes,’ the chaplain answered. ‘Didn’t you know I was a chaplain?’

‘Why, no. I didn’t know you were a chaplain.’ Yossarian stared at him with a big, fascinated grin. ‘I’ve never really seen a chaplain before.’ The chaplain flushed again and gazed down at his hands. He was a slight man of about thirty-two with tan hair and brown diffident eyes. His face was narrow and rather pale. An innocent nest of ancient pimple pricks lay in the basin of each cheek. Yossarian wanted to help him.

‘Can I do anything at all to help you?’ the chaplain asked.

Yossarian shook his head, still grinning. ‘No, I’m sorry. I have everything I need and I’m quite comfortable. In fact, I’m not even sick.’

‘That’s good.’ As soon as the chaplain said the words, he was sorry and shoved his knuckles into his mouth with a giggle of alarm, but Yossarian remained silent and disappointed him. ‘There are other men in the group I must visit,’ he apologized finally. ‘I’ll come to see you again, probably tomorrow.’

‘Please do that,’ Yossarian said.

‘I’ll come only if you want me to,’ the chaplain said, lowering his head shyly. ‘I’ve noticed that I make many of the men uncomfortable.’ Yossarian glowed with affection. ‘I want you to,’ he said. ‘You won’t make me uncomfortable.’ The chaplain beamed gratefully and then peered down at a slip of paper he had been concealing in his hand all the while. He counted along the beds in the ward, moving his lips, and then centered his attention dubiously on Dunbar.

‘May I inquire,’ he whispered softly, ‘if that is Lieutenant Dunbar?’

‘Yes,’ Yossarian answered loudly, ‘that is Lieutenant Dunbar.’

‘Thank you,’ the chaplain whispered. ‘Thank you very much. I must visit with him. I must visit with every member of the group who is in the hospital.’

‘Even those in other wards?’ Yossarian asked.

‘Even those in other wards.’

‘Be careful in those other wards, Father,’ Yossarian warned. ‘That’s where they keep the mental cases. They’re filled with lunatics.’

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