CHAPTER 2

26/04/2011 13:37

 

2

Beatty was driving the salamander at a high speed. He was having a lecture on books again:

- What traitors books can be! You think they are getting you up and they turn on you. Others can use them too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives…-

Montag wasn’t listening any further. His thoughts were concentrated on so many things at once! The day before Mildred had committed a suicide. She had taken all the sleeping pills. What a horror to see her lying in bed – steady, cold, unreal! He called the ambulance and she was saved this time… And the place where they met? He still couldn’t figure it out. How could he have forgotten such an important thing! And how could she? He was lost. He felt confused. The girl… The girl was so impulsive, so real, so happy and full of life! She told him she was watching people when she was riding the subway all day and was looking at them and listening to them just to figure out who they were. And she heard them talking and they were talking about nothing at all – nobody said anything different from anyone else… How cruel! How true! He felt guilty. Not guilty for himself only, but guilty for the others, for the society, for all those burned books and people. The woman’s resisting eyes were looking deep into his soul - he could still feel the pain and the shame that he had left her there. How resolute she was – to die together with her books. Whatever Beatty says, there must be something in the books that people are even willing to die for. But what is it?

            Looking outside the window, he realized the street looked very familiar to him. It was his street! Where are they going? Aren’t they stopping at the McClellans’ house?

            Perry woke up and felt the coldness of his bed. It was wet. He had had a terrible dream and he had seen all the Clutter faces in it. They had begged for mercy, they had looked deep into his eyes and he hadn’t been able to stand it. He just hadn’t. He had turned to Dick and announced to him he wasn’t going to hurt anyone. Dick had yelled. Nervously he had repeated, I told you, no witnesses! Perry had done what was necessary to make them as comfortable as possible. He had laid them in their beds, bottomed their heads with pillows and covered them up to their faces. He had been trembling and strongly denying what was going to happen. Then he woke up sweating. There was some noise in the officer’s cell. Someone was coming. Suddenly, the lights were turned on. Even Dick was awake. The head officer came and unlocked their cells. They were handcuffed and led away without being told a word. They were too afraid to ask what was happening. Dick turned his head and Perry could see arising curiosity in his eyes.

            Montag was looking at Beatty and asked in surprise:

- Is this house our destination now?-

Beatty murmured something, but between those unrecognizable words, which came out of his mouth, he only caught this – the McCelllans. He was astonished. Without a move, he was gazing at the house. The others were ready and Beatty called him,

-Hey, what’s up? Don’t worry, it isn’t your house, this time!- loud laugh.

As they entered the house, he felt frozen. His mind stayed somewhere outside, unwilling to cooperate, but his hands did what was familiar to them. Mechanically, he repeated waht had been done a hundred times before. Before, it was even a pleasure to burn books. Now everything changed.

The house was empty. No inhabitants in it. They searched it top-down and in the basement they found what they had been looking for. Books. Plenty of them. New, old and even older. Shelves were overloaded with the weight. Then Beatty took the flamethrower and ordered the men to follow him. Montag joined them but while performing he kept thinking of where the McClellans had gone, where Clarisse had disappeared.

 Dick, now more confident than ever, was walking down the path. He was whistling and dreaming of meeting Clarisse – one of the many they were supposed to kill. Clarisse as the youngest, only 16 years old, and with her youth and virginity, attracted him most. He desired to see her. However, he would have to wait. Her family and she were the last ones on the list. Order is order. Unless they wanted to get back to prison and wait for their death sentence in their cells, they had to fulfil the task properly. The freedom they were promised was worth it.

Perry’s mood differed from what had just been described. The burden of the previous experience followed him day and night. Depressed and desperate, he was thinking of the price for their redemption. He was disgusted. Once again he was being forced into something he didn’t agree with at all.

They headed west, to Brokeleen. The target was clear – Billy Budd.

 

It was about 5pm. Billy had just arrived from work. He was more tired than usual. He turned his TV set on and watched The Relatives. Before the night came, there was a knock on the door. Since he hadn’t invited anyone and wasn’t expecting any visitors, he went slowly to the door, half asleep, getting more curious.

As he opened, two men were standing at the door, smiling and asking him to let them in. Becoming more suspicious, he allowed them to sit in the parlour. He asked them why they had come. Dick, as a born speaker, started:

-We were sent to give you greetings.-

Billy wondered, -Greetings? And whom from?-

Perry watched the floor, unable to speak, unable to stop what was happening around.

-From your Mayor, Cpt. Vere. Oh, and, of course, from Mr. Claggart.-

Billy got pale. Claggart’s hatred stung him in the heart. Dick took out a gun. Seeing it, Billy managed to escape to the kitchen. He locked the door. Perry was of no assistance to Dick. Getting nervous, Dick yelled.

-Get him, you son-of-a-bitch! Hurry up!-

Perry slowly woke up and followed Dick to the kitchen. They broke the glass and entered. But it was too late. Billy was lying on the floor covered with blood. He stabbed himself with a knife. They looked at each other and Dick remarked,

-At least we have nothing to do ourselves. Im getting to like the job more and more!-

Perry looked sadly at the body lying on the floor. He felt he had sucked all the blood drops into his body. He felt tired and he felt pain.

             It was sunny and warm. No work today. George was cooking lunch and Candy was doing usual housework. Candy didn’t go to work, he was too old. He helped them with the house, and while they were working, he took care of the farm as well. Lennie was petting the animals in the garden, as usual. He was crazy about them. He especially liked rabbits and they had more than 50. They also had puppies, but only four were alive at that time. They were too small and Lennie always wanted to pet them. Unaware of his power, he killed them. Even though George told him not to pet them while they were so small, he didn’t listen. He just couldn’t. He wanted to feel their softness and warmth. They were so small and so cute!

            The typical Saturday afternoon was interrupted as a car stopped outside the house. Two men got out and headed for the entrance door. George saw them from the kitchen window and in surprise went to open. No need to do that. They didn’t wait. They met in the corridor and he could see the evil in their eyes. Before he could say anything, Dick shot him.

            Candy heard the gun. He threw away the sweeper and ran towards Lennie. They got him from the back on the way outside.

            Lennie couldn’t hear anything. He was fully concentrated on the rabbits. He looked like a child. Perry didn’t want to shoot. Dick was a little afraid of the size of the man, but wittingly shot him in the head. Big noise. Lennie fell down while he was holding a small rabbit in his hand. The animal was scared. Perry took it out and put it among the others. Dick didn’t care. He was searching the house for some treasures. As Perry was going back to the house, he looked at the old man stretched at the door. Suddenly he realised there was an old dog lying next to him, howling. An old stinking dog. Perry couldn’t even look.

             The sun was setting. The lawn of a villa had been mowed only recently. The villa was situated in a quiet part of the town. In this evening time, most of the neighbours were sitting in front of their TVs, not noticing what was going on around them. It was pretty normal there were no children playing outside the houses, no screaming, laughing or other noises. Everything was quiet. Most of the inhabitants were spending their time inside.

            The villa they were visiting was also quiet. They rang the bell twice but no one bothered to open the door. The housekeeper had a day off and Mr. Pilgrim was too uninterested to go to open. Nevertheless, the closed door was not a big problem for them. They opened it easily and entered. Surrounded by wealth and antiques, Dick was looking around the place and figuring out how to carry it all out after the job was done.

Perry’s mind deserted the place for a while. He was thinking of his childhood. The memories suddenly appeared in his head. Until he was five, his parents continued to work the rodeo circuit. As a way of life, it wasn’t any gallon of ice-cream, six people riding in an old truck, sleeping in it, too, sometimes, living of mush and Hershey kisses and condensed milk, which weakened his kidneys and he had been wetting the bed ever since. Yet it was not an unhappy existence, especially for a little boy proud of his parents, admiring their showmanship and courage – a happier life, certainly, than what replaced it.

Billy Pilgrim was lying in bed, reading. He was absorbed in Kilgore Trout’s newest book, The Gospel From Outer Space. Unaware of the bell or of the sounds downstairs, he seemed quite surprised by the company that appeared at the door.

-Good evening, Mr. Pilgrim. We have come with our best intentions,- said Dick foxily.

Billy was looking at him, more or less touched, but because he was interrupted, not because they came. He didn’t even care. Still there was someone taking his time away, either it was his daughter, or the doctors, or the lawyers…

            Dick could see there was no response and tried explaining:

-You know, dear sir, the book you are holding in your hands is forbidden.-

            No words came out of Billy’s mouth. He was fully concentrated on the two men standing next to his bed. Particularly, he was looking into Perry’s eyes. There was something in them, something he couldn’t fully understand.

-Mr. Pilgrim, do you have any idea why we have come here?- asked Dick in a lower voice.

-We are now the Law. Our task is to kill you in order to secure the regulations of this town and this state. Do you understand?- continued Dick.

-So it goes,- replied Billy in a very low, almost boyish voice.

            Perry was getting nervous, Billy’s eyes still on him.

            Dick’s patience was over now. He took out the gun and pulled the trigger. No resistance, no sound, let alone a squeak from the dying man. He only closed his eyes as if he had fallen asleep and the book fell on his breasts.

-I didn’t know it would be that easy. What do ya say, Perry? Hey, you bastard, you ain’t doing anything. I should keep all the buck for myself!- Laughing, he slapped Perry on the shoulder. Perry shook. He knew what would follow. And only mechanically, he did what he was told.     

 

            Their final destination didn’t vary that much either. The only difference was made by the girl Dick had been thinking of so much lately. He was almost obsessed with the idea of raping the young Clarisse before killing her. Of course, he couldn’t tell Perry about his desires since Perry didn’t support him in what he had done in the past. For Perry it meant something that must be fully condemned and if Dick hadn’t been his friend, he would have done justice to him a long time ago.

            Perry was walking next to him. He was taller and his skin was much darker than Dick’s. The two didn’t raise much attention among the people. It was quite normal for the two men to travel together and people didn’t care about the others any more. They only minded their own business. The times had changed a lot.

            When they arrived at the place, they were surprised. But not positively. The house in the suburbs had been burnt down completely. No signs of human existence anymore. Nothing but ashes.

            Perry turned slowly, not saying a word, to leave. He looked behind himself and Dick was standing there, still. At first he thought he was going to cry, but no, his face was only getting red. He was angry. They didn’t speak all the way back, but Perry clearly knew what was going on. And in this case, he was rather satisfied they hadn’t found them. It was their luck, particularly at Clarisse’s side.

 To be continued.