“Who?” “And Aunt Maude?” The most significant memory he had of Mildred, really, was of a little girl in a forest without trees (how odd!) or rather a little girl lost on a plateau where there used to be trees (you could feel the memory of their shapes all about) sitting in the centre of the “living-room.” The living-room; what a good job of labelling that was now. No matter when he came in, the walls were always talking to Mildred.
“Something must be done!I”
“Yes, something must be done!”
“Well, let’s not stand and talk!”
“Let’s do it! ”
“I’m so mad I could SPIT!”
What was it all about? Mildred couldn’t say. Who was mad at whom? Mildred didn’t quite know. What were they going to do? Well, said Mildred, wait around and see.
He had waited around to see.
A great thunderstorm of sound gushed from the walls. Music bombarded him at such an immense volume that his bones were almost shaken from their tendons; he felt his jaw vibrate, his eyes wobble in his head. He was a victim of concussion. When it was all over he felt like a man who had been thrown from a cliff, whirled in a centrifuge and spat out over a waterfall that fell and fell into emptiness and emptiness and never-quite-touched-bottom-never-never-quite-no not quite-touched-bottom …
and you fell so fast you didn’t touch the sides either … never … quite . . . touched .
The thunder faded. The music died.
“There,” said Mildred,
And it was indeed remarkable. Something had happened. Even though the people in the walls of the room had barely moved, and nothing had really been settled, you had the impression that someone had turned on a washing-machine or sucked you up in a gigantic vacuum. You drowned in music and pure cacophony. He came out of the room sweating and on the point of collapse. Behind him, Mildred sat in her chair and the voices went on again:
“Well, everything will be all right now,” said an “aunt.”
“Oh, don’t be too sure,” said a “cousin.”
“Now, don’t get angry!”
“YOU are ! ”
“Why should I be mad!”
“That’s all very well,” cried Montag, “but what are they mad about? Who are these people? Who’s that man and who’s that woman? Are they husband and wife, are they divorced, engaged, what? Good God, nothing’s connected up.”
“They–” said Mildred. “Well, they-they had this fight, you see. They certainly fight a lot. You should listen. I think they’re married. Yes, they’re married. Why?”
And if it was not the three walls soon to be four walls and the dream complete, then it was the open car and Mildred driving a hundred miles an hour across town, he shouting at her and she shouting back and both trying to hear what was said, but hearing only the scream of the car. “At least keep it down to the minimum !” he yelled: “What?” she cried. “Keep it down to fifty-five, the minimum! ” he shouted. “The what?” she shrieked. “Speed!” he shouted. And she pushed it up to one hundred and five miles an hour and tore the breath from his mouth.
When they stepped out of the car, she had the Seashells stuffed in her ears.
Silence. Onlv the wind blowing softlv.
“Mildred.” He stirred in bed.
He reached over and pulled one of the tiny musical insects out of her ear. “Mildred.
“Yes.” Her voice was faint.
He felt he was one of the creatures electronically inserted between the slots of the phono-colour walls, speaking, but the speech not piercing the crystal barrier. He could only pantomime, hoping she would turn his way and see him. They could not touch through the glass.
“Mildred, do you know that girl I was telling you about?”
“What girl?” She was almost asleep.
“The girl next door.”
“What girl next door?”
“You know, the high-school girl. Clarisse, her name is.”
“Oh, yes,” said his wife.
“I haven’t seen her for a few days-four days to be exact. Have you seen her?”
“I’ve meant to talk to you about her. Strange.”