He slammed the door.
He was on the subway.
I’m numb, he thought. When did the numbness really begin in my face? In my body?
The night I kicked the pill-bottle in the dark, like kicking a buried mine.
The numbness will go away, he thought. It’ll take time, but I’ll do it, or Faber will do it for me. Someone somewhere will give me back the old face and the old hands the way they were. Even the smile, he thought, the old burnt-in smile, that’s gone. I’m lost without it.
The subway fled past him, cream-tile, jet-black, cream-tile, jet-black, numerals and darkness, more darkness and the total adding itself.
Once as a child he had sat upon a yellow dune by the sea in the middle of the blue and hot summer day, trying to fill a sieve with sand, because some cruel cousin had said, “Fill this sieve and you’ll get a dime!” Ànd the faster he poured, the faster it sifted through with a hot whispering. His hands were tired, the sand was boiling, the sieve was empty. Seated there in the midst of July, without a sound, he felt the tears move down his cheeks.
Now as the vacuum-underground rushed him through the dead cellars of town, jolting him, he remembered the terrible logic of that sieve, and he looked down and saw that he was carrying the Bible open. There were people in the suction train but he held the book in his hands and the silly thought came to him, if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve. But he read and the words fell through, and he thought, in a few hours, there will be Beatty, and here will be me handing this over, so no phrase must escape me, each line must be memorized. I will myself to do it.
He clenched the book in his fists.
Shut up, thought Montag. Consider the lilies of the field.
They toil not-
Consider the lilies of the field, shut up, shut up.
“Dentifrice ! ”
He tore the book open and flicked the pages and felt them as if he were blind, he picked at the shape of the individual letters, not blinking.
“Denham’s. Spelled : D-E.N ”
They toil not, neither do they . . .
A fierce whisper of hot sand through empty sieve.
“Denham’s does it!”
Consider the lilies, the lilies, the lilies…
“Denham’s dental detergent.”
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” It was a plea, a cry so terrible that Montag found himself on his feet, the shocked inhabitants of the loud car staring, moving back from this man with the insane, gorged face, the gibbering, dry mouth, the flapping book in his fist. The people who had been sitting a moment before, tapping their feet to the rhythm of Denham’s Dentifrice, Denham’s Dandy Dental Detergent, Denham’s Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice, one two, one two three, one two, one two three. The people whose mouths had been faintly twitching the words Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice. The train radio vomited upon Montag, in retaliation, a great ton-load of music made of tin, copper, silver, chromium, and brass. The people wcre pounded into submission; they did not run, there was no place to run; the great air-train fell down its shaft in the earth.
“Lilies of the field.” “Denham’s.”
“Lilies, I said!”
The people stared.
“Call the guard.”
“The man’s off–”
The train hissed to its stop.
“Knoll View!” A cry.
“Denham’s.” A whisper.
Montag’s mouth barely moved. “Lilies…”
The train door whistled open. Montag stood. The door gasped, started shut. Only then .did he leap past the other passengers, screaming in his mind, plunge through the slicing door only in time. He ran on the white tiles up through the tunnels, ignoring the escalators, because he wanted to feel his feet-move, arms swing, lungs clench, unclench, feel his throat go raw with air. A voice drifted after him, “Denham’s Denham’s Denham’s,” the train hissed like a snake. The train vanished in its hole.
“Who is it?”
“Montag out here.”
“What do you want?”
“Let me in.”