“I’m not thinking. I’m just doing like I’m told, like always. You said get the money and I got it. I didn’t really think of it myself. When do I start working things out on my own?”
“You’ve started already, by saying what you just said. You’ll have to take me on faith.”
“I took the others on faith ! ”
“Yes, and look where we’re headed. You’ll have to travel blind for a while. Here’s my arm to hold on to.”
“I don’t want to change sides and just be told what to do. There’s no reason to change if I do that.”
“You’re wise already!”
Montag felt his feet moving him on the sidewalk.toward his house. “Keep talking.”
“Would you like me to read? I’ll read so you can remember. I go to bed only five hours a night. Nothing to do. So if you like; I’ll read you to sleep nights. They say you retain knowledge even when you’re sleeping, if someone whispers it in your ear.”
“Here.” Far away across town in the night, the faintest whisper of a turned page. “The Book of Job.”
The moon rose in the sky as Montag walked, his lips moving just a trifle.
He was eating a light supper at nine in the evening when the front door cried out in the hall and Mildred ran from the parlour like a native fleeing an eruption of Vesuvius.
Mrs. Phelps and Mrs. Bowles came through the front door and vanished into the volcano’s mouth with martinis in their hands: Montag stopped eating. They were like a monstrous crystal chandelier tinkling in a thousand chimes, he saw their Cheshire Cat smiles burning through the walls of the house, and now they were screaming at each other above the din. Montag found himself at the parlour door with his food still in his mouth.
“Doesn’t everyone look nice!”
“You look fine, Millie! ”
“Everyone looks swell.”
“Montag stood watching them.
“Patience,” whispered Faber.
“I shouldn’t be here,” whispered Montag, almost to himself. “I should be on my way back to you with the money!” “Tomorrow’s time enough. Careful!”
“Isn’t this show wonderful?” cried Mildred. “Wonderful!”
On one wall a woman smiled and drank orange juice simultaneously. How does she do both at once, thought Montag, insanely. In the other walls an X-ray of the same woman revealed the contracting journey of the refreshing beverage on its way to her delightful stomach! Abruptly the room took off on a rocket flight into the clouds, it plunged into a lime-green sea where blue fish ate red and yellow fish. A minute later, Three White Cartoon Clowns chopped off each other’s limbs to the accompaniment of immense incoming tides of laughter. Two minutes more and the room whipped out
of town to the jet cars wildly circling an arena, bashing and backing up and bashing each other again. Montag saw a number of bodies fly in the air.
“Millie, did you see that?”
“I saw it, I saw it! ”
Montag reached inside the parlour wall and pulled the main switch. The images drained away, as if the water had been let out from a gigantic crystal bowl of hysterical fish.
The three women turned slowly and looked with unconcealed irritation and then dislike at Montag.
“When do you suppose the war will start?” he said. “I notice your husbands aren’t here tonight?”
“Oh, they come and go, come and go,” said Mrs. Phelps. “In again out again Finnegan, the Army called Pete yesterday. He’ll be back next week. The Army said so. Quick war. Forty-eight hours they said, and everyone home. That’s what the Army said. Quick war. Pete was called yesterday and they said he’d be, back next week. Quick…”
The three women fidgeted and looked nervously at the empty mud-coloured walls.
“I’m not worried,” said Mrs. Phelps. “I’ll let Pete do all the worrying.” She giggled. “I’ll let old Pete do all the worrying. Not me. I’m not worried.”
“Yes,” said Millie. “Let old Pete do the worrying.”
“It’s always someone else’s husband dies, they say.”
“I’ve heard that, too. I’ve never known any dead man killed in a war. Killed jumping off buildings, yes, like Gloria’s husband last week, but from wars? No.”