The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Chapter 20

With Luce gone, Holden turns to his drinks and before long is quite drunk. Valencia, the singer who’s replaced the French girls, belts out a few tunes, and Holden first gets dramatic, doing his bullet-in-the-guts routine, then a little maudlin, wanting to get a girl on the phone. He staggers out of the bar and calls Sally, who is surprisingly nice and patient with Holden, who last left her to find her own way home from the ice skating rink. Holden is rambling and slurring, though, and Sally ultimately hangs up on him.

Holden’s next stop is the bathroom, where he tries to get his wits back by dunking his head in a sinkful of ice cold water. The piano player from the bar comes in, combs his hair and shakes off Holden’s kiss-up compliments.

The piano player advises Holden to go home, but Holden doesn’t really have anywhere to go. He leaves the bar and heads in the direction of Central Park, to investigate the lagoon for traces of the ducks. The ice water obviously hasn’t sobered Holden up fully. He has a terrifically hard time finding the lagoon, even though he’s lived in New York all his life and knows the park like the back of his hand. He drops Phoebe’s record on the way, breaking it into a bunch of tiny pieces. The pond is partly frozen, and although Holden does a thorough investigation, nearly falling into the water a few times, there are no ducks to be found.

Sitting on a park bench, his wet hair frozen solid, Holden’s thoughts turn to death. He hates the idea of his body spending eternity in a cemetery, and he’s bothered to think that that’s what’s happened to his brother Allie. Ultimately, it’s the thought of how sad Phoebe would be if he died that gets Holden up and off the park bench. He’s decided that he’ll go home, sneak in, and pay "old Phoebe" a visit.

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