Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction"

I received an email, sometime last week, exhorting me to return a book I had borrowed from the library of an institution of higher learning other than my own. It took me a moment or two to remember why I had even taken that book out. It was not the type I usually check out of academic libraries. It was Catch as Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other Writings, a collection by Joseph Heller.
I had checked it out with the intention of finding in it a line I remembered reading as a child, in a publication I probably shouldn't have been reading. I had mentioned the line to a friend in the context of
discussion I probably shouldn't have been having. The line had something to do with an old man, in a hospital bed, fingering the lacy edge of the nurse's slip, because that was as much as she would allow him. I wanted to find the quote for my friend, the context, the original language, knowing I had not done it justice.
It's funny, the things we remember. I looked, with some urgency, in the collection for the story I knew held the sought-after line. There were two potential stories, where there should have been one. it was a story, I knew, that served as a sequel of sorts to Catch-22, Heller's masterwork. In any case, I can read quickly, and so two stories were no real impediment, save the fact that I was under unrelated deadlines.
But my line, my hem-fingering hero, was nowhere to be found. I had, Gentle Reader, remembered it all wrong.
There was another set of stories that ran in the aforementioned publication I oughtn't to have been reading. Involving an assassin, a gun for hire, a knight-errant. Perhaps he was the aged man in the hospital bed, perhaps he is the one I was looking for.
I'll try to find him, Gentle Reader, now that I know my mistake.

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