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Joseph Heller

“Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years.

“I think you’re crazy,” was the way Clevinger had responded to Dunbar’s discovery.

“Who wants to know?” Dunbar answered.

“I mean it,” Clevinger insisted.

“Who cares?” Dunbar answered.

“I really do. I’ll even go as far as to concede that life seems longer i—“

“—is longer i—“

“—is longer—IS longer? All right, is longer if it’s filled with periods of boredom and discomfort, b—“

“Guess how fast?” Dunbar said suddenly.

“Huh?”

“They go,” Dunbar explained.

“Who?”

“Years.”

“Years?”

“Years,” said Dunbar. “Years, years, years.”

“Do you know how long a year takes when it’s going away?” Dunbar asked Clevinger. “This long.” He snapped his fingers. “A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you’re an old man.”

“Old?” asked Clevinger with surprise. “What are you talking about?”

“Old.”

“I’m not old.”

“You’re inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age? A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon. Zip! They go rocketing by so fast. How the hell else are you ever going to slow time down?” Dunbar was almost angry when he finished.

“Well, maybe it is true,” Clevinger conceded unwillingly in a subdued tone. Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?”

“I do,” Dunbar told him.

“Why?” Clevinger asked.

“What else is there?”


Joseph Heller, Catch-22
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Catch-22 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
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