30 May 2019

A Perfect Day for Bananafish

There were ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through. She used the time, though. She read an article in a women’s pocket-size magazine, called ‘Sex Is Fun – or Hell.’ She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand.

She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.

With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left – the wet – hand back and forth through the air. With her dry hand, she picked up a congested ashtray from the window seat and carried it with her over to the night table, on which the phone stood. She sat down on one of the made-up twin beds and – it was the fifth or sixth ring – picked up the phone.

‘Hello,’ she said, keeping the fingers of her left hand out- stretched and away from her white silk dressing gown, which was all that she was wearing, except mules – her rings were in the bathroom. ‘I have your call to New York now, Mrs. Glass,’ the operator said.

‘Thank you,’ said the girl, and made room on the night table for the ashtray.

A woman’s voice came through. ‘Muriel? Is that you?’

The girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. ‘Yes, Mother. How are you?’ she said.

‘I’ve been worried to death about you. Why haven’t you phoned? Are you all right?’

‘I tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here’s been –’

‘Are you all right, Muriel?’

The girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. ‘I’m fine. I’m hot. This is the hottest day they’ve had in Florida in –’

‘Why haven’t you called me? I’ve been worried to –’

‘Mother, darling, don’t yell at me. I can hear you beautifully,’ said the girl. ‘I called you twice last night. Once just after –’

‘I told your father you’d probably call last night. But, no, he had to – Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth.’

‘I’m fine. Stop asking me that, please.’

‘When did you get there?’

‘I don’t know. Wednesday morning, early.’

‘Who drove?’

‘He did,’ said the girl. ‘And don’t get excited. He drove very nicely. I was amazed.’There were ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through. She used the time, though. She read an article in a women’s pocket-size magazine, called ‘Sex Is Fun – or Hell.’ She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand.

She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.

With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left – the wet – hand back and forth through the air. With her dry hand, she picked up a congested ashtray from the window seat and carried it with her over to the night table, on which the phone stood. She sat down on one of the made-up twin beds and – it was the fifth or sixth ring – picked up the phone.

‘Hello,’ she said, keeping the fingers of her left hand out-stretched and away from her white silk dressing gown, which was all that she was wearing, except mules – her rings were in the bathroom. ‘I have your call to New York now, Mrs. Glass,’ the operator said.

‘Thank you,’ said the girl, and made room on the night table for the ashtray.

A woman’s voice came through. ‘Muriel? Is that you?’

The girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. ‘Yes, Mother. How are you?’ she said.

‘I’ve been worried to death about you. Why haven’t you phoned? Are you all right?’

‘I tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here’s been –’

‘Are you all right, Muriel?’

The girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. ‘I’m fine. I’m hot. This is the hottest day they’ve had in Florida in –’

‘Why haven’t you called me? I’ve been worried to –’

‘Mother, darling, don’t yell at me. I can hear you beautifully,’ said the girl. ‘I called you twice last night. Once just after –’

‘I told your father you’d probably call last night. But, no, he had to – Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth.’

‘I’m fine. Stop asking me that, please.’ ‘When did you get there?’

‘I don’t know. Wednesday morning, early.’ ‘Who drove?’

‘He did,’ said the girl. ‘And don’t get excited. He drove very nicely. I was amazed.’

Related articles