A CATCHER IN THE RYE

“‘You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’?  I’d like—‘

“‘It’s ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye’!’ old Phoebe said.  ‘It’s a poem.  By Robert Burns.’

“‘I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.’

“She was right, though.  It is ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye.’  I didn’t know it then, though.

“‘I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,’ I said.  ‘Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I’d do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.  I know it’s crazy.’

“Old Phoebe didn’t say anything for a long time.  Then, when she said something, all she said was, ‘Daddy’s going to kill you.’

“‘I don’t give a damn if he does,’ I said. . . .”

J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye

1945

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