Four Out of Five
I came to New York in December 1980 to do just one thing. I ended up doing it five times in the end. Well, four, if you only count the bullets that hit him and not the one that missed and went through some poor sonofabitch’s window.
You can call me Holden, or just Caulfield, I don’t care. You’d have to know my story to know who Holden Caulfield is though. You’d have to be able to see that huge, shiny mirror in my head that plays the never-made movie version of The Catcher in the Rye again and again. But even then, could you tell me where the ducks go in winter? I thought he could tell me, that’s why I shot him, well, one of the reasons anyway. I really thought he knew.
I bought the gun in Hawaii, a few weeks before, a Charter Arms revolver. The six hollow-point bullets came from Dana in Atlanta, poor stupid bitch really didn’t suspect a thing. Only used five of them in the end anyway, what a waste. Last one must have my name on it, wherever it is. The guy who sold me the gun knew, he knew what I was going to do, I could see it in his eyes as he took my fistful of crumpled dollars. Greed stopped him from saying anything, from doing anything. So does that make him as guilty as me? He smiled and told me to have a nice day as I left. Have a nice day. What a phony.
I talked to the Little People as I drove to New York, told them what I was going to do. They shouted, so many tiny voices in my head that I had to pull the truck over on the side of the road, I could just hear cars honking at me like mad beneath the screaming. They begged me not to do it, begged me to think of my wife, my mother, to think of myself. But it was too late. I told them my mind was made up. Their answer was silence, a cruel, indefinable silence that was somehow worse than the barrage of voices before. I prayed hard as I drove, told Jesus it was revenge for what he had said. Bigger than Jesus. Bigger than Jesus! And I remember looking at my white knuckles on the steering wheel and wondering whose hands they were. They looked like my father’s knuckles, coming in for impact on my face, pummelling Mom on a Saturday night.
I thought a lot about Jessica on that drive to New York, thought about the summer when she finished things with me, about my melted insides, the melted vacuum cleaner hose on the car exhaust pipe, the hacking choke in my chest, the horrendous stinging in my eyes and nose. They found me, of course. I knew they would once the fumes stopped coming through and I was still alive. Susan was hysterical when she came to the clinic, kept screaming and tugging on my arm, saying Mom would never forgive me, God would never forgive me. I tried to explain to her then that the large part of me is Holden Caulfield. The small part is the Devil.
I had a lot of time to think that day, driving on the highway, after the Little People went silent. The sun was shining and I whistled along to the radio occasionally, from habit not happiness. I was only half-listening, but then a dark cloud came from nowhere and the song took on a life of its own and began to talk to me.
And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered,
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees 
I swallowed hard as Paul Simon sang on.
And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly 
Tears filled my eyes – or was it rain-drops on the wind-shield? – as his voice rose with the lyric.
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was crying. 
I slowed the car, hands clutching the steering wheel. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go to New York now, because the Statue would surely float away. I looked down again at my father’s blurred white knuckles on the wheel and knew I had to go back to Honolulu quickly before I changed my mind, had to get back to my family, back to my church. And I had to hurry, before I pulled off the road again and got a better pipe and did the job properly this time.
I sat in the truck at the side of the road, waiting for a spot to get back in the stream of traffic heading home. My face tingled where the salt had dried on my cheeks and I half-listened to the radio again, thinking of home, of Gloria, sweet Gloria, waiting there for me. The radio played on as I waited for that gap in the traffic, and the rain continued to fall. I got bored and looked down at the white knuckles, but they were no longer my father’s. They were his. And they were playing those first piano chords that I felt had embedded themselves deep within me, like cancerous cells waiting for the right signal to grow. His voice came out from the cheap speaker, a synthetic mouth that vomited words I could no longer bear to hear. I pulled myself backwards and forwards, wrenching at the steering wheel as I rocked, banging my head repeatedly on the dashboard, something ripping inside me as the final verse salted the wound.
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man 
What did he know about hunger, about no possessions? Phony. Phony. Phony! My hands – yes, they were my hands finally – slipped clumsily on the steering wheel as I turned the truck again with a squeal of rubber on tarmac, turning back to New York, to Central Park, to the ducks, to the Dakota building, to him.
When I arrived in the outskirts of New York City, the sun had broken through the clouds and the streets glistened with a slick of water. Steam rose slowly and I marvelled that people were walking around as if it were just another ordinary day. I pulled the truck up and the radio talked to me. It was Don McLean this time, his guts purging through the synthetic mouth.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died. 
I switched the engine off, the radio went silent, and I took the gun from the floor under my seat. The music had to die today.
At five or so in the evening, I was waiting around outside the Dakota with some other fans, clutching my Double Fantasy album. All of a sudden there was a commotion and he and his wife drifted out, dressed all in white, floating above the steam like angels. I remember a flash bulb going off as he autographed my album for me – must be worth something that photo, if it still exists. Then he handed it back and asked something like Is that all you want? And I just nodded. I lied, God forgive me, I lied. I couldn’t say No, I want your life, you phony sonofabitch. I want your life ’cause you took mine with your songs and your words. Your phony words that told me about poverty and suffering. You, the Working Class Hero that grew up, left home and abandoned the rest of us in the filthy slum. No, I just nodded my lie and watched him and his wife get into their limousine and drive away.
Five hours later – I counted the minutes – I saw him for the second time that day, him and her, still dressed in white, like ghosts, and this time I knew it was right. You see, he could have got the limo to drive into the courtyard of the Dakota but he didn’t. I looked down at the revolver clutched in my white knuckles. They say I shouted his name and dropped into a combat stance. I don’t know about that. I was standing on the edge of my cliff, in my field of rye and I was catching all the children, stopping them from falling, every single one of them. It was so simple to save them.
All I had to do was pull the trigger.
So I did.
Afterwards I took off my hat and coat, sat down on the pavement and wrote in my copy of Catcher:
To Holden Caulfield
From Holden Caulfield
This is my statement
The last thing I remember was the doorman screaming at me, asking me something like Do you know what you’ve done? I felt so calm, so peaceful, I just carried on reading and said something like Yes, I just shot John Lennon.
Salinger, J.D. (1994) The Catcher in the Rye, London: Penguin
 Simon, Paul ‘ American Tune’, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Warner Bros., 1973
 McLean, Don ‘American Pie’, American Pie, EMI America 1971
 Lennon, John ‘Imagine’ Imagine, EMI Records 1971