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I didn't want to start an argument. "Okay," I said. Then I thought of something, all of a sudden. "Hey, listen," I said. "You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?" I realized it was only one chance in a million.
He turned around and looked at me like I was a madman. "What're ya tryna do, bud?" he said. "Kid me?"
"No—I was just interested, that's all."
He didn't say anything more, so I didn't either. Until we came out of the park at Ninetieth Street. Then he said, "All right, buddy. Where to?" (9.4-7)
Holden isn’t just obsessed with his mortality or his brother’s mortality—he’s obsessed with the idea that everything dies. No wonder he can’t make friends.
"The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something?"
Old Horwitz turned all the way around and looked at me. He was a very impatient-type guy. He wasn't a bad guy, though.
"How the hell should I know?" he said.
"How the hell should I know a stupid thing like that?"
"Well, don't get sore about it," I said. He was sore about it or something.
"Who's sore? Nobody's sore."
I stopped having a conversation with him, if he was going to get so damn touchy about it. But he started it up again himself. He turned all the way around again, and said, "The fish don't go no place. They stay right where they are, the fish. Right in the goddam lake."
[…] "Listen," he said. "If you was a fish, Mother Nature'd take care of you, wouldn't she? Right? You don't think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?"
"No, but – "
"You're goddam right they don't," Horwitz said, and drove off like a bat out of hell. He was about the touchiest guy I ever met. Everything you said made him sore. (12.8-28)
Even when Holden does find someone else willing to discuss his interest in the ducks (and mortality), he classifies the man as "touchy" and paints a picture of him as emotionally unstable. In fact, the cab driver isn't that different from Holden, who experiences some emotional outbreaks of his own.