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"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.
What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed. I keep telling him to go home and get his bike and meet me in front of Bobby Fallon's house. Bobby Fallon used to live quite near us in Maine. […] We thought we could shoot something without BB guns. Anyway, Allie heard us talking about it, and he wanted to go, and I wouldn't let him. I told him he was a child. So once in a while now, when I get very depressed, I keep saying to him, "Okay. Go home and get your bike and meet me in front of Bobby's house. Hurry up." […] I keep thinking about it, anyway, when I get very depressed. (14.1)
Allie's death clearly troubles Holden, but he also uses his memories of Allie to make himself feel better. The problem is, he's comforting himself by trying to alter a past event – his attempts are futile, rooted in fantasy.
But I'm crazy. I swear to God I am. About halfway to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts. Old 'Maurice had plugged me. Now I was on the way to the bathroom to get a good shot of bourbon or something to steady my nerves and help me really go into action. I pictured myself coming out of the goddam bathroom, dressed and all, with my automatic in my pocket, and staggering around a little bit. Then I'd walk downstairs, instead of using the elevator. I'd hold onto the banister and all, with this blood trickling out of the side of my mouth a little at a time. What I'd do, I'd walk down a few floors – holding onto my guts, blood leaking all over the place – and then I'd ring the elevator bell. As soon as old Maurice opened the doors, he'd see me with the automatic in my hand and he'd start screaming at me, in this very high-pitched, yellow-belly voice, to leave him alone. But I'd plug him anyway. Six shots right through his fat hairy belly. Then I'd throw my automatic down the elevator shaft – after I'd wiped off all the finger prints and all. Then I'd crawl back to my room and call up Jane and have her come over and bandage up my guts. I pictured her holding a cigarette for me to smoke while I was bleeding and all. (14.44)
In his obsession with mortality, Holden often ends up fantasizing about his own death. In a world where he feels perhaps insignificant, he can glorify himself in these imaginings, make himself important, wanted, and loved. The dangerous part of such fantasizing is that it leads Holden to feel the only thing important about himself is his potential death.