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Authors: Paul Gallico

The Lonely

BOOK: The Lonely
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the author of
The Snow Goose
tells a story of tenderness and yearning, the tale of two young lovers who thought they could fix boundaries for love.

Jerry Wright had planned on love—for the future. He was engaged—to Catherine, back home. But in the meantime he was lonely: a boy forced into manhood and grown alien to the people and customs of his youth. That explained the place of Patches in his life and the choice that changed him into a man.

The Lonely,
Paul Gallico tells how Jerry and Patches tried to arrange just how much they would mean to each other, and for just how long. Here is a story to make you feel young and happy and delighted with life again. Only Paul Gallico could see so far into hearts that are simple, ardent, and young.

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Copyright 1945, 1949 by Paul Gallico. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.

Manufactured in the United States of America

An earlier version of
appeared in

the too-young conquerors of space and time, the boys-become-men who have lived between the worlds in the silver ships that sail to war and back through the frosty firmament. They are the children of the sky, the wanderers who cannot find their homes. The lonely are those who have come too close to Heaven and Hell, before their time . . .



to six, Lieutenant Jerry Wright fidgeted at the bar of the officers’ club of Gedsborough Airbase, near Kenwoulton, Huntingdon, some ninety miles north of London. He wished the leisurely finger of the clock would reach six, when the meagre supply of Scotch would become available. He felt he needed a drink badly, for the Flight Surgeon had just grounded him and told him to go north to Scotland, for a two weeks’ rest furlough.

The long, barnlike room, furnished with chairs and tables, with the bar running the length of one side, was already beginning to fill with pilots, navigators, and bombardiers, and was alive with chatter and laughter, the whir and chunk-chunk of busy slot machines and occasional outcries of: “Son-of-a . . . She almost hit . . .”

From the neighboring game room came the click of ping-pong balls and the shouts from the craps table, making Jerry feel even more lonely. He looked up and read again the sign beneath the bar decoration, the silver-painted hundred-pound fragmentation bomb, suspended from the ceiling—“When You See Two of These, Check Your Gas Consumption; Four—You’re Flying Blind. When You See a Salvo, That’s All, Brother, Prepare to Ditch!” He lit a cigarette and thought: “Nerves, my eye. I’ll go nuts away from here.”

Major Lester Harrison, Jerry’s idol and commander of his wing, was feeding shillings into a slot machine near the door, his cap suspended miraculously, apparently by one blond tuft of hair at the back of his head, an expression of deep concentration on his face. He was a big man, too handsome, square-jawed, with pale, deep-set flyer’s eyes and a close-clipped light moustache. Jerry had not dared to raise one like it, but he tried to copy the major in everything else.

At twenty-three, Jerry Wright was an enchanting adolescent whose most serious contact with life up to that point had occurred in an airplane flying over enemy-held territory.

In this he was the product of his class and his family. His father, Harman Wright, for all his mature years and greying hair, still maintained a juvenile pink-and-whiteness, an athlete’s figure, and a sportsman’s mind, a legacy of looking at life as a kind of noble game played according to strict rules of conduct and behavior, handed him by his father and passed along dutifully, with embellishments, to his own son.

The war had caught young Jerry midway in the final period of his formative years at Williams, when his racy athlete’s body was in the process of becoming equipped with the mentality to match, and put him on a bigger “team” than he had ever encountered before.

Physically he was equipped for it—a trim, wiry, black-haired boy as finely bred as a racing colt, sensitive, a born competitor with hair-trigger reactions. With his grey-blue lady-killer eyes deep-set beneath dark, heavy brows, and compact athlete’s body confined to the rakish cut of his battle jacket, he looked a man and was still a child and was keenly aware of it. He wished he were older and often tried hard to act older than he was.

He was playing war the way he played football at Westbury High and a year or two at Williams. His Liberator crew was the varsity of varsities, and every day was the “big game,” except that he was not prepared by anything in his previous life or upbringing for the encounters with the bitter and awful realities behind the sport.

The Flight Surgeon thought he detected signs of battle fatigue when he had grounded him, but it was only one of Jerry’s encounters with reality, of which he was not even wholly aware, the things that happened to him inside when he saw one of the “team” come home from the “game,” his middle a mass of red and jellied rags.

As always in the throes of this clash, Jerry felt the need to drink to escape from the repercussions. He was aided too by a natural tendency of upbringing to avoid the contemplation of the immediate realities by the substitution of another. Thus he now waited to drink off his disappointment at being grounded and furloughed to Scotland, which would surely put another month on to his tour of duty before prospective leave. He had but twenty missions left before, if he survived them, he would be sent home. Home—Westbury—his father and mother—his girl.

Only a few days ago he had written her a letter full of careful and elaborate hints that their marriage might soon be taking place. His grounding would throw this schedule out of gear. It had been eighteen months since he had seen Catharine Quentin.

For Jerry, his “girl” belonged in brackets just as did the “team” and the “game.” As always when he thought of her, he fell into the mood that the kids back home in Westbury would have described as “mooning,” the adolescent American woman-or girl-worship that has no basis of reality.

Catharine Quentin was Jerry’s first love. They had grown up together. Their parents were old friends and alike in station, outlook, and
They had been intended for each other from the beginning.

She was a handsome, healthy, loyal girl who had been permitted to grow into but little conception of femininity or herself as a woman. Her upbringing made of her sex a handicap that since it could not be overcome, one learned to live with, athletically as well as otherwise.

To Jerry she combined such perfection of physical beauty, flawlessness of character, uprightness, and unapproachable purity that it was difficult for him to regard her as human even after they had both emerged from the leggy, voice-changing embarrassment of puberty into the adolescent love that finally ended in engagement before he had left for England. Indeed, he hardly did.

BOOK: The Lonely
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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