The Young Folks
J. D. Salinger
Story XVI of XXI, March-April 1940
ABOUT eleven o’clock, Lucille Henderson, observing that her party was soaring at the proper height, and just having been smiled at by Jack Delroy, forced herself to glance over in the direction of Edna Phillips, who since eight o’clock had been sitting in the big red chair, smoking cigarettes and yodeling hellos and wearing a very bright eye which young men were not bothering to catch. Edna’s direction still the same, Lucille Henderson sighed as heavily as her dress would allow, and then, knitting what there was of her brows, gazed about the room at the noisy young people she had invited to drink up her father’s scotch. Then abruptly, she swished to where William Jameson Junior sat, biting his fingernails and staring at a small blonde girl sitting on the floor with three young men from Rutgers.
“Hello there,” Lucille Henderson said, clutching William Jameson Junior’s arm. “Come on,” she said. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
“This girl. She’s swell.” And Jameson followed her across the room, at the same time trying to make short work of a hangnail on his thumb.
“Edna baby,” Lucille Henderson said, “I’d love you to really know Bill Jameson. Bill – Edna Phillips. Or have you two birds met already?”
“No,” said Edna, taking in Jameson’s large nose, flabby mouth, narrow shoulders. “I’m awfully glad to meet you,” she told him.
“Gladda know ya,” Jameson replied, mentally contrasting Edna’s all with the all of the small blonde across the room.
“Bill’s a very good friend of Jack Delroy’s,” Lucille reported.
“I don’t know him so good,” said Jameson.
“Well. I gotta beat it. See ya
later, you two!”
“Take it easy!” Edna called after her. Then, “Won’t you sit down?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Jameson said. “I been sitting down all night, kinda.”
“I didn’t know you were a good friend of Jack Delroy’s,” Edna said. “He’s a grand person, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, he’s alright, I guess. I don’t know him so good. I never went around with his crowd much.”
“Oh, really? I thought I heard Lu say you were a good friend of his.”
“Yeah, she did. Only I don’t know him so good. I really oughtta be gettin’ home. I got this theme for Monday I’m supposed to do. I wasn’t really gonna come home this week end.”
“Oh, but the party’s young!” Edna said. “The shank of the evening!”
“The shank of the evening. I mean it’s so early yet.”
“Yeah,” said Jameson. “But I wasn’t even gonna come t’night. Accounta this theme. Honest. I wasn’t gonna come home this weekend at all.”
“But it’s so early I mean!” Edna said.
“Yeah, I know, but – “
“What’s your theme on, anyway?”
Suddenly, from the other side of the room, the small blonde shrieked with laughter, the three young men from Rutgers anxiously joined her.
“I say what’s your theme on, anyway?” Edna repeated.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jameson said. “About this description of some cathedral. This cathedral in Europe. I don’t know.”
“Well, I mean what do you have to do?”
“I don’t know. I’m supposed to criticize it, sort of. I got it written down.”
Again the small blonde and her friends went off into high laughter.
“Criticize it? Oh, then you’ve seen it?”
“Seen what?” said Jameson.
“Me. Hell, no.”