Fahrenheit 451


Blow your nose on a person, wad them,
flush them away, reach for another, blow, wad, flush. Everyone using everyone else's coattails.
How are you supposed to root for the home team when you don't even have a programme or
know the names? For that matter, what colour jerseys are they wearing as they trot out on to the

Montag moved back to his own house, left the window wide, checked Mildred, tucked the covers
about her carefully, and then lay down with the moonlight on his cheek-bones and on the
frowning ridges in his brow, with the moonlight distilled in each eye to form a silver cataract

One drop of rain. Clarisse. Another drop. Mildred. A third. The uncle. A fourth. The fire tonight.
One, Clarisse. Two, Mildred. Three, uncle. Four, fire, One, Mildred, two, Clarisse. One, two,

three, four, five, Clarisse, Mildred, uncle, fire, sleeping-tablets, men, disposable tissue, coat-tails,

blow, wad, flush, Clarisse, Mildred, uncle, fire, tablets, tissues, blow, wad, flush. One, two,

three, one, two, three! Rain. The storm. The uncle laughing. Thunder falling downstairs. The

whole world pouring down. The fire gushing up in a volcano. All rushing on down around in a

spouting roar and rivering stream toward morning.

"I don't know anything any more," he said, and let a sleep-lozenge dissolve on his tongue.

At nine in the morning, Mildred's bed was empty.

Montag got up quickly, his heart pumping, and ran down the hall and stopped at the kitchen


Toast popped out of the silver toaster, was seized by a spidery metal hand that drenched it with

melted butter.

Mildred watched the toast delivered to her plate. She had both ears plugged with electronic bees

that were humming the hour away. She looked up suddenly, saw him, and nodded.

"You all right?" he asked.

She was an expert at lip-reading from ten years of apprenticeship at Seashell ear-thimbles. She

nodded again. She set the toaster clicking away at another piece of bread.

Montag sat down.

His wife said, "I don't know why I should be so hungry."



"Last night," he began.

"Didn't sleep well. Feel terrible," she said. "God, I'm hungry. I can't figure it."

"Last night-" he said again.

She watched his lips casually. "What about last night?"

"Don't you remember?"

"What? Did we have a wild party or something? Feel like I've a hangover. God, I'm hungry. Who

was here?"

"A few people," he said.

"That's what I thought." She chewed her toast. "Sore stomach, but I'm hungry as all-get-out.

Hope I didn't do anything foolish at the party."

"No," he said, quietly.

The toaster spidered out a piece of buttered bread for him. He held it in his hand, feeling grateful.

"You don't look so hot yourself," said his wife.

In the late afternoon it rained and the entire world was dark grey. He stood in the hall of his

house, putting on his badge with the orange salamander burning across it. He stood looking up at

the air-conditioning vent in the hall for a long time. His wife in the TV parlour paused long

enough from reading her script to glance up. "Hey," she said. "The man's THINKING!"

"Yes," he said. "I wanted to talk to you." He paused. "You took all the pills in your bottle last


"Oh, I wouldn't do that," she said, surprised.

"The bottle was empty."

"I wouldn't do a thing like that. Why would I do a thing like that?" she asked.

"Maybe you took two pills and forgot and took two more, and forgot again and took two more,

and were so dopy you kept right on until you had thirty or forty of them in you."

"Heck," she said, "what would I want to go and do a silly thing like that for?"

"I don't know," he said.

She was quite obviously waiting for him to go. "I didn't do that," she said. "Never in a billion

"All right if you say so," he said.

"That's what the lady said." She turned back to her script.
"What's on this afternoon?" he asked tiredly.

She didn't look up from her script again. "Well, this is a play comes on the wall-to-wall circuit in
ten minutes. They mailed me my part this morning. I sent in some box-tops. They write the script
with one part missing. It's a new idea. The home-maker, that's me, is the missing part. When it
comes time for the missing lines, they all look at me out of the three walls and I say the lines:
Here, for instance, the man says, "What do you think of this whole idea, Helen?' And he looks at
me sitting here centre stage, see? And I say, I say --" She paused and ran her finger under a line
in the script. " I think that's fine!' And then they go on with the play until he says, "Do you agree
to that, Helen!' and I say, "I sure do!' Isn't that fun, Guy?"
He stood in the hall looking at her.
"It's sure fun," she said.
"What's the play about?"

"I just told you. There are these people named Bob and Ruth and Helen."

"It's really fun. It'll be even more fun when we can afford to have the fourth wall installed. How
long you figure before we save up and get the fourth wall torn out and a fourth wall-TV put in?
It's only two thousand dollars."
"That's one-third of my yearly pay."

"It's only two thousand dollars," she replied. "And I should think you'd consider me sometimes.
If we had a fourth wall, why it'd be just like this room wasn't ours at all, but all kinds of exotic
people's rooms. We could do without a few things."

"We're already doing without a few things to pay for the third wall. It was put in only two
months ago, remember?"

"Is that all it was?" She sat looking at him for a long moment. "Well, good-bye, dear." .
"Good-bye," he said. He stopped and turned around. "Does it have a happy ending?"
"I haven't read that far."

He walked over, read the last page, nodded, folded the script, and handed it back to her. He
walked out of the house into the rain.

The rain was thinning away and the girl was walking in the centre of the sidewalk with her head
up and the few drops falling on her face. She smiled when she saw Montag.
"Hello! "

He said hello and then said, "What are you up to now?"
"I'm still crazy. The rain feels good. I love to walk in it.
"I don't think I'd like that," he said.
"You might if you tried."
"I never have."

She licked her lips. "Rain even tastes good."
"What do you do, go around trying everything once?" he asked.
"Sometimes twice." She looked at something in her hand.
"What've you got there?" he said.

"I guess it's the last of the dandelions this year. I didn't think I'd find one on the lawn this late.

Have you ever heard of rubbing it under your chin? Look." She touched her chin with the flower,



"If it rubs off, it means I'm in love. Has it?"

He could hardly do anything else but look.

"Well?" she said.

"You're yellow under there."

"Fine! Let's try YOU now."

"It won't work for me."

"Here." Before he could move she had put the dandelion under his chin. He drew back and she

laughed. "Hold still!"

She peered under his chin and frowned.

"Well?" he said.

"What a shame," she said. "You're not in love with anyone."

"Yes, I am ! "

"It doesn't show."

"I am very much in love! " He tried to conjure up a face to fit the words, but there was no face. "I


"Oh please don't look that way."

"It's that dandelion," he said. "You've used it all up on yourself. That's why it won't work for


"Of course, that must be it. Oh, now I've upset you, I can see I have; I'm sorry, really I am." She

touched his elbow.

"No, no," he said, quickly, "I'm all right."

"I've got to be going, so say you forgive me. I don't want you angry with me."

"I'm not angry. Upset, yes."

"I've got to go to see my psychiatrist now. They make me go. I made up things to say. I don't

know what he thinks of me. He says I'm a regular onion! I keep him busy peeling away the


"I'm inclined to believe you need the psychiatrist," said Montag.

"You don't mean that."

He took a breath and let it out and at last said, "No, I don't mean that."

"The psychiatrist wants to know why I go out and hike around in the forests and watch the birds

and collect butterflies. I'll show you my collection some day."


"They want to know what I do with all my time. I tell them that sometimes I just sit and think.

But I won't tell them what. I've got them running. And sometimes, I tell them, I like to put my

head back, like this, and let the rain fall into my mouth. It tastes just like wine. Have you ever

tried it?"

"No I--"

"You HAVE forgiven me, haven't you?"

"Yes." He thought about it. "Yes, I have. God knows why. You're peculiar, you're aggravating,

yet you're easy to forgive. You say you're seventeen?"

"Well-next month."

"How odd. How strange. And my wife thirty and yet you seem so much older at times. I can't get
over it."

"You're peculiar yourself, Mr. Montag. Sometimes I even forget you're a fireman. Now, may I
make you angry again?"
"Go ahead."

"How did it start? How did you get into it? How did you pick your work and how did you
happen to think to take the job you have? You're not like the others. I've seen a few; I know.
When I talk, you look at me. When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon,
last night. The others would never do that. The others would walk off and leave me talking. Or
threaten me. No one has time any more for anyone else. You're one of the few who put up with
me. That's why I think it's so strange you're a fireman, it just doesn't seem right for you,

He felt his body divide itself into a hotness and a coldness, a softness and a hardness, a trembling
and a not trembling, the two halves grinding one upon the other.
"You'd better run on to your appointment," he said.

And she ran off and left him standing there in the rain. Only after a long time did he move.
And then, very slowly, as he walked, he tilted his head back in the rain, for just a few moments,
and opened his mouth....

The Mechanical Hound slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming,
gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel back in a dark corner of the firehouse. The dim light
of one in the morning, the moonlight from the open sky framed through the great window,
touched here and there on the brass and the copper and the steel of the faintly trembling beast.
Light flickered on bits of ruby glass and on sensitive capillary hairs in the nylon-brushed nostrils
of the creature that quivered gently, gently, gently, its eight legs spidered under it on rubber-
padded paws.

Montag slid down the brass pole. He went out to look at the city and the clouds had cleared away
completely, and he lit a cigarette and came back to bend down and look at the Hound. It was like
a great bee come home from some field where the honey is full of poison wildness, of insanity
and nightmare, its body crammed with that over-rich nectar and now it was sleeping the evil out
of itself.

"Hello," whispered Montag, fascinated as always with the dead beast, the living beast.
At night when things got dull, which was every night, the men slid down the brass poles, and set
the ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the Hound and let loose rats in the firehouse
area-way, and sometimes chickens, and sometimes cats that would have to be drowned anyway,
and there would be betting to see which the Hound would seize first. The animals were turned
loose. Three seconds later the game was done, the rat, cat, or chicken caught half across the
areaway, gripped in gentling paws while a four-inch hollow steel needle plunged down from the
proboscis of the Hound to inject massive jolts of morphine or procaine.