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After leaving the skating rink, Holden goes to a drugstore and has a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. Once again, he thinks about calling Jane, but his mind begins to wander. He remembers the time he saw her at a dance with a boy Holden thought was a show-off, but Jane argued that the boy had an inferiority complex. Holden decides that girls always say that as an excuse to date arrogant boys. Finally, he calls Jane, but no one answers. He then calls a boy named Carl Luce, whom he used to know at the Whooton School, and Luce agrees to meet him for drinks later that night.
To kill time, Holden goes to see a movie at Radio City Music Hall. He finds the Rockettes’ Christmas stage show ridiculous and superficial, but it makes him remember how he and Allie used to love the kettledrum player in the Radio City pit orchestra. The man was an unnoticed, minuscule part of the show, but he seemed to take joy and pride in what he did. After the show, the movie begins, which Holden claims to find boring as well. When it is over, he begins walking to the Wicker Bar, where he is supposed to meet Luce. The movie was about the war, so Holden thinks about the army. Based on what D. B. has told him, Holden decides that he could never be in the military. He would rather, he says, be shot by a firing squad or sit on top of an atom bomb.
At the Wicker Bar, located in the posh Seton Hotel, Holden thinks about Luce. Luce is three years older than Holden and now a student at Columbia University. At the Whooton School, Luce used to tell the younger boys about sex. Holden says that he finds Luce amusing, even though he is effeminate and a phony. When Luce arrives, he treats Holden coolly, and Holden pesters him with questions about sex. Luce refuses to be drawn into the kind of sex discussion that they had had at Whooton, and he suggests that Holden needs psychoanalysis. Holden remembers that Luce’s father is a psychoanalyst, but Luce is evasive when Holden asks whether Luce’s father ever analyzed his own son. Annoyed by Holden’s juvenile comments and questions, Luce departs.
After Luce leaves, Holden stays at the bar and gets very drunk. He stumbles to the phone booth and makes an incoherent late-night call to Sally Hayes, angering both her and her grandmother. He then tries to make a date with the lounge singer, an attractive woman named Valencia. When that fails, he tries, with no more success, to make a date with the hat-check girl.
He decides to walk to the duck pond in Central Park to see if the ducks are still around. Along the way, he becomes quite upset when he drops and breaks the record he had bought for Phoebe. Because he had splashed water in his hair at the hotel in an attempt to sober up, his hair begins to freeze and fill with icicles. At the duck pond, he worries about catching pneumonia and imagines his funeral. He missed Allie’s funeral, he says, because he was in the hospital after breaking the garage windows with his bare hands. He remembers going to Allie’s grave with his parents. He becomes disgusted and sad, because the idea of placing flowers on the grass that covers the stomachs of the dead disturbs him.
Holden wants to talk to Phoebe, and he is running low on money, so he decides to risk going home. He expects his parents to be asleep, which will allow him to sneak in, speak with Phoebe, and then leave without being heard. He leaves the park and begins the long walk home.