Johnny Got His Gun


Chapters xiii–xiv

Summary Chapters xiii–xiv

Joe remembers Laurette, a prostitute at Stumpy Telsa's brothel. When Joe was younger, the boys spent time hanging around the brothel in curiosity, but later on Joe and Bill Harper decided to go inside. They sat in the parlor, ate sandwiches and talked to the girls, and then got up and left when the visit ended. One girl, Laurette, seemed to like Joe, and she talked to him about books. Joe often returned to see Laurette, but always before nine o'clock, when she got busy. She gave him a pair of gold cufflinks for his graduation. Joe thought that this meant Laurette loved him, so he went down to see her. However, Telsa explained to Joe that Laurette had gone to Estes Park, as she did each summer to meet men and spend the money she made the rest of the year.

Then there was a girl named Bonnie whom Joe ran into in Los Angeles. They had gone to the same school in Colorado, but Joe could tell "what she was" now. They would breakfast together on Main Street and Bonnie would know all the sailors in the restaurant.

A woman named Lucky was one of the few American prostitutes overseas. Joe would visit her in her room; she would be naked crocheting a doily and they would gossip. She was making money to send home to her six-year-old son on Long Island. Joe thinks about Lucky's comforting female, American presence and thinks of the strange feel and mishmash of voices in Paris. Joe feels he is back in Paris; as an aside, he imagines the shell that maims him being manufactured by a German girl at the same time.

After more memories of the voices of other soldiers in Paris, Joe imagines that the shell comes closer and closer to its date with his body—"it has a time set and we shall meet when the time comes." Joe imagines the onset of the shell: "You will feel it before it comes and you will tense yourself for acceptance and the earth which is your eternal bed will tremble at the moment of your union."

Joe feels weak and ashamed. He wishes for peace and rest.


Several years pass between Chapter xii and Chapter xiii. The narrative is matter-of-fact about the emptiness of Joe's life as experienced through the outer world—each year is marked only by one mundane event, such as one of the nurses tripping and falling.