Chapters 23-24 Summary
Third Squad reaches Delhi, India, and checks into the Hotel Phoenix. There Lieutenant Corson falls madly in love. They arrived at noon, and Paul Berlin views it as the India he had always believed in. The lieutenant falls in love with the wife of the manager of the hotel, who introduces herself as Hamijolli Chand, known as Jolly. She is overjoyed at the arrival of Americans, telling them she had a premonition that today some Americans would come. She spent two years studying in America, becoming “corrupted,” as her husband said. She thinks that American television in one of the greatest things ever invented. It brings a society together.
The lieutenant is enthralled, calling her one classy lady. Later Jolly brings the soldiers a blood-rare roast beef, calling it “the sacred cow.” Because of the Hindu veneration of cows, the beef had to be smuggled in. Over dinner, she and the soldiers discuss many topics while the lieutenant becomes drunk in more ways than one. He tells Jolly of the differences between the Korean War, which was a war with a clear line of demarcation, and Vietnam, where nobody likes anyone else.
Later, the soldiers leave the garden as the lieutenant is sobbing over the loss of heart. In the morning, neither Jolly nor the lieutenant shows up for breakfast, which embarrasses the soldiers as they eat in front of Jolly’s husband. Paul Berlin writes cards home. When he comes back from mailing them, Sarkin Aung Wan has gone shopping and the others have gone on a bus tour. He somehow feels sad, thinking how young he is.
Back in August, after spending two months in the bush, the platoon goes to Chu Lai for the weekend. They swim, play mini-golf, drink, and write letters home. They discover a local outfit has hooked up a radio-telephone to America, and they can call home. Eddie is the first to call, coming back with a strained demeanor. He was overcome with emotion as he connected with his family. Paul Berlin is next and goes into the telephone booth, receiving instructions from the operator. He imagines the phone ringing in the kitchen, and thinks about what he can say during the time given to him. He listens as the connection is made, and he hears the phone ring. It keeps ringing; there is no one home.