The Catcher in the Rye

It was the 8th of December, he left the Sheraton hotel and went to ‘The Dakota’; John Lennon’s residence in New York. Several fans waited outside ‘The Dakota’ to get a glimpse of their god and perhaps take an autograph. While on the way he purchased a record of “Double Fantasy” intending to get it signed from John and another book. He opened the book hurriedly and scribbled something in it and walked towards John Lennon’s house. He spent the entire day at the entrance. At 5:00 pm John Lennon and Yoko walked out of ‘The Dakota’ toward their limousine. Mark David approached John and requested him to sign the “Double Fantasy”. John complied graciously and asked him, “Is that all you want?” Mark David nodded in approval.

John and Yoko took several hours to record the song, “Walking on thin ice” and a very loving father, John decided to head home without dining out to wish his son ‘Sean’ goodnight.

Mark David Chapman asked himself, “Where do the ducks go during winter?” just like Caulfield does in the book, “The Catcher in the Rye”.

At 10:49 pm the Lennon’s limousine returned to ‘The Dakota’. John Lennon and Yoko Ono stepped out; Yoko walked towards their home and John was walking a few steps behind. Mark David Chapman was hiding in the shadows. John looked at him for a second and walked toward the steps that led to his home. As John passed by, Mark David Chapman came up from behind and hollered, “John Lennon”; took a commando combat stance and was holding a gun; fired 7 hollow point bullets, 3 of which hit his shoulder and 4 ravaged through his back tearing apart his aorta and other organs.

John staggered up the steps and collapsed; blood splattered all over his clothes and the glasses he was wearing; blood trickling out of his still open mouth.

Mark David Chapman threw the gun on the sidewalk and sat calmly down and began reading the book he had earlier purchased. The guard at ‘The Dakota’ asked him, “Do you know what you’ve just done?” and he calmly replied, “Yes, I just killed John Lennon”. The book in his hands; “The Catcher in the Rye”, purchased earlier; signed ‘To Holden Caulfield, this is my statement – Holden Caulfield’. He read the book while the police arrested him and he pleaded guilty of killing John Lennon.

“Get up shitbag…!”

More freezing water hit his face and soaked his clothes. His weak body would not let him stand up to his feet and he repeatedly slipped and bruised his knees. He heard a familiar sound and something else hit his left eye; No, not water. There was silence for a few seconds. His eyes were shut and the left eye hurt; tried to open it even as he felt a slime of warm spit trickle out of his left eye and down his tears and water soaked cheek. “Don’t let me see you around here again… faggot”, said the ‘leader’ scornfully; they sneered, kicked dirt onto his face and walked out of the school football ground.

He crawled a few feet and feebly stood up on dry ground. He walked his way back home and was welcomed by a storm of abuses and glassware his parents were hurling at each other. He decided to spend the night in the basement. He slid into the basement through a window; walked over to an old dusty table which had a small brown leather bag placed on it. He took out a broken stereo which already had a tape inside. Press play: “…Till we found the sea green, And we lived beneath the waves, In our yellow submarine, We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine…” he slipped out two long pieces of aluminum foil and sat down on the hollow wooden floor before losing himself in a cloud of smoke as he ‘chased the dragon’ with the street heroin he bought at a heavy price from a whore last week. The stereo screeched away ‘The Beatles’, while he stood in front of a soiled, broken and tarnished mirror.

Staring at himself and the stoned look on his own face; he stared deeply into his own reflection through his dilated pupils and hysterically broke down into tears, through his mourning sobs he said, “I’m sorry ma… but your son ‘Mark David Chapman’ has failed…” he punched his somewhat rounded fists over and over again into the cracked mirror and smashed it to smithereens. His body lost balance; toppled like a house of cards and lay flat on a carpet of a thousand jagged tiny mirrors.

It took a week for his cut and swollen knuckles to heal. His guitar was left alone, he skipped school, he was alone and the only thing he could hold comfortably without his hands hurting was a book; he was reading, “The Catcher in the Rye” recommended to him by a friend. A week later he turned sixteen and was born again; a Christian. He began work as a YMCA camp counselor; the kids loved him; called him ‘Nemo’. His work was outstanding and he was soon promoted ‘Assistant Director’. One fine morning he was in office and needed to sign a cheque, and without a moments hesitation he signed it ‘Holden Caulfield’ – the protagonist of the book “The Catcher in the Rye”. He never let that cheque get out of his hands. He signed another one and walked out of his office and decided to disappear. He was 25 then.

Several other jobs were tried and let go of but none could give him peace of mind and fulfillment. Two long years passed and in 1977 Chapman tried to kill him self by suffocation in a steady stream of carbon monoxide. But it didn’t work, the bloody pipe melted and he lived. He put on the car radio; live broadcast was playing “Imagine” by John Lennon. He loved The Beatles but hated John. Why?

John Lennon was a phony in Mark David Chapman’s eyes. He talked about, “Imagine no possessions”? quite contradictory to the fact that he lived in a humongous mansion with millions of dollars. Mark David Chapman was Holden Caulfield now and Holden Caulfield destroyed phonies in “The Catcher in the Rye” and even saved children from falling.

In 1978, Chapman went on a six-week trip around the world, inspired partly by the film ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, visiting Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Israel, Geneva, London, Paris, and Dublin. He began a relationship with his travel agent, a Japanese-American woman named Gloria Abe. They married on June 2, 1979. Looking for more money, Chapman got a job at Castle Memorial Hospital as a printer, working alone rather than with staff and patients. He then got into an argument with Abe’s boss at the travel agency and made her quit and find another job. He was then fired by the Castle Memorial Hospital, rehired, then got into a shouting match with a nurse and quit. He took a job as a night security guard and began drinking heavily.

Obsessions had taken over Chapman – artwork, The Catcher in the Rye, music, and John Lennon and he started hearing voices. In September 1980, he wrote a letter to a friend, Lynda Irish, in which he stated, “I’m going nuts”, and signed it “The Catcher in the Rye”.

On December 6th, 1980 Mark David Chapman flew to New York and offered cocaine to a taxi driver just like Holden Caulfield does in “The Catcher in the Rye”.

On the 8th, he went to ‘The Dakota’…

Mark David Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment with psychiatric treatment where as John Lennon was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Yoko Ono released the single “Walking on thin ice” for John and did not let him have a funeral.

Ten thousand fans gathered for the mourning of John Lennon and sang…

“Walking on thin ice,
I’m paying the price
For throwing the dice in the air.
Why must we learn it the hard way
and play the game of life with your heart?

I gave you my knife,
You gave me my life
Like a gush of wind in my hair.
Why do we forget what’s been said
and play the game of life with our hearts?”

While Mark David Chapman rots in prison even today and John; in the pot of his ashes.

Happy Birth Day John…

Siddharth Pathak
9th October, 2010


2 comments

    • Depends on whom you are empathizing with… either ways, my object while working on this piece was only to bring it out as a matter of fact incident. Do we always have to make every important persons killing heavily empathetic and philosophical? so that it touches you on a deeper emotional level? This world is a very ‘matter of fact’ place and such incidents don’t come with a philosophical interlude…


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