A Memory of Doctor Fraad
"You must be sure to pronounce the name right," said the lady who was about to introduce us," he says he doesn't like people to pronounce it "Freud" or "Fraud.." .
Fraad, he pronounces very distinctly when introducing himself, knowing that ill-intentioned people like to pronounce it leaning toward Freud or toward Fraud.
"He is a famous psychoanalyst," whispers one of the well-dressed ladies of the fellow-traveling intelligentsia persuasion who are milling around Joe Burstyn's apartment on East 54th Street, "but he is not like the other analysts, he is interested in the social underpinnings of maladaptation."
There is an even more distinguished guest there, a famous playwright, and he is reaching out to his audience with an account of how he put the American military establishment in its place when they hired him to write the script for a movie showing how our boys were trained to fight the fascists. "They took me out to this camp," he said, "and they were showing me a young sergeant who had just got back from fighting for months in Germany and he was supposed to be training some new arrivals. For Christs sake, I said, don't you see what he is doing? He is leading them on a charge right into a brick wall? God knows what would have happened if I hadn't noticed that there was something very wrong with him. Can't you see, I said -"
But at this point, Dr Fraad, who had been exchanging generalities with the ladies about Henry Wallace or Joseph McCarthy or whoever else was on the Intelligentsia's mind that season, suddenly interrupted:
"That's just it," he said. "The brick wall. That's why the Germans had better soldiers than we did. Order them into a brick wall and they'd go, they'd go fast. I knew one American soldier like that, the best I ever saw.. He was a kid from New Jersey, a corporal, an Italian boy. He worked the docks, he was a gangster."
The ladies didn't know exactly how to take this unexpected wrod, but they assumed polite expressions of curiosity. .
"He was a thief" continued Dr Fraad, "he was wild, he was ready for anything, I needed a good thief, and he was a professional. I needed blood." From the moment he pronounced the word blood, his voice dropped to a kind of desolate whisper, his eyes clouded over. "We were in the Hurtgen Forest, right at the front lines, not behind the front lines, in the front lines,and they were bringing them in all the time, arms cut off,, bellies cut open, spouting blood, one at a time or twenty at a time, we were working day and night, cutting and sewing, cutting them open and sewing them up,and what we need was blood, we needed blood. Of course the Army had collected oceans of blood, but it was all fifty or a hundred miles back, in the base hospitals, there was never enough in Hurtgen Forest. I told this kid, Take our truck, here are the keys, go find me some blood. The truck had a red cross on it, it could go anywhere. He was a smart kid, he could bluff his way through any check-point, he could talk his way into any hospital. I never asked him how he actually did it, and he never told me. But he always came back with the truck packed with refrigerators full of blood."
Refrigerators full of blood! This time a few of the ladies giggled nervously..
Dr. Fraad's sank lower, his head sank down, he was looking at no one, he might have been in Hurtgen Forest. "Every day," he said, "was the same as every other. One day I had just finished sewing up one man, and they brought in another on a stretcher. It was my corporal. He looked up at me and he said, Will I make it, doc? Sure thing, I said, we'll fix you up in a jiffy." I cut and I looked inside him and there was nothing there, nothing at all. I gave him some morphine, and there was another stretcher coming in."
He never said another word. The ladies took advantage of the opportunity to drift over to the bar. If the famous playwright was miffed at having one of his best stories left hanging in mid-air, he gave no sign of discontent. He refilled his glass too, and the conversation steered effortlessly back to Henry Wallace or Joseph McCarthy.