Part 3 (VI)
Montag sits all night with the old men, watching the distant glow of the city. Overhead they hear the shriek of jet planes leaving the city. Montag, looking back, remembers Mildred, but can't eel much of anything for her. Granger tells Montag about his own grandfather, whom he remembers well: this man was a sculptor, and when he died, Granger cried for all the things he would never do again -- sculpt wood, hold a homing pigeon, tell a joke. Montag realizes that he never really saw Mildred do much of anything.
Granger says that everybody needs to leave something behind in the world. He quotes his grandfather, who used to say that the only really important thing was to touch something and change it, so that the change will last in the world -- a house, a garden, a sculpture, a child, a book. What his grandfather changed, Granger explains, was Granger himself: his grandfather's fingerprints would be there, on his brain, if anyone could open up his head to look. "Stuff your eyes with wonder," his grandfather used to say, "live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made in factories."
As Montag listens to Granger talk -- suddenly -- the war appears. Enemy fighter planes appear over the distant city, drop their bombs, and disappear again, faster than sound. As Montag understand what is about to happen, he feels as if he wants to warn Clarisse, Faber, and Mildred to get out of the city. But then he remembers that Clarisse is already dead, and Faber has left the city -- he is already on a bus, somewhere out in the countryside. As for Mildred, Montag imagines her in her hotel room, watching the talking TV walls as the bombs approach. And he has the horrible feeling that, if the TV stations disappear the instant before the bombs hit the buildings, Mildred's last sight will be of her own reflection in the suddenly dead screen of the wall-TV. The emptiness of her own face would be enough to cause her to scream in terror.
The city is thrown into the air by the explosion, and a wind knocks down the men watching in the countryside. Lying in the dust, the words of Book of Ecclesiastes begin to come back to Montag, and he starts to feel that he will find what he needs in the coming future. Finally, after what seems like ages, the dust settles and, bruised and battered, the men begin to get up again. The city is flat, reduced to dust. The men decide to cook something to eat -- they fry bacon in a pan -- and then walk upriver, toward the city, to see if they can be of use.
Looking into the cooking fire, Granger quietly begins to talk about the Phoenix, a mythical bird that dies in fire and reincarnated itself every thousand years. He says the Phoenix was a lot like human beings, but the difference is that human beings can learn: in every generation, a few more people remember the errors of the one before, and maybe eventually they'll get to the point where people won't kill themselves any more. Then he reminds them all that they are going to be meeting a lot of lonely people in the days and years to come, and that they must all remember that they aren't particularly important. All they are there to do is remember, and maybe someday that will help people. maybe, someday, it will help them make sure that war doesn't happen again.
They finish eating the bacon, put out the fire, and begin their long walk upstream. Montag goes with them, but glances downriver and decides that someday, perhaps in a year, he will come back to visit the people on the farms and find out how things are with the,. But for right now, he will stay with these men; and later in the day, they will probably begin to talk, to share their thoughts and the books they have in their heads. Montag thinks about what he will share with them, and decides on a quotation from Ecclesiastes:
"And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations."
With that thought in mind, he continues walking, among the old men, toward the distant city.
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