It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things
blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this
great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood
pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing
conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring
down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic
helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame
with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the
house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and
yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above
all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace,
while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and
lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and
blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back
He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at
himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to
sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in
the dark. It never went away, that smile, it never ever went away, as
long as he remembered.
He hung up his black-beetle-colored helmet and shined it, he hung
his flameproof jacket neatly; he showered luxuriously, and then,
whistling, hands in pockets, walked across the upper floor of the fire
station and fell down the hole. At the last moment, when disaster
seemed positive, he pulled his hands from his pockets and broke his
fall by grasping the golden pole. He slid to a squeaking halt, the heels
one inch from the concrete floor downstairs.
He walked out of the fire station and along the midnight street
toward the subway where the silent, air-propelled train slid
soundlessly down its lubricated flue in the earth and let him out with a
great puff of warm air an to the cream-tiled escalator rising to the
Whistling, he let the escalator waft him into the still night air. He
walked toward the corner, thinking little at all about nothing in
particular. Before he reached the corner, however, he slowed as if a
wind had sprung up from nowhere, as if someone had called his name.
The last few nights he had had the most uncertain feelings about
the sidewalk just around the corner here, moving in the starlight
toward his house. He had felt that a moment prior to
his making the turn, someone had been there. The air seemed charged
with a special calm as if someone had waited there, quietly, and only a
moment before he came, simply turned to a shadow and let him
through. Perhaps his nose detected a faint perfume, perhaps the skin on
the backs of his hands, on his face, felt the temperature rise at this one
spot where a person's standing might raise the immediate atmosphere
ten degrees for an instant. There was no understanding it. Each time he
made the turn, he saw only the white, unused, buckling sidewalk, with
perhaps, on one night, something vanishing swiftly across a lawn
before he could focus his eyes or speak.