He went into his daughter's room. Her drawers were dumped. her closet was empty.
Heaped in the middle of the room were all the possessions she could not take on a
honeymoon. She had a Princess telephone extension all her own-on her windowsill Its
tiny night light stared at Billy. And then it rang.
Billy answered. There was a drunk on the other end. Billy could almost smell his
breath-mustard gas and roses. It was a wrong number. Billy hung up. There was a soft
drink bottle on the windowsill. Its label boasted that it contained no nourishment
Billy Pilgrim padded downstairs on his blue and ivory feet. He went into the kitchen,
where the moonlight called his attention to a half bottle of champagne on the kitchen
table, all that was left from the reception in the tent. Somebody had stoppered it again.
Drink me,' it seemed to say.
So Billy uncorked it with his thumbs. It didn't make a pop. The champagne was dead.
So it goes.
Billy looked at the clock on the gas stove. He had an hour to kill before the saucer
came. He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the
television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie backwards, then
forwards again. It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and
the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:
American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from
an airfield in England. Over France a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards,
sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the
same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards
to join the formation.
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers
opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires,
gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of
the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had
miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck
more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded
Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though,
German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.
When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks
and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night
and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals.
Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to
specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground., to hide
them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler
turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was
extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception,
conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed.
Billy saw the war movies backwards then forwards-and then it was time to go out into
his backyard to meet the flying saucer. Out he went, his blue and ivory feet crushing the
wet salad of the lawn. He stopped, took a swig, of the dead champagne. It was like 7-Up.
He would not raise his eyes to the sky, though he knew there was a flying saucer from
Tralfamadore up there. He would see it soon enough, inside and out, and he would see,
too, where it came from soon enough-soon enough.
Overhead he heard the cry of what might have been a melodious owl, but it wasn't a
melodious owl. It was a flying saucer from Tralfamadore, navigating in both space and
time, therefore seeming to Billy Pilgrim to have come from nowhere all at once.
Somewhere a big dog barked.
The saucer was one hundred feet in diameter, with portholes around its rim. The light
from the portholes was a pulsing purple. The only noise it made was the owl song. It
came down to hover over Billy, and to enclose him in a cylinder of pulsing in purple
light. Now there was the sound of a seeming kiss as an airtight hatch in the bottom of the
saucer was opened. Down snaked a ladder that was outlined in pretty lights like a Ferris
Billy's will was paralyzed by a zap gun aimed at him from one of the portholes. It
became imperative that he take hold of the bottom rung of the sinuous ladder, which he
did. The rung was electrified, so that Billy's hands locked onto it hard. He was hauled
into the airlock, and machinery closed the bottom door. Only then did the ladder, wound
onto a reel in the airlock, let him go. Only then did Billy's brain start working again.
There were two peepholes inside the airlock-with yellow eyes pressed to them. There
was a speaker on the wall. The Tralfamadorians had no voice boxes. They communicated
telepathically. They were able to talk to Billy by means of a computer and a sort of
electric organ which made every Earthling speech sound.
'Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim,' said the loudspeaker. 'Any questions?'
Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: 'Why me? '
That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that
matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs
trapped in amber?'
'Yes.' Billy in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber
with three ladybugs embedded in it.
'Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.'
They introduced an anesthetic into Billy's atmosphere now, put him to sleep. They
carded him to a cabin where he was strapped to a yellow Barca-Lounger which they had
stolen from a Sears & Roebuck warehouse. The hold of the saucer was crammed with
other stolen merchandise, which would be used to furnish Billy's artificial habitat in a zoo
The terrific acceleration of the saucer as it left Earth twisted Billy's slumbering body,
distorted his face, dislodged him in time, sent him back to the war.
When he regained consciousness, he wasn't on the flying saucer. He was in a boxcar
crossing Germany again.
Some people were rising from the floor of the car, and others were lying down. Billy
planned to lie down, too. It would be lovely to sleep. It was black in the car, and black
outside the car, which seemed to be about two miles an hour. The car never seemed to go
any faster than that. It was a long time between clicks, between joints in the track. There
would be a click, and then a year would go by, and then there would be another click
The train often stopped to let really important trains bawl and hurtle by. Another thing
it did was stop on sidings near prisons, leaving a few cars there. It was creeping across all
of Germany, growing shorter all the time.
And Billy let himself down oh so gradually now, hanging onto the diagonal cross-
brace in the comer in order to make himself seem nearly weightless to those he was
joining on the floor. He knew it was important that he made himself nearly ghostlike
when lying down. He had forgotten why, but a reminder soon came.
'Pilgrim,' said a person he was about to nestle with, 'is that you?'
Billy didn't say anything, but nestled very politely, closed his eyes.
'God damn it' said the person. 'That is you, isn't it?' He sat up and explored Billy rudely
with his hands. 'It's you, all right. Get the hell out of here.'
Now Billy sat up, too-wretched, close to tears.
'Get out of here! I want to sleep!'
'Shut up,' said somebody else.
'I'll shut up when Pilgrim gets away from here.'
So Billy stood up again, clung to the cross-brace. 'Where can I sleep?' he asked
'Not with me.'
'Not with me, you son of a bitch,' said somebody else. 'You yell. You kick.'
"You're God damn right you do. And whimper.'
'Keep the hell away from here, Pilgrim.'
And now there was an acrimonious madrigal, with parts sung in all quarters of the car.
Nearly everybody seemingly, had an atrocity story of something Billy Pilgrim had done
to him in his sleep. Everybody told Billy Pilgrim to keep the hell away.
So Billy Pilgrim had to sleep standing up, or not sleep at all. And food had stopped
coming in through the ventilators, and the days and nights were colder all the time.
On the eighth day, the forty-year-old hobo said to Billy, 'This ain't bad. I can be
'You can?' said Billy.
On the ninth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, 'You think this is bad?
This ain't bad.'
There was something about death and the ninth day. There was a death on the ninth
day in the car ahead of Billy's too. Roland Weary died--of gangrene that had started in his
mangled feet. So it goes.
Weary, in his nearly continuous delirium, told again and again of the Three
Musketeers, acknowledged that he was dying, gave many messages to be delivered to his
family in Pittsburgh. Above all, he wanted to be avenged, so he said again and again the
name of the person who had killed him. Everyone on the car learned the lesson well.
'Who killed me?' he would ask.
And everybody knew the answer, which was this: 'Billy Pilgrim.'
Listen--on the tenth night the peg was pulled out of the hasp on Billy's boxcar door,
and the door was opened. Billy Pilgrim was lying at an angle on the corner-brace, self-
crucified, holding himself there with a blue and ivory claw hooked over the sill of the
ventilator. Billy coughed when the door was opened, and when he coughed he shit thin
gruel. This was in accordance with the Third Law of Motion according to Sir Isaac
Newton. This law tells us that for every action there is a reaction which is equal and
opposite in direction.
This can be useful in rocketry.
The train had arrived on a siding by a prison which was originally constructed as an
extermination camp for Russian prisoners of war.
The guards peeked inside Billy's car owlishly, cooed calmingly. They had never dealt
with Americans before, but they surely understood this general sort of freight. They knew
that it was essentially a liquid which could be induced to flow slowly toward cooing and
light. It was nighttime.
The only light outside came from a single bulb which hung from a pole-high and far
away. All was quiet outside, except for the guards, who cooed like doves. And the liquid
began to flow. Gobs of it built up in the doorway, plopped to the ground.
Billy was the next-to-last human being to reach the door. The hobo was the last. The
hobo could not flow, could not plop. He wasn't liquid any more. He was stone. So it goes.
Billy didn't want to drop from the car to the ground. He sincerely believed that he
would shatter like glass. So the guards helped him down, cooing still. They set him down
facing the train. It was such a dinky train now.
There was a locomotive, a tender, and three little boxcars. The last boxcar was the
railroad guards' heaven on wheels. Again--in that heaven on wheels--the table was set.
Dinner was served.
At the base of the pole from which the light bulb hung were three seeming haystacks.
The Americans were wheedled and teased over to those three stacks, which weren't hay
after all. They were overcoats taken from prisoners who were dead. So it goes.
It was the guards' firmly expressed wish that every American without an overcoat
should take one. The coats were cemented together with ice, so the guards used their
bayonets as ice picks, pricking free collars and hems and sleeves and so on, then peeling
off coats and handing them out at random. The coats were stiff and dome-shaped, having
conformed to their piles.
The coat that Billy Pilgrim got had been crumpled and frozen in such a way, and was
so small, that it appeared to be not a coat but a sort of large black, three-cornered hat.
There were gummy stains on it, too, like crankcase drainings or old strawberry jam.
There seemed to be a dead, furry animal frozen to it. The animal was in fact the coat's fur
Billy glanced dully at the coats of his neighbors. Their coats all had brass buttons or
tinsel or piping or numbers or stripes or eagles or moons or stars dangling from them.
They were soldiers' coats. Billy was the only one who had a coat from a dead civilian. So
And Billy and the rest were encouraged to shuffle around their dinky train and into the
prison camp. There wasn't anything warm or lively to attract them-merely long, low,
narrow sheds by the thousands, with no lights inside.
Somewhere a dog barked. With the help of fear and echoes and winter silences, that
dog had a voice like a big bronze gong.
Billy and the rest were wooed through gate after gate, and Billy saw his first Russian.
The man was all alone in the night-a ragbag with a round, flat face that glowed like a
Billy passed within a yard of him. There was barbed wire between them. The Russian
did not wave or speak, but he looked directly into Billy's soul with sweet hopefulness, as
though Billy might have good news for him-news he might be too stupid to understand,
but good news all the same.
Billy blacked out as he walked through gate after gate. He came to what he thought
might be a building on Tralfamadore. It was shrilly lit and lined with white tiles. It was
on Earth, though. It was a delousing station through which all new prisoners had to pass.
Billy did as he was told, took off his clothes. That was the first thing they told him to
do on Tralfamadore, too.
A German measured Billy's upper right arm with his thumb and forefinger, asked a
companion what sort of an army would send a weakling like that to the front. They
looked at the other American bodies now, pointed out a lot more that were nearly as bad
One of the best bodies belonged to the oldest American by far, a high school teacher
from Indianapolis. His name was Edgar Derby. He hadn't been in Billy's boxcar. He'd
been in Roland Weary's car, had cradled Weary's head while he died. So it goes. Derby
was forty-four years old. He was so old he had a son who was a marine in the Pacific
theater of war.
Derby had pulled political wires to get into the army at his age. The subject he had
taught in Indianapolis was Contemporary Problems in Western Civilization. He also
coached the tennis team, and took very good care of his body.
Derby's son would survive the war. Derby wouldn't. That good body of his would be
filled with holes by a firing squad in Dresden in sixty-eight days. So it goes.
The worst American body wasn't Billy's. The worst body belonged to a car thief from
Cicero, Illinois. Ms name was Paul Lazzaro. He was tiny, and not only were his bones
and teeth rotten, but his skin was disgusting. Lazzaro was polka-dotted all over with
dime-sized scars. He had had many plagues of boils.
Lazzaro, too, had been on Roland Weary's boxcar, and had given his word of honor to
Weary that he would find some way to make Billy Pilgrim pay for Weary's death. He was
looking around now, wondering which naked human being was Billy.
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