top of their heads, or the shelling would start again. It wouldn't stop until everybody in
there was dead.
So the Americans put their weapons down, and they came out of the woods with their
hands on top of their heads, because they wanted to go on living, if they possibly could.
Billy traveled in time back to the veterans' hospital again. The blanket was over his
head. It was quiet outside the blanket. "Is my mother gone?' said Billy.
Billy peeked out from under his blanket. His fiancée was out there now, sitting on the
visitor's chair. Her name was Valencia Merble. Valencia was the daughter of the owner of
the Ilium School of Optometry. She was rich. She was as big as a house because she
couldn't stop eating. She was eating now. She was eating a Three Musketeers Candy Bar.
She was wearing trifocal lenses in harlequin frames, and the frames were trimmed with
rhinestones. The glitter of the rhinestones was answered by the glitter of the diamond in
her engagement ring. The diamond was insured for eighteen hundred dollars. Billy had
found that diamond in Germany. It was booty of war.
Billy didn't want to marry ugly Valencia. She was one of the symptoms of his disease.
He knew he was going crazy, when he heard himself proposing marriage to her, when he
begged her to take the diamond ring and be his companion for life.
Billy said, 'Hello,' to her, and she asked him if he wanted some candy, and he said, 'No,
She asked him how he was, and he said, 'Much better, thanks.' She said that everybody
at the Optometry School was sorry he was sick and hoped he would be well soon, and
Billy said, 'When you see 'em, tell 'em, "Hello."'
She promised she would.
She asked him if there was anything she could bring him from the outside, and he said,
'No. I have just about everything I want.'
'What about books?' said Valencia.
'I'm right next to one of the biggest private libraries in the world,' said Billy, meaning
Eliot Rosewater's collection of science fiction.
Rosewater was on the next bed, reading, and Billy drew him into the conversation,
asked him what he was reading this time.
So Rosewater told him. It was The Gospel from Outer Space, by Kilgore Trout. It was
about a visitor from outer space, shaped very much like a Tralfamadorian by the way.
The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could,
why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble
was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the
Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the
But the Gospels actually taught this:
Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes.
The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who
didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe.
Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought,
and Rosewater read out loud again:
Oh, boy-they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And that thought had a brother: 'There are right people to lynch.' Who? People not well
connected. So it goes.
The visitor from outer space made a gift to Earth of a new Gospel. In it, Jesus really
was a nobody, and a pain in the neck to a lot of people with better connections than he
had. He still got to say all the lovely and puzzling things he said in the other Gospels.
So the people amused themselves one day by nailing him to a cross and planting the
cross in the ground. There couldn't possibly be any repercussions, the lynchers thought.
The reader would have to think that, too, since the new Gospel hammered home again
and again what a nobody Jesus was.
And then, just before the nobody died, the heavens opened up, and there was thunder
and lightning. The voice of God came crashing down. He told the people that he was
adopting the bum as his son giving him the full powers and privileges of The Son of the
Creator of the Universe throughout all eternity. God said this From this moment on, He
will punish horribly anybody who torments a bum who has no connections!
Billy's fiancée had finished her Three Musketeers Candy Bar. Now she was eating a
'Forget books,' said Rosewater, throwing that particular book under his bed. 'The hell
'That sounded like an interesting one,' said Valencia.
Jesus-if Kilgore Trout could only write!' Rosewater exclaimed. He had a point: Kilgore
Trout's unpopularity was deserved. His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.
'I don't think Trout has ever been out of the country, ' Rosewater went on. 'My God-he
writes about Earthlings all the time, and they're all Americans. Practically nobody on
Earth is an American.'
'Where does he live?" Valencia asked.
'Nobody knows,' Rosewater replied. 'I'm the only person who ever heard of him, as far
as I can tell. No two books have the same publisher, and every time I write him in care of
a publisher, the letter comes back because the publisher has failed.'
He changed the subject now, congratulated Valencia on her engagement ring.
'Thank you,' she said, and held it out so Rosewater could get a close look. 'Billy got
that diamond in the war.'
'That's the attractive thing about war,' said Rosewater. Absolutely everybody gets a
With regard to the whereabouts of Kilgore Trout: he actually lived in Ilium, Billy's
hometown, friendless and despised. Billy would meet him by and by.
'Billy' said Valencia Merble
'You want to talk about our silver pattern? '
'I've got it narrowed down pretty much to either Royal Danish or Rambler Rose.'
'Rambler Rose,' said Billy.
'It isn't something we should rush into,' she said. 'I mean whatever we decide on, that's
what we're going to have to live with the rest of our lives.'
Billy studied the pictures. 'Royal Danish.' he said at last.
'Colonial Moonlight is nice, too.'
'Yes, it is,' said Billy Pilgrim.
And Billy traveled in time to the zoo on Tralfamadore. He was forty-four years old, on
display under a geodesic dome. He was reclining on the lounge chair which had been his
cradle during his trip through space. He was naked. The Tralfamadorians were
interested in his body-all of it. There were thousands of them outside, holding up their
little hands so that their eyes could see him. Billy had been on Tralfamadore for six
Earthling months now. He was used to the crowd.
Escape was out of the question. The atmosphere outside the dome was cyanide, and
Earth was 446,120,000,000,000,000 miles away.
Billy was displayed there in the zoo in a simulated Earthling habitat. Most of the
furnishings had been stolen from the Sears & Roebuck warehouse in Iowa City, Iowa.
There was a color television set and a couch that could be converted into a bed. There
were end tables with lamps and ashtrays on them by the couch. There was a home bar
and two stools. There was a little pool table. There was wall-to-wall carpeting in federal
gold, except in the kitchen and bathroom areas and over the iron manhole cover in the
center of the floor. There were magazines arranged in a fan on the coffee table in front of
There was a stereophonic phonograph. The phonograph worked. The television didn't.
There was a picture of one cowboy shooting another one pasted to the television tube. So
There were no wall in the dome, nor place for Billy to hide. The mint green bathroom
fixtures were right out in the open. Billy got off his lounge chair now, went into the
bathroom and took a leak. The crowd went wild.
Billy brushed his teeth on Tralfamadore, put in his partial denture, and went into his
kitchen. His bottled-gas range and his refrigerator and his dishwasher were mint green,
too. There was a picture painted on the door of the refrigerator. The refrigerator had
come that way. It was a picture of a Gay Nineties couple on a bicycle built for two.
Billy looked at that picture now, tried to think something about the couple. Nothing
came to him. There didn't seem to be anything to think about those two people.
Billy ate a good breakfast from cans. He washed his cup and plate and knife and fork
and spoon and saucepan, put them away. Then he did exercises he had learned in the
Army-straddle jumps, deep knee bends, sit-ups and push-ups. Most Tralfamadorians had
no way of knowing Bill's body and face were not beautiful. They supposed that he was a
splendid specimen. This had a pleasant effect on Billy, who began to enjoy his body for
the first time.
He showered after his exercises and trimmed his toenails. He shaved and sprayed
deodorant under his arms, while a zoo guide on a raised platform outside explained what
Billy was doing-and why. The guide was lecturing telepathically, simply standing there,
sending out thought waves to the crowd. On the platform with him was the little
keyboard instrument with which he would relay questions to Billy from the crowd.
Now the first question came-from the speaker on the television set: 'Are you happy here?'
'About as happy as I was on Earth,' said Billy Pilgrim, which was true.
There were fives sexes on Tralfamadore, each of them performing a step necessary in
the creation of a new individual. They looked identical to Billy-because their sex
differences were all in the fourth dimension.
One of the biggest moral bombshells handed to Billy by the Tralfamadorians,
incidentally, had to do with sex on Earth. They said their flying-saucer crews had
identified no fewer than seven sexes on Earth, each essential to reproduction. Again:
Billy couldn't possibly imagine what five of those seven sexes had to do with the making
of a baby, since they were sexually active only in the fourth dimension.
The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the
invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male
homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn't be
babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over
sixty-five. There couldn't be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less
after birth. And so on.
It was gibberish to Billy.
There was a lot that Billy said that was gibberish to the Tralfamadorians, too. They
couldn't imagine what time looked like to him. Billy had given up on explaining that.
The guide outside had to explain as best he could.
The guide invited the crowd to imagine that they were looking across a desert at a
mountain range on a day that was twinkling bright and clear. They could look at a peak
or a bird or a cloud, at a stone right in front of them, or even down into a canyon behind
them. But among them was this poor Earthling, and his head was encased in a steel
sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eyehole through which he
could look, and welded to that eyehole were six feet of pipe.
This was only the beginning of Billy's miseries in the metaphor. He was also strapped
to a steel lattice which was bolted to a flatcar on rails, And there was no way he could
turn his head or touch the pipe. The far end of the pipe rested on a bi-pod which was also
bolted to the flatcar. All Billy could see was the dot at the end of the pipe. He didn't
know he was on a flatcar, didn't even know there was anything peculiar about his
The flatcar sometimes crept, sometimes went extremely fast, often stopped-went
uphill, downhill, around curves, along straightaways. Whatever poor Billy saw through
the pipe, he had no choice but to say to himself, 'That's life.'
Billy expected the Tralfamadorians to be baffled and alarmed by all the wars and other
forms of murder on Earth. He expected them to fear that the Earthling combination of
ferocity and spectacular weaponry might eventually destroy part or maybe all of the
innocent Universe. Science fiction had led him to expect that.
But the subject of war never came up until Billy brought it up himself. Somebody in
the zoo crowd asked him through the lecturer what the most valuable thing he had
learned on Tralfamadore was so far, and Billy replied, 'How the inhabitants of a whole
planet can live in peace I As you know, I am from a planet that has been engaged in
senseless slaughter since the beginning of time. I myself have seen the bodies of
schoolgirls who were boiled alive in a water tower by my own countrymen, who were
proud of fighting pure evil at the time. ' This was true. Billy saw the boiled bodies in
Dresden. 'And I have lit my way in a prison at night with candles from the fat of human
beings who were butchered by the brothers and fathers of those school girls who were
boiled. Earthlings must be the terrors of the Universe! If other planets aren't now in
danger from Earth, they soon will be. So tell me the secret so I can take it back to Earth
and save us all: How can a planet live at peace?'
Billy felt that he had spoken soaringly. He was baffled when he saw the
Tralfamadorians close their little hands on their eyes. He knew from past experience
what this meant: He was being stupid.
'Would-would you mind telling me,' he said to the guide, much deflated, 'what was so
stupid about that?'
'We know how the Universe ends,' said the guide, 'and Earth has nothing to do with it,
except that it gets wiped out, too.'
'How-how does the Universe end?' said Billy.
'We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A
Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears.' So
"If You know this," said Billy, 'isn't there some way you can prevent it? Can't you
keep the pilot from pressing the button?'
'He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will
let him. The moment is structured that way.'
'So,' said Billy gropingly, I suppose that the idea of, preventing war on Earth is stupid,
'But you do have a peaceful planet here.'
'Today we do. On other days we have wars as horrible as any you've ever seen or read
about. There isn't anything we can do about them, so we simply don't look at them. We
ignore them. We spend eternity looking at pleasant moments-like today at the zoo. Isn't
this a nice moment?'
'That's one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the
awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.'
'Um,' said Billy Pilgrim.
Shortly after he went to sleep that night, Billy traveled in time to another moment
which was quite nice, his wedding night with the former Valencia Merble. He had been
out of the veterans' hospital for six months. He was all well. He had graduated from the
Ilium School of Optometry-third in his class of forty-seven.
Now he was in bed with Valencia in a delightful studio apartment which was built on
the end of a wharf on Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Across the water were the lights of
Gloucester. Billy was on top of Valencia, making love to her. One result of this act
would be the birth of Robert Pilgrim, who would become a problem in high school, but
who would then straighten out as a member of the famous Green Berets.
Valencia wasn't a time-traveler, but she did have a lively imagination. While Billy was
making love to her, she imagined that she was a famous woman in history. She was being
Queen Elizabeth the First of England, and Billy was supposedly Christopher Columbus.
Billy made a noise like a small, rusty hinge. He had just emptied his seminal vesicles
into Valencia, had contributed his share of the Green Beret. According to the
Tralfamadorians, of course, the Green Beret would have seven parents in all.
Now he rolled off his huge wife, whose rapt expression did not change when he
departed. He lay with the buttons of his spine along the edge of the mattress, folded his
hands behind his head. He was rich now. He had been rewarded for marrying a girl
nobody in his right mind would have married. His father-in-law had given him a new
Buick Roadmaster, an all-electric home, and had made him manager of his most
prosperous office, his Ilium office, where Billy could expect to make at least thirty
thousand dollars a year. That was good. His father had been only a barber.
As his mother said, "The Pilgrims are coming up in the world,'
The honeymoon was taking place in the bittersweet mysteries of Indian summer in
New England. The lovers' apartment had one romantic wall which was all French doors.
They opened onto a balcony and the oily harbor beyond.
A green and orange dragger, black in the night, grumbled and drummed past their
balcony, not thirty feet from their wedding bed. It was going to sea with only its running
lights on. Its empty holds were resonant, made the song of the engines rich and loud.
The wharf began to sing the same song, and then the honeymooners' headboard sang, too.
And it continued to sing long after the dragger was gone.
'Thank you,' said Valencia at last. The headboard was singing a mosquito song.
'It was nice.'
Then she began to cry.
'What's the matter?'
'I'm so happy.'
'I never thought anybody would marry me.'
'Um,' said Billy Pilgrim.
'I'm going to lose weight for you,' she said.
'I'm going to go on a diet. I'm going to become beautiful for you.'
'I like you just the way you are.'
'Do you really?'
'Really,' said Billy Pilgrim. He had already seen a lot of their marriage, thanks to time-
travel, knew that it was going to be at least bearable all the way.
A great motor yacht named the Scheherezade now slid past the marriage bed. The
song its engines sang was a very low organ note. All her lights were on.
Two beautiful people, a young man and a young woman in evening clothes, were at the
rail at the stem, loving each other and their dreams and the wake. They were
honeymooning, too. They were Lance Rumfoord, of Newport, Rhode Island, and his
bride, the former Cynthia Landry., who had been a childhood sweetheart of John F.
Kennedy in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
There was a slight coincidence here. Billy Pilgrim would later share a hospital room
with Rumfoord's uncle, Professor Bertram Copeland Rumfoord of Harvard, official
Historian of the United States Air Force.
When the beautiful people were past, Valencia questioned her funny-looking husband
about war. It was a simple-minded thing for a female Earthling to do, to associate sex
and glamor with war.
'Do you ever think about the war?' she said, laying a hand on his thigh.
'Sometimes,' said Billy Pilgrim.
'I look at you sometimes,' said Valencia, 'and I get a funny feeling that you're full of
'I'm not,' said Billy. This was a lie, of course. He hadn't told anybody about all the
time traveling he'd done, about Tralfamadore and so on.
'You must have secrets about the war. Or, not secrets, I guess, but things you don't
want to talk about.'
'I'm proud you were a soldier. Do you know that?'
'Was it awful?'
'Sometimes.' A crazy thought now occurred to Billy. The truth of it startled him. It
would make a good epitaph for Billy Pilgrim-and for me, too.
'Would you talk about the war now, if I wanted you to?' said Valencia. In a tiny cavity
in her great body she was assembling the materials for a Green Beret.
'It would sound like a dream,' said Billy. 'Other people's dreams aren't very interesting
'I heard you tell Father one time about a German firing squad.' She was referring to the
execution of poor old Edgar Derby.
'You had to bury him? '
Did he see you with your shovels before he was shot?'
'Did he say anything?'
'Was he scared?'
'They had him doped up. He was sort of glassy-eyed.'
And they pinned a target to him?'
A piece of paper,' said Billy. He got out of bed, said, 'Excuse me,' went to the darkness
of the bathroom to take a leak. He groped for the light, realized as he felt the rough wall
that he had traveled back to 1944, to the prison hospital again.
The candle in the hospital had gone out. Poor old Edgar Derby had fallen asleep on the
cot next to Billy's. Billy was out of bed, groping along a wall, trying to find a way out
because he had to take a leak so badly.
He suddenly found a door, which opened, let him reel out into the prison night. Billy
was loony with time-travel and morphine. He delivered himself to a barbed-wire fence
which snagged him in a dozen places. Billy tried to back away from it but the barbs
wouldn't let go. So Billy did a silly little dance with the fence, taking a step this way,
then that way, then returning to the beginning again.
A Russian, himself out in the night to take a leak, saw Billy dancing-from the other
side of the fence. He came over to the curious scarecrow, tried to talk with it gently,
asked it what country it was from. The scarecrow paid no attention, went on dancing. So
the Russian undid the snags one by one, and the scarecrow danced off into the night again
without a word of thanks.
The Russian waved to him, and called after him in Russian, 'Good-bye.'
Billy took his pecker out, there in the prison night, and peed and peed on the ground.
Then he put it away again, more or less, and contemplated a new problem: Where had he
come from, and where should he go now?
Somewhere in the night there were cries of grief. With nothing better to do, Billy
shuffled in their direction. He wondered what tragedy so many had found to lament out
Billy was approaching, without knowing it, the back of the latrine. It consisted of a
one-rail fence with twelve buckets underneath it. The fence was sheltered on three sides
by a screen of scrap lumber and flattened tin cans. The open side faced the black tarpaper
wall of the shed where the feast had, taken place.
Billy moved along the screen and reached a point where he could see a message
freshly painted on the tarpaper wall. The words were written with the same pink paint
which had brightened the set for Cinderella. Billy's perceptions were so unreliable that
he saw the words as hanging in air, painted on a transparent curtain, perhaps. And there
were lovely silver dots on the curtain, too. These were really nailheads holding the
tarpaper to the shed. Billy could not imagine how the curtain was supported in
nothingness, and he supposed that the magic curtain and the theatrical grief were part of
some religious ceremony he knew nothing about.
Here is what the message said:
THIS LATRINE AS
TIDY AS YOU
Billy looked inside the latrine. The wailing was coming from in there. The place was
crammed with Americans who had taken their pants down. The welcome feast had made
them as sick as volcanoes. The buckets were full or had been kicked over.
An American near Billy wailed that he had excreted everything but his brains.
Moments later he said, 'There they go, there they go.' He meant his brains.
That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.
Billy reeled away from his vision of Hell. He passed three Englishmen who were
watching the excrement festival from a distance. They were catatonic with disgust.
'Button your pants!' said one as Billy went by.
So Billy buttoned his pants. He came to the door of the little hospital by accident. He
went through the door, and found himself honeymooning again, going from the bathroom
back to bed with his bride on Cape Ann.
'I missed you' said Valencia.
'I missed you,' said Billy Pilgrim.
Billy and Valencia went to sleep nestled like spoons, and Billy traveled in time back to
the train ride he had taken in 194 4 from maneuvers in South Carolina to his father's
funeral in Ilium. He hadn't seen Europe or combat yet. This was still in the days of steam
Billy had to change trains a lot. All the trains were slow. The coaches stunk of coal
smoke and rationed tobacco and rationed booze and the farts of people eating wartime
food. The upholstery of the iron seats was bristly, and Billy couldn't sleep much. He got
to sleep soundly when he was only three hours from Ilium, with his legs splayed toward
the entrance of the busy dining car.
The porter woke him up when the train reached Ilium. Billy staggered off with his
duffel bag, and then he stood on the station platform next to the porter, trying to wake up.
'Have a good nap, did you?' said the porter.
'Yes,' said Billy.
'Man,' said the porter, 'you sure had a hard-on.'
At three in the morning on Bill's morphine night in prison, a new patient was carried
into the hospital by two lusty Englishmen. He was tiny. He was Paul Lazzaro, the polka-
dotted car thief from Cicero, Illinois. He had been caught stealing cigarettes from under
the pillow of an Englishman. The Englishman, half asleep, had broken Lazzaro's right
arm and knocked him unconscious.
The Englishman who had done this was helping to carry Lazzaro in now. He had fiery
red hair and no eyebrows. He had been Cinderella's Blue Fairy Godmother in the play.
Now he supported his half of Lazzaro with one hand while he closed the door behind
himself with the other. 'Doesn't weigh as much as a chicken,' he said.
The Englishman with Lazzaro's feet was the colonel who had given Billy his knock-out
The Blue Fairy Godmother was embarrassed, and angry, too. 'If I'd known I was
fighting a chicken,' he said, 'I wouldn't have fought so hard.'
The Blue Fairy Godmother spoke frankly about how disgusting all the Americans
were. 'Weak, smelly, self-pitying-a pack of sniveling, dirty, thieving bastards,' he said.
'They're worse than the bleeding Russians.'
'Do seem a scruffy lot,' the colonel agreed.
A German major came in now. He considered the Englishmen as close friends. He
visited them nearly every day, played games with them, lectured to them on German
history, played their piano, gave them lessons in conversational German. He told them
often that, if it weren't for their civilized company, he would go mad. His English was
He was apologetic about the Englishmen's having to put up with the American enlisted
men. He promised them that they would not be inconvenienced for more than a day or
two, that the Americans would soon be shipped to Dresden as contract labor. He had a
monograph with him, published by the German Association of Prison Officials. It was a
report on the behavior in Germany of American enlisted men as prisoners of war. It was
written by a former American who had risen high in the German Ministry of Propaganda.
His name was Howard W. Campbell, Jr. He would later hang himself while awaiting trial
as a war criminal.
So it goes.
While the British colonel set Lazzaro's broken arm and mixed plaster for the cast, the
German major translated out loud passages from Howard W. Campbell, Jr.'s monograph.
Campbell had been a fairly well-known playwright at one time. His opening line was this
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor
Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard,
'It ain't no disgrace to be poor, but might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American
to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk
traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more
estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American
poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking
establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its
wall asking this cruel question: 'If you're so smart, why ain't you rich? ' There will also
be an American flag no larger than a child's hand-glued to a lollipop stick and, flying
from the cash register.
The author of the monograph, a native of Schenectady, New York, was said by some to
have had the highest I.Q. of all the war criminals who were made to face a death by
hanging. So it goes.
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously
untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for
any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to
come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame
themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have
had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since,
say, Napoleonic times.
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested