Slaughterhouse Five


denture was an obscene little artifact-silver and pearl and tangerine. Billy smiled.

The parade pranced, staggered and reeled to the gate of the Dresden slaughterhouse,
and then it went inside. The slaughterhouse wasn't a busy place any more. Almost all the
hooved animals in Germany had been killed and eaten and excreted by human beings,
mostly soldiers. So it goes.

The Americans were taken to the fifth building inside the gate. It was a one-story
cement-block cube with sliding doors in front and back. It had been built as a shelter for
pigs about to be butchered. Now it was going to serve as a home away from home for one
hundred American prisoners of war. There were bunks in there, and two potbellied stoves
and a water tap. Behind it was a latrine, which was a one-rail fence with buckets under it.

There was a big number over the door of the building. The number was five. Before
the Americans could go inside, their only English-speaking guard told them to memorize
their simple address, in case they got lost in the big city. Their address was this:
'Schlachthof-funf.' Schlachthof meant slaughterhouse. Funf was good old five.


Billy Pilgrim got onto a chartered airplane in Ilium twenty-five years after that. He knew
he was going to crash, but he didn�t want to make a fool of himself by saying so. It was
supposed to carry Billy and twenty-eight other optometrists to a convention in Montreal.

His wife, Valencia, was outside, and his father-in-law, Lionel Merble, was strapped to
the seat beside him.

Lionel Merble was a machine. Tralfamadorians, of course, say that every creature and
plant in the Universe is a machine. It amuses them that so many Earthlings are offended
by the idea of being machines.

Outside the plane, the machine named Valencia Merble Pilgrim was eating a Peter Paul
Mound Bar and waving bye-bye.

The plane took off without incident. The moment was structured that way. There was a
barbershop quartet on board. They were optometrists, too. They called themselves 'The
Febs,' which was an acronym for 'Four-eyed Bastards.�

When the plane was safely aloft, the machine that was Bill's father-in-law asked the
quartet to sing his favorite song. They knew what song he meant, and they sang it, and it
went like this:

In my prison cell I sit,

With my britches full of shit,

And my balls are bouncing gently on the floor.

And I see the bloody snag

When she bit me in the bag.

Oh, I'll never fuck a Polack any more.

Billy's father-in-law laughed and laughed at that, and he begged the quartet to sing the
other Polish song he liked so much. So they sang a song from the Pennsylvania coal
mines that began:

Me, and Mike, ve vork in mine.

Holy shit, ve have good time.

Vunce a veek ve get our pay.

Holy shit, no vork next day.

Speaking of people from Poland: Billy Pilgrim accidentally saw a Pole hanged in
public, about three days after Billy got to Dresden. Billy just happened to be walking to
work with some others shortly after sunrise, and they came to a gallows and a small
crowd in front of a soccer stadium. The Pole was a farm laborer who was being hanged
for having had sexual intercourse with a German woman. So it goes.

Billy, knowing the plane was going to crash pretty soon, closed his eyes, traveled in
time back to 1944. He was back in the forest in Fuxembourg again-with the Three

Musketeers. Roland Weary was shaking him, bonking his head against a tree. 'You guys
go on without me,' said Billy Pilgrim.

The barbershop quartet on the airplane was singing 'Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nelly,'
when the plane smacked into the top of Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont. Everybody was
killed but Billy and the copilot. So it goes.

The people who first got to the crash scene were young Austrian ski instructors from
the famous ski resort below. They spoke to each other in German as they went from body
to body. They wore black wind masks with two holes for their eyes and a red topknot.
They looked like golliwogs, like white people pretending to be black for the laughs they
could get.

Billy had a fractured skull, but he was still conscious. He didn�t know where he was.
His lips were working, and one of the golliwogs put his ear close to them to hear what
might be his dying words.

Billy thought the golliwog had something to do with the Second World War, and he
whispered to him his address: 'Schlachthof-funf.'

Billy was brought down Sugarbush Mountain on a toboggan. The golliwogs controlled
it with ropes and yodeled melodiously for right-of-way. Near the bottom, the trail
swooped around the pylons of a chair lift. Billy looked up at all the young people in
bright elastic clothing and enormous boots and goggles, bombed out of their skulls with
snow, swinging through the sky in yellow chairs. He supposed that they were part of an
amazing new phase of the Second World War. It was all right with him. Everything was
pretty much all right with Billy.

He was taken to a small private hospital. A famous brain surgeon came up from Boston
and operated on him for three hours. Billy was unconscious for two days after that, and
he dreamed millions of things, some of them true. The true things were time-travel.

One of the true things was his first evening in the slaughterhouse. He and poor old
Edgar Derby were pushing an empty two-wheeled cart down a dirt lane between empty
pens for animals. They were going to a communal kitchen for supper for all. They were
guarded by a sixteen-year-old Gennan named Werner Gluck. The axles of the cart were
greased with the fat of dead animals. So it goes.

The sun had just gone down, and its afterglow was backlighting the city, which formed
low cliffs around the bucolic void to the idle stockyards. The city was blacked out
because bombers might come, so Billy didn�t get to see Dresden do one of the most
cheerful things a city is capable of doing when the sun goes down, which is to wink its
lights on one by one.

There was a broad river to reflect those lights, which would have made their nighttime
winkings very pretty indeed. It was the Elbe.

Wemer Gluck, the young guard, was a Dresden boy. He had never been in the
slaughterhouse before, so he wasn't sure where the kitchen was. He was tall and weak
like Billy, might have been a younger brother of his. They were, in fact, distant cousins,
something they never found out. Gluck was armed with an incredibly heavy musket, a
single-shot museum piece with an octagonal barrel and a smooth bore. He had fixed his
bayonet. It was like a long knitting needle. It had no blood gutters.

Gluck led the way to a building that he thought might contain the kitchen, and he
opened the sliding doors in its side. There wasn�t a kitchen in there, though. There was a
dressing room adjacent to a communal shower, and there was a lot of steam. In the steam
were about thirty teen-age girls with no clothes on. They were Gennan refugees from
Breslau, which had been tremendously bombed. They had just arrived in Dresden, too.
Dresden was jammed with refugees.

There those girls were with all their private parts bare, for anybody to see. And there in
the doorway were Gluck and Derby and Pilgrim-the childish soldier and the poor old high
school teacher and the clown in his toga and silver shoes-staring. The girls screamed.
They covered themselves with their hands and turned their backs and so on, and made
themselves utterly beautiful.

Wemer Gluck, who had never seen a naked woman before, closed the door. Bill had
never seen one, either. It was nothing new to Derby.

When the three fools found the communal kitchen, whose main job was to make lunch
for workers in the slaughterhouse, everybody had gone home but one woman who had
been waiting for them impatiently. She was a war widow. So it goes. She had her hat and
coat on. She wanted to go home, too, even though there wasn�t anybody there. Her white
gloves were laid out side by side on the zinc counter top.

She had two big cans of soup for the Americans. It was simmering over low fires on
the gas range. She had stacks of loaves of black bread, too.

She asked Gluck if he wasn�t awfully young to be in the army. He admitted that he

She asked Edgar Derby if he wasn't awfully old to be in the army. He said he was.

She asked Billy Pilgrim what he was supposed to be. Billy said he didn�t know. He was
just trying to keep warm.

�All the real soldiers are dead,' she said. It was true. So it goes.

Another true thing that Billy saw while he was unconscious in Vermont was the work
that he and the others had to do in Dresden during the month before the city was
destroyed. They washed windows and swept floors and cleaned lavatories and put jars
into boxes and sealed cardboard boxes in a factory that made malt syrup. The syrup was
enriched with vitamins and minerals. The syrup was for pregnant women.

The syrup tasted like thin honey laced with hickory smoke, and everybody who
worked in the factory secretly spooned it all day long. They weren�t pregnant, but they
needed vitamins and minerals, too. Billy didn�t spoon syrup on his first day at work, but
lots of other Americans did.

Billy spooned it on his second day. There were spoons hidden all over the factory, on
rafters, in drawers, behind radiators, and so on. They had been hidden in haste by persons
who had been spooning syrup, who had heard somebody else coming. Spooning was a

On his second day, Billy was cleaning behind a radiator and he found a spoon. To his
back was a vat of syrup that was cooling. The only other person who could see Billy and
his spoon was poor old Edgar Derby, who was washing a window outside. The spoon
was a tablespoon. Billy thrust it into the vat, turned it around and around, making a gooey
lollipop. He thrust it into his mouth.

A moment went by, and then every cell in Billy's body shook him with ravenous
gratitude and applause.

There were diffident raps at the factory window. Derby was out there, having seen all.
He wanted some syrup, too.

So Billy made a lollipop for him. He opened the window. He stuck the lollipop into
poor old Derby's gaping mouth. A moment passed, and then Derby burst into tears. Billy
closed the window and hid the sticky spoon. Somebody was coming.


The Americans in the slaughterhouse had a very interesting visitor two days before
Dresden was destroyed. He was Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American who had become
a Nazi. Campbell was the one who had written the monograph about the shabby behavior
of American prisoners of war. He wasn�t doing more research about prisoners now. He
had come to the slaughterhouse to recruit men for a Gennan military unit called 'The Free
American Corps.' Campbell was the inventor and commander of the unit, which was
supposed to fight only on the Russian front.

Campbell was an ordinary looking man, but he was extravagantly costumed in a
uniform of his own design. He wore a white ten-gallon hat and black cowboy boots
decorated with swastikas and stars. He was sheathed in a blue body stocking which had
yellow stripes running from his armpits to his ankles. His shoulder patch was a silhouette
of Abraham Lincoln's profile on a field of pale green. He had a broad armband which was
red, with a blue swastika in a circle of white.

He was explaining this armband now in the cement-block hog barn.

Billy Pilgrim had a boiling case of heartburn, since he had been spooning malt syrup
all day long at work. The heartburn brought tears to his eves, so that his image of
Campbell was distorted by jiggling lenses of salt water.

'Blue is for the American sky,' Campbell was saying.

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