'White is for the race that
pioneered the continent, drained the swamps and cleared the forests and built the roads
and bridges. Red is for the blood of American patriots which was shed so gladly in years
Campbell's audience was sleepy. It had worked hard at the syrup factory, and then it
had marched a long way home in the cold. It was skinny and hollow-eyed. Its skins were
beginning to blossom with small sores. So were its mouths and throats and intestines. The
malt syrup it spooned at the factory contained only a few of the vitamins and minerals
every Earthling needs.
Campbell offered the Americans food now, steaks and mashed potatoes and gravy and
mince pie, if they would join the Free Corps. 'Once the Russians are defeated,� he went
on, you will be repatriated through Switzerland.�
There was no response.
'You're going to have to fight the Communists sooner or later,' said Campbell. "Why
not get it over with now?�
And then it developed that Campbell was not going to go unanswered after all. Poor
old Derby, the doomed high school teacher, lumbered to his feet for what was probably
the finest moment in his life. 'Mere are almost no characters in this story, and almost no
dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the
listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after an, is that
people are discouraged from being characters. But old Derby was a character now.
His stance was that of a punch-drunk fighter. His head was down, his fists were out
front, waiting for information and battle plan. Derby raised his head, called Campbell a
snake. He corrected that. He said that snakes couldn�t help being snakes, and that
Campbell, who could help being what he was, was something much lower than a snake or
a rat-or even a blood-filled tick.
Derby spoke movingly of the American form of government, with freedom and justice
and opportunities and fair play for all. He said there wasn't a man there who wouldn�t
gladly die for those ideals.
He spoke of the brotherhood between the American and the Russian people, and how
those two nations were going to crush the disease of Nazism, which wanted to infect the
The air-raid sirens of Dresden howled mournfully.
The Americans and their guards and Campbell took shelter in an echoing meat locker
which was hollowed in living rock under the slaughterhouse. There was an iron staircase
with iron doors at the top and bottom.
Down in the locker were a few cattle and sheep and pigs, and horses hanging from iron
hooks. So it goes. The locker had empty hooks for thousands more. It was naturally cool.
There was no refrigeration. There was candlelight. The locker was whitewashed and
smelled of carbolic acid. There were benches along a wall. The Americans went to these,
brushing away flakes of whitewash before they sat down.
Howard W. Campbell. Jr., remained standing, like the guards. He talked to the guards
in excellent German. He had written many popular German plays and poems in his time,
and had married a famous German actress named Resi North. She was dead now, had
been killed while entertaining troops in the Crimea. So it goes.
Nothing happened that night. It was the next night that about one hundred and thirty
thousand people in Dresden would die. So it goes. Billy dozed in the meat locker. He
found himself engaged again, word for word, gesture for gesture, in the argument with
his daughter with which this tale begun.
'Father,' she said, 'What are we going to do with you?'
And so on. 'You know who I could just kill?' she asked.
'Who could you kill?' said Billy.
'That Kilgore Trout.'
Kilgore Trout was and is a science-fiction writer, of course. Billy has not only read
dozens of books by Trout-he has also become a friend of Trout, who is a bitter man.
Trout lives in a rented basement in Ilium, about two miles from Billy's nice white
home. He himself has no idea how many novels he has written-possibly seventy-five of
the things. Not one of them has made money. So Trout keeps body and soul together as a
circulation man for the Ilium Gazette, manages newspaper delivery boys, bullies and
flatters and cheats little kids.
Billy met him for the first time in 1964. Billy drove his Cadillac down a back alley in
Ilium and he found his way blocked by dozens of boys and their bicycles. A meeting was
in progress. The boys were harangued by a man in a full beard. He was cowardly and
dangerous, and obviously very good at his job. Trout was sixty-two years old back then.
He was telling the kids to get off their dead butts and get their daily customers to
subscribe to the fucking Sunday edition, too. He said that whoever sold the most Sunday
subscriptions during the next two months would get a free trip for himself and his parents
to Martha's fucking Vineyard for a week, all expenses paid.
And so on.
One of the newspaper boys was actually a newspaper girl. She was electrified.
Trout's paranoid face was terribly familiar to Billy, who had seen it on the jackets of so
many books. But, coming upon that face suddenly in a home-town alley, Billy could not
guess why the face was familiar. Billy thought maybe he had known this cracked messiah
in Dresden somewhere. Trout certainly looked like a prisoner of war.
And then the newspaper girl held up her hand. 'Mr. Trout,' she said, 'if I win, can I take
my sister, too?'
'Hell no,' said Kilgore Trout. 'You think money grows on treesT
Trout, incidentally, had written a book about a money tree. It had twenty-dollar bills
for leaves. Its flowers were government bonds. Its fruit was diamonds. It attracted human
beings who killed each other around the roots and made very good fertilizer.
So it goes.
Billy Pilgrim parked his Cadillac in the alley, and waited for the meeting to end. When
the meeting broke up, there was still one boy Trout had to deal with. The boy wanted to
quit because the work was so hard and the hours were so long and the pay was so small.
Trout was concerned, because, if the boy really quit, Trout would have to deliver the
boy's route himself, until he could find another sucker.
'What are you?� Trout asked the boy scornfully. 'Some kind of gutless wonder?�
This, too, was the title of a book by Trout, The Gutless Wonder. It was about a robot
who had bad breath, who became popular after his halitosis was cured. But what made
the story remarkable, since it was written in 1932, was that it predicted the widespread
use of burning jellied gasoline on human beings.
It was dropped on them from airplanes. Robots did the dropping. They had no
conscience, and no circuits which would allow them to imagine what was happening to
the people on the ground.
Trout's leading robot looked like a human being, and could talk and dance and so on,
and go out with girls. And nobody held it against him that he dropped jellied gasoline on
people. But they found his halitosis unforgivable. But then he cleared that up, and he was
welcomed to the human race.
Trout lost his argument with the boy who wanted to quit. He told the boy about all the
millionaires who had carried newspapers as boys, and the boy replied: 'Yeah-but I bet
they quit after a week, it's such a royal screwing.�
And the boy left his full newspaper bag at Trout's feet, with the customer book on top.
It was up to Trout to deliver these papers. He didn�t have a car. He didn�t even have a
bicycle, and he was scared to death of dogs.
Somewhere a big dog barked.
As Trout lugubriously slung the bag from his shoulder, Billy Pilgrim approached him.
"Are-are you Kilgore Trout?
'Yes.' Trout supposed that Billy had some complaint about the way his newspapers
were being delivered. He did not think of himself as a writer for the simple reason that
the world had never allowed him to think of himself in this way.
'The-the writer?' said Billy.
Billy was certain that he had made a mistake. 'There's a writer named Kilgore Trout.'
'There is? Trout looked foolish and dazed.
'You never heard of him?'
Trout shook his head. 'Nobody-nobody ever did.�
Billy helped Trout deliver his papers, driving him from house to house in the Cadillac.
Billy was the responsible one, finding the houses, checking them off. Trout's mind was
blown. He had never met a fan before, and Billy was such an avid fan.
Trout told him that he had never seen a book of his advertised, reviewed, or on sale.
'All these years' he said, 'I've been opening the window and making love to the world.�
'You must surely have gotten letters,' said Billy. 'I've felt like writing you letters many
Trout held up a single finger. 'One.'
'Was it enthusiastic?'
'It was insane. The writer said I should be President of the World.�
It turned out that the person who had written this letter was Elliot Rosewater, Billy's
friend in the veterans' hospital near Lake Placid. Billy told Trout about Rosewater.
'My God-I thought he was about fourteen years old,' said Trout.
"A full grown man-a captain in the war.'
'He writes like a fourteen-year-old,� said Kilgore Trout.
Billy invited Trout to his eighteenth wedding anniversary which was only two days
hence. Now the party was in progress.
Trout was in Billy's dining room, gobbling canapes. He was talking with a mouthful of
Philadelphia cream cheese and salmon roe to an optometrist's wife. Everybody at the
party was associated with optometry in some way, except Trout. And he alone was
without glasses. He was making a great hit. Everybody was glad to have a real author at
the party, even though they had never read his books.
Trout was talking to a Maggie White, who had given up being a dental assistant to
become a homemaker for an optometrist. She was very pretty. The last book she had read
Billy Pilgrim stood nearby, listening. He was palpating something in his pocket. It was
a present he was about to give his Wife, a white satin box containing a star sapphire
cocktail ring. The ring was worth eight hundred dollars.
The adulation that Trout was receiving, mindless and illiterate as it was, affected Trout
like marijuana. He was happy and loud and impudent.
'I'm afraid I don't read as much as I ought to,' said Maggie.
'We�re all afraid of something,' Trout replied. 'I'm afraid of cancer and rats and
'I should know, but I don't, so I have to ask,' said Maggie, 'what's the most famous
thing you ever wrote?�
'It was about a funeral for a great French chef.'
'That sounds interesting.�
'All the great chefs in the world are there. It's a beautiful ceremony.� Trout was making
this up as he went along. 'Just before the casket is closed, the mourners sprinkle parsley
and paprika on the deceased.� So it goes.
'Did that really happen?' said Maggie White. She was a dull person, but a sensational
invitation to make babies. Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right
away. She hadn�t had even one baby yet. She used birth control.
'Of course it happened,� Trout told her. 'If I wrote something that hadn�t really
happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail. That�s fraud!'
Maggie believed him. 'I'd never thought about that before.'
'Think about it now.'
'It's like advertising. You have to tell the truth in advertising, or you get in trouble.�
'Exactly. The same body of laws applies.'
'Do you think you might put us in a book sometime?'
'I put everything that happens to me in books.'
'I guess I better be careful what I say.�
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