Slaughterhouse Five


PAGE 5


The front of the woman was composed of
two hinged doors. The idea was to put a criminal inside and then close the doors slowly.
There were two special spikes where his eyes would be. There was a drain in the bottom
to let out all the blood.

So it goes.

Weary had told Billy Pilgrim about the Iron Maiden, about the drain in the bottom-and
what that was for. He had talked to Billy about dum-dums. He told him about his father's
Derringer pistol, which could be carried in a vest pocket, which was yet capable of
making a hole in a man 'which a bull bat could fly through without touching either wing.'

Weary scornfully bet Billy one time that he didn�t even know what a blood gutter was.
Billy guessed that it was the drain in the bottom of the Iron Maiden, but that was wrong.
A blood gutter, Billy learned, was the shallow groove in the side of the blade of a sword
or bayonet.

Weary told Billy about neat tortures he�d read about or seen in the movies or heard on
the radio-about other neat tortures he himself had invented. One of the inventions was
sticking a dentist's drill into a guy's ear. He asked Billy what he thought the worst fonn of
execution was. Billy had no opinion. The correct answer turned out to be this: 'You stake
a guy out on an anthill in the desert-see? He's face upward, and you put honey all over his
balls and pecker, and you cut off his eyelids so he has to stare at the sun till he dies.' So it
goes.

Now, lying in the ditch with Billy and the scouts after having been shot at, Weary
made Billy take a very close look at his trench knife. It wasn't government issue. It was a
present from his father. It had a ten-inch blade that was triangular 'in 'cross section. Its
grip consisted of brass knuckles, was a chain of rings through which Weary slipped his
stubby lingers. The rings weren�t simple. They bristled with spikes.

Weary laid the spikes along Billy's cheek, roweled the cheek with savagely
affectionate restraint. 'How'd you-like to be hit with this-hm? Hmmmmmmmmm?' he
wanted to know.

'I wouldn�t,' said Billy.

'Know why the blade's triangular?�

'No.'

'Makes a wound that won�t close up.�

�Oh.�

'Makes a three-sided hole in a guy. You stick an ordinary knife in a guy-makes a slit.
Right? A slit closes right up. Right?

'Right.'

'Shit. What do you know? What the hell they teach you in college?'

'I wasn't there very long.' said Billy, which was true. He had had only six months of
college and the college hadn't been a regular college, either. It had been the night school
of the Ilium School of Optometry.

"Joe College,' said Weary scathingly.

Billy shrugged.



�There's more to life than what you read in books.' said Weary. 'You'll find that out.'

Billy made no reply to this, either, there in the ditch, since he didn�t want the
conversation to go on any longer than necessary. He was dimly tempted to say, though,
that he knew a thing or two about gore. Billy, after all, had contemplated torture and
hideous wounds at the beginning and the end of nearly every day of his childhood. Billy
had an extremely gruesome crucifix hanging on the wall of his little bedroom in Ilium. A
military surgeon would have admired the clinical fidelity of the artist's rendition of all
Christ's wounds-the spear wound, the thorn wounds, the holes that were made by the iron
spikes. Billy's Christ died horribly. He was pitiful.

So it goes.

Billy wasn't a Catholic, even though he grew up with a ghastly crucifix on the wall.
His father had no religion. His mother was a substitute organist for several churches
around town. She took Billy with her whenever she played, taught him to play a little,
too. She said she was going to join a church as soon as she decided which one was right.

She never did decide. She did develop a terrific hankering for a crucifix, though. And
she bought one from a Sante Fe gift shop during a trip the little family made out West
during the Great Depression. Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life
that made sense from things she found in gift shops.

And the crucifix went up on the wall of Billy Pilgrim.

The two scouts, loving the walnut stocks of their rifles in the ditch, whispered that it
was time to move out again. Ten minutes had gone by without anybody's coming to see if
they were hit or not, to finish them off. Whoever had shot was evidently far away and all
alone.

And the four crawled out of the ditch without drawing any more fire. They crawled
into a forest like the big, unlucky mammals they were. Then they stood up and began to
walk quickly. The forest was dark and cold. The pines were planted in ranks and files.
There was no undergrowth. Four inches of unmarked snow blanketed the ground. The
Americans had no choice but to leave trails in the show as unambiguous as diagrams in a
book on ballroom dancing �step, slide, rest-step, slide, -rest.

'Close it up and keep it closed!� Roland Weary warned Billy Pilgrim as they moved out.
Weary looked like Tweedledum or Tweedledee, all bundled up for battle. He was short
and thick.

He had every piece of equipment he had ever been issued, every present he�d received
from home: helmet, helmet liner, wool cap, scarf, gloves, cotton undershirt, woolen
undershirt, wool shirt, sweater, blouse, jacket, overcoat, cotton underpants, woolen
underpants, woolen trousers, cotton socks, woolen socks, combat boots, gas mask,
canteen, mess kit, first-aid kit, trench knife, blanket, shelter-half, raincoat, bulletproof
Bible, a pamphlet entitled 'Know Your Enemy,' another pamphlet entitled 'Why We
Fight� and another pamphlet of German phrases rendered in English phonetics, which
would enable Weary to ask Germans questions such as 'Where is your headquarters?' and
'How many howitzers have you?� Or to tell them, 'Surrender. Your situation is hopeless,'
and so on.

Weary had a block of balsa wood which was supposed to be a foxhole pillow. He had a
prophylactic kit containing two tough condoms 'For the Prevention of Disease Only!' He



had a whistle he wasn't going to show anybody until he got promoted to corporal. He had
a dirty picture of a woman attempting sexual intercourse with a Shetland pony. He had
made Billy Pilgrim admire that picture several times.

The woman and the pony were posed before velvet draperies which were fringed with
deedlee-balls. They were fla nk ed by Doric columns. In front of one column was a potted
palm. The Picture that Weary had was a print of the first dirty photograph in history. The
word p holography was first used in 1839, and it was in that year, too, that Louis J. M.
Daguerre revealed to the French Academy that an image formed on a silvered metal plate
covered with a thin film of silver iodide could be developed in the presence of mercury
vapor.

In 1841, only two years later, an assistant to Daguerre, Andre Le Fevre, was arrested in
the Tuileries Gardens for attempting to sell a gentleman a picture of the woman and the
pony. That was where Weary bought his picture, too-in the Tuileries. Le Fevre argued
that the picture was fine art, and that his intention was to make Greek mythology come
alive. He said that columns and the potted palm proved that.

When asked which myth he meant to represent, Le Fevre, replied that there were
thousands of myths like that, with the woman a mortal and the pony a god.

He was sentenced to six months in prison. He died there of pneumonia. So it goes.

Billy and the Scouts were skinny people. Roland Weary had fat to burn. He was a
roaring furnace under all his layers of wool and straps and canvas. He had so much
energy that he bustled back and forth between Billy and the scouts, delivering dumb
messages which nobody had sent and which nobody was pleased to receive. He also
began to suspect, since he was so much busier than anybody else, that he was the leader.

He was so hot and bundled up, in fact, that he had no sense of danger. His vision of the
outside world was limited to what he could see through a narrow slit between the rim of
his helmet and his scarf from home, which concealed his baby face from the bridge of his
nose on down. He was so snug in there that he was able to pretend that he was safe at
home, having survived the war, and that he was telling his parents and his sister a true
war story-whereas the true war story was still going on.

Weary's version of the true war story went like this: There was a big Gennan attack,
and Weary and his antitank buddies fought like hell until everybody was killed but
Weary. So it goes. And then Weary tied in with two scouts, and they became close
friends immediately, and they decided to fight them way back to their own lines. They
were going to travel fast. They were damned if they'd surrender. They shook hands all
around. They called themselves 'The Three Musketeers.�

But then this damn college kid, who was so weak he shouldn�t even have been in the
anny, asked if he could come along. He didn�t even have a gun or a knife. He didn�t even
have a helmet or a cap. He couldn�t even walk right-kept bobbing up-and down, up-and-
down, driving everybody crazy, giving their position away. He was pitiful. The Three
Musketeers pushed and carried and dragged the college kid all the way back to their own
lines, Weary's story went. They saved his God-damned hide for him.

In real life, Weary was retracing his steps, trying to find out what had happened to
Billy. He had told the scouts to wait while he went back for the college bastard. He
passed under a low branch now. It hit the top of his helmet with a clonk. Weary didn�t



hear it. Somewhere a big dog was barking. Weary didn�t hear that, either. His war story
was at a very exciting point. An officer was congratulating the Three Musketeers, telling
them that he was going to put them in for Bronze Stars.

�Anything else I can do for you boys?' said the officer.

�Yes, sir,' said one of the scouts. 'We�d like to stick together for the rest of the war, sir.
Is there some way you can fix it so nobody will ever break up the Three Musketeers?'

Billy Pilgrim had stopped in the forest. He was leaning against a tree with his eyes
closed. His head was tilted back and his nostrils were flaring. He was like a poet in the
Parthenon.

This was when Billy first came unstuck in time. His attention began to swing grandly
through the full arc of his life, passing into death, which was violet light. There wasn�t
anybody else there, or any thing. There was just violet light and a hum.

And then Billy swung into life again, going backwards until he was in pre-birth, which
was red light and bubbling sounds. And then he swung into life again and stopped. He
was a little boy taking a shower with his hairy father at the Ilium Y.M.C.A. He smelled
chlorine from the swimming pool next door, heard the springboard boom.

Little Billy was terrified, because his father had said Billy was going to learn to swim
by the method of sink-or-swim. Ms father was going to throw Billy into the deep end, and
Billy was going to damn well swim.

It was like an execution. Billy was numb as his father carried him from the shower
room to the pool. His eyes were closed. When he opened his eyes, he was on the bottom
of the pool, and there was beautiful music everywhere. He lost consciousness, but the
music went on. He dimly sensed that somebody was rescuing him. Billy resented that.

From there he traveled in time to 1965. He was forty-one years old, and he was visiting
his decrepit mother at Pine Knoll, an old people's home he had put her in only a month
before. She had caught pneumonia, and wasn�t expected to live. She did live, though, for
years after that.

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