Chapter 8 Notes from Slaughterhouse-Five

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Slaughterhouse-Five Chapter 8

Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American who had become a Nazi propagandist, visited them. He came to recruit for "The Free American Corps," which would fight on the Russian front. He had an extravagant costume: a ten-gallon white hat, black cowboy boots decorated with swastikas and stars, a blue body stocking with yellow stripes, and a patch with Lincoln's silhouette. He wore a nazi armband. Billy had heartburn that day, as he had spooned too much syrup. The audience was sleepy from work, and sick. He offered them steak and mashed potatoes if they would join him in fighting Communists.

Derby spoke. It was the finest moment of his life. "There are no characters in this story," explains the narrator, "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 all, is that people are discouraged from being characters. But old Derby was a character now." Chapter 8, pg. 164 He called Campbell a snake and a blood-filled tick. He spoke of freedom and justice and brotherhood between America and Russia, how they were going to destroy the disease of Nazism. The air sirens wailed and they all took shelter in a meat locker. There were a few dead animals on meat hooks. So it goes. Howard Campbell, Jr. talked in excellent German to the guards. He had written popular plays and poems in German, and had married a German actress. She had been killed while entertaining troops. So it goes.

Topic Tracking: Anti-War 17

Nothing happened that night, writes the narrator, it was the next night that one hundred and thirty thousand people in Dresden would die. So it goes. Billy dozed, and woke in 1968 again, arguing with Barbara. She is still admonishing him for telling the twelve-year-old about Tralfamadore during his optometry appointment, and says she could just kill Kilgore Trout, whose books Billy has read dozens of, and who is his friend.

Trout lives in a basement in Ilium. He has no idea how many novels he has written. He works as a circulation manager, managing newspaper delivery boys. Billy met him for the first time in 1964, when he was driving his Cadillac down a back alley and he found him harassing some kids about newspapers, promising a free trip to whoever sold the most. Billy saw his face but could not place it as the paranoid face on his books. One girl asked if she could bring her sister, and Trout told her hell no, that money doesn't grow on trees. He had actually written a book about a tree whose leaves were money and fruit was jewels. The people who killed each other around the roots made excellent fertilizer.

When the meeting ended, one boy stayed after to quit. Trout called him a gutless wonder. He had written a book with this title about a robot who became popular after ridding himself of bad breath. In the book he predicted the use of napalm. Robots dropped it. They had no conscience to imagine the results on the people on the ground.

Trout knew that he now had to deliver the papers himself. Billy approached him. Trout thought he was a complaining customer and was shocked to see that Billy was an avid fan. Billy helped him deliver in his Cadillac. Trout said that he had felt that he had been opening the window and making love to the world. He had only received one fan letter, and it was from Rosewater, who he assumed was fourteen since the writing was so bad. Rosewater said he should be President of the World. He thought Rosewater was insane.

Billy invited Trout to his eighteenth wedding anniversary. The guests were impressed that there was a real writer there. He was talking with his mouth full to an optometrist's wife named Maggie White. Billy had a sapphire cocktail ring in his pocket for his wife Valencia. Maggie told Trout that she was afraid she didn't read as much as she ought to, and he replied that everyone was afraid of something, like cancer or rats. He told her that the most famous thing he ever wrote was about a funeral for a great French chef where mourners sprinkled spices in the casket. So it goes. Maggie asked if that really happened. The narrator explains that she is dull, but men wanted to fill her with babies. He tells her that if it didn't, he would be arrested for fraud. Maggie believed him. She asked him if she might put them in a book someday and he replied that everything that happened to him got put in his books. She said she better be careful what she said, and he told her that God was listening too, and that on Judgment day he was going to recap all she'd said and done, and if she'd done bad things, she'd burn forever. Maggie believed that, too, and was petrified. He laughed so hard that some salmon roe flew into her cleavage.

Topic Tracking: Humor 17

The barbershop quartet, "The Febs," sang "That Old Gang of Mine." The song upset Billy, who had never had a gang. He felt like he was being tortured. He could not explain it; only that he had some big secret inside himself and could not imagine what it was. He assured Valencia that he had not seen a ghost and told Kilgore Trout that no, he had not seen the past or future through a time window. He absent-mindedly gave Valencia the ring, which he had meant to present in front of everybody, and she thanked him gushingly.

Everybody was already impressed with the jewelry he had gotten her. He had the partial denture in a drawer with his collection of cufflinks. He had one pair with antique Roman coins and another that were a compass and a thermometer.

He recovered and moved about normally. Kilgore Trout followed him suspiciously, hoping to gain novel material. He asked Billy if he had ever seen a dog stand on a full-length mirror. The dog realizes that there is nothing under him, and jumps a mile. Trout told Billy he looked like that reaction. The barbershop quartet started up again and Billy fled upstairs. He locked himself in the bathroom with the lights off, where he found his son Robert, the future Green Beret, on the toilet with his pink electric guitar. He went into his bedroom. He turned on the vibrating bed and saw his dog Spot. He thought about the effect of the quartet. He did not travel back in time, but remembered it clearly. He was in the meat locker when Dresden was destroyed. The bombs sounded like giant footsteps walking and walking. Only the Americans were there; the guards were at home being killed with their families. So it goes. The girls he had seen naked were killed too. So it goes. A guard checked every once in a while, but it was not safe to come out until noon the next day. The air was black with smoke and the sun was an angry little pinhead. Dresden was reduced to minerals, like the moon. Everyone else was dead. So it goes. The guards drew together, mouths open like a barbershop quartet.

He remembered when Montana, pregnant and rosy, asked him to tell her a story. She demanded small favors from time to time. He told her about the destruction of Dresden--the guards, the buildings, and dead people. So it goes. He told her it was like the moon.

Topic Tracking: Anti-War 18
Topic Tracking: Death 15

The guards told them to march back to the slaughterhouse. Only the walls remained. They realized that there was no food or water, and that the survivors would have to climb around on the face of the moon. They found that the curves of the moon were not smooth up close, but jagged and hot, unsteady. Everyone was dead. There were no moon men. American fighter planes flew over, looking for movement, which they shot at. They shot at Billy and the rest and missed. They shot at others and hit them. So it goes.

Billy's story ended in an unharmed inn. The family running the inn knew about Dresden, but they still opened to see who would come. There was no great flow of refugees from Dresden. The guards told them they had not seen another living soul. The innkeeper invited them to stay the night in the stable, and fed them.

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