Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time and is living his life out of order and unexpectedly. He was born in 1922 in Ilium, NY. His father, a barber, died in a hunting accident during WWII. Billy was drafted in that war and taken prisoner by the Germans. After an honorable discharge, he enrolled in the Ilium School of Optometry, had a breakdown, recovered, graduated and married the school owner's daughter. He had two children: Barbara, who married another optometrist and Robert, a Green Beret who fought in Vietnam. He was the lone survivor of a 1968 plane crash. While recuperating in Vermont, his wife died accidentally. One day soon after returning home, he went to NYC to go on a talk radio program to talk about his alien abduction in 1967 to the planet Tralfamadore. He was displayed in a zoo there, mated with movie star Montana Wildhack and understood what it was to become unstuck in time. A month later, much to his kids' chagrin, he published a description of Tralfamadorians, green plumber's friends-like creatures who can see in 4-D. They see all moments all of the time, so death is never a big deal because people always exist in another moment. When speaking of the dead, they always say, "So it goes." Vonnegut adopts this practice for the book. Barbara walks into the house to find her father freezing cold and typing. She thinks he's crazy with all of this alien talk.
He first became unstuck in 1944 as a chaplain's assistant in WWII. Billy, surviving the Battle of the Bulge after his sudden arrival, found himself behind enemy lines with two scouts and an antitank gunner named Roland Weary. Never equipped for war, he looked ridiculous. Weary kicked and slapped Billy to make him keep going. Fat, stupid and mean, Weary had been unpopular growing up and was always ditched. He told Billy about his father's extensive collection of torture devices. Weary proudly proclaimed that his triangular trench knife made a wound that wouldn't close up and showed off his immense amounts of gear, including a dirty picture of a woman having sex with a pony. Delusional, Weary thought of himself and the scouts as the Three Musketeers; Billy was the college kid they saved. Then Billy traveled in time to the Ilium YMCA as a child where his father was teaching him to "sink-or-swim." Then he was visiting his mother in 1965 at an old folks' home. In the waiting room, he read "The Execution of Private Slovik, the true account of the only American soldier to be shot for cowardice since the Civil War." He continued traveling. Later he was drunk at a 1961 New Years party cheating on his wife. Weary shook Billy awake and dragged him to the scouts. They ditched Weary and Billy. Billy became unstuck again and when he came to, Weary was about to kick his ass. But they realized they had been discovered.
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