While Billy was unconscious recovering from the plane crash in Vermont, Valencia became hysterical in the family Cadillac as she drove to see him. Missing the correct freeway turnoff, she slammed her brakes and collided with a Mercedes. Nobody was hurt, but the back of the Caddy was crushed and the exhaust system fell out. When she arrived at the hospital she slumped over. One hour later, she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Billy, still unconscious, was sharing a room with a 70 year-old history professor Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, whose leg was in traction from a skiing accident. He had been honeymooning with his fifth wife, 23-year-old Lily. Rumfoord was working on a one-volume history of the United States Army Air Corps in WWII. As Lily brought him books from Boston, Billy deliriously time traveled. She was scared of Billy; Rumfoord was bored. Lily brought, among other documents, President Truman's announcement that Hiroshima had been bombed. The statement and the intro to The Destruction of Dresden show the American rationalization for the deaths of 135,000 civilians. Clearly, Vonnegut does not tow the party line. Barbara came in to visit Billy. She was a wreck and called to him. But he was in 1958, examining a boy's eyes. Then he was age 16 in a waiting room with an old man who farted and belched. When Billy opened his eyes in Vermont and saw his Green Beret son, he was disoriented. After regaining consciousness, he never said much. People thought he was a vegetable; actually, he was planning how to tell the world about Tralfamadore and the nature of time. Rumfoord, always a sweetie, said, "Why don't they just let him die?" Billy finally broke his silence when Rumfoord was explaining to Lily why Dresden was hard to write about. "I was there," Billy said. Rumfoord though Billy had a mental disease.
Meanwhile, Billy traveled back to Dresden, where he and five Americans were riding around in a coffin-shaped wagon looking for souvenirs of war. Billy snoozed in the back of the wagon and experienced bliss. When he awoke, a middle-aged couple was looking disappointingly at the state of the horses, who were bleeding and parched. When Billy saw the horses, he cried for the only time during the war. Billy traveled back to the hospital, where Rumfoord was beginning to get interested in Billy's viewpoint. But he tried to justify the army's stand. Billy told him there was no need because everything is predestined, like the Tralfamadorians believe. Barbara took him home, where a practical nurse was to watch him. But Billy snuck out and drove to New York City to look for a talk radio program. He checked into his hotel and flipped the TV channels, but no talk programs were on, so he went for a walk around Times Square. In a window full of smut, he also saw four Kilgore Trout books. The shop's pictures, because they were individual moments, were more Tralfamadorian than the movies. But Billy began reading The Big Board-which he remembered he had read in the veteran's hospital. It was about an Earthling couple kidnapped by aliens and put on display in a zoo with a big board supposedly showing stock market quotations and a news ticker. They had been told they had a million dollars invested on Earth so they would jump up and down depending on what the board said. In another Kilgore Trout book, a man built a time machine to see Jesus. He was 12 and learning carpentry from his dad when two Roman soldiers came in asking for a cross. Jesus and his dad built it. The time traveler had wanted to find out whether or not Jesus had really died on the cross, so he brought a stethoscope along. He dressed in period clothes and was the first one up the ladder to get Jesus down. He was dead-and only 5'3". So Billy went to buy the book and saw a girly magazine with this question: "What really happened to Montana Wildhack?" Along with blue pictures, it said she had died. But Billy knew she was still in the zoo. He went to the back if the store where a film was running. Montana was in it alone, peeling a banana. Billy didn't wait to see what came next, so he followed a clerk, who showed him a picture of a woman and a Shetland pony attempting sexual intercourse.
That night, Billy got on a radio show. He went to a station and joined a bunch of literary critics by pretending to be from the Ilium Gazette. They discussed whether the novel was dead. When Billy got his chance, he went off about Montana and time and the aliens. During a commercial break, he was kicked out, so he went to his hotel and unstuck in time to Tralfamadore. He told Montana about the NYC trip and what he saw in the store. Like a good Tralfamadorian, she was guilt-free. A silver chain around her neck held a locket with these words: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference."
Browse all Studyworld Studynotes|