Friday, April 13, 2007

A Few More Minutes Before the Cold

Dwayne held the muzzle of his gun in his mouth for a while. He tasted oil. The gun was loaded and cocked. There were neat little metal packages containing charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulphur only inches from his brains. He had only to trip a lever, and the powder would turn to gas. The gas would blow a chuck of lead down a tube and through Dwayne's brains.

But Dwayne elected to shoot up one of his tiled bathrooms instead. He put chunks of lead through his toilet and a washbasin and a bathtub enclosure. There was a picture of a flamingo sandblasted on the glass of the bathtub enclosure. It looked like this:

Dwayne shot the flamingo. He snarled at his recollection of it afterwards. Here is what he snarled: 'Dumb fucking bird.'

Nobody heard the shots. All of the houses in the neighborhood were too well insulated for sound ever to get in or out. A sound wanting to get in or out of Dwayne's dream-house, for instance, had to go through an inch and a half of plasterboard, a polystyrene vapor barrier, a sheet of aluminum foil, a three-inch airspace, another sheet of aluminum foil, a three inch blanket of glass wool, another sheet of aluminum foil, one inch of insulating board made of pressed sawdust, tarpaper, one inch of wood sheathing, more tarpaper, and then alumium siding which was hollow, The space in the siding was filled with a miracle insulating material developed for use on rockets to the moon.

Dwayne turned on the floodlights around his house, and he played basketball on the blacktop apron outside his five-car garage.

Dwayne's dog Sparky hid in the basement when Dwayne shot up the bathroom. But he came out now. Sparky watched Dwayne play basketball.

'You and me, Sparky,' said Dwayne. And so on. He sure loved that dog.

Nobody saw him playing basketball. He was screened from his neighbors by trees and shrubs and a high cedar fence.

He put the basketball away and he climbed into a black Plymouth Fury he had taken in trade the day before. The Plymouth was a Chrysler product and Dwayne himself sold General Motors products. He had decided to drive the Plymouth for a day or two in order to keep abreast of the competition.

As he was backing out of his driveway, he thought it important to explain to his neighbors why he was in a Plymouth Fury, so he yelled out the window: 'Keeping abreast of the competition!' He blew his horn.

Dwayne zoomed down Old County Road and onto the Interstate, which he had all to himself. He swerved onto Exit Ten at a high rate of speed, slammed into a guardrail, spun around and around. He came out onto Union Avenue going backwards, jumped a curb, and came to a stop in a vacant lot. Dwayne owned the lot.

Nobody saw or heard anything. Nobody lived in the area. A policeman was supposed to cruise by once every hour or so, but he was cooping in an alley behind a Western Electric warehouse about two miles away. Cooping was police slang for sleeping on the job.

Dwayne stayed in the vacant lot for a while. He played the radio. All the Midland stations were asleep for the night, but Dwayne picked up a country music station in West Virginia, which offered him ten different kinds of flowering shrubs and five fruit trees for six dollars, C.O. D.

'Sounds good to me,' said Dwayne. He meant it. Almost all the messages which were sent and received in his country, even the telepathic ones, had to do with buying or selling some damn thing. They were like lullabies to Dwayne.

-from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Breakfast of Champions (Dial Press, 1973, 1999), Chapter 3


Blogger Robert said...

What a great passage! I'm going to miss Kurt Vonnegut. I love that "Keeping abreast of the competition!" I'll have to yell that at the neighbors the next time I walk down the street carrying a book of Billy Collins.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Thanks for this Greg. And thanks for your comment on my blog -- it made me smile Good to know it's not just us!

5:31 PM  

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