Under morphine, Billy had a dream of giraffes in a garden. The giraffes were following gravel paths, were pausing to munch sugar pears from treetops. Billy was a giraffe, too. He ate a pear. It was a hard one. It fought back against his grinding teeth. It snapped in juicy protest.
The giraffes accepted Billy as one of their own, as a harmless creature as preposterously specialized as themselves. Two approached him from opposite sides, leaned against him. They had long, muscular upper lips which they could shape like the bells of bugles. They kissed him with these. They were female giraffes--cream and lemon yellow. They had horns like doorknobs. The knobs were covered with velvet.
One of the reasons why I love Slaughterhouse Five is that it constantly surprises me. Part memoir. Part history. Part science fiction. Part surrealism. Vonnegut is able to bring all of these elements together in the book. This passage, where Billy, under a cloud of morphine, transforms into a giraffe, is a little Kafkaesque, without the cockroach, and a little Naked Lunch. It is so wonderfully strange, especially when Billy starts having a menage with two female giraffes and their long, muscular upper lips.
I have spent most of the day being a writer, which is something that I don't get to say very often. I went to a Memorial Day parade this morning, and I attended a Memorial Day service at a local cemetery. My family and I brought some flowers to a few graves of relatives (including my sister's). Then, I went home and started working on an idea for a piece that I've been thinking about for quite some time.
I wrote for close to six hours. It's in a finished form, but I'm not really sure what it is. I envision it as a prelude to something much longer. By itself, it could be a prose poem or a short lyric essay. It really felt great to write without interruption, to allow myself the luxury of being a Vonnegut for a little while. I didn't write about giraffes having tongue sex in a garden, but I was definitely outside of my comfort zone as a writer.
Now, at the end of a three-day weekend, with a week of work and grading ahead of me, I'm a little depressed. I know that I won't have another extended period of writing for quite some time. With this new piece, I have about three projects that I'm working on now. That's my writing process. If I get stuck with one project, I turn my attention to another for a while. I got this idea from the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov.
When I was a teenager, I read an article about Asimov. The article said that Asimov's writing space contained three desks, and on top of each desk was a typewriter. Asimov told the journalist that he always had three different books in progress at the same time. When he reached a roadblock with one book, he would swivel his chair to the second desk and start typing on the second typewriter, which contained the manuscript for a completely different book. When he got stuck on the second book, he swiveled to the third desk and third typewriter and third manuscript. Asimov was brilliant.
My problem is that I don't often have days like today. During the week, I have to steal ten minutes at a time for writing. Sometimes during lunch. Sometimes when I'm waiting for my daughter at the dance studio. Sometimes right before bed, after I've corrected four or five student essays. I don't get pages written. I get paragraphs, if I'm lucky. Usually, it's one of two sentences.
Therefore, today was a blessing.
Saint Marty is thankful for being able to write for six hours.