Billy was displayed there in the zoo in a simulated Earthling habitat. Most of the furnishings had been stolen from the Sears Roebuck warehouse in Iowa City, Iowa. There was a color television set and a couch that could be converted into a bed. There were end tables with lamps and ashtrays on them by the couch. There was a home bar and two stools. There was a little pool table. There was wall-to-wall carpeting in federal gold, except in the kitchen and bathroom areas and over the iron manhole cover in the center of the floor. There were magazines arranged in a fan on the coffee table in front of the couch.
There was a stereophonic phonograph. The phonograph worked. The television didn't. There was a picture of one cowboy killing another one pasted to the television tube. So it goes.
There were no walls in the dome, no place for Billy to hide. The mint green bathroom fixtures were right out in the open. Billy got off his lounge chair now, went into the bathroom and took a leak. The crowd went wild.
A weird little section. Billy as an exhibit. Homo sapiens, relaxing, listening to music, pretending to watch TV, going to the bathroom. Vonnegut is making a point here, I think. He is satirizing our habit of capturing wild animals and turning them into entertainment. Zoos. Circuses. Safaris.
I will admit that I like going to zoos. One of my favorite things to do as a child was visit the Detroit Zoo. We would spend an entire day there. I could spend a couple hours just in the penguin habitat. I loved going into the place where the tigers were in cages until one of the big cats actually lifted a leg and pissed on me when I was five or six. Yes, I have been soaked in tiger urine.
I wonder what a Tralfamadorian exhibit for me would include. A laptop computer, probably. Journals and pens and a desk. A television and DVD player with all of my favorite films, heavy on Christmas and River Phoenix flicks. Books. Lots of books. Pictures of my wife and kids. Those would be the essential things, if they were really trying to capture my essence.
I've never really thought about the things that really represent who I am. Strange. If I walked into a gorilla habitat, I would expect lots of tropical trees and fruits and rain, places to hide. If I visited an elephant habitat, it would include a grassy savanna, maybe a mud hole to wallow in, and a river. That's what I would expect.
How do I want to be described on my zoo plaque? Good father. Loving husband. Loyal brother and son and friend. Passionate. Artistic. Talented. I wouldn't mind being called a genius, but that's probably pushing it. Great writer. Voracious reader. Poet extraordinaire.
Okay, I need to stop. I'm venturing into wishful thinking. If you want to see me in my natural habitat, stop by my house tonight. I'll make us some popcorn, read you a poem or two, and pop Stand By Me into the DVD player.
Saint Marty is thankful tonight for the zoo of his life.