Billy ate a good breakfast from cans. He washed his cup and plate and knife and fork and spoon and saucepan, put them away. Then he did exercises he had learned in the Army--straddle jumps, deep knee bends, sit-ups and push-ups. Most Tralfamadorians had no way of knowing Billy's body and face were not beautiful. They supposed that he was a splendid specimen. This had a pleasant effect on Billy, who began to enjoy his body for the first time.
He showered after his exercises and trimmed his toenails. He shaved, and sprayed deodorant under his arms, while a zoo guide on a raised platform outside explained what Billy was doing--and why. The guide was lecturing telepathically, simply standing there, sending out thought waves to the crowd. On the platform with him was the little keyboard instrument with which he would relay questions to Billy from the crowd.
Now the first question came--from the speaker on the television set: "Are you happy here?"
"About as happy as I was on Earth," said Billy Pilgrim, which was true.
Billy is a star on Tralfamadore just for being Billy. He eats breakfast and exercises and bathes and cuts his toenails. As an encore, he shaves and puts on deodorant. I do almost all of that stuff every morning, but Billy is special. He is a unicorn or Bigfoot on this alien planet. The Tralfamadorians don't know any better. To them, Billy is Brad Pitt and George Clooney and James Dean, all rolled into one lumpy human form. Billy is myth and monster, specimen and superstar, and he starts liking the attention.
I gave a poetry reading this afternoon at the medical center where I work. Not too many people showed up, but that really doesn't matter. I got to read some of my work, tell some stories, and entertain a small audience. For an hour, I was Brad Pitt and George Clooney and James Dean all rolled into one. And the Tralfamadorians really enjoyed the show I put on.
I will admit to being quite nervous last night as I was planning what I was going to read today. Usually, I do readings with musician friends, so I'm not the center of attention all the time. My musician friends weren't available today. That means I had 60 minutes to fill by myself. That's a long poetry reading.
I had about twenty poems chosen. Once I was introduced, I did what I always do: I winged it. Some things I had planned to read went out the window. Other things, that I hadn't planned to read, suddenly became centerpieces, with ten minute introductions. It went really well, I think. Everybody was laughing and crying in the right places. Plus, there were really good cookies to eat.
That always happens when I give readings. I plan and organize and prepare, and it all goes out the window when I start talking. It's not nerves. I don't ever feel anxious when I give a reading. It's something else. I just sort of let myself go, and that's when I start having fun. I figure that if I'm having fun, so are the people sitting in the chairs.
Tonight, I am going to relax. Maybe do a little writing. Maybe watch a movie. Maybe read. I'm going to do something I haven't really done all week: I'm going to relax.
Saint Marty is thankful today for really good chocolate chip cookies and poems.