Billy closed it, took a hand from his muff, touched a stove. It was as cold as ice. The stage was still set for Cinderella. Azure curtains hung from arches which were shocking pink. There were golden thrones and the dummy clock, whose hands were set at midnight. Cinderella's slippers, which were airman's boots painted silver, were capsized side by side under a golden throne.
Billy and poor old Edgar Derby and Lazzaro had been in the hospital when the British passed out blankets and mattresses, so they had none. They had to improvise. The only space open to them was up on the stage, and they went up there, pulled the azure curtains down, made nests.
Billy, curled in his azure nest, found himself staring at Cinderella's silver boots under a throne. And then he remembered that his shoes were ruined, that he needed boots. He hated to get out of his nest, but he forced himself to do it. He crawled to the boots on all fours, sat, tried them on.
The boots fit perfectly. Billy Pilgrim was Cinderella, and Cinderella was Billy Pilgrim.
I'm not sure how to respond to this little passage from Slaughterhouse. Pretty soon, Billy is going to be on his way to Dresden. Lazzaro will keep planning his revenges. And poor old Edgar Derby will be standing in front of a firing squad. So it goes. No Blue Fairy Godmother is going to appear to save any of them from their fates. Billy isn't living a fairy tale. He's a character in a science fiction story. Aliens and flying saucers and time travel, not glass slippers and wicked stepsisters.
If a Blue Fairy Godmother appeared to me this evening, I'm not sure what my wish would be. Maybe a new house. A Nobel Prize. Enough money so I don't have to worry about paying bills. A book on the bestseller lists. The new season of Stranger Things. That's what anybody with fairy godmother wishes would think about. Happiness through things.
We're all obsessed with the things we have and don't have. We all want more money. A better job. A nicer house. A castle in Scotland. Of course, as most fairy tales teach us, things don't bring happiness. Cinderella gets Prince Charming when she's dressed in rags and covered in ashes. The Beast wins the heart of Belle when he looks like a reject from The Island of Dr. Moreau.
The point is not being rich or royal or beautiful or handsome. Happiness is about filling a void, finding the thing that makes you whole. In most fairy tales, to quote a line from The Princess Bride, that thing is "wove, twue wove." Prince Charming and Cinderella. Prince Charming and Snow White. Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty. (Prince Charming is kind of a slut. All the princes look the same.) You get the idea.
I have met my twue wove. I have great kids and great friends. I'm living my fairy tale. Of course, I would love to have a full-time job at the university. A five-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a swimming pool and library. A couple thousand shares of Apple.
But I'm happy. Tonight, when I go to bed, I won't feel empty or unsatisfied.
Saint Marty doesn't need any airman's boots painted silver.