Did I mention that the Tralfamadorians are robots? I don’t guess it matters to the story. It doesn’t make them any less helpful. It just makes them more logical.
So, where were we?
Eliot has escaped from prison. That’s a good thing. But, in another reality, he is facing homelessness and bankruptcy. That’s no good at all. I suppose it all evens out.
Blah, blah, blah.
Okay. We left Eliot sleeping like a baby on a davenport with a feminine pattern on an alien planet. Thirty minutes passed. He just woke up.
“What’s going on?” he asked Zog, who was standing motionless, as if in a trance.
Zog jerked to life. His initial reaction to his unexpected consciousness was to tap dance frantically, passing gas with every snap of his toes; but, as his mind cleared, he gave Eliot a zen-like response. “Everything is going on,” he said. “Nothing is going on,” he said.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” said Eliot. “Either it is or it isn’t”
“No, it’s not,” said Zog.
“Yes, it is,” grumbled Eliot.
He stared wonderingly at the milk-glass sky above him. His eyes wandered to the horizon and then he scanned his surroundings. It appeared that he was in the middle of a giant-sized replica of the Mildred Barry Memorial Center for the Arts, an opaque white sphere that once rested on four fragile-looking legs in the middle of Midland City, Ohio’s Sugar Creek. On the night that Eliot Rosewater had met Kilgore Trout, the Arts Center had looked to him, from a distance, like a large, shining moon. Now, he was inside half of a sphere that was larger than Midland City. The bottom half of the sphere was attached to Tralfamadore. If it wasn’t, Eliot couldn’t breathe. The atmosphere of that planet was poison to Earthlings. An artificial biosphere had been created that allowed him to stay alive. He didn’t know that, of course. It was all new to him.
He sensed, rather than heard, that he and Zog were not alone. He didn’t see any flash of light to indicate that Kilgore Trout and Cthulbanana had joined them. The first thing he heard was the adrenaline-charged chattering of Kilgore Trout. It was coming from behind. It was a rattling of machine-gun lines from an old movie.
“Here’s looking at you, kid! I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue. Of all the gin joints in the world…..”
“What the,” said, Eliot.
“Catherwood! Is that you? Cairo? Archer?”
“Who the,” said Eliot.
“Depends,” said Kilgore Trout, leaning over the couch and tipping his ragged fedora to Eliot Rosewater.”
“No,” said Trout. There was a sparkle in the man’s eyes and his countenance glowed in a way I’d never seen. Trout was finally coming into his own. It made me happy to see. He had lived such a miserable life. The positive change was the result of the fine treatment he’d been getting on Tralfamadore.
“Mr. Catherwood, Miles Archer, and, for some reason, Joel Cairo exist in our time and space and they live in this glorious city. I don’t know if they’re real or if they are androids or holograms, or what they are. But their whole existence, and everything that seems to be going on around you, all of it, is less important than one big thing. You’ve got to get focused, Rosewater. Focus on that one big thing, the thing I’m about to show you. It will change your perception.”
“Well, how come you’ve grown younger and I’ve gotten old and crippled?”
“Focus,” said Kilgore Trout. Then, realizing there were miles to be run before he could possibly carry on a conversation with the tired octogenarian, he changed the subject.
“Before I answer your question, Mr. Rosewater, I need you to answer a question. And, think before you answer. This is my question, Mr. Rosewater: How is your heart?”
Eliot’s eyes darkened and his face froze into one of those expressions senior citizens use so well and he tried to make his hand invisible while he placed it precisely over his heart. Five seconds later, his sat up as fast as he could, and he panted, “My heart is fine, Mr. Trout. What am I doing here? Where are we? What is happening to us?”
Like a patient uncle with his retarded nephew, Kilgore Trout walked around the sofa so that he was facing Eliot Rosewater. “Mind if I sit down,” asked Trout.
Rosewater humphed and grunted and wheezed and began moving on the couch.
Trout laughed and held his hand up like a traffic cop. “Stop. You don’t have to do that,” he said. Behind him, a plum-colored leather chair with wide arms that sat three inches higher than the sofa came into existence. Eliot eased himself down into the soft hold of the chair. He waited until it had stopped its groaning, its sweet efforts to mold itself to him, before he continued talking.
As Trout inhaled the rich sweet smell of leather, Rosewater worked himself to the edge of the sofa.
“You must have secrets, Trout, the secrets of the universe. Finally, share them with me.”
Kilgore Trout leaned back in his chair and a lit cigar appeared between the first and second fingers of his right hand. He waited for his chair’s luxurious calf skin to quiet down and then took a languorous puff on the stogie.
“Eliot Rosewater,” he said, “I’d like you to meet Eliot Rosewater.” Trout waved his arm like a magician.
“Huh?” said Rosewater, from the couch, craning his neck sideways to look behind.
“Huh?” said Eliot Rosewater, recently rescued from San Lorenzo Prison by Kilgore Trout and by his Tralfamadorian partner, Cthulbanana.
“This can’t be!” said the older Rosewater.
“There must be a rip in the time/space continuum,” insisted the younger Rosewater.
“Gentlemen, we’ve got what we’ve got,” summarized Kilgore Trout. “Let’s deal with it.
“We are guests on an alien planet. There are two of you, here, and, admittedly, that is odd; but, if I hadn’t rescued you from prison, young Rosewater, you would be dead, now. If my friend Zog had not brought you here, old Rosewater, you would be facing financial ruin, with no friends and no resources to protect you. In short, you should be happy. Get to know yourself.”