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Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


( Trout asks) “Why would anybody in the business of highspeed transportation name its business and trucks after buildings which haven’t moved an eighth of an inch since Christ was born?”

The driver’s answer was prompt.  It was peevish, too, as though he thought Trout was stupid to have to ask a question like that.  “He liked the sound of it,” he said.  “Don’t you like the sound of it?”

Trout nodded in order to keep things friendly.  “Yes,” he said, “it’s a very nice sound.”

*** Trout sat back and thought about the conversation.  He shaped it into a story, which he never got around to writing until he was an old, old man.  It was about a planet where the language kept turning into pure music, because the creatures there were so enchanted by sounds.  Words became musical notes.  Sentences became melodies.  They were useless as conveyors of information, because nobody knew or cared what the meanings of words were anymore.

So leaders in government and commerce, in order to function, had to invent new and much uglier vocabularies and sentence structures all the time, which would resist being transmuted to music. 

*** The nickname for Bunny’s neighborhood was Skid Row.  Every American town of any size had a neighborhood with the same nickname: Skid Row.  It was a place where people who didn’t have any friends or relatives or property or usefulness or ambition were supposed to go.

People like that would be treated with disgust in other neighborhoods, and policemen would keep them moving.  They were as easy to move, usually, as toy balloons. 

And they would drift hither and yon, like balloons filled with some gas slightly heavier than air, until they came to rest in Skid Row, against the foundations of the Fairchild Hotel.

They could snooze and mumble to each other all day long.  They could beg.  They could get drunk.  The basic scheme was this one: they were to stay there and not bother anybody anywhere else -- until they were murdered for thrills, or until they were frozen to death by the wintertime. 

*** So was Beatrice Keedsler, but she kept her dismay to herself as she sat at the piano bar with Karabekian.  Karabekian, who wore a sweatshirt imprinted with the likeness of Beethoven, knew he was surrounded by people who hated him for getting so much money for so little work.  He was amused.

Like everybody else in the cocktail lounge, he was softening his brain with alcohol.  This was a substance produced by a tiny creature called yeast.  Yeast organisms ate sugar and excreted alcohol.  They killed themselves by destroying their own environment with yeast shit.

*** Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast.  They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement.  Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne. 

From Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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