The morning walk with the dog is generally uneventful. I do keep watch for the woman walking her dalmatian. He’s fat, his body shaped like an overstuffed Navy duffel bag, and he never looks happy. I usually cross over to the other side of the street with Abbie when I see the dalmatian and his handler heading our way. But sometimes an encounter is unavoidable. As we approach, he is at the end of his leash, straining hard, a low, diesel-like rumble coming from behind bared teeth. “Oh, they really want to play!” she says.
“Yeah. well….” I move on, pulling Abbie along behind me.
A couple of mornings ago, we came upion what I thought at first was a massive trash pile at the end of someone’s driveway. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a yard sale. We paused. Abbie sniffed at an old coffee pot. I walked along the tables, examining the family detritus. Sports equipment, board games, odd pieces of wood, shoes, baseball caps, pens, exercise DVDs… you know what it looks like. Every item appeared to be broken or missing a piece.
Except this. A familiar face. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., staring at me from the cover of a vinyl record album. A 1973 spoken-word recording of the author reading from his greatest work, Slaughterhouse-Five. It had one of those heavy plastic covers on it like libraries used to do to help preserve their records, with a slot for the check-out card in the back. In fact, I could see from the markings that it used to belong to the Monroe Community College library. I was ecstatic. I paid the lady a buck and almost skipped home the rest of the way.
It’s just one record, so most of Slaughterhouse-Five isn’t there. I put it on the turntable and set the needle in the groove. The speakers crackled, and the words came to life. He starts with the book’s seventh paragraph: “I would hate to tell you what this lousy book cost me in money and anxiety and time….” Vonnegut, speaking from the dead.