I have to say, it does occasionally strike me as deeply wrong that Kurt Vonnegut is no longer in this world, even if he still has a palpable presence. Vonnegut is one of the reasons why I became a writer, and some of his novels had an early and lasting influence on the way that I see the world. Thankfully, a new collection of unpublished shorts is now available, and Vanity Fair is previewing one of them on their website.
Here is an excerpt from a short story by Vonnegut, about a storm-window salesman, and a couple having problems dealing with their sudden infamy:
“Elsie—listen to me,” he said. “This man is one of the few living creatures who knows nothing about you, me, or the book. He is one of the few people who can still look upon us as ordinary human beings rather than objects of hate, ridicule, envy, obscene speculation—”
Elsie Strang Morgan thought that over. The more she thought about it, the harder it hit her. She changed from a wild woman to a gentle, quiet housewife, with eyes as innocent as any cow’s.
“How do you do?” she said.
“Fine, thank you, ma’am,” I said.
“You must think we’re kind of crazy here,” she said.
“Oh, no ma’am,” I said. The lie made me fidget some, and I picked up the sugar bowl in the middle of the table, and there underneath it was a check for one hundred and sixty thousand dollars. I am not fooling. That is where they had the check she’d gotten for the movie rights to her book, under a cracked five-and-ten-cent-store sugar bowl.
I knocked my coffee over, spilled it on the check.
And do you know how many people tried to save that check?
Happy Thanksgiving All!