Vonnegut Lives! (a short story, of sorts)


(“Vonnegut Lives!” is one of the stories in the author’s debut work of fiction, Birds of a Feather: Short Stories & Miscellany, available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.)





Kurt Vonnegut stood in front of a large opal-plated gate.  ‘I must be getting old,’ he thought, ‘how did I end up here?’  He tapped the last cigarette from a pack of Pall Malls and searched his Brooks Brothers jacket for a pack of matches.


A gruff voice startled the great humorist, “Need a light?”


Kurt Vonnegut turned and noticed a barrel-chested man wearing a gossamer robe.  The robe was cinched by a belt with a key-shaped buckle.  The stranger had a thick beard and a balding head bordered by a curly, natural tonsure.  He held out a box of matches.


Kurt Vonnegut took the box of matches, lit his fag, then noticed a halo hovering above the stranger’s head.  “So this is the great clam bake in the sky.”


The stranger smiled, “I’m St. Peter, keeper of keys.”


“A pleasure,” Kurt Vonnegut replied.  “I’m Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., humanist and atheist.  As such, I’m a bit surprised to be here, but I can’t complain.  How’s the hooch in heaven?”


St. Peter explained to the newcomer that arrangements had been made for him to enjoy “the good kind of eternity,” but the Man Upstairs was none too pleased by the great author’s swan song from the little blue planet.  Kurt Vonnegut agreed that dying from an inadvertent fall was hardly a befitting exit for a Dresden survivor.


St. Peter waved his hands, “You misunderstand!  Your death was overshadowed by the firing of Don Imus and the acquittal of the Duke lacrosse players.  You got the shaft!  And the Man Upstairs ain’t happy one bit.  He’s threatening floods and famines.”


Vonnegut puffed his Pall Mall, “Sounds like a pool-pah to me!”


“You’ve got to go back,” the former fisherman insisted, “give your death a bit more chutzpah.”


Kurt Vonnegut thought for a moment, “Pete, I’ll do it, but on three conditions.  One, I get to bring Dwight D. Eisenhower back with me.  Two, I get a small vial of Ice-9.”


St. Peter opened a small hatch on the gated wall and withdrew a golden can on a string.  He relayed Mr. Vonnegut’s demands to the Great Command Center in the Sky.  A Voice that sounded a lot like Charleston Heston asked, “What’s the third thing?”


Vonnegut rubbed out his cigarette with his shoe, then stared at his empty pack of smokes.  “An eternal supply of Pall Malls.”


The Voice that sounded a lot like Charlton Heston replied, “Deal.”



The late great author, Kurt Vonnegut, was lying in an open casket.  His writing friend Norman Mailer stood over the open casket, thinking about death and whiskey.  The eyes of Kurt Vonnegut opened.  Mr. Mailer’s jaw dropped—and that’s no cliché.


“Hello, Norman,” Kurt Vonnegut said.  The humorist thought up a good one, “Then rose the reposed!”


And with that, Kurt Vonnegut became one of very few human beings to resurrect from the dead.  Friends and family members who had gathered to say goodbye found themselves saying hello.  Novelist John Irving pinched himself twice, “Oh boy.”


Kurt Vonnegut raised his arms to the amazed crowd, “Be not alarmed!  For I bring you tidings of great joy!  And an old friend!”


The crowd turned and parted as Dwight D. Eisenhower walked up the center aisle and joined Kurt Vonnegut at the altar.  Ike wore his military uniform and carried a 3 wood.


A news cameraman entered the sanctuary.  Kurt Vonnegut cleared his throat and straightened his tie, “I would like to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.  And my good pal Ike here is my running mate.”  Kurt and Ike beamed.


The former science fiction author became the presidential frontrunner from the word go.  The New York Times called Kurt Vonnegut “a font of political wisdom.”  The Economist called Candidate Vonnegut “honesty in a bottle.”  Kurt Vonnegut called himself “a humanist ambassador.”  He called Ike “the uncle of the world.”


When Barbara Walters asked the political tandem about their position on Islamic terrorism, with a twinkle in his eye, Dwight D. Eisenhower replied, “Babs, how far can you go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without?”


During a town meeting in Indianapolis, at the old Vonnegut Hardware Store, a citizen asked how the Vonnegut-Eisenhower ticket intended to save social security.


Mr. Vonnegut smiled, “My old friend Ike once said, ‘There is a tiny splinter group that believes you can eliminate social security and labor laws.  Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires.  They are stupid.’  Be not afraid, citizen.  Your future is safe with us!”


Neither Clinton nor Guiliani stood a chance.  McCain and Obama packed their bags.  Newt Gingrich suggested that two Germans on the same ticket spelled doom for America.  Ike said, “Hey, Newt, like my friend Kurt Vonnegut once said, ‘Go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.’”  Poor Newt melted into a puddle of pathetic conservatism.  His liquid remains were lapped up by dogs.


Sales of Kurt Vonnegut’s works skyrocketed.  During the final week of the campaign, Eisenhower made a hole in one during a Pro-Am tour at Pebble Beach.  As prognosticated by all pundits, the election was an unprecedented landslide.  During the Election Night celebration, Kurt Vonnegut boogied with Jessica Alba.  He looked across the ballroom dance floor and winked knowingly at Vice President Elect Eisenhower.  Ike winked back as he tangoed with Helen Mirren.


On January 20, 2009, Inauguration Day, Kurt Vonnegut and Eisenhower took their respective oaths of office.  The band played “Hail to the Chief.”  There was a 21-gun salute, but President Vonnegut insisted the military use water guns instead of howitzers.


President Vonnegut declared he wished to deliver his speech from the top of the Capitol steps.  Secret Service scurried about.  The earth moved to make it so.  President Vonnegut and Vice President Eisenhower ascended the steps.  The President asked an aide for two glasses of water.  “For I am thirsty, son,” he said, then winked at Ike.


President Vonnegut spoke from the cuff.  He said, “As my Vice President once said, ‘I don’t intend to be a poker player before this crowd.’  I’m President now, so listen up!”


The world listened.


“Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.  Think about it and pitch in!”


The crowd cheered.


“Thanks to TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.  If you can’t be a liberal, then try to be a good conservative like my dear friend Mr. Eisenhower!”


The crowd cheered again.


“Human beings will be happier—not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie—but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again.  So spend more time watching the National Geographic Channel!”


Thrice the crowd cheered.  (Some viewers obeyed and switched channels.)


“I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way.  I am a fool.  Let’s all be fools together!”


The crowd went bananas.


President Vonnegut called for the two glasses of water.  He handed one glass to Vice President Eisenhower.  Both men poured some water on their well-buffed Florsheims.  The crowd grew curious.  President Vonnegut removed his small vial of Ice-9 from his breast pocket.  He spilled a few drops on Ike’s feet, then on his own.  The Executive Shoes instantly became permanently affixed to the Capitol steps.


President Vonnegut looked at his watch and spoke into the microphone, “President William Henry Harrison served this great nation as President a mere 32 days.  I have now been in office a mere 32 minutes.  If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.  I have one more thing to say.  Repeat after me, ‘Be nice, be nice, be nice.’”


The world could be heard to say, “Be nice!  Be nice!  Be nice!”


Like little boys, President Vonnegut and Vice President Eisenhower splashed each other with water, then turned to the crowd and assumed noble poses.  President Vonnegut dropped a little Ice-9 on Ike and then himself.


Hey, Presto!  A statue for the ages!


Later that evening, St. Peter, Kurt Vonnegut and Ike sat at a table in a small night club in paradise.  John Coltrane played saxophone on the stage.  Kurt Vonnegut lit a Pall Mall.  Ike puffed at a cigar.  St. Peter sipped a Maker’s and tapped his toes.


A Voice that sounded a lot like Charleston Heston could be heard to say, “And so it goes.”






[I was pretty beside myself with sadness when Kurt Vonnegut died in the Spring of 2007.  This short story, of sorts, was first published in Columbia City Paper.]



Original art above by Damon Hall.  He’s the bomb!



(“Vonnegut Lives!” is one of the stories in the author’s debut work of fiction, Birds of a Feather: Short Stories & Miscellany, available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.)



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