Quote 3

Billy answered. There was a drunk on the other end. Billy could almost smell his breath—mustard gas and roses. It was a wrong number. Billy hung up.

In Chapter 4, the night after his daughter’s wedding in 1967, Billy gets up out of bed, unable to sleep. He knows that the flying saucer will come for him soon. He wanders into his daughter’s empty bedroom, the phone rings, and on the other end is a drunk. It is unusual that Billy claims he can almost to smell the mustard gas and roses on his breath over the phone. This detail emerges through a kind of empathy that seems to connect otherwise unrelated moments in the omniscient narration. We, the readers, recognize this drunk from Chapter 1: he is the author, Kurt Vonnegut, who in his middle age has a tendency to make drunken phone calls late at night to old girlfriends, his breath stinking of mustard gas and roses. The odd combination of mustard gas, often used as a chemical weapon, and roses, a symbol of romance, highlights how deeply the war has affected Vonnegut’s life.