Chapter Thirty-nine

   It's 1998 and Dancing Cloud had just logged on to The New York Times Computer Information Service and called up the issue of the Times from July 28, 1994, the day this novel was first reviewed. (Of course, it was the Powloo Edition, translated into Dancing Cloud's native tongue -- easy to do by 1998.)
   On the screen the following book review, by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, appeared:
   "James M. Reynolds may or may not be the pen name for an author who displays a playful, quirky style in this, his first novel. Reynolds takes on a timeless subject, creativity, along with a host of other topics, employing all sorts of gimmicks, such as characters who take over the writing, and readers who enter into running debates with the author, and even endorsements -- blurbs -- made-up of course -- from famous authors (I won't reveal who!) and, even, a full-blown re-print (pre-print?) of a book review by none other than yours truly! So, I have to admit, I'm more than a little biased.
   "Where Mr. Reynolds ultimately fails is just beyond the mid-point of his story, or what passes for it. Reynolds gets himself into a bind, he freaks out, he abandons ship so to speak, leaving the project in the able, but far-too-identifiable hands of Kurt Vonnegut -- or so we're led to believe. The truth of who really is writing this novel may never be known, but 'James M. Reynolds' plants enough clues to lead us to doubt the authenticity of his identity. Even today, years in the future, years after this is actually being written, we still don't know what happened. And now I'm getting a little dizzy myself. Maybe it's because I am myself just a second-generation character in the same book, a character created by another character who is just a creation of another character who is a figment of a -- well, you get the idea."
   Clever way of dealing with the Reynolds novel, Dancing Cloud mused, but he wasn't that thrilled with the review -- no mention of him, no discussion of the treatment of Native Americans...
   And then the doorbell rang. Dancing Cloud got up and opened the door and -- surprise! -- a bunch of Powloo warriors, all old buddies of his, and all of them "flying" on peyote buttons.
   "Welcome to 1998, guys!" he greeted them, in Powloo of course. His old pals had no difficulty convincing him to go out for some pancakes, and off they went.
   Meanwhile, Maureen --
-- acted surprised to find herself in the book again. How am I doing? I thought to ask her, if she wasn't too busy.
   "I'm not too busy, and you're doing great, Mr. Vonnegut, great."
   Please, call me Kurt.
   "Kurt. It's great. Terrific. What can I say? I'm thrilled, honored to be in the section of the novel written by you."
   Well, I'm only trying to keep the flame burning. Your boyfriend's style is so unpredictable -- anarchic, really -- that it's tough to get a handle on it, but you know what? I think that, at heart, he's really just a sentimental old fluff. A sentimental old fluff who'd really rather be writing a bunch of sentimental old fluff.
   "I don't know him too well. But you're very smart. You're probably right."
   Tell you what, Maureen, Jim needs some help, he needs a push -- he needs a story! And I'm going to give it to him. I'm going to give him a story, a scenario, a foundation that he can slip into whenever he wants, whenever he's comfortable, and take it from there.
   "That would be great, Kurt. What kind of a story?"
   Well, I was thinking of maybe a psychological western, where the emphasis isn't on the killing but on the motives of the --
   "Excuse me, Kurt, but, that sounds kind of... boring."
   Oh, well, all right, let's see... How about a metaphorical battle between man and nature, like Moby-Dick or The Old Man and the Sea? Except, instead of fishing, how about -- darts?
   "No darts. He's not into darts."
   What about baseball?
   "No, I hate baseball -- I know! -- Bowling!"
   Bowling? Who ever heard of a metaphorical battle waged in a bowling alley?
   "You can do it, Kurt, and I think Jim will like it, and I think it will draw him out, I just have a hunch."
   It's positively loony, but, then again, stranger things have happened.
   "So? Do you need a new chapter to do this?" (Yeah, do you? If you want, we can start a new chapter for you. After all, you're the author of Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, two of my all-time favorites! -- Ed.)
   Thank you, and yes, all right, let's start a new chapter, that's a good idea.
   (Editor's Note: Very well, we'll begin a new chapter.)

(This ends Chapter Thirty-nine.)

Chapter Forty