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The Farm


Besides the obvious - expressions of admiration and jealousy - what I really want to say is: "Cheer up, Kurt!" Except, I know you can't.

That's why I think we'd get along, 'cause just like me, with your happy face almost always out to the world, hardly a soul ever knows when you're busy breaking your own heart.

Lord knows behind that shlubby alter ego Kilgore Trout and your slapstick science fiction parables there always was a lot for you to be sad about: World War II, the P.O.W. camp, and fire-bombed Dresden burning to the ground right over your head, nothing left but a melted-brick-and-glass-shard moonscape spiked with bodies, more dead than the mushroom clouds left in their wake. Of course you're sad, when they're always sending you to write about doomed revolutions in Africa and starving babies and every other goddamn lost cause - you're a sucker for that stuff and they know it 'cause you wear your heart on your sleeve, Kurt, your beautiful bleeding heart.

And it was you who taught me the trick of it, the duality of death that I couldn't catch even watching it pass through my own life. Every time something died in Slaughterhouse Five you wrote "so it goes" - "so it goes" on almost every page whether it be for a light bulb or a car battery, for a horse or a man or a dream. "So it goes," you wrote, and so it does go for soon you and later me, the daily-ness of death beat into us until we finally understand: the mighty universal humbler that crashes life's party is as common and mundane as your every morning's cereal.

And just when it dawns on us how little it matters, we see what you've done: made us stop and take notice each time something dies, until we finally realize that even the most insignificant departure deserves our attention, leaves us bereft in a world that will not be the same. You showed me what death means, how little and how much.

Can you teach me the trick of your ever-turning cheek? The way you keep on crusading when your heart knows the world is almost just as bad as it can be and things ain't exactly looking up? Will you give me lessons in how to hate the hell I can't ignore around me while still offering up my lips to life's embrace?

Yeah, just like me, you're that constant contradiction, the idealistic cynic. It's a disease, really, I'm pretty sure I caught it from you. It was you and Kilgore Trout who gave it to me, and even though you haven't yet found the cure and probably never will, I know you're not about to stop looking.