Dwayne was a widower. He lived alone at night in a dream house in Fairchild Heights, which was the most desirable residential area in the city. Every house there cost at least one hundred thousand dollars to build. Every house was on at least four acres of land. Dwayne's only companion at night was a Labrador retriever named Sparky. Sparky could not wag his tail--because of an automobile accident many years ago, so he had no way of telling other dogs how friendly he was. He had to fight all the time. His ears were in tatters. He was lumpy with scars. * * * Dwayne had a black servant named Lottie Davis. She cleaned his house every day. Then she cooked his supper for him and served it. Then she went home. She was descended from slaves. Lottie Davis and Dwayne didn't talk much, even though they liked each other a lot. Dwayne reserved most of his conversation for the dog. He would get down on the floor and roll around with Sparky, and he would say things like, "You and me, Spark," and "How's my old buddy?" and so on. And that routine went on unrevised, even after Dwayne started to go crazy, so Lottie had nothing unusual to notice. * * * Kilgore Trout owned a parakeet named Bill. Like Dwayne Hoover, Trout was all alone at night, except for his pet. Trout, too, talked to his pet. But while Dwayne babbled to his Labrador retriever about love, Trout sneered and muttered to his parakeet about the end of the world. "Any time now," he would say. "And high time, too." It was Trout's theory that the atmosphere would become unbreathable soon. Trout supposed that when the atmosphere became poisonous, Bill would keel over a few minutes before Trout did. He would kid Bill about that. "How's the old respiration, Bill?" he'd say, or, "Seems like you've got a touch of the old emphysema, Bill," or, "We never discussed what kind of a funeral you want, Bill. You never even told me what your religion is." And so on. He told Bill that humanity deserved to die horribly, since it had behaved so cruelly and wastefully on a planet so sweet. "We're all Heliogabalus, Bill," he would say. This was the name of a Roman emperor who had a sculptor make a hollow, life-size iron bull with a door on it. The door could be locked from the outside. The bull's mouth was open. That was the only other opening to the outside. Heliogabalus would have a human being put into the bull through the door, and the door would be locked. Any sounds the human being made in there would come out of the mouth of the bull. Heliogabalus would have guests in for a nice party, with plenty of food and wine and beautiful women and pretty boys--and Heliogabalus would have a servant light kindling. The kindling was under dry firewood--which was under the bull. * * * Trout did another thing which some people might have considered eccentric: he called mirrors leaks. It amused him to pretend that mirrors were holes between two universes. If he saw a child near a mirror, he might wag his finger at a child warningly, and say with great solemnity, "Don't get too near that leak. You wouldn't want to wind up in the other universe, would you?" Sometimes somebody would say in his presence, "Excuse me, I have to take a leak." This was a way of saying that the speaker intended to drain liquid wastes from his body through a valve in his lower abdomen. And Trout would reply waggishly, "Where I come from, that means you're about to steal a mirror." And so on. By the time of Trout's death, of course, everybody called mirrors leaks. That was how respectable even his jokes had become. * * * In 1972, Trout lived in a basement apartment in Cohoes, New York. He made his living as an installer of aluminum coVonnegut, Kurt is the author of 'Breakfast of Champions', published 1991 under ISBN 9780440131489 and ISBN 0440131480.