Twenty-five years later, Billy is boarding the plane to the optometrists’ convention in Montreal, knowing it will crash. His father-in-law is beside him and Valencia is outside, waving goodbye, eating a Mound Bar. Billy knows the plane is going to crash but does not wish to say anything and “make of fool of himself.”
Although Billy knows what the immediate future will bring, he does not wish to disturb the present—or appear suspiciously knowing—by announcing that the plane will crash before it does. He allows time, and fate, to play out on its own.
A barbershop quartet on the plane begins to sing for everyone’s amusement. They sing Polish songs and Billy recalls a Pole he saw hanging in Dresden, executed for sleeping with a German woman. The plane crashes into Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont; only Billy and the copilot make it out alive. Two Austrian ski instructors find Billy, who has been gravely wounded, and he says to them his “address”: Schlachthof-fünf.
The barbershop quartet will appear later in the text as a trigger for one of Billy’s memories about the war. Because Billy’s rescuers are Austrians—and perhaps because, in his state of duress, Billy is reminded of warfare—he longs for the safety of Slaughterhouse-Five, which unfortunately no longer can protect him.
Billy is taken to a hospital; his brain injury is operated on by a famous surgeon and he dreams “millions of things, some of them true. The true things were time-travel.” Back in 1944, a very young German soldier named Werner Gluck is leading Billy and Derby to the slaughterhouse kitchen. They stumble upon a group of 30-some young girls showering—Billy and Werner have never seen naked women before. An old woman, preparing their dinner later, sees Derby, Werner, and Billy—one old, one young, one dressed for Cinderella, and says “all the real soldiers are dead.”
Another illustration of Billy’s youthfulness: he has never seen a naked woman. These young girls, Billy later realizes, must have been killed in the firebombing. Billy still is not believed to be a “real soldier”—he is dressed in his Cinderella costume. Yet Billy has experienced a great deal as a POW, and despite his weakness, he makes it out of the war alive.
One of Billy’s jobs in Dresden is to seal boxes in a malt syrup factory. Billy takes some syrup, finds it rapturously delicious, and gives to Derby, who is so happy to eat it he cries.