‘You were just babies in the war-like the ones upstairs! ‘
I nodded that this was true. We had been foolish virgins in the war, right at the end of childhood.
‘But you’re not going to write it that way, are you.’ This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation.
‘I-I don’t know,’ I said.
‘Well, I know,’ she said. ‘You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.’
So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry. She didn’t want her babies or anybody else’s babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies.
So I held up my right hand and I made her a promise ‘Mary,’ I said, ‘I don’t think this book is ever going to be finished. I must have written five thousand pages by now, and thrown them all away. If I ever do finish it, though, I give you my word of honor: there won’t be a part for Frank Sinatra or John Wayne.
‘I tell you what,’ I said, ‘I’ll call it The Children’s Crusade.’
Slaughterhouse Five – The children’s crusade