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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 593

The story’s central theme of entropy is conveyed in the noisy, multi-faceted communications among Meatball Mulligan and the party guests, and the subdued exchanges and monologues in Callisto’s apartment.

Meatball’s conversation with his friend Saul, in particular, shows both the nature of their friendship and conveys several attitudes about disorder and communication—not only those of the two men, but their understanding of Saul’s wife’s views on the topics. Saul is distraught because his wife has left him. Meatball joked that maybe their disagreement had to do with preference between popular actors, but Saul tells him it was about “communication theory”—a topic he says nobody know anything about. Their specific differences were about computer abilities to act like humans, or vice versa. Meatball posits the causes as a “language barrier,” but Saul prefers a “language leakage.” Saul says,

Tell a girl: "I love you." No trouble with two-thirds of that, it’s a closed circuit. Just you and she. But that nasty four-letter word in the middle, that’s the one you have to look out for. Ambiguity. Redundance. Irrelevance, even. Leakage. All this is noise. Noise screws up your signal, makes for disorganization in the circuit.

The relationships among sound, noise, and music appear in numerous ways both apartments. At Meatball’s party, Duke di Angelis and his fellow musicians in the quarter bearing his name attempt to perform an improvised, experimental musical piece. They have no instruments, only the sense of music inside them. The narrator calls their effort “historic.”

Vincent was seated and the others standing: they were going through the motions of a group having a session, only without instruments . . . Duke moved his head a few times, smiled faintly . . . Vincent began to fling his arms around, his fists clenched, then abruptly was still, then repeated the performance. This went on for a few minutes . . . Finally at some invisible signal the group stopped tapping their feet and Duke grinned and said, “At least we all ended together.”

After Duke tries to explain to Meatball the music theory behind this innovation, and admits they have some “bugs to work out,” the group resumes playing.

And off they went again into orbit, presumably somewhere around the asteroid belt.

Upstairs, Callisto and Audrade wake up an overheated, tightly enclosed environment where Callisto hopes to create a safe haven for himself and his pet birds, one of which has fallen ill. Now that the hermetically sealed capsule is complete, Callisto devotes himself to his memories and to wondering over the fate of the universe. He wonders at the ways that love and Thermodynamics counterbalance each other, if both keep the universe spinning, and which might more likely bright it all to an end.

The cosmologists had predicted an eventual heat-death for the Universe (something like Limbo: form and motion abolished, heat-energy identical at every point in it); the meteorologists, day-to-day, staved it off by contradicting with a reassuring array of varied temperatures.

As the story closes, the bird nears death, which presages the end of their relationship. The diminishing motion and sound of its heartbeat together indicate its imminent demise, as Callisto’s heartbeat instead grows stronger and Aubade gains strength to break the window and let in the real, cold word.

[H]e became aware of the faltering, the constriction of muscles, the tiny tossings of the bird’s head; and his own pulse began to pound more fiercely, as if to compensate . . . [T]he [bird’s] heartbeat ticked a graceful diminuendo down at last into stillness.

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