Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

10. Secret Agent X-9

Dr. Breed made an appointment with me for early the next morning. He would pick me up at my hotel on his way to work, he said, thus simplifying my entry into the heavily-guarded Research Laboratory.

So I had a night to kill in Ilium. I was already in the beginning and end of night life in Ilium, the Del Prado Hotel. Its bar, the Cape Cod Room, was a hangout for whores.

As it happened—"as it was meant to happen,” Bokonon would say—the whore next to me at the bar and the bartender serving me had both gone to high school with Franklin Hoenikker, the bug tormentor, the middle child, the missing son.

The whore, who said her name was Sandra, offered me delights unobtainable outside of Place Pigalle and Port Said. I said I wasn’t interested, and she was bright enough to say that she wasn’t really interested either. As things turned out, we had both overestimated our apathies, but not by much.

Before we took the measure of each other’s passions, however, we talked about Frank Hoenikker, and we talked about the old man, and we talked a little about Asa Breed, and we talked about the General Forge and Foundry Company, and we talked about the Pope and birth control, about Hitler and the Jews. We talked about phonies. We talked about truth. We talked about gangsters; we talked about business. We talked about the nice poor people who went to the electric chair; and we talked about the rich bastards who didn’t. We talked about religious people who had perversions. We talked about a lot of things.

We got drunk.

The bartender was very nice to Sandra. He liked her. He respected her. He told me that Sandra had been chairman of the Class Colors Committee at Ilium High. Every class, he explained, got to pick distinctive colors for itself in its junior year, and then it got to wear those colors with pride.

“What colors did you pick?” I asked.

“Orange and black.”

“Those are good colors.”

“I thought so.”

“Was Franklin Hoenikker on the Class Colors Committee, too?”

“He wasn’t on anything,” said Sandra scornfully. “He never got on any committee, never played any game, never took any girl out. I don’t think he ever even talked to a girl. We used to call him Secret Agent X-9.”


“You know—he was always acting like he was on his way between two secret places; couldn’t ever talk to anybody.”

“Maybe he really did have a very rich secret life,” I suggested.


“Nah,” sneered the bartender. “He was just one of those kids who made model airplanes and jerked off all the time.”

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