Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
When I think of all those people on my uppermost battlement, I think of Bokonon’s “hundred-and-nineteenth Calypso,” wherein he invites us to sing along with him:
"Where’s my good old gang done gone?”
I heard a sad man say.
I whispered in that sad man’s ear,
"Your gang’s done gone away.”
Present were Ambassador Horlick Minton and his lady; H. Lowe Crosby, the bicycle manufacturer, and his Hazel; Dr. Julian Castle, humanitarian and philanthropist, and his son Philip, author and innkeeper; little Newton Hoenikker, the picture painter, and his musical sister, Mrs. Harrison C. Conners; my heavenly Mona; Major General Franklin Hoenikker; and twenty assorted San Lorenzo bureaucrats and military men.
Dead—almost all dead now.
As Bokonon tells us, “It is never a mistake to say goodbye.”
There was a buffet on my battlements, a buffet burdened with native delicacies: roasted warblers in little overcoats made of their own blue-green feathers; lavender land crabs taken from their shells, minced, fried in coconut oil, and returned to their shells; fingerling barracuda stuffed with banana paste; and, on unleavened, unseasoned cornmeal wafers, bite-sized cubes of boiled albatross.
The albatross, I was told, had been shot from the very bartizan in which the buffet stood. There were two beverages offered, both un-iced: Pepsi-Cola and native rum. The Pepsi-Cola was served in plastic Pilseners. The rum was served in coconut shells. I was unable to identify the sweet bouquet of the rum, though it somehow reminded me of early adolescence.
Frank was able to name the bouquet for me. “Acetone.”
“Used in model-airplane cement.”
I did not drink the rum.
Ambassador Minton did a lot of ambassadorial, gourmand saluting with his coconut, pretending to love all men and all the beverages that sustained them. But I did not see him drink. He had with him, incidentally, a piece of luggage of a sort I had never seen before. It looked like a French horn case, and proved to contain the memorial wreath that was to be cast into the sea.
The only person I saw drink the rum was H. Lowe Crosby, who plainly had no sense of smell. He was having a good time, drinking acetone from his coconut, sitting on a cannon, blocking the touchhole with his big behind. He was looking out to sea through a huge pair of Japanese binoculars. He was looking at targets mounted on bobbing floats anchored offshore.
The targets were cardboard cutouts shaped like men.
They were to be fired upon and bombed in a demonstration of might by the six planes of the San Lorenzan Air Force.
Each target was a caricature of some real person, and the name of that person was painted on the targets’ back and front.
I asked who the caricaturist was and learned that he was Dr. Vox Humana, the Christian minister. He was at my elbow.
“I didn’t know you were talented in that direction, too.”
“Oh, yes. When I was a young man, I had a very hard time deciding what to be.”
“I think the choice you made was the right one.”
“I prayed for guidance from Above.”
“You got it.”
H. Lowe Crosby handed his binoculars to his wife. “There’s old Joe Stalin, closest in, and old Fidel Castro’s anchored right next to him.”
“And there’s old Hitler,” chuckled Hazel, delighted. “And there’s old Mussolini and some old Jap.”
“And there’s old Karl Marx.”
“And there’s old Kaiser Bill, spiked hat and all,” cooed Hazel. “I never expected to see him again.”
“And there’s old Mao. You see old Mao?”
“Isn’t he gonna get it?” asked Hazel. “Isn’t he gonna get the surprise of his life? This sure is a cute idea.”
“They got practically every enemy that freedom, ever had out there,” H. Lowe Crosby declared.