Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

109. Frank Defends Himself

“General,” I told Frank, “that must be one of the most cogent statements made by a major general this year. As my technical advisor, how do you recommend that we, as you put it so well, ‘clean up this mess’?”

Frank gave me a straight answer. He snapped his fingers. I could see him dissociating himself from the causes of the mess; identifying himself, with growing pride and energy, with the purifiers, the world-savers, the cleaners-up.

“Brooms, dustpans, blowtorch, hot plate, buckets,” he commanded, snapping, snapping, snapping his fingers.

“You propose applying a blowtorch to the bodies?” I asked.

Frank was so charged with technical thinking now that he was practically tap dancing to the music of his fingers. “We’ll sweep up the big pieces on the floor, melt them in a bucket on a hot plate. Then we’ll go over every square inch of floor with a blowtorch, in case there are any microscopic crystals. What we’ll do with the bodies—and the bed . . .” He had to think some more.

“A funeral pyre!” he cried, really pleased with himself. “I’ll have a great big funeral pyre built out by the hook, and we’ll have the bodies and the bed carried out and thrown on.”

He started to leave, to order the pyre built and to get the things we needed in order to clean up the room.

Angela stopped him. “How could you?” she wanted to know.

Frank gave her a glassy smile. “Everything’s going to be all right.”

“How could you give it to a man like ‘Papa’ Monzano?” Angela asked him.

“Let’s clean up the mess first; then we can talk.”

Angela had him by the arms, and she wouldn’t let him go. “How could you!” She shook him.

Frank pried his sister’s hands from himself. His glassy smile went away and he turned sneeringly nasty for a moment—a moment in which he told her with all possible contempt, “I bought myself a job, just the way you bought yourself a tomcat husband, just the way Newt bought himself a week on Cape Cod with a Russian midget!”

The glassy smile returned.

Frank left; and he slammed the door.

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