Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

110. The Fourteenth Book

“Sometimes the pool-pah,” Bokonon tells us, “exceeds the power of humans to comment.” Bokonon translates pool-pah at one point in The Books of Bokonon as “shit storm” and at another point as “wrath of God.”

From what Frank had said before he slammed the door, I gathered that the Republic of San Lorenzo and the three Hoenikkers weren’t the only ones who had ice-nine. Apparently the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had it, too. The United States had obtained it through Angela’s husband, whose plant in Indianapolis was understandably surrounded by electrified fences and homicidal German shepherds. And Soviet Russia had come by it through Newt’s little Zinka, that winsome troll of Ukrainian ballet.

I was without comment.

I bowed my head and closed my eyes; and I awaited Frank’s return with the humble tools it would take to clean up one bedroom—one bedroom out of all the bedrooms in the world, a bedroom infested with ice-nine.

Somewhere, in the violet, velvet oblivion, I heard Angela say something to me. It wasn’t in her own defense. It was in defense of little Newt. “Newt didn’t give it to her. She stole it.”

I found the explanation uninteresting.

“What hope can there be for mankind,” I thought, “when there are such men as Felix Hoenikker to give such playthings as ice-nine to such short-sighted children as almost all men and women are?”

And I remembered The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, which I had read in its entirety the night before. The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?”

It doesn’t take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period.

This is it:


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