Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

112. Newt’s Mother’s Reticule

“I should have know he was dead the minute I came in,” said Angela, leaning on her broom again. “That wicker chair, it wasn’t making a sound. It always talked, creaked away, when Father was in it—even when he was asleep.”

But Angela had assumed that her father was sleeping, and she went on to decorate the Christmas tree.

Newt and Frank came in with the Labrador retriever. They went out into the kitchen to find something for the dog to eat. They found the old man’s puddles.

There was water on the floor, and little Newt took a dishrag and wiped it up. He tossed the sopping dishrag onto the counter.

As it happened, the dishrag fell into the pan containing ice-nine.

Frank thought the pan contained some sort of cake frosting, and he held it down to Newt, to show Newt what his carelessness with the dishrag had done.

Newt peeled the dishrag from the surface and found that the dishrag had a peculiar, metallic, snaky quality, as though it were made of finely-woven gold mesh.

“The reason I say ‘gold mesh,’” said little Newt, there in “Papa’s” bedroom, “is that it reminded me right away of Mother’s reticule, of how the reticule felt.”

Angela explained sentimentally that when a child, Newt had treasured his mother’s gold reticule. I gathered that it was a little evening bag.

“It felt so funny to me, like nothing else I’d ever touched,” and Newt, investigating his old fondness for the reticule. “I wonder whatever happened to it.”

“I wonder what happened to a lot of things,” said Angela. The question echoed back through time—woeful, lost.

What happened to the dishrag that felt like a reticule, at any rate, was that Newt held it out to the dog, and the dog licked it. And the dog froze stiff.

Newt went to tell his father about the stiff dog and found out that his father was stiff, too.

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