Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

115. As It Happened

We went to the seaward parapet to see the show. The planes were no larger than grains of black pepper. We were able to spot them because one, as it happened, was trailing smoke.

We supposed that the smoke was part of the show.

I stood next to H. Lowe Crosby, who, as it happened, was alternately eating albatross and drinking native rum. He exhaled fumes of model airplane cement between lips glistening with albatross fat. My recent nausea returned.

I withdrew to the landward parapet alone, gulping air. There were sixty feet of old stone pavement between me and all the rest.

I saw that the planes would be coming in low, below the footings of the castle, and that I would miss the show. But nausea made me incurious. I turned my head in the direction of their now snarling approach. Just as their guns began to hammer, one plane, the one that had been trailing smoke, suddenly appeared, belly up, in flames.

It dropped from my line of sight again and crashed at once into the cliff below the castle. Its bombs and fuel exploded.

The surviving planes went booming on, their racket thinning down to a mosquito hum.

And then there was the sound of a rockslide—and one great tower of “Papa’s” castle, undermined, crashed down to the sea.

The people on the seaward parapet looked in astonishment at the empty socket where the tower had stood. Then I could hear rockslides of all sizes in a conversation that was almost orchestral.

The conversation went very fast, and new voices entered in. They were the voices of the castle’s timbers lamenting that their burdens were becoming too great.

And then a crack crossed the battlement like lightning, ten feet from my curling toes.

It separated me from my fellow men.

The castle groaned and wept aloud.

The others comprehended their peril. They, along with tons of masonry, were about to lurch out and down. Although the crack was only a foot wide, people began to cross it with heroic leaps.

Only my complacent Mona crossed the crack with a simple step.

The crack gnashed shut; opened wider, leeringly. Still trapped on the canted deathtrap were H. Lowe Crosby and his Hazel and Ambassador Horlick Minton and his Claire.

Philip Castle and Frank and I reached across the abyss to haul the Crosbys to safety. Our arms were now extended imploringly to the Mintons.

Their expressions were bland. I can only guess what was going through their minds. My guess is that they were thinking of dignity, of emotional proportion above all else.

Panic was not their style. I doubt that suicide was their style either. But their good manners killed them, for the doomed crescent of castle now moved away from us like an ocean liner moving away from a dock.

The image of a voyage seems to have occurred to the voyaging Mintons, too, for they waved to us with wan amiability.

They held hands.

They faced the sea.

Out they went; then down they went in a cataclysmic rush, were gone!

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