Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

123. Of Mice and Men

A curious six months followed—the six months in which I wrote this book. Hazel spoke accurately when she called our little society the Swiss Family Robinson, for we had survived a storm, were isolated, and then the living became very easy indeed. It was not without a certain Walt Disney charm.

No plants or animals survived, it’s true. But ice-nine preserved pigs and cows and little deer and windrows of birds and berries until we were ready to thaw and cook them. Moreover, there were tons of canned goods to be had for the grubbing in the ruins of Bolivar. And we seemed to be the only people left on San Lorenzo.

Food was no problem, and neither were clothing or shelter, for the weather was uniformly dry and dead and hot. Our health was monotonously good. Apparently all the germs were dead, too—or napping.

Our adjustment became so satisfactory, so complacent, that no one marveled or protested when Hazel said, “One good thing anyway, no mosquitoes.”

She was sitting on a three-legged stool in the clearing where Frank’s house had stood. She was sewing strips of red, white, and blue cloth together. Like Betsy Ross, she was making an American flag. No one was unkind enough to point out to her that the red was really a peach, that the blue was nearly a Kelly green, and that the fifty stars she had cut out were six-pointed stars of David rather than five-pointed American stars.

Her husband, who had always been a pretty good cook, now simmered a stew in an iron pot over a wood fire nearby. He did all our cooking for us; he loved to cook.

“Looks good, smells good,” I commented.

He winked. “Don’t shoot the cook. He’s doing the best he can.”

In the background of this cozy conversation were the nagging dah-dah-dahs and dit-dit-dits of an automatic SOS transmitter Frank had made. It called for help both night and day.

“Save our soullllls,” Hazel intoned, singing along with the transmitter as she sewed, “save our soulllllls.”

“How’s the writing going?” Hazel asked me.

“Fine, Mom, just fine.”

“When you going to show us some of it?”

“When it’s ready, Mom, when it’s ready.”

“A lot of famous writers were Hoosiers.”

“I know.”

“You’ll be one of a long, long line.” She smiled hopefully. “Is it a funny book?”

“I hope so, Mom.”

“I like a good laugh.”

“I know you do.”

“Each person here had some specialty, something to give the rest. You write books that make us laugh, and Frank goes science things, and little Newt—he paints pictures for us all, and I sew, and Lowie cooks.”

“’Many hands make much work light.’ Old Chinese proverb.”

“They were smart in a lot of ways, those Chinese were.”

“Yes, let’s keep their memory alive.”

“I wish now I’d studied them more.”

“Well, it was hard to do, even under ideal conditions.”

“I wish now I’d studied everything more.”

“We’ve all got regrets, Mom.”

“No use crying over spilt milk.”

“As the poet said, Mom, ‘Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been."’”

“That’s so beautiful, and so true.”

Turn page.