Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

17. The Girl Pool

Dr. Breed’s secretary was standing on her desk in his outer office tying an accordion-pleated Christmas bell to the ceiling fixture.

“Look here, Naomi,” cried Dr. Breed, “we’ve gone six months without a fatal accident! Don’t you spoil it by falling off the desk!”

Miss Naomi Faust was a merry, desiccated old lady. I suppose she had served Dr. Breed for almost all his life, and her life, too. She laughed. “I’m indestructible. And, even if I did fall, Christmas angels would catch me.”

“They’ve been known to miss.”

Two paper tendrils, also accordion-pleated, hung down from the clapper of the bell. Miss Faust pulled one. It unfolded stickily and became a long banner with a message written on it. “Here,” said Miss Faust, handing the free end to Dr. Breed, “pull it the rest of the way and tack the end to the bulletin board.”

Dr. Breed obeyed, stepping back to read the banner’s message. “Peace on Earth!” he read out loud heartily.

Miss Faust stepped down from her desk with the other tendril, unfolding it. “Good Will Toward Men!” the other tendril said.

“By golly,” chuckled Dr. Breed, “they’ve dehydrated Christmas! The place looks festive, very festive.”

“And I remembered the chocolate bars for the Girl Pool, too,” she said. “Aren’t you proud of me?”

Dr. Breed touched his forehead, dismayed by his forgetfulness. “Thank God for that! It slipped my mind.”

“We mustn’t ever forget that,” said Miss Faust. “It’s tradition now—Dr. Breed and his chocolate bars for the Girl Pool at Christmas.” She explained to me that the Girl Pool was the typing bureau in the Laboratory’s basement. “The girls belong to anybody with access to a dictaphone.”

All year long, she said, the girls of the Girl Pool listened to the faceless voices of scientists on dictaphone records— records brought in by mail girls. Once a year the girls left their cloister of cement block to go a-caroling—to get their chocolate bars from Dr. Asa Breed.

“They serve science, too,” Dr. Breed testified, “even though they may not understand a word of it. God bless them, every one!”

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