Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

21. The Marines March On

When old Dr. Breed, with the help of Miss Faust, had passed out the Christmas chocolate bars to the girls, we returned to his office.

There, he said to me, “Where were we? Oh yes!” And that old man asked me to think of United States Marines in a Godforsaken swamp.

“Their trucks and tanks and howitzers are wallowing,” he complained, “sinking in stinking miasma and ooze.”

He raised a finger and winked at me. “But suppose, young man, that one Marine had with him a tiny capsule containing a seed of ice-nine, a new way for the atoms of water to stack and lock, to freeze. If that Marine threw that seed into the nearest puddle . . .”

“The puddle would freeze?” I guessed.

“And all the muck around the puddle?”

“It would freeze?”

“And all the puddles in the frozen muck?”

“They would freeze?”

“And the pools and the streams in the frozen muck?”

“They would freeze?”

“You bet they would!” he cried. “And the United States Marines would rise from the swamp and march on!”

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