Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

28. Mayonnaise

While Miss Faust and I waited for an elevator to take us to the first floor, Miss Faust said she hoped the elevator that came would not be number five. Before I could ask her why this was a reasonable wish, number five arrived.

Its operator was a small ancient Negro whose name was Lyman Enders Knowles. Knowles was insane, I’m almost sure—offensively so, in that he grabbed his own behind and cried, “Yes, yes!” whenever he felt that he’d made a point.

“Hello, fellow anthropoids and lily pads and paddlewheels,” he said to Miss Faust and me. “Yes, yes!”

“First floor, please,” said Miss Faust coldly.

All Knowles had to do to close the door and get us to the first floor was to press a button, but he wasn’t going to do that yet. He wasn’t going to do it, maybe, for years.

“Man told me,” he said, “that these here elevators was Mayan architecture. I never knew that till today. And I says to him, ‘What’s that make me—mayonnaise?’ Yes, yes! And while he was thinking that over, I hit him with a question that straightened him up and made him think twice as hard! Yes, yes!”

“Could we please go down, Mr. Knowles?” begged Miss Faust.

“I said to him,” said Knowles, “’This here’s a re-search laboratory. Re-search means look again, don’t it? Means they’re looking for something they found once and it got away somehow, and now they got to re-search for it? How come they got to build a building like this, with mayonnaise elevators and all, and fill it with all these crazy people? What is it they’re trying to find again? Who lost what?’ Yes, yes!”

“That’s very interesting,” sighed Miss Faust. “Now, could we go down?”

“Only way we can go is down,” barked Knowles. “This here’s the top. You ask me to go up and wouldn’t be a thing I could do for you. Yes, yes!”

“So let’s go down,” said Miss Faust.

“Very soon now. This gentleman here been paying his respects to Dr. Hoenikker?”

“Yes,” I said. “Did you know him?”

Intimately,” he said. “You know what I said when he died?”


“I said, ‘Dr. Hoenikker—he ain’t dead.’”


“Just entered a new dimension. Yes, yes!” He punched a button, and down we went.

“Did you know the Hoenikker children?” I asked him.

“Babies full of rabies,” he said. “Yes, yes!”

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