Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

39. Fata Morgana

A little more light was shed by another essay in the supplement, a florid essay titled, “What San Lorenzo Has Meant to One American.” It was almost certainly ghost-written. It was signed by Major General Franklin Hoenikker.

In the essay, Frank told of being all alone on a nearly swamped sixty-eight-foot Chris-Craft in the Caribbean. He didn’t explain what he was doing on it or how he happened to be alone. He did indicate, though, that his point of departure had been Cuba.

“The luxurious pleasure craft was going down, and my meaningless life with it,” said the essay. “All I’d eaten for four days was two biscuits and a sea gull. The dorsal fins of man-eating sharks were cleaving the warm seas around me, and needle-teethed barracuda were making those waters boil.

“I raised my eyes to my Maker, willing to accept whatever His decision might be. And my eyes alit on a glorious mountain peak above the clouds. Was this Fata Morgana—the cruel deception of a mirage?”

I looked up Fata Morgana at this point in my reading; learned that it was, in fact, a mirage named after Morgan le Fay, a fairy who lived at the bottom of a lake. It was famous for appearing in the Strait of Messina, between Calabria and Sicily. Fata Morgana was poetic crap, in short.

What Frank saw from his sinking pleasure craft was not cruel Fata Morgana, but the peak of Mount McCabe. Gentle seas then nuzzled Frank’s pleasure craft to the rocky shores of San Lorenzo, as though God wanted him to go there.

Frank stepped ashore, dry shod, and asked where he was. The essay didn’t say so, but the son of a bitch had a piece of ice-nine with him—in a thermos jug.

Frank, having no passport, was put in jail in the capital city of Bolivar. He was visited there by “Papa” Monzano, who wanted to know if it were possible that Frank was a blood relative of the immortal Dr. Felix Hoenikker.

“I admitted I was,” said Frank in the essay. “Since that moment, every door to opportunity in San Lorenzo has been opened wide to me.”

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