Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

40. House of Hope and Mercy

As it happened—"As it was supposed to happen,” Bokonon would say—I was assigned by a magazine to do a story in San Lorenzo. The story wasn’t to be about “Papa” Monzano or Frank. It was to be about Julian Castle, an American sugar millionaire who had, at the age of forty, followed the example of Dr. Albert Schweitzer by founding a free hospital in a jungle, by devoting his life to miserable folk of another race.

Castle’s hospital was called the House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle. Its jungle was on San Lorenzo, among the wild coffee trees on the northern slope of Mount McCabe.

When I flew to San Lorenzo, Julian Castle was sixty years old.

He had been absolutely unselfish for twenty years.

In his selfish days he had been as familiar to tabloid readers as Tommy Manville, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Barbara Hutton. His fame had rested on lechery, alcoholism, reckless driving, and draft evasion. He had had a dazzling talent for spending millions without increasing mankind’s stores of anything but chagrin.

He had been married five times, had produced one son. The one son, Philip Castle, was the manager and owner of the hotel at which I planned to stay. The hotel was called the Casa Mona and was named after Mona Aamons Monzano, the blonde Negro on the cover of the supplement to the New York Sunday Times. The Casa Mona was brand new; it was one of the three new buildings in the background of the supplement’s portrait of Mona.

While I didn’t feel that purposeful seas were wafting me to San Lorenzo, I did feel that love was doing the job. The Fata Morgana, the mirage of what it would be like to be loved by Mona Aamons Monzano, had become a tremendous force in my meaningless life. I imagined that she could make me far happier than any woman had so far succeeded in doing.

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