Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

61. What a Corporal Was Worth

In the customs shed at Monzano Airport, we were all required to submit to a luggage inspection, and to convert what money we intended to spend in San Lorenzo into the local currency, into Corporals, which “Papa” Monzano insisted were worth fifty American cents.

The shed was neat and new, but plenty of signs had already been slapped on the walls, higgledy-piggledy.


Another poster featured a picture of Bokonon, a scrawny old colored man who was smoking a cigar. He looked clever and kind and amused.

Under the picture were the words: WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, 10,000 CORPORALS REWARD!

I took a closer look at that poster and found reproduced at the bottom of it some sort of police identification form Bokonon had had to fill out way back in 1929. It was reproduced, apparently, to show Bokonon hunters what his fingerprints and handwriting were like.

But what interested me were some of the words Bokonon had chosen to put into the blanks in 1929. Wherever possible, he had taken the cosmic view, had taken into consideration, for instance, such things as the shortness of life and the longness of eternity.

He reported his avocation as: “Being alive.”

He reported his principal occupation as: “Being dead.”

THIS IS A CHRISTIAN NATION! ALL FOOT PLAY WILL BE PUNISHED BY THE HOOK, said another sign. The sign was meaningless to me, since I had not yet learned that Bokononists mingled their souls by pressing the bottoms of their feet together.

And the greatest mystery of all, since I had not read all of Philip Castle’s book, was how Bokonon, bosom friend of Corporal McCabe, had come to be an outlaw.

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