Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

64. Peace and Plenty

And then the crowd was deathly still again.

“Papa” and Mona and Frank joined us on the reviewing stand. One snare drum played as they did so. The drumming stopped when “Papa” pointed a finger at the drummer.

He wore a shoulder holster on the outside of his blouse. The weapon in it was a chromium-plated .45. He was an old, old man, as so many members of my karass were. He was in poor shape. His steps were small and bounceless. He was still a fat man, but his lard was melting fast, for his simple uniform was loose. The balls of his hoptoad eyes were yellow. His hands trembled.

His personal bodyguard was Major General Franklin Hoenikker, whose uniform was white. Frank—thin-wristed, narrow-shouldered—looked like a child kept up long after his customary bedtime. On his breast was a medal.

I observed the two, “Papa” and Frank, with some difficulty—not because my view was blocked, but because I could not take my eyes off Mona. I was thrilled, heartbroken, hilarious, insane. Every greedy, unreasonable dream I’d ever had about what a woman should be came true in Mona. There, God love her warm and creamy soul, was peace and plenty forever.

That girl—and she was only eighteen—was rapturously serene. She seemed to understand all, and to be all there was to understand. In The Books of Bokonon she is mentioned by name. One thing Bokonon says of her is this: “Mona has the simplicity of the all.”

Her dress was white and Greek.

She wore flat sandals on her small brown feet.

Her pale gold hair was lank and long.

Her hips were a lyre.

Oh God.

Peace and plenty forever.

She was the one beautiful girl in San Lorenzo. She was the national treasure. “Papa” had adopted her, according to Philip Castle, in order to mingle divinity with the harshness of his rule.

The xylophone was rolled to the front of the stand. And Mona played it. She played “When Day Is Done.” It was all tremolo—swelling, fading, swelling again. The crowd was intoxicated by beauty. And then it was time for “Papa” to greet us.

Turn page.