Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
“Papa” was a self-educated man, who had been majordomo to Corporal McCabe. He had never been off the island. He spoke American English passably well.
Everything that any one of us said on the reviewing stand was bellowed out at the crowd through doomsday horns.
Whatever went out through those horns gabbled down a wide, short boulevard at the back of the crowd, ricocheted off the three glass-faced new buildings at the end of the boulevard, and came cackling back.
“Welcome,” said “Papa.” “You are coming to the best friend America ever had. America is misunderstood many places, but not here, Mr. Ambassador.” He bowed to H. Lowe Crosby, the bicycle manufacturer, mistaking him for the new Ambassador.
“I know you’ve got a good country here, Mr. President,” said Crosby. “Everything I ever heard about it sounds great to me. There’s just one thing . . .”
“I’m not the Ambassador,” said’ Crosby. “I wish I was, but I’m just a plain, ordinary businessman.” It hurt him to say who the real Ambassador was. “This man over here is the big cheese.”
“Ah!” “Papa” smiled at his mistake. The smile went away suddenly. Some pain inside of him made him wince, then made him hunch over, close his eyes—made him concentrate on surviving the pain.
Frank Hoenikker went to his support, feebly, incompetently. “Are you all right?”
“Excuse me,” “Papa” whispered at last, straightening up some. There were tears in his eyes. He brushed them away, straightening up all the way. “I beg your pardon.”
He seemed to be in doubt for a moment as to where he was, as to what was expected of him. And then he remembered. He shook Horlick Minton’s hand. “Here, you are among friends.”
“I’m sure of it,” said Minton gently.
“Christian,” said “Papa.”
“Anti-Communists,” said “Papa.”
“No Communists here,” said “Papa.” “They fear the hook too much.”
“I should think they would,” said Minton.
“You have picked a very good time to come to us,” said “Papa.” “Tomorrow will be one of the happiest days in the history of our country. Tomorrow is our greatest national holiday, The Day of the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy. It will also be the day of the engagement of Major General Hoenikker to Mona Aamons Monzano, to the most precious person in my life and in the life of San Lorenzo.”
“I wish you much happiness, Miss Monzano,” said Minton warmly. “And I congratulate you, General Hoenikker.”
The two young people nodded their thanks.
Minton now spoke of the so-called Hundred Martyrs to Democracy, and he told a whooping lie. “There is not an American schoolchild who does not know the story of San Lorenzo’s noble sacrifice in World War Two. The hundred brave San Lorenzans, whose day tomorrow is, gave as much as freedom-loving men can. The President of the United States has asked me to be his personal representative at ceremonies tomorrow, to cast a wreath, the gift of the American people to the people of San Lorenzo, on the sea.”
“The people of San Lorenzo thank you and your President and the generous people of the United States of America for their thoughtfulness,” said “Papa.” “We would be honored if you would cast the wreath into the sea during the engagement party tomorrow.”
“The honor is mine.”
“Papa” commanded us all to honor him with our presence at the wreath ceremony and engagement party next day. We were to appear at his palace at noon.
“What children these two will have!” “Papa” said, inviting us to stare at Frank and Mona. “What blood! What beauty!”
The pain hit him again.
He again closed his eyes to huddle himself around that pain.
He waited for it to pass, but it did not pass.
Still in agony, he turned away from us, faced the crowd and the microphone. He tried to gesture at the crowd, failed. He tried to say something to the crowd, failed.
And then the words came out. “Go home,” he cried strangling. “Go home!”
The crowd scattered like leaves.
“Papa” faced us again, still grotesque in pain. . . .
And then he collapsed.