Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
He wasn’t dead.
But he certainly looked dead; except that now and then, in the midst of all that seeming death, he would give a shivering twitch.
Frank protested loudly that “Papa” wasn’t dead, that he couldn’t be dead. He was frantic. “’Papa’! You can’t die! You can’t!”
Frank loosened “Papa’s” collar and blouse, rubbed his wrists. “Give him air! Give ‘Papa’ air!”
The fighter-plane pilots came running over to help us. One had sense enough to go for the airport ambulance.
The band and the color guard, which had received no orders, remained at quivering attention.
I looked for Mona, found that she was still serene and had withdrawn to the rail of the reviewing stand. Death, if there was going to be death, did not alarm her.
Standing next to her was a pilot. He was not looking at her, but he had a perspiring radiance that I attributed to his being so near to her.
“Papa” now regained something like consciousness. With a hand that flapped like a captured bird, he pointed at Frank. “You . . .” he said.
We all fell silent, in order to hear his words.
His lips moved, but we could hear nothing but bubbling sounds.
Somebody had what looked like a wonderful idea then—what looks like a hideous idea in retrospect. Someone—a pilot, I think—took the microphone from its mount and held it by “Papa’s” bubbling lips in order to amplify his words.
So death rattles and all sorts of spastic yodels bounced off the new buildings.
And then came words.
“You,” he said to Frank hoarsely, “you—Franklin Hoenikker—you will be the next President of San Lorenzo. Science—you have science. Science is the strongest thing there is.
“Science,” said “Papa.” “Ice.” He rolled his yellow eyes, and he passed out again.
I looked at Mona.
Her expression was unchanged.
The pilot next to her, however, had his features composed in the catatonic, orgiastic rigidity of one receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I looked down and I saw what I was not meant to see.
Mona had slipped off her sandal. Her small brown foot was bare.
And with that foot, she was kneading and kneading and kneading—obscenely kneading—the instep of the flyer’s boot.