Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

69. A Big Mosaic

The Crosbys and I had the curious experience of being the very first guests of a new hotel. We were the first to sign the register of the Casa Mona.

The Crosbys got to the desk ahead of me, but H. Lowe Crosby was so startled by a wholly blank register that he couldn’t bring himself to sign. He had to think about it a while.

“You sign,” he said to me. And then, defying me to think he was superstitious, he declared his wish to photograph a man who was making a huge mosaic on the fresh plaster of the lobby wall.

The mosaic was a portrait of Mona Aamons Monzano. It was twenty feet high. The man who was working on it was young and muscular. He sat at the top of a stepladder. He wore nothing but a pair of white duck trousers.

He was a white man.

The mosaicist was making the fine hairs on the nape of Mona’s swan neck out of chips of gold.

Crosby went over to photograph him; came back to report that the man was the biggest pissant he had ever met. Crosby was the color of tomato juice when he reported this. “You can’t say a damn thing to him that he won’t turn inside out.”

So I went over to the mosaicist, watched him for a while, and then I told him, “I envy you.”

“I always knew,” he sighed, “that, if I waited long enough, somebody would come and envy me. I kept telling myself to be patient, that, sooner or later, somebody envious would come along.”

“Are you an American?”

“That happiness is mine.” He went right on working; he was incurious as to what I looked like. “Do you want to take my photograph, too?”

“Do you mind?”

“I think; therefore I am, therefore I am photographable.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have my camera with me.”

“Well, for Christ’s sake, get it! You’re not one of those people who trusts his memory, are you?”

“I don’t think I’ll forget that face you’re working on very soon.”

“You’ll forget it when you’re dead, and so will I. When I’m dead, I’m going to forget everything—and I advise you to do the same.”

“Has she been posing for this or are you working from photographs or what?”

“I’m working from or what.”


“I’m working from or what.” He tapped his temple. “It’s all in this enviable head of mine.”

“You know her?”

“That happiness is mine.”

“Frank Hoenikker’s a lucky man.”

“Frank Hoenikker is a piece of shit.”

“You’re certainly candid.”

“I’m also rich.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“If you want an expert opinion, money doesn’t necessarily make people happy.”

“Thanks for the information. You’ve just saved me a lot of trouble. I was just about to make some money.”



“I wrote a book once.”

“What was it called?”

San Lorenzo,” he said, “the Land, the History, the People_.”

Turn page.