Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

72. The Pissant Hilton

H. Lowe Crosby and his wife checked out of the Casa Mona. Crosby called it “The Pissant Hilton,” and he demanded quarters at the American embassy.

So I was the only guest in a one-hundred-room hotel.

My room was a pleasant one. It faced, as did all the rooms, the Boulevard of the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy, Monzano Airport, and Bolivar harbor beyond. The Casa Mona was built like a bookcase, with solid sides and back and with a front of blue-green glass. The squalor and misery of the city, being to the sides and back of the Casa Mona, were impossible to see.

My room was air-conditioned. It was almost chilly. And, coming from the blamming heat into that chilliness, I sneezed.

There were fresh flowers on my bedside table, but my bed had not yet been made. There wasn’t even a pillow on the bed. There was simply a bare, brand-new Beautyrest mattress. And there weren’t any coat hangers in the closet; and there wasn’t any toilet paper in the bathroom.

So I went out in the corridor to see if there was a chambermaid who would equip me a little more completely. There wasn’t anybody out there, but there was a door open at the far end and very faint sounds of life.

I went to this door and found a large suite paved with drop-cloths. It was being painted, but the two painters weren’t painting when I appeared. They were sitting on a shelf that ran the width of the window wall.

They had their shoes off. They had their eyes closed. They were facing each other.

They were pressing the soles of their bare feet together.

Each grasped his own ankles, giving himself the rigidity of a triangle.

I cleared my throat.

The two rolled off the shelf and fell to the spattered dropcloth. They landed on their hands and knees, and they stayed in that position—their behinds in the air, their noses close to the ground.

They were expecting to be killed.

“Excuse me,” I said, amazed.

“Don’t tell,” begged one querulously. “Please—please don’t tell.”

“Tell what?”

“What you saw!”

“I didn’t see anything.”

“If you tell,” he said, and he put his cheek to the floor and looked up at me beseechingly, “if you tell, we’ll die on the hy-u-o-ook-kuh!

“Look, friends,” I said, “either I came in too early or too late, but, I tell you again, I didn’t see anything worth mentioning to anybody. Please—get up.”

They got up, their eyes still on me. They trembled and cowered. I convinced them at last that I would never tell what I had seen.

What I had seen, of course, was the Bokononist ritual of boko-maru, or the mingling of awarenesses.

We Bokononists believe that it is impossible to be sole-to-sole with another person without loving the person, provided the feet of both persons are clean and nicely tended.

The basis for the foot ceremony is this “Calypso":

We will touch our feet, yes,
Yes, for all we’re worth,
And we will love each other, yes,
Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.

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