Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

76. Julian Castle Agrees with Newt that Everything Is Meaningless

Julian Castle and Angela went to Newt’s painting. Castle made a pinhole of a curled index finger, squinted at the painting through it.

“What do you think of it?” I asked him.

“It’s black. What is it—hell?”

“It means whatever it means,” said Newt.

“Then it’s hell,” snarled Castle.

“I was told a moment ago that it was a cat’s cradle,” I said.

“Inside information always helps,” said Castle.

“I don’t think it’s very nice,” Angela complained. “I think it’s ugly, but I don’t know anything about modern art. Sometimes I wish Newt would take some lessons, so he could know for sure if he was doing something or not.”

“Self-taught, are you?” Julian Castle asked Newt.

“Isn’t everybody?” Newt inquired.

“Very good answer.” Castle was respectful.

I undertook to explain the deeper significance of the cat’s cradle, since Newt seemed disinclined to go through that song and dance again.

And Castle nodded sagely. “So this is a picture of the meaninglessness of it all! I couldn’t agree more.”

“Do you really agree?” I asked. “A minute ago you said something about Jesus.”

“Who?” said, Castle.

“Jesus Christ?”

“Oh,” said Castle. “Him.” He shrugged. “People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.”

“I see.” I knew I wasn’t going to have an easy time writing a popular article about him. I was going to have to concentrate on his saintly deeds and ignore entirely the satanic things he thought and said.

“You may quote me:” he said. “Man is vile, and man makes nothing worth making, knows nothing worth knowing.”

He leaned down and he shook little Newt’s painty hand. “Right?”

Newt nodded, seeming to suspect momentarily that the case had been a little overstated. “Right.”

And then the saint marched to Newt’s painting and took it from its easel. He beamed at us all. “Garbage—like everything else.”

And he threw the painting off the cantilevered terrace. It sailed out on an updraft, stalled, boomeranged back, sliced into the waterfall.

There was nothing little Newt could say.

Angela spoke first. “You’ve got paint all over your face, honey. Go wash it off.”

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