Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

77. Aspirin and Boko-maru

“Tell me, Doctor,” I said to Julian Castle, “how is ‘Papa’ Monzano?”

“How would I know?”

“I thought you’d probably been treating him.”

“We don’t speak . . .” Castle smiled. “He doesn’t speak to me, that is. The last thing he said to me, which was about three years ago, was that the only thing that kept me off the hook was my American citizenship.”

“What have you done to offend him? You come down here and with your own money found a free hospital for his people . . .”

“’Papa’ doesn’t like the way we treat the whole patient,” said Castle, “particularly the whole patient when he’s dying. At the House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle, we administer the last rites of the Bokononist Church to those who want them.”

“What are the rites like?”

“Very simple. They start with a responsive reading. You want to respond?”

“I’m not that close to death just now, if you don’t mind.”

He gave me a grisly wink. “You’re wise to be cautious. People taking the last rites have a way of dying on cue. I think we could keep you from going all the way, though, if we didn’t touch feet.”


He told me about the Bokononist attitude relative to feet.

“That explains something I saw in the hotel.” I told him about the two painters on the window sill.

“It works, you know,” he said. “People who do that really do feel better about each other and the world.”




“That’s what the foot business is called,” said Castle. “It works. I’m grateful for things that work. Not many things do work, you know.”

“I suppose not.”

“I couldn’t possibly run that hospital of mine if it weren’t for aspirin and boko-maru.”

“I gather,” I said, “that there are still several Bokononists on the island, despite the laws, despite the hy-u-o-ook-kuh . . .”

He laughed. “You haven’t caught on, yet?”

“To what?”

“Everybody on San Lorenzo is a devout Bokononist, the hy-u-o-ook-kuh notwithstanding.”

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