Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

82. Zah-mah-ki-bo

Major General Franklin Hoenikker didn’t appear for supper.

He telephoned, and insisted on talking to me and to no one else. He told me that he was keeping a vigil by “Papa’s” bed; that “Papa” was dying in great pain. Frank sounded scared and lonely.

“Look,” I said, “why don’t I go back to my hotel, and you and I can get together later, when this crisis is over.”

“No, no, no. You stay right there! I want you to be where I can get hold of you right away!” He was panicky about my slipping out of his grasp. Since I couldn’t account for his interest in me, I began to feel panic, too.

“Could you give me some idea what you want to see me about?” I asked.

“Not over the telephone.”

“Something about your father?”

“Something about you.”

“Something I’ve done?”

“Something you’re going to do.”

I heard a chicken clucking in the background of Frank’s end of the line. I heard a door open, and xylophone music came from some chamber. The music was again “When Day Is Done.” And then the door was closed, and I couldn’t hear the music any more.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d give me some small hint of what you expect me to do—so I can sort of get set,” I said.



“It’s a Bokononist word.”

“I don’t know any Bokononist words.”

“Julian Castle’s there?”


“Ask him,” said Frank. “I’ve got to go now.” He hung up. So I asked Julian Castle what zah-mah-ki-bo meant.

“You want a simple answer or a whole answer?”

“Let’s start with a simple one.”

“Fate—inevitable destiny.”

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