Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
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.”