Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

83. Dr. Schlichter von Koenigswald Approaches the Break-even Point

“Cancer,” said Julian Castle at dinner, when I told him that “Papa” was dying in pain.

“Cancer of what?”

“Cancer of about everything. You say he collapsed on the reviewing stand today?”

“He sure did,” said Angela.

“That was the effect of drugs,” Castle declared. “He’s at the point now where drugs and pain just about balance out. More drugs would kill him.”

“I’d kill myself, I think,” murmured Newt. He was sitting on a sort of folding high chair he took with him when he went visiting. It was made of aluminum tubing and canvas. “It beats sitting on a dictionary, an atlas, and a telephone book,” he’d said when he erected it.

“That’s what Corporal McCabe did, of course,” said Castle. “He named his major-domo as his successor, then he shot himself.”

“Cancer, too?” I asked.

“I can’t be sure; I don’t think so, though. Unrelieved villainy just wore him out, is my guess. That was all before my time.”

“This certainly is a cheerful conversation,” said Angela.

“I think everybody would agree that these are cheerful times,” said Castle.

“Well,” I said to him, “I’d think you would have more reasons for being cheerful than most, doing what you are doing with your life.”

“I once had a yacht, too, you know.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“Having a yacht is a reason for being more cheerful than most, too.”

“If you aren’t ‘Papa’s’ doctor,” I said, “who is?”

“One of my staff, a Dr. Schlichter von Koenigswald.”

“A German?”

“Vaguely. He was in the S.S. for fourteen years. He was a camp physician at Auschwitz for six of those years.”

“Doing penance at the House of Hope and Mercy is he?”

“Yes,” said Castle, “and making great strides, too, saving lives right and left.”

“Good for him.”

“Yes. If he keeps going at his present rate, working night and day, the number of people he’s saved will equal the number of people he let die—in the year 3010.”

So there’s another member of my karass: Dr. Schlichter von Koenigswald.

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