Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

84. Blackout

Three hours after supper Frank still hadn’t come home. Julian Castle excused himself and went back to the House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle.

Angela and Newt and I sat on the cantilevered terrace. The lights of Bolivar were lovely below us. There was a great, illuminated cross on top of the administration building of Monzano Airport. It was motor-driven, turning slowly, boxing the compass with electric piety.

There were other bright places on the island, too, to the north of us. Mountains prevented our seeing them directly, but we could see in the sky their balloons of light. I asked Stanley, Frank Hoenikker’s major-domo, to identify for me the sources of the auroras.

He pointed them out, counterclockwise. “House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle, ‘Papa’s’ palace, and Fort Jesus.”

“Fort Jesus?”

“The training camp for our soldiers.”

“It’s named after Jesus Christ?”

“Sure. Why not?”

There was a new balloon of light growing quickly to the north. Before I could ask what it was, it revealed itself as headlights topping a ridge. The headlights were coming toward us. They belonged to a convoy.

The convoy was composed of five American-made army trucks. Machine gunners manned ring mounts on the tops of the cabs.

The convoy stopped in Frank’s driveway. Soldiers dismounted at once. They set to work on the grounds, digging foxholes and machine-gun pits. I went out with Frank’s major-domo to ask the officer in charge what was going on.

“We have been ordered to protect the next President of San Lorenzo,” said the officer in island dialect.

“He isn’t here now,” I informed him.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “My orders are to dig in here. That’s all I know.”

I told Angela and Newt about it.

“Do you think there’s any real danger?” Angela asked me.

“I’m a stranger here myself,” I said.

At that moment there was a power failure. Every electric light in San Lorenzo went out.

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