Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

85. A Pack of Foma

Frank’s servants brought us gasoline lanterns; told us that power failures were common in San Lorenzo, that there was no cause for alarm. I found that disquiet was hard for me to set aside, however, since Frank had spoken of my zah-mah-ki-bo.

He had made me feel as though my own free will were as irrelevant as the free will of a piggy-wig arriving at the Chicago stockyards.

I remembered again the stone angel in ilium.

And I listened to the soldiers outside—to their clinking, chunking, murmuring labors.

I was unable to concentrate on the conversation of Angela and Newt, though they got onto a fairly interesting subject. They told me that their father had had an identical twin. They had never met him. His name was Rudolph. The last they had heard of him, he was a music-box manufacturer in Zurich, Switzerland.

“Father hardly ever mentioned him,” said Angela.

“Father hardly ever mentioned anybody,” Newt declared.

There was a sister of the old man, too, they told me. Her name was Celia. She raised giant schnauzers on Shelter Island, New York.

“She always sends a Christmas card,” said Angela.

“With a picture of a giant schnauzer on it,” said little Newt.

“It sure is funny how different people in different families turn out,” Angela observed.

“That’s very true and well said,” I agreed. I excused myself from the glittering company, and I asked Stanley, the major-domo, if there happened to be a copy of The Books of Bokonon about the house.

Stanley pretended not to know what I was talking about. And then he grumbled that The Books of Bokonon were filth. And then he insisted that anyone who read them should die on the hook. And then he brought me a copy from Frank’s bedside table.

It was a heavy thing, about the size of an unabridged dictionary. It was written by hand. I trundled it off to my bedroom, to my slab of rubber on living rock.

There was no index, so my search for the implications of zah-mah-ki-bo was difficult; was, in fact, fruitless that night.

I learned some things, but they were scarcely helpful. I learned of the Bokononist cosmogony, for instance, wherein Borasisi, the sun, held Pabu, the moon, in his arms, and hoped that Pabu would bear him a fiery child.

But poor Pabu gave birth to children that were cold, that did not burn; and Borasisi threw them away in disgust. These were the planets, who circled their terrible father at a safe distance.

Then poor Pabu herself was cast away, and she went to live with her favorite child, which was Earth. Earth was Pabu’s favorite because it had people on it; and the people looked up at her and loved her and sympathized.

And what opinion did Bokonon hold of his own cosmogony?

Foma! Lies!” he wrote. “A pack of foma!

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