Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

86. Two Little Jugs

It’s hard to believe that I slept at all, but I must have—for, otherwise, how could I have found myself awakened by a series of bangs and a flood of light?

I rolled out of bed at the first bang and ran to the heart of the house in the brainless ecstasy of a volunteer fireman.

I found myself rushing headlong at Newt and Angela, who were fleeing from beds of their own.

We all stopped short, sheepishly analyzing the nightmarish sounds around us, sorting them out as coming from a radio, from an electric dishwasher, from a pump—all restored to noisy life by the return of electric power.

The three of us awakened enough to realize that there was humor in our situation, that we had reacted in amusingly human ways to a situation that seemed mortal but wasn’t. And to demonstrate my mastery over my illusory fate, I turned the radio off.

We all chuckled.

And we all vied, in saving face, to be the greatest student of human nature, the person with the quickest sense of humor.

Newt was the quickest; he pointed out to me that I had my passport and my billfold and my wristwatch in my hands. I had no idea what I’d grabbed in the face of death—didn’t know I’d grabbed anything.

I countered hilariously by asking Angela and Newt why it was that they both carried little Thermos jugs, identical red-and-gray jugs capable of holding about three cups of coffee.

It was news to them both that they were carrying such jugs. They were shocked to find them in their hands.

They were spared making an explanation by more banging outside. I was bound to find out what the banging was right away; and, with a brazenness as unjustified as my earlier panic, I investigated, found Frank Hoenikker outside tinkering with a motor-generator set mounted on a truck.

The generator was the new source of our electricity. The gasoline motor that drove it was backfiring and smoking. Frank was trying to fix it.

He had the heavenly Mona with him. She was watching him, as always, gravely.

“Boy, have I got news for you!” he yelled at me, and he led the way back into the house.

Angela and Newt were still in the living room, but, somehow, somewhere, they had managed to get rid of their peculiar Thermos jugs.

The contents of those jugs, of course, were parts of the legacies from Dr. Felix Hoenikker, were parts of the wampeter of my karass, were chips of ice-nine.

Frank took me aside. “How awake are you?”

“As awake as I ever was.”

“I hope you’re really wide awake, because we’ve got to have a talk right now.”

“Start talking.”

“Let’s get some privacy.” Frank told Mona to make herself comfortable. “We’ll call you if we need you.”

I looked at Mona, meltingly, and I thought that I had never needed anyone as much as I needed her.

Turn page.