Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

89. Duffle

“You’ll take the job?” Frank inquired anxiously.

“No,” I told him.

“Do you know anybody who might want the job?” Frank was giving a classic illustration of what Bokonon calls duffle. Duffle, in the Bokononist sense, is the destiny of thousands upon thousands of persons when placed in the hands of a stuppa. A stuppa is a fogbound child.

I laughed.

“Something’s funny?”

“Pay no attention when I laugh,” I begged him. “I’m a notorious pervert in that respect.”

“Are you laughing at me?” I shook my head.


“Word of honor?”

“Word of honor.”

“People used to make fun of me all the time.”

“You must have imagined that.”

“They used to yell things at me. I didn’t imagine that.”

“People are unkind sometimes without meaning to be,” I suggested. I wouldn’t have given him my word of honor on that.

“You know what they used to yell at me?”


“They used to yell at me, ‘Hey, X-9, where you going?’”

“That doesn’t seem too bad.”

“That’s what they used to call me,” said Frank in sulky reminiscence, “’Secret Agent X-9.’”

I didn’t tell him I knew that already.

“’Where are you going, X-9?’ “Frank echoed again.

I imagined what the taunters had been like, imagined where Fate had eventually goosed and chivvied them to. The wits who had yelled at Frank were surely nicely settled in deathlike jobs at General Forge and Foundry, at Ilium Power and Light, at the Telephone Company. .

And here, by God, was Secret Agent X-9, a Major General, offering to make me king . . . in a cave that was curtained by a tropical waterfall.

“They really would have been surprised if I’d stopped and told them where I was going.”

“You mean you had some premonition you’d end up here?” It was a Bokononist question.

“I was going to Jack’s Hobby Shop,” he said, with no sense of anticlimax.


“They all knew I was going there, but they didn’t know what really went on there. They would have been really surprised—especially the girls—if they’d found out what really went on. The girls didn’t think I knew anything about girls.”

“What really went on?”

“I was screwing Jack’s wife every day. That’s how come I fell asleep all the time in high school. That’s how come I never achieved my full potential.”

He roused himself from this sordid recollection. “Come on. Be president of San Lorenzo. You’d be real good at it, with your personality. Please?”

Turn page.