Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut — Contents
“Papa” Monzano and his merciless disease were in a bed that was made of a golden dinghy—tiller, painter, oarlocks and all, all gilt. His bed was the lifeboat of Bokonon’s old schooner, the Lady’s Slipper; it was the lifeboat of the ship that had brought Bokonon and Corporal McCabe to San Lorenzo so long ago.
The walls of the room were white. But “Papa” radiated pain so hot and bright that the walls seemed bathed in angry red.
He was stripped from the waist up, and, his glistening belly wall was knotted. His belly shivered like a luffing sail.
Around his neck hung a chain with a cylinder the size of a rifle cartridge for a pendant. I supposed that the cylinder contained some magic charm. I was mistaken. It contained a splinter of ice-nine.
“Papa” could hardly speak. His teeth chattered and his breathing was beyond control.
“Papa’s” agonized head was at the bow of the dinghy, bent back.
Mona’s xylophone was near the bed. She had apparently tried to soothe “Papa” with music the previous evening.
“’Papa’?” whispered Frank.
“Good-bye,” “Papa” gasped. His eyes were bugging, sightless.
“I brought a friend.”
“He’s going to be the next President of San Lorenzo. He’ll be a much better President than I could be.”
“Ice!” “Papa” whimpered.
“He asks for ice,” said Von Koenigswald. “When we bring it, he does not want it.”
“Papa” rolled his eyes. He relaxed his neck, took the weight of his body from the crown of his head. And then he arched his neck again. “Does not matter,” he said, “who is President of . . .” He did not finish.
I finished for him. “San Lorenzo?”
“San Lorenzo,” he agreed. He managed a crooked smile. “Good luck!” he croaked.
“Thank you, sir,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter! Bokonon. Get Bokonon.”
I attempted a sophisticated reply to this last. I remembered that, for the joy of the people, Bokonon was always to be chased, was never to be caught. “I will get him.”
“Tell him . . .”
I leaned closer, in order to hear the message from “Papa” to Bokonon.
“Tell him I am sorry I did not kill him,” said “Papa.”
“You kill him.”
“Papa” gained control enough of his voice to make it commanding. “I mean really!”
I said nothing to that. I was not eager to kill anyone.
“He teaches the people lies and lies and lies. Kill him and teach the people truth.”
“You and Hoenikker, you teach them science.”
“Yessir, we will,” I promised.
“Science is magic that works.”
He fell silent, relaxed, closed his eyes. And then he whispered, “Last rites.”
Von Koenigswald called Dr. Vox Humana in. Dr. Humana took his tranquilized chicken out of the hatbox, preparing to administer Christian last rites as he understood them.
“Papa” opened one eye. “Not you,” he sneered at Dr. Humana. “Get out!”
“Sir?” asked Dr. Humana.
“I am a member of the Bokononist faith,” “Papa” wheezed. “Get out, you stinking Christian.”