then, and I wasn't surprised to find him under there. He spent a
lot of time under there on hot days. Just like a dog, he'd make a
hollow in the cool earth all around the roots. And you never could
tell what Frank would have under the bush with him. One time he
had a dirty book. Another time he had a bottle of cooking sherry.
On the day they dropped the bomb Frank had a tablespoon and a
Mason jar. What he was doing was spooning different kinds of bugs
into the jar and making them fight.
"The bug fight was so interesting that I stopped crying right
away--forgot all about the old man. I can't remember what all
Frank had fighting in the jar that day, but I can remember other
bug fights we staged later on: one stag beetle against a hundred
red ants, one centipede against three spiders, red ants against
black ants. They won't fight unless you keep shaking the jar. And
that's what Frank was doing, shaking, shaking, the jar.
"After a while Angela came looking for me. She lifted up one
side of the bush and said, 'So there you are!' She asked Frank
what he thought he was doing, and he said, 'Experimenting.' That's
what Frank always used to say when people asked him what he
thought he was doing. He always said, 'Experimenting.'
"Angela was twenty-two then. She had been the real head of
the family since she was sixteen, since Mother died, since I was
born. She used to talk about how she had three children--me,
Frank, and Father. She wasn't exaggerating, either. I can remember
cold mornings when Frank, Father, and I would be all in a line in
the front hail, and Angela would be bundling us up, treating us
exactly the same. Only I was going to kindergarten; Frank was
going to junior high; and Father.was going to work on the atom
bomb. I remember one morning like that when the oil burner had
quit, the pipes were frozen, and the car wouldn't start. We all
sat there in the car while Angela kept pushing the starter until
the battery was dead. And then Father spoke up. You know what he
said? He said, 'I wonder about turtles.' 'What do you wonder about
turtles? Angela asked him. 'When they pull in their heads,' he
said, 'do their spines buckle or contract?'
"Angela was one of the unsung heroines of the atom bomb,
incidentally, and I don't think the story has ever been told.
Maybe you can use it. After the turtle incident, Father got so
interested in turtles that he stopped working on the atom bomb.
Some people from the Manhattan Project finally came out to the
house to ask Angela what to do. She told them to take away
Father's turtles. So one night they went into his laboratory and
stole the turtles and the aquarium. Father never said a word about
the disappearance of the turtles. He just came to work the next
day and looked for things to play with and think about, and
everything there was to play with and think about had something to
do with the bomb.
"When Angela got me out from under the bush, she asked me
what had happened between Father and me. I just kept saying over
and over again how ugly he was, how much I hated him. So she
slapped me. 'How dare you say that about your father?' she said.
'He's one of the greatest men who ever lived! He won the war
today! Do you realize that? He won the war!' She slapped me again.
"I don't blame Angela for slapping me. Father was all she
had. She didn't have any boy friends. She didn't have any friends
at all. She had only one hobby. She played the clarinet.
"I told her again how much I hated my father; she slapped me
again; and then Frank came out from under the bush and punched her
in the stomach. It hurt her something awful. She fell down and she
rolled around. When she got her wind back, she cried and she
yelled for Father.
"'He won't come,' Frank said, and he laughed at her. Frank
was right. Father stuck his head out a window, and he looked at
Angela and me rolling on the ground, bawling, and Frank standing
over us, laughing. The old man pulled his head indoors again, and
never asked later what all the fuss had been about. People weren't
"Will that do? Is that any help to your book? Of course,
you've really tied me down, asking me to stick to the day of the
bomb. There are lots of other good anecdotes about the bomb and
Father, from other days. For instance, do you know the story about
Father on the day they first tested a bomb out at Alamogordo?
After the thing went off, after it was a sure thing that America
could wipe out a city with just one bomb, a scientist turned to
Father and said, 'Science has now known sin.' And do you know what
Father said? He said, 'What is Sin?'
"All the best,
The Illustrious Hoenikkers 7
Newt added these three postscripts to his letter:
"P.S. I can't sign myself 'Fraternally yours' because they
won't let me be your brother on account of my grades. I was only a
pledge, and now they are going to take even that away from me.
"P.P.S. You call our family 'illustrious,' and I think you
would maybe be making a mistake if you called it that in your
book. I am a midget, for instance--four feet tall. And the last we
heard of my brother Frank, he was wanted by the Florida police,
the F.B.I., and the Treasury Department for running stolen cars to
Cuba on war-surplus L.S.T.'s. So I'm pretty sure 'illustrious'
isn't quite the word you're after. 'Glamorous' is probably closer
to the truth.
"P.P.P.S. Twenty-four hours later. I have reread this letter
and I can see where somebody might get the impression that I don't
do anything but sit around and remember sad things and pity
myself. Actually, I am a very lucky person and I know it. I am
about to marry a wonderful little girl. There is love enough in
this world for everybody, if people will just look. I am proof of
Newt's Thing with Zinka 8
Newt did not tell me who his girl friend was. But about two
weeks after he wrote to me everybody in the country knew that her
name was Zinka - plain Zinka. Apparently she didn't have a last
Zinka was a Ukrainian midget, a dancer with the Borzoi Dance
Company. As it happened, Newt saw a performance by that company in
Indianapolis, before he went to Cornell. And then the company
danced at Cornell. When the Cornell performance was over, little
Newt was outside the stage door with a dozen long-stemmed American
The newspapers picked up the story when little Zinka asked
for political asylum in the United States, and then she and little
One week after that, little Zinka presented herself at the
Russian Embassy. She said Americans were too materialistic. She
said she wanted to go back home.
Newt took shelter in his sister's house in Indianapolis. He
gave one brief statement to the press. "It was a private matter,"
he said. "It was an affair of the heart. I have no regrets. What
happened is nobody's business but Zinka's and my own."
One enterprising American reporter in Moscow, making
inquiries about Zinka among dance people there, made the unkind
discovery that Zinka was not, as she claimed, only twenty-three
She was forty-two--old enough to be Newt's mother.
Vice-president in Charge of Volcanoes 9
I loafed on my book about the day of the bomb.
About a year later, two days before Christmas, another story
carried me through Ilium, New York, where Dr. Felix Hoenikker had
done most of his work; where little Newt, Frank, and Angela had
spent their formative years.
I stopped off in Ilium to see what I could see.
There were no live Hoenikkers left in Ilium, but there were
plenty of people who claimed to have known well the old man and
his three peculiar children.
I made an appointment with Dr. Asa Breed, Vice-president in
charge of the Research Laboratory of the General Forge and Foundry
Company. I suppose Dr. Breed was a member of my _karass_, too,
though he took a dislike to me almost immediately.
"Likes and dislikes have nothing to do with it," says
Bokonon--an easy warning to forget.
"I understand you were Dr. Hoenikker's supervisor during most
of his professional life," I said to Dr. Breed on the telephone.
"On paper," he said.
"I don't understand," I said.
"If I actually supervised Felix," he said, "then I'm ready
now to take charge of volcanoes, the tides, and the migrations of
birds and lemmings. The man was a force of nature no mortal could
Secret Agent X-9 10
Dr. Breed made an appointment with me for early the next
morning. He would pick me up at my hotel on his way to work, he
said, thus simplifying my entry into the heavily-guarded Research
So I had a night to kill in Ilium. I was already in the
beginning and end of night life in Ilium, the Del Prado Hotel. Its
bar, the Cape Cod Room, was a hangout for whores.
As it happened--"as it was _meant_ to happen," Bokonon would
say--the whore next to me at the bar and the bartender serving •me
had both gone to high school with Franklin Hoenikker, the bug
tormentor, the middle child, the missing son.
The whore, who said her name was Sandra, offered me delights
unobtainable outside of Place Pigalle and Port Said. I said I
wasn't interested, and she was bright enough to say that she
wasn't really interested either. As things turned out, we had both
overestimated our apathies, but not by much.
Before we took the measure of each other's passions, however,
we talked about Frank Hoenikker, and we talked about the old man,
and we talked a little about Asa Breed, and we talked about the
General Forge and Foundry Company, and we talked about the Pope
and birth control, about Hitler and the Jews. We talked about
phonies. We talked about truth. We talked about gangsters; we
talked about business. We talked about the nice poor people who
went to the electric chair; and we talked about the rich bastards
who didn't. We talked about religious people who had perversions.
We talked about a lot of things.
We got drunk.
The bartender was very nice to Sandra. He liked her. He
respected her. He told me that Sandra had been chairman of the
Class Colors Committee at Ilium High. Every class, he explained,
got to pick distinctive colors for itself in its junior year, and
then it got to wear those colors with pride.
"What colors did you pick?" I asked.
"Orange and black."
"Those are good colors."
"I thought so."
"Was Franklin Hoenikker on the Class Colors Committee, too?"
"He wasn't on anything," said Sandra scornfully. "He never
got on any committee, never played any game, never took any girl
out. I don't think he ever even talked to a girl. We used to call
him Secret Agent X-9."
"You know--he was always acting like he was on his way
between two secret places; couldn't ever talk to anybody."
"Maybe he really _did_ have a very rich secret life," I
"Nah," sneered the bartender. "He was just one of those kids
who made model airplanes and jerked off all the time."
"He was suppose to be our commencement speaker," said Sandra.
"Who was?" I asked.
"Dr. Hoenikker--the old man."
"What did he say?"
"He didn't show up."
"So you didn't get a commencement address?"
"Oh, we got one. Dr. Breed, the one you're gonna see
tomorrow, he showed up, all out of breath, and he gave some kind
"What did he say?"
"He said he hoped a lot of us would have careers in science,"
she said. She didn't see anything funny in that. She was
remembering a lesson that had impressed her. She was repeating it
gropingly, dutifully. "He said, the trouble with the world was . .
." She had to stop and think.
"The trouble with the world was," she continued hesitatingly,
"that people were still superstitious instead of scientific. He
said if everybody would study science more, there wouldn't be all
the trouble there was."
"He said science was going to discover the basic secret of
life someday," the bartender put in. He scratched his head and
frowned. "Didn't I read in the paper the other day where they'd
finally found out what it was?"
"I missed that," I murmured.
"I saw that," said Sandra. "About two days ago."
"That's right," said the bartender.
"What _is_ the secret of life?" I asked.
"I forget," said Sandra.
"Protein," the bartender declared. "They found out something
"Yeah," said Sandra, "that's it."
End of the World Delight 12
An older bartender came over to join in our conversation in
the Cape Cod Room of the Del Prado. When he heard that I was
writing a book about the day of the bomb, he told me what the day
had been like for him, what the day had been like in the very bar
in which we sat. He had a W. C. Fields twang and a nose like a
"It wasn't the Cape Cod Room then," he said. "We didn't have
all these fugging nets and seashells around. It was called the
Navajo Tepee in those days. Had Indian blankets and cow skulls on
the walls. Had little tom-toms on the tables. People were supposed
to beat on the tom-toms when they wanted service. They tried to
get me to wear a war bonnet, but I wouldn't do it. Real Navajo
Indian came in here one day; told me Navajos didn't live in
tepees. 'That's a fugging shame,' I told him. Before that it was
the Pompeii Room, with busted plaster all over the place; but no
matter what they call the room, they never change the fugging
light fixtures. Never changed the fugging people who come in or
the fugging town outside, either. The day they dropped Hoenikker's
fugging bomb on the Japanese a bum came in and tried to scrounge a
drink. He wanted me to give him a drink on account of the world
was coming to an end. So I mixed him an 'End of the World
Delight.' I gave him about a half-pint of creme de menthe in a
hollowed-out pineapple, with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
'There, you pitiful son of a bitch,' I said to him, 'don't ever
say I never did anything for you.' Another guy came in, and he
said he was quitting his job at the Research Laboratory; said
anything a scientist worked on was sure to wind up as a weapon,
one way or another. Said he didn't want to help politicians with
their fugging wars anymore. Name was Breed. I asked him if he was
any relation to the boss of the fugging Research Laboratory. He
said he fugging well was. Said he was the boss of the Research
Laboratory's fugging son."
The Jumping-off Place 13
Ah, God, what an ugly city Ilium is!
"Ah, God," says Bokonon, "what an ugly city every city is!"
Sleet was falling through a motionless blanket of smog. It
was early morning. I was riding in the Lincoln sedan of Dr. Asa
Breed. I was vaguely ill, still a little drunk from the night
before. Dr. Breed was driving. Tracks of a long-abandoned trolley
system kept catching the wheels of his car.
Breed was a pink old man, very prosperous, beautifully
dressed. His manner was civilized, optimistic, capable, serene. I,
by contrast, felt bristly, diseased, cynical. I had spent the
night with Sandra.
My soul seemed as foul as smoke from burning cat fur.
I thought the worst of everyone, and I knew some pretty
sordid things about Dr. Asa Breed, things Sandra had told me.
Sandra told me everyone in Ilium was sure that Dr. Breed had
been in love with Felix Hoenikker's wife. She told me that most
people thought Breed was the father of all three Hoenikker
"Do you know Ilium at all?" Dr. Breed suddenly asked me.
"This is my first visit."
"It's a family town."
"There isn't much in the way of night life. Everybody's life
pretty much centers around his family and his home."
"That sounds very wholesome."
"It is. We have very little juvenile delinquency."
"Ilium has a very interesting history, you know."
"That's very interesting."
"It used to be the jumping-off place, you know."
"For the Western migration."
"People used to get outfitted here."
"That's very interesting."
"Just about where the Research Laboratory is now was the old
stockade. That was where they held the public hangings, too, for
the whole county."
"I don't suppose crime paid any better then than it does
"There was one man they hanged here in 1782 who had murdered
twenty-six people. I've often thought somebody ought to do a book
about him sometime. George Minor Moakely. He sang a song on the
scaffold. He sang a song he'd composed for the occasion."
"What was the song about?"
"You can find the words over at the Historical Society, if
you're really interested."
"I just wondered about the general tone."
"He wasn't sorry about anything."
"Some people are like that."
"Think of it!" said Dr. Breed. "Twenty-six people he had on
"The mind reels," I said.
When Automobiles Had Cut-glass Vases 14
My sick head wobbled on my stiff neck. The trolley tracks had
caught the wheels of Dr. Breed's glossy Lincoln again.
I asked Dr. Breed how many people were trying to reach the
General Forge and Foundry Company by eight o'clock, and he told me
Policemen in yellow raincapes were at every intersection,
contradicting with their white-gloved hands what the stop-and-go
The stop-and-go signs, garish ghosts in the sleet, went
through their irrelevant tomfoolery again and again, telling the
glacier of automobiles what to do. Green meant go. Red meant stop.
Orange meant change and caution.
Dr. Breed told me that Dr. Hoenikker, as a very young man,
had simply abandoned his car in Ilium traffic one morning.
"The police, trying to find out what was holding up traffic,"
he said, "found Felix's car in the middle of everything, its motor
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