I heard a sad man say.
I whispered in that sad man's ear,
"Your gang's done gone away."
Present were Ambassador Horlick Minton and his lady; H. Lowe
Crosby, the bicycle manufacturer, and his Hazel; Dr. Julian
Castle, humanitarian and philanthropist, and his son Philip,
author and innkeeper; little Newton Hoenikker, the picture
painter, and his musical sister, Mrs. Harrison C. Conners; my
heavenly Mona; Major General Franklin Hoenikker; and twenty
assorted San Lorenzo bureaucrats and military men.
Dead--almost all dead now.
As Bokonon tells us, "It is never a mistake to say goodbye."
There was a buffet on my battlements, a buffet burdened with
native delicacies: roasted warblers in little overcoats made of
their own blue-green feathers; lavender land crabs taken from
their shells, minced, fried in coconut oil, and returned to their
shells; fingerling barracuda stuffed with banana paste; and, on
unleavened, unseasoned cornmeal wafers, bite-sized cubes of boiled
The albatross, I was told, had been shot from the very
bartizan in which the buffet stood. There were two beverages
offered, both un-iced: Pepsi-Cola and native rum. The Pepsi-Cola
was served in plastic Pilseners. The rum was served in coconut
shells. I was unable to identify the sweet bouquet of the rum,
though it somehow reminded me of early adolescence.
Frank was able to name the bouquet for me. "Acetone."
"Used in model-airplane cement."
I did not drink the rum.
Ambassador Minton did a lot of ambassadorial, gourmand
saluting with his coconut, pretending to love all men and all the
beverages that sustained them. But I did not see him drink. He had
with him, incidentally, a piece of luggage of a sort I had never
seen before. It looked like a French horn case, and proved to
contain the memorial wreath that was to be cast into the sea.
The only person I saw drink the rum was H. Lowe Crosby, who
plainly had no sense of smell. He was having a good time, drinking
acetone from his coconut, sitting on a cannon, blocking the
touchhole with his big behind. He was looking out to sea through a
huge pair of Japanese binoculars. He was looking at targets
mounted on bobbing floats anchored offshore.
The targets were cardboard cutouts shaped like men.
They were to be fired upon and bombed in a demonstration of
might by the six planes of the San Lorenzan Air Force.
Each target was a caricature of some real person, and the
name of that person was painted on the targets' back and front.
I asked who the caricaturist was and learned that he was Dr.
Vox Humana, the Christian minister. He was at my elbow.
"I didn't know you were talented in that direction, too."
"Oh, yes. When I was a young man, I had a very hard time
deciding what to be."
"I think the choice you made was the right one."
"I prayed for guidance from Above."
"You got it."
H. Lowe Crosby handed his binoculars to his wife. "There's
old Joe Stalin, closest in, and old Fidel Castro's anchored right
next to him."
"And there's old Hitler," chuckled Hazel, delighted. "And
there's old Mussolini and some old Jap."
"And there's old Karl Marx."
"And there's old Kaiser Bill, spiked hat and all," cooed
Hazel. "I never expected to see _him_ again."
"And there's old Mao. You see old Mao?"
"Isn't _he_ gonna get it?" asked Hazel. "Isn't _he_ gonna get
the surprise of his life? This sure is a cute idea."
"They got practically every enemy that freedom, ever had out
there," H. Lowe Crosby declared.
A Medical Opinion on the 103
Effects of a Writers' Strike
None of the guests knew yet that I was to be President. None
knew how close to death "Papa" was. Frank gave out the official
word that "Papa" was resting comfortably, that "Papa" sent his
best wishes to all.
The order of events, as announced by Frank, was that
Ambassador Minton would throw his wreath into the sea, in honor of
the Hundred Martyrs; and then the airplanes would shoot the
targets in the sea; and then he, Frank, would say a few words.
He did not tell the company that, following his speech, there
would be a speech by me.
So I was treated as nothing more than a visiting journalist,
and I engaged in harmless _granfalloonery_ here and there.
"Hello, Mom," I said to Hazel Crosby.
"Why, if it isn't my boy!" Hazel gave me a perfumed hug, and
she told everybody, "This boy's a Hoosier!"
The Castles, father and son, stood separate from the rest of
the company. Long unwelcome at "Papa's" palace, they were curious
as to why they had now been invited there.
Young Castle called me "Scoop." "Good morning, Scoop. What's
new in the word game?"
"I might ask the same of you," I replied.
"I'm thinking of calling a general strike of all writers
until mankind finally comes to its senses. Would you support it?"
"Do writers have a right to strike? That would be like the
police or the firemen walking out."
"Or the college professors."
"Or the college professors," I agreed. I shook my head. "No,
I don't think my conscience would let me support a strike like
that. When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred
obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at top
"I just can't help thinking what a real shaking up it would
give people if, all of a sudden, there were no new books, new
plays, new histories, new poems . . ."
"And how proud would you be when people started dying like
flies?" I demanded.
"They'd die more like mad dogs, I think--snarling and
snapping at each other and biting their own tails."
I turned to Castle the elder. "Sir, how does a man die when
he's deprived of the consolations of literature?"
"In one of two ways," he said, "petrescence of the heart or
atrophy of the nervous system."
"Neither one very pleasant, I expect," I suggested.
"No," said Castle the elder. "For the love of God, _both_ of
you, _please_ keep writing!"
My heavenly Mona did not approach me and did not encourage me
with languishing glances to come to her side. She made a hostess
of herself, introducing Angela and little Newt to San Lorenzans.
As I ponder now the meaning of that girl--recall her
indifference to "Papa's" collapse, to her betrothal to me-- I
vacillate between lofty and cheap appraisals.
Did she represent the highest form of female spirituality?
Or was she anesthetized, frigid--a cold fish, in fact, a
dazed addict of the xylophone, the cult of beauty, and _boko-
I shall never know.
Bokonon tells us:
A lover's a liar,
To himself he lies.
The truthful are loveless,
Like oysters their eyes!
So my instructions are clear, I suppose. I am to remember my
Mona as having been sublime.
"Tell me," I appealed to young Philip Castle on the Day of
the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy, "have you spoken to your friend
and admirer, H. Lowe Crosby, today?"
"He didn't recognize me with a suit and shoes and necktie
on," young Castle replied. "We've already had a nice talk about
bicycles. We may have another."
I found that I was no longer amused by Crosby's wanting to
build bicycles in San Lorenzo. As chief executive of the island I
wanted a bicycle factory very much. I developed sudden respect for
what H. Lowe Crosby was and could do.
"How do you think the people of San Lorenzo would take to
industrialization?" I asked the Castles, father and son.
"The people of San Lorenzo," the father told me, "are
interested in only three things: fishing, fornication, and
"Don't you think they could be interested in progress?"
"They've seen some of it. There's only one aspect of progress
that really excites them."
"The electric guitar."
I excused myself and I rejoined the Crosbys.
Frank Hoenikker was with them, explaining who Bokonon was and
what he was against. "He's against science."
"How can anybody in his right mind be against science?" asked
"I'd be dead now if it wasn't for penicillin," said Hazel.
"And so would my mother."
"How old _is_ your mother?" I inquired.
"A hundred and six. Isn't that wonderful?"
"It certainly is," I agreed.
"And I'd be a widow, too, if it wasn't for the medicine they
gave my husband that time," said Hazel. She had to ask her husband
the name of the medicine. "Honey, what was the name of that stuff
that saved your life that time?"
And I made the mistake of taking an albatross canape from a
As it happened--"As it was _supposed_ to happen," Bokonon
would say--albatross meat disagreed with me so violently that I
was ill the moment I'd choked the first piece down. I was
compelled to canter down the stone spiral staircase in search of a
bathroom. I availed myself of one adjacent to "Papa's" suite.
When I shuffled out, somewhat relieved, I was met by Dr.
Schlichter von Koenigswald, who was bounding from "Papa's"
bedroom. He had a wild look, and he took me by the arms and he
cried, "What is it? What was it he had hanging around his neck?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"He took it! Whatever was in that cylinder, 'Papa' took--and
now he's dead."
I remembered the cylinder "Papa" had hung around his neck,
and I made an obvious guess as to its contents. "Cyanide?"
"Cyanide? Cyanide turns a man to cement in a second?"
"Marble! Iron! I have never seen such a rigid corpse before.
Strike it anywhere and you get a note like a marimba! Come look!"
Von Koenigswald hustled me into "Papa's" bedroom.
In bed, in the golden dinghy, was a hideous thing to see.
"Papa" was dead, but his was not a corpse to which one could say,
"At rest at last."
'Papa's" head was bent back as far as it would go. His weight
rested on the crown of his head and the soles of his feet, with
the rest of his body forming a bridge whose arch thrust toward the
ceiling. He was shaped like an andiron.
That he had died of the contents of the cylinder around his
neck was obvious. One hand held the cylinder and the cylinder was
uncapped. And the thumb and index finger of the other hand, as
though having just released a little pinch of something, were
stuck between his teeth.
Dr. von Koenigswald slipped the tholepin of an oarlock from
its socket in the gunwale of the gilded dinghy. He tapped "Papa"
on his belly with the steel oarlock, and "Papa" really did make a
sound like a marimba.
And "Papa's" lips and nostrils and eyeballs were glazed with
a blue-white frost.
Such a syndrome is no novelty now, God knows. But it
certainly was then. "Papa" Monzano was the first man in history to
die of _ice-nine_.
I record that fact for whatever it may be worth. "Write it
all down," Bokonon tells us. He is really telling us, of course,
how futile it is to write or read histories. "Without accurate
records of the past, how can men and women be expected to avoid
making serious mistakes in the future?" he asks ironically.
So, again: "Papa" Monzano was the first man in history to die
What Bokononists Say 106
When They Commit Suicide
Dr. von Koenigswald, the humanitarian with the terrible
deficit of Auschwitz in his kindliness account, was the second to
die of _ice-nine_.
He was talking about rigor mortis, a subject I had
"Rigor mortis does not set in in seconds," he declared. "I
turned my back to 'Papa' for just a moment. He was raving . . ."
"What about?" I asked.
"Pain, ice, Mona--everything. And then 'Papa' said, 'Now I
will destroy the whole world.'"
"What did he mean by that?"
"It's what Bokononists always say when they are about to
commit suicide." Von Koenigswald went to a basin of water, meaning
to wash his hands. "When I turned to look at him," he told me, his
hands poised over the water, "he was dead--as hard as a statue,
just as you see him. I brushed my fingers over his lips. They
looked so peculiar."
He put his hands into the water. "What chemical could
possibly . . ." The question trailed off.
Von Koenigswald raised his hands, and the water in the basin
came with them. It was no longer water, but a hemisphere of _ice-
Von Koenigswald touched the tip of his tongue to the blue-
Frost bloomed on his lips. He froze solid, tottered, and
The blue-white hemisphere shattered. Chunks skittered over
I went to the door and bawled for help.
Soldiers and servants came running.
I ordered them to bring Frank and Newt and Angela to "Papa's"
room at once.
At last I had seen _ice-nine!_
Feast Your Eyes! 101
I let the three children of Dr. Felix Hoenikker into "Papa"
Monzano's bedroom. I closed the door and put my back to it. My
mood was bitter and grand. I knew _ice-nine_ for what it was. I
had seen it often in my dreams.
There could be no doubt that Frank had given "Papa" _ice-
nine_. And it seemed certain that if _ice-nine_ were Frank's to
give, then it was Angela's and little Newt's to give, too.
So I snarled at all three, calling them to account for
monstrous criminality. I told them that the jig was up, that I
knew about them and _ice-nine_. I tried to alarm them about _ice-
nine's_ being a means to ending life on earth. I was so impressive
that they never thought to ask how I knew about _ice-nine_.
"Feast your eyes!" I said.
Well, as Bokonon tells us: "God never wrote a good play in
His Life." The scene in "Papa's" room did not lack for spectacular
issues and props, and my opening speech was the right one.
But the first reply from a Hoenikker destroyed all
Little Newt threw up.
Frank Tells Us What to Do 108
And then we all wanted to throw up.
Newt certainly did what was called for.
"I couldn't agree more," I told Newt. And I snarled at Angela
and Frank, "Now that we've got Newt's opinion, I'd like to hear
what you two have to say."
"Uck," said Angela, cringing, her tongue out. She was the
color of putty.
"Are those your sentiments, too?" I asked Frank. "'Uck?'
General, is that what you say?"
Frank had his teeth bared, and his teeth were clenched, and
he was breathing shallowly and whistlingly between them.
"Like the dog," murmured little Newt, looking down at Von
Newt whispered his answer, and there was scarcely any wind
behind the whisper. But such were the acoustics of the stonewalled
room that we all heard the whisper as clearly as we would have
heard the chiming of a crystal bell.
"Christmas Eve, when Father died."
Newt was talking to himself. And, when I asked him to tell me
about the dog on the night his father died, he looked up at me as
though I had intruded on a dream. He found me irrelevant.
His brother and sister, however, belonged in the dream. And
he talked to his brother in that nightmare; told Frank, "You gave
it to him.
"That's how you got this fancy job, isn't it?" Newt asked
Frank wonderingly. "What did you tell him--that you had something
better than the hydrogen bomb?"
Frank didn't acknowledge the question. He was looking around
the room intently, taking it all in. He unclenched his teeth, and
he made them click rapidly, blinking his eyes with every click.
His color was coming back. This is what he said.
"Listen, we've got to clean up this mess."
Frank Defends Himself 109
"General," I told Frank, "that must be one of the most cogent
statements made by a major general this year. As my technical
advisor, how do you recommend that _we_, as you put it so well,
'clean up this mess'?"
Frank gave me a straight answer. He snapped his fingers. I
could see him dissociating himself from the causes of the mess;
identifying himself, with growing pride and energy, with the
purifiers, the world-savers, the cleaners-up.
"Brooms, dustpans, blowtorch, hot plate, buckets," he
commanded, snapping, snapping, snapping his fingers.
"You propose applying a blowtorch to the bodies?" I asked.
Frank was so charged with technical thinking now that he was
practically tap dancing to the music of his fingers. "We'll sweep
up the big pieces on the floor, melt them in a bucket on a hot
plate. Then we'll go over every square inch of floor with a
blowtorch, in case there are any microscopic crystals. What we'll
do with the bodies--and the bed . . ." He had to think some more.
"A funeral pyre!" he cried, really pleased with himself.
"I'll have a great big funeral pyre built out by the hook, and
we'll have the bodies and the bed carried out and thrown on."
He started to leave, to order the pyre built and to get the
things we needed in order to clean up the room.
Angela stopped him. "How _could_ you?" she wanted to know.
Frank gave her a glassy smile. "Everything's going to be all
"How _could_ you give it to a man like 'Papa' Monzano?"
Angela asked him.
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