added, "But Goddamn if he ever did anything he didn't want to, and
Goddamn if he didn't get everything he ever wanted.
"Music," he said.
"Pardon me?" I asked.
"That's why she married him. She said his mind was tuned to
the biggest music there was, the music of the stars." He shook his
And then the gate reminded him of the last time he'd seen
Frank Hoenikker, the model-maker, the tormentor of bugs in jars.
"Frank," he said.
"What about him?"
"The last I saw of that poor, queer kid was when he came out
through that cemetery gate. His father's funeral was still going
on. The old man wasn't underground yet, and out through the gate
came Frank. He raised his thumb at the first car that came by. It
was a new Pontiac with a Florida license plate. It stopped. Frank
got in it, and that was the last anybody in Ilium ever saw of
"I hear he's wanted by the police."
"That was an accident, a freak. Frank wasn't any criminal. He
didn't have that kind of nerve. The only work he was any good at
was model-making. The only job he ever held onto was at Jack's
Hobby Shop, selling models, making models, giving people advice on
how to make models. When he cleared out of here, went to Florida,
he got a job in a model shop in Sarasota. Turned out the model
shop was a front for a ring that stole Cadillacs, ran 'em straight
on board old L.S.T.'s and shipped 'em to Cuba. That's how Frank
got balled up in all that. I expect the reason the cops haven't
found him is he's dead. He just heard too much while he was
sticking turrets on the battleship _Missouri_ with Duco Cement."
"Where's Newt now, do you know?"
"Guess he's with his sister in Indianapolis. Last I heard was
he got mixed up with that Russian midget and flunked out of pre-
med at Cornell. Can you imagine a midget trying to become a
doctor? And, in that same miserable family, there's that great
big, gawky girl, over six feet tall. That man, who's so famous for
having a great mind, he pulled that girl out of high school in her
sophomore year so he could go on having some woman take care of
him. All she had going for her was the clarinet she'd played in
the Ilium High School band, the Marching Hundred.
"After she left school," said Breed, "nobody ever asked her
out. She didn't have any friends, and the old man never even
thought to give her any money to go anywhere. You know what she
used to do?"
"Every so often at night she'd lock herself in her room and
she'd play records, and she'd play along with the records on her
clarinet. The miracle of this age, as far as I'm concerned, is
that that woman ever got herself a husband."
"How much do you want for this angel?" asked the cab driver.
"I've told you, it's not for sale."
"I don't suppose there's anybody around who can do that kind
of stone cutting any more," I observed.
"I've got a nephew who can," said Breed. "Asa's boy. He was
all set to be a heap-big _re_-search scientist, and then they
dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and the kid quit, and he got drunk,
and he came out here, and he told me he wanted to go to work
"He works here now?"
"He's a sculptor in Rome."
"If somebody offered you enough," said the driver, "you'd
take it, wouldn't you?"
"Might. But it would take a lot of money."
"Where would you put the name on a thing like that?" asked
"There's already a name on it--on the pedestal." We couldn't
see the name, because of the boughs banked against the pedestal.
"It was never called for?" I wanted to know.
"It was never _paid_ for. The way the story goes: this German
immigrant was on his way West with his wife, and she died of
smallpox here in Ilium. So he ordered this angel to be put up over
her, and he showed my great-grandfather he had the cash to pay for
it. But then he was robbed. Somebody took practically every cent
he had. All he had left in this world was some land he'd bought in
Indiana, land he'd never seen. So he moved on--said he'd be back
later to pay for the angel."
"But he never came back?" I asked.
"Nope." Marvin Breed nudged some of the boughs aside with his
toe so that we could see the raised letters on the pedestal. There
was a last name written there. "There's a screwy name for you," he
said. "If that immigrant had any descendants, I expect they
Americanized the name. They're probably Jones or Black or Thompson
"There you're wrong," I murmured.
The room seemed to tip, and its walls and ceiling and floor
were transformed momentarily into the mouths of many tunnels--
tunnels leading in all directions through time. I had a Bokononist
vision of the unity in every second of all time and all wandering
mankind, all wandering womankind, all wandering children.
"There you're wrong," I said, when the vision was gone.
"You know some people by that name?"
The name was my last name, too.
Hobby Shop 35
On the way back to the hotel I caught sight of Jack's Hobby
Shop, the place where Franklin Hoenikker had worked. I told the
cab driver to stop and wait.
I went in and found Jack himself presiding over his teeny-
weeny fire engines, railroad trains, airplanes, boats, houses,
lampposts, trees, tanks, rockets, automobiles, porters,
conductors, policemen, firemen, mommies, daddies, cats, dogs,
chickens, soldiers, ducks, and cows. He was a cadaverous man, a
serious man, a dirty man, and he coughed a lot.
"What kind of a boy was Franklin Hoenikker?" he echoed, and
he coughed and coughed. He shook his head, and he showed me that
he adored Frank as much as he'd ever adored anybody. "That isn't a
question I have to answer with words. I can _show_ you what kind
of a boy Franklin Hoenikker was." He coughed. "You can look," he
said, "and you can judge for yourself."
And he took me down into the basement of his store. He lived
down there. There was a double bed and a dresser and a hot plate.
Jack apologized for the unmade bed. "My wife left me a week
ago." He coughed. "I'm still trying to pull the strings of my life
And then he turned on a switch, and the far end of the
basement was filled with a blinding light.
We approached the light and found that it was sunshine to a
fantastic little country build on plywood, an island as perfectly
rectangular as a township in Kansas. Any restless soul, any soul
seeking to find what lay beyond its green boundaries, really would
fall off the edge of the world.
The details were so exquisitely in scale, so cunningly
textured and tinted, that it was unnecessary for me to squint in
order to believe that the nation was real--the hills, the lakes,
the rivers, the forests, the towns, and all else that good natives
everywhere hold so dear.
And everywhere ran a spaghetti pattern of railroad tracks.
"Look at the doors of the houses," said Jack reverently.
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"They've got real knobs on 'em, and the knockers really
"You ask what kind of a boy Franklin Hoenikker was; he built
this." Jack choked up.
"All by himself?"
"Oh, I helped some, but anything I did was according to his
plans. That kid was a genius."
"How could anybody argue with you?"
"His kid brother was a midget, you know."
"He did some of the soldering underneath."
"It sure looks real."
"It wasn't easy, and it wasn't done overnight, either."
"Rome wasn't built in a day."
"That kid didn't have any home life, you know."
"This was his real home. Thousands of hours he spent down
here. Sometimes he wouldn't even run the trains; just sit and
look, the way we're doing."
"There's a lot to see. It's practically like a trip to
Europe, there are so many things to see, if you look close."
"He'd see things you and I wouldn't see. He'd all of a sudden
tear down a hill that would look just as real as any hill you ever
saw--to you and me. And he'd be right, too. He'd put a lake where
that hill had been and a trestle over the lake, and it would look
ten times as good as it did before."
"It isn't a talent everybody has."
"That's right!" said Jack passionately. The passion cost him
another coughing fit. When the fit was over, his eyes were
watering copiously. "Listen, I told that kid he should go to
college and study some engineering so he could go to work for
American Flyer or somebody like that--somebody big, somebody who'd
really back all the ideas he had."
"Looks to me as if you backed him a good deal."
"Wish I had, wish I could have," mourned Jack. "I didn't have
the capital. I gave him stuff whenever I could, but most of this
stuff he bought out of what he earned working upstairs for me. He
didn't spend a dime on anything but this--didn't drink, didn't
smoke, didn't go to movies, didn't go out with girls, wasn't car
"This country could certainly use a few more of those."
Jack shrugged. "Well . . . I guess the Florida gangsters got
him. Afraid he'd talk."
"Guess they did."
Jack suddenly broke down and cried. "I wonder if those dirty
sons of bitches," he sobbed, "have any idea what it was they
During my trip to Ilium and to points beyond--a two-week
expedition bridging Christmas--I let a poor poet named Sherman
Krebbs have my New York City apartment free. My second wife had
left me on the grounds that I was too pessimistic for an optimist
to live with.
Krebbs was a bearded man, a platinum blond Jesus with spaniel
eyes. He was no close friend of mine. I had met him at a cocktail
party where he presented himself as National Chairman of Poets and
Painters for Immediate Nuclear War. He begged for shelter, not
necessarily bomb proof, and it happened that I had some.
When I returned to my apartment, still twanging with the
puzzling spiritual implications of the unclaimed stone angel in
Ilium, I found my apartment wrecked by a nihilistic debauch.
Krebbs was gone; but, before leaving, he had run up three-hundred-
dollars' worth of long-distance calls, set my couch on fire in
five places, killed my cat and my avocado tree, and torn the door
off my medicine cabinet.
He wrote this poem, in what proved to be excrement, on the
yellow linoleum floor of my kitchen:
I have a kitchen.
But it is not a complete kitchen.
I will not be truly gay
Until I have a
There was another message, written in lipstick in a feminine
hand on the wallpaper over my bed. It said: "No, no, no, said
There was a sign hung around my dead cat's neck. It said,
I have not seen Krebbs since. Nonetheless, I sense that he
was my _karass_. If he was, he served it as a _wrang-wrang_. A
_wrang-wrang_, according to Bokonon, is a person who steers people
away from a line of speculation by reducing that line, with the
example of the _wrang-wrang's_ own life, to an absurdity.
I might have been vaguely inclined to dismiss the stone angel
as meaningless, and to go from there to the meaninglessness of
all. But after I saw what Krebbs had done, in particular what he
had done to my sweet cat, nihilism was not for me.
Somebody or something did not wish me to be a nihilist. It
was Krebbs's mission, whether he knew it or not, to disenchant me
with that philosophy. Well, done, Mr. Krebbs, well done.
A Modern Major General 37
And then, one day, one Sunday, I found out where the fugitive
from justice, the model-maker, the Great God Jehovah and Beelzebub
of bugs in Mason jars was--where Franklin Hoenikker could be
He was alive!
The news was in a special supplement to the New York _Sunday
Times_. The supplement was a paid ad for a banana republic. On its
cover was the profile of the most heartbreakingly beautiful girl I
ever hope to see.
Beyond the girl, bulldozers were knocking down palm trees,
making a broad avenue. At the end of the avenue were the steel
skeletons of three new buildings.
"The Republic of San Lorenzo," said the copy on the cover,
"on the move! A healthy, happy, progressive, freedom-loving,
beautiful nation makes itself extremely attractive to American
investors and tourists alike."
I was in no hurry to read the contents. The girl on the cover
was enough for me--more than enough, since I had fallen in love
with her on sight. She was very young and very grave, too--and
luminously compassionate and wise.
She was as brown as chocolate. Her hair was like golden flax.
Her name was Mona Aamons Monzano, the cover said. She was the
adopted daughter of the dictator of the island.
I opened the supplement, hoping for more pictures of this
sublime mongrel Madonna.
I found instead a portrait of the island's dictator, Miguel
"Papa" Monzano, a gorilla in his late seventies.
Next to "Papa's" portrait was a picture of a narrow-
shouldered, fox-faced, immature young man. He wore a snow white
military blouse with some sort of jeweled sunburst hanging on it.
His eyes were close together; they had circles under them. He had
apparently told barbers all his life to shave the sides and back
of his head, but to leave the top of his hair alone. He had a wiry
pompadour, a sort of cube of hair, marcelled, that arose to an
This unattractive child was identified as Major General
Franklin Hoenikker, _Minister of Science and Progress in the
Republic of San Lorenzo_.
He was twenty-six years old.
Barracuda Capital of the World 38
San Lorenzo was fifty miles long and twenty miles wide, I
learned from the supplement to the New York _Sunday Times_. Its
population was four hundred, fifty thousand souls, ". . . all
fiercely dedicated to the ideals of the Free World."
Its highest point, Mount McCabe, was eleven thousand feet
above sea level. Its capital was Bolivar, ". . . a strikingly
modern city built on a harbor capable of sheltering the entire
United States Navy." The principal exports were sugar, coffee,
bananas, indigo, and handcrafted novelties.
"And sports fishermen recognize San Lorenzo as the
unchallenged barracuda capital of the world."
I wondered how Franklin Hoenikker, who had never even
finished high school, had got himself such a fancy job. I found a
partial answer in an essay on San Lorenzo that was signed by
"Papa" said that Frank was the architect of the "San Lorenzo
Master Plan," which included new roads, rural electrification,
sewage-disposal plants, hotels, hospitals, clinics, railroads--the
works. And, though the essay was brief and tightly edited, "papa"
referred to Frank five times as: ". . . the _blood son_ of Dr.
The phrase reeked of cannibalism.
"Papa" plainly felt that Frank was a chunk of the old man's
Fata Morgana 39
A little more light was shed by another essay in the
supplement, a florid essay titled, "What San Lorenzo Has Meant to
One American." It was almost certainly ghost-written. It was
signed by Major General Franklin Hoenikker.
In the essay, Frank told of being all alone on a nearly
swamped sixty-eight-foot Chris-Craft in the Caribbean. He didn't
explain what he was doing on it or how he happened to be alone. He
did indicate, though, that his point of departure had been Cuba.
"The luxurious pleasure craft was going down, and my
meaningless life with it," said the essay. "All I'd eaten for four
days was two biscuits and a sea gull. The dorsal fins of man-
eating sharks were cleaving the warm seas around me, and needle-
teethed barracuda were making those waters boil.
"I raised my eyes to my Maker, willing to accept whatever His
decision might be. And my eyes alit on a glorious mountain peak
above the clouds. Was this Fata Morgana--the cruel deception of a
I looked up Fata Morgana at this point in my reading; learned
that it was, in fact, a mirage named after Morgan le Fay, a fairy
who lived at the bottom of a lake. It was famous for appearing in
the Strait of Messina, between Calabria and Sicily. Fata Morgana
was poetic crap, in short.
What Frank saw from his sinking pleasure craft was not cruel
Fata Morgana, but the peak of Mount McCabe. Gentle seas then
nuzzled Frank's pleasure craft to the rocky shores of San Lorenzo,
as though God wanted him to go there.
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