The big trip up yonder, p.1
The Big Trip Up Yonder, p.1Kurt Vonnegut
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THE BIG TRIP UP YONDER
By KURT VONNEGUT, JR.
Illustrated by KOSSIN
_If it was good enough for your grandfather, forget it ... it is much too good for anyone else!_
Gramps Ford, his chin resting on his hands, his hands on the crook ofhis cane, was staring irascibly at the five-foot television screen thatdominated the room. On the screen, a news commentator was summarizingthe day's happenings. Every thirty seconds or so, Gramps would jab thefloor with his cane-tip and shout, "Hell, we did that a hundred yearsago!"
Emerald and Lou, coming in from the balcony, where they had been seekingthat 2185 A.D. rarity--privacy--were obliged to take seats in the backrow, behind Lou's father and mother, brother and sister-in-law, son anddaughter-in-law, grandson and wife, granddaughter and husband,great-grandson and wife, nephew and wife, grandnephew and wife,great-grandniece and husband, great-grandnephew and wife--and, ofcourse, Gramps, who was in front of everybody. All save Gramps, who wassomewhat withered and bent, seemed, by pre-anti-gerasone standards, tobe about the same age--somewhere in their late twenties or earlythirties. Gramps looked older because he had already reached 70 whenanti-gerasone was invented. He had not aged in the 102 years since.
"Meanwhile," the commentator was saying, "Council Bluffs, Iowa, wasstill threatened by stark tragedy. But 200 weary rescue workers haverefused to give up hope, and continue to dig in an effort to save ElbertHaggedorn, 183, who has been wedged for two days in a ..."
"I wish he'd get something more cheerful," Emerald whispered to Lou.
* * * * *
"Silence!" cried Gramps. "Next one shoots off his big bazoo while theTV's on is gonna find hisself cut off without a dollar--" his voicesuddenly softened and sweetened--"when they wave that checkered flag atthe Indianapolis Speedway, and old Gramps gets ready for the Big Trip UpYonder."
He sniffed sentimentally, while his heirs concentrated desperately onnot making the slightest sound. For them, the poignancy of theprospective Big Trip had been dulled somewhat, through having beenmentioned by Gramps about once a day for fifty years.
"Dr. Brainard Keyes Bullard," continued the commentator, "President ofWyandotte College, said in an address tonight that most of the world'sills can be traced to the fact that Man's knowledge of himself has notkept pace with his knowledge of the physical world."
"_Hell!_" snorted Gramps. "We said _that_ a hundred years ago!"
"In Chicago tonight," the commentator went on, "a special celebration istaking place in the Chicago Lying-in Hospital. The guest of honoris Lowell W. Hitz, age zero. Hitz, born this morning, is thetwenty-five-millionth child to be born in the hospital." The commentatorfaded, and was replaced on the screen by young Hitz, who squalledfuriously.
"Hell!" whispered Lou to Emerald. "We said that a hundred years ago."
"I heard that!" shouted Gramps. He snapped off the television set andhis petrified descendants stared silently at the screen. "You, there,boy--"
"I didn't mean anything by it, sir," said Lou, aged 103.
"Get me my will. You know where it is. You kids _all_ know where it is.Fetch, boy!" Gramps snapped his gnarled fingers sharply.
Lou nodded dully and found himself going down the hall, picking his wayover bedding to Gramps' room, the only private room in the Fordapartment. The other rooms were the bathroom, the living room and thewide windowless hallway, which was originally intended to serve as adining area, and which had a kitchenette in one end. Six mattresses andfour sleeping bags were dispersed in the hallway and living room, andthe daybed, in the living room, accommodated the eleventh couple, thefavorites of the moment.
On Gramps' bureau was his will, smeared, dog-eared, perforated andblotched with hundreds of additions, deletions, accusations, conditions,warnings, advice and homely philosophy. The document was, Lou reflected,a fifty-year diary, all jammed onto two sheets--a garbled, illegible logof day after day of strife. This day, Lou would be disinherited for theeleventh time, and it would take him perhaps six months of impeccablebehavior to regain the promise of a share in the estate. To say nothingof the daybed in the living room for Em and himself.
"Boy!" called Gramps.
"Coming, sir." Lou hurried back into the living room and handed Grampsthe will.
"Pen!" said Gramps.
* * * * *
He was instantly offered eleven pens, one from each couple.
"Not _that_ leaky thing," he said, brushing Lou's pen aside. "Ah,_there's_ a nice one. Good boy, Willy." He accepted Willy's pen. Thatwas the tip they had all been waiting for. Willy, then--Lou'sfather--was the new favorite.
Willy, who looked almost as young as Lou, though he was 142, did a poorjob of concealing his pleasure. He glanced shyly at the daybed, whichwould become his, and from which Lou and Emerald would have to move backinto the hall, back to the worst spot of all by the bathroom door.
Gramps missed none of the high drama he had authored and he gave his ownfamiliar role everything he had. Frowning and running his finger alongeach line, as though he were seeing the will for the first time, he readaloud in a deep portentous monotone, like a bass note on a cathedralorgan.
"I, Harold D. Ford, residing in Building 257 of Alden Village, New YorkCity, Connecticut, do hereby make, publish and declare this to be mylast Will and Testament, revoking any and all former wills andcodicils by me at any time heretofore made." He blew his noseimportantly and went on, not missing a word, and repeating many foremphasis--repeating in particular his ever-more-elaborate specificationsfor a funeral.
At the end of these specifications, Gramps was so choked with emotionthat Lou thought he might have forgotten why he'd brought out the willin the first place. But Gramps heroically brought his powerful emotionsunder control and, after erasing for a full minute, began to write andspeak at the same time. Lou could have spoken his lines for him, he hadheard them so often.
"I have had many heartbreaks ere leaving this vale of tears for a betterland," Gramps said and wrote. "But the deepest hurt of all has beendealt me by--" He looked around the group, trying to remember who themalefactor was.
Everyone looked helpfully at Lou, who held up his hand resignedly.
Gramps nodded, remembering, and completed the sentence--"mygreat-grandson, Louis J. Ford."
"Grandson, sir," said Lou.
"Don't quibble. You're in deep enough now, young man," said Gramps, buthe made the change. And, from there, he went without a misstep throughthe phrasing of the disinheritance, causes for which weredisrespectfulness and quibbling.
* * * * *
In the paragraph following, the paragraph that had belonged to everyonein the room at one time or another, Lou's name was scratched out andWilly's substituted as heir to the apartment and, the biggest plum ofall, the double bed in the private bedroom.
"So!" said Gramps, beaming. He erased the date at the foot of the willand substituted a new one, including the time of day. "Well--time towatch the McGarvey Family." The McGarvey Family was a television serialthat Gramps had been following since he was 60, or for a total of 112years. "I can't wait to see what's going to happen next," he said.
Lou detached himself from the group and lay down on his bed of pain bythe bathroom door. Wishing Em would join him, he wondered where she was.
He dozed for a few moments, until he was disturbed by someone steppingover him to get into the bathroom. A moment later, he heard a faintgurgling sound, as though something were being poured down the washbasindrain. Suddenly, it entered his mind that Em had cracked up, that shewas in t
"Em?" he whispered through the panel. There was no reply, and Loupressed against the door. The worn lock, whose bolt barely engaged itssocket, held for a second, then let the door swing inward.
"Morty!" gasped Lou.
Lou's great-grandnephew, Mortimer, who had just married and brought hiswife home to the Ford menage, looked at Lou with consternation andsurprise. Morty kicked the door shut, but not before Lou had glimpsedwhat was in his hand--Gramps' enormous economy-size bottle ofanti-gerasone, which had apparently been half-emptied, and which Mortywas refilling with tap water.
A moment later, Morty came out, glared defiantly at Lou and brushed pasthim wordlessly to rejoin his
The Big Trip Up Yonder by Kurt Vonnegut / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes