The third chapter of a novel, Heidegger in Chicago (a comedy of errors). (Chapter 2 here.)
Dear Professor Heidegger,
My name is Peter Badgerhead. I am writing you this letter because I genuinely believe that you may be the only person in the world who can understand my problem. I live in Las Vegas with my mother. She works as a cashier at the Casino Deluxe. She’s been there forty years. My father abandoned us when I was eight and neither of us has ever seen him since. I work in Slot Machine, a local adult bookstore. We’ve got these video booths in the back. My job is to go in there with a mop every so often and clean them out. I’m also supposed to yell at guys if they’re loitering around too much. But I don’t like to do that. I have a problem with assertiveness. My high school guidance counselor said I was conflict adverse, whatever that means. Anyway, I live in Mom’s basement. I’m thinking about maybe trying to go to graduate school in philosophy. I got a degree in philosophy from the local community college. I had this Professor there named Stan Earwig. Have you ever heard of him? He published the response to the Gettier problem in the February 1965 issue of Dialogue. Anyway, he said I was one of the best students to come through there in years.
But I digress. What I need to know from you is have you seen the Zapruder film? You have to be careful because sometimes when you see the film it’s been cut. Like sometimes they cut the frames where you can see our dear President Kennedy’s head explode (God rest his soul). Anyway, there’s a certain point at which the film jumps and something seems to go in front of the camera. Do you remember that? I think the film may have been tampered with. Maybe something’s been cut that they don’t know want us to see.
So I heard you’re coming to Vegas to give a lecture. I was wondering if I could possibly meet with you. If necessary, I could show you the Zapruder film and then get your opinion. Would that be okay?
I just want you to know that I don’t believe all that talk about you being a Nazi. I’ve learned so much about being from your books. I mean, it’s been such a revelation to me. I’ve learned a whole new way of life from Being and Time.
I was wondering, can I have a video of you chopping wood?
Heidegger set the letter down with a weary sigh. He had received so many letters about the Zapruder film. The previous summer, at the hut in Todtnauberg, he had set pen to paper and had begun an essay, “The Clearing in the Grassy Knoll,” an analysis of the meaning of the Kennedy assassination, in terms of the history of Being.
The concierge at the Sands had delivered this particular letter to him. It was written in a childish hand. A school essay had been enclosed, “A Report on Heidegger’s Being and Time, for Professor Earwig’s Phil 217-A, Living Issues in Existential Philosophy, by Peter Badgerhead, SS# 197-455-2134.” Heidegger glanced at the first page and was astonished to find that the paper was not only compellingly written, but that it reflected a profound understanding of his ideas. Page three contained a criticism of the concept of Care which Heidegger had never considered.
He picked up the letter again. At the bottom was a telephone number. Heidegger made it a point never to become personally involved with his fans, but something about this individual strangely intrigued him. Against his better judgment, he found himself reaching for the telephone.
But wait! There was that lunch planned for today. When was it? 1:30. And it was 12:30 now. He still had to shower and change his clothes. Heidegger resolved to call Badgerhead after lunch, if at all. He tucked the letter into the pocket of his suit jacket, which he had laid out on the bed.
A half hour later Heidegger was in a taxi headed across town. He pressed his nose to the window and gasped. Las Vegas was uglier than he had ever imagined it could be. A vast, gaudy junkyard of casinos and strip joints, all fronted by tasteless, gilt-edged facades and enormous signs announcing the names of vulgar entertainers. He shuddered at the thought of those signs lit up by night, and made a mental note that he would not go out after dark.
Heidegger sat back in his seat and reflected on the events of the preceding three days. He looked down at the scratch on the back of his right hand, and remembered his struggle with Jackson in the octopus grotto beneath Neverland Ranch. It had been the Contessa Chinchilla Heatherton at the head of the invading army of clowns. Tyler Hassenpfeffer had caught the Berrys kidnapping Heidegger on videotape and, at Chinchilla’s insistence, turned it over to the Special Operations unit of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In a secret lab in Santa Monica, technicians from Industrial Light and Magic had blown up stills from the film and used a sophisticated face recognition program to identify the Berrys, who were both ex-cons. Two months earlier, the Berrys (calling themselves the Dickersons) had been slapped with a restraining order, ordering them to stay away from Michael Jackson. It didn’t take much to figure out that the Berrys were headed toward Neverland Ranch, and were trying to pass Heidegger off as their child.
In a matter of hours, Chinchilla, using her old TV connections, had assembled several dozen seasoned stuntmen, outfitted with clown costumes, so that they would blend in with Jackson’s servants. But these were no ordinary clown costumes. The wardrobe department at Eon Productions had fitted each costume with two concealed shoulder holsters. Some of the polka dots were detachable and, when crumpled and thrown, would explode on impact. The clowns’ red noses were molded from a powerful plastic explosive. Their huge clown shoes were balanced for throwing. Each clown carried a seltzer bottle in a side pocket, containing a nerve agent. Each was also issued a bicycle horn. When the bulb was squeezed, the horn functioned as a blunderbuss, and would blast a cloud of grapeshot. Hand buzzers were rigged to deliver a 1,700 volt shock, whoopee cushions were filled with sarin gas, and the fake dog poop was real.
Academy Award Winning cinematographer Joe Birock, A.S.C., had put the security cameras around Neverland out of commission, and a pyrotechnics team from M-G-M had blasted the front gates. At precisely 9:00pm, the raiding party had entered the grounds of the ranch—just at the point when Heidegger was being offered the Jesus juice.
When Bertha Kittridge had leveled her Luger at Heidegger, the philosopher thought he had had it. But milliseconds later, Bertha had screamed in agony as a stiletto-tipped clown shoe sunk into her brain. It had been thrown—expertly—by Hop Theng, Chinchilla’s Korean manservant. Chinchilla herself, dressed in a chic, black clown suit from Givenchy had rushed into the bedroom, tears streaming through her makeup, and had embraced Heidegger. Meanwhile, the rescue party were involved in a fierce gun battle with Jackson’s men. Heidegger changed channels on the closed circuit monitor and they were able to watch the melee, as armed clowns battled it out from behind the huge lollipops in the Imaginarie. On another monitor, they were horrified to see that Jackson, apparently using a remote control device, had opened the cages in the bestiary and unleashed the animals. In the foreground of the picture, they could see a great python with an enormous bulge in its gullet. Two absurdly long clown shoes poked out from its jaws. “Moment!” Hop Theng had cried, and he pressed a button which caused the closed circuit camera to pan across the bestiary. At the very back, they could see the glass case containing Karl-Heinz Rudiger Gunther Schraeling’s mummy rising out of the floor.
Da haben wir es ja, was wir wollen! thought Heidegger, and he led Chinchilla down the corridor, into the elevator, down three flights, and through a back way into the bestiary. They encountered minimal resistance. Just as they entered the bestiary, a giant vampire bat had swooped down and almost become entangled in Chinchilla’s hair. Heidegger quickly calmed her. When they came to the case containing Schraeling’s mummy, it took Heidegger only a few seconds to find the way to open it. The three of them now stepped inside and huddled close to the ghastly corpse. As soon as they shut the glass door behind them, the case began descending into the floor. Slowly, they went down, down into the subterranean depths of Neverland, through a featureless shaft of concrete. At last, the case BUMPED to a stop at the bottom of a large cave lit by floodlights. At its center was a man-made lagoon, and a long channel leading out, presumably into the ocean. Heidegger saw Jackson and Kittridge—still alive! Somehow she had gotten past the trio and joined Jackson. The clown shoe was still stuck in her head. The two of them were huddled over an object that looked rather like a huge, plastic thermos: Jackson’s personal submarine.
Heidegger opened the glass case as quietly as he could, and the three crept forward. Kittridge was opening the hatch of the bathosub, telling Jackson to get in without delay. Heidegger had to act fast. Crouching behind some boulders, he began reciting Hölderlin in a loud voice. Kittridge swung around, gun drawn, in time for her chin to connect with Hop Theng’s left heel. He had given her a vicious savate kick, and the impact sent the gun flying out of her hand, and clattering to Jackson’s feet. Jackson recoiled from it as if it were a deadly snake. Chinchilla, Heidegger, and Jackson now watched in silence as a spectacular display of martial arts unfolded before them. Kittridge and Hop Theng traded blows, any one of which would have killed an ordinary human being. From somewhere, Kittridge produced a trident, but Hop Theng chopped the wooden handle in two with the side of his hand, and the pieces splashed into the lagoon. Just when it seemed Hop Theng had the upper hand, Kittridge gave him a nasty chop in the groin. The little manservant doubled over in pain, but as Kittridge bent down to strangle him with her bare hands, Hop Theng suddenly whirled around and yanked the stiletto-tipped clown show from her cranium. The effect was remarkable. Kittridge simply froze. She stayed locked in the same position—bent over, reaching for Hop Theng. Even her eyelids stayed fixed, unblinking. Heidegger, Chinchilla, and Hop Theng contemplated this macabre spectacle for a few moments, and then turned just in time to see Jackson disappearing into his bathosub. With a ROAR of exhaust, he activated the atomic batteries. A tsunami of lagoon water now washed up and over the heroic trio, as the bathosub disappeared down the channel.
Heidegger had declined lunch with the president of Columbia Pictures, who wanted to present him with the Order of Bumstead. The studio writers’ department had told Heidegger that they were pretty sure Jackson could have somehow used his bone marrow extraction process to create an army of super beings. Intending to head off to an undisclosed location for a little R&R, Heidegger and Chinchilla booked a sleeping car on the 20th Century. It was obvious to Heidegger that the woman was infatuated with him, and there, in the sleeping car, in gratitude for rescuing him, he had given her what she wanted. After spending a couple of days together, however, Heidegger had wearied of her company. After a tearful goodbye, he caught a flight to Vegas.
The cab now stopped outside a short, squat brick structure, built in a “fabulous fifties” style. An oval sign on an outcrop of brick read “SANTORI’S RESTAURANT.” Heidegger paid the driver, got out, and entered the building. He was surprised to find the large, dimly lit dining room almost empty of patrons. Its rich, dark wood paneling only added to the gloom. When Heidegger spoke his name to the maitre d’, the man, an elderly Italian, practically genuflected, and quickly escorted him to a round booth at the very back of the restaurant. A man was already seated there, smoking a cigarette. He wore a raincoat, draped casually over one shoulder, and sported a small hat, of a type that had often been worn by men twenty years earlier, but had long since gone out of fashion.
“Professor Heidegger!” the man drawled loudly. “Have a seat. I’m Milo Artanis.”
Yes, even Heidegger knew that name. The legendary singer. The great “crooner” of the 1940s. The Vegas entertainer. The film star. The reputed mob favorite.
“Can I get you a drink?” Artanis asked. Before Heidegger could answer, he swiveled his head toward the front of the room and bellowed, “Arty! A scotch and soda for my friend here, and another one for me too.”
“Right away, Mr. Artanis,” a faint voice called back.
“Did you have a good trip? Are they treating you alright at the Sands? Because . . .” and now he leaned in close to Heidegger and jabbed the tablecloth with his index finger. “. . . if they’re not you just tell me. Tell ME, see? Because I’ve got connections. I can fix you up.”
Heidegger indicated that he was finding his accommodations quite adequate. The elderly maitre d’, who apparently did double duty as a waiter, brought the two drinks and took their order. “I’ll have the veal,” Artanis said. The waiter smiled. Obviously, this was Artanis’s “usual.” The singer turned to Heidegger. “I recommend the veal. Really. It’s the best thing on their menu. He’ll have the veal,” he said to the waiter, who then departed swiftly.
Artanis removed a fresh cigarette from a gold plated case and lit up. “So, to come to the point, Professor. You don’t mind if I call you Marty, do you? So anyway, to come to the point, I need your stuff.”
Heidegger stared into his blue eyes, uncomprehending.
“You’re the next big thing! You ARE the big thing! Your whole philosophy, all that jazz, it’s sweeping the fuckin’ country. And after that business with Jackson—Jesus, what a perv!—you’re a national—no, an international hero! So, I need your stuff.” Seeing that Heidegger still did not understand, he learned forward and became more excited. “Your material . . . Your words. I got this music man, Kurt Kataract. You heard of him? Everybody has. He’s going to put your words to music. I figured we could start with ‘The Origin of the Work of Art.’ Or maybe ‘The Question Concerning Technology.’ What do you think?”
Heidegger was speechless.
“Listen, if it’s a question of, well . . . you know . . .” Artanis was rubbing his thumb and index finger together. “Don’t worry about that. I’m going to get you a fantastic deal.”
The front door opened abruptly, casting a long rectangle of light over the shadowy room. A tall, thin man had entered and was approaching. He was young, but his hair was white. He wore a navy blue turtleneck, and a peace medallion dangled around his chest. “Kurt, baby!” Artanis called out. The two men greeted each other warmly, and then Heidegger was introduced to the newcomer, who turned out to be the aforementioned Kurt Kataract. “Listen, Marty. Kurt here is going to sit down at the piano and we’ll do a little demo for you. Just the stuff we’ve worked out so far.” There was a baby grand across the room. Artanis motioned for Heidegger to relocate himself, and the philosopher complied, sitting down at a table quite close to the piano. Kataract now sat before the instrument and Artanis stood next to him. “Now you understand, this is pretty rough. But it’ll give you a good idea.”
Kataract began playing the opening bars of a jaunty melody. After a few notes, he said “This is where the horns’ll come in.”
“Okay, okay. Save it kid,” Artanis said. “Just let me do the driving.” Now he threw his head back and began to sing.
Only image formed keeps the viSION!
YET—image formed rests in the poEM!
(Artanis was snapping his fingers at this point.)
How could cheerfullness stream through US if we wanted to shun sadNUSS?!
Pain gives of its healing power where we least EX-PECT it!
Scooby dooby doo…..
Heidegger sat with his hands folded in his lap, unsure of what to make of this. He did not immediately recognize the words as his own, but when he did he felt a sinking sensation and looked away.
“What’d ya think, Doc?” Kataract asked.
Before Heidegger could answer, Artanis cut in. “Don’t bother the man, Kurt! He’s a thinker. He’s a thinker. Give him time. Let’s do another number. One. Two. ONE—TWO—THREE—FOUR…!”
We never come to thoughts. They come to usssssss . . .
THAT is the proper hour of discourse!
Discourse cheers us to companionable reflecSHUN!
Such reflection neither parades polem . . . .
Artanis stumbled over “. . . polemical opinions”
. . . nor does it tolerate complaisant agreement. The sail of thinking . . .’
“Jesus! We’re going to have to hire Marilyn and Alan Bergman to smooth this stuff out.”
The front door opened again. None of them heard it, but another long rectangle of light spread out slowly across the floor. They all turned to look. In walked a middle-aged man of average height, balding on top, and dressed entirely in black.
“Jesus Christ it’s the A.P.A.,” Artanis whispered.
The man walked slowly toward them. He took a cigarette from a pack in his coat pocket and lit it with what looked like a large, old fashioned tabletop lighter. It made a loud CLICK as he popped open the top and shut it again. “Hello boys,” he said.
Artanis stepped forward. “May I introduce you gentlemen? Marty, Kurt, this is Robert Q. DeNameland, Consigliere to the Vegas chapter of the American Philosophical Association,” he made the introduction in an exaggeratedly formal, ironic manner. “Professor DeNameland, this . . .”
“Yeah, I know who he is,” DeNameland rasped. He meant Heidegger. Kataract didn’t exist, as far as he was concerned. He took a long drag on the cigarette. “Looks like you boys have got quite a party goin’ here. Mind if I join in?”
Artanis hesitated. “Sure,” he said. “We were just letting Professor Heidegger hear some of our material.”
DeNameland pulled a chair out from a nearby table and straddled it, the chair back to his chest. “Well, I’d LOVE to hear some too. Play on McDuff.”
Artanis nodded to Kataract, who looked worried, then cleared his throat and began again.
The world’s darkening never reaches to the light of Being . . .
We are too late for the gods and too early for BEEEing!
Being’s poem, JUST beguuuuuun . . . is MAN!
“Wait! Wait! Wait a minute!” DeNameland called out, interrupting them. Artanis and Kararact stopped abruptly. “Those is philosophical lyrics, ain’t they?”
“Well . . . I suppose . . . you could call them that,” Artanis stammered.
“Yeah, I COULD call them that, cause they are. You know the score, Milo. If you’re gonna play it in Vegas, then . . .”
“I know that, Bobby. But this isn’t for Vegas it’s for my new album. It’s national. I’m gonna record the songs in New York.” Artanis was sweating.
“New York? I’ll have to let the Eastern Division know about this.”
The front door opened again—but this time so violently that it BANGED against the wall of the foyer. A tall, thin man entered and moved quickly towards them. He was wearing a short-sleeve, white dress shirt from which a black pocket protector stuck out awkwardly. The man put his hands on his hips. “What’s going on here?” he said.
“Easy, Milt. We’re just havin’ a little concert,” DeNameland drawled, without getting up.
“Well, the word on the street is that they’re philosophical songs he’s playin’ here.”
“So what if they are. There’s no harm in that,” DeNameland answered. He turned to Heidegger. “You’ll have to forgive my colleague here. We sort of . . . co-run the Vegas A.P.A. We represent the two families, if you will.”
“I want to hear this stuff, Bobby,” Milt Dedwood said, threateningly.
Artanis stretched his arms out in a peace-making gesture. “Relax, boys. I’ll just play another one.”
When thought’s courage stems from the bidding of BEEEing, then DEStiny’s language thrives . . .
As soon as we have the thing before our eyes, and in our hearts an ear for the woooooord . . .
Thinking prospers . . .
There was a long silence after Artanis finished. Dedwood was shaking his head, his lower lip quivering. “I think I heard wrong. That don’t sound like philosophy to me. No sir.” He turned and marched out, letting the door SLAM behind him.
“Fuckin’ analytic philosopher!” DeNameland called after him. “Sorry for that rude interruption, gentlemen. Did you know that the average analytic journal article contains close to 2% mouse parts? Anyway, back to business Milo. And I don’t appreciate being given the runaround.”
As Artanis and DeNameland continued arguing it out, Heidegger rose slowly and looked around for the WC.
“Hey, where d’ya think you’re going?!” DeNameland called out, but he quickly corrected himself: “I mean, can I help you with something Professor Heidegger?”
Heidegger indicated that he only wanted to use the restroom and would be back in a moment. Artanis told him to turn the corner nearest them. He would find the restroom at the end of the corridor. As Heidegger went on his way, he glanced in the direction of the front window, which was covered by partially closed Venetian blinds. He saw two black sedans parked out front. Four men, all dressed in dark suits and wearing sunglasses, were loitering around the sedans, smoking cigarettes. Heidegger was getting a terrible feeling about this whole situation. A range of possibilities flashed through his mind. Could he crawl out the bathroom window? Or exit via the kitchen? He might get out of the building, but he was a celebrity. The men in black could spot him before he got very far. And where else might they be stationed? No, he needed a getaway.
Heidegger entered the bathroom. There was a window large enough for a man to crawl through, just above the toilet. He opened it as gingerly as he could. He saw an alleyway outside, and a street sign. Good, at least he knew his approximate location. But who could provide him with aid? Heidegger reached into his jacket pocket to retrieve his handkerchief, but instead pulled out a folded envelope. It was the letter from Peter Badgerhead. Heidegger opened it. Yes, the phone number was scrawled at the bottom, just as he had thought it was. Heidegger had passed a pay phone in the corridor, on the way to the bathroom. As quietly as he could, he stepped back out into the corridor, easing the door closed. He could hear the three men in the dining room, arguing violently. Heidegger fumbled with the unfamiliar American change in his pocket, and put a handful of it into the pay phone. Several of the coins came jingling down into the coin return slot. Heidegger waited for any sign that the men had heard, but none came. He dialed Peter Badgerhead’s phone number.
There were four rings, then the receiver was lifted. “Hello?” said a quavering, male voice. Heidegger began to introduce himself, as quietly as he could while still remaining audible. He heard a woman calling out in the background. “Just a minute, ma!” the man said. “Now what did you say your name was?” Heidegger introduced himself and was about to explain his situation, but was cut off. “Professor Heidegger! This is Peter Badgerhead! Oh, Jeez! Oh my gosh! I didn’t think when I wrote down . . . Golly! I can’t believe . . . I mean, like, you’re my IDOL. I worship you. I . . .” Heidegger cut in and explained his situation. He had to do this three times until he was fairly confident Badgerhead had understood him, and then he made his request. “The corner of . . . Sure! Sure!” Badgerhead cried, “I don’t live too far. I could be there in maybe fifteen minutes. No, make it ten! I’ll be there in five! Just stop at the alleyway? Okay, but a distinguished man like you . . . Oh, right. I’ll shut up now. Okay, you can count on me Professor Heidegger! I’ll see you then. Goodbye Professor Heidegger.” And the phone went dead.
Heidegger now went back into the bathroom and eased the window open. He sat on the sill, drew his knees up, and swiveled out and over into the alleyway, then hopped down. Heidegger was quite pleased with himself. He was more agile than he thought he would be. Quickly, he made for the entrance to the alley. Looking to his right, he could see the front fender of one of the sedans. Suddenly, one of the black-clothed men appeared. He tossed a spent cigarette onto the pavement and crushed it with the heel of his shoe, then turned about and disappeared. Heidegger ducked back into the alleyway. He remembered that he had not thought to ask Badgerhead what kind of car he would be driving. Still, he had given his location in very explicit terms, and he was sure Badgerhead would recognize him from the many photographs printed on the dust jackets of his books.
Heidegger looked at his watch. He figured he had been standing in the alley close to five minutes now. Suddenly, with a screech, a banana yellow Volkswagen Rabbit lurched up directly in front of him. A round, cherubic face beamed at him from the interior, beckoning him to get in. Heidegger did so, and they sped right past the men in black, who noticed nothing.
Heidegger sat back and sighed in relief.
“Boy, I sure am honored to meet you, Professor Heidegger. I mean, I just can’t believe this is happening. Why did you decide to call me?” The man said it as if he couldn’t imagine anyone deciding to call him. Heidegger reminded him of his situation. “Yeah,” Badgerhead said, “You gotta watch out for those A.P.A. guys in Vegas. They’re a different breed out here. Really rough. Although it’s been better since the truce.”
Heidegger asked him what he meant.
“The truce between the analysts and the pluralists. Boy, before that things were really bad. They would break up each other’s colloquia, there were death threats, everything. The final straw was when the pluralists invited Derrida to town. Three goons from the analytic wing—a logician, a philosopher of mind, and an ethicist—they did a drive-by. Nobody was hurt, but Derrida did get hit with some flying glass. After that was when they decided they’d better make some kind of a deal. I mean, if a kid took classes from analytic philosophers and then tried to take a class on Husserl, a couple of enforcers—usually logicians—would come over, break some of his bones. One time they carved an existential quantifier on some poor guy’s ass. I got beat up once by a philosopher of language. He kept knocking me in the head and saying ‘Clear? Is it clear to you what I’m saying?’ But I couldn’t retain all the abbreviations he was using, so I kept saying no, and he just kept hitting me. But the pluralists aren’t any better. In fact in some ways they’re worse. They’ll talk to you about tolerance and academic freedom while they’re putting your head in a vice or braining you with a baseball bat. But most of what they say you can’t even understand. Even Derrida was freaked out by them. So where are we going, Professor Heidegger?”
Heidegger suggested that Badgerhead drop him back at the Sands, but Badgerhead didn’t think that was such a good idea. “That’s just where they’re expecting you to go. Trust me, you’ve crossed ’em now, and they don’t like that. You go back to your hotel room, and there are gonna be a couple of deconstructionists there with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers. You need a place to hide out for a while, and I know just the place.”
A few minutes later they were pulling into a rather seedy housing development called Rancho Notorious. As soon as Heidegger got out of the car, he was hit with the thudding bass of “rap music.”
“This way, Professor. This way.” Badgerhead escorted him to a lower level apartment in one of the buildings. Heidegger caught the scent of boiling cabbage before Badgerhead had even opened the door. “Home sweet home!” he cried. “Mom! I’ve brought you a visitor!” Heidegger heard the call of a bird, probably a cockatoo, and the muffled voice of an older woman, obviously protesting having a guest thrust on her without warning. The apartment was clearly the mother’s. Every furnishing, every last touch was that of the Little Old Lady, right down to the lace doilies on the arms of the chairs. Heidegger felt that he was suffocating. He loosened his tie, just as Badgerhead reappeared with a tray of drinks. “I thought you might be a little thirsty after your ordeal. I mean, after what happened. So I brought you some Seven Up.” Heidegger took the glass with a polite gesture of thanks. “So, would you like to meet Mom?”
Badgerhead guided Heidegger down a short corridor and toward his mother’s bedroom. He turned quickly and whispered, “Mom’s a bit of a handful.”
The mother’s bedroom was dominated by a huge, brass bed, and the bed was dominated by the largest woman Heidegger had ever seen. It looked as if her great bulk had been poured into the mattress. It was not clear where she ended and the blankets and stuffing began. “Hey, honey,” the woman barked suspiciously after Badgerhead’s elaborate introduction. Heidegger bowed. It was a wonder the woman could talk at all. The triple rings of fat that were her neck looked like they ought to choke off speech. Heidegger noticed that beside her was a large paper bucket of fried chicken parts. Mrs. Badgerhead picked up a drumstick and began gnawing on it.
“I left Mom her dinner before I came to get you,” Badgerhead explained. “The cabbage is for me. For later.”
“So, what the fuck are you?” Mrs. Badgerhead exclaimed, her mouth full of fowl.
Heidegger explained calmly that he was a philosopher.
“Yeah,” she drawled. “Bunch of horseshit if you ask me.”
Badgerhead drew himself up. “Mom, I’ve been telling you for years. Philosophy is the oldest and noblest of all the disciplines. Why . . . it asks fundamental questions that help guide our life. And the agon! The nobility of the agon! It enriches us, Mom.”
“Yeah, that’s why you’re swabbing sperm at the local jack shack.” She spat a bone onto the comforter.
Badgerhead quickly bustled Heidegger out of the bedroom. “Mom’s always a little grumpy before her main course,” he whispered. When they had returned to the parlor, Heidegger was bidden to seat himself in a stiff, highly uncomfortable Victorian armchair.
Badgerhead stood before him, bent slightly with his hands pressed together, as if about to beg. “Uh, while we’re waiting for . . . for when you can safely be on your way, I thought I might share with you some of my journals. I’ll read them to you. The stuff about you is really . . . really okay, I think. I started it while I was in a . . . facility.” Now he lowered his eyes. “Nothing dramatic. I just started drinking a little too much cough medicine, so Mom put me someplace for a while where they could help. Anyways, I wrote a lot in my journal about Being and Time while I was there. I’ll go get it and read it to you.” He disappeared into a little alcove and began opening drawers, hunting for the journal.
Heidegger drew his knees up to his chest and embraced them. He kept thinking to himself, Mein Gott, Mein Gott, Mein Gott, Mein Gott, Mein Gott . . .