Chapter five of a novel, Heidegger in Chicago (a comedy of errors).
The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan was just as Heidegger remembered it. He arrived late in the afternoon, and it was raining. The following evening, he was scheduled to make his next public appearance. It was to be held at the famous Cooper Union, and had been co-sponsored by the Rensselaer Lasch Institute and the New York University Students of Atomic Realism. Heidegger had never heard of either. The night before the event, he had been called by Brenda Lasch, apparently the wife of Rensselaer, to inform him of the arrangements. Heidegger was horrified to discover that he had inadvertently agreed to a public debate. His opponent was to be this Mr. Lasch, of whom Heidegger had also never heard. But he decided it was too late to back out at this point.
At 6:30pm of the following day, Heidegger took a cab to the Cooper Union and was met by Brenda Lasch. “How do you do,” she said, in a curiously detached, aloof tone. Heidegger noted that she seemed to be wearing too much makeup. She held her head quite high, and he sensed that she regarded him with some contempt. He was led to the stage, on which had been placed two lecterns with a chair next to each. Heidegger was directed to sit in the one on the left. He noticed that there was a long table covered with books off to the side of the hall. “May I get you something to drink?” asked Mrs. Lasch. Heidegger declined her offer, but asked if he could take a look at the books, as there were still some minutes to kill. “Of course,” she said and led Heidegger over. A young, bookish man in large glasses sat behind the table, obviously in charge of selling the books. Heidegger got a jolt when his eyes settled on the volume closest to him: THE ETERNAL SOURCE by DAGMAR ERTL. The cover art looked remarkably like Soviet realism. It depicted a nude man hefting an enormous length of pipe underneath a stylized sun.
Now this rang a bell. Dagmar Ertl had been a big sensation in America some fifteen years earlier. The Eternal Source, her first novel, was a bestseller. Elfride had read the German translation and given Heidegger a detailed description of the plot.
The hero of The Eternal Source was an engineer named Finn McCool who had won the task of building an oil pipeline through Yosemite National Park. The villain was a zealous ecologist named Measley Swillspittle who tried everything to destroy McCool and his plans. Heidegger remembered Elfride describing the incredibly vivid scenes in which forests and mountains were blasted to dust in order to make way for the pipeline. She had read aloud one portion to him in which the hero and heroine made love on a pile of dynamite, destined the following morning to destroy an Indian burial mound. The love interest was a ballerina named Aryana Frost. Initially, Aryana resists McCool, and even attempts to destroy him through dance. In the end, however, she joins him and together they dynamite a dam, flooding a nearby home for subnormal children. At his trial, McCool makes a heroic speech arguing for “man’s right to do as he damn well pleases.” McCool is acquitted, and Swillspittel commits suicide by taking an overdose of bromides. In the final, justifiably famous scene, McCool makes violent love to Aryana and, in a gesture symbolic of what Ertl called “man’s pioneering spirit,” her screams break the sound barrier.
Ertl was born Rosa Sternblatt in Latvia in 1904. In her autobiography, And I Mean It! (1959) she had claimed that she left Latvia due to an anti-Semitic pogrom. In fact, subsequent research has revealed that there was no pogrom, and that the inhabitants of Ertl’s town meant to kill her alone. In any case, on immigrating to the United States in 1924 she took the name Dagmar Ertl, which she had lifted, along with two hundred and fifty dollars, from a Norwegian woman she bumped into on Ellis Island. From there, it was off to Hollywood, where Ertl worked as stuntwoman in numerous silent films, largely owing to her uncanny resemblance to Fatty Arbuckle. All the while, however, she yearned to be a screenwriter. In 1928, she sold a screen treatment to Paramount, which the studio bought as a possible vehicle for Zazu Pitts. Entitled I Will Scourge You! the story centered around the headmistress of a school for the daughters of Sweden’s nobility. Ertl later adapted it into a short story, “Whatever You Do Don’t Scourge Me!” A brief excerpt from that story, which was not published until after Ertl’s death, will give some indication of its flavor:
After her confession, Greta was taken to the Correction Wing. Anna awaited her, a short leather whip gripped tightly in her left hand. “Do you know why you have been brought here?” she asked the girl.
“Yes. Because I dared to tie a knot that could not be untied,” Greta replied, trembling.
“You have confessed. But that is only part of what we ask. You must also repent of your crime.”
Greta threw her head back and laughed—and, oh! There never was such laughter. “I do not repent my deeds. In fact, tomorrow I shall build a mountain that I cannot climb over.”
“Remove her garments!” cried Anna to the two sturdy matrons. Greta was stripped to the waist and chained to the cold, brick wall. When Anna’s lash came down on her she felt as if her heart would leave her body. Again and again it came down. And the entire time, the one thought that was at the center of Greta’s mind was her secret love for Anna, and her dream that one day, together, they might desalinize the Atlantic.
I Will Scourge You! was never filmed. In 1935, Ertl began writing The Eternal Source, which was originally entitled Blast! It took Ertl seven years just to complete the first paragraph:
Finn McCool washed. He stood naked in his shower. From some far off place he heard the sound of a man singing. She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes, she’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes . . . Then he realized the singing came from himself. That morning he had lost his license to practice engineering in all forty eight states. This had been the result of a judge’s decision in a court case that had dragged on for thirteen months. McCool had been hired to rationalize the system of tunnels that meandered through the San Diego zoo, enabling the keepers to enter and leave cages, feeding and caring for the animals. The zoo’s board of directors, a group of grey men in even greyer suits, had ordered McCool not to alter the zoo’s basic structure. McCool responded early one Sunday morning. He had hired a fleet of bulldozers from all over San Diego. At precisely six a.m., McCool had blown a whistle and the bulldozers had charged forward, sweeping away the entire zoo: buildings, trees, and animals. The inhabitants of San Diego awoke that morning to find a huge wall of rubble and writhing limbs rushing across town. The noise was said to have been incredible. In the end, McCool had been found by the police standing on top of a pile of zebras. “Arrest me,” he said. “I’ll talk at the trial.”
Initially, when it was finally published in 1944, The Eternal Source was coolly received. However, by word of mouth (especially, strange to say, among the inmates of American prisons) sales began to pick up, until one year later the novel had become a bestseller. Ertl was suddenly catapulted to celebrity.
Immediately, she began work on her next novel. In the process of planning it, Ertl realized that she needed to work out her philosophy more fully. Critics had called The Eternal Source an expression of “atomic individualism.” Gradually, Ertl began to take these words to heart. She developed the philosophy she would later christen atomic realism. At a meeting with her publishers, Ertl was asked if she could explain her philosophy while standing on one hand. She is said to have done so as follows:
- Metaphysics: All that exists is atoms and empty space.
- Epistemology: Realism—our senses are acted upon by the atoms.
- Ethics: Act atomically and return things to the atoms.
- Politics: Every man for himself.
Unaware that she was reinventing Epicureanism, Ertl declared that everything is made out of atoms. Change is just a rearrangement of the atoms, which are deathless. The processes that bring about change are predictable, but are purely mechanical and without purpose. There is thus no God and also no soul. Man is but a plaything of the atoms, and every aspect of his character is determined by forces beyond his control. There is a strange conflict, however, between these metaphysical theses and the ethical claims of Ertl’s philosophy. Ertl does not seem to realize that the assertion that man is completely determined is incompatible with the idea that man is a heroic being. On the one hand, she is a strict determinist, on the other, a moralist who expounds on what men should and should not do. The characters in her novels are all heroic men of action who look down upon the “do-nothings” and “leeches.”
The chief commandment of Ertl’s ethics is “act atomically,” which means that one should strive to be as independent as possible. Ertl’s followers, who call themselves “students of atomic realism,” sometimes take this to absurd extremes. Many have become hermits, avoiding all human contact. Ertl also enjoins her followers to “return things to the atoms,” by which she means to destroy things by breaking them down into their constituents, from which something new and useful might be constructed. She explains this concept in a work from the 1960s, Introduction to Atomic Realist Metaphysics:
As a useful example, take an old chair. It may be broken up and its wood components used to make pencils, matches, or to serve as kindling in a fire. An organization may be broken up. Its members can make up a new, more efficient organization. Or take the body of an old man. His organs may be harvested to save the lives of others, or to be used in medical research. In general, we have an obligation to facilitate the rearrangement of matter. In fact, if man has a cosmic destiny (and I use this phrase only figuratively) it would be this: to be the nous of the world, facilitating the soulless processes that draw the atoms apart and separate them. But note that man must be nous, or mind. Mindless destruction cannot be justified.
The trouble was that many of the characters in her novels engaged in acts that looked precisely like mindless destruction. And the “students of atomic realism,” predictably, were forever getting in the papers after dynamiting this or that. In a 1961 interview with Screw magazine, Ertl was compelled to defend herself against the charge that she encouraged violence in her followers.
Though The Eternal Source had gained Ertl notoriety, it is not the novel her followers regard as her masterwork. That honor belongs to the novel she would publish some fourteen years later, in 1958, Atomic Titan. Some 3,000 pages long, it was issued by Doubleday in two volumes, with a handsome box to hold them. Paperback copies are usually sold with a small magnifying glass.
Atomic Titan is the story of Titania Baggins, a woman who has inherited a fleet of majestic Zeppelins. While struggling to keep her company airborne in the face of stiff competition from the airline, train, and shipping industries, Titania discovers a mysterious conspiracy to rid the world of the color green. Clothiers have been bought off, and refuse to manufacture green clothes. American money turns red, eyeshades turn blue, and passengers on steamships turn orange. One day, Titania awakens to find her front lawn brown, along with the entire countryside. Her crewmen begin talking about the “Dutchman,” a phantom Zeppelin seen only at night, which has been bedeviling air traffic. Having heard such tales before, Titania dismisses them as superstition. But one day, while picnicking in the Scottish Highlands, Titania comes across a strange encampment, around which are strewn barrels marked “BG-30.” She hides and waits until nightfall, only to see a black Zeppelin touch down. Secreting herself inside the craft, she discovers that the airship is piloted by a handsome rogue named Lars von der Vogelweide. BG-30 is the chemical he is using to turn green vegetation brown. Titania attacks Lars with a hammer, but he subdues her, and the Zeppelin soon returns them to his lair, which is concealed inside a huge, disused water tower. There, among the barrels of BG-30, Lars makes violent love to Titania. Afterwards, she demands to know his plan. “There is no plan,” he confesses. “I took the green . . . because it’s there!”
This is a recurring theme in Ertl’s work, and critics seize upon it to argue that despite her protestations she does indeed condone senseless destruction. In any case, Titania joins Lars. She enlists her fleet of Zeppelins to spread BG-30 across the entire European continent. After an exciting ski chase in which Lars and Titania are almost apprehended by the Austrian police, the pair escape into Switzerland and amuse themselves by poisoning wells. After mooring the largest Zeppelin in the world to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Lars and Titania rain death down on the inhabitants of Paris in the form of helium balloons carrying fragile wax balls filled with hydrochloric acid. Finally, they are captured just as Titania is about to torpedo a steamship filled with microcephalics. Lars agrees to cooperate with the police and explain to them how to counteract the effects of BG-30, if they will allow him to address the world by radio. There follows what to Ertl’s followers is the highpoint of the novel, and to her detractors the low point. Lars von der Vogelweide’s speech lasts for four hundred and eleven pages. He expounds the philosophy of atomic realism, but also much else. Ertl includes not only metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics, but also aesthetics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, philosophy of history, speculative physics, botany, zoology, origami, and wine making. At one point, Lars pauses to gargle and Ertl inserts a cake recipe. This is followed by a response to anticipated criticisms of the novel, followed by a denunciation of waste in the dairy industry. A few excerpts will suffice to indicate the tone of Lars’s speech.
Lars on metaphysics:
Atoms atom and the conceptual articulation of that axiom implies three correlative lemmas: that atoms are, that nothing else is save empty space (viz. nothing), and that human beings exist possessing consciousness characterized by cognitive powers constituted by the atoms, and for the cognition of the atoms, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving aggregates of atoms.
Lars on ethics:
Do I hear you say that you want to be with others? Of all your sins that is the one which damns you most of all. The voice that cries out from the heart “let me love,” “let me be with others,” “let me not be alone” this is the voice of imbecility and moral decay. Do you hear ringing in your ears the “thou shalt” that commands that you cleave to your brethren? To this I issue a new “thou shalt”: thou shalt be as the atoms! Independent, impenetrable, indivisible, approaching others but never touching. Do you call the life that I demand harsh and unforgiving? To this I respond: and how!
Lars on the history of philosophy:
The first of the great annihilators was your Anaximander, who declared all things to be a soupy oneness. He was followed by a drooling swami named Heraclitus, whose woozy jottings on the flux abandoned reason altogether. Finally, a new dawn came with Democritus, which was quickly forgotten when men crawled down into the muck of Plato’s cave. Plato! That foulest of all foul deceivers, who denied the world and the atoms to make room for a netherworld of fantasies and his God. Western philosophy has mostly followed Plato’s example, damning the atoms, damning sense, damning man, damning it all! And this is what you call enlightenment? Sorry kids, but no cigar!
Lars on cuisine:
Take the hamburger sandwich, for instance. In contrast to the decadent soufflé or casserole, in which all sense of distinction is eliminated, the hamburger sandwich is a tower of distinct elements, each of which retains its specific identity and can be recombined to form a new meal. It is no accident that this culinary masterpiece has come to symbolize America all over the world. America! A land where a man can live as he pleases, for what he pleases, fenced off from his neighbor, closed within his abode, not giving a damn about anyone. All you who hear me, all of you have gained in your lives either directly or indirectly from this great nation, all of you should take five minutes and give silent thanks before the fattest, greasiest hamburger sandwich you can find!
The speech concludes with Lars commanding his listeners, “To a gas chamber go!” Afterwards, Ballsak, the President of Earth and Rotating Premier of the Sun System, implores Lars to take over and lead the world. Lars refuses and, in a dramatic scene, he and Titania escape from the General Assembly building of the United World Agency. In an autogiro, they head for Lars’s Fortress of Solitude in the arctic. There, Lars has built an enormous generator, powered by sunlight reflected off snow. A huge cable extends from the heart of the generator to the Arctic Ocean, where it disappears beneath the ice caps. His plan is to electrify the world’s oceans and kill every last living thing in them, again because “it’s there.” Titania, however, decides that this time he has gone too far. At first she tries to dissuade him, but is unsuccessful. Just as he is about to throw the switch, she launches herself at him with a crowbar. As they scuffle, Titania accidentally falls on the switch, turning on the generator and electrifying the oceans. On closed circuit television they watch as billions of fish and other sea creatures fly up and out of the world’s oceans in their death throes. Titania achieves sexual climax for the first time, and, in the novel’s final scene, falls to her knees and makes an oath of fealty to Lars.
To put it mildly, the reviews of Atomic Titan were brutal. It was denounced from the pages of every newspaper in America, and abroad. “Nietzsche meets the Marquis de Sade,” opined the New York Times. Ertl’s relatives in Latvia received permission to visit America so that they could argue in court for having her committed. The case was thrown out. Then the great “Ertl death threat” craze of the fall of ’58 began. It started with some anonymous notes mailed to her publisher, Mortimer Snerd. “ERTEL [sic] I WILL KILL YOU YOU ARE MONSTER,” one read. The message was formed out of letters cut from a magazine. This was reported in the media nationwide. Radio commentator Walter Winchell did a story on the death threats, ending with the comment, “For my money, it would be poetic justice if somebody knocked off this colossal misanthrope. Gee whiz, I might even do it myself!” This was followed three days later by a similar editorial comment by Edward R. Murrow, who also ended by threatening to kill Ertl. Within a week, other journalists and even Hollywood stars were openly expressing their desire to kill the author. “I’d stab her in the heart if she had one,” quipped Steve Allen. “Yes, I’d like to kill her. No I haven’t read the novel,” said Jayne Mansfield in response to a reporter who stopped her at a premiere. “Kill her!” shouted a grinning Vice President Nixon as he boarded a helicopter on the White House lawn.
For the rest of 1958 and into 1959, Ertl had to hire bodyguards to protect her everywhere she went. One of these bodyguards was a young student working his way through New York University. His name was Avi Fischbein. A psychology major, he had come across Ertl’s work when one of his professors had said, “Oh, you must read her. She’s insane.” He had devoured The Eternal Source in a single day. That was in 1957. When Atomic Titan was published, he bought a copy on the very first day it was offered for sale, just as the bookstore opened. While working as Ertl’s bodyguard he tried several times to engage her in conversation, but each time she rebuffed him by hitting him in the face with a pie. So he tried an indirect route by getting to know Ertl’s husband, Lamus. Ertl had been married to Lamus O’Geldinng since 1928. Once described as the least funny vaudevillian of them all, he had given up the stage many years earlier and was now an embittered morphine addict. He would shoot up openly, in front of Ertl and her friends and bodyguards. “Lamus needs another vitamin shot!” she would say, and scratch his chin with her long fingernails. Avi confided in Lamus that he desperately wanted to get to know Ertl. “Then fuck her,” Lamus had replied.
Avi was a handsome, brown-haired, brown-eyed Jewish boy of twenty-one. By contrast, Dagmar Ertl was fifty-five years old. She weighed three hundred pounds and stank of herring. Her hair was long and stringy and unkempt, her clothes tattered and covered with grave mould. Nevertheless, a mutual attraction developed. Ertl discovered that this boy understood her ideas better than her own husband, or any man she had ever met. Soon, they began an affair, though this was unknown to Heidegger and to most of the world. There was only one complication: Avi’s young wife Brenda. He solved this problem easily enough by drugging the warm milk she drank each night before going to bed, and racing across town to be with Ertl.
By the spring of 1961, at Ertl’s suggestion, Avi had changed his name to Rensselaer Lasch and had established the Rensselaer Lasch Institute, which distributed lectures on Ertl’s philosophy. A circle of admirers formed around Ertl. Known as “the atom smashers,” they met regularly for discussions in Ertl’s apartment. Each meeting followed the same pattern. The members of the group would roll up their sleeves to reveal Ertl’s personal symbol, which had been branded on each of them:
Ertl herself wore the symbol, in the form of a gold brooch. The “atom smashers” would then trample on a cross and say the Lord’s Prayer backwards. The evening would climax with each of them coming forward to kiss Ertl’s rump. Afterwards, they would snack on mounds of sweet pastries, drink expresso, smoke a great deal, and then go home around dawn. Every so often a member would be suspected of some form of deviationism, whereupon a “trial” would be held in Ertl’s apartment, presided over by Lasch. The guilty party would then be baked by Ertl in a pie. At least, such were the rumors . . .
“Professor Heidegger?” said a stiff, male voice.
Heidegger was startled. He turned around to see a largish man staring at him. He had a head that seemed too big for his body, a shock of silver hair, and penetrating eyes. “I am Rensselaer Lasch.” He did not smile on introducing himself, or even extend his hand. He gave Heidegger every impression that he found dealing with him a distasteful duty. “Would you care to approach your lectern? We are about to begin.” Heidegger did as he was asked. By this point, the hall had almost filled to capacity, and the attendees were busily chatting amongst themselves. Suddenly, a hush fell over the room. Dagmar Ertl had entered, accompanied by several of the “atom smashers.” She wore a black cloak emblazoned with the “atomic” pin, what looked like a Napoleonic tricorn hat, and wooden shoes. Three wolfhounds nipped at her heels. She and her entourage sat down in the front row, then Ertl nodded and smiled at Lasch.
Lasch cleared his throat and began. After thanking the organizers, he announced the topic of the debate. “We are here tonight to debate a question that is of the utmost importance to human life on this earth. Our topic is: Being or beings. Being or beings. That is our question. My opponent, Martin Heidegger,” here his voice rose as if he were a prosecutor denouncing the foulest of criminals, “has denied that beings exist and believes only in a mystical Being which, he says, is nothing!”
Heidegger frowned at this.
Lasch immediately held up a copy of “What is Metaphysics?” “Do you deny it?! It’s all here in black and white, sir! Professor Heidegger has denied the undeniable: he has denied the existence of the primal, atomic beings, and proclaimed the void as the only reality!”
After Lasch had finished his tirade, Heidegger patiently explained that he had not denied that beings exist, he had merely drawn a distinction between beings and Being. He also explained that he had indeed said that Being is nothing but only because it is not a being, and hence no-thing. This was accompanied by much eye-rolling and sighing by Lasch, as well as hisses from the audience. Every time Lasch finished a point, the audience would applaud tumultuously. All Heidegger could do was to calmly respond to each of the confusions and distortions present in Lasch’s utterances. An hour into the debate he felt dizzy.
Afterwards, a crowd of admirers gathered around Lasch, but Ertl left quickly, protected by her entourage. Heidegger noticed that as she turned to leave, she blew a quick kiss to Lasch with her gloved hand, then grabbed her crotch and gave a wolf whistle. Heidegger thought this odd, but gave it no further thought. He was left standing alone at his lectern. After a few minutes, Lasch approached him looking like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary. He slapped Heidegger on the arm. “Well, Professor. Miss Ertl has asked me to invite you back to her apartment for a little celebration. We atomic realists can be gracious in victory.” Heidegger was about to decline, but then he thought that it might be interesting, and accepted.
An hour later Heidegger’s cab deposited him at an apartment house on East Thirty-fourth Street. The doorman announced him, and soon he was being ushered into Dagmar Ertl’s seventh floor apartment. The living room was smaller than he expected, and filled with starkly modern furniture. Electric blue polka dots, Ertl’s favorite design, dominated the room. A cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air. “Greetings, Professor Heidegger!” Ertl herself was now approaching him, a hand held out to shake his. Her eyes were not as penetrating as they had been described to him. In fact, they looked rather filmy or oily to him, as if the orbs were swimming in mucous. She spoke to him in English, though Heidegger had heard that she was fluent in German, and also spoke a passable Mandarin. “Vould you like a lady finger?” she said, in her thick Latvian accent. A black woman dressed in a frilly French maid’s outfit offered him a plate, which he declined. Ertl chatted with him pleasantly about his trip to the United States, and about the brief time she had spent in Germany after leaving Latvia. Heidegger had the impression that she was deliberately avoiding intellectual matters because she did not regard him as a worthy interlocutor. She kept patting his arm and speaking to him very gently, as if he had been wounded or were convalescing.
After a few minutes, she left him and went to mingle with the other guests. Heidegger discovered that if he pressed his nose to the window he could just see the tip of the nose of the person pressed to the window of the apartment in the building opposite. He wanted to avoid looking at the guests. The entire affair had the feeling of a wake rather than a party. All that was missing was the coffin in the center of the room.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” Brenda Lasch had approached him from behind. Heidegger turned to look at her. Her head was held so high he thought it remarkable that her nose wasn’t bleeding. “Let me introduce you to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve,” she said, taking Heidegger’s arm.
Suddenly, Dagmar Ertl climbed on top of a chair and called out to the room. “Listen, everyone! I’m sorry to interrupt your gay merry making, but I hef an important announcement. Please be seated.” The entire room obeyed her at once. Lamus O’Geldinng appeared, festooned with crumbs, and produced a small stool for Heidegger to sit on. “I hef been vaiting for ze proper moment to tell you all zis, and I suppose tonight vill hef to do,” Ertl continued. “A veek ago I vas playing Tiddly Vinks vith Lamus and suddenly I fell over ze board and vent into a trance.”
At this the room gasped.
“I lost consciousness briefly, but then found myself floating down a long tunnel. Zer vas a bright light at the end of it, and pretty music vas playing—music I hef not heard since I vas a girl in Latvia. As I got furzer down ze tunnel, a figure appeared at ze end. Ven I got closer I recognized him. Who do you suppose it vas? It vas Jesus! He vas vearing dark blue coveralls and he carried a T-square. As I approached, he took me by the hand and said to me, ‘You hef been a very naughty girl, Rosa.’ Zat’s my real name, you see. ‘You must be punished.’
“Instantly I vas sent off to Purgatory. I vas stripped of my garments, stuffed into a kind of pod, and then lashed repeatedly by shirtless musclemen in black leather masks. After zat I vas forced to get down on my hands and scrub all of heaven. ‘Scrub it clean, bitch,’ said Jesus. ‘Now scrub my boot,’ he said, sticking it out in front of me. ‘No lick, it.’ Vell, I vill spare you all ze details. Anyvay, he told me zat it vas not yet my time, and that zis vas but a foretaste. After zat, he took my hand and ve flew out over ze clouds, over ze whole earth. Zen ve flew under ze earth and into Hell. ‘Zis is where naughty girls go,’ Jesus said to me.
“Hell vas a horrible place! It vas filled vith writhing, naked bodies undergoing unimaginable torments. It smelled worse zan anything you could imagine. Zer ver seven million dungeons in hell, vith seven hundred thousand chambers in each dungeon, and seventy thousand cells visin each chamber, and each chamber had seven thousand forms of torture and every poor soul suffered seven hundred stabbing pains every seven milliseconds. I’m telling you, it vas bad!
“Zen ve vent to see ze devil himself. He vas several miles tall, so zat ven ve stood at his feet, ve couldn’t see his head. Jesus miracled me up to ze devil’s ass and I spent awhile hovering around ze outside of it. Just as I was becoming veak vith fear, ze devil broke vind. Ze blast blew me out of hell, and as I sailed across ze world at incredible speed, I heard Jesus call to me and he said: ‘Be a good girl now, Rosa. Renounce your atheist philosophy and dedicate yourself to good vorks. Renounce your lover Lasch and return to your faithful husband Lamus. You and Lamus must go around ze vorld proclaiming ze Good News from out of a tent for ze rest of your life. Zat is ze only vay you can get through ze pearly gates.’
“Zen I avoke vith my head on ze Tiddly Vinks board and found Lamus giving himself a vitamin shot.” As she said these final sentences, she removed the gold “atomic” brooch from her cape, and pinned a crucifix in its place.
Heidegger looked around the room. There was dead silence. No one spoke. He looked to his left and noticed that Rensselaer Lasch lay unconscious on the carpet by the credenza.
Dagmar Ertl was now dancing around in a circle and clapping her hands, singing:
People get ready . . . Jesus is comin’!
Soon we’ll be goin’ home.
People get ready . . .
Jesus is comin’!
To take from the world His own.
People get ready . . . Jesus is comin’!
Soon we’ll be goin’ home . . .