We ran into Nollendorf, a particularly demoralizing example of the Junker aristocrat gone to seed, in the Spielothek. He looked even worse than usual. His good arm was in a sling, and his mustache looked slept on. "Herr Failhuerrrr" he purred, bowing low so as to show off the crown of his hairless pate, which looked as if someone had been pounding on it with a stiletto heel. We said, "Where's your bad arm?" In hock, it turned out, with his monocle. He would had pawned his dueling scars if he could have. Nollendorf had bad habits but we liked him. The Brits loathed him, the Yanks distrusted him, and the Russians wanted to shoot him on general principles, but Nollendorf was our kind of guy. We don't think we flatter ourselves when we say we were probably Nollendorf's only friend. He led us across the street to a corner imbiss where you could buy Goldkorn that was probably sterno for a Lied. He said, in an accented english that he'd picked up from Christoper Isherwood, "I am so sad. It is the not fucking. It is a peculiarity of mine that I cannot fuck without my monocle." He picked his Goldkorn up with his teeth and downed it, and the alcohol did something to his left eye that made us wish he had his monocle back. We said, "The baby." Nollendorf smiled, and several patrons promptly got up and left. He had a Gestapo-quality smile, Nollendorf did. He finally whispered, "The Adlon, at nine", got to his feet and left. We slipped a handful of marks into his pocket as he passed us. His departure pleased the imbiss crowd and gave us some time to think. We passed a newspaper kiosk in the American Zone. Maris had hit his 61st. It was goodbye Babe, hello big-headed Chinese baby. He was back in Berlin, but why? Was he dealing with the Soviets? The Stasi? No doubt about it, something big was astir in the East. It was making everybody hinky. We stopped back at the hotel, had a shower and a pork chop in the dining room. Over our Bier, we tried to make all the people tailing us. Our fellow patrons were like a Who's Who of Cold War Paranoia. We stepped into the Toiletten, and hit the fellow we figured for the baby's guy (it wasn't hard; we just looked for the guy eating on the biggest per diem) with our sap. Then we headed for the Adlon, where we spied Nollendorf in the lobby by a potted plant, trying to look inconspicuous. Inconspicuous was not his metier. He looked like a vulture trying to fit in. We'll say one thing for Nollendorf though; he cleaned up reasonably well. He had his monocle back, along with his arm, and he was in evening wear that wouldn't have looked out of place at the swearing-in of President von Hindenburg. In fact, we never saw Nollendorf looking so good. He looked almost happy, too, as he caught our eye and attempted to saunter--it was more of a lurch, actually--in our direction. He must have gotten laid, the poor fellow. If so, we hope it was good, for he wasn't more than halfway across the polished floor when we heard the sound of a Luger and saw Nollendorf drop, still happy, to the floor. We reached him amidst a stampede of unhappy guests and said "Nollendorf, my God you've been shot!" We'll never forget the look on his face. "Oh," he said, only mildly displeased. "I'm certain it's nothing too serious. Look here, about the baby, Herr Failhuerrrr. I do not know why you are so concerned about him, for he is only here--and I have this on good authority--to build walls." Then Nollendorf--good, creepy, dependable old Nollendorf--died. Two days later, the East Germans started building. We were at Nollendorf's funeral at the time. It was a small affair, just us and his landlady. She looked like she was dearly hoping Nollendorf would climb out of the coffin and pay her his back rent. Nollendorf--god bless him--didn't oblige her.
Is there anybody who doesn't know how this stupid "blockbuster" turns out? We decided to check with our close personal friends "The Two Japanese Guys Still Hiding in the Jungle Because They Don't Know World War II's Over" to find out.
UF: Hey guys!
TJGs: Surrender, Long Nose!
UF: Are you going to go see The Da Vinci Code?
JG #1: Why bother? Everybody knows how that shit ends.
JG #2: Jesus marries the hooker, they make little babies... boring.
JG #1: Hey, tell us something we don't know. Did we win the war yet?
JG #2: Or are we going to have to continue to kick your butterstinker asses?
Is called, we shit you not, "Wired for Pheasant." At first we suspected Fido might be high on crystal meth. But he doesn't look wired for much of anything, except maybe a nap. He's wearing this look that says, "Oh, boy. Another pheasant. The thrill. Farm's falling to pieces, and we're out here flushing fucking ringnecks."
Said Sir Anthony Blunt, Soviet spy and art expert for the Queen, "On the painting called the 'The Secret History of the 20th Century', belongs to none other than the big-headed Chinese baby." He sighed. We were seated at a bench in St. James Park in a fine drizzle, two hatless old men in tweed looking backwards into the wilderness of mirrors. "He never hated you, you know," said Blunt. "The big-headed Chinese baby never hated anyone. Far from it. He loved the world, he loved it so much. He was simply... mischievous, I suppose you'd say." "You speak about him as if he were dead," we said. "Yes, I suppose I do," said Sir Anthony. "But only because I'm dead to him. I've outworn my usefulness, you see. I'm tired. That's the thing about the big-headed Chinese baby. He's tireless. I dare say he's even immortal. He does wear one down. You should know that." "We have word he's in Somalia," we said. "Of course," said Blunt. "He would be now, wouldn't he? Well, if you should run into him there, tell him I asked after his health." Then he got up, and led us to the British Museum, where we stood for a long time before Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes' "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters".