“Fore!” Jim yelled. Even in Paradise he hooked the damn ball.
“Ha!” Hitler laughed. “Right in the trees!”
A bear-drawn chariot carried them up the fairway. Jim looked sideways at his companion, thinking he looked much better without the mustache. This was all the result of a lottery, the winner of which was balls deep in Cleopatra right about now. Golfing with Hitler was the consolation prize.
“I didn’t know you were a golfer,” Jim said.
“It was Plato that showed me golf,” Hitler said. “He said it would help me relax.”
Plato. He recognized the name from philosophy class. Something about a cave. Sometimes he swore heaven was like walking through a goddamn history lesson.
“So uh, I don’t mean to be that guy, but didn’t you kill a whole lot of people?”
“As a matter of fact, in this place I’ve only killed one person. Turns out it only counts if you pull the trigger.”
“Oh come on.”
“You were, like, the king of the Nazis.”
“I was – it doesn’t matter. But when I came to this place, they only credited me with one kill, and that was me.”
Jim lined up his shot and swung. The ball sailed, bounced once on the green and went over.
“I don’t buy it. How is that even possible?” he said.
“You’re only responsible for what you do. According to the records, I mostly just talked a lot.”
“But you set everything up. You were the guy that gave the orders. Like, six million Jews and a bunch of Russians died. How do you not get credit for that?”
Hitler took out his pitching wedge. He had a graceful swing and stuck the ball pin high.
“Nobody had to listen,” he said. “Nobody had to do any of those things. Each one of them was free to say no.”
Jim shook his head. “Naaa. No way. Fuck that, you totally killed those people.”
Hitler shrugged. Jim walked up to his ball on the backside of the green. His shot skittered past the hole and found the far fringe.
“You need to be more open,” Hitler said.
“Your club face. You are hitting the ball thick.”
“Oh,” Jim laughed. “I thought you were – I mean, for a second there, you know, I thought Hitler was giving me, uhh . .”
Hitler was expressionless and attentive. Jim shook his head.
“Forget it,” he said. “So, uh, who decides the kill count, anyway?”
“The Death Center,” Hitler said. “It’s on Corporeal Road.” His putt rattled home.
The Death Center was huge. A building map showed floors assigned to Haunting Holidays, Funeral Reenactments, Postmortem Vertigo and Trauma. Kill Records and Death Statistics was on the 27th floor.
When he reached it, a woman looked up from her computer.
“Kill records and death statistics,” she said. “What can I do ya for?”
“Yeah,” Jim said. “So, I was just golfing with Hitler, and he said he never killed nobody.”
“Well now that just won’t do, will it. Why don’t you just take a seat there and we’ll sort this all out for ya. Does this Hitler have a full name?”
“What do you mean?”
“For example, maybe Hitler Stevens, or Hitler Robinson . . .”
“Adolf. Adolf Hitler. You don’t know who Hitler is?”
The woman punched the information into her keyboard.
“There he is. Well look at that. Adolf Hitler has one kill, and it’s Adolf Hitler. What a coincidence.”
“That’s not possible!”
“Our records are absolute and infallible. Look there, it even says so on the screen.”
“But he killed millions of people!”
“Oh, I think I’d remember a seven figure kill count. Imagine that, seven figures. You’d have to wake up pretty early in the morning.”
Jim stood up and paced. He hadn’t studied much history, but he knew damn well that Hitler killed more than one person.
“Auschwitz,” he said. “Look up Auschwitz.”
The keyboard clacked.
“Oh, Nazi Deathcamp – that sounds exotic. You’re certainly at the right place. I don’t see any mention of Adolf Hitler here though.”
“But what about all those people?”
“Well, I have a Rudolph Hoss down for one hundred and ninety-two kills. Pretty impressive. And here’s an Albert Ostendorf, he’s got fifty. Let’s see here . . . Oh, there’s a Willhelm Attenburg, seventy-six kills. I don’t see any millionaires, though.”
“What about D-Day? The Battle of the Bulge? The Russian front?”
“The highest kill count I have for D-Day is fifty-nine, a man named Sam Anderson.”
“Some guy named Sam Anderson killed more people than Hitler.”
“A bunch more.”
Jim pulled some jerky out of his ear and chewed on it. Jerky helped him think.
“Alright, so who’s got the highest kill count? Like who killed the most people?”
“Looks like he was in that war with your friend. Says here he dropped a bomb on Japan. 287,598 kills. That’s a doozy.”
“The pilot?! They put that on the pilot? What about the guys that made the bomb? The president?”
“Oh, we don’t keep track of assists anymore.”
“Well, it turns out, what with all the going-about that goes on – ya know, the talking and the pushing – every kill had about a bazillion assists. Fried our computers to a crisp. We have a strict Kill/No kill policy now. No moochers.”
Jim finished the jerky. “This just doesn’t make any sense,” he said. But he thought there might be a guy that could help him out.
Plato was high on a cloud and looking down at a valley. With every brush stroke on his canvas, the valley changed.
Jim cleared his throat and the philosopher turned.
“Well, what do you think?” he said.
“It, ah, it looks good,” Jim said.
“Good, bad – Is it Valley or is it not Valley?”
“It’s definitely a valley. More flowers, maybe?”
“Mmmm.” He set down the brush and wriggled his fingers. “Daniel!”
A chiseled young man, naked and glistening, flew by and snatched the philosopher’s robe. Plato was naked too now, and instead of a penis a French horn dangled between his legs. Before Jim could look away, it flexed a B flat.
“You’re here about the Hitler problem,” Plato said.
Jim blinked. “Uh, yeah, that’s the reason I called. I, uh, I entered this thing to have sex with Cleopatra, and I ended up golfing with Hitler. We got to talking, and he said he’s off the hook for all those people he killed. I’m like, that can’t be right, so I go down to the Death Center — ”
But Plato held up a finger and closed his eyes. His horn climbed a Dorian scale.
“I know what troubles you,” Plato said. “And I think our conversation is better suited to the ground. Just follow the rainbow.”
Plato sucked in a deep breath and with some effort produced the cadences of Somewhere Over the Rainbow with his horn. A rainbow appeared beneath Jim’s feet and sloped gently into the valley. Jim scratched his head, shrugged, took a step, and he fell right through it. The ground rushed up and kicked him in the head.
“Do you see your error now?”
Plato was sitting in an armchair next to him, already smoking a cigar. His horn lay flat against his leg, exhausted.
“Error? You just threw me off a cloud! That hurt, man.”
“No it didn’t.”
“You still threw me off!”
“You walked off the cloud.”
“You told me to!”
A sigh. “Sometimes I don’t know why I bother.”
Plato stood up. He shook his horn and an F sharp drizzled out. He pointed at the cloud.
“The next time you hear a dick singing about rainbows, just take the fucking elevator,” he said. Jim followed his finger, and sure as shit one went right up to the cloud.
Jim was speechless. Plato finished his cigar, popped the butt into his mouth and chewed it while he considered his valley.
“You might have been right about the flowers, though,” he said.
And then he walked away.