Big, by Woody Allen
I was sitting in my office, cleaning the debris out of
my thirty-eight and wondering where my next case was coming from. I like being a
private eye, and even though once in a while I've had my gums massaged with an
automobile jack, the sweet smell of greenbacks makes it all worth it. Not to
mention the dames, which are a minor preoccupation of mine that I rank just
ahead of breathing. That's why, when the door to my office swung open and a
long-haired blonde named Heather Butkiss came striding in and told me she was a
nudie model and needed my help, my salivary glands shifted into third. She wore
a short skirt and a tight sweater and her figure described a set of parabolas
that could cause cardiac arrest in a yak.
"What can I do for you, sugar?"
"I want you to find someone for me."
"Missing person? Have you tried the police?"
"Not exactly, Mr. Lupowitz."
me Kaiser, sugar. All right, so what's the scam?"
right, God. The Creator, the Underlying Principle, the First Cause of Things,
the All Encompassing. I want you to find Him for me."
had some fruit cakes up in the office before, but when they're built like she
was, you listened.
"That's my business, Kaiser. You just find Him."
"I'm sorry, sugar. You got the wrong boy."
"Unless I know all the facts," I said, rising.
O.K.," she said, biting her lower lip. She straightened the seam of her
stocking, which was strictly for my benefit, but I wasn't buying any at the
"Let's have it on the line, sugar."
"Well, the truth is—I'm not really a nudie model."
My name is not Heather Butkiss, either. It's Claire Rosensweig and I'm a Student
at Vassar. Philosophy major. History of Western Thought and all that. I have a
paper due January. On Western religion. All the other kids in the course will
band in speculative papers. But I want to know. Professor Grebanier said
if anyone finds out for sure, they're a cinch to pass the course. And my dad's
promised me a Mercedes if I get straight A's."
opened a deck of Luckies and a pack of gum and had one of each. Her story was
beginning to interest me. Spoiled coed. High IQ and a body I wanted to know
"What does God look like?"
"I've never seen him."
"Well, how do you know He exists?"
"That's for you to find out."
great. Then you don't know what he looks like? Or where to begin looking?"
Not really. Although I suspect he's everywhere. In the air, in every flower, in
you and I—and in this chair."
huh." So she was a pantheist. I made a mental note of it and said I’d
give her case a try—for a hundred bucks a day, expenses, and a dinner date.
She smiled and okayed the deal. We rode down in the elevator together. Outside
it was getting dark. Maybe God did exist and maybe He didn't, but somewhere in
that city there were sure a lot of guys who were going to try and keep me from
first lead was Rabbi Itzhak Wiseman, a local cleric who owed me a favor for
finding out who was rubbing pork on his hat. I knew something was wrong when I
spoke to him because he was scared. Real scared.
course there's a you-know-what, but I'm not even allowed to say His name or Hell
strike me dead, which I could never understand why someone is so touchy about
having his name said."
"You ever see Him?"
Are you kidding? I'm lucky I get to see my grandchildren."
"Then how do you know He exists?"
do I know? What kind of question is that? Could I get a suit like this for
fourteen dollars if there was no one up there? Here, feel a gabardine—how can
"You got nothing more to go on?"
the Old Testament? Chopped liver? How do you think Moses got the Israelites out
of Egypt? With a smile and a tap dance? Believe me, you don't part the Red Sea
with some gismo from Korvette's. It takes power."
"So he's tough, eh?"
Very tough. You'd think with all that success he'd be a lot sweeter."
"How come you know so much?"
we're the chosen people. He takes best care of us of all His children, which I'd
also like to someday discuss with Him."
"What do you pay Him for being chosen?"
that's how it was. The Jews were into God for a lot. It was the old protection
racket. Take care of them in return for a price. And from the way Rabbi Wiseman
was talking, He soaked them plenty. I got into a cab and made it over to Danny's
Billiards on Tenth Avenue. The manager was a slimy little guy I didn't like.
"Chicago Phil here?"
"Who wants to know?"
grabbed him by the lapels and took some skin at the same time.
"In the back," he said, with a change of
Phil. Forger, bank robber, strong-arm man, and avowed atheist.
guy never existed, Kaiser. This is the straight dope. It's a big hype. There's
no Mr. Big. It's a syndicate. Mostly Sicilian. It's international. But there is
no actual head. Except maybe the Pope."
"I want to meet the Pope."
"It can be arranged," he said, winking.
the name Claire Rosensweig mean anything to you?"
wait a minute. Sure. She's that peroxide job with the bazooms from Radclifle."
"Radcliffe? She told me Vassar."
she's lying. She's a teacher at Radcliffe. She was mixed up with a philosopher
for a while."
Empiricist, as I remember. Bad guy. Completely rejected Hegel or any dialectical
"One of those."
He used to be a drummer with a jazz trio. Then he got hooked on Logical
Positivism. When that didn't work, he tried Pragmatism. Last I heard he stole a
lot of money to take a course in Schopenhauer at Columbia. The mob would like to
find him—or get their hands on his textbooks so they can resell them."
it from me, Kaiser. There's no one out there. It's a void. I couldn't pass all
those bad checks or screw society the way I do if for one second I was able to
recognize any authentic sense of Being. The universe is strictly
phenomenological. Nothing's eternal. It's all meaningless."
"Who won the fifth at Aqueduct?"
had a beer at O'Rourke's and tried to add it all up, but it made no sense at
all. Socrates was a suicide—or so they said. Christ was murdered. Neitzsche
went nuts. If there was someone out there, He sure as hell didn't want anybody
to know it. And why was Claire Rosensweig lying about Vassar? Could Descartes
have been right? Was the universe dualistic? Or did Kant hit it on the head when
he postulated the existence of God on moral grounds?
night I had dinner with Claire. Ten minutes after the check came, we were in the
sack and, brother, you can have your Western thought. She went through the kind
of gymnastics that would have won first prize in the Tia Juana Olympics. After,
she lay on the pillow next to me, her long blond hair sprawling. Our naked
bodies still intertwined. I was smoking and staring at the ceiling.
"Claire, what if Kierkegaard's right?"
"If you can never really know. Only have
"Don't be so rational."
being rational, Kaiser." She lit a cigarette. "Just don't get
ontological. Not now. I couldn't bear it if you were ontological with me."
was upset. I leaned over and kissed her, and the phone rang. She got it.
"It's for you."
voice on the other end was Sergeant Reed of Homicide.
"You still looking for God?"
all-power Being? Great Oneness, Creator of the Universe? First Cause of All
with that description just showed up at the morgue. You better get down here
was Him all right, and from the looks of Him it was a professional Job.
"He was dead when they brought Him in."
"Where'd you find Him?"
"A warehouse on Delancey Street."
"It's the work of an existentialist. We're sure of
"How can you tell?"
way how it was done. Doesn't seem to be any System followed. Impulse."
"A crime of passion?"
"You got it. Which means you're a suspect,
down at headquarters knows how you feel about Jaspers."
"That doesn't make me a killer."
"Not yet, but you're a suspect."
on the street I sucked air into my lungs and tried to clear my head. I took a
cab over to Newark and got out and walked a block to Giordino's Italian
Restaurant. There, at a back table, was His Holiness. It was the Pope, all
right. Sitting with two guys I had seen in half a dozen police line-ups.
down," he said, looking up from his fettucine. He held out a ring. I gave
him my toothiest smile, but didn't kiss it. It bothered him and I was glad.
Point for me.
"Would you like some fettucine?"
"No thanks, Holiness. But you go ahead."
"Nothing? Not even a salad?"
"I just ate."
yourself, but they make a great Roquefort dressing here. Not like the Vatican,
where you can't get a decent meal."
come right to the point, Pontiff. I'm looking for God."
"You came to the right person."
He does exist?" They all found this very amusing and laughed. The hood next
to me said, "Oh, that's funny. Bright boy wants to know if He exists."
shifted my chair to get comfortable and brought the leg down on his little toe.
"Sorry." But he was steaming.
He exists, Lupowitz, but I'm the only one that communicates with Him. He speaks
only through me."
"Why you, pal?"
"Because I got the red suit."
knock it. Every morning I rise, put on this red suit, and suddenly I'm a big
cheese. It's all in the suit. I mean, face it, if I went around in slacks and a
Sports jacket, I couldn't get arrested religion-wise."
"Then it's a hype. There's no God."
don't know. But what's the difference? The money's good."
ever worry the laundry won't get your red suit back on time and you'll be like
the rest of us?"
use the special one-day Service. I figure it's worth the extra few cents to be
"Name Claire Rosensweig mean anything to you?"
She's in the science department at Bryn Mawr."
"Science, you say? Thanks."
answer, Pontiff." I grabbed a cab and shot over the George Washington
Bridge. On the way I stopped at my office and did some fast checking. Driving to
Claire's apartment, I put the pieces together, and for the first time they fit.
When I got there she was in a diaphanous peignoir and something seemed to be
is dead. The police were here. They're looking for you. They think an
existentialist did it."
"No, sugar. It was you."
"What? Don't make jokes, Kaiser."
"It was you that did it."
"What are you saying?"
baby. Not Heather Butkiss or Caire Rosensweig, but Doctor Ellen Shepherd."
"How did you know my name?"
of physics at Bryn Mawr. The youngest one ever to head a department there. At
the mid-winter Hop you get stuck on a jazz musician who's heavily into
philosophy. He's married, but that doesn't stop you. A couple of nights in the
hay and it feels like love. But it doesn't work out because something comes
between you. God. Y'see, sugar, he believed, or wanted to, but you, with your
pretty little scientific mind, had to have absolute certainty."
"No, Kaiser, I swear."
you pretend to study philosophy because that gives you a chance to eliminate
certain obstacles. You get rid of Socrates easy enough, but Descartes takes over,
so you use Spinoza to get rid of Descartes, but when Kant doesn't come through
you have to get rid of him too."
"You don't know what you're saying."
made mincemeat out of Leibnitz, but that wasn't good enough for you because you
knew if any-body believed Pascal you were dead, so he had to be gotten rid of
too, but that's where you made your mis-take because you trusted Martin Buber.
Except, sugar, he was soft. He believed in God, so you had to get rid of God
"Kaiser, you're mad!"
baby. You posed as a pantheist and that gave you access to Him—if He
existed, which he did. He went with you to Shelby's party and when Jason wasn't
looking, you killed Him."
"Who the hell are Shelby and Jason?"
"What's the difference? Life's absurd now anyway."
she said, suddenly trembling. "You wouldn't turn me in?"
yes, baby. When the Supreme Being gets knocked off, somebody's got to
take the rap."
Kaiser, we could go away together. Just the two of us. We could forget about
philosophy. Settle down and maybe get into semantics."
"Sorry, sugar. It's no dice."
was all tears now as she started lowering the shoulder straps of her peignoir
and I was Standing there suddenly with a naked Venus whose whole body seemed to
be saying, Take me—I'm yours. A Venus whose right band tousled my hair while
her left band had picked up a forty-five and was holding it behind my back. I
let go with a slug from my thirty-eight before she could pull the trigger, and
she dropped her gun and doubled over in disbelief.
"How could you, Kaiser?"
was fading fast, but I managed to get it in, in time.
manifestation of the universe as a complex idea unto itself as opposed to being
in or outside the true Being of itself is inherently a conceptual nothingness or
Nothingness in relation to any abstract form of existing or to exist or having
existed in perpetuity and not subject to laws of physicality or motion or ideas
relating to non-matter or the lack of objective Being or subjective otherness."
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