The Trouble With Hitler
a fictionalized version of a true incident
By Sherwin Tjia
From Vol. 3 No. 1, 2004
My pal Goldstein’s a genius. One day he swears me to secrecy. He’s made a time machine. He wants me to go back in time and save his ancestors from Hitler’s ovens. He shows me faded pictures.
“Herman Joseph Goldstein– 1938,” I read, on the back of one of them.
“My great grandfather.”
“Hey– why don’t I just kill Hitler?” I ask him.
“Okay,” he says.
I go because I’m half German on my mom’s side. I can speak it, a little. Enough to get by, in case I’m stopped. And anyway, Goldstein’s the only one who knows how to work the time machine controls. We’re about to go shopping for Nazi-era clothing online when Goldstein says, “You know, Hitler will have guards and shit. Fuck the Nazi era. I’ll send you back to when Hitler was a baby.”
I look at Goldstein.
“Wait– you want me to kill a baby?”
“It’s not a baby. It’s Hitler.”
It’s Austria in 1890. Hitler should be one year old. It’s like Austria in the movies, only a lot more boring. Plus, everything’s not all green. There’s colour; people find ways to live life however they can.
Goldstein and I spent a lot of time in the library before I arrived. I memorized the way to Hitler’s parents’ house. It’s about three in the morning when I get there. I brought along high-tech break-and-enter tools under my drab wool coat. My soft-soled shoes don’t make a sound as I climb up the trellis to the back door. I pick the lock and I’m in.
Climbing upstairs is nerve-wracking. I’ve got a silenced Glock in my hands in case I have to dispatch Hitler’s parents. But no one appears. On the upstairs landing I’m suddenly faced with a dilemma. Which door? There are two of them. I bring my ear up to one door and hear snoring. Papa Hitler. I open up the other door and there’s the bassinet.
Baby Hitler’s kinda cute. He’s got full lips. You’d never know it later on, though.
I put the gun in my pocket and pick him up. He sleeps right through it. I hold him. What is it they say? The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Suddenly Goldstein’s on the headset underneath my hat. The static is like a fly in my ear.
“You there yet?” he asks.
“He’s in my arms,” I whisper.
“Is he dead?”
“What are you waiting for?”
I’m asking myself that same question.
Goldstein’s furious with me.
“I almost didn’t bring you back,” he sputters.
I hang my head.
“I couldn’t do it Goldstein.”
With baby Hitler’s small head on my shoulder, his fine hair smelling that fine baby smell, it would have killed me to hurt him.
I start to take my heavy coat off but Goldstein stops me.
“Don’t get changed.”
“You’re going back.”
“To prevent his parents from getting together.”
Klara Polzl is walking home when I fall into step beside her.
From what I’ve read, she’s a nice woman. She’s 18. She hasn’t met Alois Hitler, Hitler’s dad, yet. And I’m here to make sure she never does.
“Hello,” I say to her gently, in German.
She looks up. She’s speaking Austrian. There are some differences between the languages, but not so much I don’t understand.
“Um. Hello,” she replies.
“My name’s Karl,” I hold out my hand.
She doesn’t take it.
“Forgive my forwardness, but I didn’t know how else to meet you.”
Klara keeps walking.
“I saw you from across the street and I thought to myself, if I let her go without at least saying hello, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life.”
Klara blinks, but continues walking.
“Would you like to go to a show sometime?”
Klara stops, turning to me, giving me the once-over. A couple of crows scream by overhead while she does this. For what seems like a long time she doesn’t speak.
“You’d have to meet my parents, and pick me up at home.”
“Glady.” I smile.
Klara’s parents are easily impressed. But that’s not so hard in this little village. Goldstein and I bought old German money off the Internet for basically nothing and I am, for all intents and purposes, rich beyond belief. I buy a nice suit and arrive with flowers for Klara, and a bottle of wine for the parents. Everyone’s happy, and I observe Klara’s mom giving her the arched-eyebrowed heads-up sign when we leave.
After the show Klara comes back to my room. It’s this little Bed & Breakfast in the city. I got her back here on the pretext that I wanted to show her something. This time I left the headset in my luggage, so I don’t have Goldstein’s voice in my ear asking me if I’ve killed her yet.
“Would you like a drink?” I ask, moving towards the bar.
From behind me, Klara puts her arms around my waist.
In my head, I figure, why not? I’m going to have to kill her anyway.
I am plowing into Klara from behind. Her silky unmentionables are scattered around the room.
I’m doing it with Hitler’s Mom! I think.
“Mein Gott!” I hear Klara breathe.
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