A Hitler Story

Clinton Craig

1.

We were all looking for Hitler. It started at one of those political debates when Candidate B (senator from Arizona) said of Candidate A (congressman from Ohio), “Folks, my opponent is pretty much Hitler.” The crowd went wild, waving pennants and chanting, “No Hitler, No Way!” What was Candidate A to say to that? “No, you’re Hitler.”? How would that have sounded? Candidate B won the election and became President X. People marched, rallied, and spray painted, excited that we were finally going to confront this Hitler problem. We were going to drag Hitler out from whatever rock he was hiding under in Afghanistan or Korea and draw and quarter that asshole. Finally, we had an anti-Hitler president after eight years of what must have been (we now realized) pro-Hitler appeasement. President X promised us an iron-clad policy of doubling down on the promise that we would find and ultimately deal with our Hitler problem. Turns out though, that Hitler was harder to find than we all thought he would be.

2.

The president opened our eyes. Obviously, the college professors were Hitler. We rounded up as many of those smug assholes as we could and marched them right into the middle of town. Bunch of geezers with elbow patches and regrets, the younger ones with ironic tattoos, all of them spouting some nonsense about Heidegger and Nietzsche—of course they had been Hitler all along. That was one Hitler problem we felt more than willing to take care of, and take care of it we did. We tore off their patches, did a bonfire of their graduation robes (silly looking effeminate garbage anyway). We slapped their faces and made them laser off those tattoos. We removed their eyes. We didn’t feel the satisfaction that we thought we would, though, and we couldn’t shake those thoughts that Hitler might still be somewhere out there laughing at us.

3.

Maybe it was the children that were Hitler. That was a new thought. We knew it didn’t make sense from a timeline perspective, Hitler being big back in the 30s and 40s and this generation being very recent, but we all had to admit that something was off with the new generation. Quite frankly, the new generation was not up to snuff. We’d try to tell them that Hitler was out there, but did they listen? Hell no. Dating websites, social media websites, catfishing, and (of course) ironic tattoos were all the new generation cared about. We knew that these were “Hitler-like tendencies,” but had to figure out the notion of when one went from displaying “Hitler-like tendencies” to crossing over the threshold into being Hitler. Exhausted after the whole college professor ordeal, we decided to be lenient with the new generation. We kept our eyes on them though, constantly unsettled by their lackadaisical behavior and deficient drive, always on the lookout for new “Hitler-like tendencies.”

4.

Around then, it was time for another election cycle, and Candidate A made a comeback by insinuating that the president was Hitler. We had to admit that we didn’t know how to feel about that one. It was a new world with new insights into the identity/nature/metaphysics of Hitler. We felt, though, that we needed to take this new information seriously, to at least give it a run around in our minds before we tossed it out. President X looked hurt during the debates; he didn’t have his old swagger. His hair and cheeks hung more limply than usual and his eyes watered a little during commercial breaks. Candidate B (for in this election he had switched over from A to B) seized on the new weakness and declared in even deeper tones, “President = Hitler.” We all went wild for that stuff—we have to face that. We called it Hitlergate, and in a few short months the old president was out and we had a New President X. We all agreed, New President X was an upgrade, at least in the anti-Hitler department.

5.

We went into Afghanistan and Korea looking for Hitler. We figured, if Hitler was going to be anywhere, it would be one of the two. So we had a couple more wars, and it wasn’t that big a deal, if we’re going to be honest about it. We dropped some bombs, blew up some caves, ruined some weddings. And yeah, we deployed some troops on the ground—what of it? We did what we had to do in the face of a world that was becoming more and more Hitlerized as the days went on, and it was worth it. After all the dust settled—and there was a lot of dust—we did face a new Hitler-related dilemma. Though we’d wiped two Hitler-sympathizing populations away, we couldn’t be sure whether or not we got Hitler himself. All that was left of Afghanistan and Korea was a lot of dust and some blown up wedding cake.

6.

As a result of the new Hitler wars, we decided to attribute the new death toll numbers to Hitler. Hitler’s numbers went up so far that he even surpassed his rival, old Joe Stalin. We’d never thought Hitler would catch old Joe in the numbers department, and we had to admit that we were rather impressed with Hitler. We grinned at each other, a little foolishly and sheepishly, just amazed at Hitler’s new accomplishment. We knew that Hitler would be somewhere out there smiling with the knowledge that he had beaten old Joe, that the new history books would have to reflect that Hitler was the champion in the death toll numbers category. And, dutiful as we were, we had the school teachers and the [reformed] college professors edit the history books to include Hitler’s new numbers. The New York Stock Exchange even knocked old Joe Stalin down a peg to replace him with Hitler. Those who had invested in Hitler won big. Hitler was big. It was a new world, and we just had to face the fact that Hitler was a part of it.

7.

We began to wonder if we were Hitler. It was a radical thought, one we hadn’t prepared for, but we knew we had to face it. We all took a good look in the mirror, searched for any physical characteristics of Hitler. Were blue eyes and blond hair signs of Hitlerness, or was it dark hair and dark eyes? We didn’t really know as the rules to this whole Hitler thing hadn’t been nailed down yet. Still though, it was time for some soul-searching, and if we were ever to rid the world of Hitler once and for all, we had to be willing to find the Hitler even in ourselves. We went down to the ice cream parlor and just sat down with a root beer float, sipping and wondering about Hitler. The ice cream parlor played that good old fashioned music, scratchy from the record player, the kind of music we celebrated with way back when we beat Hitler the first time (we thought it would be once and for all back then, but Hitler sure is a cockroach). The ice cream melted and the root beer floats got all creamy, and that good old music just played and played, but that didn’t help us with the Hitler situation. Ice cream and Hitler, it seemed, didn’t mix. So we decided then and there, in that ice cream parlor with the good old scratchy music, that we were not and never would be Hitler. But at this point, we had to admit that we were tired—tired of the whole Hitler thing and beginning to wonder if we would ever find him.

8.

Well, we found Hitler. Turns out, he was holed up in a retirement home in Sun City, Arizona all along. He doddered around the halls most days, giving offensive salutes to the staff and complaining about the green Jell-O. Hitler preferred the red Jell-O, proclaiming its superiority every Red Jell-O Tuesday, and pouting in his room on Green Jell-O Saturday. Aggressive Jell-O preferences were probably what gave away the whole hiding in a retirement home ruse. We grabbed him by his ratty gray cardigan and pulled him into the driveway, pinned him up to a saguaro for the world to see. The news media showed up to report to the nation, thrilled that there was now tangible evidence that they were not, in fact, Hitler. Teachers stood by, crossing out and revising lines in history books to reflect Hitler’s new capture date. Schoolchildren lined up to slap Hitler’s face. Lots of folks wanted a crack at Hitler, and all of them got a turn. We dragged him off to trial and the judge convicted Hitler of being Hitler, so now he’s been in Maricopa County Prison ever since.

9.

Don’t get us wrong, we were all excited to have finally solved the Hitler problem. New President X was flushed with joy, his crowds exultant. Whether you like New President X or not, you have to admit, he sure did find Hitler and deal with him. It’s a new election cycle coming up, and it seems like New President X is going to win big. We don’t mind; we don’t even think of him as the “New” President X anymore. We guess he’s done a good enough job stopping Hitler to deserve another term. But we’ve been hearing old Joe Stalin is making a comeback now that Hitler’s out of the picture. Old Joe Stalin isn’t very happy that Hitler passed him in the numbers department. We know he’s out there somewhere, he’s got to be, just waiting for his moment to make a comeback so he can fly by Hitler’s new fantastic numbers. And, we all have to admit, there’s nothing Hitler can do about it. Hitler’s just going to have to sit behind those bars in Maricopa County Prison and wait while old Joe gets back to work.

Clinton Craig is a Ph.D. student in creative writing at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His work has appeared in Tammy, The Hunger, Gravel, A Glimpse Of, Jelly Bucket, and elsewhere. He co-edited Lavender Bluegrass: LGBT Writers on the South. His hometown is Flagstaff, Arizona.