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Hand Picked by Hitler

“I have veins to my heart taken from pigs.” The old man seated himself to my left in the rapier flourishes of 5pm headlights. “I am kept alive with the parts of pigs.”

He was more than old, Ebenezer Scrooge on a wintery night; an ordinary old man wearing a woolen coat, unimposing, my-height short, ten hairs left to the mottled skull, a thick German accent and that pre-death rattle of pseudo-religious regret abundant in the terminally old. The vernacular of death wafted between his sentences through charcoal rough nouns – veins… heart… pigs – and with defiant pride in the possessives – “I have veins to my heart taken from pigs.” The old man licked his words clean of the innocent, dished them onto slivers of old malice and disassembled them without their eyeballs into my Aryan ears.

He said “We loved Hitler.”

The bus stop was a dark-green-slat wood bench set in concrete stubs. An icy night wind scraped my right cheekbone beneath the skin and peeled involuntary tears from the folded corner of a tortured eye socket. The winter scuttled through the thick blue overalls with Darwinian finesse; invisible malicious ice-crabs that crawled into warm muscle and sinew to greet my boot at the ankle. When an old man tells you in the plural that he loved Hitler, life’s shoddy floorboards creak, just a little, under his feet.

“We loved Hitler”, he said. “Hitler cured crime. He sent the criminals to the camps. The first time, a warning; the second, the camps. If they stole a third time, they were dead. Hitler cured crime. He sent the criminals to the camps with the homosexuals. People loved him.”

The old man searched for my reaction. He said “We loved Hitler. When we stood in the crowd and Hitler asked us if we wanted bread or guns, we said guns. ‘Give us guns’.”

His marbled face lit with the memory of exuberant fanaticism, polished boots of the willing young and soft wet kisses from a lover’s white bed-linen. All old men were young men once, but not all young men will be given to grow old. And true love is a well trodden photograph from another reality, behind time’s glass, impervious to history, well-drunk in beers on bar-stools with old comrades; blooded medals left on a retreating battlefront and spent cartridges for the dead.

“The old men at the Polish Club say they asked for bread. ‘Give us bread’. ‘Give us bread’. They say they didn’t love Hitler.”

“But they asked for guns, I tell them. I was there. We all asked for guns when Hitler asked us what we wanted from him.”

“You have to understand that Britain declared war on Germany. We never asked for war with Britain. We said ‘Give us guns’ because we could not defend Germany with bread.”

“They don’t remember”, he said, “but I was there and every single person asked Hitler for guns.”

“Then he needed us to fight in the Balkans. I was hand-picked by Hitler – we were the best of the SS. We took no prisoners. They took no prisoners. If they killed one then we would kill a dozen. Women and children. Against a wall. I looked into their eyes and killed them with my bare hands for Hitler. That was how it was back then; them or us.” His body smarted to the revelation, a dying old man in a conversation that no longer mattered at the end of life, at the end of the world where young men hide to become old men and to fondle their photographs over beers with comrades.

“The war turned. I loved Hitler. We all loved Hitler. I was young and wanted to live so I sold guns to the resistance and fled to Poland. Many of us went to Poland; and when the war ended, we told them we were Polish-Germans. In those times, who was to know? It was the end of the war. There was chaos. Nobody knew.”

“And now the old men sit in the Polish Club and say they never loved Hitler.” He laughed.

“Now I have pigs’ veins in my heart. But I loved Hitler. I still love Hitler. He was a great man. And I betrayed him because I was young and wanted to live.”

After a silence, the New Norfolk bus arrived to a morose stop, opened its gallows door with a milky swish and cradled my own tired dark soul in its warm-faced heaters along a thick red rubber-band straight back to Hayes Prison Farm. My secrets were those of a young man, not to be shared with the old. A batman doona cover, The Clash playing ‘Guns of Brixton’, the ‘Romper Stomper’ soundtrack, broad silver communal six-headed shower poles and imminent irreversible parole.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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