(This story's based on one told to us by a Korean War veteran at our Veteran's Day celebration at school. I thought it was an interesting perspective, and I think it might even work for this month's Historical Fiction contest...it's not great, but it's not Green or Hourglass-related, either, which is progress as far as I'm concerned. )
The year I wanted a Radio Flyer for my birthday was the year I got Nazis instead, men with funny accents who got loaded off a bus into our barn all stiff and sore.
My daddy hated them; he said they were no good, they were evil pigs, and this made sense. (They took Poland, even though the Poles weren’t hurting anybody.) They picked corn in the backyard, and that was it- he did admit they did their work well, but it was their kind of work. Work that wasn’t intellectual, work that didn’t need anything besides a set of hands.
One day, one of them was carried into our kitchen and Daddy told me to leave because something terrible was happening and I wasn’t supposed to see it. The Nazi himself was crying, and I’d never seen one of them up close before, but I stopped myself when one of their little broken crosses rolled out into the middle of the floor, smothered in red.
I don’t like blood, and never have, so I went upstairs and didn’t come down, afraid to sleep because it’d give me nightmares; the horrible kind that get your heart beating all panicky and your skin all cold and sweaty.
The next morning we were all yawning at breakfast, especially Mama. (The German himself was asleep in the rocking chair in the corner, his arm all bandaged up like the evil mummy in the latest Cosmic Man issue.) She had gone to the hospital at night, only to find that they didn’t take Nazis because they were going through Rough Times and didn’t have the money, and so she had to stay up all night with him because he had gotten his arm caught in the thresher and needed the help real bad.
(He was a young one, too, maybe five years older than I was.)
Daddy was tired too, tired from spending the whole time muttering that the Nazi was a dirty pig of the HJ, eating up his family’s money like slop.
A few days later I sat at the table, like my daddy, with the paper opened to the sports section. I could feel the German’s eyes on me, and so I set the paper down. “What are you looking at?”
“Hooskares,” he said thoughtfully. “Win?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I rolled my eyes and went back to reading the paper, though occasionally checking to make sure he wasn’t still staring. With his good hand, he was playing with his hair, white-blonde and slightly damp with sweat, enough to make it stick up when he thrust his hands through it.
He laughed, a sick, thundering laugh. “You know Hooskares- win?”
It took me a moment to understand what he wanted. “You mean ‘Huskers’?”
I flipped over to the sports section, where the score was headlined. “Nah, they lost to Ohio, twenty-seven nothing.”
He exclaimed something in German that I took to be a cuss, and I stared at him. “Not an Ohio fan?”
“Yeck, Ohio. Bad.”
“I’m with you. They stink.”
He smiled, blue eyes sparkling with excitement. “Like pig, ja?”
I reached over the table to shake his hand. “I like the way you think, mister.”
And I really did mean what I said. Even though he was supposedly a swine himself, he and his country weren’t rooting for Ohio- a true sign of progress, even in a country my daddy said was evil.