Put Him Down

By Casey Ark

Zero days

7.1 W-smallith his hand on the door of the delivery room, Derek took a moment to remember all of the advice he had received over the past months. Their doctor told him to grab his wife’s hand and tell her to squeeze if the pain was too much. Their pastor told him that Corinthians 13:4 is a known anesthetic and should be recited through all births and surgeries. Their lamaze instructor said to keep a level head, a centered soul, and a calm tone of voice throughout. But what everyone, everyone, said, was that the delivery room would not be like it is in movies. Delivery rooms, they said, are calm, non-hectic places, with no screaming. And with his incredibly sweet, gentle, midwestern wife, he should expect a beautiful birth. With that calming thought, Derek slowly opened the door.

“I HATE YOU, DEREK! Oh jesus, get this thing out of me NOW. Oh!” screamed Pam from across the room. With her almost ridiculous Minnesota accent, the word “oh” lasted a very long time.

Nurses were scrambling around the room to grab supplies as two red-faced doctors barked orders. Derek couldn’t hear much of what they were saying, but managed to catch something about the baby being “upside-down.”

Derek rushed to his wife and grabbed her hand. “Okay, it’s okay, everything’s alright.”

“It is NOT alright, Derek. Oh, dang, oh jesus christ!”

“Shhh, don’t swear, honey. Everything is gonna be okay, okay? Do those deep breaths, think about Deepak Chopra, think about calmness-”

“I don’t remember who that is!” Pam yelled, finishing with a grunt.

“Maybe, maybe you could just say Deepak Chopra a bunch of times, it’s a really calming name.”

“Chriiiiist! Deepak Chopra, Deeepak Chopra, Deepak Chopra…”

Twenty minutes later, Albert was born.

“Oh, oh my little boy.” Pam whispered as the nurses cleaned her son.

A dark-haired nurse handed the swaddled child to his mother. “Dear, that’s an interesting little birthmark he has there on his ankle, isn’t it?”

Derek examined the ankle. “Hm, that’s strange. It almost looks like…”

On Albert’s ankle, clear as day, was a perfect swastika.

Pam and Derek both looked at their child and simultaneously said “Oh….” The “oh” lasted a very long time.

 

Two months

Albert always wore pants, Pam made sure of it. “We don’t want people getting the wrong idea just because of some little birthmark,” she’d say. This day was no exception. Albert was in his crib, attempting to roll over, when he got a pant leg stuck between the mattress and a crib bar. Albert, effectively unable to move, began to cry.

“Ugh, Pam, we need to get him out of these pants. He keeps getting stuck.”

“No, I think we need a new crib, that’s just poor design.”

Derek pulled the pant leg out from the crack and picked up his son. “This crib was a goddamn Consumer Reports top buy, I’m not gonna return it – whoa, buddy, what is on your face?” Derek squinted his eyes, confused, and called to his wife. “Have you seen this?”

“Well, would you look at that, huh.”

“He’s got something on his upper lip, you see it?”

“Looks like little hairs. Is he growing a mustache?”

 

Three months

Albert had grown a full mustache in the middle of his upper lip. The pediatrician said it was the result of “overactive hair follicles,” a somewhat common problem in infants, and that he would absolutely, definitely grow out of it. The mustache was square, dark black, with a slightly bushy quality to it. Due to its size and position, it made him look much like a certain world leader.

“He does not look like Hitler!”

“I’m just saying I see a resemblance, Pam. I think it’s kind of cute.” Derek chuckled.

“It is not cute, and this is not funny. Don’t tell me our son looks like that person. And don’t say that name around me. That’s not something you say to someone.”

The hair grew in quickly – so quickly that they had to shave it every other day.

“You’ll shave him and put him in pants before my parents get here. You promise me?” Pam asked sternly.

“I promise.”

“And you’ll entertain them until I get back.” This time not asking. “I’ll only be a few hours.”

“I’ll take care of it, don’t worry.”

Around thirty seconds after Pam’s departure, Derek heard the familiar humming sound of a car pulling up to the driveway. Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rang.

Derek grabbed Albert, ran to the door, and opened it quickly. “Oh, my gosh, we weren’t expecting you guys for hours…”

“I know!” said Pam’s mother with glee. “Surprise! We caught an early flight! Look at my little grandson! You’re so big, look at you,” she cried at dog-audible pitch as she tickled little Albert. “Oh, what is that on your upper lip? Oh, my…”

Derek sat across from his in-laws for an hour as they all watched Albert play with a mobile. Pam’s father, in his mid seventies and wholly senile, sat dejectedly on the sofa next to his wife as she chattered on.

“You know, when Pamela was a baby, she had a freckle underneath her eye, and that went away.”

“Mhm. Donald, can I get you another sandwich? Chips?” Derek asked.

“He’s fine,” she gestured to her husband. “Donald’s trying to slim down.” Donald didn’t seem so sure. He grunted and continued to stare angrily into the distance.

Pam’s mother continued. “And her hair was a frizzy mess for years. We called her Donna Summer it was so frizzy. Not to her face of course. She grew out of that too!”

“Mhm.”

“Kids have weird things, it’s totally natural. You’re gonna look back at this someday and you and Pamela are gonna tell stories about it, and you’re gonna laugh and laugh-”

“He’s BABY HITLER, Camille!” yelled Donald as he stood up and pointed at the child accusingly. He let the words hang in the air for a few seconds, then nonchalantly walked out of the room.

 

Nine months

Things had started to escalate. Albert had begun to crawl, and Albert had begun to crawl towards certain things. A German dictionary, an article in Newsweek about Nazi theology, the TV- when Derek accidentally flipped past a History Channel special on the weapons of World War II. Each time, Albert’s eyes would light up, and he’d quietly giggle. Each time, the offending object was quickly disposed of, and the incident forgotten.

It was harder to forget when Albert grabbed a toy train car and uttered his first word, Breitspurbahn – which Pam later found was the name of a planned double-decker railway system from 1940s Germany.

“Honey, come in here!” Pam cried across the house.

“What? What’s wrong?”

“I think he’s close to walking. Look at him hugging the couch like that, he’s gonna stand, I think!”

Albert grasped the edge of the sofa and slowly pulled himself up, only to lose his balance and fall moments later.

“Derek, get the camera!”

Just as Derek returned with camcorder in hand, and just as Pam had finished screaming, “This is it, this is it!” Albert stood and walked five perfect steps across the room – with his left arm straight out in front of his body and his legs rigid in what was clearly a Nazi soldier’s march.

 

Eleven months

Derek came home from work to find Albert on the floor playing with a new toy.

“What is Albert playing with?”

“It’s nothing,” she said sweetly, in the way she always did when she knew a fight was coming.

“Is this,” Derek ripped the toy out of Albert’s hands and he began to cry, “an SS symbol? Really?”

Pam nodded.

“Really? Where did you even get this? Why?”

“Amazon. It’s an early Christmas present for Albert. Dr. Schrieber says we need to be supportive of him during this phase.”

“Oh, really…” Derek spit out a sigh.

“He says that if we withhold German things from him, he will only want them more.”

“Well we can’t just encourage it!”

“Dr. Schrieber says it’s perfectly normal and that lots of kids experience strange phases like this,” Pam shouted over Albert’s cries.

“Oh, excellent, so you’re going to have me believe that people are popping out baby dictators all the time?” Derek began to yell.

“No, it’s not like that, Derek.”

“Hm, I wonder where Mao’s parents are. Do you think he’s knocking down the art in their house? I hope the Mussolinis live nearby, I could really go for a cannoli. You know what, for all we know, there’s a baby Yalta going on right now! Imagine that!”

“Stop it. Dr. Schrieber is an expert in his field and he says that we should support Albert and I’m his mother, so I’m going to support him.”

“Well, I hate to break it to you, honey, but Dr. Schrieber is a quack, and so is any other doctor who claims that what’s happening here is normal. When I wake up in the morning to the sound of my son humming Flight of the Valkyrie, that’s not normal. When I come home to him playing with an SS logo, that’s not normal either. When my SON looks more like him than me, THAT’S not normal! If we support this, he could grow up to truly be that person, Pam! He could kill millions of people, and the weight of that will be all on us. On you.”

He slammed the toy into the carpet, grabbed his briefcase, and walked out of the house.

 

Twelve months

Pam and Derek laid awake in the pitch black and perfectly stillness of their bedroom.

“I just don’t know what I did wrong.” Pam had started to cry.

“What?”

“I screwed it all up. I’m his mother, and I broke him. I just don’t know what I did.”

“What are you talking about? Honey, no.”

“Maybe those Baby Einstein tapes I played for him had a germanizing affect somehow,” she sobbed.

“No, honey…”

“Or one time, I thought I poured myself a caffeine-free Coke Zero but it turned out to be a normal coke. The baby isn’t supposed to have caffeine.”

“No, mothers do that all the time, it’s alright…”

“And caffeine-free Coke Zero doesn’t even exist! ” Pam cried, slumping her body into her husband’s frame. Derek held her as she shook and sobbed. “And we’re always fighting now, we used to be so perfect.”

“It’s okay, it’s alright, it’s not your fault. This is all gonna pass, it’ll all be over soon. I know it…”

 

Fourteen months

Derek took Albert for a walk in the stroller. He had his headphones in, and never heard the car approach. They would later learn that the driver was drunk and was pushing his Audi down the suburban road at at least fifty miles an hour when he suddenly swerved off course and ramped over the curb, straight at Derek and Albert. At the time, Derek only felt the rush of wind as the front bumper glanced the side of the stroller, sending Albert flying some twenty feet through the air and onto a neighbor’s lawn. Had the driver swerved ten inches to the right, the stroller certainly would have been run over. Derek was knocked into the sidewalk, cutting his face in the process, but quickly scrambled to his feet. When he found Albert, the boy smiled at him in the grass. Only cuts and bruises.

Pam held Albert close for days after, but the family largely forgot about the incident. Derek knew he should feel thankful, but deep, deep down, he almost wished the car hadn’t missed.

 

Fifteen months

Pam was sound asleep. Derek sat on the sofa watching TV with Albert on his lap when a commercial came on – it was for a Holocaust remembrance special on PBS, entitled “Never Forget.”

Derek felt the couch vibrate before he heard the sound. Albert was laughing hysterically, his whole body shaking the sofa as he curled into a ball, giggling more and more as images of piled-up dead bodies flashed across the screen. His cackling was so powerful that it took a full twenty seconds after the commercial was over for him to stop. The room laid silent. Derek was left completely and utterly horrified. In that moment, he decided, things needed to stop. Now.

Wordlessly, he carried Albert into his room and placed him in the crib. The baby didn’t make a sound. Derek walked to his bedroom, softly opened the drawer, and retrieved the nine millimeter glock he had purchased months before. His body rigid with anger, he stood outside of Albert’s room and pulled back the hammer. He took a deep breath and opened the door.

In the darkness, Albert laid back, looked up at the ceiling, and smiled.

 

——————–
Casey Ark is a 22 year-old aspiring writer from Harrisburg, PA whose work has been featured on JukePopSerials.com, and twice in From the Fallout Shelter, a Penn State literary magazine. When he’s not writing about baby Hitler, he’s managing his own web design company, Plato Web Design.


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