By William Cayhews
Shakespir Edition | Copyright 2016 William Cayhews | All Rights Reserved
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Table of Contents
It was evening in the restaurant at the Hotel Imperial, Vienna. My first impression of them was they were merely another pair of typical American tourists, probably retired, judging by their age. I could not help but overhear their conversation as I sat at the table next to theirs, but I had a difficult time following what the gentleman was saying. I do speak English well enough, but he kept on jumping from one story to another -- from one location in the world to another -- even from one time period to another.
I was transfixed by the things he was saying, so I mustered up the courage to interrupt their supper and ask if I could hear more. They were startled at first, of course, but then I found them to be warm and inviting. After the customary brief personal introductions were shared between us, they commented to each other about how odd their conversation must have sounded to someone like me who was outside the confines of their rather unusual dialogue. But as they gave it further thought, they agreed with each other that my presence might in fact be of some assistance to them in the process of sorting out all the information that was pouring out of his mind.
So, they graciously invited me to join them at their table. As I pulled up my chair, the gentleman straightened up, leaned forward and said he wanted to go back to the very beginning and tell us as accurately as possible about his bizarre and amazing adventure. He said he needed to slow down his mind and reorganize his memories as linearly as possible, in order to keep all of the various elements of his story in their accurate place and in their proper time period.
Eventually, we finished supper, but he was not anywhere near finished with the story, so they urged me to come up and join them in their hotel room, to allow him more time to continue the telling of his amazing adventure. Hour after hour went by, but none of us were aware of time until the sun began to rise and send a warm glow of light into their room.
After that initial session, it was quite clear to all of us that he had merely begun the process of pouring the information out of his mind and into our ears. We were each feeling somewhat spent from staying up all night, and slightly in need of a good long nap. So, they decided to rearrange their travel plans; and I agreed to go home and then return to the hotel later that afternoon, equipped with my recorder, in order to have a better way of keeping track of the wide variety of circumstances about which he was telling us.
Door Posts is the result of that initial happenstance meeting, and then much more subsequent time spent together throughout the transcription process. None of us are writers, but they sensed there must have been some reason why I was brought into all of this. And now, I am inclined to agree with them. This is the most amazing story I have ever heard, and I am honored to be the one through whom it can be shared with the rest of the world.
I am a professor of Art Theory and Cultural Studies here at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In addition to my teaching occupation, as an avocation I am a painter. My mind works like a painter, so when I set about the task of writing the story down, all of the various parts presented themselves to me as different colors and shapes and patterns on a canvas. This is the only way my mind could make sense of it, due to its unusual nature.
I also felt compelled to represent in writing the unusual way the story was presented to us. It was an oral story, and he presented it as if he were an actor on a stage. It often seemed as though he lost himself and became the characters about whom he was speaking. In addition, he often spoke of himself as though he were merely another one of the characters in the story.
Another unusual aspect of the telling of the story was that some parts of it were elements of history, while other parts of it seemed to defy history. As he went on pouring out the information from his mind, he would often go back and forth between speaking in the past tense about the historical elements, and in the present tense about the other parts. In order to capture the style of the actual telling of the story, the historical parts are here written as he told them in the past tense, and the other parts are written as he told them in the present tense. All of this is true and consistent with the way he was actually telling the story orally.
This suits me perfectly well because the act of painting always occurs in the now. Every painter knows this. It is the reason why we are drawn to the activity. Painting takes us to another world -- another time zone -- a place where there is no past nor future. And this happens to be the exact same place where this particular story exists.
Now, in order to make the various parts of the story easier for the reader to navigate, we decided the past tense historical elements should be graphically represented in ; and the other present tense parts should be represented in .
Occasionally, when the parts of the story were transitioning into each other they would intermingle in shorter segments. These shorter segments are indicated with narrower margins and in .
I do apologize for the more pedestrian content of this lengthy and seemingly uninteresting introduction, but I do think you will appreciate the advance notice about what to expect as you make your way through reading the story.
And, of course, my hope is that you will be as captivated by the telling of it as I was.
“Adolf… Adolf? Oh, there you are, dear. Did you not hear me calling you?”
“Sorry, Mother. I was simply… ”
“Simply lost in your painting world again.”
“Yes, I suppose I was. I am sorry. Did you need me for something? Do you… ”
“No, dear. It is suppertime. Paula and I have been waiting for you. Did you not hear me call you to supper?”
“No. I am sorry. I will be right there.”
After his mother left the room, Adolf dipped the paintbrush onto the pallet one more time and then applied a few more strokes on the canvas. As he lifted the brush from the surface, he looked at the painting and frowned, and said, “Father was right.”
Slowly and thoughtlessly, he put the brush back on the canvas and began to smear the area where he was working. With a furrowed brow, he picked up a broader brush and furiously smeared more paint over the entire surface of the canvas.
The conversation at the supper table was about as sparse as the surface of their plates. Adolf knew it was useless to continue thinking he could pursue his love for painting. He knew his application to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna would never even make it to the dean’s desk for consideration.
He was also painfully aware that he was now old enough to be the man of the house, and that it was up to him to make sure his mother and younger sister had more on their plates than what they were currently pushing around with their forks.
Toward the end of the meal, Adolf looked across the table, and said, “If I am not accepted to the Academy again, I intend to look for work in the steel mills.”
“What about your painting?” asked Paula.
Adolf looked at her and smiled, and assured her not to worry, “It will always be a part of my life, little one. I do know that the life of an artist is always somewhat accompanied by a struggle to survive. We must force ourselves to keep at it, all the while longing to be discovered for our brilliance… ” Then he winked at her, and continued, “You do think that I am brilliant, do you not?”
“Of course you are, my child,” smiled his mother, tenderly, as Paula nodded in agreement.
“You are a very special young man, Adolf. The Lord will guide your steps. He carefully watches over His children. You will see,” assured his mother.
+ – + – + – +
“Adolf Hitler was a painter? An artist? What? That can’t be right!”
“That’s what it says.”
Daniel and Sarah were sitting next to each other on the sofa in the living room of Sarah’s apartment, so Daniel leaned over and looked at the textbook in Sarah’s lap.
“See? Right there,” pointed Sarah. “It says that when he was a young man he was interested in watercolor painting and even applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Twice.”
Daniel pushed back, and said, “That has got to be some bogus history book, Sarah. That can’t be right.”
“Why not?” countered Sarah.
“Why not? What do you mean why not?” said Daniel. “How could that possibly be true? He was a madman. He was a heinous mass murderer.” Daniel turned more sideways on the sofa to face Sarah, and continued, “I mean, art is creative… art is beautiful… art is human expression. It is our divine spark. It is how we are like God.”
Sarah nodded, and Daniel continued, “God made us creators, like Himself. That is one of the ways we are made in His image and likeness. No way! There is no way Adolf Hitler was an artist. He was a destroyer, not a creator. He was ugly, not beautiful. He was… ”
“Ok, Ok, I get it, alright already,” interrupted Sarah. “I’m as shocked by it as you are. But it says it right here. And, I don’t see why it couldn’t be true. We have no idea what his early life was really like. All we know about is his role in World War II. He may have been just another average little boy growing up in Germany and doing all of the same things that every other little German boy was doing. He had a family. He probably had dreams.”
“Well, if he did, they turned out to be everyone else’s nightmare,” said Daniel.
+ – + – + – +
Daniel had no idea why Y2K popped into his mind. He was sitting in one of his favorite places in the Capital Grounds eating his usual brown bag lunch. Usual, in that every day it was about the same thing -- a banana, a yogurt cup, a peanut butter and jam sandwich on wheat bread, and an apple, which he usually saved for later in the afternoon or to eat on the way home before dinner.
He finished up the sandwich and put the empty plastic baggie and the yogurt spoon back into the brown bag along with the uneaten apple, and wondered why in the world people were so freaked out about Y2K. Nothing devastating happened. The previous millennium had passed and a new millennium began. Computer systems didn’t seem to be adversely affected at all. Time marched on smoothly without even the slightest hint of a hiccup.
It could be Sarah, his girlfriend. She had one more history course to finish up before graduating from the University of Minnesota with her Master’s Degree in History. The course was 20th Century World History and Daniel was helping her to study for her final exam. That was probably what got him thinking about the infamous Y2K scare.
Through the process of helping Sarah study, Daniel developed the opinion that the last one hundred years of history definitely had a major impact on the world. He saw it as a unique period of exciting discovery and complex human affairs, which provided a fitting capstone on the previous millennium.
But, as Daniel sat and thought about it all, he concluded that there certainly was nothing all that new under the sun. Time merely marched on as it always had. He looked around at the city, St. Paul, and admired its blend of old and new -- the downtown Historic District mixed in with the modern high rise buildings.
‘It’s just people… ’ he thought. ‘It’s just people living their lives, creating new generations, putting together communities, and hopefully… just maybe… someday learning to get along with each other.’
Then Daniel’s thoughts went back to Sarah, as they frequently did. She was a great girl. Daniel loved her dearly, and she seemed to feel the same way about him. They were to be married soon and their two lives were primed and ready for the big commitment. Sarah would be graduating in the not too distant future and Daniel recently got his dream job at Likewise International.
Likewise was founded by a man named Patrick Johnson, who built his humanitarian organization around the simple principle of people helping people. His charisma and tenacious passion had galvanized a few other similar organizations together to form Likewise, which was now a worldwide enterprise.
Daniel was thankful and excited to get the job at the Likewise headquarters right in his hometown of St. Paul. It was a perfect fit for him because he always had a heart for the underprivileged. Even as a young boy, his parents were amazed at the things he wanted to be involved with in their community to help other people in need.
On that particular spring day, Daniel would have much rather stayed in the Capital Grounds for a little while longer. He often considered it a small crime in the cosmos when he was not able to invest more of himself into days like this one, which had so generously provided a gentle breeze of perfectly warm air and a beautiful green landscape of luscious spring growth. He was not all that eager to trade his favorite color of green for his grayish cubicle, demanding computer screen, and impolite telephone.
But on the other hand, he did appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the Likewise team. Unlike other humanitarian organizations that tell a good story, but don’t actually deliver the goods to those in need, Likewise truly and genuinely served people and did not merely pad its own bank accounts. Patrick Johnson did not tolerate even a hint of fraud to exist in his company. He worked diligently to maintain its reputation of being above reproach in the non-profit industry, and a shining example of genuine humanitarianism in the public eye.
Daniel was unwelcomely brought back to the moment at hand when the blaring siren from a passing emergency vehicle snapped him back into the realization that time was once again terminating his lunch hour and announcing that his empty cubicle was calling.
As he left the Capital Grounds and headed down Cedar Street, his attention was grabbed by the sound of scoffing laughter across the street near Central Presbyterian Church. So, he stopped and looked over to see what was going on. A few teenage hooligans were harassing a poor bum who seemed to be merely looking for assistance from the church.
Daniel shouted as he checked the traffic and then dashed across the street, “Hey! Get the hell away from him! Get outta here… now!”
The hooligans scurried away as Daniel rushed into the parking lot. “Are you alright, buddy?” said Daniel as he walked up to the bum. “Here, let’s take a look at you.” Daniel knelt down and did a cursory examination of the bum’s general condition. Then he looked into his eyes, and said, “If it’s Ok with you, I know of a place nearby that can give you a hand. I’ll take you there, if you want me to.”
The bum was afraid and hesitant at first, but then sensed Daniel’s sincere kindness. He started to collect himself and then stood to his feet.
“They’ll have food for you there and some clothes, and maybe even a place for you to stay tonight, if there’s room,” said Daniel, comfortingly.
The Union Gospel Mission was about a block away, so Daniel walked the bum over, and in through the back entrance. Daniel was well known at the shelter. One of the workers saw them come in, and said, “Hey Daniel. How’s it going?”
“Pretty good, Sam. How about you?” greeted Daniel.
“Doing alright,” said Sam. “I see you have made another friend.” Sam walked up with a friendly welcoming grin, and said to the bum, “Hello, my friend. Welcome to the Union Gospel Mission. I think you will be happy that Daniel showed you the way here. It looks like you are a little down on your luck, so we may be able to help you get things sorted out again.” Sam put his arm around the bum and started to escort him down the hall, and said, “Come on down here. Maybe we can start by giving you a nice hot meal.”
“See you, Sam,” said Daniel.
The bum turned around and timidly offered his gratitude to Daniel, who returned it with a smile and then left the mission.
+ – + – + – +
Later that evening, Daniel was at Sarah’s apartment. He was dressed up nicely and leaning against her bedroom doorway. “It was no big deal, really,” he said as he walked into the bedroom and finished up the knot in his necktie. “Those punks were just messing with this poor guy, and I had to do something about it.”
“I know,” said Sarah, as she put the final touches on herself to go out for the evening. “It’s not that I think you should have ignored the situation. But, I worry about you, Daniel. You are way too nice to people. And someday, one of those guys is probably going to go crazy and attack you, or stab you, or something.”
Daniel laughed slightly, and said, “Well, it is good to know that I can always count on you to look out for me, right?”
Sarah smiled at him in the mirror as he walked up next to her to adjust his necktie.
“Well, are you ready for a grand night out… the time of your life?” said Daniel, sarcastically. Sarah looked over at him as he rolled his eyes, and continued, “I can’t believe I have to go to this thing tonight. Why do they make it mandatory? Don’t you think that is kind of weird?”
Sarah shrugged, and said, “I don’t know.”
“And it’s my birthday, for crying out loud,” complained Daniel. “Why do they have to have this stupid thing on my birthday. I just want to be with you. I just want to go out and do something nice with you.”
Sarah squinted her eyes at Daniel, and said, somewhat scoldingly, “We’ve already settled that, mister. Don’t you try to bring it back up now. Your night is tomorrow, so I don’t want to hear anymore whining about it… you got that?”
Daniel acknowledged the uselessness of his ploy, and continued, “Well, I guess they have this event every year at this time -- to have a state of the company address. And, welcoming new employees is part of it. I’ve met Mr. Johnson, of course. He’s a nice enough guy, but I wonder why he thinks it is so important to... I don’t know, maybe it’s some kind of corporate team building thing, or something like that. They were telling me he gives a motivational speech and rah rah and welcome to the team, or whatever.”
Sarah was not the least bit sympathetic to Daniel’s whining, and said, “Daniel, that job is perfect for you. You are so fortunate to have been hired on at Likewise. It is the perfect job for a Good Samaritan like you. You’re always doing that kind of thing anyway… and now, you even get paid for it.”
“I guess you’re right… as usual,” agreed Daniel. “Fine. I’ll stop complaining. Anyway, I heard the food is pretty decent, and I really do like Landmark Center. That place is so great.”
Daniel then moved behind Sarah and gave her a hug, and said, “And, I’ll be out with you, of course… so that alone will make it a grand and glorious night out.”
Sarah turned around and put her arms around Daniel’s neck. She gave him a quick kiss, and said, “It is going to be nice, but I am also a little hesitant about going because I really do need to study for my history exam. It’s coming up quickly and I want to nail it.”
As Sarah turned and sat down on the edge of her bed to put on her shoes, Daniel said, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep helping you with it. I like it. I’m really learning a lot about that stuff… and I don’t have to sit and suffer through those hours of lecture. It’s a good deal to me. And, I never knew much about all of those things that happened over the last hundred years. The 20th Century really was packed with a ton of major worldwide events.”
Sarah stood up and walked over to Daniel. She straightened his lapels slightly, and said, “I really do appreciate all of your help with my studies. I know I am going to do way way better on the exam because of it.”
Daniel enjoyed Sarah’s touch. He looked into her eyes, and said, warmly, “I do love you, Sarah. I think you are absolutely wonderful.”
“And I love you, too, my boy,” said Sarah. “But we’d better get our act together and get ourselves outta here, don’t you think?”
“After you, my dear,” said Daniel.
Just as Daniel and Sarah walked into the living room, Sarah’s roommate, Jessica, came in through the apartment door, and said, “Well, aren’t you two just the dapper couple. Where are you off to?”
“Remember… the Likewise dinner,” reminded Sarah. “…at Landmark.”
“Oooh, I want to go,” pleaded Jessica.
“You can take my place,” said Daniel.
Sarah gave Daniel a glare, and Jessica said to Daniel, “I was thinking more like you and me, big boy. How about it?” Then, looking over at Sarah, Jessica smiled coyly, and said, “Come on, Sarah. Let me show him what it’s like to go out with a real woman.”
“Yeah, right,” Sarah laughed.
“Ok, Ok, you two,” said Daniel. “Let’s get on with this, shall we?”
“I’ll consider that a raincheck, Danny boy,” smiled Jessica. “Besides, I actually have a date myself tonight, so I am doing just fine on this lovely Friday night.”
“Really?” asked Sarah. “With who?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” quipped Jessica.
“Really. Who?” asked Sarah.
“Seriously, girls, we gotta get going,” interrupted Daniel.
“I’ll tell you all about it tonight… or tomorrow… or whenever,” assured Jessica.
“Ok,” said Sarah, as she gave Jessica a hug. Then, as she and Daniel walked out the door, Sarah turned around, and added, “Every detail, right?”
“Yes, yes,” agreed Jessica. “Now get going, you two lovebirds.”
+ – + – + – +
The banquet at Landmark Center was fabulous -- a highlight of the year for many of the Likewise employees. It was not overly extravagant, but definitely high quality enough to let the employees know how much they were appreciated.
Daniel and Sarah sat at a table with a few of Daniel’s new co-workers.
“Wow, this is really nice,” said Sarah.
“Yeah, I had no idea it would be something like this,” agreed Daniel. “This is amazing. Wow, what a great meal.”
Daniel’s co-workers heartily agreed, as waiters came by the tables and kept the courses coming.
Toward the end of the meal, the people at Daniel’s table were finishing up the main course, but he had only taken a few bites. As he poked at his food, he looked over to the head table and noticed Patrick Johnson finishing up his dinner, and starting to look over his presentation notes.
Daniel was pushing his fork at the last part of his dinner when he got a pained look on his face and grabbed his stomach. After a few moments, he leaned over to Sarah, and whispered, “Man, my stomach is messed up.”
Sarah was concerned, as Daniel continued, “I’m going to take a quick trip to the restroom and then I think we may have to get out of here, Ok?”
Sarah nodded and Daniel excused himself from the table.
Daniel sat there doubled over on the toilet in the restroom trying to manage his intestinal discomfort as best as he could. He was perspiring and groaning as he loosened his necktie and tried to relieve himself of whatever was causing his stomach to churn and flip flop.
It took a while, but finally Daniel was able to pull himself together enough to splash some water on his face and then grab a few hand towels to dry off. As he walked back to the banquet hall, he reached into his right pants pocket and was surprised that his car keys were missing. Thankfully, he then reached into his left pants pocket and discovered them in there.
Sarah could clearly see that Daniel was not well, so she excused herself and stood up as he approached the table.
“I’m sorry, guys,” said Daniel, with a slightly pained look on his face. “Something’s not right in my stomach, so I think I’m going to have to sit this one out and go home before it gets worse.”
“Hey, no worries. Just go and take care of yourself… do you need a ride?” said one of his co-workers.
“No, thanks. I will be able to manage alright,” said Sarah. “Thank you, though. We’ll see you later. Good night.”
As Daniel and Sarah left the banquet hall, Patrick Johnson walked up to the lectern to begin his annual address to the employees of Likewise.
“This is such a bummer, Daniel,” said Sarah, sympathetically.
“Tell me about it,” agreed Daniel.
“Your friends were telling me how great the speech is every year,” continued Sarah. “I guess he has quite a story to tell.”
“Well, I guess it’ll have to wait until next year,” said Daniel, holding his stomach. “I gotta get outta here.”
+ – + – + – +
Back at Sarah’s apartment, Daniel took off his jacket, necktie and shoes. He flopped down on the sofa, and said, “I think I may have to chill out here for a couple of hours until my stomach stops churning, if that’s Ok with you.”
“Of course, please, lay down,” said Sarah. “I’ll go get you a glass of water. Do you need a TUMS?”
“No. Thanks. It’s not heartburn,” said Daniel, rubbing his stomach. “It’s just a bad pain right down here.”
Sarah returned from the kitchen with a glass of water, and said, “Well, I guess I get my wish after all. Now I can study for my history final a little more.”
Daniel had no problem working with Sarah and quizzing her on the information from her notes. It served to distract him from the annoying pains swirling around in his stomach.
After about an hour, Daniel sat forward and picked up his water glass from the coffee table, and said, “I’m going to get a refill.”
“I can get it,” offered Sarah. “You just sit right there.”
“No, I think maybe I need to get vertical for a moment,” said Daniel, as he stood up. He stretched his arms out, and continued, “Yeah, that’s better. Whew! I think the worst of it is over. I’ll be right back.”
In Linz, Austria, a young man is sitting at the bar inside a small neighborhood tavern drinking a beer. The year is 1907. It is the end of a typical workday and the room is full of local townsfolk chatting in German and laughing and eating.
As Daniel approached Sarah’s kitchen, he looked ahead of him through the doorway and was shocked to see that the entire interior of the kitchen had changed. It was no longer Sarah’s kitchen. “What the heck?” said Daniel, as he peered in and saw that the room on the other side of the doorway had transformed into what appeared to be a European tavern.
“What’s going on here?” he said, as he turned around and went back into the living room. “Hey, Sarah, look at this.” But as he headed back into the room and walked up to Sarah, something about her didn’t look right. It was almost as if a movie got rewound and she was repeating the actions she had done before, when he got up to go and refill his water glass.
The young man at the bar in Linz feels uneasy about how three ruffians at the other end of the bar are looking at him. So, he quickly finishes up his beer and leaves the pub. Once outside, the young man walks away down the sidewalk, but as he passes an alley between two of the shops, he hears one of the ruffians from down in the alley calling out a derogatory homosexual remark at him.
“Sarah… ” said Daniel again, but she didn’t acknowledge his voice or his presence. It was as if she was there, but he was not.
“Sarah? Hey… Sarah,” said Daniel. He walked up to her and reached over to touch her shoulder, but was shocked to discover that his hand passed right through her.
“What the… ” said Daniel, as he jumped backward. “What the heck is going on here… ”
Daniel suddenly started to feel his entire body tingling. He lifted up his hands and looked at them, and turned them over a few times. He crossed his arms and grabbed his chest. He felt like he was draining out of his own skin and then filling back up again.
He looked back over at Sarah and saw that she was still looping in a weird time warp.
Daniel looked around and realized that the entire apartment around him was gradually beginning to fade away. Everything in the room started to sound hollow and void. The only sounds he could hear were coming from the tavern on the other side of the kitchen door.
He felt faint as he staggered back over to the kitchen and peered in through the doorway again. It looked to him like a movie was playing on the other side of the door, but it was fully dimensional. He saw several groups of people situated in the tavern. They were talking and laughing, but he didn’t understand a word they were saying because they were all speaking German.
Daniel turned and looked back at Sarah. He was puzzled to see that she was doing exactly what she was doing before, when he had walked over to her earlier. She was still looping in another dimension of time and space -- a dimension where, apparently, he no longer existed.
The young man starts to run away, but is quickly herded deep into the alley by the other two ruffians. All three of them proceed to give the young man a severe beating. When they are satisfied with their work, they leave the poor young man lying in the alley.
An overwhelming rush of dizziness washed over Daniel. He blinked a few times and fought to maintain his bearings. Suddenly, all of the plots and scenes from the science fiction books and movies he had enjoyed since he was a teenager begin to spew out from his memory banks. ‘What is going on here? This can’t be real,’ he thought, desperately. ‘Have I jumped into some other dimension?’
Daniel closed his eyes firmly and took a deep breath. His mind began to settle down. He was thinking more clearly now, ‘Ok, this is all some weird illusion. Whatever was going on in my stomach just made its way on up to my head. This is not even happening.’
Before he opened his eyes, Daniel lifted up the glass in his hand and drank the last bit of water. Then he took another deep calming breath. Unfortunately, he could still hear the sounds of the tavern, but he refused to let himself believe they were real.
He cautiously opened up his eyes. He looked around and saw that everything was still slowly blending into another dimension. It was real. It was actually happening. Daniel was truly experiencing some type of strange shift in time and space.
Daniel turned and took one more look back at Sarah.
He was not there. He finally realized he was not there with her anymore. He realized he could not go back to her. And as bizarre and fearful as it seemed, it became clear to Daniel that his only option for continued existence was on the other side of Sarah’s kitchen door, wherever that was. So, he took a deep breath, mustered up his courage and warily walked across the threshold into the tavern.
As Daniel walks slowly through the doorway into the tavern, his entire being shudders and tingles and feels electrified from head to toe.
The water glass in his hand suddenly feels heavy and he almost drops it, so he looks down and is surprised to see that it has transformed into a full glass of beer.
Daniel curiously walks toward the bar. The bartender acknowledges him with a nod accompanied by a slightly puzzled glance. Daniel smiles politely back at him, takes a spot at the bar and puts his beer down. He takes a few moments to survey the tavern. The atmosphere in the room is similar to any bar he ever went to in St. Paul. Groups of people are standing or sitting around and talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. There is nothing too unusual about it -- nothing, except for the fact that they all look like antiques.
‘Man, everything and everyone in here looks like something I watched in a documentary on the History Channel,’ thinks Daniel. He takes a drink of beer and casually glances over in the mirror on the wall across from him. Startled by his reflection, he chokes on his beer when he sees that he is not himself. He blinks his eyes a few times, carefully looks again in the mirror, and is completely shocked to see that he has assumed the identity of some other person. He now seems to be a young man of average size, who is well dressed, physically fit, and nicely coiffed.
Daniel’s mind reels as he stands at the bar and attempts to make even a modicum of sense out of his shocking new surroundings. Soon he notices that he can understand the German language that is being spoken all around him. He glances around the room again and is amazed that his ears are hearing them speaking in German, but his mind is translating their words into English.
But then Daniel’s glance happens to rest upon three rather rough looking men at the other end of the bar. They are staring back at him and talking among themselves in a way that makes him feel somewhat uncomfortable, so he decides it might be best to avoid any interaction with them. He also thinks it might a good idea to do some further exploration of his new environment. So, he takes a couple more quick gulps of beer and, when he sees that the men are looking the other way, he quietly slips outside the front door of the tavern.
The sun set a couple of hours ago, but there are some lamps on the street and a few dimly lit shop windows. Even though Daniel knows he has never been there before, he still has a strange and uncanny sense of familiarity with these new surroundings. As he strolls along the sidewalk, he begins to rifle through the file cabinets in his mind and is fascinated with all of the foreign information that he finds -- about who he is, and where he is, and when it is.
But then his thoughts are interrupted by the sounds of someone groaning. As he gets closer to an alley, he peers down into it and sees that someone down toward the middle of the alley is in desperate need of assistance.
In spite of the fact that Daniel has assumed a new identity, he is still very much himself and his feelings about a fellow human being in need are the same as they have always been. So, he walks into the alley and discovers a young man about his same age cowering on his hands and knees and leaning against some trash bins.
Daniel rushes up to the young man, and says, “Oh, no… here, let me help you.”
Daniel is shocked that the German language is fluently coming out of his own mouth.
“Stay away from me! Get away!” yells the young man, but then he tips over onto his side and cries out in pain.
Daniel kneels down and touches him, and says, “It is alright. I am a friend. I am here to help you.”
The young man is now going in and out of consciousness, so Daniel is able to look him over as best as he can to assess the damage. As he does, he is struck by the fact that he now seems to be two different people existing together in one life. He knows that he is completely himself, but he also knows that he is completely this other person.
“Why do you not understand, Father… why will you not simply listen to me…” mumbles the young man as he fades into consciousness and then back out again.
‘I can’t believe this,’ thinks Daniel. ‘I’m hearing German, but I’m thinking in English.’ And as he thinks about it some more, he realizes that it probably would be completely impossible for him to speak English now, even if he wanted to. He considers the fact that the new body he now occupies has never formed English words, so even if his brain sent the signals to speak English, the body parts would probably not fully cooperate.
Then Daniel gets back to the business of assessing the young man’s injuries. His face is badly beaten and it is quite obvious that a few ribs are broken.
“Get away from him! Go! Get away!”
Daniel is startled and turns around to see a large woman running toward them.
“Leave him alone!” shouts the woman, as she kneels down by the young man.
“I am trying to help the poor guy,” says Daniel.
But the woman pushes him away, and says, “Go away! You must leave us alone!”
“He is badly hurt, ma’am,” insists Daniel. “I think you are going to need… ”
“Away from us! Get away from us now!” yells the woman.
Daniel has no choice but to do as the woman says, so he backs away a few steps and stands aside as she attempts to rescue the young man.
“Oh no, no, not again… not again,” cries the woman, as she tries to help the young man to his feet. But he cries out in pain and drops to his knees.
“Look, I do not care what you say! I am going to help you whether you want me to or not,” asserts Daniel, as he rushes over and props the young man back up to his feet by carefully pulling the man’s arm up and around his own shoulders. “Let me help you to get him to safety, and then I will leave you alone, alright?”
After another worthy but feeble attempt to resist Daniel’s help, the woman reluctantly surrenders to his assistance, and the two of them work together gingerly to lift the man up to his feet and escort him slowly down the street.
The woman’s home is not too far away, and as they are walking, it is clear to Daniel that she is the young man’s mother because of the way she is talking to him and trying to comfort him. But, that is the entire extent of their conversation because the majority of their combined efforts are focused upon getting the poor soul to a place where he can be cared for adequately.
Soon, they arrive at a small modest home and the woman directs Daniel to turn and go up the front walk. Daniel supports the young man as the woman opens the front door. Then they walk into the house and make their way into the living room.
“Oh, no! What has happened, Mother?” cries a younger girl, as she rushes into the room to help.
“Get some warm water running, Paula,” orders the woman. “You will find some soft cloths and bandages in the bathroom cabinet.”
“Oh, dear… oh dear, God,” murmurs the woman, as she and Daniel take the young man into a bedroom and lay him carefully down on the bed. Under her breath, the woman is chanting, “Hail Mary, Mother of God… ”
Daniel steps back out of the way, as Paula brings in a pitcher full of warm water and a basin. She lays down some cloths and bandages, and says, “Why, Mother? Why do they do this?”
“Oh Adolf, my poor dear Adolf… ” says the woman quietly, as she cleans up the wounds on the young man’s face. She is so consumed with ministering to her son’s wounds that she is oblivious to Daniel’s presence. And he is in a somewhat shocked state of being as his mind desperately attempts to make sense out of what is happening to him. So, he slowly makes his way out of the bedroom and walks back toward the front room.
‘Adolf,’ thinks Daniel, wondering if he heard the woman correctly. ‘Am I dreaming? What is going on here?’
Daniel’s knees buckle under him and he staggers over to a small table to keep from falling. He knocks over a flower vase and pushes several letters off the desk onto the floor. His mind is still reeling as he rights the vase and bends down to pick up the letters. As he places them back on the desk, he squints at one of them and picks it up to read the name of the addressee -- Klara Hitler...
“God, oh God, no… ” he says, under his breath, trembling. “How can this… what is… ”
+ – + – + – +
At this point, Daniel is completely overwhelmed by what is happening to him. He can’t process any more of it. He spins around the room holding his head with a dazed look on his face. Finally, he rushes back out the front door and runs down the street.
As if by autopilot, Daniel makes his way onto a tram that takes him into an upper-class residential area in Linz, Austria. He gets off the tram and walks down a few blocks in a residential neighborhood. Then he turns onto the front walkway of a very nice house, and walks up the steps to the front door.
As Daniel walks through the door into an entry way and looks into a living room, an older man seated in a chair puts down a newspaper and takes a pipe out of his mouth, and says, “Diener! Thank God! Where have you been?”
The older man gets up out of the chair, and calls, “Andria, Diener is here! Andria! Come!”
Daniel sees a woman rushing out of the kitchen toward the man. “Oh, Diener!” she cries. “Where have you been? We were worried sick about you!”
Diener walks into the living room, and says, “I am sorry, Mother.”
The man walks up and looks at him, and says, “Do not tell me that you… where did you… ” Then he stops and looks at Diener, and says, “Is that blood?”
Diener’s mother gasps as she looks down at his clothes and sees a few bloodstains on his coat by his chest and shoulder.
“I… ” starts Diener.
“Do not tell me that you went to the tavern again!” barks the man.
“Oh, Ernst, please… ” says Andria as she takes Diener and escorts him up the stairs and into his bedroom. “Are you all right, dear? Are you hurt?”
“It is alright, Mother. I am fine,” assures Diener. “I owe you and Father an explanation about my behavior this evening. Let me clean myself up some, and then I will be down shortly to explain what has happened to me tonight.”
Andria turns to Ernst, who had followed them up the stairs and is standing in the bedroom doorway. The two of them silently agree and then walk back down the stairs to the living room.
Daniel cannot for the life of him figure out how he navigated the interchange between himself and those two perfect strangers. ‘But that’s just it,’ he thinks. ‘I am not myself anymore. I am me this other person. I seem to be able to be both of us at the same time.’
As Daniel makes his way around the room and finds a change of clothes, information about his new identity begins to flood into his mind. He discovers that he is twenty years old and an art student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His family is upper class, and his father holds an executive position at a mining company, Alpine Montan Gesellschaft.
Daniel walks into the bathroom to clean up and is shocked again when he sees himself in the mirror. ‘Who is this person?’ he thinks. ‘How can all of this be happening? What am I supposed to do now?’
He knows he cannot tell these two people everything that transpired earlier in the evening, but he feels he should at least offer an explanation that will hopefully fit as neatly as possible into his present circumstances.
Diener finishes the process of cleaning himself up by putting on a comfortable evening jacket. He then walks down the stairs and into the living room, and says, “I do apologize to you, Father. I did go to the tavern again tonight.”
“Would you care for some tea, dear?” offers Andria.
“Yes. Thank you, Mother. I could use a good cup of strong tea about now,” answers Diener.
“Well, I need a drink,” says Ernst, as he walks over to a marble topped buffet and pours himself a brandy.
“I am not hurt,” explains Diener. “I was merely involved with helping someone at the tavern who hurt.”
“Which is exactly why I forbade you to go there,” asserts his father. “Your mother was worried sick about you.”
Daniel feels ashamed of his behavior as Andria walks into the room with the tea tray. Waves of a son’s love for his mother sweep over him as he watches her set the tray down on a low table, and lovingly pour cups of tea for him and herself.
Daniel’s heart begins to fill with memories of his own parents who adopted him when he was a baby. The room seems to become somewhat hollow as Daniel looks at these two people making snippets of small talk that he doesn’t hear. Tears begin to well up in his eyes.
“Are you alright, dear?” asks Andria.
Diener comes back to himself and looks at his parents, and says, “I do so love you both. I am so very sorry.”
Ernst looks over at Andria and takes a deep breath, and then another sip of his brandy.
“If it meets with your approval, may I simply go to bed now?” asks Diener. “I am quite overcome by this evening’s events. May we postpone our discussion about it until tomorrow morning?”
Ernst and Andria agree, so Diener picks up his teacup and saucer and retires to his bedroom.
Once he is in bed with his head on the pillow, Daniel finally succumbs to the barrage of thoughts and memories that are assaulting his mind. His head reels as though he is intoxicated by the confusion between his two worlds, and the evening that brought them together. He attempts to strike a balance between the implications of what he is supposed to do now and what will happen next, but then all of his thoughts give way to exhaustion and he falls deeply asleep.
+ – + – + – +
Diener sleeps later in the morning than usual. Thankfully, it is summer recess at the Academy and he has no pressing classes or assignments. As he gets dressed, he thinks about how he is going to explain to his parents why he not only went against their wishes by going to the tavern, but also got involved in a potentially dangerous situation by helping out a stranger in need. He knows it may be difficult for them to fully understand the circumstances that drove him to help another person who was badly beaten and left for dead in a dark alley.
And Daniel realizes there is absolutely no way those two kind people would ever understand that a person from about one hundred years in the future has assumed the identity of their son. He knows he must take it slow and try to put himself in their shoes, and do the best he can not to completely upset their family.
Ernst and Andria are already seated at the breakfast table when Diener walks into the kitchen. “Good morning, Father. Good morning, Mother,” says Diener as he sits down at the table and pours himself a glass of juice from a pitcher.
“May I get you some toast and eggs, dear?” offers Andria.
“Yes, please… thank you, Mother,” he answers. Then he looks over at his father, and says, “I am simply trying to understand life, Father. I am trying to figure out how to put life into my painting.”
“That is not the type of life that anyone needs to know about. Certainly not anyone from this family,” says Ernst.
“I do understand what you mean, Father,” says Diener. “But, please try to understand my position. I do not want to merely paint buildings, or landscapes, or portraits of important people. I want to paint life. I want life in my art. I want my art to reflect life.”
Ernst glances at Andria as she places breakfast in front of Diener.
“Life is at the tavern, Father,” continues Diener as he prepares to eat his breakfast. “I do not mean to argue with you, but I must say that real life is there at the tavern. Real people are there. They meet. They laugh. They share their joys, and they share their burdens and their hardships.”
“And that is what you discovered last night?” queries Ernst.
“Yes… that… and also that I do need to be careful when I am in those surroundings,” answers Diener. “And that I need to remain observant of those around me… to sense if tempers are starting to flare, or things like that.”
“Oh, dear,” gasps Andria.
Ernst looks over at Andria and takes a deep breath. He knows arguing with Diener will only serve to cause her some more undue grief. He also knows it is time to allow Diener to be his own man. He is not quite sure he has the courage to let go, but he knows it is time to stop being Diener’s supervisor and to start being his mentor.
“Well, I do suppose the only way one can learn things like that about people is by going out and being among them,” concedes Ernst. “You certainly cannot learn those kinds of things in the classroom, and you will probably not learn them in this neighborhood, either.”
Diener finishes up a bite of eggs and takes a drink of juice, and says, “It sounds as though you have been listening to Mother.”
“She is far more gracious than I, Diener. I must admit to that fact of reality,” says Ernst.
Andria smiles as she pours each of them a cup of coffee.
“But please do not tell me that you are in any way becoming swayed by the Secessionists,” says Ernst. “Klimt is an egotistical bohemian buffoon. He is an embarrassment to art and a danger to a peaceful society.”
“I suppose, after that assessment, you make it impossible for me to comment, but I will try,” says Diener. “Like I said, to me, art must be more than the mechanics. I do not want to merely record something that is in front of me. We have photography for that. I want to capture life. I want to capture emotion… ”
“Like The Kiss?” interrupts Ernst.
“Yes… like The Kiss,” affirms Diener.
“It is grotesque,” shudders Ernst. “All of his art is grotesque.”
“Life is grotesque,” says Diener, flatly. “But do not worry. I like his art, but I will not join the Secessionists. I am not at all interested in their platform. Art will run its natural course. We do not have to help it along with our feeble-minded notions.”
“Well, thank God for that,” Andria pipes in.
That comment spurs Daniel into thinking again about his predicament, ‘Is God sovereign in the affairs of man, or are we on our own? Why did I go back in time? Why did I meet Adolf Hitler? Am I supposed to do something? Am I supposed to kill him… to prevent him from… ’
“Are you alright, dear?” asks Andria, snapping Diener back into the conversation.
“Yes… I apologize,” says Diener. “I was… well, let me ask you a philosophical question, Father. If you were to go back in time to change a historical event, which one would it be? Or, if you did go back to that event, would you change it, or leave it alone?”
“Philosophical indeed,” says Ernst. “Well, let me think about that for a moment.” He takes a few sips of his coffee, and says, “Hmmm, yes, I think that would be it. I would go back and change the Crusades and the Inquisition.”
“Is that so,” says Diener.
“Yes. They are such a black mark on the Church, and such an embarrassment to overcome when telling others about the Good News of forgiveness through our Savior Jesus Christ.”
“But we are Orthodox, dear,” interjects Andria. “We had nothing to do with that.”
“We are all the One True Church of Christ, my dear,” says Ernst. “We stand and we fall, together, as one.”
“But honestly, Father, it was the Roman Catholic political machine that was responsible for all of that,” says Diener.
“ One Faith, One Baptism, One Holy Communion of the Saints,” says Ernst. “Yes, of course, I do understand what you are saying. And that is all the more reason why I would go back and change it. It caused great harm in the world and it caused great division in the Church -- the very Body of Christ. If I could somehow go back and change the thinking of those involved, I certainly would at least make the attempt.”
“So, you would do something? You would not simply let it play out?” asks Diener.
Ernst looks over at Andria, who is staring down at her plate and pushing her food around with her fork. “Yes, I would do something… but it would not help what happened to your mother’s family.” Andria looks up at Ernst, as he continues, “They were Coptic Orthodox and were completely mowed down by the Muslims as they marched across North Africa toward the end of the Crusades.”
“That was a long time ago, dear,” says Andria, quietly. “God is the final Judge. And He will be just in His reckoning of all men.”
That seems like the best way to put a cap on the conversation, so Diener thanks his mother for the delicious breakfast and helps to clear the table. Then he asks to be excused, so he can go out and work for a while in his art studio.
+ – + – + – +
Diener’s father built the art studio in the back area of their property when it became clear Diener was serious about pursuing painting as an occupation. The studio had become a sanctuary for Diener -- a sanctuary he needed now more desperately than he ever had before.
For the next several days, Diener takes advantage of the sanctuary and immerses himself into his painting. His mind races back and forth between each of the disconnected issues that poured into his life on that one fateful evening. His painting becomes his therapy to ward off the madness of the overall situation and the confusion surrounding his attempts to find some unity among the vast disparity of incohesive events.
Never before has he approached his work with such abandon. He employs new color schemes and uses much more variant brush strokes in his work. He randomly selects between brush sizes and palette knives to create broad blends of color and texture with the paint on the canvas.
He finds himself going into trance-like states of mind and then snapping out of them to find in front of him, there on the canvas, some of the most amazing and thrilling paintings he has ever done. He views this body of his work as a metamorphosis. To him it represents entering the cocoon of life and then emerging as a brilliant butterfly.
+ – + – + – +
Things finally settle down enough in Daniel’s mind for him to realize he must do something about his transcendent encounter with Adolf Hitler. Sufficient time has passed for the young Hitler to be far enough on the mend to warrant a visit from the Good Samaritan who came to his assistance that night.
So, the next afternoon, Daniel travels back to the destination of his fateful passage through time. The town looks much different in the daylight. The summer sun is high in the sky. The air is warm. Linz certainly is a beautiful city, and Daniel is quite overwhelmed by the wide variety of sights, smells and sounds. He recognizes the tavern as he walks by, and the alley where he discovered Adolf. When he finally arrives at the Hitler house, he concludes it was quite a miracle that he and Adolf’s mother were able to transport his beat up body all the way down those streets during that dreadful evening a week or so ago.
A short while after Diener knocks on the front door, Adolf’s younger sister, Paula, opens the door, and says, “Yes?”
“Excuse me,” says Diener. “Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Diener Weber. It was I who helped your brother home the other night.”
Paula gets a frightened look on her face and runs back into the house, calling, “Mother! Mother! Come quickly!”
A few moments later, Klara Hitler comes to the door with Paula behind her. She recognizes Diener, and says, “Please, do come in.”
Diener is kindly escorted into the front room and offered a place to sit on the sofa.
Klara sits on a chair opposite him, and says, “I am Klara Hitler. We greatly appreciate your kindness to our family. Thank you.”
“How is… ” starts Diener.
“And I do apologize for my rudeness to you,” interrupts Klara. “I was terribly frightened about the circumstances. Adolf is very precious to me and I… ” she stops talking and begins to tear up.
“How is he recovering?” asks Diener, kindly.
Klara wipes her eyes with her handkerchief, and answers, “The swelling has mostly subsided. And he is looking much more like himself. The wounds are healing quickly, but it will take quite some time longer for the ribs to mend.”
After that comment, they are both surprised by Adolf as he enters the front room.
Klara hears him and turns around. She instantly gets up out of the chair and rushes over to him, saying, “Oh, Adolf! You must not get up! Please… please get back to your bed!”
“It is alright, Mother. I am fine,” insists Adolf. “I need to get out of that bed. I am going insane in there.”
“Oh, please dear, sit down,” says Klara as she guides Adolf to the chair where she was sitting.
Diener quickly stands up to assist them.
Adolf looks up at Diener, and says, “It appears that this is becoming quite a habit with you.”
“Yes, it does,” smiles Diener as he sits back down on the sofa.
“I am deeply in your debt, sir, and indeed quite glad you came along when you did,” says Adolf. “My mother told me all about our haphazard introduction to each other in the alley.”
“Let me get some tea, boys,” offers Klara as she smiles and heads into the kitchen. “Come with me, Paula.”
“Thank you, Mother,” says Adolf.
“Yes, that would be nice, Mrs. Hitler. Thank you,” adds Diener.
Adolf looks back over at Diener, and says, “You are clearly not from this part of town. What were you doing here that night?”
Diener answers, “I am an art student at the Academy of Fine Arts, and… ”
“I have applied to the Academy!” interrupts Adolf, excitedly. “I am hoping to enroll in the fall.”
“Is that true? That is good,” says Diener hesitantly, knowing that it is entirely unlikely that someone from the lower class would be accepted into the Academy.
Klara and Paula return with tea and cookies on a tray. As she is performing the tasks of filling teacups and serving them both, Daniel’s mind takes over and he begins to wonder if this is the reason why he has been sent back in time. He considers the fact that maybe he could steer Adolf’s young life into the arts instead of into the military. ‘Maybe I am here to change the course of his life,’ he thinks. ‘But, what am I supposed to do? Do I… ’
Diener then thinks for a moment, and says, “My father knows a few people in administration at the Academy. I will ask him if he can find out about your application status, and then possibly put in a good word for you.”
“Oh, that would be lovely,” blurts Klara. “Would that not be lovely, Adolf?”
Adolf agrees, “Yes… yes, of course, that would be most greatly appreciated, thank you… ”
“Oh, I am so sorry. Please forgive me. My name is Diener. Diener Weber,” says Diener.
“Thank you, Diener,” continues Adolf. “Once again, you have been very gracious and kind to us.”
“You are most welcome,” says Diener. “In fact, I just had another great idea. I would like to bring you over to my house to meet my parents. It would be a good idea for my father to meet you personally in order to make a more convincing recommendation to the administration at the Academy. And while you are there, we could also go into my art studio. I would like to show you some of the techniques that I have learned so far at the Academy.”
Adolf and Klara initially resist the offer, but Diener continues to insist that it would be a wonderful way for his father to get to know Adolf, and then be able to be more personal with his recommendation to the Academy. He sets up a time in the following week to come back to their house, and then bring Adolf out to the Weber home for a Sunday afternoon lunch.
+ – + – + – +
“I am not certain this is such a good idea, Diener,” says Ernst, after hearing about the invitation.
“Please, Father,” implores Diener. “And besides, it will be good for you. When was the last time you and Mother had interactions with other people from outside your usual circle of friends? It will be good for you to meet him. It will be good for you to meet the poor soul that I was able to help out that night. He is a nice fellow and maybe, just maybe, we can perform a good Christian act of kindness by helping out another in need.”
Ernst looks over at Andria, and says, “You are rubbing off on him, also.” Then, looking back at Diener, he says, “Yes, yes, of course, you are right. It is the proper thing to do. We will most certainly be delighted to entertain your young friend at our house for lunch on Sunday after church services.
+ – + – + – +
Daniel is a little apprehensive about his plan, even though he is firmly convinced his objective is sound. It seems reasonable to him that he might be able to create a significant enough shift in Adolf Hitler’s life to affect a change in his trajectory away from becoming a violent murderous dictator. What he is not so sure about is whether or not it is the right thing to do.
He arrives at the Hitler house and finds that Adolf is much more ambulatory, so they bid Klara farewell and head back to the tram station. Adolf is carrying a portfolio of some of his watercolor paintings.
“ I am not sure why I bothered to apply for admission to the Academy again,” says Adolf as they board the tram. “They probably never even looked at my first application -- it probably went directly into the waste bin. Even though my mother has such faith in me, I know there is no possibility of being accepted into the program.”
“Well, I think it is still a possibility worth pursuing,” says Diener, encouragingly. “That is what dreams are for. We are to discover them and pursue them.”
“You sound like my mother,” says Adolf.
Shortly, they arrive at the Weber household. Andria has prepared a multi-course lunch and the house is warm and inviting.
“Please do come in, my boy,” says Ernst, after opening the front door and ushering Diener and Adolf into the house. “Thank you for joining us. We are delighted to welcome you to the Weber household.”
After exchanging the standard set of social pleasantries, Adolf and the Weber family are seated at the table in the dining room and enjoying a sumptuous lunch.
“This soup is delicious, Mrs. Weber,” says Adolf, politely. “I have never tasted anything like it.”
“Thank you,” replies Andria. “Yes, my family is from North Africa, so the spices I am accustomed to using are quite different.”
“Where is your family from, Adolf?” asks Ernst.
“I grew up in Braunau am Inn,” answers Adolf.
“Ah, yes,” says Ernst. “I did detect a slight Bavarian accent… So, Stille Nacht… Franz Gruber.”
“Yes, that is what most people think of,” says Adolf. Then he eats a little more soup, and continues, “My father was a customs officer. But, he died a few years ago and we moved here to Linz.”
“A lovely town, a beautiful view of the Alps, and a good living for us,” says Ernst.
“What is your business, sir?” Adolf asks Ernst.
“Alpine Montan Gesellschaft,” answers Ernst. “God knows the world needs more steel.”
“Is that not merely feeding the Imperial Machine, Father?” inserts Diener.
“Yes, I suppose it is,” answers Ernst. “And it is not doing such a bad job of feeding our stomachs, as well.”
“But they are coming at us from all sides. All vying for power,” asserts Diener. “It is not right. They are growing and positioning. They are poised and ready to assert their agenda regardless of what the people want.”
Ernst looks over at Andria, and says, “Was I not telling you about all of that propaganda being rubbish?” Then, looking back at Diener, he says, “Reading the Deutsches Voksblatt again, are you?”
“I am merely attempting to stay informed,” says Diener.
“That is most admirable, of course,” agrees Ernst. “But you must make sure you balance it out with real information, Diener.”
“Well, if it is not the Imperialists, it will be the Jews,” adds Adolf. “They are in control of all the major businesses and the banking, and growing more and more powerful every day. At least, that is what I have heard.”
Adolf eats a few more spoonfuls of soup, and continues, “Do you work for a Jew, Mr. Weber?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I do,” answers Ernst. “And, I must say, he is absolutely one of the most brilliant businessmen whom I have ever met.”
Ernst eats some soup, and continues, “It is an interesting comment that you make, Adolf. Yes, there might be some truth to that, especially considering the Zionists. But, I would not dare get involved in anything that goes against them, unless I want to find myself fighting with God.”
“What do you mean?” asks Adolf.
“Do you not read the Bible, Adolf?” asks Ernst.
“I am a Catholic,” answers Adolf.
“Are you trying to support my point?” smiles Ernst.
“Father! Please!” interrupts Diener.
“Yes, yes, all right,” says Ernst, chuckling. “I apologize, Adolf. I was merely jesting with you. But clearly, our Father Abraham received absolute promises from God about his seed and about the Land. The Zionists will get that Land eventually and pity anyone who stands in their way.”
“Well, I believe that this is the Father Land,” asserts Adolf.
“ Yes, I am a patriot myself,” agrees Ernst. “But, I am not talking about the Father Land. I am talking about the Father’s Land -- the Promised Land, the Land promised to Abraham. It belongs to the Children of Israel and, according to God’s promises and an abundance of prophecies, they certainly will have it one day.”
“Well, hopefully they will not be coming through Austria to get it, dear,” says Andria.
“But the Arabs are there,” says Adolf.
“Yes, but it was never promised to them,” says Ernst.
“But they are also Abraham’s offspring,” says Adolf.
“So, you do read the Bible,” smiles Ernst. “And, since you do, you also know the Arabs are blessed through Ishmael, the first son of Abraham who was the result of Sarah’s impatience. Yes, Adolf, you are correct, the Arabs are also sons of Abraham and they are also blessed. But, the blessing of a unique people of God and a land for them to live in is through Isaac, Sarah’s only son.”
“The Jews,” says Adolf.
“Yes, the Jews,” confirms Ernst.
“If that is their land, then, why are all the Jews up here?” asks Adolf.
“You would make a good Zionist, Adolf,” chuckles Ernst. “That is exactly what they are asking themselves.”
At this point in the conversation, Diener has had about all he can take of political discussions, so he says, “Mother, may we be excused and have dessert a little later? I would like to show Adolf my art studio.”
Andria agrees, so the lunch is ended as Diener and Adolf express their gratitude for the delicious meal and excuse themselves from the table. Adolf picks up his portfolio, and the two of them walk through the kitchen and out the back door of the house.
As they walk across the backyard toward the studio, Daniel’s mind is reeling more than ever. Clearly, Adolf has already formed strong political opinions, and seems to be somewhat passionate about them. Daniel realizes he might have his work cut out for him if he is to be successful at diverting Adolf down a more benign artistic path.
Opening the door, Diener says, “My father had this built for me a few years ago. Come on in.”
Adolf is stunned and envious as he enters the studio and looks around. “My father never supported my interest in painting at all,” he says. “He was an asshole. Treated me like shit.”
Adolf walks over and notices the paintings Diener was working on most recently. “These are quite striking. Did you paint them? I have never seen anything like these.”
“Yes, and in reality, my whole experience with you at the tavern is the inspiration for them,” says Diener.
“How can that be?” says Adolf.
“I was quite confused about my encounter with you. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. My mind was trying to process everything… and this happens to be how it all came out on canvas.”
“Amazing,” says Adolf.
“You are an inspiration to me, Adolf,” says Diener. “And I hope maybe I can be an inspiration to you.” Diener looks at Adolf’s portfolio, and says, “May I see your work?”
After looking at Adolf’s watercolor paintings and making several positive comments about each of the pieces, Diener says, “You have a natural talent, Adolf, a talent that would be well suited for refinement and enhancement at the Academy. I will definitely have my father talk to his friends in Administration. You need to pursue this God-given creative ability.”
“Are you being serious, or merely kind?” asks Adolf. He looks away for a moment and then looks back at Diener, and adds, “I apologize for questioning you, but I have been so suppressed by my father that I cannot even imagine I could ever pursue this dream.”
“We will make it come true for you, Adolf,” says Diener, reassuringly. “I will try to help you make your dream come true.”
+ – + – + – +
Despite Ernst Weber’s recommendation, Adolf Hitler was not accepted by the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. The sad news tore away at Adolf’s soul, and then made its way out to his fingers as he furiously tore up the rejection letter from the Academy.
A deeply depressed state of mind followed. Adolf isolated himself from everything and everyone around him. He did not leave the house. He did not speak. He embraced the darkness, and thoroughly wrapped himself in its foreboding shadowy covering. He drank every ounce of his morose isolation and was fully quenched by every drop of its bitter thirst.
Despite Klara’s undying encouragement, Adolf’s darkness was pervasive throughout the Hitler household. He remained utterly depressed about his future, and nothing she or Paula did to console him was able to snap him out of his defeated view of life.
+ – + – + – +
When Diener returns to school, he notices that Adolf’s name is not on the roster of new students entering the Academy.
Now Daniel is completely confused about why he has gone back in time. He is at his wit’s end about what he is supposed to do. ‘Nothing is working,’ he thinks. ‘What is the purpose of this bizarre and maddening transport back in time? Why am I here in Linz, Austria, in 1907?’
At the dinner table one night, Andria says to Diener, “I am so sorry about Adolf, dear. He seemed like a fairly decent boy.”
“The Academy has strict standards, Diener. I did all I could do,” says Ernst.
Diener takes a deep breath, and says, “I need to go and check up on him. I feel bad about getting his hopes up.” He pauses and then looks up, and says, “I cannot… please excuse me. I must go see him.”
“Tonight?” gasps Andria.
“Not at this hour!” insists Ernst.
Daniel gets a pained and confused look on his face as several unfamiliar memories flood into his mind.
“Please, Diener… ” pleads Andria, starting to tear up. “You cannot go out there. You are all we have left.”
Daniel looks over at Ernst and sees an extremely sad and empty look on his face, which releases a flood of scenes into his mind. He sees a young girl. He loves her dearly. He turns around and looks behind him to the living room and sees her sitting on the floor playing with a doll. The front door opens. An evil looking man walks in. He is a thief, who then looks around and sees the girl. She screams silently as he rushes over and grabs her mouth to keep her quiet.
Daniel closes his eyes tightly and winces as the memories continue to assault his mind. Now photos of the Jewish Holocaust from Sarah’s textbooks become intermixed with the memories. People are being dragged from their homes. Black and white photos and film footage from concentration camps flash into his mind as the girl is dragged away by the thief.
Diener opens his eyes and looks at his parents, and quietly says, “Anja.”
Andria starts to cry.
More images of Diener’s younger sister, Anja, flash into Daniel’s mind. He sees her twisted body lying naked in a ditch outside of town where they finally found her. He sees more images of bodies being heaped up into mass burial sites outside the concentration camps.
“I cannot do this! I cannot do this!” shouts Diener, as he stands up from the table. “Something is wrong with this! What is wrong with this? What is going on?”
Diener staggers backward into the living room as Ernst rushes to his aid.
“I am sorry, Father. I am sorry,” says Diener. “I did not know. I… I had no idea… I… I need some air. I have to… I need to… I need to walk. I am sorry. I have to go out. I will be all right. I only need some air.”
Ernst and Andria simply stand there trying to comfort each other as Diener turns and quickly walks out the front door into the night.
Daniel’s thoughts assault his mind as he walks quickly down the street, ‘He was supposed to die. Hitler should have died back there in that alley. I saved Hitler. The world’s most heinous murderer would have died back there in that alley if it were not for me. Why do I always have to be the nice guy.’ He runs and then stops at the end of his street. ‘Now it is me. Now am responsible for the death of millions. Now am the murderer.’
He runs on into the night, thinking, ‘Sarah is right. I am the ultimate nice guy. And now I am the stupid nice guy who went too far. I should have minded my own business. I should have just walked by and let him die.’
He continues to walk quickly down the street, and thinks, ‘I have to fix this. I have to go back. I have to make it right. He was supposed to die. And I was supposed to let him. God help me. How do I make this right?’
Daniel finally comes to an open public area. He is breathing heavy and stops for a moment to rest and let his mind stop racing. Sounds of the surrounding nightlife begin to make their way into Daniel’s ears. He calms down and continues to walk slowly along the boulevard. Eventually, he comes to a tavern, and thinks, ‘A beer certainly would come in handy right about now. Maybe even a couple.’ So, he turns in to the tavern and orders a pilsner at the bar.
It seems to help. The generic sounds of people talking and laughing have a sedative affect on Daniel, and help his mind to let go of the confusion and perplexity of his situation.
Daniel is jolted back into the reality of his presence in the tavern, and looks over to see three men standing next to him.
“I apologize. I did not intend to startle you,” says one of the men, smiling broadly. “You are Herr Weber’s son, yes?”
“Yes… I… ” stammers Diener.
The man turns to his friends, and smiling, says, “You see? I told you it was him.” Then, turning back to Diener, he says, “Your father is a good man. We work in the mines. He is a good man. He takes good care of our jobs.”
“Thank you, sir, I… ” says Diener.
“We want to buy you a drink,” the man continues. Calling and gesturing to the bartender, he says, “Another pilsner here.”
As the bartender pulls the tap and fills another glass, the man says, “Please tell your father we appreciate his good management of our crew. You can tell him that Georg, Franz and Hermann are happy to be on his crew. He will know us.”
“Yes. I will,” says Diener.
The other one, Franz, says, “We saw you about a month ago on the other side of town, at the White Horse.”
Diener looks puzzled.
“Yes. I am certain it was you,” continues Franz. “It was him, right boys?”
Georg and Hermann agree.
“We were going to talk with you then, but you left before we could,” says Franz.
“Why were you there?” asks Georg, curiously. “It is a shit hole of a place.”
“I was… ” starts Diener.
But Hermann interrupts him, and says, “Yes, and we were there to clean out some of the shit, right boys?”
The three laugh hard. They have obviously already put away quite a few beers.
Diener looks confused, and asks, “What do you mean?”
“You would not know about it,” says Georg.
“Yes. Just stay here and you will not have to see that shit,” says Hermann.
“The place is crawling with faggots and queers,” explains Georg. “It is disgusting. We do not want them here in Linz. We need to get them all out of here.”
Daniel now realizes that these men are the same three ruffians he saw in the tavern when he first traveled back in time. That is why they were looking at him back then -- they had recognized him as their boss’s son then, also.
And, they must have been the ones who were responsible for beating up Adolf. It is all starting to make sense. Now everything is circling back around. Daniel thinks he must be coming back to a different version of when he first got there.
But then, Diener turns slightly to his right and sees the tavern door opening as if in slow motion. He is shocked to see Adolf walk in, and quietly says, “Oh, no.”
Franz turns to see what Diener is reacting to and gets an angry look on his face, and says, “What in God’s name is that fairy doing here?”
Georg and Hermann turn and have the same reaction. “Son of a bitch! What the hell does he think he is doing here?” says Georg.
“We pounded the hell out of that one,” says Hermann. “How in the hell… ”
Adolf walks further into the tavern. He looks forlorn and merely stares at the floor as he makes his way into the room. Lifting his head slowly to find a place at the bar, his eyes happen to land upon Diener. He gets a surprised and somewhat pleased look on his face, but that quickly converts to fear when he sees Georg, Franz and Hermann next to Diener.
Adolf quickly retreats back out the tavern door.
Georg says, “That asshole.” And the three of them quickly make their way across the tavern to follow Adolf out the front door.
Diener stands to follow them, but then he sees the bartender and realizes he is stuck with the tab. He quickly takes out his wallet and fumbles to take out some bills. They drop to the floor and he struggles to pick them up. Then he quickly places them on the bar, puts his wallet back into his pocket and heads toward the door.
By the time Diener makes it out the door of the tavern, Adolf and the three ruffians are nowhere in sight. He runs down the street to his right and finds nothing.
Daniel then thinks, ‘Wait a minute. What am I doing? This is good. This is supposed to be happening. The reset button must have been pushed. It is all going to be Ok now.’
But then he looks the other way down the street to his left and senses a strong feeling that he knows where Adolf is being beaten. Part of him wants his feet to be cemented into the sidewalk, and part of him wants to walk down to the dark area looming between the market and the bakery.
In 1930s Krakow, Poland, a wealthy Jewish family is gathered for an evening meal. The house is finely furnished and lovely classical chamber music fills the room. A team of dutiful servants is effortlessly and mechanically waiting on the family.
Once again, Daniel’s compassionate soul takes over and he finds himself in front of the market. He can hear the sounds of Adolf getting badly beaten. He can’t take it. He can’t just stand there. Something at the core of his being goes off like a fire alarm. He rushes forward and down between the two buildings.
One young Jewish man at the table is receiving a great deal of attention. He is handsome and strong and charismatic. Toasts are being made in his honor.
Daniel notices a steel pipe leaning next to the wall. He grabs it, and shouts, “Hey! Get the hell away from him!”
Georg, Franz and Hermann are oblivious to Daniel and continue to aggressively beat Adolf. Everything around Daniel becomes hollow sounding. The only thing that can be heard is the sound of light chamber music.
Daniel swings away at Georg with the steel pipe. But to his amazement, it passes right through him. He furiously tries again and again to beat the ruffians away from Adolf, but he is not able to have any affect whatsoever on any of them. He falls on top of Adolf to protect him, but the beating continues as the men punch right through him.
Daniel is no longer there.
He rolls over onto his back and then sits up and kneels next to Adolf. He weeps as the three finish their work, stand back and brush themselves off. Adolf lies in a heap, bleeding out of his head. There is nothing Daniel can do about it.
Daniel stands up and steps backwards away from the crime. His body starts to tingle and feel electrified again. He looks around him and sees that the alley is slowly fading away. The hollow sound around him is swallowing up every noise from the street except for some light chamber music that is coming from the delivery door to the bakery on the other side of the alley.
He realizes that now, the only sign of life in his world seems to be coming from that bakery door. From where he is standing, he looks over at the door and sees what appears to be a luxurious dining room. The light from the dining room remains inside the doorway, and does not spill out into the night where he is standing between the two buildings.
Daniel looks on as Georg, Franz and Hermann walk away up the alley and then turn onto the sidewalk back toward the tavern. He looks over at Adolf as he bleeds to death. He realizes that, like before, his only option for continued existence seems to be through that side door of the bakery.
+ – + – + – +
Adolf Hitler was laid to rest in a simple pine coffin in the St. Barbara-Friedhof Linz cemetery. Ernst, Andria and Diener Weber were the only people who attended the service to pay their respects and offer comfort to Klara and Paula Hitler.
“We are most grateful to you for being here with us,” said Klara.
Andria moved in closer and clasped Klara’s hands into hers, and said, “We too know the horrors of losing a child to the brutality of evildoers. Please let us know if there is any way we can help you walk through this pain.”
“He was a good boy,” Klara continued.
“We are happy to have met him,” said Ernst, kindly. “It was only briefly, of course, but we were still able to see the spark in his eye.” Then he shook his head, and added, “Such a shame that it was so quickly snuffed out.”
“We do thank you for your kindness to our family,” said Klara. “We thoroughly appreciated all you did to help him with his dream to become a painter.”
“Yes, we did try,” shrugged Ernst.
“We will keep you in our prayers, Klara,” said Andria, looking into her teary eyes.
“God’s will is a mystery that we most often do not get to know on this side of heaven,” said Klara. “We must wait and see what He has for us.”
+ – + – + – +
“Is there not anything we can do to help them, Father?” asked Diener as they sat around the supper table that evening.
Ernst merely took a deep breath, looked down and shook his head slowly.
“Do you think Klara would be willing to work at the orphanage with me, Ernst?” posed Andria. “I could check with Charlotte. She does seem to be a hard-working woman. And we could teach Paula how to help with the children.”
“That sounds like a perfect idea, Father,” said Diener, excitedly.
“Yes, it certainly does sound worth a try,” agreed Ernst. “Do you think Charlotte would consider the possibility of bringing her on?”
Andria smiled, and said, “Well, I do have a way of helping people see my way of thinking.” She winked at Diener and he smiled broadly back at her.
+ – + – + – +
“Adolf left these in my studio,” said Diener after Klara opened the front door and invited him into the house. “I came by to bring them back to you. And I also have some news that you may be interested in.”
“Please do come in, Diener,” said Klara. “Thank you so very much for coming to see us.”
“Thank you, Frau Hitler,” said Diener, politely, as he walked into the house. “Well, hello there, Paula. How are you?”
“Very well, thank you, Herr Weber,” answered Paula, shyly.
Diener looked around behind him and then smiled at Paula, and said, “You had me fooled, little fraulien. For a minute, I thought my father was here.”
Paula giggled, and then Diener continued, “We are friends, little one. Please do call me Diener.” Then he walked into the front room, laid Adolf’s art portfolio down on the low table and sat down on the sofa.
“He left these in my studio, so I wanted to bring them back to you,” said Diener as Klara and Paula also sat down. “They are quite good, indeed. If circumstances had been different… I mean… well, I knew that you would want to keep them with his things.”
“He was so excited to show them to you,” said Klara. “I think you may have been the only person outside this house who ever showed an interest in his art. He debated for hours about which of his paintings he should bring over and share with you that day.”
“If you do not mind, I would like you to keep them. I think Adolf would want you to have them,” said Klara.
“That is very kind of you, but I am certain these mean much to you,” resisted Diener. “I could not begin to… ”
“ mean much to us,” interrupted Klara. “We would like you to have them in order for you to better remember your brief friendship.”
Diener looked over at Paula, who smiled and nodded.
“Well, thank you… very much,” said Diener. “I accept your gift and will treasure it always.”
“Thank you,” nodded Klara.
After a brief moment, Diener lifted his index finger, and said, “Oh, yes, I also have some news for you.”
“Yes,” said Klara.
“My mother is on the governing board of the All Saints Orphanage here in Linz and she checked with the director to see if there were any employment opportunities for you. I hope you do not mind,” said Diener.
“No, not… ” said Klara, with a gasp of surprise.
“Well, they have work for you if you would be interested,” finished Diener.
“I have nursing experience,” smiled Klara, eagerly. “And I can cook. And I can clean. And I… I can do whatever they might want me to do.”
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