“I think I know a Nazi when I see one, Sharon,” said Hershel in a huff, “And those boys are Nazis, through and through.”
“You can’t just make those kind of assumptions Hershel. They’re just young guys.” Sharon padded around the small apartment in her dainty pink slippers, looking casually out the window to see who was moving in across the street. There were a lot of young men, stripped to the waist, muscular, and tattooed. They were accompanied by a bunch of blonde girls that wore indecently short pants. Running around the perimeter of the chaos were three dogs.
“They even have German dogs. Would you look at that thing!” Pointing at a dog that was nearly the size of a horse, Hershel gasped.
“That’s a Great Dane. They’re Danish. Like Hamlet. Hamlet wasn’t a Nazi,” observed Sharon, settling into a creaky wooden chair. Sitting at the breakfast table, looking out the window, the two of them stewed quietly, tension filling the silence.
“The Danes were Vikings. They were just as bad as Nazis. They were so bad that the Nazis aspired to be like them.” Hershel sipped his coffee, relishing its complex, smoky flavor. It went well with the taste of victory. Sharon shook her head and drank her tea. Through their forty years of marriage, most of their tiffs were like this; Hershel would make an outrageous statement, Sharon would point out its flaw, and Hershel would prove her wrong, and think that he had won the day.
The kitchen was tiny, barely able to produce a meal larger than a roasted chicken for two (without baked potatoes), and it was brimming with board games. The entire apartment was filled with them; they peeked out from under beds and down from tall bookcases. Board games had always been Hershel’s passion. He had sought a career as a game designer years ago, but the bitterness of rejection was too much for Hershel to bear.
“How about Parcheesi?” asked Hershel, knowing Sharon’s answer.
“No. And not Scrabble either.” Sharon didn’t even look at Hershel as she answered. Hershel, looking away in disappointment, gazed out at the new residents of the neighborhood and nearly spit out his coffee as he saw four of the men moving an oak armoire out of the moving truck.
“Would you look at that monstrous thing! How do you think they got a hold of something like that? They look too young to have furniture that nice.” Hershel considered the particle board structures of his own home and felt envious. He and Sharon had never really invested in furniture; they saved their money through the year, taking trips throughout the world. At least until Hershel’s knees started giving out. The trips had become more and more sporadic, and much less spontaneous. Now, the furthest they went was the 80 miles to Marblehead, and even then their days were planned around where Hershel could sit down and recuperate.
Sharon began leafing through a copy of Family Circle she had picked up during the previous day‘s marketing. She always said that she liked the recipes, but Hershel was afraid that she was reading them because of the articles, which were all about rearing children and coping with their departure after they were raised. He felt the same way on Sundays when she would catch her looking at the Anne & Hope circular that came with the Sunday paper. Emblazoned with happy families modeling cheap clothes, Hershel felt that Sharon was just torturing herself with images of what they would never have.
“Joe wants to come over and look at my rendition of the Moksha Patamu board. His daughter’s going with a Hindu, and he wants to show her that the Indians played Chutes and Ladders too.” Hershel sat comfortably in his fifteen-year-old Lay-Z-Boy recliner which cradled him lovingly.
“Why’s that?” asked Sharon, knitting a shawl and not paying attention to the commercial on TV.
“Well, partly to show them how similar they are, despite their differences. I guess he wants to show them that they can have common ground. Interracial marriages do tend to fail a lot.”
“What about us?” asked Sharon innocently. Hershel scratched at his curly beard and his eyes narrowed with concentration.
“Well, we’re both white. We have the ability to change the perception that people have of our ethnicity. If we dress like everyone else, no one would know I’m Jewish and you’re French. They also wouldn’t know that I’m part Irish and that you’re part English. Without the obvious marker that we are different, there’s one less social pressure, you know?” Hershel leaned back in his recliner and folded his hands on his stomach.
Sharon focused on her knitting and Hershel paid attention to his program on the television, which had returned.
“Do you think Neo-Nazis are organized by Robot Hitler?” asked Joe, a half laugh trailing the sentiment. Hershel tossed his dice onto the board and tolerantly moved his pawn up a ladder. “Because, you know, they never found his body, right? Well, they say they did, but we never got to see it. There aren’t any records. Even if there are, they’d probably be fake. I bet they made him into a robot.”
“Stop being so outrageous. It is disrespectful,” admonished Hershel. He and Joe had been playing Moksha Patamu on the porch under the pretense that it was a beautiful day. Truthfully, it was because each of them were wondering about the new people across the street. “Besides, if there was a Robot Hitler, it’d be steam-powered. It could never match the prowess of the technological marvel that is Cybernetic Benjamin Netanyahu.” Hershel and Joe giggled.
“Why do you suppose they bred dachshunds like that?” asked Joe, frowning as he moved his pawn down the curving body of a snake. Hershel took a gander at the long squat dog that was being walked up the sidewalk by one the women from across the street.
“It is peculiar, isn’t it? Like a snake with legs. Little sausage with teeth.,” Hershel glared at the tiny beast, “They are for hunting. They keep low to the ground so they can follow smells.”
“Waldi! Get away from there!” hollered the blonde woman, tugging on the dog’s leash and pulling him away from the storm drain.
“Waldi?” said both Joe and Hershel together. “Where have I heard that name before?” wondered Hershel.
“Well, if anyone knew, it would be you,” said Joe.
“What I do know is that I’ve won,” announced Hershel, moving his pawn into the 100th space on the board.