he found the opening pages confusing. there was stuff about alois hitler, alois hitler jr, and adolf hitler, and he had trouble keeping them straight. adolf hitler was the famous hitler who was like the devil, right? yes, the life and death of adolf hitler, that was the name of the book.
he started skipping through the pages looking for the parts underlined or highlighted, of which there were one or two on almost every page.
during his first year adolf did appallingly badly. his moral conduct was only “adequate”, his diligence was “erratic”, and he failed in mathematics and natural history. although he enjoyed drawing and sometimes thought of himself as a potential artist, the teachers did not share his enthusiasm for his work. other boys had their drawings hung on the walls for all to admire, but no one hung adolf’s drawings.
this caught rick’s attention. other boys had their drawings hung on the walls for all to admire, but no one hung adolf’s drawings.
that was just what had happened to him in school!
except that it was other boys and girls - mostly girls - who had their drawings put on the wall.
it was in the fifth grade. rick had made some drawings of police and soldiers protecting people and he thought they were pretty good but the teacher, mister ramsey, who all the kids thought was a fag and probably was, just looked at them and made some suggestions about “contrast” and some such shit.
but the kids - mostly girls - who did drawings of martin luther king or rosa parks or che guevara - mister ramsey never gave them any grief about “contrast” or “shading”.
and their pictures always got hung on the wall.
but what really should have opened rick’s eyes was when he really took his time and made a really good picture of a bunch of navy seals rescuing some american soldiers and nurses who were getting their heads cut off by some muslims in the desert. some of the soldiers and nurses had already had their heads cut off and rick drew the heads lying in the sand in pools of blood.
mister ramsey had been horrified and had called rick’s mom, ellen, and she had to go in to the school and talk to him.
ellen had gone in, and with rick there, had listened to mister ramsey suggest that maybe rick needed some help or “counseling” and she had just listened in that way she had, never arguing or contradicting him but with her eyebrows raised just a little bit with that yeah-right-what-an-idiot look she had with all human males.
on the ride home, ellen had laughed it off, and told rick to just be careful, don’t get people pissed off about nothing. it was the kind of advice she always gave.
“you can’t fight the city boat, especially when it’s rocking.”
rick blurted out that the kids all said mister ramsey was a fag, but ellen just laughed at that too. “i would have thought he admitted it. he seemed the type.”
“well, that’s what everybody says,” rick insisted.
“he doesn’t go around grabbing kids’ asses, does he?”
“no!” rick was used to ellen and his aunt grace talking about sex and men in front of him.
“then, what’s the problem? he’s probably got a boy friend just like himself with a scrunchy little beard just like his and they stand naked in front of the radiator when the sun goes down.”
but with all that, ellen hadn’t really stuck up for him, rick thought. she wasn’t going to make him get “counseling” but his picture of the navy seals kicking ass on the muslims wasn’t going up on the classroom wall either.
later, rick would look back on this as his first real encounter with political correctness and the liberal establishment.
but now, sitting by himself at the table in the library with the hitler book, rick had a thought he had never had before about anybody. famous or otherwise.
he was just like me.
rick realized he was never going to read the whole book sitting in the library.
he decided to get a library card, so he could take the book home and read more of it.
he returned to the front desk with the book. the young woman who had been there before had been replaced by another young woman, a young black woman who looked about fifteen.
she did not show any surprise or anything else when he said he wanted a library card so he could take out the hitler book, but politely explained that he needed a drivers license or passport and a couple of pieces of mail to verify his address, etc. before he could be issued a card.
rick was a little disappointed that he couldn’t take the book home right away, but he had a little headache from reading as much as he had so it was no big deal. he thanked the young woman and left.
on the way home he had another thought. maybe he could buy the book. he wasn’t sure how or how much it would cost. maybe there was a bookstore in town that had every book that had ever been written.
he could ask eddie about that. actually he could ask ellen or grace.
rick had a sudden felling that maybe his whole life was going to change.
but the feeling did not last, and by the time he got home he was feeling like his usual self, like a piece of shit.