by Joseph Rubas
Kyle Rosenberg woke early on the morning of January 18, his heart pounding and his stomach rolling. He sat up, snapped on the bedside lamp, and swung his feet out from beneath the thin coverlet. He sat for a while with his hands clasped to his knees fighting to quell the nausea.
Just nerves, he told himself, calm down.
When his stomach was settled, he got up, went into the bathroom, and looked at himself in the mirror over the cracked sink. His face was thin, wan, worried. He sighed and turned on the faucet, splashing a handful of cold water over his mug. When he was done, he went back into the room and sat down on the bed. His phone said it was 5:30 AM. He used the remote to turn on the TV and tried to lose himself in an old episode of Grace Under Fire, but his thoughts inevitably went back to the mission ahead of him. Looking around the room, Kyle was overcome by a strange sense of doom. He imagined men on death row felt the same way as the clock ticked inexorably toward midnight.
At 7:00, after emptying his bowels, Kyle sighed, said a prayer, and packed his suitcase. Outside, the motel breezeway was deserted save for a plastic cart laden with towels and cleaning supplies. The cleaning lady was nowhere to be seen.
The Camry was parked near the Dumpster. Kyle got in, started the engine, and sat for a moment as the tail end of a Cindi Lauper song dwindled on the radio. He liked 80s music.
He probably wouldn’t get to hear much of it after today.
That thought made him sad.
Kyle backed up and drove to the end of the parking lot. At the office, he dropped his key into a metal box on the wall.
Yancy Ave bordered the motel complex to the west. Kyle followed it to Railroad Street, which was lined with dark and decrepit skid-row style shitholes. Three blocks west, he turned south and onto Mayer Street. When he reached the end, he pulled into a shaded parking lot and slid into one of the slots. Beyond a screen of foliage, the façade of the Oak Springs Nursing Home played peekaboo.
It was here.
Kyle reached under the passenger seat and brought out a thick manila envelope. Inside, a mess of photos, papers, documents. The face staring back at him, a lightning bolt SS on either lapel, belonged to Herman Volt … The Teutonic Terror. Thin and weasly, Volt commanded the Ich-Sauge concentration camp 1943-1945, fleeing ahead of the Red Army and disappearing into the ether. He changed his name to Hans Wolf, came to America, and taught high school math for thirty-three years.
Looking at his face, Kyle’s stomach rolled. He remembered the stories his grandfather told him, remembered the way the old man screamed and cried in his sleep, and rage filled him.
Kyle reached under the passenger seat again; this time a revolver came with him.
He tucked it into his waistband and covered it with his shirt.
Kyle walked quickly across the parking lot. Inside, at the reception desk, a woman greeted him with a smile. Just here to see my old math teacher, Mr. Wolf.
The woman buzzed for a nurse; a large woman in white appeared and led him to Volt’s room.
“He may not recognize you,” the woman cautioned as they reached the door.
“That’s okay,” Kyle said.
Inside, the room was dark and stank. Feces. Disinfectant. Urine. Volt was in bed, hooked up to a plethora of machines which beeped and booped softly. Stiffening, Kyle went to the Nazi’s bedside. Volt was thin, frail, his yellow skin flecked with purple sores. His cheeks were hollow. When he opened his eyes, they were hazy and white. Kyle, fighting a wave of disgust, examined the old man and his surroundings. The sheets were dirty. Smeared with piss and shit.
“Herman Volt,” Kyle muttered, meeting the old man’s eyes.
Volt’s head flopped side-to-side. He cooed. Like a baby.
The nurse was in the doorway. “What’s wrong with him?” Kyle asked.
Demented. Incontinent. Shoved into a dark room and left to molder like garbage. Kyle’s rage lessened.
Bending down, knowing the old man wouldn’t understand him anyway, Kyle said, “Time has been crueler to you than I could ever be.”
With that, Kyle Rosenberg walked away.
Joseph Rubas is the author of over 200 short stories. He currently resides in Daytona Beach, Florida.