Arvid had said that "No one who likes swing could become a Nazi." Well I'd like to believe that he was right. For Thomas, it just wasn't true…
It all started when Thomas' hand had slipped, accidentally ruining one of Arvid's treasured records. To make up for it, we decided to lift a radio that bastard of a block leader had given to some tart: a radio stolen from someone the Nazis had taken away.
Then Arvid could pick up Benny live, wouldn't that put a smile onto that boy's face.
The plan seemed like it was gonna be easy: Thomas would rush in; tomato smears on his shirt, like he had been stabbed by an HJ. Then I'd swoop up the radio and run out the door.
But the plan didn't go so smoothly.
The woman started to holler and scream when I yanked the radio out of the wall. Her cries got the attention of a couple of pounders down the block. I couldn't run that fast, carrying the heavy thing. Thomas hoisted himself up onto the back of a truck. I reached out to him, determined not to let go of the radio. But finally I did and I fell. I had to watch as Thomas got to safety and the radio smash into a thousand pieces.
They hauled me off to the court house where I stayed in a holding cell for hours on end. I tried not to be afraid, but after what happened to my father, I just didn't know what they would do to me. I sat there in the cell, hoping that things would work out. That perhaps Thomas had gotten a hold of my mama and that she would be coming soon for me. But she never arrived.
Finally, they let me out of the cell and outside, a black car was waiting. They pushed me roughly towards it.
Inside was that Gestapo Herr Knopp. I knew something bad was going to happen, right after I stepped into the car. He gave me an ultimatum: join up with the local HJ or get sent to a work camp. I couldn't abandon my mama or Willie now, especially with this Nazi trying worm his way into my family.
So I had to take it.
When I got back home, mama cut off my long bangs and reminded me of how our lives used to be when father got taken away.
The feeling of eyes watching our every movement; not being able to get out of the house without someone following behind; as I sat there getting my hair cut, my mind was not at ease. She had called that Gestapo to come get me out of the cell. She had let him take advantage our situation because she said it was the right thing to do.
I argued but to no avail.
The next morning I signed up with the HJ and received the brown uniform and red band with the Nazi symbol emblazed on it.
I had joined but I would not become like them. No way in hell would I become a Nazi and I was determined to get through this torture as best I could.
HJ was dumb that first day. I had to sit there and watch movies praising Hitler and the achievements of the Fatherland. It was such a relief to get a break. Walking along the corridor someone shouted out to me, "Hey Swing boy!"
To my astonishment it was Thomas, holding a pair of scissors, his long hair cut short. I couldn't believe my eyes, he looked ridiculous. Thomas had joined so that I wouldn't be alone. He joked that he couldn't let me have all the fun. With Thomas there I felt better and more at ease. We would be HJ by day, Swing Kids at night.
Now looking back, Thomas never should have joined with me.
He became everything that we, Swing Kids hated. I don't know how but he let all that stupid propaganda get to him and twist his mind. He started to ignore me and spend time with that traitor Emil. I saw less and less of him as he moved his way up in rank. He didn't seem to care what was happening to him. And it made me sick.
He started to make fun of Arvid, not just jokingly but full of spite. Thomas called him the traitor and that he and the Nazis would come after him and all the cripples. I think he's one of the reasons why Arvid killed himself. Thomas just couldn't see how badly he was hurting our friendship.
I tried to reason with him, we argued the night Arvid slit his wrists. I told him to his face that he was becoming a fucking Nazi. And he told that me that he didn't care! Being a Nazi meant that he could go where he wanted and do what he wanted because no one got in his way. I stared at him in horror; this wasn't the hepcat that me and Arvid had called the King of Harlem a few months ago. This wasn't my best friend whom I had raced down to the bridge or went down to the docks with. This was some other person that I couldn't deal with. I wouldn't allow myself to be friends with a future murderer.
I wish so badly that Arvid had been right about how a Swing Kid couldn't be broken. There's just no telling about someone. I always thought Thomas would be stronger than that. That we would get through the HJ and remain Swings; laughing at the stupidity of it all at the next swingiest party.
Of course I will be the only one at the next party, and I will laugh alone…