In response to the Speedwriting Challenge...


The Beethoven symphony stopped abruptly.

Colonel Robert Hogan, who'd been lying on his bunk with his arms behind his head, listening, immediately opened his eyes and sat up. This was unlike Klink.

He got up and headed for the coffeepot receiver device he used to listen to the sounds coming out the Stalag 13 Kommandant's office. Normally, it was used to check in on the Germans in the event of high-brass or unexpected visitors. But at this time, he had been using it to take advantage of the Kommandant's good taste in classical music in the privacy of his own quarters.

Until it had suddenly cut off.

Hogan frowned as he leaned over the coffee pot at his desk, the strains of Symphony Number Two in D Major still playing in his head. He listened, expecting to learn the reason for the interruption, but no other sounds were forthcoming. Klink's office was silent.

Had Klink left? Surely if he had left the office, Hogan would have heard the door shut behind him. Or had he left the door open? That would be unusual for the methodical German. Had he simply turned off the record player? Hogan shook his head at that idea; if something—or someone—important hadn't interrupted him, Klink would have at least finished the movement. Klink liked to hear a piece all the way through; that much, Hogan knew about him, and shared with him.

After a few more seconds of nothing, Hogan heaved a sigh and pulled the plug out of the coffee pot, then put it back under his desk. He wasn't going to get the answers this way.

He grabbed his jacket and crush cap, then stepped out of his office. As he'd expected, there was no one in the main room of the barracks; that was why he'd taken the opportunity to listen to Klink's music in the first place. One of the rare, peaceful times that he allowed himself to just empty his mind and let himself get lost in the ebbs and flows of the work of a creative genius—something he didn't tell his men about.

Once outside the barracks, Hogan zipped up his jacket against the brisk wind and started across the compound. He looked around, squinting in the glare of the pale sun, and noticed some of his men playing volleyball, while others were making small talk, leaning against the walls of the various buildings. He couldn't help but wonder what they had to talk about. Some of them had been POWs of the Nazis for a year or two years or more, and without being involved in the espionage and sabotage operation that Hogan ran from underneath the camp, most of them would have very little new news from the outside—either from home or from the Germans—and would have to be either drudging up old stories for review, or talking about things they did before the war, when their lives were their own. Either way, it wasn't the way young men should be living the prime of their lives.

Hogan paused as he put his foot on the bottom step of the Kommandantur. What was that sound? Beethoven? The same piece he had been listening to earlier—only far enough along that Klink must have continued playing it. A brief flicker of uncertainty passed through Hogan's mind. What was going on in there? Oh, well, best to just plow on in.

When he entered the building, the music was even louder. With a glance toward the empty desk that usually held Wilhelm Klink's secretary, the luscious Helga, he rapped quickly and heavily on the door to Klink's office.

"Come!" boomed Klink's voice over the violins.

Hogan opened the door and strode in, not quite sure what to expect. What he saw was an undoubtedly happy Kommandant in a more than buoyant mood. He was standing near his record player on the shelf near the door, one arm raised in the air as if he were a conductor expecting sustained power from his orchestra, the other arm waving about, clearly calling on other parts of the group to come in and out of the movement as he required.

"Colonel Klink, I—"

"Wait a minute, Hogan!" Klink called over the music. He continued to conduct to his imaginary orchestra until the instruments ceased to play and the needle moved all the way in to the middle of the record. Still humming, Klink picked the needle gently off the recording, turned off the machine, and placed the record tenderly back in its sleeve. Then, smiling, he moved back to his desk and sat down, folding his arms neatly on his blotter.

"Now, Hogan, what can I do for you?"

"That was quite a display, Kommandant," Hogan said. "Thinking of trading in the Kommandant business for conducting in Berlin?"

Klink smiled, totally at ease and unable to be ruffled, even by Hogan. "No, Colonel; this is just one of the many ways that I have to keep myself in top shape physically, mentally, and spiritually. Beethoven was a genius, a master. It is an honor to get lost in his melodies."

"His music was pretty good, sir," Hogan said, almost unable to swallow the bitterness of understatement. He hated having to pretend to be a lesser man to Klink. It was a shame they couldn't just share this one thing in common without it causing trouble somewhere along the line. But, Hogan was sure, there would be a point where it could, and so Beethoven had to be relegated to being "pretty good."

Klink shook his head and his serene smile faded slightly in his scorn. "'Pretty good,'" he mocked. "Hogan, you Americans wouldn't know genius if it came up and bit you in the face."

"I suppose Thomas Edison did just get lucky. And Henry Ford, too," Hogan answered.

Klink's serenity was gone. "What do you want, Hogan?"

"Well, sir, I was just wondering if you had any time to judge our spoons contest."

"Spoons?" Klink echoed.

"Yes, sir," Hogan said. "You see, the boys have been working on creating an orchestra of their own, and, well, they're not sure who should be lead spoonist."

"Hogan, the men have instruments from the Red Cross, do they not? Why are they playing spoons?"

"Yes, they sure have, sir, but there aren't enough for all the people who want to play music, and good old American ingenuity, sir... we thought we'd play what we have. Carter's gotten the washboard out, and Sergeant Kinchloe's found a couple of combs..."

Klink closed his eyes and shivered. "Hogan, you can turn any pleasure of mine into an absolute nightmare. Get out, and find someone else to judge your spoon players. Perhaps Sergeant Schultz would be interested—he has a certain affinity for things involving cutlery."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Hogan nodded. "Oh, Kommandant—are you going to listen to any more music this afternoon?"

"As a matter of fact, I'm going to listen to more now, Hogan, just to get you out of my brain. Why?"

"I just thought, well, since Beethoven's a genius and all, that the boys might borrow one or two of the records to practice with."

"With spoons?" Klink rose from his seat, horror growing on his face. "Get out, Hogan. Listen to your Tommy Dorsey and leave Beethoven out of it."

"Right away, Colonel."

Hogan saluted and left, waiting in Klink's outer office until he heard more music playing. Then he headed back to Barracks Two and quickly pulled the coffee pot out from under his desk. He plugged it in and listened for the next symphony...


Hogan frowned, but this time he studied his receiver more closely. The light was on, the plug was in, the speaker was attached... and the little fuse on the inside of the pot was clearly burnt out. Hogan shook his head. His one chance for a peaceful afternoon and it was sabotaged by a frazzled fuse.

At that moment someone knocked at the door to his office. Feeling like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Hogan swallowed the guilt and called confidently, "Come."

It was Sergeant James Kinchloe who entered. "London's on the line, Colonel."

Hogan purposefully turned away from the coffee pot. "London?"

"Yes, sir. They say they know they promised us a quiet weekend, but... you know... that's war."

Hogan heaved a sigh. "It sure is." He straightened decisively and grabbed the coffee pot. "This isn't working. Can you find out what's wrong with it and get it fixed?"

Kinch furrowed his brow. "Sure, Colonel. Might be a loose wire. I'll have a look. Something going on in Klink's office?"

"I don't know," Hogan said. "But there sure was a racket coming out of there earlier."

"He's playing records in there. Today he's listening to Beethoven." Hogan raised his eyebrows in question. "Sometimes I listen in when I'm waiting at the radio, just to pass the time."

Hogan was surprised. "You know what, Kinch?" he began, ready to share his own secret. Then he stopped, and closed his mouth. Some things he still wanted for himself.

"What is it, Colonel?"

"Nothing. Maybe Klink should learn to play disc jockey. He could work himself up quite an audience."

Kinch snorted a soft laugh as the two headed out of the office. "I doubt it," he answered. "I don't think anyone would want to hear Klink's voice all day long."

Hogan smiled. "You're probably right," he answered. "Let's just get that coffee pot fixed up, and go find out what London thinks it worth hearing. I have a feeling it won't be Beethoven... but I sure wish it was."