The Man Named Klink
This is an attempt to decipher our favorite Kommandant. An enigma, Klink seems to be a walking contradiction. On the one hand he seems to be an ineffectual solider. On the other hand his metals and awards he wears speak of a highly valued officer. He has been a colonel for the last twenty years but he made colonel when he was thirty in a severely downsized military. While often he appears not the brightest bulb on the tree, he is a man who graduated Gymnasium, University and Military Academy. This is my attempt at delving into his psyche and finding out what moves and motivates the man named Klink.
I own nothing but this story and the original characters it contains. This is a labor of love and not meant for profit.
I Hate Snow: Part 1
The snow fell heavily on Stalag XIII blanketing it in a covering of frosty cotton candy. Earlier rains had caused icicles to form on the barbed wire and the overhangs of the buildings. The full moon had the snow and ice glistening and sparkling like jewels in the night. The stars seemed so bright and near; one might be tempted to pluck one from the sky. Guards on duty hunched in their greatcoats against the wind. They blew into their gloved hands and stomped their feet in a futile attempt at keeping warm. The guard dogs were huddled in their dog houses, piled on top of each other for warmth. No prisoner, rabbit, cat or promise of strudel could coax them out.
POWs in their barracks were clustered around the inadequate stoves hoping the fuel would be enough to last though the night. The only sound outside the barracks was the howl of the wind which blew relentlessly between the buildings and into the cracks in the walls. Young Private Joseph Cronin in his lilting Irish brogue had told everyone in the barracks the howling wind was really the song of the Bean Sidhe. Because of this he had chosen to keep close to Corporal Newkirk. His reasoning, he told his fellow bunkmates, was no self respecting Bean Sidhe would be caught within a mile of an Englishman. Newkirk dryly reminded him that his mother was of Welsh decent. This caused Cronin to keep one eye on the door and the other on the windows, much to the amusement of everyone else.
The Unsung Heroes had suspended all operations due to the severity of the weather. Hogan, feeling a little stir crazy, had braved the frozen night to have a game of chess with the Kommandant in his office. As usual Klink was totally focused on the game while Hogan used the opportunity to peruse the papers on the Kommandant's desk. Finding nothing interesting, Hogan looked out the office window at the winter wonderland.
"You know Kommandant," Hogan mused, "this weather kind of makes me homesick for the winters we had when I was a boy back in Connecticut."
"Hurmph!" replied Klink, his eyes never leaving the board.
"Oh I loved it, racing our sleds at breakneck speeds down hill, feeling the wind in our faces and the thrill of flight when the sleds left the ground as we went over the hill. If I had known how quickly the time would go by I would have taken the time to enjoy it more." Hogan said in a wistful voice while pantomiming the actions he was describing. He turned back to the Kommandant who sat at the chess board staring at the pieces as if in a hypnotic stupor. "I guess you wouldn't know what I was talking about."
"No Hogan," Klink said without moving his eyes from the game. "I was never a boy and never played the games all boys play. I was singularly different from every other boy that ever existed." Klink's reply was dipped with bitter sarcasm. He moved his knight and announced it was Hogan's turn.
Hogan walked over to the board and with barely a glance moved his pawn. He then walked over to Klink liquor cabinet and helped himself to some schnapps.
"Then why the Scrooge impersonation?" Hogan asked as he began to quietly rummage though Klink's filing cabinet. So intent on his sneakiness, Hogan did not notice Klink leaving the game and walking over to the file cabinet until Klink slammed his fingers in the drawer. Hogan gave a little squeak of surprise and placed his injured finger into his mouth.
"I hate snow." Klink said as he returned to the chess game.
Picking up his schnapps, Hogan walked over and sat down on the other side of the board. "I guess you would hate snow considering you could be sent to the Russian Front at any time." Hogan said in a sly attempt to needle a bit and to distract Klink enough so he could continue to search his office. "I mean just last week both General Burkhalter and General von Gerber wanted to give you a one way ticket." Hogan smiled as he sipped his drink. How he loved to make Klink fidget.
Klink slowly raised his eyes from the pieces before him to look at Hogan. Klink said nothing as he looked at the officer sitting across the board from him. Klink's haunted blue autocratic gaze didn't waiver as it met the American's warm boyish brown eyes. As the silence hung between them, Hogan began to feel uncomfortable under Klink's stare. Hogan moved to find a more comfortable position in the chair as the intensity of Klink's attention began to unnerve him. The room, which had a chill to it moments before, now seemed hot and stuffy. For the briefest moment, Hogan saw not the Klink he knew but the man Klink could have been. The shock of that recognition caused Hogan to break eye contact. Looking back at the Kommandant, Hogan saw his attention had returned to the game.
Slightly disoriented, Hogan attempted to gather his bearings by returning to the conversation. "So why do you hate snow?"
Klink raised his eyes again to look at Hogan. He removed his monocle and began to clean it with a handkerchief he had removed from his pocket. Without breaking eye contact Klink replied, "Why do you care?"
Hogan gave a small chuckle which sounded strained to his ears. "Just trying to make conversation Kommandant; after all, there has to be a story behind 'I hate snow.'" Crossing his arms over his body, Hogan sat back in his chair and waited for a response from Klink.
"Perhaps I do not care to entertain your curiosity. Maybe I am tired of my pain, fears and shortcomings being the source of your constant amusement and barely concealed contempt." Replacing the monocle, Klink rose from his chair. Walking over to the window he looked out into the night as he clasped his hands behind his back. "It is conceivable that the memory is more valuable and dear to me than to let it be subject to your thinly veiled condescending attitude. Let me be frank Hogan. You are here because you are bored and have nothing better to do. Since I hunger for the companionship of another officer of equal rank, I have set aside my work to play chess with you. That doesn't mean that I will bear my soul to you just so you can smirk and make quips at my expense."
"I'm sorry Kommandant." Hogan said rising from his chair. "I thought you would just tell me a silly little story about you hating snow because it kept you from doing something you wanted to do. I didn't know I was hitting on something so deeply personal. You have my apologies."
"Thank you Hogan." Klink said over his shoulder. "You are somewhat right. Snow has kept me from doing a lot of things I wanted to do." Klink sighed and looked back out into the moonlight. "Snow has stripped me of everything good and wonderful in my life. Because of snow I am the man you know, not the man I wanted to be."
Hogan walked over and stood slightly behind Klink. "If you want to talk about it, I am a good listener. What ever you say here will never leave this office. You have my word sir, as an officer and a gentleman."
Klink turned slightly at looked at Hogan. Hogan's eyes reflected concern and not the smugness that was usually reserved for Klink. "I haven't spoken of this to anyone for almost forty years. I don't know where to begin."
"The beginning is always a good place to start Kommandant."
The silence of the meadow was broken by the soft sounds of children's laughter which rose in volume until their screams of delight filled the air. Seven sleds crested the hill and took flight. Sounds of thumping and squeals of laughter sounded as the sleds became terrestrial again. Six sleds swerved to avoid the frozen lake while the seventh fearlessly sailed forward, crossing the icy surface and beating the other sleds to the finish line. The two boys riding the sled hopped off and hugged each other in victory. The older boy, who was nine, was tall and much bolder than other children his age. The second child, who was seven, was slightly smaller with an open and happy face. Both children had a slim build with midnight black hair and piercing blue eyes.
"No fair Dolf," cried Herman Ritter. "You know we're not allowed to go on the ice. You cheated." A chorus of affirmations echoed from the other boys present. Randolph Klink, who stood a head taller than the rest of the boys present, only laughed.
"It is the bold that takes the day Hermi. Just because you are too scared to cross doesn't mean that Willi and I should cower in fear. Isn't that right Willi?" Randolph asked his younger brother.
"That's right Dolf," Wilhem Klink replied. "The Klink brothers fear nothing. We are invincible."
"Invincible maybe but if you fall though the ice your papa will peel the skin off of your back." Peter Neukirche gravely replied.
The mere mention of their father quelled both boys bravado. Shrugging with nonchalance he didn't feel Randolph replied, "Wouldn't be the first time. Besides it's time for my violin practice. Come on Willi you got to study for that math test on Monday."
Wilhelm and Randolph turned and headed for home with Randolph pulling the sled behind him. While they both loved their father, they also feared him. Major Randolph Klink was a strict and ridged military man who tolerated no monkey business from his sons. He was already training his oldest son for a life in the military while he virtually ignored his middle child. He had all but written Wilhelm off as a backward and stupid child. The only attention Wilhelm received from his father was when he had failed to meet an expectation his father had set for him. During those periods, Major Klink's words cut deep into his sensitive and impressionable son. Randolph did his best to shield his brother from their father's wrath. He often failed as he was too young to be able to emotionally and physically withstand their father's sudden and increasingly longer black moods.
"Dolf, do you think Father will allow me to take violin lessons too?" Wilhelm asked in a small quiet voice.
"No Willi, you don't have a musician's ear. You could learn to play the notes but you can't learn to play the music. Father will never waste money on the lessons." Dolf put his arm across his brother's thin shoulders. "You have other gifts. Music isn't everything."
"It is when you play Dolf. It's so beautiful. I bet it makes the angels sing." Wilhelm said looking up at his brother in wonder and excitement.
Dolf laughed at his brother's hyperbole. "Stop exaggerating Willi. I am only a fair player."
After placing the sled in the shed, the boys kicked the snow off their boots and entered the house. Both boys smiled at each other as they smelled their mother's freshly baked bread. Entering the kitchen they stood and watched as their mother cooked dinner. Agathe Klink was tall and thin like her sons. Her chestnut brown hair was firmly and neatly pulled into a bun at the base of her neck. While she would never be considered a beauty, she was a striking woman with a quick and discerning mind. Finally noticing her two sons she turned from the stove and gave each one an assessing look.
"Well go on with yourselves and get cleaned up. Supper is almost ready." She said as she turned back to the stove. "And be quiet, Wolfgang is still sleeping."
Both brother's looked at each other and sighed. They shared their bedroom with their youngest brother. He was three and always seemed sick. In their mind he was well on his way to becoming a mama's boy. Usually they just ignored him. He was really too young to have anything in common with them and when they had to bring him along, he just got in the way. Lord forbid it if he got a bruise or a scrape. You'd think by their mother's reaction they had hacked off his leg or something. No they were content to let him sleep forever if he wanted to.
After washing up, Wilhelm and Rudolph stood in the dinning room by their chairs waiting for their father to arrive. No one dared sit before Major Randolph Klink was seated, not if one wanted to be able to sit for dinner. The only exceptions were when they had company. Then the guests could sit and Father would seat mama. They stood in silence and waited as their father walked into the room. Without acknowledging his sons, Major Klink sat down at the head of the table. Turning to his sons he nodded his head, which was their signal to be seated. Both quickly sat. Neither boy spoke as all conversation was started by Major Klink. Their end of the conversation was to answer as quickly and concisely any question which he might ask them.
Agathe Kink entered the dinning room carrying Wolfgang. Major Klink frowned in displeasure but remained silent. Frau Klink acknowledged her husband's ire with a defiant tilt of her chin but remained silent. After everyone was seated and the food had been served, Major Klink turned to his oldest son and said, "Tell me about the Battle of Mars-La-Tour."
Randolph set his fork down and swallowed his food. He began to relate details of the battle to his father. Wilhelm was not listening to his brother's reciting of what he thought of as another in a long list of boring battles. Wilhelm let his mind wander while he sat reticent and ate his meal. He dreamed of being Jean-Marie Les Bris or the American, John J. Montgomery. While Randolph was going to be a solider, it was Wilhelm's dream to fly. He never was confident enough to tell anyone but Dolf his dream. Even then it was only in the dark of night while huddled under the blanket. Laying there in the bed, each brother whispered their hopes and dreams to the other.
Deep in thought, Wilhelm had failed to notice the table had grown silent. Major Klink's fist came down hard on the table top, rattling the dishes and almost scaring Wilhelm out of his chair. Looking up he instantly saw his father's red angry face looking directly at him.
"Are you not only feeble of mind but feeble of body as well?" Major Klink bellowed at his frightened son. "You sleep in a bed, not at the table."
It took Wilhelm a moment before he realized he was slouching. He sat up straight as he could. "Please forgive my rudeness Father. It won't happen again."
"I know it won't happen again because if it does, you will not be allowed back at this table." Major Klink growled at his son. Dismissing Wilhelm with a cutting glance, Major Klink returned to continue his military lecture with Dolf.
Wilhelm attempted to eat the rest of his dinner, always conscious of his posture and manners. Tried as he might, the food felt like it was sticking in his throat making it difficult to swallow. His only comfort was Dolf's leg pressed against his own. It was the only sign of affection and condolence Dolf was able to give his bother in his father's presence. Wilhelm pressed back with his own leg attempting to reassure his bother he was alright, even though they both knew the opposite was true.
After dinner both boys went upstairs, Randolph to practice his violin and Wilhelm to study for his upcoming test. As hard as he tried, Wilhelm couldn't keep his mind on his work. The music from his brother's violin was like a Siren's song. It intoxicated Wilhelm with its melodious beauty. No matter what his brother claimed, Wilhelm knew he had a rare talent. Wilhelm also knew that no matter how much Dolf dreamed of being first chair in a symphony, his father would never allow it. Major Klink felt his son's playing was merely an interesting hobby. He would take it away if he thought it would interfere in his son's military career. His heart ached knowing that others would not hear his brother play. He sat there listening to the music letting the notes carry him far away to a place of bright happiness.
Wilhelm had not realized his brother had stopped playing until he heard a tapping on his book. Opening his eyes he saw Dolf standing next to him, tapping the math book with his bow. "Willi, you know what will happen if you get a bad grade." Dolf said with a concerned look on his face.
"I can't help it. I love to hear you play." responded Wilhelm.
"Back to work little brother," Dolf said while smiling down at Wilhelm.
Dolf then put his violin back in his case and began to get ready for bed. Wilhelm ran his hand over the alligator skin case, marveling at its texture. Turning his attention back to his school book, Wilhelm attempted to study for another hour. Then his brother called Wilhelm to get ready for bed while he helped get their younger brother ready.
Soon all three children were tucked in bed, Randolph and Wilhelm in their bed and Wolfgang in the smaller bed on the other side of the room. Curled under the thick quilt, they could hear their parents enter the master bedroom. It was not long before their arguing reached the young ears. Wilhelm could not understand why his mother sometimes deliberately went out of her way to antagonize Father. Wilhelm would do anything to avoid his anger and yet his mother seemed to seek it out. He had asked Dolf about it once. Dolf just shrugged and replied "Who understands parents?"
Soon the fight was not just loud voices. Wilhelm could now hear breaking pottery in the next room. Frightened, Wolfgang had climbed into bed with his older brothers. All three children clung to each other frightened of the violence occurring in their parent's bedroom and terrified of it exploding out of control and spilling over into their room.