:: Article

Himmler’s Chicken

By Tyler Smith.

BERLIN, FEBRUARY 1939

Heinrich Himmler stands on ceremony. He sits on ceremony; he sleeps, eats, drinks and shits on ceremony. Today, in the dining hall of the Reich Chancellery, he believes he should be treated with more ceremony, not like a man who suffers truancy. Nevertheless, the Reichsführer waits, lonely. He scrapes a fingernail along the inner contours of his ear, rakes an orange glob of wax and perches it on the tip of his finger. He admires it, sniffs it, and then flicks it onto the shimmering chandelier above. Now everyone is already twenty minutes late, including the Führer.

Today, the German High Command must make a critical decision about the Soviet Union: What will appear on the carte du dégustation when representative Ribbentrop goes to sign the peace treaty with Molotov and the Soviets in Moscow in just over a month?

Reichstag President Göring has suggested “Hermann’s Soup,” a concoction about which nobody will even dare to ask, and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels has suggested poison. They must decide on something, for posterity, if for nothing else.

Drops of thick sweat drip from Himmler’s moustache. He looks up through his sweat-mottled glasses and rubs at them then down at his custom Junghans pocketwatch. The bars of the swastika on the watchface obscure the hands, but this meeting should have begun half an hour ago.

Himmler is always the first to arrive, anywhere. He is a farmer of chickens—he loves chickens—and those who know about the tending of fowl know that keeping a doctrinaire schedule is critical to animal husbandry.

After another five minutes, Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels appears in tan shorts and a matching tank-top. He is covered in sweat and red scratches, and dribbling a basketball. Himmler discouraged building a basketball court inside the Reich Chancellery, but yet again, he was snubbed.

“What a surprise!” says Goebbels, threatening Himmler with a pass. “Look who took the early bird train! It’s the handsome and talented Heinrich Himmler.” Goebbels loses the ball, and fumbles under the table to retrieve it. “I’m looking forward to another one of your illuminating briefings,” he says.

“Hello, Joseph,” says Himmler, peering under the table at his colleague.

Here is Hermann Göring, Commander of the Luftwaffe and President of the Reichstag. Göring is still in mourning over his first wife’s death. Six months ago, while visiting her relatives outside Helsinki, she was trod on by an elk. Her death has been unorthodox, and so Göring has taken to transvestitism, at first attending briefings in his wife’s old brocade dresses. Now, he has jettisoned all pretenses and wears women’s clothes of the latest fashion. Today, Göring is wreathed in a purple cloak emblazoned with a gold cartouche over a buttermilk tunic. A cartridge belt of silver bullets crosses his prodigious belly, and gold medallions hang from lumps on his neck.

Göring and Goebbels have a manly repartee that Himmler covets. Göring asks how the basketball works, and Goebbels instructs him to make a big circle with his hands. Goebbels then dribbles to the corner of the room, shoots and drains the ball through Göring’s flabby arm hoop.

Himmler feels unloved. He wishes he were more like Freyr, his favorite Norse deity. Freyr, of the erect phallus, who rides a golden boar forged by trolls.

Himmler says a prayer to calm himself:

Blessed Freyr, full of fertility, ward my soul…

Adolf Hitler arrives at the Reich Chancellery impatient, agitated. He removes his black top hat and hands it to his personal secretary, Martin Bormann, who rubs it against his cheek glands, and then sets it on his knee under the dining table.

The high-backed chairs are all disproportionate to the men:

Goebbels, 5’4”

Hitler, 5’6”

Himmler, 5’6”

Göring, 5’8”

Bormann, 5’7”

The Führer has come from a diplomatic dinner at the Finnish consulate, where, he rages, he has been forced to dress in tux and tails, and where they served him shit again. “Moose and mushrooms…reindeer steak and pickles…Stalin can have Finland…god damned peas. I hate the texture of peas!”

“The fucking texture of peas,” says Himmler, nodding, stroking his weedy moustache.

“Now would someone like to tell me why we’re here again?” asks the Führer.

“Of course, mein Führer,” says Himmler. “I wanted to at last solidify an operational menu for our peace treaty with the Soviets—something appropriate to acknowledge the secret protocols we’ve put in place. I’ve taken the liberty of sending a menu to Moscow.”

“Have you?” says Hitler.

“Yes,” says Himmler, and from his pocket, he pulls a copy of the glossy 8.5 x 14 menu, and slaps it on the table. It reads:

Chicken Kiev

“Heinrich!” the Führer hisses. “A couple of things: One, Chicken Kiev is about as conciliatory as an entrée can be; and Two, …what did we talk about at the last meeting?”

“Fruit,” says the Reichsführer.

“And…?”

“Vegetables.”

“That’s right!” snarls Hitler, who throws the menu and strides out of the room, followed by Bormann, Göring, and Goebbels, who is cackling like a gargoyle.

Alone in the dining hall with his grief, Himmler spots Goebbels’ basketball, picks it up and swats it into Kaulbach’s Entry of the Sun Goddess, knocking it catawampus from its gilded frame.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tyler Smith‘s writing has appeared in McSweeney’sEsquireUTNE ReaderTin House, and Texas Monthly, among others. His book of nonfiction, Whore Stories, was named to Kirkus Review’s “Best of 2012.”

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, July 7th, 2020.