The teddy bear was Hitler. Josh knew that for a fact. Why else would Josh be holding the gun at the bear’s head?

Josh didn’t know how Hitler had got into his run-down house. He couldn’t have snuck over with Josh’s niece and all her other stuffed animals — her mother didn’t let the girl visit anymore since Josh lost those damned pills he was supposed to take. When Josh found the bear sitting on a kitchen chair and listening to the radio that morning, the first thing he did was run to his bedroom and get his gun.

“You get on out of here!” he shouted at the teddy bear who was Hitler. “We don’t want you here!”

“Irrelevant,” the bear replied. “I will do what needs to be done, and you cannot hinder me now. I have your medicine.”

Josh screamed, for even though he knew he was facing Hitler, it still startled him to hear a stuffed bear speak. He emptied his gun at the dictator.

“That was pointless,” the bear observed. The chair had lost its back, the table and refrigerator had new bullet holes, and the vociferous radio talk-show host had suddenly fallen silent, but Hitler sat tranquil and unscathed.

Josh ran back to his bedroom for more ammunition.  When he returned to the kitchen, he heard the approaching sirens in the distance.

“I believe your neighbors called the police,” the bear said. “They’re going to take you away, and my plan will proceed. Soon I will have everyone’s medicine, and you will all be locked up!”

“It’s you they’ll take away, you murdering Nazi!” Josh cried.  He seized Hitler by the throat and stormed out onto the shaggy front lawn, his gun held at the bear’s head.

When the police arrived in three cruisers, they saw a disheveled young man standing in the yard, holding a gun and a white teddy bear in front of him. The bear appeared to have a mustache drawn on its face with a heavy black marker.

Josh watched six policemen exit their vehicles crouching low with their guns drawn and aimed at him.

“Drop your weapon!” a dark, burly officer shouted at Josh.

“No,” said Josh, “it’s Hitler! He’s stealing all the medicine!”

“Drop your weapon now!” the officer screamed.

“God damn,” another officer groaned.

“No!” Josh said. “It’s Hitler! I’ll kill him!”

“Wait, hang on,” called the other officer, the one who had groaned, young and blond. “What’s your name, man? I’m Kurt.”


“Well, Josh, you know you can’t kill Hitler with guns. People tried. They tried blowing him up. Nothing worked.”

“You just watch me,” Josh said.

“No, Josh, don’t do it! Let us take care of him! But you have to drop your gun now, Josh. I don’t want you to die, Josh. You can’t fight him if you’re dead!”

Josh considered a moment and then dropped his gun and the bear on the grass.  He was immediately pinned to the ground and handcuffed.

While his face was pressed into the grass, Josh listened to the policemen praising their colleague. “Great job, Kurt! That was beautiful!”

Later, sitting in the back of a police cruiser, Josh watched the young officer Kurt approach the teddy bear who was Hitler. He saw the policeman hold Hitler up to his face and whisper in his ear before reverently slipping the bear into an evidence bag. Kurt paused to give Josh an ugly smirk before proceeding to his own car. All of the cop’s sweet-talking, Josh realized, had not been for his benefit, but was just to protect the Fuhrer from catching a bullet by accident.

A tear rolled down Josh’s cheek. Hitler’s plan was proceeding after all, for now. But Josh wasn’t dead yet. If only he could get some medicine, somehow he would continue the fight.

Carl Steiger is a career bureaucrat who is sometimes fortunate enough to find fulfillment on his own time.

Rate this story:
 average 4.4 stars • 8 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • A well written story, but it left me wondering: surely some people must take medicine to insure that their nieces will be safe while visiting their houses and for other reasons, but are people like that allowed to have guns in US?

  • Michael Stang

    Hey I’m all for a history rewrite but this guy is crazy. I keep wanting to substitute medicine for something less typical, but no matter. A solid write.

  • Rose Gardener

    We can see Josh is psychotic, we can be glad nobody was harmed.
    I hope I’m not the only reader who thinks the officer’s ugly smirk was unjustified, cruel and showed a complete lack of empathy towards someone in a state of crisis. When the public condones attitudes like Kurt’s, it keeps the police forces of this world in the dark ages and is a step on their slippery slope towards human rights abuse.
    I applaud the author for giving us an insight into Josh’s mind.
    I hope this story garners sympathy for people like Josh instead of the usual knee-jerk fear response born from a lack of understanding. There is much educating of police and public alike yet to be done on how to handle the mentally ill so it does not inflame further psychosis as Kurt did here, laughing at the patient instead of seeing an opportunity to help him gain insight and get well.
    Sorry for being serious on your comment thread Carl, but I feel strongly on this issue. I believe you did an excellent job with your story-telling. Well done.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Carl, the contents of your imagination are astonishing. Five stars.

    @#1 Irena: Yes, here in the US seriously mentally ill people get guns and use them all the time. And part of profound illness is thinking you don’t need your medicine any more…

    @#3 Rose: I can’t speak for all readers but I think one knows from the moment the young policeman is named that he’s going to have sinister import. Someone channeling the SS is likely to be somewhat deficient in empathy and other human virtues. I’d say this story, within its rather remarkable plot, gives compassionate insight to the terrifying world of mental disruption.

  • Dustin Adams

    I interpreted Kurt’s actions are more delusion on Carl’s part. Interesting that you found it to be purposeful and independent of the psychosis. I figured that from the beginning we had an unreliable narrator and the only things we could trust were what was happening to him physically and (omniscient POV).

    What do you think?

  • Rose Gardener

    I agree that he’s an unreliable narrator in that his interpretation of the teddy bear being Hitler is clearly incorrect. However, that doesn’t mean he’s a completely unreliable observer. You’ve said we can trust him regarding what happens to him physically, and someone pausing to smirk at him through the window is in effect a physical event.
    Even though he then went on to make a further incorrect interpretation (based on his psychotic belief system) after Kurt’s smirk, it doesn’t mean he’s hallucinated that physical aspect of the scene, or that we can dismiss his testimonial without regard as entirely the imaginings of a sick mind.
    Anyway, that was my take on it! Maybe Carl had no such lofty intentions to show there’s more than one kind of ‘sick mind’ in the world, but to me making fun of someone when they are clearly not able to think straight is pretty sick and Josh got my sympathy for that.
    I’m interested to know what the author intended. But it’s fascinating to see how we each interpret stories differently. I do love unreliable narrators as a tool to get readers thinking and discussing!

  • I actually had a different reaction to this story than the other readers. There were some subtleties here that piqued my attention and left me with the sense that Kurt was in fact a supporter of “Das Furher” and that, while Josh was clearly crazy, he was also right: the bear was Hitler!

    The way I interpreted the details was that Kurt was scared to see his leader being held at gunpoint and acted to protect him (thus the groan and “God damn”). He probably whispered something along the lines of “You won’t be in here for long” just before he “reverently” placed the bear in the bag (which indicates that he had a special respect and took unusual care for what should have been just be a child’s toy). The smirk is evil and demeaning, just as an evil character might act, knowing that he succeeded and that the true hero is going to be locked away. Finally, he leaves in his own car, which frees him to handle Hitler’s release and possible replacement while out of the sight of his fellow officers.

    For me, this is an example where the author established plenty of reason to believe the protagonist is insane and unreliable, but then subtly hinted that maybe it was true all along, which left room for interpretation. The thing that I particularly love here is that, whether I choose to see it this way, or the way the others are seeing it, the story works and it works very well.

    Great story, Mr. Steiger! I hope to read more.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I agree with J. Chris the story works and it works very well. The nomenclature “SS” was not mentioned in the story and since it’s a story of people walking around with questionable assumptions there might be some youngsters who interpret “SS” as “Social Security,” not knowing the, by now, ancient history of Hitler’s SS, the Schutz-Staffel, a quasi-military organization of terror against innocent civilians in Europe.

  • I, too, took J. Chris’ interpretation – that the policeman’s smirk was an indication that perhaps Josh was not so delusional as he seemed. But I can see how if you didn’t read it that way, the officer’s reaction could be construed as offensive.

    Great premise, great writing, and most especially, great title!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I’m not sure of this definition. I always thought a “smirk” was a frown on one side of the mouth and a grin on the other. Sometimes it expresses doubt of someone’s statement. In this case it might have meant “I know you’re a good boy in intentions, but what you’re doing is definitely “no.”

  • Lavender

    For me that was a solid 5 star story. It made me laugh, it made me uncomfortable and it made me sad. There were some sinister overtones at the end as well as some ambiguity, which works well with such an unreliable narrator. Really enjoy it – thank you!

  • Jacob

    Great story. Would have given it 5 stars, but it seems to have a pretty big view point error in it when the cops are looking at Josh and the Teddy bear.

  • Carl Steiger

    Thank you all for the feedback!

    I did intend some ambiguity, and the next-to-last paragraph seems the most ambiguous of all. The reasonable interpretation is that Josh is delusional, but still…

    Rose has an interesting point – even if Josh is delusional, the cop could still be a smirking arschloch. (Where I live, the police are getting a reputation for badly treating the mentally ill, and are notorious for shooting first and asking questions later. That may be unfair, but those are the stories that get in the news.) Assuming Josh is misinterpreting Kurt’s actions, and the cop isn’t really working for the bear, the smirk could have been imagined, but not necessarily. I’d give the cop credit for talking Josh down, anyway.

    I see what you mean, Jacob. That one paragraph is from the policemen’s perspective and the story steps outside of Josh’s head for a moment. Now I’ll debate with myself over different ways I could have included that image that I couldn’t resist, but I’ll spare the rest of you.

  • JenM

    What a great story. I’m glad there’s so much interesting discussion around it too.
    I hope it helps people gain more understanding of those with mental illness and mood disorders. We are people too,

  • As someone with a mental illness, I thought this was so real.

  • Trollopian

    I thought this was an absolutely brilliant story told from the point of view of someone who is mentally ill…but who is not necessarily wholly unreliable. I quickly spotted Kurt’s name and blondness, and knew where the story would head from there, but am very glad that the author used clues rather than cudgels. The ambiguity makes this successful.

    I can’t help contrasting this with another favorite story, “The Dark” (published here on July 16), which was told from the point of view of a “toy” (in the previous case, a doll, but could equally well have been a teddy bear).

  • That’s one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read. The end gave me goosebumps.