They knew it’d be a lot of work. Renovating a century home was daunting, but it was their dream. To Jason and Esther, it wasn’t just a home. It was an opportunity to participate in history. Their family would add to the rich story of the grand, old structure.
One Saturday in Spring Jason began tearing away the lathe and plaster walls of the master bedroom. Tucked away in the corner near the closet he found a battered old journal. It was stained and the ink was badly faded. He brought it to Esther, who was weeding the garden.
“It’s a diary, but I can’t read the name,” said Esther.
“Look at the date, 1915,” said Jason. He started reading aloud.
April 22, 1915 Ypres, France.
We’ve been in St. Julien a day, long enough for our first taste of mustard gas. The boys on the line took it rough. I may never smell again…
“This part’s hard to read,” said Jason. “Here we go.”
Company’s just a bunch of farm boys from Manitoba. Ruben’s from Steinbach and knows German. Says he can hear the Jerry’s across the field. They call us schlammigen hund, muddy dogs. Our squad’s adopted it as our nickname. Alec, from Anola, says he can’t wait to show those Jerry’s a thing or two about muddy dogs. Captain says we’ll get our chance tomorrow…
We’re assigned to something called a special operation. The Jerry’s have howitzers hold up somewhere in Kitchener’s Wood. They give our boys a terrible going over. Our job is to find them and give them a sound thrashing. Alec’s excited. Not me. I’m terrified. I pray that God be merciful.
April 23 Ypres
In the hospital, now. Mission a success. Ruben and Alec left behind. Their screaming haunts me still. If this isn’t hell I pray for those cast into eternal damnation. Gas. My lungs burn, cough blood.
“That’s the end,” said Jason. The two sat in silence as birds chased each other around the feeder.
Esther looked at the garden. “I think this year I’ll plant poppies.”