Good Will Out
Entry number 1 (December 1913)
You're new here to the Smithson family.
I'm sure you'll fit right in.
Right, first things first, introductions: My family is not a poor, sad family like most; our family is actually pretty "well off" (that's what Mother says). Mother says it's because Father has a good job that pays well.
(I know! How can a job pay you? Is a job a type of scary monster that hides under adults' beds, and only gives them money if they do enough work? At least, that's what I can get from how Mother and Father talk about them. Like they're horrible nightmares that only serve to give you a headache you can feel in your teeth. And they will only go away if you do exactly what is asked of you.)
Ah, Mother; sweet Mother. My Mother is really nice - once you get to know her, of course. She can be a little bit strict, though, especially when it comes down to not having any sweets, or even any food, for bed. I think that that's really unfair! Once, when I was really really young, like when I was five, I managed to sneak downstairs and steal some of the sweets that Mother always confiscates from me and Charlie (that's my brother, you know). Although I successfully managed to ensnare the sweets, I accidentally succeeded in knocking over one the china plates, where it then smashed to the ground. I didn't have anywhere to hide and, not before long, Mother and Father both came in to the kitchen, dressed in their matching nightgowns that they believe makes them seem as a 'matching pair' but really makes them seem just that teensy bit more stranger than the rest of us, demanding to know exactly what was going on.
Immediately, I might add.
I tried, I really did, to explain why I was holding certainly more than a minute handful of sweets in my hand. However, as fate would have it, Father found the smashed china plate and proceeded to give me a great big, massive, telling off. Mother banned me and Charlie (I thought that was really unfair since he didn't actually do anything) from ever having any sweets again and Father took away all of my pocket money to buy a new china plate. I cried for months afterwards.
So did Charlie, not that he'll ever admit it, of course. Not even to you.
And that brings us nicely on to Father. Father is very strict - he's the strictest one of the household. It's probably best if you just keep out of his way. Not that that will be hard, though, as he is hardly ever here. He's too busy working for the job monster. Hopefully that means that you won't run into him.
Then, there's Charlie (well, his actual name is Charles but he lets me call him Charlie. Maybe he'll let you call him Charlie too). Charlie's my only brother and he is older than me by...um...eight years. I love Charlie the best, and I know that you shouldn't have favourites in your family but I don't care. Charlie is really nice and kind - and he always gives me some sweets when Mother's not looking. Also, he wasn't even upset with me when I managed to get us both banned from ever having sweets again last year.
Well, okay, maybe he was a little bit.
So, that then leaves just me. Well, I am just another nine year old boy no different from one that you may meet at any point in your lifetime but with one noticeable catch: I'm special. (And you can really believe me because that's what Mother insists on informing me at every opportune moment. After all, Mother knows best, does she not?)
Oh, I almost forgot my dog Buxer. Buxer's really friendly, but because he's a big dog, most people shy away from him, but he won't hurt you. I promise. I love him so much and I hope that you will too. He's probably one of my very best friends - behind Charlie of course and even more behind you, friend.
And my name is Fergus Smithson. I'm very pleased to meet you. I hope we can become great friends in the near future.
Entry number 237 (July 1914)
Hello again, my friend. How are things with you?
I have lots of news to tell you! You'll never guess what. England is at war with Germany. I don't know why, as of yet, but I plan to find out. (Whenever I asked Mother she always said that it was because the Germans were bad people who wanted to try and kill and enslave us all. Charlie said that the Germans were like the monsters under our beds that only come out at night.)
Mother also said that Father might have to fight. I don't really understand what they mean by fighting, though. My teachers at school always tell me that violence is wrong, so why is right in this instance? I don't understand.
Also, how are they going to fight? The postman said that there were more than hundreds of German soldiers, so how will Father be able to fight? How will he even be able to get close enough to punch them?
I asked Father this myself but he just laughed at me. (I hate it when people just laugh at me. Like I'm just a stupid child who can't understand anything - and yes, before you say anything, I know that I am just a small, insignificant little child but that doesn't mean that I am stupid.) He told me that it won't be "hand-to-hand combat", but instead he is going to ride a horse.
I've always wanted a horse to ride. It seems so terribly unfair that Father should get to so easily ride one when I have been desiring after one for ages. Maybe he'll give me a horse when he comes back from the war. Hopefully. And he'll be able to teach me how to ride it because he will have already had the chance to learn.
Or, maybe he'll give me one for my birthday. My birthday is right next to Christmas so then I'll have double the chance of being able to get one.
Oh; I just can't wait!
Entry number 325 (November 1914)
...I heard Charlie talking with Mother the other night, after Father had just given us a letter from the War. Charlie was saying that he would like to write a list, or something, to the War so that he can be a part of it.
I tried very hard not to gasp when I had that. Life without Father was already unbearable enough and I don't know how I would be able to cope with just Mother and Buxer for company.
Mother seemed shocked herself at what Charlie had just said and she tried to talk him out of it, but he refused. He said that his birthday was coming up next June anyway, so he would just wait until he's eighteen to sign up.
I'm so scared. I don't want Charlie to go and fight those German monsters. I need him home with me, doesn't he understand that? He's my only brother and my very best friend in the whole wide world.
Not including you, of course.
Quick, help me! I need to come up with a plan or something to try and get him not to go. We need to think of something to make Charlie stay here, at home where he belongs.
Time is running out.
Entry number 769 (March 1915)
I'm ten years old now. I am officially a big boy.
Father has gone off to fight in the war, and he took a horse named Charles - to remind him of Charlie - off with him.
I found out from the postman what they actually mean when they say "fighting in the war"...they don't mean punches and kicks like I thought before. They mean swords and something called "machine guns".
I think I'm starting to have second thoughts about this war subject. I didn't want Father to go, but, alas, by the time I found out what War fighting actually meant, he was already done. And I didn't even have the chance to say 'I love you'.
It's coming up to Charlie's birthday in June but I can't think of that. I can't stop thinking about this war...When will it end? I'm scared.
Father, I love you.
Entry number 974 (June 1915)
This is it. The dreaded day has finally arrived. Charlie has gone off to enlist (I found out; it's not "write a list", its "enlist") in the War, leaving me and Mother all on our own with Buxer. Mother was crying so much by the time she had seen him off. She said that I couldn't come and see him go because it would be too "traumatic" for me.
When is that going to end? I am a big boy. I'm all grown up now. When will they ever see that? I don't need to be coddled every time something scary happens.
Charlie wasn't given a horse like Father was. Instead, he went off with a long, black tube with a big bit at the end. The postman says that they are the newly formed "guns" that they want the men to fight with, instead of horses and swords.
Wait...what does that mean for Father? Is he all right? What's going on over where he is? He hasn't sent us a letter in over four months. The last one I sent him was a week ago...does that mean something is wrong?
What does that mean for Charlie?
Entry number 1,582 (February 1916)
Mother got sent a little message in the post from the postman. He looked so sad when I asked him why he delivered to the door this time (usually he doesn't; he usually just leaves it in the mailbox at the front of our garden) and he wouldn't reply directly to my question.
When I went to ask Mother, she started screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. I didn't know what to do. I didn't even know how to calm her down.
In the end, I managed to soothe her by whispering reassuring things like, "It's all going to be all right", that Father has uttered to my overly emotional and sensitive Mother when she falls deep down into the darkness - Charlie too, to a lesser extent.
When I finally managed to calm her down, I dared to ask why she was crying. She didn't say anything - she just stared straight ahead, looking at nothing. I decided to go over and see the mail to check if that was it and my own heart almost stopped beating.
It told us that Father went missing behind enemy lines in late January...and that his body was eventually recovered and will be shipping out here first thing, come the morrow.
They also asked whether we would like an Epitaph for him. I asked Mother whether we were planning to give one to Father, for his grave, but she didn't respond, just kept on staring at the nothingness.
I don't want any more fighting. I just wish it would stop.
I don't like this war very much.
In fact, I don't think I like it at all.
Entry number 5,673 (December 1917)
Hello. How have things been with you?
We finally got a letter back from Charlie after having gone almost two months without a reply back. But...there was something different about his letter this time.
All throughout his letter, he had been...unfocused, kept on flitting between one thing and the next and didn't really answer any of my previous questions about what was going and if he was all right. He just kept going on about Mother's infamous Christmas Balls (she stopped them after the War broke out) and how Father used to make his Christmas puddings.
And then, right at the very end of the letter, there was a final explanation. He was going "over-the-top" and into No Man's Land come the morrow, and he doesn't know when he will be back. He said he wished us well and that he loved us both, very much.
I didn't let Mother see the letter. She's still too broken up about Father's death, there is no way I would burden her with Charlie's possible death. He will come back. I know he will. I have faith in him, and I know that he is a tough egg to crack. I've just got to keep on praying for his safe return.
Entry 5,998 (December 23rd 1917)
It's my birthday today. Two days before Christmas. I am now thirteen years old. Happy birthday me! Not that I'll be keeping the same birthday after today, mind you.
Mother and I were just going through some late Christmas presents that needed wrapping as I tend to open my birthday presents on Christmas day in a vain attempt to make Charlie jealous when we were younger. (It was just one of my little "quirks", or so Mother always said, that has followed me to where I am now - at least something's constant around here. What, did Charlie ever get jealous? No, as I informed you before, my elder's a tough egg to crack.) That was when I heard our post come through underneath our door.
My head shot up straight away. The only other time the postman delivered our mail straight to our door was when Father... so, I went to check, leaving Mother to continue the wrappings of other people's presents.
That was when I saw it. The same small, white letter that, ironically, resembled that of a postcard. I picked it up and, with a heavy heart, read it all.
By the time I had finished, my blood had turned cold.
Mother, as though sensing my distress, questioned me and I flashed back to the same moment when she herself had picked up Father's telegram and went as still as statue. Now, as fate would have it, our roles were reversed.
She came out to the front door where I was stood and, noticing the telegram clutched so tight in my fist my knuckles were turning white, she knew exactly what it was. Plucking it from my hands, she went read it herself, carefully, calmly. When she was finished, she took it to the kitchen and there deposited it neatly in the bin - as one would do if they were removing a dead spider from the house.
Neither one of us said anything about what was written on the note. We didn't have to. And I will never utter nor write down what was written on there. It is not for anyone else's eyes.
Entry number 6, 481 (June 1918)
It's Charlie's birthday today. How ironic it is that the day of his birth is also the day of his funeral.
Mother opted for an Epitaph this time, but instead of writing just to Charlie, she also wrote to Father as well.
"ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS." was written simply on my brother's grave, side-by-side with Father's.
The day was too traumatic for the both of us. When we got home, Mother pulled me into a bone-crushing hug and whispered desperately in my ear, "Don't ever fight."
I was holding back tears. I had to be strong for her. "Never," I promised thickly.
Entry number 7, 028 (November 1918)
It's the end of the war. Germany has finally surrendered. It was odd because I was almost hoping, despite my promises, that I would be forced to partake in the war, to avenge my dead family.
It was an odd day to not have Father and Charlie with. It was the kind of thing that I had envisioned ever since war broke out in the first place: the image of both Father and Charlie coming home, together, to celebrate the end whilst watching the King's grand speech about hope, glory and our good country.
But that didn't happen. It's just me, Mother and Buxer. Buxer's getting a bit old now, I have the feeling that any time soon he's going to disappear too. Mother too, someday. I'll just be left on my own, screaming at the nothingness that no one can hear but me.
Not one of us spoke the whole time. There were no grand celebrations in the once full of life Smithson household; now it's empty, with no one to fill the unforgiving minute.
I feel like I'm drowning. I'm slowly drowning in this silence and no one can help me. Mother's too far gone. I need someone to help me breathe. Please.
Entry XX (15th December 1944)
I haven't wrote in this old thing for years. There's dust collecting in the sides and on every page. I had to blow so hard to try and write in it. This silly old thing.
I have my own family now. I met this beautiful woman named Maria; she's the angel of my life. She saved me from myself and I am so eternally grateful to her. I also have two beautiful children - the lights in my life: Catherine and Charles Smithson, named after both my Mother and brother, respectively.
But, you'll never guess what. Humanity needed another war to make up for the peace time after the first one that cost Father and Charlie their lives. And I know, I never forgot about the promise I made to Mother...but she died in 1941 and I didn't enlist until 1942 so, by all facts and statistics, I never lied.
This war is even worse than the previous one, if you can imagine. They have proper, cutting-edge technology used for the planes, for communications such as radios and things like that, all things to help us win this war quicker, faster. Before any more innocent lives get lost.
The last time I wrote in this book, I was still little more than a babe. And now I'm a man. I have grown up. I understand the world better now and I know now that there are no monsters hiding underneath our beds. The only monsters in this world are in us. We all have the power to be deadly and murderous. Nationality doesn't mean anything. Nor does religion or sex or ethnic colour. It is what you chose to do that makes the difference. You decide.
It's funny, though, how proud you can feel fighting for your country. I understand better now how Charlie and Father felt when they were both fighting. To die defending your country for your children, and your children's children, is an honour all in itself.
I feel, finally, after so many years of suffering and depression, at peace with myself - and I can die a happy man fighting for my family.
James Christopher Smithson ~ Died January 1915
Charles Edward Smithson ~ Died December 1917 "ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS."
Fergus George Smithson ~ Died December 1944 "OUR LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER. WE REMEMBER."