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All is Well That Ends Well...

By
He was down in a shell hole. Bartholomew was down there for what seemed like two days, but it was
rather closer to a time of approximately five hours, if that long. The barrage of bullets between
the western front of the German camp was the hell of the northern front of the American camp for
firing had not yet cased. A revolver and a knife were all Jacob had at his disposal, his trusty
rifle lying somewhere up on the battlefield. It was not long before it got dark, where the true
horrors of war were shown under the moonless night. Bombardments and flames had continuously been
volleyed throughout the night. It was not but dawn when Jacob Bartholomew had risen from the hole.
He scurried all the way back to camp where he had hoped to receive his morning ration a small
piece of bread, perhaps a cigar or a pack of ten cigarettes, and a tin of chewing tobacco. In this
war, the tobacco was a bartering currency between the soldiers. One was able to exchange a cigar for
something as desirable as a loaf of bread. Shortly thereafter, Bartholomew moved into his bunk, his
fellow soldier Paul Baumer still in a state of sleep. Officers cared not whether a soldier had
missed his rations, so long as he had not skipped inspection or training that started an hour later
at 6 a.m. Bartholomew opened a letter from his wife, Anne. It read as follows:

November 17, 1917 Dearest Jacob,

It is still to this day that your absence makes my heart grow fonder. I am trying to earn more
money my current standards hardly meet the escalating rent, much less any more clothes. My dreams
rely on your return, when you can meet your child that is coming in three months! Until then, stay
safe, as I cannot imagine a life without you without a father for my child.

Much love, Anne

Once a month, Anne would send Jacob a letter, though it took nearly as long to go all of the way
from New Jersey to Germany; so indeed it was December now. The deep forests that lie not far away
from Jacob's camp at Bergwallen were covered knee deep in snow with an additional winter mix of
snow and sleet precipitation never terminating. Paul woke up as Jacob left. Paul was in this war
ever since 1915 he entered as a British soldier, but eventually camped with the less-disciplined
Americans and yet Paul was still not yet disciplined enough. He was constantly drunk and slurring
many a curse word between the tent and dinnertime, when Paul 'showed off' how drunk he was.
Jacob went back into the tent with breakfast for Paul and himself. Breakfast contained most of the
daily rations- cigarettes, tobacco, and rum for the day, along with the other food. "They never
give us 'nough booze" complained Paul. "I don't give 'bout food, so long as we get
'nough alcohol," he slurred. Jacob hated when Baumer was drunk it made him feel like he was
talking to a lifeless, cursing doll but Paul was fine when he was sober, and because he was
Jacob's only good friend. No one else had to care about him. *******

Jacob grabbed his rifle and moved out to greet Sarzuk at the ward. Sarzuk had been injured nearly a
year ago, but he was not injured enough to be sent back to the '48 states,' so he was stuck at
the place on earth where one has the greatest risk of dying. Jacob would talk to him everyday.
"Morning Sarzuk," started Jacob. "I hear that the Germans are getting nearer. Another skirmish
may come in the next day or tow," predicted Sarzuk. Sarzuk was a short man of 5'4". His hair
was shirt, of black color, and messy. But grooming was not of utmost importance during these days.
Sarzuk's leg had not gotten any better, which had procured an odd mystery of why he could not
return to his wife and two kids. (Sarzuk was about 29, which was old for the war in a way, since
most of the other soldiers were 20-something.) "A battle would be a change," said Jacob
jokingly. "You'd best be getting prepared," insisted Sarzuk. "I suppose." He went trotting
outside with his rifle. As Jacob stepped outside, bodies were at his feet, waiting for an open bed
in the ward. Dozens of bodies must have been lying on the ground, but that was normal. Jacob's
fear was that that number would be increasing as the battle came.

It was not but two hours after being with Sarzuk that the Germans came. All of the soldiers were
consuming food when the first, colorful bombardment came, followed by many a salvo of bullets
whizzing away from the German rifle line. Jacob's division was sent into the trenches first.
Mounds of earth would explode with every firing of a weapon. The dirt would cover their faces as if
it were a type of tar. After five minutes, or what seemed like an hour during warfare, at least 67
men must have been wounded. Deafening screams of pain outstripped the explosions, blood was pooling
down in the deepest of shell holes. Thirty of those men were destined to have an amputation, and the
other 37 would probably die. It was those who would die that would provoke the most thought in
Jacob's head. 'Why must they lie here in suffering just kill them, Lord.' In reality, the
war was probably killing Jacob more.

When Jacob returned, Sarzuk was dead. *******

Days passed as Bartholomew got more and more lonely. With Sarzuk gone, all that Jacob could look
forward to was spending a few minutes each day with a sober Paul, and even that was not much. Jacob
would get more and more depressed with each day that came. It was not long before the bottle of
Baumer's gin seemed like the best and only option to coping with the stress. Bartholomew had
never yet been confronted with alcohol before, either denouncing his want for it in the rations or
giving the alcohol away. All of a sudden, however, Bartholomew kept the alcohol just in case.
Baumer woke up just as usual the day, drunk and hung-over, but one surprise remained for him: a
sleeping, drunk, hung-over Bartholomew beneath him. "Wake up! What the hell is wrong with you? You
didn't wake me up today we almost missed our rations for the morning." "Shut the hell up! I
am trying to sleep and I don't have to answer to you, if I wasn't going to be killed for it,
I would shoot you right now!" "What the hell is your problem? WAKE UP!" Paul shouted, sighing
after it stirred no emotion in Bartholomew. "****" muttered Jacob, falling back asleep.
*************

Bartholomew lay unconscious on the battlefield; shrapnel pierced his head.

"Jake?" asked Anne. "Yes?" "What would you say if I told you that I was pregnant?" Jacob
was speechless. The 26-year-old was going to be sent to Germany in three days and now found out
that he would be a father coming back to a wife and an infant. It was not necessarily bad news, but
considering that he was going to leave and not come back to see his wife and be there for him it
was too much to handle. An infant and an obstreperous and overworked wife was not something that
would be easy to handle on an abrupt end to a whole war. Not much difference, though. "I guess
that I wouldn't know what I would say, though I suppose that I would be happy but then I do not
know if I should leave you now " he offered. "Don't even think about it Jacob, you go to
Germany; I know that you want to. Ma will help me while you're gone, she accepted in a heartbeat.
Just make sure you'll miss me when you're gone." "I will."

Jacob woke up at the hospital ward, Paul by his side. "Jacob?" Jacob just managed to lift a slit
of his eyelid rise, enough to see to whom he was talking to. Paul was the last he expected to be
there, but it left a warm feeling in Jacob's heart one that he hadn't experienced in a while.
"Oh hello, Paul. Say, have you the time of day? Noon?" "More like dusk, it is almost five
o'clock in Britain, so about six here. But anyway, how are you? You have been out since
morning." "Decent, I guess, but a massive headache. Pressure." Paul could, in reality, only
imagine the pain that Jacob was in at the moment. "Next two months ought to be like hell and
all so many soldiers dying each day, a skirmish with the German infantry nearly every other
day " complained Paul. "Can't be long before our time is up, if you know what I mean."
"Sadly, I do."


Days went by and not much happened. No excitement stirring, no unexpected bombardments being
volleyed, no confrontments with the German infantry. Life was plain. Paul gave up on his drinking,
and instead wrote in a journal of his each night, sitting on his bunk, a gas lamp ignited next to
it. Still, the baby that was approaching soon had taken control of his mind. Only a few weeks left
before the termination of Jacob's army enlistment, the anticipation was heightened. Perhaps Jacob
might not miss the first weeks of being with his son .at least in didn't seem so anymore. Life
was going to be different then, no more rations at five in the morning, but rather cooking breakfast
and going to work at seven. No longer would Jacob smoke with his friends and playing whist with his
fellow soldiers, nor would Jacob handle a rifle for a while. Leaving this life would be a
sophisticated process, and Jacob was aware of that. Anne would always be more important though, even
if he didn't realize it when he got caught up in the moment. Anne would send a letter to Jacob
every month; always showing her loyalty to him her confidence in him wanting to be with her. His
decision on whether he would leave or re-enlist would be a tough decision it would cause two
months of hell.

A week later, Bartholomew was down in the trench again. "Get the men down in the trench!" was
shouted by all of the officers, and the noise was sounding out above the other deafening components
of war: artillery. The shrieks, too, were deafening, but rational, of course. Soldiers were
clamoring for help; their bodies were lying on the floor, hundreds of soldiers just walking past
them, their blood spitting out from stomachs onto the dirt floors in the trenches, making all of the
rain puddles red in color. The contact of blood on everything let it be so that no soldier could
know whether he was bleeding or not, but no one minded and just kept firing at will. Shots to
soldiers' pelvises had paralyzed many a man instantaneously, leaving them to fall to the ground.
Jacob took in everything he saw: death across the trench, men bleeding to death in front of his
eyes, men laying helpless, just waiting for an open bed in the ward. And then he saw Paul falling
to the ground about fifty feet away from him. "PAUL!" Jacob screamed. "PAUL!" Paul had no
reaction to the noises. All Jacob wanted to think is that Paul couldn't hear him. That wasn't
the case. A tear rolled down Jacob's cheek, falling like one of the millions of raindrops around
them, onto Paul's heart, where a gunshot was obvious. Along his first instincts, Jacob picked up
Paul and ran to the ward. Jacob's legs trembled, not under the pressure of the weight of his
friend, but rather the pressure of his friend dying. Jacob knew that Paul was already dead, but he
wouldn't let that be so. He ran and ran, nearly all the way to the ward, but then Jacob collapsed.
Paul's body fell on top of him, but Jacob was crying too hard to realize any pain. Nothing could
hurt him more than Paul's death. Jacob stayed put for the rest of the battle.

The next day, Jacob stood up and walked away. Paul's body was still there, but it is likely that
he was passed over because he was obviously dead. Back in the bunks, Jacob went through and packed
away Paul's stuff. Among the many things was a note next to Paul's lamp. The note was what Paul
had been writing at night.

February 3rd, 1918

To whoever finds this letter, let it be known that my death was not accidental. During the first
skirmish in the month of February 1918, I do plan to be killed. I know what I am doing, and how
stupid it may be, but I recognize this as my only way to escape the hell that I am left with in this
war. I kill myself only to end my fighting of a war where I believe I have done what I needed to do.
The peace is not final, but my contributions to it are. With Regards, Paul Baumer

It was with that letter he was convinced on what he had to do. Jacob lifted Paul's revolver and
examined it. One bullet had remained in the gun. Jacob then lifted the revolver to his head





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