After breakfast on Saturday morning, David lifted the long skeins of sausages from the smoker racks and handed them down to Bethia. As she stood cutting the twisted gut between the swells to separate the sausages, he asked, "What are these called?"
"They're my version of cervelat, the Swiss national sausage. I smoke them a bit longer than traditionally, but cooler and in a waning fire. They have a slightly firmer texture and a deeper flavour."
"We've not had any of these on the platters."
"No, they're fried or grilled and served hot. The traditional way is to split the ends a bit, so they fan out as they cook — I'll do some for lunch. I expect if Maria is missing you as much as you're missing her, they'll be here around noon."
Bethia tended her brisk Saturday morning business, spending most of her time in the front as the bell continued to regularly tinkle. David had the background of lively, friendly chatter of the shop beyond the curtains, as he sat at the kitchen table composing a letter to his parents.
He crumpled out another notebook sheet and added it to the pile. There must be a safe way to do this that won't arouse suspicion and start them searching around here. Surely they'll open a letter addressed to Canada. Stop thinking, David. Still your mind. Let the solution emerge.
He put the pen on the table and sat with eyes out of focus, relaxed his shoulders, loosened his neck. Loosened his mind. Within a minute, he was shaking his head at the simplicity of the solution. Write a postcard so the censors won't have to open it. I don't have to say much; just tell them I'm well. Mail it from somewhere far down the valley from here. If the censors suspect anything, they'll have a search done there.
He quickly drafted the message and read it:
Dearest Mamère and Dad;
I'm well, safe and with good friends.
When Bethia next came through the curtains, he showed her the text. "Does this tell my parents enough to relieve their worry?"
She looked at it, smiled and replied, "That is exactly the message Herr Krings would love to receive from his missing son."
David sat bolt upright. Looked wide-eyed at Bethia, and slowly shaking his head, he asked, "Herr Krings?"
"At the slaughterhouse. You met him yesterday."
"Josef? — At the slaughterhouse? His name is Krings? Is that a common name? Is his son also Josef? His fraülein named Freda?"
"How do you know young Josef and Freda?"
"There was a postcard in his uniform pocket. He helped save my life," David replied in a croaking voice, tears welling in his eyes. "He's dead."
"Josef will be deeply saddened to learn this. He hadn't heard from his son in over three weeks. He's been rattling between confusion, hope and despair. Then the deserter news last week..."
"We'll have to find a way to let him know. Think of a way to let the Army know that doesn't endanger me." He told her the story of regaining consciousness and wandering in the dark, wounded and in a daze, then realising he was on the German side.
"Young Josef is the dead soldier whose uniform and identity I took. His identity allowed me to have my shredded face stitched, allowed me a week of sick leave, allowed me to get to here. His sick leave expired a week and a half ago. He's now officially listed as a deserter. Punishable by death. A horrid stigma for the family."
"I'm sure you'll think of..." She paused and turned toward the sounds of the gates creaking open, and saw Maria running from the lorry across the courtyard. "They're back," Bethia said, looking around at the empty chair. David was already through the back door and running down the steps.
YOU ARE READING
In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...