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by Glen Donaldson

Grandpa moved like a clockwork soldier at times, especially in winter. He said it was the shrapnel he got in the war, somehow the injury never healed. It wasn’t often he’d talk about the battles, since, as I know now, the memories both warmed and also haunted him. On those occasions he did share stories, we kids would edge closer as he sat hunched over in his lounge chair, his words transporting us to another time and place.

With his voice slow and at times stumbling, Pops told of the time he and a fellow corporal had made an unusual discovery while down inside a dirt tunnel.  It was back in’66 and the pair had come across a hardboard false wall underground. In his characteristic raspy voice which sometimes made us wonder if the next breath might be his last, he described how they’d both worked at it with their bayonets for hours. When at last broken down, they found a three foot long wooden box with Chinese writing on it. It was weatherworn and the lid was nailed down. When they prized it open they’d found it was full of gold bars. Each had been about five inches long and one and a half inches thick. The pair, Grandpa said, sat there for a long time just looking at them.

Then, with the hint of a smile and a sparkle like a teenager’s beginning to form in his usually listless eyes, he told how he and the other soldier had begun making plans to keep the gold. At first, he said, they’d thought they’d leave it in the tunnel to collect after the war. Then they’d discussed somehow distributing it through the platoon without anyone knowing it. Next the plan had been to mail it home and keep it.

In the end, all the schemes were impractical and wrong. Pops told us that finally he’d gone out and called in a helicopter. It came and picked up the box. “And you know something funny?” he asked with excitement and the last bit of energy he still had,”We never heard any mention of that gold again”. With that, Grandpa nodded off into an afternoon nap. We tucked him in under a quilt his late-wife had made, before heading home, locking the door behind us.


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