'At least we're not dead, Ted, ' said Fred. Another shell ex' />
The next one was closer. Shrapnel shredded the air. "Mind your head, Fred," said Ted.
"At least we're not dead, Ted," said Fred. Another shell exploded near their foxhole. "Jeez, I'll be glad when this is over."
Suddenly, the firing stopped. The small sounds of the world crept back; creaks, rattles, the wind in the branches. "Seems like it is, Fred," said Ted.
"That's great, Ted," said Fred, "but I meant the war. I'll be glad when the whole thing's over and we can all go home."
"Ever think about how it'll be, Ted," asked Fred, lighting a cigarette.
"Be nice if they kept giving us these free, Fred," chuckled Ted, smoking one of his own. "But I can't see the Government being that generous."
"Quite right, Ted," said Fred, climbing out of the foxhole. "They'll find some way to spoil a bloke's fun. It's what governments do."
"Not this time, Fred," said Ted, his ears ringing. "Not after a war like this. I reckon they'll show some common sense. Do good things. At least I hope so."
"Like what, Ted?" asked Fred. "What good things are you hoping for?"
"Well, Fred," said Ted, "it might take years, 50 or 60 or more, it might be long after you and I have gone, but I'm hoping somebody, someday will finally have the balls to sign a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous people."
"Really, Ted?" said Fred, clearly puzzled. "That's great. But what is this non-binding declaration thing you're hoping for?"
"Not entirely sure, Fred," said Ted. "And I can't look into me crystal ball either. One of those shells broke it.
"I imagine it'll be something that means nothing but makes people feel good. You know, aspirational stuff, like Chamberlain's 'Peace in our time'."
"Blimey, Ted," said Fred. "You wouldn't want it to end up the way that did, would you?"
"Don't be daft, Fred," scoffed Ted. "No sensible government would let that happen. Strewth, we've just had a war against Hitler. They're not going to start another one at home as well."
"I hope you're right, Ted," said Fred.
"Trust me, Fred," said Ted, "even if I do sound like a bloody politician. A non-binding declaration is exactly what we need. If it's good enough for the Maori Battalion it's good enough for me."
"Fair enough, Ted," said Fred. "We're all on the same side.
"Although I thought the Maori Battalion was fighting "For God! For King! And for country!" Isn't that what the song says?
"Indeed it does, Fred," smiled Ted, "but I'm sure they'd have added 'For non-binding declarations on the rights of indigenous people' as well if they could've made it rhyme."
"Okay, Ted," sighed Fred, unconvinced. "Heck, we're the same army, same country, same flag, right? And that's not going to change, is it?
"Don't hold your breath, Fred," grinned Ted. "The flag might. Fine for an army, mate, but not the new world. Old hat, old son. Too dull. Too much like Australia. All right for old soldiers like us ..."
"And the Maori Battalion, Ted," said Fred.
"Yes, them too, Fred," said Ted, "but not good enough for the modern battalion. I hope they spend years debating the urgent need to have a flash new flag."
"Isn't that a bit frivolous, Ted?" said Fred, rather tetchily.
"I dunno about you, but having an endless, pointless, windbag debate about which flag we run up the flagpole isn't the reason I'm over here slogging m'guts out. And while we're at it, I wouldn't mind if we had a flag that looked like Australia's, as long as our pay packets did too."
"Ohhhh, Fred," sighed Ted. "You're too pessimistic, mate. We've got to aim higher than that. We've got to go for broke. Call me a cock-eyed optimist but I'm hoping the day will come when our wages are way lower than Australia's and our taxes much higher. That's what I want to see.
"You're bloody dreaming, Ted," yelled Fred.
"And you're wrong. People would have to spend years, decades, arguing about the wrong things for that to happen. And Kiwis aren't that gormless. Or gutless. I tell you what'll happen, Ted. If the Aussies look like they're getting the jump on us. We'll do what we've done in the desert, what Keith Park did in the Battle of Britain and in Malta, what we're doing here, mate, what Cobber Kaine did and Upham and Freyberg and all those other people every school teacher who isn't puncturing satellite domes at Waihopi will still proudly tell our kids about long into the 21st century; we'll get stuck in and find some bloody way to beat the buggers. That's what Kiwis do!!!"
"It may be what we've done, Fred," cautioned Ted. "But it may not be what we do next. Call me crazy, but I can see a time when half the country's terrified because the bloomin' sea level might rise six inches."
"You are crazy Ted," said Fred. "That will never happen."
A shell whistled past.
"Get your head down Fred," yelled Ted. "That's something worth worrying about."