Harry, you’ve got ten minutes before you get back on,’ said Chris, waddling back to the kitchen. Nodding, Harry Carlton grew cold and looked to his meal, half-price thanks to working at the burger joint. Prying open the thin wrapping, he held onto the burger. With tomato sauce caking the bun, the squashed burger was enough for Harry to eat. Brushing off cold fries from the seat, Harry sat down.
‘—Is that what I fought for?’ a voice said.
Blinking several times, Harry looked out of the crew room. Shrugging his shoulders, he finished off the burger.
‘Did you hear me cobber?’ the voice said again. Walking to the table, a man wearing an ANZAC soldiers’ uniform sat down with a tin in one hand and a cup in the other. The man had dark brown hair with light hazel eyes. Chewing, Harry looked around to see if there were any cameras around. The man laughed. ‘I see you’re having lunch,’ he continued. ‘What is it?’
Blinking, Harry looked to the order that was made. ‘Cheeseburger, fries with a coke,’ he said to him.
Without a word, the ANZAC pulled the lid off the tin. With a smile, he showed Harry the contents. ‘Half a dozen ANZAC biscuits, same number of Iced VoVos and a cup of tea, milk no sugar,’ he said.
Harry smiled. ‘You’re Edward Albert Carlton, right?’ he asked him. Dipping his first biscuit and eating it, the soldier leaned in.
‘I am,’ he said. ‘Born 4th June 1893, enlisted on the 4th August 1914 when I was 21.’
Harry’s eyes widened and he nodded as he took this all in. ‘My granddad has a picture of you above the TV—’
‘—My grandson, he fought in Vietnam and those fucking zipperheads gave him the shits, didn’t they?’
Raising his eyebrow, Harry sipped on his coke. ‘Zipperheads?’
‘Yes, you know, the slant-eyed Asiatics,’ Edward said, sipping his tea.
Harry started eating the fries. ‘I-um, I see a lot of them around here,’ he said.
‘Yes, I’ve seen them too. If I didn’t know, I would have thought we lost,’ Edward said, looking out to see the next family arrive. ‘See that, they’re here in great numbers, wearing masks as well as you and your friends.’
Harry shook his head as he finished the handful of fries. ‘What are you talking about? I mean, you won the war, we won Ed—I mean great-great grandfather. I celebrated ANZAC Day and I went to the Dawn Service to pay my respects. I did what I could to think about you and how you won the war,’ he said.
The cars were now moving into the drive-through and they were ready to line up. My ancestor shook his head and sighed. ‘Did we?’
‘What?’ Harry asked him.
‘Did we win the war?’
Harry smirked and nodded. ‘Of course. We won, you won,’ he said to him.
Dipping the Iced VoVo into the tea, Edward ate it. ‘If this is victory, then I do not wish it for us. When the Germans were defeated, the rise of a that leader was something that I wished for. I am glad I did not see much after my passing,’ he said.
Sighing, the fast-food worker looked out to the street. ‘Why would you say that? We’re better off, we don’t have to live in fear of hunger or thirst—’
‘—That’s true, Harry,’ Edward said, picking up an ANZAC biscuit. ‘Now you live in fear of isolation and meaninglessness.’ Dipping it in his tea, he ate it.
Harry drank as he felt every word that was being sent at him. ‘I-I don’t know what to say,’ he said, looking at the man. ‘I mean, you’re the same age I am. You got sent to the Western Front and you faced machine guns.’
The ANZAC nodded, taking off his slouch hat and showing a cut on his head. ‘One of the German snipers came that close to killing me, Fromelles. A step to the left and your great-grandfather Ewan would have been only a glint in my eye. That is the price I pay for my duty, my sacrifice.’
The blood trickled at a snail’s pace. ‘I, I thank you for your service,’ Harry said. ‘I wouldn’t have done what you’ve done—’
Edward pointed a biscuit towards Harry. ‘—And there’s the problem. You are facing something bleak, something I see because I’m dead and I have had time to see it. But not you. You are alive and there is time to figure it out. To figure out who the true enemy is.’
Harry grew cold. He looked at the man. Same age, different time, separated by years and the sight of the world. ‘I, I only said that because you were brave enough to go and fight,’ he said. Edward munched on another biscuit, dipping it in his tea. Edward had survived the hell of Gallipoli, the Somme, Le Hamel, to earn a death on the farm in 1951 courtesy of pissing on an electric fence. He never imagined his descendent like this.
Leaning in, Edward pierced him with a pleading look. ‘Do not waste your chance,’ he started, ‘I never had the chance to see you born. I am angry, not at you, but what this country has become and what it has made of you. I will look over you, but the rest is up to you, cobber. Dominus nobiscum.’
Harry finished his drink. ‘What does that mean?’ he asked.
Edward smirked, stood and pushed in the chair, and put his slouch hat on. ‘You have a lot to learn. Make a start now,’ he said. As he took two steps, Edward vanished in thin air. Harry said nothing, blinking several times and looking at the junk food he filled himself with.
Knocking at the wall, Chris poked his head into the crew room. ‘Oi, you have five minutes, be ready,’ he said before moving to the kitchen. Hearing the buzz of new orders, Harry grew cold once more for the last five minutes.
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