So at last it was over, the war in Europe. Europe was finally free and Ted as he had done for the last four years, adjusted his cracked tatty cap, then after checking the pockets of his leather jerkin he shook the worn smooth reins as a signal for Ed to start pulling the cart. It was a daily chore for them both, but somehow after all the years the smell of horse and man comforted each other in the morning. Ed as usual pulled to the right a combination of the loss of one eye and a deep shrapnel scar on his right shoulder. “Come on lad,” Ted steadied Ed as he had many times before and they set off down the track, following the wheel ruts that partitioned the grass. As they approached the lane the sound of a far distant engine spooked them both, Ted quickly got down from the comfortingly creaking cart to reassure old Ed. “No bombs lad, no more bombs,” Ted soothed, while stroking the white flash on Ed’s nose. Ed in turn, responded by snuffling an understanding into that ticklish place between Ted’s greying mouton-chops and neck, and then set about systematically searching, playing the game for the wizened sweet windfall apple that Ted always kept somewhere. Both were very tired, but now knowing that the war was over and this was to be their last journey, eased aching joints. “Come on lazy bones,” Ted laughed and Ed responded with a steady hypnotic clip – clop, clip – clop, slow enough for Ted to easily limp beside him. Ted’s mind wandered for a minute, back to all the journeys they had made, never complaining always doing what they had had to do, two friends now on their last mission, their last journey, finally they would get to rest from what Ted had told Ed was their ‘drudge trudge’. Ted stumbled breaking his reverie and Ed stopped to stretch out his neck to steady him. Clinging tightly to the old horse, Ted slowly came back to were he was and what he was doing, Ed waited patently for him to regain his balance. “Glad we are together at the end old feller,” with this a tear rolled down Ted’s cheek, the weary horse gently wiped it onto his muzzle then gave him a firm but tender shut-up-you-old-codger nudge on the arm with his nose. “Ok, Ok,” Ted, responded with a smile as they set off again, Ed taking most of Ted’s weight. “Do you know Ed this is my favourite time of the year, just look at the flowers in the hedges, they smell fresh and new.” Ed nodded knowingly with a snort. “Everything’s clean, bright and light, not old and dirty from war and the dust of men. It’s a good time for it all to be over Ed, it’s a good time for it to be over.” They clip – clopped on stopping briefly at the crossroads, somehow Ted knew Ed knew what was going on as they didn’t turn right as they normally did, they moved straight on trusting each other as they had done from the day they met. Intuitively both of them understood what was going to finally happen. “At last it’s over Ed, we’re finally free,” Ted explained as they approach the sign. They stopped for a while in the dappled sunlight as Ted had something to do. Ed made off as if to go and eat grass, yet never took a mouthful as he kept watch and guard ensuring nothing disturbed them. Ted with one leg stretch out in front while the other bent at the knee and creaked him slowly to the floor then set about scratching the sign with a small knife. Ted stopped, his torso trembling with years of pain and hurt, as the tears came he dropped the knife on the road and bowed his head. Ed just waited watching until Ted eased himself and sat back up. Then as he came to snuffle Ted he nudged the knife back to him and stood head bowed as if he was reading the sign. Ted his spirits now lifted finished what he had to do. “What do you think lad?” Ed nodded, and then bent to help Ted back to his feet. With what was their last look at the sign, both of them set off again. Finally they felt the full relief that it truly was all over, no more war, evermore, as they clip – clopped on, friends forever.
The sign is still there on the outskirts of the village. Its now faded writing says; ‘Never forgotten, here lay the bodies of Ted and Ed, even one of Hitler’s bombs could not separate them.’ And underneath roughly carved into the wood, worn and aged is written, ‘Now Resting – In – Peace.’