15 YEARS AGO...
Ernest pushed his tiny feet off the golden sand, letting the swing lift him into the air. Bert watched as Ernest steadily picked up pace, waving back and forth on the swing-set. He smiled, once remembering the innocence of being a child and the lack of responsibilities.
But ever since their parents had passed, Bert and Ernest had been forced to grow up far too quickly. Once having a home in The Suburbs, both brothers were soon after sent to an orphan home due to neither parents having siblings.
Ernest and Bert grew weary of the move, hearing only bad things of The Streets, their new residence. Bert, however, would take it upon himself of assuring Ernest an honest way of living, teaching by example on how you can still be an upstanding citizen, regardless of where one lived.
Bert smiled, waving to Ernest. “Hey buddy. Having fun?”
Ernest's eyes darted around, the smile permanently glued to his face. He looked back up, his answer now at the ready: “Yes, Bert.”
Bert pushed his books aside, a pile nearly as tall as him. All books which would one day lead Bert to becoming a Pigeon Photographer in New York City, just outside The Streets. When not studying, Bert had been working two jobs, while Ernest had been going through elementary school.
Bert made his way behind Ernest, lifting him off the seat and placing him on the ground. Ernest shook his head as sand danced off. “Thanks, Bert.”
Bert and Ernest made their way to the sandbox, sitting down inside. Ernest scooped up handfuls of sand, letting the grains fall through his hands. “Bert,” Ernest said, looking up at his older brother, who drifted off.
“Where are Mom and Dad, Bert?” asked Ernest.
Bert's eyes widened, shocked by the question—as Ernest had never shown interest in the disappearance, being too young. “Well,” struggled Bert. “You see that slide over there?” Bert said, pointing to the fluorescent orange slide above them. Ernest looked with wide-eyes, pining to go on it, but refraining to hear his answer. “Yeah, Bert?”
“A slide is much like life. You start at the top, and you make your way down to your destination. But there are many different slides out there, some fun, some wild, and some even scary.” Bert explained, as Ernest's eyes widened. “However, all slide lead to one destination: the bottom, and that's when the ride has to come to an end.”
“Mom and Dad's slide was just too short.” Bert sighed.
Ernest nodded, the smile still present. Bert stands, resting his hand on Ernest's shoulder. “”I'll be right back, kid. Gotta pee.” Bert made his way to the bathroom, as Ernest kicked his feet on the edge of the sandbox.
Bert made his way to the bathroom, but couldn't help but notice as a black muscle-car pulled up to the playground. His eyes locked with the driver, who stared back aggressively.
Meanwhile, Ernest kicked his feet over the sandbox, twiddling his tiny fingers as he hummed a song he knew Bert enjoyed. As he bobbed his head, his large glasses bounced up and down on his large red nose.
“Hey, four-eyes, you want any drugs?” grunted a rather aggressive voice. “Talking to you, shrimp.”
Ernest slowly turned his head around to notice a six-foot hot-pink biker, clad in leather and jean. His eyes were red, stoned on meth. He had thin pink strands of braided hair, which hung over his eyes and face. In his hand was a plethora of pills, cigarettes, and dime bags. “Are you deaf, you little shit?”
Ernest's still smiled, standing up, at a mere 3-foot. He put out his tiny hand to shake. “What's your name, sir? My name's Ern--”
The biker grabbed Ernest's hand, and yanked over his backpack, pulling it open and taking three crumbled dollars—given by Bert for lunch. '
Ernest yelled, falling to the floor, smashing his glasses and head-gear. After tearing the backpack open, the biker threw it back at him. “Only three bucks? What can I buy with that?”
“You can buy me lunch.”
The pink biker stopped, shocked by the voice from behind him. He turned, only to find Ernest's brother, Bert, standing before him. “And who may you be?” asked the biker, grinning from ear to ear at his opponents' small-size.
“I'm that shrimp's older and bigger brother,” Bert grunted, as he rushed the biker, slamming his foot into his ankle, snapping it in two. The pink giant dropped to his knees, groaning as he held it with his furry hands. “What the fuck!”
Ernest crawled to grab his bag and glasses, the blood dripping from his nose. As he swung around, he watched his older brother, the only family he had left, walk over to the pink bully. Ernest's tears welled in his eyes, but he couldn't help but smile once more.
Bert made his way to the bully, lifting him back up. He held him, inches from his face. “We may be new here, but I want you to remember one thing...” Bert said, staring the biker in the eye as he struggled to get away.
“...No one fucks with my brother.”
Bert reeled his right arm back, before launching it forward, knocking the biker out with a single blow.
The body flew through the air, dropping the narcotics and stolen money. Ernest watched as the body slammed into the grass, buckling into himself.
Bert grabbed Ernest's hand, taking him away from the downed bully. Even though both were silent, Ernest knew from that day on that his brother would always be there to protect him.
And that was a smile that no one could ever erase.
To Be Continued...