He had promised. And yet there he was, his tight grip on his precious blanket, looking like he could burst into tears at any moment.
“Jamie, we’re not supposed to be here!” my little brother said cowardly, holding his blue blanket tightly with both of his hands.
“Don’t be such a chicken Henry, this’ll be fun.” It was always my job to look after my brother, Henry. Aged five, my little brother was spineless; he cried about almost everything and never let go of his blue blanket. I often told my mom that a typical 14 year old, such as myself, didn’t appreciate little brothers following them everywhere and crying all over the place. But my mom would just say that I had the responsibility and that Henry was just a little ‘sensitive’. Well, Henry was sensitive alright. Right then, we were at a swamp, the restricted area of our town, looking for some adventure. (Well, I was looking for some adventure) My whiney brother had insisted on following me, and I had let him, after making him promise that he wouldn’t ruin my day buy crying the whole time.
“Jamie, we’re not supposed to be here!” Henry repeated, now in a panicked voice; the voice he always used when he was about to cry.
“Jamie!” Henry screamed again, and right on cue, he burst into tears.
“Henry, listen to me. Remember what you promised?” I said, attempting to cool him down, but he wasn’t listening to me. Henry’s whiny crying got on my nerves. Why did he have to cry all the time? I was just sick of him ruining everything for me, every time I tried to do something interesting. Irritated, although I knew it would make things worse, I shook him and raised my voice.
“Henry! Don’t cry! Stop crying! Just stop crying! You’re a boy, you have to be tougher!” And of course, Henry started to shout, cry, scream, and stomp is feet at the same time, as he always did.
At that very moment, all of the stress I had tried to keep within me for the last five years exploded, and I just lost it. I saw my hand snatch my brother’s most precious item in the world―his blue blanket― from his resisting hands, and throw it towards the swamp. The blanket seemed to hover in the air for a moment, but then, by a sudden gust of wind, it flew away at quite a speed, further towards the center of the swamp. It slowed down gradually, landed perfectly onto the small bit of land that existed quite far into the dirty lake, and disappeared into the wildly overgrown weeds of the small island.
Anyone who was asked would have given the same answer; there was no way to retrieve the blanket, unless someone actually went into the unhygienic swamp and swam to the small isle.
Henry stared in shock. He had stopped crying, and his eyes were wide open from seeing his ‘best pal’ disappear into the dark shades of that bush, of that small, unreachable island.
I was as shocked as Henry was. I was completely numb, and my breathing was shallow.
“We’re going home,” I heard myself say, and I started to walk. I could tell that Henry was following by the sound of his absentminded footsteps about ten steps behind me. After 20 minutes of absolute silence, we arrived at our home. As soon as I unlocked the door, Henry dashed inside, indifferent to the mess he was making with his muddy boots. I stepped inside the house, and immediately, I heard Henry’s ridiculous crying-screaming. Then, footsteps.
“Jamie, what did you do!?” It was my mom, of course. Henry, having trouble breathing because he was crying so hard, followed into the living room, where I stood.
“Tell me what you did to Henry,” my mom said in a threatening voice. When she saw I wasn’t replying, she came closer and shook my shoulders, looked straight into my eyes and said, “James. What. Did. You. Do.”
I wasn’t frightened easily, but I must admit, that was scary. Then,―thank goodness― Henry interrupted.
“Bl.. Bla.. Blu…Blnk….Ket!” He managed to say in between his uncontrollable gasps for air.
“Yes, baby?” my mom said, changing her voice immediately. She quickly went beside him and put her arm around his shoulders.
“Ju.. Ja…Meee…. Tuu…K…. Bla.. Ket… Thhhh.. Ow… Tuu…. Wamp!” My brother looked like he was suffocating or something. I couldn’t understand a word he had just said, but it must be a mother thing, mom seemed to have understood him perfectly.
“You what!? How could… He had it since… It was his…. How could you!” My mom’s face had turned red, and her eyes were wild. “You’re Henry’s big brother, how could you do such a thing to him! You’re supposed to protect him, not hurt him! You know how much that blanket meant to him!”
“But Mom, Henry started crying again! I’m tired of him crying all the time, I’m tired of looking out for him, and frankly, I’m tired of him!” I said furiously, and pushed Henry’s shoulders for every complaint that I had said.
The sound of Henry’s desperate gasps were replaced by his wailing. His high-toned scream hadn’t changed from when he was two years old. It cut through the air like a sharp knife, and sounded like nails against a blackboard, only several times louder. This brought total chaos to the scene. I covered my ears, screaming to Henry to shut up, as my mom rushed over him to comfort him and screamed at me to be quiet, while my brother screamed and stomped and wailed uncontrollably.
“That’s it young man! Go to your room! You are grounded for two weeks!” my mom finally shouted, ripping my hands off of my ears, trying to overcome the extreme volume of my brother’s screaming.
“Fine!” I shouted even louder than her, and headed towards the stairs. But then, my brother came into sight. Driven by anger, I rushed toward my brother and looked straight into his eyes.
“I hate you and I wish you weren’t born,” I said coldly. I stormed up the stairs and slammed the door as hard as I could. Grounded for two weeks… This was all his fault. I collapsed onto my bed and put my pillow over my head. I had to shut out my brother’s screaming, along with the guilt of what I had said to my little brother.
I woke up. It was still dark outside. I must have fallen asleep. My clock told me it was four o’clock in the morning. I had a dream―well actually a memory flashback kind of thing― about when I was small. One was about the time me and Henry were playing in the kitty pool in our garden. My mom had a video camera in her hand, and we were all so happy. Another, about the time Henry tripped in front of my school when we were playing tag, after my school had ended. I bought him an ice cream cone with my own allowance, and we walked hand in hand back home.
“What the…,” I said to myself, amazed by the timing of the dream; right after I had had a huge fight with my little brother. Then, I realized that my heart felt terribly heavy― probably because of the guilt from what I had said. I recalled Henry’s shocked and saddened face from when I had made that terrible remark to him. My heart was thumping and my body was sweating, even though it was a relatively cool night.
I slipped out of my bed and crept to my brother’s room. I opened the creeky door as carefully as possible, not to make a sound. In his bed, Henry was fast asleep, wrapped up in his teletubbies bed blanket. I stared at him, still baby-like, with his baby fat and his curly hair. I noticed that his pillow cover was damp, probably because he had cried himself to sleep. His expression was saddened, and he looked like he was having a bad dream or something.
“I’m sorry Jamie,” my baby brother mumbled. I jumped a little in surprise. Was by brother awake? I looked at him closely. He was sound asleep. He seemed to be sleep talking.
“I’m sorry Jamie… I’m sorry… Crying all the time… I Promise…be more tough…,” my little brother mumbled again in his same, painful expression. I felt tears welling up as I saw how much pain I’d caused him.
I knew what I had to do. I crept downstairs, grabbed my jacket, and got my bike out of the garage. The sky was gray, and the air was quite cold. I got on my bike, and pedaled as fast as I could, to correct one of the biggest mistakes that I had made in my entire life.
The sun was gradually rising, lighting my way across the squishy earth of the very same swamp I had been a few hours ago. It may have been because of the murky sky, or because of the task laying ahead of me, but the swamp seemed to have a harsher atmosphere than yesterday.
“Whoa,” I said to myself, walking along the edge of the swamp, nearly falling down for the fourth time. I had forgotten to put my boots on, and it was very hard to walk normally. After struggling with the slimy mud―and falling down for a couple of times―, I arrived at the very spot were the incident happened, I could see the small island, and still stuck among the wildly overgrown bushes, Henry’s blue blanket.
I crouched down to observe the liquid that I was, according to my plan, going into. I took my shoes off, and cautiously, dipped the tip of my toe into the swamp. It felt just terrible. The liquid was cold, slimy, and just plain nasty; but not impossible to swim through.
“Ugh, I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I said to myself, as I took my jacket and my shirt off, wishing I hadn’t thrown the blanket in the first place.
“Well, here goes nothing,” I said to myself, and walked into the swamp. It was cold and it was extremely uncomfortable, but it was shallow―thank goodness―, and the water just only came above my hips. My cautiousness lessened with every step.
Just a few more paces to the island. I had started to hum a little song, happy, thinking about how my brother would react to my little gift. I was absolutely off guard when I took that step.
Suddenly, my body sank, completely, into the swamp. The mucky water filled my mouth and stained my eyes. My whole body was completely under the water, and because it hit me so fast, I had no idea what happened. Confused, frightened, and in pain, I desperately tried to breathe, but I only sucked up more of the filthy water. My body was screaming out for air, but it wasn’t getting any. I had no idea which way was up or which way was down. My head was spinning, and I felt my consciousness slowly fading away.
It was in that fatal moment that I felt something under my feet. I was already half unconscious, but my natural instinct told me that this might be my last ticket to survival. Using what strength I had left in my body, I kicked against the object as hard as could.
Just when I thought I was going to die, confused and all alone, I hit the surface. I gasped for air, and it gloriously filled my dying lungs. I was revived. It took me a while to compose myself but I eventually calmed down. I opened my eyes, still in pain because of the water, and found that the small island was right in front of me.
I grabbed the grass that draped down into the lake, and heaved myself onto the isle. I looked around, and there it was; Henry’s blanket. I walked over to it and sat beside it. I was so exhausted―I had just nearly died―and decided to rest. Although I was in terrible condition―my eyes hurt, my mouth tasted like dirt, and I looked like a mud-monster―I felt triumphant. I would surely be grounded extra by my mom for putting myself in mortal danger, but I felt that seeing Henry smile would be worth all of it.
“Okay, time to go,” I said to myself, and decided to go back to shore. I knew now to be careful about the death-trap close to the island, so I slowly went into the water, with the blanket on my head, and I dog paddled to shore. There was no problem this time. After shaking off the muddy water, I put my clothes back on and ran ―falling down a couple of times again―to my bike. I pedaled as fast as I could back to my house, with the rising sun to my back.