Eddie was 7 when I was born — but I can’t actually remember that far back.
The first real memory I have of him was when the family were all on holiday at the seaside and Eddie was acting cool and leading all the other kids on the campsite in wild games. All the boys would bring their dogs and terrorise the little girls and old ladies, racing around whooping and shouting and generally making a terrific noise and carry-on. Then the campsite attendant came and spoke to all the parents, and said this just had to stop, because property was being damaged; too much dust and noise; and so on. Pity, because the boys were all having a great time — not to mention the dogs, who now all lay panting and exhausted in the shade while the lads kept quiet for a while, stayed near their tents and pretended to be very good and SORRY! After this telling-off, we kept our rough play on the beach, and didn’t go back to that campsite. They put a ban on dogs!
Even when I was still quite small, Eddie always took me with him. He didn’t mind a bit, and seemed to like showing me off, even though I was so much younger, and he actually boasted about me to his friends, saying that Bobby was really bright, and that I could do so many things already. The absolutely best thing, though, was that we shared a bedroom. Eddie had the bed near the window, where he would peek out and see if there were any suspicious individuals lurking about in the street, while I always slept at the other side of the room, behind the door, so I could jump up quickly when Eddie raised the alarm, and pounce on any intruders who might dare to break into our room. No-one ever did, though — so we just jumped on each other — but we would both have been ready to defend the house and protect the rest of the family. Just as well, really, as Dad was often away at nights and Mum didn’t wake up at sudden noises, like we did.
As we both got bigger, I started to catch up with Eddie — I was great at running and jumping — and we just loved chasing across the playing fields, especially when there was a big gang of other boys, and we all played football or had races. But the beach was best — we just ran and ran and ran. Mum let us go into the sea without her, because we were both excellent swimmers. Actually, we were a pretty good partnership, much closer than some brothers we knew, even though he was the one who was always picked to play for the school football team, while I just got to watch with Dad and Mum. Once I tried to join in, but Dad hauled me off the pitch, and made me sit beside Luke, who was younger as well, and different, and went to the special school so couldn’t play either.
Then one day I knew — there was something wrong with me — I was different. No-one said anything about it, but while Eddie got stronger and stronger, and bigger and bigger — I didn’t seem to be catching up with him anymore, like I had before. By the time he went up to the Boys’ High, I was starting to feel uneasy about the gap growing between us. Mum gave me vitamins, and special meals, but that only made me feel worse, because it made me feel like I was ill, and I wasn’t — I just felt different, and couldn’t run so fast because of the pain in my legs. And anyway, the pills were big, and tasted bad.
So I was overjoyed when Eddie decided not to go away to college, but to stay in our own town. I’m not sure if this was because he didn’t want to leave me — I hope so, but maybe not, because once he started going out early in the morning and coming home later at night, he didn’t pay me as much attention as he had done. Mind you, he didn’t spend so much time with the rest of the family, either, he was always getting smartened up and going into town — then bringing girls home and sitting giggling with them on the sofa. I was definitely the favourite family member, though, because I was the only one who got to sit beside the girlfriends, and go out with them — but only to the park, and sometimes the cafe — never into town to the pubs and clubs. But Eddie had down times, too. Sometimes he came home late and just threw himself on his bed, and I always woke up and jumped on him, even though he wasn’t an intruder, like we used to play! Without him saying anything, I just knew if he was unhappy or not feeling well, and I was the only one who could understand and help. You see, I never blamed him for drinking too much beer, or shouting, or being sulky — I still idolised him as much as when we were young together.
Then whatever was wrong with me got worse. One day I felt so tired and just wanted to stay in bed. Mum made me get up, though I didn’t want to. I wasn’t hungry either. My legs hurt, and were weak, and I just wanted to be left alone. When Eddie came home he straight away took me into our bedroom to talk with me. ‘What’s wrong, Bobby, cheer up — this isn’t like you’ he said, and it was true. It wasn’t like me. Mum took me down to the surgery to be examined, and I had more horrible pills to take night and morning, but I felt no better, though Eddie was very sweet and gentle to me and brought me little food treats to tempt me to eat.
Most days I stayed in bed, and just had a wander outside a couple of times a day for some fresh air. Yesterday Eddie came in and sat down on the floor beside my bed. ‘Bobby, old chap,’ he said, ‘someone’s going to come and see you tomorrow who will help us.’ I looked in his eyes, and saw that he was in pain too — poor Eddie — I hadn’t realised. ‘I’ll be here with you as well,’ he said. Well, this morning, sure enough, a man came that I had seen at the surgery, and he came through with Mum and Eddie to where I was lying in my bed. ‘Eddie,’ he said, ‘maybe you would like to put your arms around Bobby — I think he’d like that.’ Then Eddie said, ‘Well, my best pal, I think you’ve just got tired and old, haven’t you?’ I jerked my head up at that, and looked right at him, because I couldn’t believe what he was saying. How could he say that to me, when HE didn’t look old — in fact, I thought he was looking pretty smart and bright for someone who was older than me. Then he started to cry ‘I don’t know what I’ll do without you,’ he said. I couldn’t stand to see him upset, and leaned against him like I always had. I wanted to tell him I wasn’t going anywhere, but somehow I had no strength left. Then the man stroked my paw and I felt a little prick, and I can feel Eddie hugging me, and hear Mum sobbing and now… I’m starting to feel like I’m running… running along the beach with Eddie… the wind tugging at my ears….