“Jeez, Egbert, who the hell actually eats bubblegum ice cream?” Dave elbowed his friend slightly as they pressed their noses to the glass protecting about 15 tubs of ice cream from infection.
“David, language.” Mr. Egbert’s gentle reminder rang out firmly, causing the 8-year-old culprit in question to shrug sheepishly.
“Jeez, Dad, don’t squash the kid’s freedom of expression,” Bro nudged Mr. Egbert in the side, doing an admirable impression of his young charge.
Mr. Egbert glanced skeptically at Bro, but John spoke before his father had the chance. “I think bubblegum ice cream is great! It’s way better than your stupid pistachio ice cream, anyway.” He told his shades-wearing friend, elbowing him right back.
“Hey, pistachio ice cream is the- bomb.” Dave glanced discreetly up at Mr. Egbert and scowled as John giggled at his aborted swear.
“Well you guys better pick something or we’re gonna miss the whole damn movie.” Bro told them, pointedly ignoring the look the elder Egbert shot him.
“But Dave keeps making fun of my choice!” John whined.
“You keep makin’ fun of mine!” Dave decidedly did not whine in return.
“Boys, boys,” Mr. Egbert spoke over them, placing a hand on each of their shoulders, “Why don’t you just agree to split?”
A wide grin cracked the surface of John’s face and his father beamed back. The Striders were lost, obviously having been caught up in some bizarre Egbert family joke and/or tradition (which, to the Egberts, were really one and the same). The mystery was solved shortly, however, as Mr. Egbert turned to the exasperated man behind the counter, saying, “One banana split, hold the nuts, please.”
Then Dave was smiling too, and Bro quirked an eyebrow over the pointed shades that matched his brother’s. “You think that was funny, kid?”
Dave shrugged. “It’s a banana split, man. Anything is funny for a banana split.”
Bro snorted and reached out to ruffle the boy’s hair, much to the younger’s annoyance. Soon, however, the ice cream was ready and any grievances were forgotten. Mr. Egbert placed the bowl on the table, where the two boys sat down to devour their treat, and then pulled out his wallet. “Hey,” Bro caught his attention before any payment could be made, “What about us?”
“Pardon?” Mr. Egbert turned towards the blonde.
“I said, “what about us?” We get any ice cream, or’re we just watching the midgets eat?” Bro inquired.
Mr. Egbert blinked, then grinned. “Some ice cream sounds like a novel idea, Strider.” He replied, promptly turning to the attendant to order a scoop of bubblegum ice cream.
Rolling his eyes, Bro stepped up and ordered a double scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough. Mr. Egbert gladly handed over his payment before heading over to the table where the boys sat, devouring their banana split. “I do hope you realize this means you’ll be springing for your own movie ticket, Strider.” The man informed Bro lightly as he took the seat beside him.
“Yeah, yeah.” Bro waved him off, busying his mouth with the waffle cone in his hand.
The ice cream was finished with more than enough time to reach the nearby movie theater, buy tickets- “Yes, Egbert, I am paying for my own ticket. In fact, I will generously pay for the young ones’ tickets. Why don’t you use the extra money to buy yet another outdated fedora?”- tell the kids that they’ve just had ice cream and they don’t need popcorn too, buy some popcorn, and find some decent seats.
John insisted that they simply had to sit at the very front of the theater and Dave seemed content to follow him. Bro said he wasn’t going to spend the entire movie craning his neck to look at the screen and Mr. Egbert conceded that the boys could sit by themselves. The men chose seats a few rows further back, but still just behind the eight-year-olds.
Neither Mr. Egbert nor Bro made a move to remove their hats until the lights dimmed and the previews started up, showcasing more movies of the kind they were about to see; the sort that still featured talking animals and immature jokes and ratings that barely even approached PG-13. Still, John enjoyed himself immensely at the movies and Dave never made a serious complaint about what they watched, choosing instead to rag on it simply because it annoyed John. Bro suspected the young blonde enjoyed the movies almost as much as his friend but would never stoop to admitting it.
The last of the ads faded away, cell phones were ordered to be switched off, the lights dimmed to their final darkened setting and, at last, the movie began. The two guardians let the first half of the movie go by without much comment; it wasn’t bad as far as movies for kids went, though it wasn’t the best, either. But it was at least holding their attention. Then, they could both see the silhouette of John’s arms rising above his head, which was just visible over the top of his seat. Mr. Egbert shifted, ready to move if something was wrong, but things in the front row seemed far from it. The skinny set of arms stretched further outwards until one dropped back down beside him and the other dropped down over Dave.
Bro watched the top of Dave’s head, his blonde hair easier to see in the darkness than John’s dark brown, waiting for a reaction. Finally, the eight-year-old shifted a little closer to his friend and neither boy made anymore moves, so to speak. Bro sat back and glanced over at Mr. Egbert, who was trying very hard to contain his laughter. “Sneaky little bastard. You’ll have to keep an eye on that kid, Egbert.” Bro said, his voice low and amused.
“Come now, Strider, my John is a perfect gentleman. If anything, I’m worried about your delinquent charge corrupting him.” There was no heat in the slightly older man’s words, only barely concealed chuckles.
Bro snorted and said no more. Another 15 minutes passed until Mr. Egbert sat up straighter, stretched his arms above his head until his back cracked, and then draped one easily over Bro’s shoulders. Raising his eyebrows, the oldest Strider looked over at Mr. Egbert. “Are you shitting me, Egbert? Stealing moves from an eight-year-old?” He asked quietly.
The other man didn’t look away from the screen as he shrugged, an easy and amused smile stretched across his face. Bro shook his head but indulged the corny action by leaning across the gap between the seats and resting his head on Mr. Egbert’s shoulder. “Jeez, you’re a loser, you know that?” He muttered softly.
“I have yet to hear you protest.” Mr. Egbert mumbled in return.
Bro let a huff of air escape, but neither man moved until the credits were rolling.