As a heads-up, at some point between Friday and Sunday, I intend to write a blog post in which I gush over my enormous love for Morecambe And Wise. The above gif is making me smile like there's a hanger stuck in my mouth, because pretty much anything featuring Eric and Ernie always does. This week's bedtime story is dedicated to them, for always bringing me sunshine...
That's What Friends Are For
Eric and Ernie had been rehearsing for weeks. Now, the school talent show was just a few days away.
"So," Ernie said, scratching his head. "You do that joke, then I do my dance and we end on a song, yeah?"
Eric nodded, pushing his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose. "I reckon we're a shoe-in for first prize, you know," he told his friend. "Everyone else is either acting, singing, dancing or telling jokes. We're the only ones doing everything!"
Ernie grinned. "What are you going to buy with your prize money, if we win?"
Eric let out a long puff of air. "A new football, maybe," he mused. "And a football shirt to wear whilst I'm having a kick about."
"And we'll each get a trophy," Ernie reminded him. "That would look so cool on my bedroom shelf. I've cleared a space already, just in case." He glanced up at the shelf on the wall and clapped his hands. "I'm so excited, Eric!"
"Well, Monday night will be here before you know it," Eric replied. He glanced down at his watch. "I've got to get a move on; we're off to see my grandparents this weekend and mum wants to leave before rush hour." He smiled as he gave his friend a quick hug goodbye. "I'll keep practising, whilst I'm away!"
Ernie nodded his head. "Me too," he promised.
The weekend passed by in a blur, as Eric spent time with his family and grabbed every spare second he could find to practise the routine he and Ernie had so carefully planned. By the time he arrived home on Sunday night, he could barely wait to see Ernie and have one last rehearsal before the talent show, the following evening. But when he rushed round to Ernie's house, he was in for a nasty shock.
"He's ever so poorly," Ernie's mum told Eric, when she opened the door. "We had an emergency doctor round yesterday and he thinks it's flu. Bless him, Ernie's got a really high temperature; he's shivering and his joints are hurting him... I've not seen him this ill for a very long time." She sighed and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Eric. There's no way he'll be well enough for school tomorrow and that means he won't be able to take part in the talent show, either."
Eric's shoulders dropped and his mouth hung open. All of their plans and dreams seemed to come crashing down around his feet. He swallowed hard and shuffled on the spot. "Can I see him?"
Ernie's mum wrinkled her nose. "Well... I'm sure he'd want to see you, but..." She sighed. "Okay, come in," she told him. "But don't get too close. I don't want you catching this as well."
Eric climbed the stairs and gently pushed open the door to Ernie's bedroom. The room was dark; the curtains were closed and the light was off. Ernie was lying under the bedcovers, looking thoroughly miserable. "Eric?" He croaked, as his friend entered the room. "I'm so, so sorry."
Eric shuffled into the room. "Don't be silly," he insisted. "You can't help it." He forced a grin, clapped his hands and fiddled with his glasses, so that they rested wonky on his face.
Ernie chuckled in spite of himself. "You look funny like that," he said. "You should do that tonight, in the talent show."
Eric rearranged his glasses and quickly shook his head. "Not a chance," he replied. "I can't do it without you. We signed up as Eric and Ernie, not just Eric!"
"But you'll win, Eric," Ernie pressed. "You're funny and you don't need me there; you can sing and dance without me. Then you can go and buy that football and we'll have a kick about when I'm feeling better."
"It won't be the same without you, Ern," Eric protested. He hated seeing his best friend so crestfallen, so he rushed to the window, just as an ambulance went speeding by, with its siren blaring. He turned and gave Ernie a broad grin. "I tell you what; he won't sell many ice creams going that fast," he joked.
Ernie giggled and shook his head.
"Shall I do a dance?" Eric broke into a shuffle and beamed as the smile on his friend's face grew wider in response. "See, look at that," he told Ernie. "You look better already!"
"That's because you make me laugh," Ernie replied.
Eric dug his hands into his pockets. "That's what friends are for," he said, simply.
"I really mean it, you know," Ernie said, his voice sounding a little weak. "You could win the talent show on your own, tomorrow night."
Eric shrugged his shoulders. "We'll see," he replied. "Listen, you look exhausted. I ought to go; some of us have got school tomorrow!"
Ernie smiled. "Let me know how it goes," he said, managing a wave as his friend left the room.
The next day dragged for poor Ernie. He managed to get out of bed a few times, but he spent much of the day under his duvet. At ten to six, his mum came in with a bowl of soup. "Ern?" She sat on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling?"
Ernie let out a long sigh. "I wish I was there to cheer him on, mum," he mumbled. "The talent show starts at six o'clock. He'll be nervous and I'm not there to calm him down."
His mum stroked his hair and gently kissed his forehead. "Eric's going to be fine," she promised. "You just need to concentrate on getting better."
"I know," Ernie breathed. "I just wish I was there. I practised so hard, mum..."
His mum rose to her feet, hearing footsteps on the stairs. "Hear that?" She asked. "That's probably your dad coming up to check on you, too."
The door creaked open and through the gap, an arm poked through, waving. It was too small to belong to Ernie's dad. Ernie sat up in bed. The arm disappeared and when it came back again, the hand was holding a pair of glasses. "These," a voice said, "are for seeing around corners. And you, Ernie, look terrible."
Ernie burst out laughing, as Eric bounced into the room.
"What on Earth are you doing here?"
Eric popped his glasses back on and shuffled his feet. "Couldn't do it without you, could I?" He nodded hello to Ernie's mum as she left the room, then sat on the edge of Ernie's bed. "We're a team, you and me, aren't we?"
"But what about the trophy and the new football you were going to get?" Ernie frowned.
"You've got ears like a trophy and if you curl up small enough, I'm pretty sure I could use you as a ball..." Eric joked. He sighed. "Seriously, none of that matters. I thought about going up on stage without you, but after all the practising you'd done for the show, it just didn't feel right. If you're not up there with me, I don't want to do it."
Ernie blinked back at him. "That's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me," he said.
Eric grinned. "Ah, the act was rubbish anyway," he teased. "We'll come up with something even better for next year's talent show and we'll definitely win. And we'll win it together."
"That's what friends are for," Ernie nodded, remembering what Eric had said the previous evening.
"Hey," Eric tutted. "That's my line." He rose to his feet and nodded to the door. "I ought to get going," he said. "I'll come back and see how you're getting on after school, tomorrow."
As the door closed behind him, Ernie gazed up at the space he'd cleared on his bedroom shelf for the talent show trophy and a smile crept across his lips. He didn't need a prize. He already had something much more valuable. And that's what friends are for.