Right Behind Me by Michael Jurzynski  The cool breeze wove through the rows of umbrellas like water flowing through the rocks of a jetty, carrying along the scent of salt water. The crashing waves created a soothing background in contrast to the beating sun. I sat in a lawn chair that I brought all the way from home, while my seven-year-old cousin Andre sat in a brand new one right next to me. The rust had built up around the bolts of my chair while his still had the plastic covering on it. The seat itself was dreading its ’90s color scheme, while his was flourishing in a solid red. We sat at the edge where the water had pulled the soft sediment back into its grasp, wave after wave. We sat under the soothing sun, satisfied with the balance it gave us between its warmth and the ocean’s transitioning winter water, carried by the wind. Andre’s skin didn’t turn red as easily as mine did. His mini Afro did not flow with the wind as loosely as mine did. The sun caused tiny freckles on his face to pile up on his nose and cheeks. The breaking waves reflected off his dark brown eyes. Most of his grade was shorter than him. He proudly told me this a number of times. Andre sat as a king in his new chair looking over the ocean as if it was his. I felt as if his sole purpose some days was just to beat me in anything that we did together. “Mikey your seat stinks,” the little booger said. I responded, “Your face stinks Andre.” He laughed. His laugh was like a funny moment that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and every time I did think about his laugh, it brought a smile to my face. Our family preferred to sit in the shade. They were at a greater distance behind us than they were away from the entrance itself. My uncle was asleep in his chair, sunglasses and all. His goatee and long gray hair made him look like he was in a biker gang. His fingers were interlocked, resting on his bare gut and waiting to come undone, but they never did. Andre’s mother lay there on a towel. The sun’s rays evaporated every drop left on her skin after an afternoon swim. Her dark brown hair absorbed the sun and released the light at random points from each root to each end. Lying on a towel in the sand was usually never an option for me, since they didn’t make a towel big enough. There would always be an arm or a leg left stranded in the irritating sand. My grandmother sat on a chair just like mine, reading a book underneath her beach umbrella. My aunt, who was my grandmother’s daughter, did the same. “Like mother like daughter,” I would always say to myself. Andre and I sat there in their line of sight enjoying our own view. After the sun set into the sea, our family, Andre, and I walked back to the two-story motel to shower and clean up. The motel was in view from the beach’s entrance/exit. The patches of scratchy sand slid off my skin as the water built up around my feet. The burning pain I felt, from being in the sun too long, dissipated as the cold water ran down my face and back. I got changed and was all ready to go out after that. I walked outside to see the little menace himself dressed in a navy blue sleeveless shirt, red shorts, and the movie Cars themed Velcro sneakers. Every step he took came with a new array of lights. My grandmother decided to stay in her room for the night and read a book. “No, go ahead I’m tired from being in the sun all day,” she said to us. We then all got into my aunt’s minivan. Andre was stuffed in the way back because that is just where he always sat. My uncle was at the wheel and my aunt in the passenger seat. To my left was Andre’s mom, sitting in the middle row. We ended up driving to a small amusement park nearby. Above the main gate was a big sign that read “Fantasy Island” in red and green neon colors. My uncle, Andre, and I went around and tried all the outdated rides. First was a small roller coaster, which at no point in time was taller than my 6’4” frame. After that my uncle and I watched Andre ride a small train on an oval track. Every time he came around to where we were standing, he had a huge smile on his face. He was excited from all the realistic sounds the train made, like rumbling over the tracks and the blowing whistle. We continued to bounce from one ride to another, mini game to mini game. As we got off the last ride, I looked down to Andre staring at something behind me. The look in his eye was how I pictured myself on Christmas, opening a present I had been dying for. It seemed as if his eyes had struck gold. As I turned to see what exactly he was looking at, I felt a gush of wind blow by my left thigh. What do you know? It was the crazy little man himself running right past me. “Come on Mikey!” he said. He ran as if he were falling down. That was his normal run. For a tall kid, his strides were those of a kid who was a foot shorter than he was. “Andre slow down!” I frantically said. As I rushed after him, I looked up and saw the ride he was running to, the bumper cars. We both stood there fidgeting on a line that was not moving and watched the people who were currently on the ride. It was our turn and Andre needed to get his height measured in order for him to be able to get his own car. He was nowhere near the height requirement, but the person running the ride told me that he could sit right next to me. My uncle sat on the side while we were being buckled into our car. Andre bounced around in his seat before the cars were even powered on. He stopped and asked me, “When do you think I’m going to be tall enough to drive the car?” I told him, “Very soon Andre, very soon.” The car all of a sudden powered up and we were on our way. Bang! We crashed into another car, which jolted our heads back slightly. We laughed as cars came piling in behind us. “Woah! Woah! Woah! Watch out Andre!” I yelled. A light blush of red started to show on his cheeks. The worker was more focused on what was on his phone than what people were doing in the bumper cars. I placed Andre’s hands on the wheel and let go. I had a smile from cheek to cheek, but he had a smile from ear to ear. Andre looked as if he had struck gold again. “I have seen that look before,” I said quietly to myself. Flashbacks popped into my head of when my uncle and I rode these same modes of enjoyable destruction. The constant roar died down. I turned to see Andre with the same smile he had before. We met up with my uncle and started walking toward the gate. I maneuvered my way through the scattered crowd with Andre behind me and my uncle behind him. I felt as if I were a fish leading his pup through a coral reef. As we arrived at the gate, we met up with Andre’s mom and my aunt. “You guys all ready to go?” my uncle asked. All of a sudden my aunt yelled out loud, “Where the hell is Andre?” A stabbing chill climbed up my spine and crawled along the back of my neck. It slid down my arms and legs. The chill filled up my fingertips and toes, inch by inch shocking each hair upright that stood in its way. My little “brother,” whom I teared up about when I held him for the first time, was not in my sight. As I looked down all I saw was a bunch of walking legs moving in fast forward. “I need to find light-up shoes, light-up shoes,” I repeated to myself. Memories of me teaching him how to play basketball and video games started to seep into my thoughts. “What the?” was a saying we used whenever something out of whack happened in a movie or video game. We would almost say it simultaneously. “You have to find his light-up shoes,” I said. My aunt ran for the gate and told the security guard what had just happened and to block the entrances. Thirty seconds had gone by. “He was just here,” my uncle yelled. I heard a child scream and my head snapped to look. Then came another one from behind me. Sounds of children enjoying rides flew into my ears as I was searching. “He needs me,” I repeated again and again. He didn’t have a big brother. He barely even had a father. Another memory of us flowed into my thoughts as I searched the park. He had gotten in trouble in school for not answering the teacher. He was very shy just as I was as a kid. I heard about it and went over to his house to try and see what exactly went wrong. He had just finished his homework and was getting ready for bed. On his pajamas were a bunch of action shots from his favorite movie, Cars. As he lay in bed, I tucked in both sides of his blanket to make sure it wouldn't fall off him while he was asleep. I asked him, “What went wrong today, Buddy?” He responded with a shrug of the shoulders. Through the tears that swelled up his eyes I saw the disappointment he had in himself as empathetic tears built up around mine. I said to him, “Andre, I love you like a brother. You practically are my brother anyway. I will always be there for you no matter what. If you have a question about anything, I will answer it the best I can. Come on, Buddy. Keep your head held high. You’re one of the smartest kids in your class. Just try and talk more next time. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Imagine how the President feels when he has to speak in front of thousands of people. That must be scary right? Go get em’ next time, Andre. You got this!” I said out loud, “Where are you Buddy?” It had been well over a minute and he was nowhere in sight. I froze as I stood there. All of a sudden I felt a light tapping on my lower back. My body turned around as an instant reaction. “Mikey, what the heck are you doing?”