Batman and Robin
By Katie Farris
Anyone who has an older brother has experienced the turmoil of random punches, noogies when he wants to show his love, and the rush of adrenaline when Mom and Dad aren’t looking so you can settle things man to man. The relationship my brother and I share isn’t that much different from any typical brother and sister. Today as adults, we enjoy studying together, playing Ultimate Frisbee, working out, and going to the movies every once and a while. If you looked at us today and the way we act towards one another, you would never suspect that we used to beat the ever living crap out of each other, but something in us changed when we moved to Florida as children.
Before Florida, Joe and I were somewhat close. Growing up in the boondocks with only each other as playmates, we had no choice but to be friends. We spent countless summers in the backyard chasing after each other and playing Batman and Robin.
The days of Batman and Robin will forever take precedence in my heart over anything else. We would run through the brush of the backyard solving riddles the Riddler had left behind while simultaneously trying to find who had the cure for the fearsome Man-Bat. We’d barely escape the clutches of Bane, work together to defeat Clayface, and come up with a special serum to keep The Scarecrow’s fear gas from warping our minds. Nothing could stop us! Criminals would tremble in fear when they heard our names, mob bosses could never out smart us, and when a citizen needed help, we were there, fighting for justice that had been forgotten and lost.
One day while perched in the old Dogwood tree in our backyard, Joe looked to me. “Good job today, Robin. We had those guys on the run from the start.”
“Thanks, Batman,” I’d say with a serious face as I looked up into the sky. I’d point. “Look, Batman!”
“The signal,” he’d say.
“It’s already on the news. Poison Ivy has escaped from Arkham Asylum.”
My brother balanced himself on one of the branches of the tree and stood in a hero-like pose. “Quick, Robin! Let’s race to the Batmobile!” And we were off to defeat Poison Ivy before she tainted Gotham City’s water supply and the whole game would eventually be celebrated with us running back to the Batcave (our house) and stuffing our faces with pizza lunchables and gallon jugs of Kool-Aid.
Hey, even superheroes need a lunch break.
We would pretend to be other things too, like secret agents protecting the president and Indiana Jones, but this would also lead to the usual fight because Joe would always be Indiana and he’d make me a Nazi. I admit I was young at the time, but our Grandpa fought in WWII and I knew just by listening to his stories that being a Nazi was an insult.
“I’m not going to be a Nazi!” I shouted.
“You can’t be anything else!” he said flatly.
“I can be Dr. Henry Jones,” I offered.
“No, you’d have to be older than me. There’s no possible way you could be my dad when you’re younger,” he said.
“Well then you be Dr. Henry Jones and I’ll be Indiana,” I said.
“Nice try, but that’s not happening.”
“You’re not being fair!” I shouted.
“Look, there’s no way you’re going to be Indiana Jones! So, just suck it up and be the Nazi I get to beat up on!”
Not without a fight you won’t!
And we’d have at it. We were nothing but flying fists and swinging feet, landing a hopeful knock out punch anywhere we could.
We’d come in after a brawl and, as usual, my mom would pitch a fit at how we looked and behaved. Joe’s t-shirt would be torn from where I grabbed him by the collar and he’d sport a bruise and gash on his arm from where I bit him while I had a busted lip from where he clocked me with my hair disheveled from rolling around in the grass. Dirt would cling to our faces making us look like we’d just come in off the street from begging.
“You two will be the death of me!” my mom would shout. “Why can’t you two just get along? I just don’t understand. This is not how a brother and sister are supposed to act! Me and my siblings never fought each other!”
And then there was that one terrible thing she made us do after a fight and we both hated it. “Now, you two apologize and hug each other,” she’d say.
Ugh!The dreaded make up hug. Not cool.
We’d both slump our shoulders, say a non-heartfelt “sorry,” and hug one another, patting each other on the back a little too hard.
“I’m taking you down. Same time tomorrow you little snot,” he’d whisper.
“Fat chance, butthead,” I’d shoot back.
God, I miss those days.
That was the normal life between us, but unfortunately there was a time when my brother and I were our only companions in life. When Joe was eleven and I was seven, my parents had gone through the necessary procedures to get a divorce which led to my mom moving us to Florida, living on the same property as my aunt, uncle, and cousins which Joe and I formally called: “Enemy Territory.” From the moment we set foot on that turf it was The Farris’s vs. The Kurtright’s. There was no safe haven, no place of solace, and never a moment of peace when the cousins were together – whether it was us arguing over whose turn it was to choose a movie to watch, what after church snack we were going to have, what order we were going to be served in for dinner, or who would sit where in the van. It was hell on earth. Joe and I were all we had.
One summer night, I sat in my room staring out of the window wishing I was back in Georgia reflecting on an argument I had with my older cousin, Sarah, when Joe walked into my bedroom and gently nudged me with an elbow.
“You okay?” he asked.
I looked to him. Joe was tall and scrawny as a boy. A light dusting of freckles covered the bridge of his nose and only darkened when he caught the sun. His scruffy brown hair had a mind of its own, laying however it wanted while his light brown eyes glowed, even when he was down or cross. He looked directly into my eyes and somehow I felt like he could see what I was feeling at the moment, but I didn’t say anything. I just sniffed and shook my head.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, sitting on my bed.
That was a strange moment to me. I wasn’t used to his generosity. My brother was the boy I fought for sport my entire life and this was the first time he had ever shown any concern toward me. I looked into his eyes and in them, there was a melancholy presence. There was sincerity that I’d never seen before and even though we’d fought in the past, it occurred to me that as long as we were in Florida and living on our cousin’s property, on enemy turf, he was my best bud. My companion. My battle buddy. He was there for me and I was there for him.
“Sarah called me Frog-Lips,” I finally whimpered.
“Why’d she call you that?” he asked.
“Because of my birthmark,” I said with a sniffle, pointing to the white line going down the middle of my bottom lip.
Joe snorted. “She’s stupid, Katie,” he said. “You can’t let her do that to you.”
“She always gets away with everything, Joe. It just makes me so mad!”
“I know,” he said. “The next time she says it to you, punch her in the face.”
I shot him a look. “Mom told me to turn the other cheek. She said that’s what the Bible said to do,” I told him.
Joe gave me a wicked smile. “True, it says to turn the other cheek, but it doesn’t tell you what to do after that.”
A revelation! I’d never thought of that!
I smiled at him. “That’s a good point,” I said to him.
“This is why I’m your big brother. It’s my way of looking after you,” he said with a smile.
The next day while Joe and I were in the yard arguing whether we wanted to play Star Wars or The Power Rangers, Sarah and her little sister, Brittany, walked up on us.
Sarah’s dirty blonde hair fell around her shoulders, her banes darkening and clinging to her forehead from the sticky Florida humidity. She was thin with no figure while Brittany was a short, chubby child with dark brown hair.
“What are y’all playing?” Sarah inquired.
“Why?” I asked, annoyed at her presence and hoping she’d go away.
“We just want to play with you,” she said with a sinister smile.
Uh oh, I thought. I know that smile.
“We’re playing Batman and Robin,” Joe said quickly. “So, unless you want to be the bad guys, you can’t join in. Sorry.”
Brittany began to cry. After all, she was only four at the time, but Sarah, even at the age of nine, was a devious monster that could manipulate anyone into getting what she wanted. Up until that point, I’ve never wanted to hurt someone as much as I wanted to hurt Sarah.
“Well,” Sarah began in a diplomatic voice, “I think Katie and Brittany should be the bad guys.”
Brittany let out a loud obnoxious sob after hearing her sisters betraying words and I rolled my eyes at my baby cousin.
“Why do you say that?” my brother asked coolly.
“They’re the youngest. They should be the bad guys while you’re Batman and I’m Robin,” she said while that sadistic grin of hers grew.
But I’m always Robin, I thought as hot tears filled my eyes. If there was a time in Georgia where Joe and I got along, it was when we played Batman and Robin. We were the Dynamic Duo. She couldn’t be Robin. I wasRobin! I always have been.
I glance at my brother with a hurtful look, but his eyes didn’t leave Sarah. His nostrils flared as his jaw twitched, his face gradually turned red and his breath grew into rapid short bursts. He clinched his fists at his side. “Katie is my Robin,” he said through gritted teeth.
“I’d be a better Robin,” she said. Her words triggered my tears and they steadily flowed down my cheeks.
“You don’t even know who Robin is!” Joe screamed at her. “I’d choose Katie over you any day!”
“What?” she asked pointing to me, “You mean you’d choose Frog-Lips over me? You’re more stupid than you look, Joe.”
I stepped closer to Sarah and got in her face. “My brother is not stupid,” I said out of anger, “If you want to join us, why don’t you be Two-Face? You’re really good at that!”
“Watch what you say, Frog-Lips,” she whispered.
“If you call me that one more time, I’m taking you down,” I huffed.
“I’ll scream bloody murder and my dad will come out here and whip your butt,” she said in a quiet, threatening tone.
“It’d be worth it,” I snapped.
Very gently, I felt the collar of my shirt being tugged from behind. I turned and saw my brother mouth the words, “The other cheek.” Angry and disappointed, I turned my back to Sarah and Brittany and began to walk away from the whole situation when I heard, “Froggie can’t jump!”
Oh, Froggie’s about to jump alright!
All at once, a surge of anger built up inside of me and was near its breaking point. The recent memories of name calling, purposely lying about us to get us in trouble, and the manipulation all fueled my animosity towards her until it boiled over. I felt my breath quicken and my face inflame as I looked to my brother. In his eyes, I saw his resentment as well.
“Go get that turd,” he whispered.
Without any warning, I turned and charged towards Sarah. She tried to run, but by the time her back was to me, she was already eating dirt. I began swinging, landing punches wherever I could. Sarah had somehow turned on her back and tried to block my attacks, but the great thing about having a big brother to fight with, is that I know every possible gap that you’re going to leave open, especially when you haven’t fought a day in your life. I continued to swing, tearing through every barricade she put up.
“Get off of me, you crazy mutant!” she wailed, “Brittany, get her!”
I felt a slap on my back that tickled more than it hurt and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Joe dragging Brittany away from us. “Get her, Katie! Knock the crap out of her!” Joe egged on and a burst of energy rang through me as I continued my assault on her.
“Don’t. You. Ever. Call. Me. Frog. Lips. Again!” I said between every punch, emphasizing each word.
“That’s it, Katie! Break that scum sucking snake’s nose!” I heard Joe shout.
Then, Sarah rolled and I somehow ended up underneath her. She slapped me across the face and stood up, straddling me, towering over me with blood dripping from her nose and that’s when I saw it coming. It was like slow motion. I saw her foot come down and marry my face while a stinging sensation swept through my bottom lip. The taste of dirt and sand tarnished my mouth which was quickly joined by a salty flavor. Hot tears stung my eyes as I put my hand to the lower part of my face and that’s when I felt it. One of my canines had made a clear passage through my bottom lip. I carefully pulled my lip free from my tooth. What a cheap shot! I thought to myself as a few tears escaped to my face.
Suddenly, I heard Sarah scream and I looked up to see Joe running after her with a shovel in his hands. “No one hits my little sister but me!” he shouted.
“Get her, Joe!” I screamed as I winced from the pain radiating from my lip. “Knock the daylights out of her!”
I stood up and I ran after him, passing a hysterical Brittany and cheered him on, but we were stopped when our uncle came out and tried to defuse the situation.
“What do you think you’re doing?” my uncle asked as he snatched the shovel from Joe’s hands.
“Look what she did to Katie!” Joe shouted as he pointed to me.
Sarah ran behind her dad and began to weep. “Daddy, they started it! We wanted to play with them, but they said we had to be the bad guys and when we agreed they started to beat us up!”
“You’re lying!” I screamed.
My uncle bounded towards me and I knew clearly what his intentions were. I was about to get the whipping of a lifetime for something that she had coming to her. I turned to run, but I felt a strong hand grab my arm, his calluses and fingers digging into my elbow.
“Look what you did to my daughter!” he yelled at me, gesturing towards Sarah who had the same evil grin on her face from only a few minutes before.
I pointed to my lip. “Look what she did to me!” I yelled back.
He spun me around and I felt him rear his hand back. Brace yourself, Katie, I warned myself. This is going to be bad.
Suddenly, a familiar voice came from behind us, bringing the world as I knew it to a halt.
“What are you doing?” I heard the voice say. We both turned and saw my mom, who is a good foot shorter than her brother, marching towards us in her maroon scrubs with a look that could scare Hulk Hogan, but at the same time I felt a wave of relief sweep through me. She’d gotten home from work just in time to save me.
“And just what do you think you’re doing with my daughter?” she asked in a low voice, her eyes narrowing in on my uncle.
“Look what she did to Sarah,” he said to her.
“Did you ask Katie and Joe what happened?” she asked.
“Sarah told me what happened,” he snapped.
“I’ll ask again. Did you ask Katie and Joe?”
“No,” he simply said.
“You need to hear both sides of the story before you carry out a punishment. Now, let go of my child,” she said.
“She gave Sarah a black eye!” he screamed.
“Yeah, but look at Katie! I think she’s going to need stitches!” she bellowed back. “Now, let my child go or so help me, I’ll give you a black eye to match your daughter’s!”
He quickly let go of my arm and ushered Sarah and Brittany into their house while Mom made Joe and me get in the car. She drove us to the hospital while we explained to her what happened, the air growing thicker and thicker with anxiety.
“What were you two thinking? Katie, what did I tell you about turning the other cheek?” she asked out of frustration.
“It doesn’t tell you what to do after that, Mama,” I said quietly, using Joe’s line he’d taught me earlier.
Mama gaped at me before she turned her head to look at Joe. “You told her that, didn’t you?”
Joe beamed at Mom in the rearview mirror, not saying a word.
And then something surprising happened. Mama laughed and the tension that brewed in the air evaporated immediately.
“You know,” she began, “I prayed to God asking Him to find a way for you two to work together and stop fighting one another. It wasn’t exactly what I was thinking, but I think my prayer was answered.” Mom, of course, punished us by giving us extra chores to do for the next few days, but I didn’t care. My brother and I had given Sarah a beat down she’d never forget.
By the end of it all, Sarah had several bruises, a busted (not broken) nose, and a black eye that she couldn’t see out of for several days while I only had that busted lip and, thank God, I didn’t need stitches.
Before going to sleep that night, I sat on my bed and read a little as I’ve always done when I heard a knock at my door.
“Come in,” I called out and Joe’s face appeared.
“Is your lip okay?” he asked.
I nodded. “It hurts a little, but I’m going to be okay.”
He smiled. “You really gave it to her today.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It felt good. Is that bad of me?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “It might be, but I can understand how you feel.”
I breathed out a shaky breath. “Joe,” I said while looking down. “Thank you for sticking up for me. I know I get on your nerves a lot, but it felt good that you did that for me.”
I looked to him and he smiled. “You’re welcome, Katie.”
“Why did you do it?” I asked.
“You’re the only little sister I have. I’m the only one who can hit you and get away with it,” he said with a chuckle.
I closed my X-Men comic book, placed it on my night stand, and turned my bedside lamp off. “I’m kind of tired. I’m going to go to sleep,” I said to my brother.
Joe nodded. He began to close the door, but stopped when I called his name. He stuck his head back in my room, gazing in my direction.
I stared at him through the shadows, the memories of us working together earlier that day flashing in my mind, how we were like Batman and Robin, vigilantes acting outside of the law, enforcing justice when no one else would, how he stuck up for me, and how he said I was his Robin. Would he always choose me? Would he one day push me away? Would we always be the Dynamic Duo? I peered through the darkness of my room and took a deep breath. “Will you always choose me as Robin over Sarah?” I asked in a timid voice.
Joe smiled and before he answered me, I knew what his answer would be.
“Katie,” he said, “You’ll always be my Robin.” And with that, he closed the door as the darkness settled in my room.
And you’ll always be my Batman, I thought.
I closed my eyes and slipped into a dream of us jumping buildings in Atlanta, he as Batman and I as Robin, protecting our homeland, fighting Two-Face and The Joker, taking on crime and bringing criminals to justice. Joe and Katie. Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo until the very end.
Piece by Katie Farris of Georgia Southern University. You may reach the author here: firstname.lastname@example.org