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“What’s he doing?”

A group of colts looked up at their red-orange classmate
leaning from the top of the bell tower of their school. The curly-haired,
bespectacled colt had a hoof positioned over his eyes to shield them from the
sun, and was looking all around the area that they all lived. The little pony
ignored all the stares he was receiving from his classmates, gazing across the
neighborhood on one side, and then turning his attention to the skyscrapers of
Manehattan. On his face was a look of determined worry, a kind that was
unbreakable as he kept on looking.

A chubby, green member of the group suggested, “Maybe he’s
looking for the ice cream cart!”

His purple friend smacked him on the back of the head. “What
are we gonna buy it with? We don’t have any money, Jumbo!”

Jumbo pouted. “Excuse me if I’m hungry, Carpet Burn!”

“You’re hungry all the time! No wonder you’re so fat!”

“Why you…”

Their mustard yellow leader jumped in between them before a
fight could break out. “Yo, you two knuckleheads can’t fight now!” He pointed
to a butter yellow filly strolling about. “Crème Brulee will tattle on us
again!”

“We can keep her quiet,” Carpet Burn said, punching one hoof
with the other.

Their blue unicorn friend interjected, “No! She’ll tell her
daddy and they’ll punish us with their richness!”

The leader nodded. “Jinx is right, her daddy yelled at my
mom and dad when I pushed her in the mud.” He looked up at the bell tower, and
scratched his chin. “Maybe Tommy’s trying to see across the ocean.”

Jinx—or rather, Bluejinx—rolled his eyes and said, “That’s
dumb, Squirt. Why don’t you ask him?”

Squirt scoffed, and then looked up at Tommy. He took a deep
breath, and yelled, “Hey, Tommy! Whatcha doing?”

Much to their surprise, a roof tile was chucked their way,
and Tommy shouted back, “None of your business, you dumb accordion-breakers!”
With that, Tommy continued his gaze across the landscape.

“Come on, you know that was an accident… no big deal.”

Tommy gave him a nasty glare, and threw another roof tile at
them.

Of course, when the teacher came to call the foals inside,
she noticed the flying roof tile barely missing Squirt, and then looked up at
the roof. With a gasp, she shouted, “Tomato Sandwich! What are you doing on the
roof? It’s too dangerous for a little earth pony colt!”

Bluejinx tilted his head. “How did he even get up there?”

Of course, Tomato ignored the teacher and kept on looking
forward. With a frustrated growl, she hollered, “I’m getting one of the pegasus
staff members to bring you down safely!”

That caught Tomato’s attention, and he cried, “No! Teacher, please don’t! What if I
miss Cheesy coming home?! I don’t wanna miss it and forgot to say ‘sorry’!
Please, just let me see him come home!”

The teacher sighed. “I can’t let you do that—you need to be
in class like everypony else.” She tapped one of the nearby fillies, and then
told her to get a pegasus to get him down. Looking up once again, she said,
“Tomato, there’s a risk of falling off and getting seriously hurt!”

Tomato clung tighter to the bell tower. “No! I’m not getting
off until I see Cheese!”

Jumbo Thumbo licked his lips. “Mmm… cheese…”

Bluejinx growled. “He’s not talking about that cheese! I think he’s talking about
his brother.”

Squirt and Carpet Burn glanced at each other and shook their
heads. Squirt stated, “I don’t get why he thinks his dorky big brother is cool.
My big brother is the toughest fighter in the city, and lots of ponies love him
for it. I know those mares he brings home every week do.” He gagged at the
mention of the mares, and then shook his head. “Tommy’s brother? Dorky hair,
dorky glasses, hiding all the time, and plays that dumb old broken accordion.
Tommy’s a big dummy if he thinks his brother’s cool.”

They jumped at the sound of Tomato screaming, “NO! Let go of
me! Let go of me! Let go of me!

They watched as one of the other teachers carried a kicking
and screaming Tomato into the building, and their own teacher approached them.
Wiping her brow, she said, “Sorry about your friend’s fuss. He’s getting worked
up because his brother ran away last night.”

They all blinked. “Oh…”

She sighed. “We should give his family as much support as we
can and keep our eyes peeled. They need to know you care.” She looked around
the field at the other foals and shouted, “Now, all those in my class, let’s go
back inside… I’ve got more things to teach you!” With that, she trotted back to
the school.

A handful of the foals groaned, including Squirt and his
pals. As they grumpily ambled back to the school, Carpet Burn said, “So that’s
why Tommy climbed up the school? Because his brother ran away?”

“It’s not like Tommy to be sad,” Bluejinx murmured. “I guess
he loved his brother lots.”

“He looked mad to me,” Carpet Burn deadpanned.

Squirt scoffed. “Please—mad or sad, he can be made happy
easily! We’ll make him forget that dumb brother of his and have him back to
being that silly and hyper pony everypony likes… okay, except Crème Brulee, but
she hates everypony. Still, Tommy will be happy again in no time! I’d hate to
be friends with a sad sap.”

“Don’t be silly; he’s not sad until he cries,” Jumbo said.

At the back of the group, Bluejinx thought back to a time
when he was sad: when his father had died and his mother had them move to
Manehattan to get away from that little town they had lived in. He didn’t know
why his mom had did it, but it was clear to him that she had been sad, even
though she had tried to keep from crying. He hadn’t been sure what had been
going on at the time, but all he knew is that he wanted his daddy.

The first day of school, Tomato was his first friend. So
happy to meet him, so playful, and so talkative. And yet, that day he visited
and found out about Blue’s lack of a father, there wasn’t any laughing or
judging. He just let Bluejinx cry that day, and gave him a hug, saying that his
brother would hug him when he was sad, and he thought it’d work.

And to see Tomato now upset over his brother running away…
it was weird.

Bluejinx shook his head. Maybe Squirt was right. Tomato was
a happy colt—he’d be made happy quicker. After all, why would Tommy stay sad
for long? His brother couldn’t have gone far.


The next day, they had approached Tomato at recess, and told
him that a good round of dodgeball would cheer him up—because Tommy Sandwich
was not supposed to be sad. Of course, he shoved them aside, and climbed up the
school again to be on the lookout for his brother. That led to the pegasus
teacher plucking him off the roof and bringing him inside while he threw a
tantrum.

The next few days had him repeating climbing onto the roof,
only to be brought back down and inside for a time out. While they had
attempted to get him to play a game, they can only stand and watch as Tomato
was given those punishments. And seeing him so angry scared them and the other
foals, who kept their space away from him.

He sat apart from the class when they went outside for
lunchtime. While he sat alone under a tree, staring at the pickled beets his
mom had packed for him, he just watched the other foals chatter about whatever.

He barely glanced up when the teacher approached him. The
first thing he heard was her asking, “How are your parents doing? Be strong for
them, okay? Let’s hope he’ll be found soon.”

Tomato pursed his lips, took a deep breath through his
nostrils, and nodded. Mom was upset about Cheese’s disappearance, checking the
police station every so often for news of his whereabouts. He wanted to look
for him too, but he was told it was “too dangerous” and that “he’d kill himself
without his brother to save him” and that “we wouldn’t be in this situation if
you had behaved”. It was a scary thought to try to be strong for his family, to
try to pray and hope for Cheese’s return, and under no circumstance, to not
cry.

All the neighbors had been telling him that “at least he had
his mom and dad”, “that he’ll be found soon”, “the police are still looking”,
“I hope he’s not dead”, and that “his brother would want him to be happy”. All
sounded really forced, and they were all too quick about it before coddling Mom
and Dad. And so far, none of his friends had sat by his side to be sad with
him. Just tell him to get back to being happy soon and leave him alone.

The teacher tousled his mane and then walked away. Alone
again, he reflected on everypony’s condolences, and just how meaningless they
were. All they did was make him feel worse.

“At least he had Mom and Dad”? Mom only wanted him to keep
calm and collected and not cry, while Dad didn’t pay attention as usual. Why
weren’t they trying harder to find him?

“He’ll be found soon”? He should have been found a long time
ago! At this rate, they’d never find him!

“The police are still looking”? They stink at their job.

“ I hope he’s not dead”? But what if he is dead? What if they didn’t find him because he drowned in the
ocean? Tomato hated the thought of suddenly becoming an only foal.

And finally, “his brother would want him to be happy”. That
was the worst. He clearly remembered how angry Cheese was upon seeing that
shattered accordion. He clearly remembered the hurt and the sharpness of his
voice as he yelled. And it was no coincidence that he had slipped out that
night.

No, Cheese wouldn’t want him to be happy; no, he wanted him
to suffer, for the simple fact that he now hated
him. Tomato felt his eyes water at the thought of his beloved brother running
away, all because he had been cursed with the worst brother in existence.
Tomato had tried to fix the accordion; unfortunately, glue, band-aids, and tape
were not the best things to fix it, and it had to be thrown away. He wanted to
turn back time, just so he wouldn’t do the thing that was causing him so much
grief and guilt.

He took a deep breath, willing the tears away. He needed to
be strong; crying was weak.

Jumbo came to him next, and looked at the teacher, who
smiled and nodded as she returned to the rest of the class. Tiptoeing closer,
he said, “Hey, Tommy, teacher says you’re sad… but you look more mad to me. I
like you better when you’re happy, you know.”

Tomato glared at him. Why
would I be happy, dummy? You try losing your best brother buddy and see how it
feels! You guys didn’t even say sorry about the accordion…

Carpet Burn gave him a condolence card that said, “Sorry
about your loss”, and then walked away, murmuring, “He’ll come back. I won’t be
surprised if he’s too wimpy to live away from home.”

Tomato opened it up and looked at the crudely drawn smiley
face. With a pout, he grumbled, “Gee, thanks.”

Squirt came up to him, and said, “Hey… sorry that Chezwick
ran off and abandoned you.”

Of course, that made Tomato snap, “His name is CHEESE!”

The teacher nearly jumped at that outburst. “Goodness! Don’t
yell at another like that! What would your parents think?”

Tomato snorted and crossed his arms.

After Squirt ran off, Bluejinx was the last to approach,
trembling as he approached the . With a swallow, he muttered, “Tommy… I’m sorry
we broke your brother’s accordion. We didn’t know we’d make him run away.”

Tomato glanced at him, and then bit his lip. With a shudder,
he sighed and said, “It’s… it’s okay. I was the dummy who started it anyway…”

Bluejinx stared at him, with clear hesitation to do…
something. Tomato’s mind flashed back to when Bluejinx had cried over his dad’s
death, and Tomato had given him a hug to try to make him feel better. As they
stared at each other, he could clearly see that Bluejinx wanted to return the
favor of the hug. Tomato couldn’t help but silently beg for it with his eyes,
to at least know that someone actually cared and wasn’t just trying to make him
happy so he’d be fun again.

However, Bluejinx turned away, and then joined the rest of
the class. Tomato sighed and leaned against the tree, looking up at the clouds.
Of course. Why hug me when I’m not happy?

He closed his eyes. At
least Jinx said sorry about the accordion thing… that makes me feel a little
better…


As the weeks passed, Bluejinx watched as Tomato withdrew
himself more and more, sitting away from everypony else, and refused to talk to
them. So far, there hadn’t been any news of Cheese’s whereabouts, and it became
well known that Tomato was not going to be happy until his big brother’s
return. And Bluejinx soon started to hear some things from his classmates.

From Crème Brulee and her posse, there were the chatters
about how they knew that Tomato had been a despicable pony all along. After
all, you’ve got to sink really low to actually make your big brother run away.

From his own friends, he heard complaints about how Tomato
was caring about that stupid brother of his more than the awesome friends he
had. Bluejinx flinched when Squirt had announced when they were making an art
project. “One of these days, I oughta knock some sense into that dummy.”

Carpet Burn sneered, “Yanno, I think his brother’s lameness
rubbed onto him. You can tell because he wears glasses and has been hiding a
lot.”

Bluejinx piped up, “Um, actually, he just has lousy—”

“I saw his grades when we were at his house!” Jumbo said.
“Lotsa A’s, so he’s been a big nerd all along!”

“Why does it matter?” Bluejinx asked.

Squirt leaned forward. “It matters because my big bro says that
nerds think they’re better than us just ‘cause they’re ‘smarter’. Puh, smarts
don’t matter—muscle does! And we’ve gotta remind nerds of just how lame they
are.”

“But… guys, he’s just really sad that his brother left.”

“So? He’s also making a big deal about that accordion,”
Carpet Burn said. “The piece of junk was too heavy anyway, so we did his
brother a favor. Who wants to be stuck with that thing anyway?”

Bluejinx twiddled his hooves. “But… my mom says that he
needs time to–”

“Oh, no… we’ve got a momma’s boy!” Jumbo exclaimed.

“What? No, I’m not!”

“Come on, Jinx, you know that moms only keep you from having
fun,” Squirt said. “Besides, how can Tommy be sad if he hasn’t cried yet? Like
I said, I don’t like being friends with sad saps—they get really annoying with
their whining and crying and stuff like that. Tommy should be happy by now, so
he has no excuse!”

Bluejinx bit his lip and sunk in his seat. He thought about
what his mother had told him the night before:

“Bluejinx… he should be allowed to be sad.
After all, trying to force him to be happy isn’t going to make him feel
better—it’ll only have him be unhappy longer. If his brother never comes back,
he’s not just going to get over it. Be patient, and just give him time to learn
how to live with it should Cheese never come home. In the meantime, make sure
he has a shoulder to cry on.”

He glanced at Tomato, who was just knocking on a piece of
paper with a paint-covered hoof. Looking back at his friends, he wondered if
was willing to risk being a ‘momma’s boy’ to be there for the one friend.


Another month passed. Tomato was inside the school during
recess, trying to do extra work so that his mom would get off his case for his
slacking off. She had lectured him on the importance of his education and
continuously told him that his mark falling to a “B-” was unacceptable. And
thus, he had to be shut inside the school to study more, telling him that his
friends were too big of a distraction. He was awfully confused by that turn of
events, since she hadn’t cared if his friends were a distraction or not before.

On the other hoof, it was nice to get some alone time, not
having his classmates pester him with the same old question of “Are you happy
yet?”

He leaned in his hoof and sighed, looking at the book he was
reading and the language he once knew having suddenly become foreign to him. He
willed himself not to tremble from how hard he was suppressing the worry for
his brother gripping his heart. It had been two months, and there was still no
trace of Cheese. He had heard that they were searching outside the city now,
fearing that he may have gone into the wild. The longer that Cheese was gone,
the more likely it was that he could be dead.

The final words Cheese had said to him still rang in his
ears.

“Get out.”

“But, but—“

“I said GET OUT!”

He rubbed his temples, grinding his teeth. Holding back the
tears that had threatened to spill for the past couple months, he felt like he
was going to explode. Why did Cheese have to leave? Why couldn’t he have stayed
long enough for Tomato to say sorry? That stupid accordion wasn’t even alive,
and yet Cheese had to run away because of one accident.

He got out of his seat, went to the saddlebag rack, grabbed
his lunch from his bag, and headed for the door. “I’m gonna eat lunch outside,
I need some fresh air.”

“All right, then.” The teacher said, looking over some
essays. “Food will power your brain, and maybe the fresh air will calm you
down. Come back when you’re done, okay?”

Tomato turned to her, nodded, and then trotted out the door.
With a sigh, the teacher muttered, “At least he’s going to calm himself before he has an outburst.”


It wasn’t long after he had found his spot by the tree and
started eating that he was approached by Squirt, Carpet Burn, Jumbo, and
Bluejinx. He hardly looked up at them, and just bit in his sandwich. Of course
it was pickled daisies, which was leaving a bad taste in his mouth like the
presence of his friends. He wasn’t really in the mood for playing, so he
murmured, “I don’t feel like Tag.”

Squirt slid up to his side. “No, no, no, see… we just gotta
talk about your little attitude problem.”

Tomato snorted. “I’m fine.”

Carpet burn was on his other side. “Of course you’re not!
Everypony on the playground can see it.”

“So? It’s none of their business.”

Jumbo then exclaimed, “But you’re not acting like Tommy
anymore! Tommy’s supposed to be happy and fun and cool—now you’re just mad and
boring and lame!”

“I just don’t feel like playing. Besides, Mom says I’m not
allowed to play until my grades go up.”

Squirt scoffed. “Momma’s Boy.”

Tomato looked up with a glare. “What was that?”

“I can’t believe you’re a momma’s boy! What, does she not
like you unless you’re a nerd?”

Tomato threw his sandwich on the ground and stood up. “No,
Mom loves me lots! She wants me to be smart so I can have a good job and be a
good stallion and have a good wife, and just… and just… not run away and make
her unhappy like Cheese did!”

Carpet Burn rolled his eyes. “Oh, boy, here we go again…”

“I mean… at least didn’t shut myself in my room! At least I
didn’t push Cheese away! At least I actually like other ponies and have fun! At
least I didn’t run away because he broke something of mine! At least I didn’t
start hating him after years of us being best brother buddies and playing
together and eating pizza at Grandpa’s pizza place and being cowspies and
building snow forts and jumping in leaf piles and exploring the city and having
mini accordion parties and singing together and… and…”

Tears streaked down his face. “I just want my brother back!”
He hiccupped and squeezed his eyes shut.

Then and there, the dam burst. He fell onto his haunches,
buried his face in his hooves, and sobbed. The fur on his face was already
damp, and his eyes stung as the salty tears kept pouring out. His sobs were
peppered with hiccups and whines and the repeated phrase of “I’m sorry, Cheesy.
Come back, come back, come back…”

The four colts stood there blinking, and looked at each
other. Seeing Tomato cry was new, and they were not sure what to do about it.
After all, wasn’t he the one who had always been smiling?

Of course, the moment he looked up, with a tear-soaked face,
red eyes, and a runny nose, Squirt jumped at the look on his face… and started
to snicker.

“Hey, guys… he looks kind of funny when he cries.”

Tomato blinked, and backed up against the tree. Glaring at
them, he hissed, “It’s not funny!”

Squirt only laughed some more, and he was joined by Carpet
Burn and Jumbo. All the while, Bluejinx was staring at them, glancing between
them and Tomato. He scratched his head, wondering just what was so funny about
it.

Tomato hiccupped some more as more tears leaked out and
crawled down his cheeks. He hopped onto the tree, starting to shimmy up and
crying, “Stop it! Stop it right now!”

The other foals on the playground noticed, and curious, they
made their way to the tree. There, they discovered that the once playful Tommy Sandwich
was trying to climb a tree, only to peel off and fall back to the base of the
tree, in tears and covered in tree sap. Seeing more ponies, he gasped, and
attempted to climb the tree again, only to fall back down, this time with some
pieces of bark stuck on his coat. He got back up, with grass joining the bark
on the matted and sappy fur, and tried to climb again, and he once again fell
face first to the ground.

The others started to giggle, and soon enough, there was
enough laughter that he couldn’t tell who was laughing and who wasn’t.

Every part of his face stung, but for some reason, and his
attempt to wipe his tears left a hoof stuck on his face, making the foals laugh
harder as he tugged at it. He was forced to listen to the ringing of their
taunting laughter. Voices that once cheered for him now mocked him, all because
he finally cried over something that really and truly hurt him. If Cheese
really did want him to suffer, this was the worst suffering that could be
thrown at him. Even the sensitive Bluejinx was stifling a laugh.

He stood up and tried to run away, but he tripped and fell
on his face. He looked up at the still laughing ponies, while his face kept
leaking the tears. Snarling, he wormed his way to the nearest pony, which just
so happened to be Squirt.

And then he chomped down on his leg.

Squirt howled, and then threw him off. With an angry snort,
he shouted, “Can’t you take a joke?!”

Tomato sniffled, and replied, “It’s not funny!”

Squirt huffed. “Gee, I never knew you were such a crybaby.
You should know that I don’t make friends with sad saps, and let’s face it, you
turned into one over your stupid brother.”

Breathing through his teeth, Tomato snapped, “My. Brother’s.
Not. STUPID!

Carpet Burn shook his head. “It’s official. He’s lame. Let’s
just leave him to cry like a baby.”

The rest of the foals murmured in assent, and then they
disbanded. Tomato watched them leave one by one, back to the games they were
playing before. The last to leave was Bluejinx, who had been staring at him the
entire time. Things were silent between the two of them as they gazed at each
other. Bluejinx held a fearful expression, while Tomato’s was in a glare. They
did not move for a minute.

Finally, after a deep breath…

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Bluejinx backed up, and ran away.

After a few hot breaths, Tomato slammed his face in the ground and continued to cry. He was sticky and itchy and his eyes stung and he just wanted to die then and there. His brother was gone, his mother was getting meaner, his dad was ignoring him, and now his so-called friends found his sadness either annoying or funny. What point was there at living now?

He felt alone. He felt alone in the world and it was all his fault.


Bluejinx felt terrible. All he could do was sit at his desk at home, staring at that typewriter, and reflecting on the past, wondering how it could have been changed.

A few years had passed, and he had gained his cutie mark in journalism. Working on the school newspaper was a joy, and time after time he scoured the playground for news to play.

Whenever he had passed Tomato Sandwich, sitting alone under that tree, Bluejinx had hurried by. Getting caught near the “selfish, nerdy crybaby” would amount to trouble, not to mention Tommy had a scary glare.

Bluejinx could tell that Tomato didn’t want friends. After that fiasco that left him covered in tree sap and crying about his brother, nopony wanted to be near Tomato either, unless they were willing to rile him up and egg him about his brother or the fact he didn’t earn his cutie mark yet. And he was the perfect scapegoat for any crimes done on the playground, and it was hilarious to think that his mommy would ground him for something he didn’t do.

Bluejinx did nothing. He knew that it was wrong to bully Tomato, so he didn’t do that. He thought he was in the clear for not being a bully.

That didn’t stop him from feeling guilty when he found out about Tommy’s death.

He recalled long ago that Tommy seemed to have no fear of heights, while Bluejinx had always been terrified. Bluejinx’s fears were not unfounded, given that his father had fallen off a cliff. And now, his first friend had fallen off a building, smacking onto the roof of the shorter one next door. He did not know the circumstances, but he had a gut feeling that it wasn’t an accident.

He thought back to those days on the playground. Every time that Tomato was alone, Bluejinx could have been a friend to him and given him company. Every time that Tomato had been picked on, Bluejinx could have been someone who supported and encouraged him to keep moving forward. And maybe, just maybe, Bluejinx could have caught him when he fell.

Could he have replaced Cheese? Bluejinx knew that his father couldn’t be replaced; neither could Tomato’s brother. But he could have been a friend to help him get through troubling times.

But he wasn’t.

With a heavy heart, he remembered how much fun and nice Tomato had been, and how a broken accordion ruined so much. He looked at the newspaper on the desk and noticed the cruelest irony that was on the same page that held the article explaining Tomato’s fall.

There was a picture of Cheese Sandwich, having become a lanky teenager, who according to the article below was now a party pony, and the happiest that Bluejinx had ever seen him.

Bluejinx touched the picture. “How will you feel when you find out about your brother?”

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