Editor’s note: Craig Champlin submitted a number of shorts for our annual Pure Fiction issue, writing “Pick any of them. What I’d really like is to run ‘The Ernie Bedlam Stories’ weekly. I have a lot of them and people seem to really like them.” We’ll run five of the Ernie stories here on the Bleader this week. Here’s the fourth.

It was the first day of Gettysburg

The rebel army was looking for shoes. The Union cavalry was there to prevent them from getting their Buster Browns. The Yanks were led by that Sam guy who played the lifeguard and sold everything on TV. Ernie held a deep affection for history. The rebel army was led by Martin Sheen. Charlie’s dad. The Sam guy, the fella with the giant mustache, wanted to hold the high ground. Ernie understood. He liked to be high too, perhaps because he was short. He had married a woman who was taller than him. She was also smarter than Ernie. She sang better, was better employed, liked to cook, and was good-looking to boot. Frankly, they didn’t have much in common. She was entrenched in reality; Ernie was entrenched in quicksand, constantly seeking the higher ground. That Sam guy was probably a better choice for a husband but was a hundred years too old and off fighting Martin Sheen in Pennsylvania. Sometimes Ernie was a damn visionary. If Martin Sheen told him to cross a big field and attack 20,000 guys playing with guns and canons three days before July 4th; Ernie wouldn’t be attending that picnic. He’d just worry about shoes later on.