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Too late for Toby


Too late for Toby


A little boy of seven wet to the skin sat looking

Through a gap in a back garden gate. The gate

At the end of a long path was the terminus of

The number 81 bus. Not a real bus mark you

More a little blue wheelbarrow in which sat a

Variety of passengers two teddies, three tin

Soldiers, a humming top and a Jack-in-the-box


Toby was crying he'd been beaten with a hard

Wooden coat hanger again and he didn't know

Why. Tears ran down his cheeks as he peered

Through the gap in the ill-fitting gate hoping his

Imaginary friend Tony might hear him and whisk

Him off to a happier place. His arms stung and

His back hurt he told Tony in a whisper. He knew

There were ears and eyes everywhere, angry

Ears and eyes that liked nothing better than to

Punish little boys


Toby sat his eye fixed to the gap until night fell

When he knew the house would be empty and

He could make his way to bed in safety without

Being struck. His aunties liked their drink and

That's where they spent most nights drinking in

A pub with two of his many uncles. A few scraps

From the fridge served as a meal and a half

Glass of milk was the most he ever took at one

Time. Hard to see that anything has been taken

From a big bottle at half a glass


He was still wet from being dunked in the bath

Earlier. He couldn't think what he'd done but

Somehow he seemed to annoy his aunties and

Uncles and even when he hid out of sight they

Beat him when he got hungry and came to the

Table for food. Whatever he did he couldn't win

And he didn't know how to improve his lot. His

Bedroom was freezing and his his bed no more

Than a mattress and a course blanket


The scraps weren't very nice and the cold milk

Made him feel chillier than ever. As the night

Wore on he heard his aunties and uncles down

Stairs laughing and joking. They banged on his

Bedroom door as they made their way to noisy

Beds - 'Hope you're asleep Toby'


Little teeth chattered and his little body shook

With pain. Dried blood on the inside fibres of his

Jumper tore at his flesh when he coughed but

He couldn't get undressed it was too cold for that

Presently, Toby fell asleep. A deep sleep, a very

Different kind of sleep. A sleep from which all

Pain and suffering is expunged and joy of joys

The sun was out and there was Tony waiting for

Him by the garden gate. With smiles all round

They hugged each other and off they went to play

With a little blue wheelbarrow two teddies, three

Tin soldiers, a humming top and a Jack-in-the-box


Next morning the house was filled with police

And welfare officials and as ever 'Lessons would

Be learn't and suffering like this would never

Again be allowed to visit a child.' Sadly, it was

All too late for Toby


©Joseph G Dawson



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