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Too late for Toby

A little boy of seven drenched to the skin sat

Cross-legged peeping through a slit in an old

Weather-beaten back garden gate. The gate at

The end of a long path doubled as 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 old teddies, three tin

Soldiers, a broken humming top and a play worn



Tragedy had struck early in this little boys life

With the loss of his mother and father. Lost in

A moment of madness when a car being persued

By the police collided with their people carrier

In a head-on collision from which no one could

Hope to escape alive. The courts gave custody

Of an only child to the closest relative they could

Find, a couple of distant ‘aunties’ eagar to get their

Hands, not so much on the child, as on the money

That came with him.


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 eyes and ears everywhere; angry eyes

And ears that liked nothing better than to punish

Little boys.


Toby sat his eyes 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

Please anyone and he didn't know who to turn

To or how to make things better. His bedroom a

Freezing cell and his his bed no more than a

Mattress and a course woven blanket.


The scraps weren't very nice and the cold milk

Made him shiver. 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 - 'Better be asleep,



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 back gate, which for some strange

Reason was now a happy yellow and shining like

A new pin. 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. On lunchtime TV the local

Politician waded in with his penn’orth and as

Ever, 'Lessons would be learn't and suffering like

This would never again be allowed to visit a child’.

Aunties and uncles would be locked up for a long

Time to come’. Help had finally arrived. Sadly, it

Was too late for Toby.

© Joseph G Dawson
19/11/2018 and earlier

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