"Ow! Not quite as tight!"
came the cry from the young boy.
"Pipe down Peter. You really don't want to alarm
the neighbours now, do you?" asked James.
"No." squeaked Peter, and quickly bit his lip
before he said anything else that might mean further punishment.
"That's enough for now I think," said Mark as
he tied the last knot in the rope, "The little runt won't be getting out of this in a
With that, the three brothers walked away, leaving their
younger sibling to his demise, tied to the big oak tree in the back garden. It was a close
thing, and all Peter could do to avoid crying, but that would have meant giving in to his
brothers and he couldn't do that - at least not while they could still see him.
Peter was a twelve year old, but not quite your
typical twelve year old boy. That's because he had three brothers - James, Ben and Mark - who were nineteen, eighteen
and sixteen respectively. A love-hate type stance. They would hate Peter and Peter
certainly hated them, though there was an element of admiration. They were the big, tough
sort of boys - the apple of their mother's eye and their father's pride and joy. They
could do no wrong. Each was the school captain in their respective years, with Mark having
just been awarded that honour.
Peter couldn't have been more different. He was a full foot shorter than his brothers had
been at his age, and probably twice as thin as well. A loser. He was a real fish out of
water when it came to sports or any other physical activity. His school report wasn't much
good either. While his super brothers were getting straight As, it was the best Peter
could do to muster a C+. Never had he been awarded a B let alone an A.
In short, Peter was a thick wimp, and his brothers took
every opportunity to let him know it.
But then, Peter had a plan. He would be a famous
painter like his great grandfather one day. He would retire a rich man after selling his
paintings all over the world. A champ job. That was the phrase that his father used, and
he would make his parents so proud. Of course, he would make his brothers incredibly
jealous, and that was definitely a bonus as well.
Unfortunately, right here right now, tied to the back of
a tree at the bottom of the garden, Peter wasn't advancing very far toward his goal.
Peter wriggled as an insect of some kind started
crawling up his leg. He had a big fear of bugs. A hate borne on mere legs. Anything with
legs numbering more than four was something to be afraid of. His brothers, the evil boys
that they were, knew that too. That's why a jar of nasty crawly things had been left open
next to their brother. Ants, spiders, a couple of caterpillars, a stick insect - all
manner of creepy-crawlies that the brothers had managed to collect were now only
millimetres away from Peter's leg and getting closer.
It wasn't a very nice situation to be in, and Peter
closed his eyes tightly and began to cry.
It was the loud barking of G that alerted Mrs
Larman to her son's predicament three hours later. G was the family dog - a Pointer cross. A rogue. He and the cat, T, were
like chalk and cheese and always bickered, so Mrs Larman assumed G was barking at T stuck
up the tree. She was a tad wrong, of course, as it was her youngest son who had fallen
prey to his brothers again.
"Peter, what on Earth are you doing tied to that
tree?" asked Mrs Larman with scolding in her voice.
"I'm sorry," he said, "They said they
wanted to play sailors with me and I could be the captain. I didn't put two and two
together until they tied me up so I wouldn't be lured by the sirens."
"Heaven knows if your father finds out he won't be
happy," said his mother as she untied the ropes, "Now get inside and wash for
dinner before he gets home."
With that, Peter needed no further encouragement, and
hobbled as fast as he could back up to the house.
Trying to race awkwardly toward the bathroom,
Peter was almost bowled over by G, tearing along the hallway towards the kitchen. This
wasn't a good day for Peter. He gave the Pointer a rude comment. He knew the pets always
ate before the family, and G was eager to be first - when T ate first, the cat would
always find a way to pinch G's food as well, and the dog had learnt that it was best to
get to dinner before the cat.
Unfortunately, Peter's phrase of reproach to G earned
him a cuff over the head from James.
"Don't be rude to the dog, pipsqueak." said
James, and shoved Peter out of the way as he went past.
This time Peter did fall over, but he made sure his
tears went unseen as he quickly crawled into the bathroom.
* * * * * *
school the next day, Peter crept quietly up to his room and pulled out his sketchbook from
under the bed. It was a good time of the day to sketch as the house was quiet. He sang as
a bard. He drew as an artist. It was as if he were in another world as no one was due home
for a while yet, and he could remain undisturbed.
Like all the good painters he had studied, Peter always
sketched first and painted later. It was a mantra that he reminded himself of whenever he
had the urge to paint first: sketch first, paint later, sketch first, paint later.
Moving his chair over to the window that overlooked the
road outside, Peter peered across at the house opposite. He knew the man who lived there.
A joker but a gent. Also, as Peter knew from overheard conversations, the man took
pictures of naked ladies and sold them to his brothers. His parents, he knew, didn't know
that their three elder sons had a nice collection of pornography. They would be horrified
to know that. Once again, Peter knew that too. Their youngest son was saving up that piece
of information for later, when he really needed it.
Peter heard the front door open about twenty
minutes later. He recognised the voice of Ben shouting something, followed by a loud meow
from T and the sound of paws scooting up the stairs to avoid further punishment from Ben's
boot. Ben: a lover of pain. He would abuse T, but strangely never G, whenever he got the
chance and that rankled Peter. Waiting quietly, Peter heard Ben move into the kitchen and
then snuck downstairs and out the side door. He made a quick dash to the fence that
separated his garden from that of the widow next door. Feeling for the loose plank, Peter
squeezed through the fence and went up to the widow's back door. It opened, as if by
magic, and the widow stood there smiling at him.
"Come in Peter."
There was a familiarity that made Peter feel very
welcome as the two of them walked through the creaky corridors to the conservatory. This
was a favourite place of Peter's. A venue for flair. It was a warm little room with many
different plants, and a view of the cliffs. Peter would chat with the widow occasionally
about the strange old hermit who lived up there.
Silently, from a quick gesture from the woman, Peter sat
down at the easel beside the large window and closed his eyes. That was a practice that
the widow had taught him. A vent for the brain. A method he hoped would clear his mind of
all but the painting. It was a help to visualize what you were about to paint. Having
sketched the subject recently also helped, and Peter opened his sketchbook to his newest
picture. It was a horse galloping over a meadow. Peter heard a murmur of approval from
over his shoulder and smiled to himself. Today's painting, he knew, was going to be good.
Scratch that - the painting was going to be very good. All things bitter were suddenly
gone from his mind. No more hate for his bullying brothers or disapproving parents. Right
now he was in the zone. He grasped a thin brush as if by instinct and daubed it in the
paints on the pallett. Colours of the rainbow appeared on the canvas in front of him:
reds, yellows greens, blues and purples. This was the way it was going to be.
Smiling knowingly, the widow looked on with
approval. It was a complete mess, and she was unable to tell what Peter was painting, so
bad was his artwork. But as for Peter? She knew these moments were important to him and
that as far as he was concerned it was the world's greatest painting, and that was all