"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 hurry."

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.

 *      *      *      *      *      *     *

 After 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 that mattered.


Your character is the Painter.

The painter lives at 13 Bridge Rd. This is not a waterfront block, but the painter doesn't necessarily get inspiration from views.

The painter has as many neighbours as you can get in this part of the estate. Amongst them are the Mercenary and the Widow.

Across the road from the Painter lives (and works) the Pornographer. Perhaps the two have more in common than meets the eye!

The painter is definitely idiosyncratic, as you'll see.