Thursday, 26 May 2011


The room was on the third floor, not in an apartment block - but a private home. The driveway was the length of many suburban streets, and the private estate on which the house sits could pass for a royal residence. The country park feel only added to its charm, but at the same time left the scene feeling cold.

"He's just in here. I won't come in with you, because he screams each time I step into the room."

The room is also massive. Floor to ceiling mirrored wardrobe doors only added to the size making it seem twice as big. An en-suite bathroom cleverly hidden in the far corner. In there, huddled in a corner with his knees under his chin, sat the terrified figure of an eight year old boy.

"He's been fine up until the last few days, maybe a couple of weeks I guess. Can't work out what's bothering him. He's slowly stopped talking, hardly eats, hardly sleeps, and has started wetting his bed at night. He won't let me help him get dressed, won't let me check his school bag, hates going to school which he used to love doing and he doesn't want me to step into his room! Now he won't even come out of the bathroom!"

"Alright. I'll try to talk to him. What's his name?"

"Andy. Andrew really, that's what we christened him, but nobody calls him that."

I step into the bathroom and sit down on the floor by the door. Andy tries to scrunch himself up into an even smaller ball, pressing his legs to his chest and shutting his eyes as tightly as he could. I notice a small bruise on his forehead, an almost ever-present mark on any young boy's head.

"Hi Andy. My name's Ben. Your mum tells me your not feeling too good, can you tell me what's wrong?"

Without a sound, he turns himself towards the wall, facing away from me. I kept my distance and pondered my next step. Children are not small adults, they're child-sized, fully-grown children. You can't just talk down to them - you need to look them in the eye and speak at their level. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the bathroom was starting to get uncomfortable. 

"Andy, is something hurting you?" 

Without looking up he shook his head from side to side. 

"Do you feel sick?"

Same response again. I asked Andy's mother if he had a favourite toy, and without a word she left and returned a moment later with a teddy-bear. 

"Andy, would you prefer to show me what's wrong on the teddy?" 

A shrug of the shoulders was the closest Andy came to cooperating. I handed him the bear and asked him to show me what had happened, but he sat just as still as before. 

"Shall I ask teddy instead?" It felt wrong to be treating an eight-year-old as though he was still a toddler, but it seemed to work. Andy nodded his approval and I addressed teddy instead as he sat hugged tight by his owner. 

"Teddy, does your tummy hurt? Have you bumped your head? Has somebody said something not nice to you?" 

All the questions were met with a tough silence and a shake of the head. 

"Why don't you show me what's happened then? I'll stop guessing, and you can just tell me. Does that sound OK to you?" 

After a few moments, Andy suddenly stood up from under the sink, turned on the tap and stuck teddy's head under the stream of cold water. He then turned the tap off, and started hitting the teddy's head on the sink.

Suddenly, having taken out all his anger, the teddy's arm fell off. 

Andy sank to the floor, curled himself back up in a ball and sobbed uncontrollably. I turned round to see his mother in the same state, tears streaming silently down her cheeks, all the answers she'd been seeking suddenly hitting her like a juggernaut.

"Andy, I think you and teddy need to speak to someone like a doctor. Mum can come too. I can put a bandage on teddy's arm for now if you like. Will that be alright with you?

Andy looked at teddy who turned his head to look back. They both nodded their approval. 


Anonymous said...

oh eck poor little lamb
wish I could give him a hug

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

powerful writing; thanks for letting us into these intimate moments of your life.

Becca said...

Strewth. Poor little boy. Hope there will be some help for him somewhere - well done for being the start of things getting better for him.

Timbo.t said...

What was going on?
Poor lad was obviously hurting, mentally or physically, but I don't get why.

Anonymous said...

Never bullied at school then Timbo. Guess this little mite was getting the flush treatment. They should make bullies read this piece to show them the effect thier "fun" has on the rest of humanity

Anonymous said...

absolutely crushing! not many things these days bring tears to my eyes....... this is horrific. Well done my friend you have just started the rest of this wonderful childs life.


Summer Wiccan said...

For those who were never bullied or were the bullies: I was bullied at school, I'm 44 years old now and it still affects me. Every time I see people (even children) whispering I assume it is about me and I feel 10 years old and helpless again - that is one of the lesser long term effects of the bullies.

BookMonkey said...

What Summer Wiccan just said is both an echo of my own life and a damning statement to those who think bullying is something people grow out of.

Great piece of writing - I hope the poor guy, and kids like him, turn out ok.

Anonymous said...

So sad and even sadder that what Summer Wiccan said is so true.