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Tom is a sad, lonely, insular little boy of nine years. His father walked out on him and his mother when he was five. By the time his Mam told him, he'd already stopped asking. He knew his dad wasn't coming home, and really, it was kind of a relief. For the first time in his young memory there was peace; quiet. He liked it that way. He preferred to watch and listen to things going on around him, rather than filling up the quiet with useless noisy chatter.

In school he could never really figure out the other kids - always shouting and hollering over nothing. They asked too many questions, questions, he thought, that they wouldn't need to ask if they just stopped blabbering for five minutes. School was never very regular or very easy for him. He was constantly being moved around from relative to relative when his mother and father were splitting up. He missed so much school that sometimes the kids even forgot he was in their class. When he was there he found it hard to concentrate with all the other stuff in his head. When things calmed down and he and his Mother moved to this new house, nothing changed. The kids in school already had their own groups of friends. He didn't have much to say to them, so it stayed that way.

He is mature for his age, old beyond his years. Very observant; reflective, perceptive, reclusive, able to shut out the rest of the world.

Back then his Mam spent a lot of time crying. His Dad was never really around, except late at night when he'd come in and the fighting would begin again. His Mother was all emotion and he never knew whether she was going to scream and slam doors for no reason, or throw her arms around him, almost suffocating him with hugs and sobbing into his hair. Sometimes she'd seem to dissappear into somewhere he couldn't get to, and no matter what he did, he didn't think she even knew he was there.

After his Dad left, his Mum started working. After a year , they moved to their new house, and she stopped crying. For a while it was nice, just the two of them. On Fridays, she would nearly knock him over bouncing in through the front door when she came home from work. She'd kick her shoes off, turn on the radio really loud, and the two of them would dance around the kitchen while she made dinner.

After a while though she began to go out with the girls on Fridays after work, and during the week too, leaving him at home, alone.

Two years ago (a year after his Dad left) the boy and his mother moved to a tiny, airless two-bedroomed terrace on the "wrong" side of the city. On Saturdays, his Dad comes to pick him up and takes him to stay overnight in his apartment in the city centre. They go to McDonalds or for pizza, and sometimes to see a movie, and then his Dad lets him pick out a dvd to watch with the baby-sitter before he goes to bed. They never have anything to talk about.

Now his Mam works a lot. She leaves the house at 7.30 a.m. every morning to get to work, and with the traffic she's not home until after 5 p.m. He likes this time, the peace and calm. After his mother leaves for work he takes his schoolbag and a jam-jar fishing line he made and walks down to the park at the end of the road. There, there is a tiny fishless pond which he has to pass by on his way to school. He loves sitting here, on his own, out of the claustrophobia of the tiny, stale cramped house, beside the water, feeling the wind and the weather and the hugeness of things outside their tiny world; hearing the wind, the birds, rain fall on water. He never wants to catch anything. The fishing is just a reason to stand there.

He loves watching National geographic on the t.v. and seeing amazing cultures and places and things you could never dream of. How HUGE the world is. He hates fairy-stories because they always come out Happily Ever After, and he knows life isn't like that.

See also poor fish 2

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