This is a children’s story I wrote a couple of years ago when all this recession business got started. I’m not sure if it’s more of a children’s book or an allegory masquerading as a children’s book. What I do know is I used to like tin soldiers when I was a kid, I used to paint them. I liked plastic soldiers too. My favourites were Romans.(Btw I don’t know how to fix the spacing on this)
The Tin Roman
It was the little boy’s birthday and it had been raining for weeks. A big fat black cloud full of rain had been hanging over the town day after day after day.
Every day it rained. All day it rained.
When the boy woke he could hear the rain spattering his window.
But today was his birthday and he hoped he would get a Joy Box 2000.
Everyone at school had a Joy Box 2000.
You could be a cowboy and lassoo outlaws from the back of a barely tamed Mustang with a Joy Box 2000.
You could be a space commando and creep through dark corridors searching for pig-aliens to zap with a Joy Box 2000.
You could be a fighter pilot and whiz through canyons on strange worlds doing loop the loops with a Joy Box 2000.
You could do everything and anything if you had a Joy Box 2000.
Mum was at work and Dad was still in his pyjamas reading the newspaper.
There was a present wrapped up on the breakfast table.
Dad kept reading, circling jobs.
The present was too small to be a Joy Box 2000.
The boy unwrapped it.
It was hard and sharp.
His dad sighed.
Ring this job, go see about that job. Trudge through town in the rain to queue for a job.
That was all the boy and his dad did every day.
The boy pulled the last piece of wrapping away and revealed a tin Roman soldier.
“Hope you like it,” said his dad over the newspaper, “I loved them when I was your age.”
The Tin Roman was old.
Its little sword was bent.
Its helmet was dinted.
Its armour was rusty.
It looked miserable and worst of all no one had painted it.
Mum rang after breakfast to see if Dad had found a job.
Soon the boy and his dad were trudging across town.
They passed the old abandoned car factory and the old abandoned cup factory and the old abandoned cog factory and the old abandoned cot factory.
Rain soaked the boy’s socks.
Up went his dad’s umbrella.
“Looks like we’ll be here a while,” said his dad.
The queue stretched for so long that the boy couldn’t see where it began.
Somewhere at the end of the line there was a job.
“This is our day,” said his dad.
Umbrellas covered them.
A bird flying over would see only a big line of umbrellas. Umbrella after umbrella after umbrella for street after street after street.
The Tin Roman was in the boy’s pocket with a yo yo and a toffee bar.
When the boy put his hand in to get the toffee bar the little sword stabbed his thumb.
The boy took out the Tin Roman and then all of a sudden the queue was moving.
They were bumped along.
The Tin Roman dropped to the pavement and a big heavy boot crunched down on him as the queue swept the boy and his dad away. The boy looked back but there were too many people and the line was moving too quickly and the Tin Roman was gone.
“Happy birthday love,” said his mum at dinner, “sorry we couldn’t get a cake but definitely next year.”
She kissed him and the boy smiled.
He tucked in to his beans on toast.
Dad didn’t eat.
Mum didn’t eat.
Their beans went cold and their toast went hard.
The boy carried his favourite book up to bed.
Voices shouted downstairs.
The boy opened his bedroom door and there was his Tin Roman, uncrunched and unbroken on his bed.
“You’re painted,” said the boy, holding the Tin Roman up, “who painted you?”
He put the little legionary on the side table and read until his eyes were too heavy to read.
Turning off his lamp he looked at the Tin Roman, all red and gold and silver and shining and the boy smiled.
In the night there was a noise.
It wasn’t a crash or a bang or anything scary.
It wasn’t his parents shouting or the rain splattering.
It was the boy’s window opening.
The boy turned on his lamp.
The Tin Roman was gone.
Wind blew through the window.
A cat yowled.
The boy looked out and saw the Tin Roman marching up the garden.
The boy followed the Tin Roman.
They marched for ages and ages.
And then the boy saw a tin knight marching to meet them. Then there was a tin marine and soon there was a tin hussar and a tin apache then a tin cossack and a tin viking. Very soon there was a whole line of tin soldiers.
And the rain ran away from them.
The big black cloud that had been hanging over the world for weeks raced ahead.
The line of tin soldiers and the boy came to an old abandoned quarry.
The Tin Roman held his sword up and all the tin soldiers came to a halt.
The boy looked down into the quarry and there was the big black cloud growling and rumbling and raining and spitting.
Down marched the tin soldiers and the boy.
The big black cloud could go nowhere.
Up went sword and cutlass, tomahawk and bayonet, sabre and scimitar.
The Tin Roman made the first cut and all the tin soldiers followed.
The boy picked up a stick and he too cut at the cloud.
Very soon the cloud was no longer big.
It was small
It was a thousand harmless little clouds and each one blew into the air with a whimper.
“Hoorah!” shouted the tin soldiers.
“Hoorah!” shouted the boy.
And the Tin Roman smiled at him.
The next morning the boy woke to sunshine.
The Tin Roman stood still and shining and silent on the side table.
The boy ran downstairs to his mum and dad at the breakfast table.
“Morning sleepy head,” said his dad picking him up and twirling him in the air.
“Guess where I’m going today?” laughed his dad.
And his mum was smiling and laughing.
And the boy laughed.
And on his next birthday he got a cake and a Joy Box 2000 and a whole army of tin Romans.