Tommy was the kid in our class whose dad could do anything better than your dad. If you had some new trainers, he had limited edition ones from New York. If you were going on holiday with your family, he’d been there twice. If you got a birthday cake, Tommy’s had been the biggest cake in the whole world, signed in icing by Man Utd.
You know the kind of kid I mean.
“I had the new Action Man for my birthday.”
“Oh yeah, which one?”
“His eyes move and he comes with a knife - he’s really cool.”
“Oh that one’s pretty good yeah. My dad got me him ages ago. He’s bringing me the real new one back from New York next week. Comes with tanks and a machine gun and a parachute.”
“Woah - no way! Can you bring him to school so we can all have a go?”
“Nah, he’s limited edition, so I won’t be able to take him out of the house.”
And Tommy sauntered away humming the theme tune of The A Team
It happened that my mum was friends with Tommy’s mum. I knew that she sometimes popped round there, but I never went. Tommy and I weren’t best friends or anything. I tried to steer clear of him outside school. But that night, when mum said she was going over I had an idea.
“Can I come too, Mum? I can play with Tommy. He says he’s got a cool new Action Man.”
Mum frowned. “Really? Well alright, but I’m not staying long, just dropping some bits in for Julie.”
As soon as we pulled up outside his house I knew that Tommy had been lying. About all of it. Paint peeled from around the window frames and an upturned pram rested in their garden surrounded by piles of rubbish bags. The front doorbell was broken and inside the paper was yellowing and peeling from the walls.
His mum was putting bread in the toaster for their tea and Tommy’s face dropped when I followed my mum inside. We were shooed out to go and play while the adults drank their coffee and Tommy could not meet my eyes.
“Can I see your Action Man?”
Tommy muttered something about the attic and not being able to get the ladder without his Dad. Instead we kicked a deflated football around the overgrown concrete behind his house until my mum told me it was time to go.
The next day in school, Tommy wouldn’t look at me. At break when Jack Turner said about the scooter he had for his birthday, everyone automatically looked at Tommy, but he scuffed the ground with his shoe and said nothing.
Now was my perfect opportunity.
“I went to Tommy’s house last night.” I piped up, and immediately, all eyes were on me, eager, hungry, desperate to know. Tommy looked like he wished the ground would swallow him whole.
“His Action Man is amazing. And I saw the Nikes - it’s just like he said. So cool - limited edition and everything.”
The eyes turned away from me, disappointed, disinterested now. But Tommy looked up briefly and flashed me a grateful smile before launching into a story about the electric scooter he was expecting from New York that very week...