Crumble. Phone Home.
For many, many years, Sally had needed a mobile phone. She was nearly nine now and EVERYONE had phones in her class. Ellie had a phone. Miss Travis had a phone. Everyone!
Dad said that phones were intrusive and unnecessary to modern life. Mum said that a phone was too expensive and too fragile for little people and asked who Sally would phone up anyway. Sally said that she would be able to speak to mum at any point in the day or night and that it would be a lovely way for a mother and daughter to communicate. Mum smiled at this and said that she thought they communicated enough as it was. Sally screeched at her and ran up to her room to complain to Crumble.
Dad had the latest phone with a camera and the internet and bird games. Sally had seen him playing the bird game in the car, at home and while they were supposed to be listening to the Blob playgroup singing nursery rhymes at the open day. Sally was banned from touching Dad’s phone and although she knew exactly where he kept it, she was aware of the consequences of breaking the first of Dad’s commandments.
Dad’s Commandments. (All punishable by extreme grumpiness)
Sally will not touch Dad’s electronic things.
Sally will not go into Dad’s workroom when he is not there.
Sally will not go into Dad’s workroom when he is there.
Sally must not tell Mum about the new computer from the shop on the credit card.
Dad gets one lie in a week and must be allowed to enjoy it.
Sally must not put the DVD’s back in the wrong cases.
Sally must not burst into Dad’s room to tell him that the latest Tiny Pet advert had been on.
Sally (and Mum) must never, ever go into the loft.
Blob cannot be used as a ramp for skateboarding.
It had only been an experiment and Blob was a rubbish ramp. He got up and moved away three times before Sally managed to keep him still with a jam circle. Even then she had only been able to get the front wheels up onto his tummy and he had screamed and Mum had been furious.
Dad was funny about electronic gadgets. If Sally had a friend round with a new games thing, Dad needed to ‘try’ it by taking it off the friend and standing over them playing it until he died or crashed. Then he would tut, return it and say something about ‘proper games’. If Dad found Sally ‘trying’ his games machine, laptop, fax or phone, he went mad and warned her that if she broke the thing she would never get any pocket money.
Speaking of Pocket money - Crumble often pointed out that there was very little in this house. Lauren got fifty pee a week and the girl with big cheeks said that her mum gave her a hundred pounds for keeping her room tidy. Sally got ZERO - even though she had a million chores to do. She would never have enough for a phone like Ellie’s at this rate and it wasn’t her birthday or Christmas for ages.
Crumble had suggested going on strike, so Sally had refused to brush her teeth, wash her hands or flush the toilet until she received fair wages for such difficult work. Her protest had lasted until teatime where she was greeted with an empty plate and cup on the table next to Mum’s cottage pie. Apparently Mum was on strike until Sally returned to work. Luckily a spare helping of cottage pie was found in the oven and the family returned to the status quo. Crumble never forgot though.
A phone would make her cool and popular at school. The big girls would want to hang out with her in the playground and would share big girl secrets. She could call Mum from school and tell her what was needed for tea that night - or let Mum know if there were any changes to the evening schedule such as ice skating or paint balling.
A phone would bring her right up to date. No more knocking on peoples’ doors and waiting to find out if they were in. No more worrying that the library might not have the latest ‘Princess Unicorn’ novel reserved for her. She could even phone the special police hotline that Dad used and check if they had a scientist that could tell if she had actually brushed her teeth and not just dunked the toothbrush in the bath water.
Dad said ‘no phone’ and Mum said ‘no phone’. This was unfair and cruel. They were stopping her from enjoying her childhood and there were probably laws against that sort of thing.
Even leaving catalogues open on phone deals all over the house hadn’t worked. Trying to trick Dad into taking her into his favourite shop - the one that sold all the white computers, hadn’t worked and had ended with Dad getting a new white laptop that Sally had to promise to not mention to Mum.
Sally would probably have a hairy nose like Grandad before she had a phone. blob would get a phone soon and she would sit alone and friendless, with no way of contacting the doctor that she needed for her broken dreams!
At playtime Sally went to the window to see what the others were doing. A frenzied game of ‘Witches and Princesses’ was in full flow. Since Ellie had stopped being able to tell them who was a witch and who they could play with, the game should be called ‘Princesses and Fairies’ because nobody wanted to be a witch anymore.
Sally was about to go out and play when she noticed Ellie sitting near the bins, playing on her phone. Not only was this really naughty - No phones at school! It was also deliberately upsetting Sally because Ellie knew how much she wanted a phone and was using it in full view of her.
Ellie got up and walked into the cloakroom. Sally watched as Ellie put her phone away in her dirty brown rucksack. Ellie went back out to play and Sally wandered over to the coats and bags hanging on the pegs. Ellie probably wouldn’t mind if Sally just looked at her phone would she? She wouldn’t care if Sally just checked what games and things she had on her phone would she? It was a type of market research, because whatever phone Ellie had, Sally wanted a better one.
She looked round her to check that nobody was in the cloakroom with her. Then she slid her hand inside the canvas rucksack hanging on Ellie’s peg with a toad on the sticker. Sally rummaged around in the sweet wrappers and old school letters and her hand went round a smooth, cold, expensive feeling object and she pulled out Ellie’s phone.
Sally was sad to see that it was the latest phone from the shop that Dad was obsessed with. It was black and glass and it felt wonderful. She pressed the little on button in the middle at the bottom and the phone came to life in her hand.
There was a photo of Ellie’s blotchy face on the background and the different icons came up for all the games and tools that Ellie had on her phone. The birds game was there and the rude machine that made smell noises! Sally noticed that the phone was a bit lighter than Dad’s and then worked out that this was because it didn’t have the protective case that Dad had sent away for.
Sally tried to slide Ellie’s phone back into the rucksack. She put it in the front pocket because it was easier to reach than the high up main bit of the bag.
She watched as the phone slid into the front pocket, slid out the big rip at the bottom of the pocket, fell down and smashed on the hard tiles at Sally’s feet. Bits of glass and the circle button scattered across the cloakroom floor and Sally felt very, very scared.
She gingerly picked up the phone. The whole front had come off and bits of glass were hanging off the edges and sticking to the black picture screen underneath. Sally tried to press where the circle button had been, but nothing happened.
Then the end of play bell started ringing.
Sally dropped the phone again in fright. It clunked onto its edge and a big piece of the case broke away and pinged off under the coat rack. Sally ran to the toilet and locked herself into a cubicle.
She heard the children trooping back into the cloakroom and then she heard Ellie’s voice.
Lots of noise and then Miss Travis asking the children to step away from the glass and go into the classroom. Then Miss Travis talking to Ellie and then Ellie crying and saying that her mum was going to be mad.
Sally slipped out of the toilet and caught up with Lauren as they went back inside.
“Did you ....” Lauren started.
“I didn’t touch it!” Sally interrupted her.
“No - I wondered if you had hurt yourself - Look! You’re bleeding!” Sally lifted up her hand and could see a little river of red coming out of her finger. Miss Travis came up behind the girls, saw the blood and told Lauren to take Sally to the first aid room.
When they got back to class, Sally saw Ellie sobbing and sobbing next to Miss Travis’ desk. She had a big pile of used up tissues next to her and was dabbing at her eyes with another scrumpled up handful. Miss Travis was telling Ellie not to worry and that she was sure that Ellie’s mum would understand it was just an accident. Ellie told her that the phone was brand new and that her mum had told her not to touch it. Miss Travis looked sorry but said that Ellie really shouldn’t have brought such an expensive thing to school.
Sally stood there watching Ellie’s tears and started crying herself. Miss Travis called her over and asked if her finger was okay. Sally sniffed and said it was. Ellie just looked at the smashed phone that was on the desk in front of them all. Sally looked at it too. She thought she needed to say something.
“I.... I.....” she started and then the classroom door opened and Mr Walton came in. He came over and asked Miss Travis if he could speak to Ellie. Ellie went with him and he closed the door again. The class and Sally watched as he bent down and spoke to Ellie in the corridor. Ellie started sobbing again and blew her nose loudly. Mr Walton stood up and brought her back into the classroom.
“This is really sad,’ the head teacher said. ‘but I have just explained to Ellie that this sort of accident happens because people bring expensive things to school; even when they are told not to. Ellie sniffed and a big fat tear rolled down her cheek. Sally wished the ground would open up and she could just disappear.
“I am now going to have to phone Ellie’s mum and explain what has happened. Please can you all remember that this why we ask you not to bring phones or games machines to school.” Mr Walton went back out of the classroom and shut the door.
Ellie sat in her seat and put her head down on her arms. Miss Travis asked the children if they could all be extra careful to make sure they didn’t have things in their bags that were worth a lot of money.
Sally looked at her work and wanted the day to be over.
At home time, Ellie was trying to be last out of the door and Miss Travis decided to take her out onto the playground and meet with her mum. Sally watched as the teacher and Ellie’s mum spoke and Ellie stood with her head hanging down and kicking her feet against the concrete floor.
Ellie’s mum looked cross but she bent down and kissed Ellie and the two of them walked home holding hands.
Sally was watching them leave when Mum came up behind her and tickled her through her coat. Sally turned round and threw herself around Mum’s legs. Mum stroked her hair and asked her what was the matter?
Later that evening, Sally told Crumble what had happened, what she had done and how Ellie had been so upset. Instead of telling her not to worry about it and that Ellie deserved it, Crumble remained silent and just looked at Sally with his black button eyes.
Sally couldn’t eat her tea and just sat pushing peas around her plate. In the end Dad broke the sad silence that surrounded the meal.
“Do you want to tell us what happened?” he asked her. He used his kind voice - not the cross one and Sally’s eyes filled up with tears.
She told them the story and they just listened.
“What were you going to say to Miss Travis at her desk?” Mum asked. Sally didn’t really know but she thought she was going to tell her teacher what she had done.
Dad drove round to Ellie’s house after tea. He told her what had happened and he offered to pay for the damaged phone.
Ellie’s mum was pleased that he had been to explain because she had been very cross with Ellie for sneaking the phone into school while Mum was at work. The two adults agreed that Sally’s family and Ellie’s family should pay half each. The phone had some insurance on it anyway against accidental Sally damage and so Ellie’s mum was going to get a new one next week. She asked Dad to pay some money for an excess or something and he came home fifty pounds worse off.
He sat down and explained that it was bad that Sally had touched the phone but it was good that she had told them the truth. He thought that it was a shame that Ellie thought she needed to bring such a posh phone to school to impress people and that he hoped Sally knew that good friends don’t care what phone you have or what shoes you wear. He also said that the really best friends were the ones that made you feel good about being who you are already.
Sally told Dad that this meant that him and Mum were the best friends that Sally had.
Apart from Crumble.