Billy and Amber were people–watching on the grassy slope behind Crag Hat and laughing at the pups as they chased away a hobo who had stumbled too close. Norm the council worker had just left. He was chucking a sickie for the rest of the day and heading home after his run–in with the feral cat. He was sliced up pretty badly.
Curly arrived back first and plonked himself in Amber’s lap. They must have had a big night last night, Billy figured, by the way they scoffed the feral cat down that had attacked Norm. Billy and Amber hardly got any. And what was left of Amber’s bream after the cat had chewed on it was barely a mouthful each. Still, they got enough to keep them going.
“Watcha lookin’ at?” Amber asked.
“I’m learnin’ about the whitefella culture,” he said while patting Larry.
“Oh yeah. What have you learnt?”
“Whitefellas always talking to themself.”
“Who’s talking to themself?”
“That lady there, see?”
Amber saw a middle–aged woman standing on the sidewalk who was indeed having quite a conversation.
“And that fella there,” Billy pointed. A man in a business suit was barking out instructions animatedly as he walked through the park.
Amber giggled, realising that Billy didn’t know what a mobile phone was.
“They’re not talking to themself, Billy, they’re talking to someone on the phone.”
“On the what?”
“See how they’re holding those things to their ear?”
“Well they’re called phones. You can talk to other people with them, even people who are a long way away.” She could see by his expression that he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. “Remember when you came looking for me after you’d gone for some fruit but you didn’t know where I was?”
“Well, if you had a phone and I had a phone, you could have just given me a call and I would have told you where I was.”
“A call! Turbo said give him a call if I need help, but I didn’t have a call. I thought if I need help, I have to find a call first. What’s a call?”
“Turbo? He’s the guy you met at the tip, right? I bet he gave you a number to call him on?”
Billy rummaged through his pocket, which made poor Moe fall off his shoulder, and pulled out Turbo’s wet business card and the money.
“Can I buy a call with this?”
“Yes you can. Lucky we can still read the numbers but. You’ve gotta keep this dry or you’ll lose the numbers. Wanna give him a call on the phone?” Amber enthused.
“But I don’t need help.”
“You need help understanding how to use a phone don’t you?”
“S’pose. But I ain’t got no phone!”
“There’s a public phone down there, see? I’ll race ya to it.” Suddenly she jumped up and bolted. When she looked back Billy was knees–up busting–a–gut trying to catch her. It was only a couple of hundred metres but Billy was quite winded by the time he arrived. “You’ll have to run faster than that to catch me, Billy,” she grinned, hardly out of breath at all.
“I catch you next time!” he huffed.
Amber lifted the receiver and showed Billy how to hold it.
“Turbo’s voice will come through here. Hold it like this and just talk to him as if he was right next to you.”
“OK. I’m thirsty.”
“Me too, we’ll get a drink from the bubbler after this.”
“What’s all this?” Billy said. He was pointing to the graffiti sprayed all over the phone box.
“They’re different people’s tags. It’s like saying ‘BILLY WAS HERE’. Put the coin in there.” Billy’s face lit up when he heard the dial tone and insisted Amber hear it too. “Now press these numbers.” She pointed to the number on the card and told him to press the numbers on the keypad. But the numbers on the card were a square font and the numbers on the keypad were rounded, which took a little study. Then, he became intrigued by the “beep” sound when the numbers were pressed. He pressed them too many times so then they had to start all over again. He became fascinated by the way the coins came back out of the slot too and wanted to see that happen again. Finally, after lots of attempts, he got a call through to Turbo.
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