A joke misfires
Nathan had been looking at the teacher’s bag. From where he was sitting near the front of the class it was easy to see her phone with its bright red cover, poking out as if it wanted to attract someone’s attention. Then one of his friends, Alan, passed in front of the bag and for a moment it was hidden from the rest of the class. He must have lifted out the phone and tucked it into his pocket as he moved away; he didn’t even bother to look over his shoulder, didn’t bother to flick his long hair out of the way so that he could look round and make sure that no one was watching. Nathan felt his mouth fall open: was that cool?
The bell had just rung; within seconds Alan was out in the playground. It was the last lesson of the day and soon he would be walking down the road.
Diz followed Nathan and they caught up with Alan in the park. He was sitting on a bench, holding the phone in his hand. Nathan spoke first.
“What did you do that for, Alan?”
“What d’yer mean?”
“That’s Ms Green’s phone.” His friend said nothing. “It must have been you. One minute it was there, then it was gone. I could see it, mate.” Still there was no response from Alan. Nathan turned to Diz. “What would you have done, Diz?”
“I think – er – I think, well it was bloody tempting – asking to have it nicked.” Diz thought for a moment. “And sometimes, you just don’t think.” Diz was the tallest of the three of them. He stood right in front of Alan, almost leaning over him. Alan did not bother to look up.
It was getting easier. Nathan had another question. “So, what now?” But there was no question about it really. Alan was holding the phone; it was his call. Diz urged him: “Go on – see what’s on it.”
Alan was stabbing a finger. What might they find? A few selfies – Ms Green, that might be all right, might be a laugh.
They were sitting on a bench now, huddled together, as if to keep warm. It was easy to find Ms Green’s diary, a sort of schedule for the week. While Nathan and Diz tried to look over from each side Alan read out a list of appointments and arrangements with her friends. There were some emails and lists of contacts and apps and a list of calls to the phone then, finally, Alan found the camera and a photo gallery.
There were some pictures of their class, on the outing to a museum the previous month. Some of their friends were leaning in from the edge of the group, anxious to be in the picture. Ms Green sat in the middle, her arms spread out and a huge smile across her face. Alan moved them on and there were some pictures of some older people – they could have been Ms Green’s mum and dad. Alan shook his head.
“That’s it then.” Nathan thought he sounded disappointed.
“You sure, mate?”
Diz sat up straight. “No. Can’t be it. Go on, try again.”
There was some more stabbing of Alan’s fingers, then he stopped and shook his head once more. Diz leant over and took the phone. Nathan watched Alan try to snatch it back, but Diz jerked his arm away, high, out of Alan’s reach. Diz settled on the end of the bench and got to work on the phone. While Diz searched the phone Nathan watched Alan shaking his head and smacking a fist into his other hand; was he still interested now in this stunt of his?
Nathan stood up. He was more comfortable behind the bench and he looked across the park and back towards the road, away from the other two. He could see clearly, past the few trees to where a few cars were parked. There was no sign of anyone coming to join them.
“No good. That’s it then.”
The sound of Diz’s words turned Nathan round and he had a question for Alan. “What now? What are you going to do with this bloody phone?”
They were back on the bench, but sat apart this time. Nathan kept his distance on one end while Alan sat between them. The others said nothing. Nathan started again.
“She might have reported it already: stolen.”
“So, what have I got to do? Just go in to the staff room, knock on the door and say, here you are Miss, it fell out of your bag?”
Diz was annoyed. “Don’t be stupid.” He paused. “I know, it was a joke – probably done the same myself, but we’ve got to get it back.” Diz was looking very directly at Alan. “If we don’t, you know what old Gregson’s like – he’ll just get the police in to question us in the morning.”
Nathan nodded his head; Diz was right. Alan said nothing and this annoyed Nathan.
“Serve you right, mate. You get done for this, you’re on your own.” His own words were easy, but Nathan knew that they wouldn’t leave Alan to get on with it alone. “What were you thinking about, Alan?”
“Dunno. Just a joke; they’re always telling us not to leave things like phones lying about.”
Diz laughed now. “Yeah, I can just see her face when she realises that it’s gone.”
“What if we just went back, now, and just put it back somewhere?” Nathan could hear the concern now in Alan’s voice. He’d got no idea.
“You can’t just leave it somewhere, for someone else to pick up. Anyway, you don’t know who else might have noticed anything.” Nathan could hear Diz, laughing still as he spoke. “It would still have been stolen, by you. Go back now with it and the cameras’ll probably get you. And it’s got your prints on it.”
Alan reached into one of his pockets, found nothing, then tried another pocket. Still there was nothing. It was like watching a cartoon now. The two of them looked on as Alan discovered a handkerchief at last and started to wipe all over the phone. He was desperate. Nathan and DIz were laughing again when the phone rang.
“Shit.” Alan was holding the phone at arm’s length; Nathan had seen his dad once, with a dead rat that he had removed from a trap. Diz was creased up with laughter: “Aren’t you going to answer that, mate?”
The ringing stopped.
“Perhaps she wanted to remind you about the homework.” Diz was shaking now but the chance to wind up a troubled friend was too much and he pointed at Alan as he spoke. Somehow, Nathan knew that this was too much and within seconds their friend had turned his back and set off across the park. Nathan looked at Diz who was still shaking with laughter. When they looked round again, Alan was nowhere to be seen.
Next morning, after break, there was a lesson with Ms Green. There had been no sign of Alan earlier in the morning and he had not answered their calls overnight. Then in he came, late, and sat himself away to the side of the class. Nathan admired the way he came in, slightly scruffy, and just slid onto the chair, as if no one was going to notice him. Then Nathan watched as Ms Green put down her bag on the desk.
The bag was open, just as it had been the day before, but Nathan could not see what was inside so he looked around at Alan and Diz. Alan was concentrating on something outside the window; Diz simply grinned and shrugged his shoulders. At least there had been no questions in school about the phone.
Later in the lesson Ms Green called some of them over to look at a piece of work that one of them had brought in. This was too good a chance to miss and Nathan made an effort to move ever so casually past the teacher’s desk. Opposite the bag he paused; there was the red phone.
“What are you staring at, Nathan?” What was she saying? Had she been watching him? It was difficult not to rush away from the desk, to look over to the teacher and mutter some words. Better take a few steps before saying anything. Then he was clear of the desk and half way across the room.
“Sorry Miss, what did….”
“Come on Nathan. Just come and see what Cindy’s managed to do.”
Soon it was time for the bell and they had packed up their things. Ms Green was waiting to send them on their way.
“Which of you was complaining about old people the other day?” There was no answer.
“Well, a nice old gentleman found my phone in the park yesterday afternoon and handed it in to the police. I must have dropped it on my way home.” She patted her bag. “It all goes to show – we’re not all bad.”
How do Nathan and Diz react to the theft of the phone?
How might Ms Green have reacted had she known the trutht?