The Strange Little Man in My Phone
Chapter One: A is for Aeroplane
Martin Douglas Arthur Carolyn
Got another one. Brian Blessed.
The ‘Brians of Britain’ game.
And another: Brian Cant.
How about Brian May?
Oh good one! I hadn’t thought of that.
Well now that’s out of the way--can I just ask when exactly we began this game, Arthur? I don’t quite recall agreeing to it.
And your answers are uncharacteristically intelligent, if you don’t mind my pointing out. Did you ask Carolyn to assist?
Sorry… I’m actually beginning to think this is the wrong number.
I don’t suppose your name is Karl?
I fear not.
That makes more sense. This is embarrassing, I am so sorry to have bothered you!
And my apologies for inadvertently calling you unintelligent. It’s not personal; I just thought you were this idiot I happen to know. He’s always playing games like this one.
Again, not personal.
I fail to see how that couldn’t be personal!
It’s tremendously rude to call someone an idiot, even if you do know them.
Are you really defending a stranger from a stranger right now?
Well…yes. Someone has to. Your joke obviously wasn’t in good humour and so I feel it is my duty to say something.
Oh my. I didn’t realise I was exchanging texts with ‘Superman: Defender of the Weak’
Out of all the people in the world whose numbers I could have mistakenly sent messages to, I get an arrogant sod who bullies people to boot.
Is it customary for you to shield the honour of those you’ve never met via a virtual network, Mr. Kent?
Look, my point was that you shouldn’t call anyone an idiot. And you’d meant for that Arthur fellow to see that you’d called him that! I just think you should know better.
And who is to say that my words weren’t intended to be a sort of playful rouse between my friend Arthur and I?
Perhaps. Not that you’ll ever know.
Well if they were, I apologise. But it just strikes me as being a little odd that a ‘grown up’ would say something like that about a ‘friend’ of theirs.
Something tells me you were picked on in high-school.
First of all, that wasn't called for. And second, none of your business.
Ah I’m sorry, I was under the impression that we had began a union wherein we sought to eliminate all ill-placed remarks from bullies across the globe.
Just to entertain my curiosities though, what did you get teased over? Being different? Your hair? Or perhaps you engaged yourself in other people’s business too often?
This conversation is wildly inappropriate and I’d rather not engage in it any more, thank you very much.
I bet you’re not very tall.
I don’t want to talk to you anymore.
You could just stop replying.
Though I’m a little interested in your use of ‘grown-up’ earlier. What gave you that impression? I could be an immensely gifted child for all you know.
Though I’ve been told that I was at some stage.
Hurrah for you. And to answer your question, it would be pretty hard to think you were anything but an adult. You speak like a monarch.
What about you? Do you not consider yourself an adult?
Well…not really. I didn’t graduate all that long ago.
Nor did I.
I fail to see how any of this actually matters though.
And yet you’re still replying.
Oh well played.
Hello. I hadn’t planned to speak to you again but I have an important question.
It would mean a lot to me if you could answer as well because once you have I can stop bothering you and we can both get back to our lives.
“Get back to”?
Just humour me.
The thing is… I’m putting myself through study at the moment. I’m working two jobs and picking up money wherever I can because the study is so expensive. And since on top of paying for lessons, I also pay for my own phone bills I was wondering if you’d be as trusting as to tell me what part of the world you live in.
I realise it sounds strange but if I could at least mentally prepare for how horrendous my bill is going to be in advance, that would be great.
I see. And your thinking being that if I am in some desolate part of the globe, that you’ll have wasted your precious funds on verbally abusing some stranger who, in the long run, means absolutely nothing to you.
Look, I’m really sorry about all of that.
Hang on a minute! No, I never verbally abused you! You’re the one who called me an idiot.
A small detail. And nevertheless, I reluctantly accept your apology.
Just tell me where you bloody well live so I can stop worrying, please!
Slow down there, man cub. We’ve just met. And it would be chivalrous to ask my name first…
I’m really not in the mood for sarcasm, okay?
Very well. If you must know, I live in England. Does that mollify your anxiety?
So I’m in league with a fellow Englishman. How lucky for me.
I’ll give you that I’m in England but we are not ‘in league.’
And in the vein of our conversation from yesterday, how do you even know I’m a man? You’ve specifically said that I was a man at least four times since we started speaking.
Well yes. But how do you know that?
You’ll learn that it boils down to one very simple equation.
And what would that be?
I’m never wrong.
Hi Douglas! Learning much?
I am at class, yes, though the learning part is highly debatable.
Mum just read that over my shoulder and she wants me to tell you to stop doing whatever you’re doing and listen. She also wants you to stop talking to me.
That all sounds rather polite coming from Carolyn.
Well…yeah I might have changed it a bit. Okay a lot. Point is, please get off your phone and listen to the lecturer.
And why is my higher education suddenly a concern of yours and your mother’s?
Well, because you’re my friend Douglas! Mum and I both want you to do really well at university. You deserve to do really well.
And ‘do really well’ I shall. Hang on a tick, Arthur, I just saw that I missed a text from another idiot who likes to bother me.
Douglas, no! You’ve got to concentrate!
Wait—you’ve got more than one?
Is it Thomas?
No silly, your name.
I actually thought we were under the mutual agreement to never speak again.
Yes… we were. But I’ve got a huge lunch break and I’m bored out of my mind. I didn’t think you’d particularly care given that we both live in England.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this but England isn’t actually that small a place.
I’m not saying we’re neighbours but the phone charges can’t be wildly out of control if we’re in the same sort of area.
Don’t you have some friends you could be bothering instead?
Well… not really. Not at the moment, at least.
Ah I see.
What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Ah I see.’
I wasn’t aware there was an alternate way to interpret the phrase but alas you have opened my eyes to the possibilities.
It can’t be that much of a surprise… you figured it out within an hour or so of talking to me. I don’t have many friends, alright?
Fine. My name is not Thomas. Commendable first effort though.
Was I close then?
Not in the least but I suppose I could see how it is a plausible enough name to have.
I suppose I threw off our luck then. I mean, I knew you were a grown-up and then you knew I was a man. I supposed I would know your name then by default.
Well the earth works in mysterious ways and I can see how that would throw you aback.
If you’re so high and mighty, what do you suppose my name could be? I mean since you’re always right, there’s no harm in guessing.
And here I thought you’d ignored that message.
Don’t change the subject. If you’re so clever, prove it.
Somehow I fail to understand how cleverness can be measured by taking random stabs in the dark at a stranger’s name until I get it right
If anything that’s luck. Or just stupidity.
Well if it’s luck then there’s no harm in playing along.
Very well. Give me three guesses?
I suppose that’s fair. There are a lot of names in the world.
Wonderful. I imagine you have a plain name, no offense intended. So my first guess is… how about Jon?
I’m not wrong yet. William.
…You can’t possibly know that.
I didn’t. Though I always had the sneaking suspicion I was a very lucky individual.
That’s not luck-- that is just a fluke! Trust you of all people to get it right in three times!
“Me of all people”? How do you mean?
You’re horrendously egotistical.
And yet you still don’t know my name.
Shut up. I have to go back to work now.
It’s been pleasant distracting you.
Okay I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think your name might be Richard.
Now I know this may be a phrase you’re unaccustomed to hearing, but you’re not actually far from being right.
That so? Well I give up—just tell me.
Douglas. My name is Douglas.
How was that even close?
Are you ever satisfied?
Sorry… fine. I suppose it suits you. I’m just irritated that I didn’t guess it as easily as you guessed mine.
It isn’t your fault that you were born predictable.
I can’t decide if you’re insulting me.
Go with your gut instinct.
Douglas is a very authoritative name though. Professional-sounding. I’m almost a little jealous.
Funnily enough, having heard hundreds of reasons other men are jealous of me; I’ve never had one envy my authoritative name.
Sorry… it’s just that I’m in training to be a pilot. I don’t know how anyone could ever respect a ‘Captain Martin’
No, nor could I.
Thanks for the support.
Well my name does sound rather good.
A pilot though? That’s surprising.
Surprising? Why is that surprising?
Well don’t take this the wrong way, Martin, but you don’t strike me as the most relaxed individual. Pilots always seem to be quite cool and distant. You’re practically holding every stereotype an adversary.
You don’t know that! You don’t know me in real life.
I can be cool and distant. Relaxed and authoritative. Calk
CALM* I meant calm. Obviously—calk isn’t a world. Well it is a word but it’s not the word I wanted. Sorry I wasn’t sure if it was clear enough that it was supposed to say calm, I mean you can’t be too sure. It’s important that I can be understood easily and the typo might confuse things. It’s so easy to misinterpret over text. Did you get calm from that? Hopefully you did. I’m very calm.
You’re right. I should never have suspected otherwise.
No, you’re the very epitome of calm, ‘Captain’.
…You’re teasing me, aren’t you?
Whatever gave you that idea?
Well I suppose you must be above all of this. What do you want to do with yourself? Are you going to head the British government?
…I’m studying medicine at university.
You want to be a doctor? You?
No. I want to be a medical student.
Well they always look like they have the most fun. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be a doctor.
You’re the worst.
You know, now that you’ve brought it up…I wouldn’t mind being an airline captain.
Don’t start, Douglas. It might seem stupid to you but being an airline captain is all I’ve ever wanted.
No I’m being very serious. It all seems rather glamorous. Perhaps if things somehow manage to work out for you, you could get me some contacts.
In the unlikely circumstance that things don’t work out though, have you got a back-up plan?
Nothing...No I don’t.
Don’t you think it’s a bit strange though?
Do you usually get philosophical late at night?
Oh sorry! Did I wake you?
No, no. I’m out having drinks with a few friends. What’s strange?
Never mind! Enjoy your drinks.
You mean that we text each-other? That being strange?
Well it is a bit weird.
I was afraid to mention it but now that it’s out in the open…
Douglas seriously. I don’t even know you.
I’m not against it if that’s what you’re clumsily trying to get at.
Really? Because it is…bizarrely nice having someone to talk to. It gets a little lonely.
I don’t want you to feel obliged or anything. I can stop.
Let me put it this way: if you can afford to maintain this contact then there is no reason I’m averse to the idea of talking to you.
No it’s not too expensive. I mean, they’re just baked potatoes. It’s not a big deal.
I… think I might have missed a crucial part of this conversation.
No you didn’t. But thank you.
And what did I do to deserve the honour of your thanks?
Nothing. Enjoy your night, Douglas.
You too, Martin.