Local Hero

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What lurks in a phone box? Is it the Monster children are led to believe in?

J. A. Sutherland
Age Rating:

Local Hero

I rescued a monster from a phone-box once.

Now I know what you’re thinking: you don’t get monsters these days. If you’re really suspicious, you’ll say, you don’t get phone-boxes no more either.

But you do.

There’s one down the end of our road, so there – wedged in next to the shut-down laundrette.

It’s not one of those nice old ones with little square windows, though. This one just has three rectangle panes of glass and a flat top. It’s not had a phone in it for ages, but there were a right uproar on the estate when the council were going to take it away.

People signed a petition and everything – well, everyone apart from me mam.

‘Bloody phone-box’s more trouble than it’s worth,’ she said.

Ages ago, when me and me friend Penny were going down shops, we heard it ringing. Went on for ages, so we answered, and this man said he were calling from a phone-box on a different planet. Then he started sayin’ all sorts o’ funny stuff, like: bet you can’t guess who I am.

Me and Penny couldn’t guess. When he asked us for us names we says, no way, slams down phone and runs off. When I told me mam, she said he were a filthy monster.

’How d’you know he were filthy?

‘Alright then: nasty monster,’ she said. ‘If that phone rings again, you mustn’t pick it up.’

I said, ‘What’s if it’s for someone on the estate?’

‘Just don’t touch it.’

‘What if it’s an emergency?’ I said,

‘It won’t be,’ she said, and that was that.

Anyway, they had a meeting in the Community Centre about the phone-box. Big Jim from Number 42 spoke – which were amazing. Jim never spoke, an' his son spoke even less.

‘He’s a bit funny in the head,’ me mam said – but then she said that about most people. Penny said he dressed weird-like – but I’d never seen Big Jim’s son, so I wouldn’t know.

When Jim got up to speak, everyone were silent.

‘Everyone’s got a phone-box story,’ he told us. Then he held up a photo. ‘That’s me, next to most famous phone-box in World,’ he said, telling us it were from a film called Local Hero.

From that point, Jim became our local hero. ‘There are schemes,’ he said: ‘Schemes, where you can keep your phone-box if you can put it to a good use. Turn it into a mini lending-library, or a….’

‘Or a local lavatory – that’s what most folk use it for round here.’ Jim ignored this and carried on.

‘You could install one of them, what is it: confabulator-thingies.’ Nobody knew what he was on about – but he won the vote anyway, and the phone-box got saved.

We never did anything with it, though. It just got rusty as the red paint peeled; the door got jammed shut and the windows were constantly getting cleaned with anti-graffiti-remover.

So I were a bit surprised to see this monster in our phone-box, what with the door wedged shut and everything.

He looked like a friendly monster, so I went up to the door and knocked on the glass.

‘You alright in there?’ I said. But the monster didn’t say a thing; just looked at me red-faced. ‘How did you get in there,’ I asked: ‘Are you stuck?’ I gave the door a good yank, but it wouldn’t budge. ‘Give us a hand’ I said, but the monster still just stood there, saying nothing. I pulled the door again, but it didn’t shift an inch. ‘Wait there,’ I said: don’t move; I’ll go and get something.’

I’m not sure why I told him not to move. He weren’t going nowhere.

I ran back to the house, and grabbed a jemmy-stick that my dad used to keep in the back yard, and stuck it down my trousers. It made it a bit difficult to walk, and when Mrs Jenkins saw me she thought I was injured.

‘Are you alright love; you look like you’ve been in the wars?’ she said. I told her I’d fallen over and hurt my knee, hoping she didn’t ask to rub it better.

I hobbled on, and when I got back to the phone-box, the monster was still there, staring into space. ‘Hold on, Mister,’ I said to him: ‘We’ll have you out in a jiffy.’ I felt right grown up saying that, and when I produced the crow-bar from inside my trousers, I felt like a magician.

There was a gap near the door handle, big enough for me to wedge it in. Door flew open so fast it crashed into the side of the shop, which surprised the monster. But then he gave me this great big grin.

He had horrible teeth, but I could tell he was happy.

Trouble is, he didn’t stop smiling; he just grinned and stared at me, still saying nothing. ‘Go on,’ I said: ‘You can go now.’ He didn’t move.

I noticed he were dressed a bit funny: he had his pants – they were red pants – on over his trousers, and a sort of cape thing. I reckoned he were goin’ to a fancy dress, but I’m not sure who as. ‘Do you know where you’re going?’ I said, and he stopped grinning.

He shuffled out of the phone-box and looked around, then looked at me again. I could tell he was lost, so I asked him: ‘Can you remember where you live?’

Still nothing, so I asked if he wanted to come back to the house with me for some orange squash. I could ask me mam if she could help us. I started walking off, but he didn’t follow. Then, when I turned round, he’d gone!

I went home, and had some orange squash anyway – we had some Robinson’s at the back of the pantry for special occasions.

When me mam got home, she asked me what I thought I was doing. Well, it’s not every day you get to rescue a monster from a phone-box!

‘I told you not to go near that phone-booth,’ she said. I tried to explain I thought he was a friendly monster: just a bit lost. ‘How did he get inside it anyway,’ she said: ‘And how did you get the blessed thing open: the council had it sealed.’

I told her I used a jemmy out of dad’s shed. She said, ‘You’ll take after him you will.’ I wasn’t sure what she meant by that. It had been years since I seen me dad. When I asked me mam where he went, she said: ‘he just - disappeared.’

I tried to work out if I was in more trouble for drinking the orange squash; for rescuing the monster, or for using me Dad’s crow-bar.

‘Where did he go then?’ asked me mam.

‘Who – dad?’

‘No – this “monster”?’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. He just disappeared – in a puff o’ smoke!’

‘Might have guessed,’ said me mam.

Sometimes I wonder if me dad’s livin’ on some distant planet, somewhere. Maybe he’s a local hero, rescuing monsters, or people, from phone-boxes in a far-off land.


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