In the Phone Booth

By Isobel Smith

Isobel grew up in Jersey, but has lived in Cambridge since the age of 18, apart from two hot years in Texas in the 90s. For most of her working life she has produced factual reports, but has recently become interested in the craft of story telling and is working on a fictionalised account of Capability Brown's life.

My 20-year-old self calls home, a Sunday ritual observed since starting college. Outwardly I may look an adult but inwardly I’m still very much a good girl. The conversation starts bizarrely, Mum saying

“Are you sitting down?”

“Mum, I’m in a phone booth, remember.” I wonder where this is going. And then a sequence of words tumble out that I scarcely recognise.

“Peter is dead. He lost thousands of pounds … stock market crash … compulsive gambler … she swore she’d leave him if it happened again.”

I find it hard to understand. Is she really talking about Dad’s best friend? The man who likes squash,  who marks the passing of each week with a dash around the court chasing a ball that barely bounces, followed by a pint. Is this the same person my Mum is describing? Why didn’t I know? Why don’t the grown ups say what people are really like?

I  picture him, my Dad’s best friend, deciding to leave this life, his body hanging from the bedsheet-noose, and jumping into the next.