Humour

Answer The Call

Jack is on the protein. It helps him in the gym, making those gains, building mass and getting ripped. In fact, Jack can name almost every supplement available in his local shop and explain the effects that any one item will have on his workout routine. He understands these things. It’s important to Jack to understand the positives and negatives of everything that he puts into his body, from supplements to the food he eats and even to the water or other drinks that he consumes. These things are important because Jack takes his physical conditioning rather seriously. He certainly doesn’t want to end up like another one of these old lads he sees about town who have clearly given up on themselves. “Every day is another opportunity to make progress,” that’s Jack’s philosophy. He’s all about getting that extra weight on the bar, pushing himself for one set more, and finishing at the same intensity with which he begins, if not higher. Is it all for himself? Oh, Jack lifts those weights and puts the work in, but he wants to be a physical specimen. He includes matches on Tinder in calculating his level of success in the gym and attracting some favourable attention for his appearance is an ego-boost, no question. He’s not shy about posting a post-workout Instagram selfie, either. If he puts in the work, he can enjoy the rewards, that’s the way Jack sees it. He can control how he looks and that’s a massive part of who he is…

Walking along Main Street on his way to the gym, Jack notices a toddler, a little girl up ahead with a toy phone. The little girl sees Jack and, smiling, offers the toy phone for Jack to answer. But what does Jack do?

***

“Another youth up to devilment,” that’s what older people probably think when they see him skulking around town, but Luke doesn’t care. Maybe people don’t think much at all or maybe they only see another youth in a hoodie loitering about town and make assumptions. The truth is that Luke’s friends are later than they said they would be, so there’s nowhere else for him to be right now while he’s killing time.  Other people’s opinions don’t really count as far as Luke is concerned. No one can tell him how to live his life. Anyway, he minds his own business and maybe everyone else should think about doing the same. From his 15 years or so on this earth, Luke knows enough to know that the things people think are either wrong or likely to change if you give them enough time. So, he’ll do whatever he wants, when he wants, because it’s a waste of time trying to impress anyone who already has their mind set a certain way, however ill-informed that might be. Luke fixes his headphones to rest comfortably on his ears and skips ahead to a different song on his phone. He adjusts the volume, louder and louder, the louder the better. Few things are as effective at drowning out the rest of the world as loud music and his over-sized wireless headphones. Luke can walk about as aimlessly as he chooses, in his own little world…

As he waits to cross Main Street, Luke notices a mother pushing a stroller in his direction and a little girl ahead of her with a toy phone. The toddler approaches Luke, extending the phone to him with an expression of mild concern, suggesting an urgent, imaginary call. But what does Luke do?

***

“What fecking time does he call this?” Paddy grunts in disgust. He sits on a bench on Main Street, on the opposite side of the road to the closed doors of Kenny’s Bar which, in his opinion, should be open by now. Paddy checks his watch a few more times, glancing up at the doors of the pub between each inspection, before he returns to his newspaper. He shuffles through a few pages but he finds it impossible to concentrate. He’s got a serious thirst. A certified bachelor all of his life, retiring from a long career as a foreman has turned Paddy to the drink altogether and he doesn’t like to wait a moment longer than necessary. He especially doesn’t like waiting on a public bench, watching people pass by. Paddy hates people. He looks up from his paper and over his shoulder as a young man in sports-wear, no more than early 20s, walks along behind him. “Amazing what steroids can do for a fella,” Paddy mutters to himself, casting a wandering eye over to the still shut doors of Kenny’s and returning to the newspaper. He finds it hard to concentrate on the paper, even more so as he hears a muffled din of music approaching. Looking over his shoulder once again, Paddy spots a figure in a hooded top passing behind the bench. Under the hood, there are headphones and Paddy presumes a teenager is under those. “Fecking delinquents!” Paddy grumbles, folding up his newspaper and fixing a stare on the doors of the pub, willing them to open…

As Paddy sits there, a little girl approaches the bench. Paddy feels a nudge in his arm and looks around and down to see a toddler smiling up at him. Overcoming his initial shock, Paddy briefly ignores the toddler, wanting to be sure that she has an owner. Sure enough, the little girl’s mother nods with an apologetic expression to Paddy from a few yards off, pushing an empty stroller. Paddy looks back to the toddler as she offers him the receiver of her toy phone. But what does Paddy do?

***

What do they do? What do any of these men do?

They answer the phone. They all answer. Jack makes goofy faces at the little girl to make her giggle during his imaginary phone conversation. Lowering his hood and removing his headphones, Luke explains to the toddler that his is a phone call from a farmer who needs to know what sounds barnyard animals are supposed to make. Even Paddy plays along with the little girl, even though his imaginary conversation ends up being with a barman explaining why he’s so late opening his pub. Each of these men answer the toy phone because they’re not monsters. There’s a lot of talk about what it is to be a real man or ways that men can ‘man up’ and, really, it’s a simple formula:

When a toddler offers a call on a toy phone, real men will answer the call.

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