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The phone call

     Magali was at home. It was a weekday after school. Arnaud hadn't returned from his girlfriend Manon's house yet. He was older than her, already eight.

Our friend was four and a half. She was playing with their little brother, Julien, who was still a baby. He was almost a year old and was in his playpen in the middle of the living room.

Mommy was in the bathroom upstairs. She had just asked her daughter not to answer the door.


All of a sudden, the phone rang. Our friend, always very curious, answered it right away.

"Hello, this is Magali speaking,"

She answered this way because she was polite and well-mannered.

"Hello, how are you? Can I talk to your father?" she heard a man's voice say.

"Daddy isn't here. He's still at work."

"May I speak to your mother?"

"No. Mommy's taking a shower."

"May I speak to your big brother?"

"No, on his way home, he goes by Manon's house. I can give the phone to my little brother, but he doesn't know how to talk yet."

"Okay then," replied the man, laughing. "There's no need for that. Here's what you can do for me. When your mother gets out of the shower, tell her that Mr. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki called."

"I'll tell her. Goodbye."

Magali hung up.

She went back to playing with Julien. She built him towers with blocks of all colours. Julian would touch them with his fingertips and laugh, pushing them over one after the other. Each time, the girl started over. She was very patient with the baby.

After a few minutes, her mommy came in the room. She was wearing a blue bathrobe. Her hair was dripping wet.

"How are you doing in here, Magali?"

"Everything's fine, Mommy. I'm playing with Julien. He's in a good mood and being so funny. He makes me laugh."

"Did I hear the phone ring?"

"Yes, someone called."

"Who was it?"

"Oh, I don't remember his name," she said.

You, who are listening to this story, do you remember?

"That's okay, my dear," Mommy said. "I'm sure he'll call back. You can go do what you like. I'll watch the baby.

Magali went upstairs and into her room.

She had a small red and blue plastic phone that played songs when the keys were pressed. When she pushed the 1, she heard, "Brother John, brother John ..." When she pushed the 2, she heard, "On the Bridge of Avignon ... We're all dancing round and round ... " Pushing the 3, she heard: "A Little Duck at the Water's Edge... " "I Lost the C from my Clarinet..." played when she pressed 4. With the 5, a lady sang: "By the Light of the Moon ..."

Our friend picked up her toy phone. She pressed the 1.

"Hello, Magali."

It was the man who had called before.

"Have you told your mother or father that I called?"

"Yes, but I forgot your name. It is very hard."

"Not to worry. I'll help you with it. My name is Paramaribo from Thessaloniki. Let's say it together."

"Paramaribo from Thessaloniki," they both said a few times together.

"I'll tell Mommy."

"Goodbye, my dear."


After she hung up, she kept looking at her little phone. She knew it was a toy. She'd never had a call on it before. It wasn't even plugged into anything.

She picked up the phone again and listened. She didn't hear anything. She pressed the 1 and the song started,

"Brother John, brother John ... "

Just then, the door to her room opened. Mommy walked in, holding the baby in her arms.

"The man just called on my phone," said our friend.

"Weird," said Mommy. "Who was it?"

"Mister ... Para ... something ... I forgot again."

You, who are listening to this story, do you remember?

"That's okay," her mommy said, smiling. "He'll call back."

Magali went back down to the living room. Her mommy put the baby back in his playpen and asked our friend to watch over him for a while.

"I'm going to make dinner," she said. "Daddy will be here with Arnaud soon."

Julien had a big fuzzy ball, all round and very soft to the touch. It had a pull cord. When someone pulled it, it played a song:

"Pippin Apples and Lady Apples ... "

Our friend pulled the cord and heard, "Hello Magali."

The man again!

"Did you tell your mother that I called?"

"Yes, I did."

"And did you remember my name?"

"I said, 'Para,' but I didn't remember what came after that."

"Let's practise it again together. I'll say it slowly. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki. Let's say it together. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki."

And Magali said it two more times on her own.

When he had said goodbye, Magali, still quite unsure of what had just happened, took the stuffed ball in her hand and pulled the cord again.
When she let go of the cord, would the man be there again? She heard the song,

"Pippin Apples and Lady Apples ... "

While she was singing with her little brother, Arnaud and Daddy came home.

"Hello darling. Hello Julien."

Daddy kissed his beloved daughter and took the baby into his arms.

"Daddy," said Magali, "a man called three times."

"Oh, yeah? Who was it?"

"Mister Paramari ... Oh, no. I've forgotten again."

"Oh, that's fine. He'll call back if it's important."

Do you remember his name this time, you who are listening to this story?

After dinner, Magali went upstairs to have a bath. Then she put on her pink nightgown with little ribbons. Then she brushed her teeth. She slipped into bed. Mommy and Daddy came to give her a goodnight kiss. They turned off the light and closed the door.

The girl turned to the wall. She took her talking doll into her arms. It only said a few words, "mommy ... hugs ... nap ... "

She heard,

"Hello, I'm Mr. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki."

"Oh, it's you again?"

"Yes. Do you remember my name? Paramaribo from Thessaloniki?"

Magali tried to repeat his name, but the more she tried, the more everything became mixed up in her head. She didn't want to bother her parents for nothing. She fell asleep.

As she slept, she dreamed.

She was on a sandy beach. Over her bathing suit, she wore a dress with red flowers. She was playing at the edge of the water, with her shovel and bucket. The sun was shining in the clear blue sky.

A man, dressed all in white, walked up to her. He was wearing white pants, a white shirt, a white tie, and a white jacket. His white shoes were well polished. He stopped next to our friend.

"Hello, how are you?

"Hello," Magali said, looking up.

"I'm Mr. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki I'm looking for your parents."

"They're in the house. They're asleep. I'm playing on the beach now," she said in her dream.

"Will you tell them I called? Please repeat my name back to me, Paramaribo from Thessaloniki."

"Yes, I'll tell them," Magali promised. "You are Mr. Paramaribo from Thessaloniki. I'll go and tell them right away."

Our friend woke up. She was very surprised to be in her bed and not on the beach. She ran to her parents' room. She knocked on the door and then went in.

"Daddy, Mommy," she said, jumping up on their bed, "I know the name of the man who phoned. His name is Paramaribo from Thessaloniki."

"Well done," said her parents, clapping. "He's one of our best friends. He's coming on Sunday afternoon. You will meet him then. He's very nice."

"I just saw him in my dream," Magali said smiling.

She went back to bed, very proud. She had managed to remember his name, without getting mixed up.

And, you, dear reader, can you say it again?


Translation : Andrew Gordon Middleton