face time

Mrs Williams’ granddaughter, Phoebe, is sitting quietly on the sofa by the window, her arms folded, her legs jogging up and down. Mrs Williams is sitting in her riser-recliner, wearing a white baseball cap with a kangaroo motif. She keeps her chin down, so all I can see from here is her mouth, moving as restlessly as her granddaughter’s legs.
‘…because poor Phoebe has to catch a plane this afternoon…’
‘It’s tomorrow, grandma.’
‘…and it’s ever such a long way away. I mean – Australia. You couldn’t get much further than Australia, could you?’
‘I’ll be back at Christmas.’
‘…I mean, you’d think I did something wrong. They’ve all scattered. To the four winds…’
‘Honestly, grandma. It’s not that big a deal.’
‘… you can’t even go swimming without getting eaten by a shark…’
‘I’ve never seen one. No-one I know has seen one.’
‘… and the spiders. The spiders are enormous! And they bite.’
‘Everyone knows where the spiders hang out, grandma. You’d have to be really dumb to get bitten by a spider.’
‘…I just don’t see the attraction. Tell me one thing you can get out there that you can’t get here…’
‘A tan.’
‘…I mean – it’s hot. It’s dusty. It’s full of flies. And it’s the other side of the planet, for God’s sake. I never get to see you…’
‘We Skype all the time.’
‘…Skype! It’s good, Phoebe, but it’s not the real thing, is it? It’s not like being in the same room…’
Phoebe shoves her hands in her pockets and stares out of the window.
‘No,’ she says. ‘It isn’t.’

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