back to your quest. Don’t stay up too late—you’ve got school.” It was only when he’d gone that I noticed he’d left his phone on my desk. And only when I picked it up that I remembered that my phone was a clone of his. So the number he’d deleted from my in-box should still be there in his. It was. I copied it back into my phone.
I Am on Hold I made the call on the bus to school next day. I remember looking out of the window at all the people: queuing outside the post office, standing at the pedestrian crossing, going in and out of 24-hour Tesco. None of them looked to me like they’d been specially selected. I was going to win. I dialed. The woman with the friendly voice answered right away. “Drax Communications. D’you want the opportunity to be the Greatest Dad Ever?” “Yeah, I do. I really do. I was thinking about it all night….” I talked for about a minute before I realized she was a recording. “…if you accept the terms and conditions of this competition, please press the star key now.” I did. “We’ll take your call as soon as we can. In the meantime,please hold. Remember: all you have to do is get put through.” They started playing classical music. They were still playing when the bus pulled up at the school gates half an hour later. Every now and then the music would stop and the friendly-voiced woman would say, “Your call means a lot to us. Please hold.” There must be a lot of people in the queue. Maybe Dad was right. Maybe I wasn’t that special. I was walking in through the school gates when I got a text alert: “Yes! We have our 1st winner!” Yes!? What’s “Yes!” about that exactly?
Our first winner is Klaus from Hamburg in Germany, and his daughter Anna. Anna’s two great passions are thrill rides and helping others, says her father. “She once spent twelve hours on the Space Mountain roller coaster at EuroDisney in order to raise money for a local hospital. She hopes to get people to sponsor her to ride the Rocket and so raise money for children who were injured in wars around the world. When her school friends heard about this, they wanted to help her. We knew there might be a problem getting through to the number so they all came to school early and all called the number simultaneously. A boy got through and gave the phone to Anna immediately. She is a worthy winner.”
In other words, she cheated.
I was still on hold during registration. Registration’s a noisy business so no one noticed the music. But first lesson was math with Ms. Jewell, and math with Ms. Jewell is always full of long silences, for instance: Ms. Jewell: Square root of sixty-four? Class: Long silence. Ms. Jewell: Anybody? Anybody at all. Class: More long silence. So this morning I tried to answer all her questions, just to keep up the noise level and stop her noticing the phone. When she asked something about calculating the volume of a cylinder. I shouted, “Miss, miss…” “Liam, there is no need to shout, ‘Miss, miss,’ if no one else is offering to answer the question. There is no need to try to attract my attention if you have no competition.” “Yes, miss. Anyway, miss, it’s pi times the—” “Thank you, Liam. I already know the answer. I already know you know the answer. I’m hoping to find out if anyone else knows the answer.” “Wayne probably knows, miss. He’s good at math, miss, but he doesn’t always have the confidence to put his—” “Liam, I’m only too happy to hear your thoughts on geometry. I don’t want your thoughts on your fellow pupils.” “Just going back to the volume of the cylinder then, miss, isn’t it—” “Don’t go back to it, Liam. Let someone else have a go.” “Yes, miss.” “So…volume of a cylinder. Anyone? Anyone at all?” Long pause. But not silence. A tinny little orchestra fiddling away. She frowned. She prowled up and down. You could see that she thought it might be in the