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Translated by Rose Prokofieva
Illustrated by G.Ogorodnikov
One day Mishka and I saw a wonderful new toy in a shop. It was a telephone set that worked just like a real one. There were two telephones and a coil of wire all packed neatly in a big wooden box. The sales-girl told us that you could use it between flats in the same house. You put one receiver in one flat and the other in the flat next door and connected them with the wire.
Now, Mishka and I live in the same house, my flat is one floor above his, and we thought it would be great fun to 'be able to telephone to each other whenever we wanted to.
"Besides," said Mishka, "it's not an ordinary toy that gets broken and thrown out. It's a useful toy."
"Yes," I said. "You can have a talk with your neighbour without running up and down stairs."
"A great convenience," said Mishka, all excited. "You can sit home and talk as much as you wish."
We decided to save up money to buy the telephone. For two weeks we didn't eat any ice-cream and we didn't go to the pictures, and by the end of two weeks we had enough money put away to buy the telephone.
We hurried home from the shop with the box, installed one of the telephones in my flat and the other in Mishka's and ran the wire through my window to Mishka's room.
"Now then," said Mishka. "Let's try it out. You run upstairs and wait for my call."
I dashed up to my place, picked up the receiver, and there was Mishka's voice already shouting:
I yelled back "Hallo" at the top of my voice.
"Can you hear me?" shouted Mishka.
"Yes, I can hear you. Can you hear me?"
"Yes, I hear you. Isn't it wonderful! Do you hear me well?"
"Fine. What about you?"
"Me too. Ha! Ha! Do you hear me laughing?"
"Of course. Ha! Ha! Ha! Can you hear that?"
"Yes. Now listen, I'm coming up to you right away."
He came running in to my place and we hugged each other with joy.
"Aren't you glad we have a telephone? Isn't it grand?"
"Yes," I said.
"Now, I'll go back and call you up again."
He ran back. The phone rang again. I picked up the receiver.
"Do you hear me?"
"I hear you perfectly."
"Yes, I do."
"Me too. Now let's have a talk."
"Yes, let's. What shall we talk about?"
"Oh, all sorts of things. Are you glad we bought the telephone?"
"It would be awful if we hadn't bought it, wouldn't it?"
"Why don't you say something?"
"Say something yourself."
"I don't know what to say," said Mishka. "It's always like that. When you need to talk you don't know what to say, but when you know you mustn't talk you can't stop."
I said: "I know what: I'll hang up and think for a while, and when I think of something to say I'll call you."
I hung up and started to think. Suddenly the phone rang. I picked up the receiver.
"Well, have you thought of something?" asked Mishka.
"Not yet, have you?"
"No, I haven't."
"Then what did you ring up for?"
"I thought you had thought of something."
"I would have phoned if I had."
"I thought you mightn't think of it."
"Think I'm a donkey or what?"
"Did I say you're a donkey?"
"What did you say then?"
"Nothing. I said you weren't a donkey."
"Oh, all right, that's enough about donkeys. We'd better stop fooling and do our lessons."
"Yes, so we had."
I hung up and sat down to do my lessons. I had just opened the book when the phone rang.
"Listen. I'm going to sing and play the piano over the phone."
I heard a crackling noise, then the thumping of a piano and suddenly a voice that didn't sound a bit like Mishka's sang:
Whither have you fled,
What on earth could it be, I wondered. Where could Mishka have learned to sing like that?
Just then Mishka came in, grinning from ear to ear.
"You thought it was me singing? It is the gramophone! Let me listen too."
I handed him the receiver. He listened for a while, then suddenly he dropped the receiver in a great hurry and dashed downstairs. I put the phone to my ear and heard an awful buzzing and hissing. The record must have run down.
I sat down again to do my lessons. The telephone rang. I took off the receiver.
"Bow! Wow!" sounded in my ear.
"What're you barking for?"
"It's not me, it's Laddy. Can you hear him biting at the receiver?"
"I'm pushing the receiver against his nose and he's gnawing at it."
"He'll chew up your telephone if you're not careful."
"Oh, nothing will happen to it, it's made of iron. Ouch! He bit me that time. You bad dog, get down! How dare you bite me! Take that! (Bow! Wow!) You rascal. He bit me, did you hear that?"
"Yes, I heard," I said.
I sat down again to do my lessons, but the next minute the telephone rang again. This time there was a loud buzzing in the receiver.
"Where is it?"
"I'm holding it in front of the receiver and it's buzzing and whirring its wings."
Mishka and I telephoned to each other all day long. We invented all sorts of tricks: we sang, we shouted, we roared, we miaowed, we whispered — and you could hear everything. It was pretty late before I finally finished my lessons. I decided to call up Mishka before going to bed.
I rang up but there was no answer.
What could have happened, I wondered. Had his telephone stopped working already?
I called again, but there was no answer. I ran downstairs and, would you believe it, there was Mishka taking his telephone to pieces! He had pulled out the battery, taken the bell apart and was beginning to unscrew the receiver.
"Here!" I said. "What are you busting the telephone for?"
"I'm not. I'm only taking it apart to see how it's made. I'll put it together again."
"You won't be able to. You don't know how."
"Who says I don't? It's easy."
He unscrewed the receiver, took out some bits of metal and started to pry open a round metal plate inside. The plate flew off and some black powder spilt out. Mishka got frightened and tried to put the powder back into the receiver.
"Now you've gone and done it!" I said.
"That's nothing. I can put it together again in a jiffy!"
He worked and worked but it wasn't as easy as he thought, because the screws were very tiny and it was hard to get them into place. At last he had everything put back except a small piece of metal and two screws.
"What's that thing for?" I asked him.
"Oh dear, I forgot to put it in," says Mishka. "How silly of me! It should have been screwed inside. I'll have to take it apart again."
"All right," I said. "I'm going home. Call me up when you've finished."
I went home and waited. I waited and waited but there was no call, so I went to bed.
The next morning the telephone rang so loudly that I thought the house was on fire. I sprang out of bed, snatched up the receiver and yelled:
"What are you grunting like that for?" said Mishka.
"I'm not grunting."
"Stop grunting and talk properly!" shouted Mishka. He sounded quite sore.
"But I am talking properly. Why should I grunt anyway?"
"Don't be a clown. I won't believe you've got a pig there anyway."
"But there isn't any pig here, I'm telling you!" I shouted, getting angry too.
Mishka said nothing.
A minute later he burst into my room.
"What do you mean by making pig noises over the phone?"
"I wasn't doing anything of the kind."
"I heard you quite plainly."
"What should I want to make pig noises for?"
"How do I know? All I know is there was someone grunting into my ear. You go downstairs and try it yourself."
I went down to his place, rang him up and shouted:
"Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt!" was all I heard in reply.
I saw what had happened and I ran back to tell Mishka.
"It's all your doing," I said. "You've gone and busted the telephone."
"You spoiled something in the receiver when you took it apart."
"I must have put it back the wrong way," said Mishka. "I'll have to fix it."
"How will you fix it?"
"I'll take your telephone apart and see how it's made."
"Oh no, you won't! I'm not going to let you ruin my telephone too."
"You needn't be afraid. I'll be very careful. If I don't mend it we won't be able to use the phone at all."
I had to give in and he got busy at once. He tinkered with it for a long time and when he had finished "fixing" it, it stopped working altogether. It didn't even grunt any more.
"What are we going to do now?" I said.
"I'll tell you what," said Mishka. "Let's go back to the shop and ask them to repair it for us."
We went to the shop but they said they didn't repair telephones and they couldn't tell us where we could get ours repaired. We felt pretty miserable all that day. Then Mishka had an idea.
"We are donkeys! We can telegraph to each other."
"You know, dots and dashes. The bell still works. We can use that. A short bell can be a dot, and a long bell will be a dash. We can learn the Morse code and send messages to each other."
We got hold of the Morse code and started studying it. A dot and a dash stands for A, a dash and three dots for B, a dot and two dashes for C, and so on. We soon learned the whole alphabet and began sending messages. It went pretty slow at first, but after a while we were tapping away on our bell like real telegraphers. It was even more exciting than a telephone. But it didn't last long. One morning I called Mishka, but there was no answer. He must be sleeping, I thought. So I called later, but there was still no answer. I went down to him and knocked at his door. Mishka opened it for me.
"You don't need to knock any more. You can ring."
He pointed to the button on the door.
"Yes, an electric door-bell. From now on you can ring instead of knocking."
"Where did you get it?"
"I made it myself."
"I made it out of the telephone."
"Yes. I took the bell out of the telephone, and the button as well. And I took the battery out too. What's the use of having a toy when you can make something useful out of it."
"But you had no right to take the telephone apart," I said.
"Why not? I took mine apart, not yours."
"Yes, but the telephone belongs to both of us. If I had known you were going to take it to pieces I wouldn't have chipped in with you and bought it. I don't need a telephone that doesn't work."
"You don't need a telephone at all. We don't live so far from each other. If you want to talk to me you can come downstairs."
"I never want to talk to you again," I said and walked out.
I was so angry with him I didn't talk to him for three whole days. I was very lonely all by myself, so I took my telephone apart and made a door-bell out of it too. But I didn't do it the way Mishka did. I made mine properly. I put the battery on a shelf near the door and ran a wire from it along the wall to the bell and the button. I screwed the push-button in properly so it didn't hang on one nail like Mishka's. Even Mum and Dad praised me for doing such a neat job.
I went down to tell Mishka about my bell.
I pressed the button on his door, but nobody answered. I pressed it several times but I didn't hear it ring. So I knocked. Mishka opened the door.
"What's wrong with your bell? Doesn't it work?"
"No, it's out of order."
"What's the trouble?"
"I took the battery apart."
"Yes. I wanted to see what it was made of."
"Well, what are you going to do now without a telephone or a bell?" I asked him.
"Oh, I'll manage somehow," he answered with a sigh.
I went home feeling puzzled. What makes Mishka do such things? Why does he have to break everything? I felt quite sorry for him.
That night I couldn't sleep for a long time for thinking about our telephone and the bell we had made out of it. Then I thought about electricity and where the electricity inside the batteries came from. Everyone else was fast asleep but I lay awake thinking about all these things. After a while I got up, switched on the light, took my battery off the shelf and broke it open.
There was some sort of liquid inside with a small black stick wrapped in a piece of cloth dipped in it. So that was it! The electricity came from that liquid. I carefully put the battery back on the shelf and went to bed again. I fell asleep at once.
Author: Nosov N.; illustrated by Ogorodnikov G.
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