That was the beginning; it was also the beginning of the end. The phone started "ringing" all the time--Mrs. Chin, hosting another sleepover; a teacher asking me to bring twenty bucks to school the next day for a field trip; an elderly neighbor asking if I could help her move boxes when I was supposed to be doing homework (really I was at the arcade). The phone was like a magic wand--every day I was creating new, alternate realities for my mom. I'd been acting as her ears my whole life, and she'd learned to rely on me. The only limits seemed to be the boundaries of my imagination.
But it didn't last long. My brother Peter took up the game, too, and we began to fight viciously about each other's technique--we each felt that the other was being too clumsy and over-the-top, and that we'd get found out and our fantastic potion would be gone. Soon enough, our older brother got into the act, and at that point we all kind of went nuts, abusing the phone trick like a stolen credit card you try and max out before it goes dead.
It went dead on my watch. My mom was on the phone, thinking she was talking to my dad, who was visiting his sister in Atlanta. My dad, as I wove it, was trying to convince her to buy me a "pitch-back," a net you could throw a baseball at and have it bounce back. "It just doesn't make sense," she kept saying to the buzzing receiver. "Honey, it costs seventy-nine dollars. He can go to the schoolyard and pitch into the backstop." But my dad was insistent. After all, he pointed out, hadn't I worked my butt off in school the past year? Hadn't I worked hard around the house? I deserved a special reward, right? Hadn't I ... hadn't I ... saved a pink butterfly from cruel hands of evil?