The moment Joey walked through the front door, the phone started to ring in the kitchen. Joey rushed to answer it, fearing the worst. His heart pounded and his hand shook, as he snatched the receiver from its cradle.
"This is Mrs. Katherine Barkham," proclaimed an old woman's voice on the other end. "I'd like to speak with Joseph Duduka, please."
"This is he."
"I live on the corner where you get on the bus every morning," Mrs. Barkham continued. "I saw what that terrible Jarrett boy did to you, this morning. I saw how he forced you to get on the bus without your school books. I thought that was just awful. Tell me something. When are you going to stand up to that bully and give him the come-uppance he so richly deserves, instead of just standing there and taking his abuse, the way you always do?"
Joey didn't say a word. He didn't know what to say.
"Are either of your parents at home?" Mrs. Barkham persisted. "I think I'd like to speak with your mother."
"They're both still at work," Joey replied hastily and slammed down the receiver. Looking down, he noticed that his right hand was trembling even worse than before.
Ellen Duduka stood at the kitchen sink, drinking a glass of water. She'd overheard the entire conversation. "Who was that?" she asked her son.
Joey frowned and shook his head. "Nobody," he said.
"Well, it had to be someone," Ellen insisted.
"Ah, it was just some nosy, old biddy, who lives down where we catch our bus. This morning, one of the older boys made one of the younger boys get on the bus without his school books. And she was just callng to see if I knew anything about it. That's all."
Ellen looked at her son. "Now, what kind of child would do a terrible thing like that?" she wondered aloud.
Joey rushed to his bedroom and closed the door, before his mother could put two and two together.