(Strip Number 1354, Original Publication Date, 30 September 1988
Panel 1: “John, a girl just called Michael”, says Elly which tells us that Elly eavesdropped on their whole conversation and waited until it was done before she decided to tell John. I like Elly’s thumb to her right to indicate where the awful phone call took place. We know the Patterson phone is in their kitchen, so it was probably only a few feet away from where John is currently standing. John responds, “Lucky guy,” which means that John wishes he would get a phone call from a girl, and amazingly Elly does not react to that slam.
Panel 2: John puts down the coffee pot, switches the coffee cup to his right hand, picks up a cookie with his left hand, and takes a bite of the cookie; all before Elly says, “But it’s a boyfriend-girlfriend kind of conversation! Don’t you think he’s too young?” At this point it becomes clear that Elizabeth has not told her mother about Michael and Martha and the summer camp marching/hand-holding and when you think about it, that is a fairly amazing thing. Since when is Elizabeth not a tattletale? However, it is not as amazing as Elly’s suggestion that Michael is too young for such things. After all, this is the same kid who chased after Deanna Sobinski from kindergarten to Grade 4. This is Elly at the Grade 4 Hallowe’en dance in panel 2 in the clown outfit, chaperoning as Michael and Deanna are dealing with their latest couples’ spat and being forced to dance with each other. Grade 4 was not too young for couples to fight, but Grade 7 is?
John keys off the “boy” and “girl” in boyfriend-girlfriend and says, “She’s girl, he’s a boy. What makes you think it’s some great big romance?” Aside from the gender identification pronouncement, the question is a reasonable one. Of course, I do like the way John associates, “boyfriend-girlfriend” with “great big romance.” Aw, John. You are such a softy.
Panel 4: As John sports the standard Pattersnarfing crumbs falling out of his mouth, Elly points to her neck and says, “They’re fighting!” with a gesture that in a gangster movie would means someone is about to die.
OK. Let’s get this straight. A girl calls up Michael. Michael and the girl get into a heated fight, enough to attract the attention of Elizabeth and Elly. Elly overhearing the fight assumes it is a boyfriend-girlfriend kind of conversation. I think a normal parent might come to a different conclusion, perhaps one that is the exact opposite of Elly’s. When kids are in phone conversation having a fight, that means they are angry with each other, not that they are in love with each other. That is actually what is happening here. Whether he should or not, Michael has a grievance with Martha over her kissing gossip and he is still mad at her. Elly is completely wrong in her interpretation of the conversation, which does tell us a little about Elly.
To me, these look violent, but to Elly, these are boyfriend-girlfriend kind of conversations:
Summary: Typically Elly would confront Michael directly when she is upset with him, but her conversation here is with the unstated intent that she wants John to have a talk with Michael, which is where this goes on Monday. Unfortunately, that conversation will not start with John saying, “Your mother has gone crazy and wants to me to find out why you were fighting with a girl on the phone, because she thinks you are in love with her and you are too young to do that.”