May Writing Prompt Contest
Stephen stood and stared at the old radio nestled in the ground under the bridge. It was one of those classic ones, with a large tuning dial that moves a line across the frequencies marked on the front.
Grandma had had one exactly like it. It had sat on a chair under their kitchen window and was always playing music. In those days, he had never known exactly what type of music it was — Grandad had told him it was called ‘swing’, which he thought sounded funny.
Grandma’s house was a happy place, full of the smells of baking and furniture polish. Grandad was a loving and gentle man, who always had a kind word to say to Stephen and took an interest in what he had been doing.
Their house had a veranda out the back, where Grandad would busy himself making tools and “Seeing a man about a dog,” as he used to say, while Grandma would be bustling about in her yellow apron.
There was a beautiful old cherry tree in their garden, which he was sure must have been there for decades. Its trunk was enormous and the branches so strong that a full-size swing seat hung from one of them. He had loved to sit on that swing with Grandma and listen to her talk.
Grandma was a font of knowledge, and knew so much about what was going on in the world. Sitting on that seat, gliding back and forth, with the swing music coming out of the radio, and listening to Grandma speak about the war years, he had been transported back in time just as effectively as the fabled DeLorean had managed to achieve for Marty McFly.
His favourite story had always been how she had seen King George standing in the rubble after a bombing raid in Coventry during the blitz. He must have asked her a hundred times to tell him that story. And she had always indulged him, without a word of scorn.
Unfortunately, his grandparents had died in a tragic aeroplane crash, when he was just ten years old.
He hadn’t thought about them for years. And he had the radio to thank for bringing those memories flooding back to him. As he continued to stare at it, he realised that he had felt inexplicably drawn to this very bridge, like a magnet was pulling him towards it.
In fact, if truth be told, he wasn’t really sure why he was in this particular park at all. He wondered: had he been brought here, to this spot, just so he could find this radio?
It was a crazy thought. But then, how much of a coincidence was it to find a radio like this, here, of all places, and looking exactly like the one his grandparents had had?
He reached down to pick it up and dusted off the leaves and detritus that had accumulated around the grille at the front. He checked the battery compartment: it was empty. That was fortunate — if batteries had still been inside there, they could have leaked acid and corroded important parts of the electronics.
Then, he was struck by an almost unbearable urge: he needed to get home and get some batteries into the radio, and see if it still worked. The suggestion in his mind was overwhelming and he was giddy for a moment, and stuck by nausea. He had to steady himself with a tree branch nearby.
As he looked around he realised it was a beautiful day in the park. The sun was shining and the river was glinting from the reflected sunlight as it passed by him. He was feeling euphoric and, as he gazed at the river, the colours of the day seemed to deepen and take on an otherworldly glow.
After a few moments, he began to feel less disorientated, and felt able to make the trip back to his apartment. Once he got through his front door, he practically sprinted to the drawer where he kept the spare batteries and rummaged quickly for the right size. Once he had what he needed, he inserted the batteries, closed the compartment and turned the radio on.
He almost jumped out of his skin when the white noise of static burst from the radio. Although, he was elated that it still worked. He turned the volume down considerably and then reached for the tuning dial and began to turn it slowly.
Not much happened at first. Then, a shiver ran up his spine as he tuned into a station that was playing a type of music he recognised. “Is this…swing?” he wondered aloud, to himself. While he was listening to the music, trying to decide on its genre, he noticed something else. It seemed faint but he thought he could also hear a voice speaking in the background.
He turned up the volume and listened more intently.
Invisible spiders ran up his back and climbed into his hair, as he realised it was Grandma’s voice, speaking in the mellifluous tone she always did when she was telling one of her tales about the war.
At that moment, he was struck by a revelation — this didn’t just look like their radio. Impossibly, this was their radio. Had her voice been etched into its electronics, somehow?
He fell into a dream-like state listening to her speak, almost not noticing the words she was using. It was so beautiful, to hear her voice again after all these years. Stephen’s face was wet with tears of joy.
After a time, he noticed there was a second voice. This one was young; perhaps a child. He turned the radio up a little more in the hope of hearing what the second voice was saying.
“Grandma, please could you tell me the story about when you met the King again?”
© Derrick Cameron 2019
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