Taping Lydia #fridayflash

This story is dedicated to my son Dylan and his friend from kindy Flynn. Without their banter over the last week about the movie The Ring, big sister issues, marriage and my own recollection of nefariously hacking into the radio waves in my friend’s rumpus room using their old upright black tape recorder with the orange record button, this story may have been about a mischevious coffee cup.

– – –

I imagine what Lydia would look like on the back of a milk cartoon

“Don’t diss it!”

“Don’t diss it,” she mimics in the high pitched voice she saves especially for me when Mum can’t hear.

Jake promised me it would be simple, but this seems far too easy.

Lydia puts one hand on her hip and pushes a massive purple bubble out from between her lips. It pops with a loud thwack and she sucks the bits back in, chewing like a cow again. Gross .

“What is it anyway?” Like she cares what it actually is.

“A technological artefact,” I say, proud of the fact after two days of practising, the words come out in the right order and sounding proper.

“Looks like junk.” But I can tell from the way she’s looking she’s just a little bit interested in the thing Jake found buried in his Pop’s garage.

“It’s not junk.”


“Is not boring Lydia.”



My fingers hover over the PLAY and RECORD buttons, just as Jake showed me. They’re big and clunky. Nothing like an iPod.

“It’s not even plugged in you moron.” Jake assured me we didn’t need a cord or batteries, even though I didn’t really believe it would work without power.

I’d watched fascinated as he’d popped open the lid in the middle of the machine with the EJECT button and slid the plastic thing his Pop told him was called “a tape” or “casette”  into the slot. Jake told me the one he put in had Leo Sayer written on it.

Jake said Leo sounded like a man who was intelligent and talked alot  or perhaps a misunderstood genius – but Jake thinks everyone is a misunderstood genius, even Myle Cyrus. I thought he sounded like something from Disney but kept it to myself. The one I chose had AC/DC on it. Thought it sounded like a code.

We’d both been careful not to have a tape in or to press the PLAY and RECORD buttons when Jake talked me through how it happened with him. How I hoped it would happen for me. But I wanted to give Lydia a second chance.

Mum always said everyone deserved a second chance, even the baddest people. And Lydia definitely falls into that category, so I try especially hard.

“Say something nice Lydia. Like, say you love me or you’re glad that I’m your little brother.”

“You’re gay.” And another bubble squeezes out.

I glare at her, remembering when Mum explained glaring meant staring meanly. I do it a lot at Lydia behind Mum’s back but it doesn’t seem to scare her. Just makes her sneer, which means to meanly laugh. The bubble explodes.

“I am not a homo-sex-ual. And Mum says you’re not allowed to call me gay.”

“So go dob then. Gay-bo. You so love Jake.”

“I do not love Jake.”

“Do so – you said you wanted to marry him.”

My cheeks get hot.

“ I was at kindy and upset because you had just told me I couldn’t marry Mum. I thought getting married was like being friends with someone.”


“Why are you so mean to me?”

“Because I can.”

Those were Lydia’s last words.

Later when I walked back to Jake’s house with the casette in my pocket and the recorder in my back pack I played it over and over again in my head, unable to believe it had happened – just like Jake promised it would. My stomach churned and I tried hard not to run.

It was a reflex to press the buttons down – just like when they hit your knee with a hammer and your leg kicks out. One minute she was standing chomping gum being mean and the next she was gone, recorded onto the tape. First her voice and then all of her, as the tiny wheels went round and round. I stood there watching until the wheels stopped and the RECORD and PLAY buttons jumped back up. I pressed EJECT.

Jake passes me the black texta he stole from the bottom drawer of his Pop’s kitchen and with my hand shaking I scribble out AC/DC and write LYDIA below it, so we won’t get them mised up. We climb up onto the workbench to the shelves high up. Jake pushes aside a tin covered in orange contact, full of old door handles and I put my tape up there in the corner. In its own cover, beside Lydia is Jake’s siser Michelle, and another Jake isn’t sure about. I don’t touch it. Jake says it looks really old and was covered in dust. The name on the tape is MARGARET.

After we push the tin back into place we spit in our palm, shake and make a pledge to never speak of it again.

Taping Lydia was written from the [Fiction] Friday prompt: Pick an ordinary object, and give it an extraordinary use and for inclusion in the  #FridayFlash Twitter flash fiction round up compliments of @jmstro.

If you are here via FridayFlash or Fiction Friday please leave a link to your entry in your comment and I will ensure I get to your piece to read and comment ASAP.

37 thoughts on “Taping Lydia #fridayflash

  1. Awesome, creepy story. Like the choice of object. Totally right as it is already esoteric for your two characters. Its new use is a clever way to make this familiar but dated device strange to the reader. Great piece of flash.


  2. Thanks for your comments Dan. I get all excited when I read glowing comments from you!

    I had the story from the start – that the brother would do something to make his sister disappear – but trapping her in a magic vase seemed just too – well, obvious for one!

    I think it was all the discussions with my son about the “haunted video tape” in The Ring which bought the old tape recorder into the fray and memories of my friends and I thinking we were hacking into the radio waves by turning the radio on and pushing record at the same time. Giggling thinking the police would turn up any moment to arrest us!

    Sharing the story with my partner’s best friend over lunch earlier in the week, he laughed and said maybe there was another tape there – perhaps his Pop’s sister. I have no idea who “Margaret” is or was – but liked the idea that someone had been there before these two very naughty boys! But hadn’t been responsible enought to properly dispose of said nefarious technology.

    Thanks again for stopping by.


  3. Ganymeder: thanks for the comment – I only just went in and found the comments sitting waiting in the pending pile! I’m glad you didn’t see it coming.

    Adi: I’m guessing that you is you “Miss Whitecross” hiding up there. You make me giggle when you say you didn’t know I could write this well. Didn’t I always have my head down writing “something” at high school. It has just evolved from all sorts of drivel about boys to … well higher evolved drivel about little boys and their sisters!

    Ben: go get’em! I’m glad it is subtle. I had to work hard to get his voice just right. Pegged him at about seven, so wanted to make sure his voice wasn’t too sophisticated, yet not too simplistic. There is a lovely synergy between the two at that age. And there is lots borrowed from real life (like the stuff about glare .. which I realised I could extrapolate out into sneer) … and I’m not sure what’s up with Leo Sayer. He seems to keep popping up at the moment.


  4. What creepy little story, and I mean that in the best of ways! You made your protagonist very sympathetic, and I, for one, am glad the nasty sister got what she deserved.

    As a matter of fact, I have a sister…three of them, in fact.

    Uh. Know where I might be able to borrow one of those? Just saying.

    Well done!


  5. Thanks for the heads up on the typos Alan. [Fiction] Friday is meant to be first draft material – so I kind of hedge my bets between the two writing communities.

    I’m glad everyone is finding it creepy. The problem when you hang out with a story too long is you get desensitised to it … thus the feedback is awesome. Thank you everyone 🙂


  6. Jodi I really appreciated your opening “I imagine what Lydia would look like on the back of a milk cartoon” when I got to the end of the story.

    Your tale has such serendipity for me ~ Just this past weekend I walked into a garage sale where one of these cassette recorders was on sale, and two teenage girls were laughing at how another older woman there knew all the lyrics to the Monkees (I think?) sing “I’m a believer.” You have given me a very vivid imagining of them both getting sucked into that tape!


    • I love the Monkees and appreciated them much more in the teenage years than I do now (and I was a whole generation removed from the initial hysteria!) Was it one of those flat cassette recorders or the one that stands up alongside a wall? I used to smuggle my Mum’s tape recorder to high school and sit and listen to the dirty dancing soundtrack with my friends at lunch.

      I’m glad the opening line works so well.


  7. Hehehe. Didn’t we all wish we had a magical tape recorder when we were younger. A magical iPod doesn’t have the same ring to it. Leo Sayer is even on a recent Wiggles DVD – kids can’t even escape Leo. Maybe the next one can be about disappearing him.

    Thanks also for your valuable comments on my flash.


    • I had no idea that Leo was on The Wiggles – I’d like to say I just pulled him from my imagination – but since he’s been on things like Stupid White Man … he seemed to just be sitting there waiting to have the piss taken out of him in on of my shorts! I did teach my son to sing “I Feel Like Dancin'” being they had it on Play School one day!


  8. This sent shivers up my spine. It’s such an imaginative idea and I’m sure that no kid could resist giving it a try. I agree that the device of an earlier tape is a fine touch. I want to know what happens next!


    • I’m not sure there is even a next movement from this. I did imagine them trying to work out how to get the girls back when they realise the drama and pain caused to their parents.

      It reminded me of the scene in Zathura where he wishes his brother gone.


  9. Beautifully crafted – a sinister tale told from the eyes of a child makes the telling so more creepy. The opening line sets the whole scene up for us “I imagine what Lydia would look like on the back of a milk cartoon” and yet its not till the end till we realise how real those words will become.

    great to see you swing straight back into form for FF.

    as per my personal challenge of exploring different genres…Bangsian fantasy is visited this week.



    • The opening sentence originally appeared far further into the story until I realised what a great hook it was. It also originally mentioned Jake’s sister on the back of the milk carton – even though I don’t think that sort of thing happens any more … every one gets what a back of a milk carton means.

      It feels good to be dabbling in a little FF & FF play! Good counter balance to editing and critiquing (did I mention I’m already over re-writing my own stuff and there’s still piles of it to go!)


    • Mine is a little sister and I would never have been savvy enough to have thought of something like this! Much less have it work 🙂 I wonder what my little brother will think of this should he ever read it – but we didn’t come into each others lives until we were adults.


  10. Oh my goodness. Beware of geeks bearing gifts. I had no idea where this was going, other than I didn’t like Lydia either and then she was gone.

    I went back and re-read the whole piece. You give hints all the way through yet the reader is carried along until you drop the bombshell. Artfully done.

    A very good read, and a very well constructed story.


  11. It’s funny: I don’t care for horror (can’t read it, in fact), and yet I seem to be the only person who doesn’t find this story creepy or sinister. It reads to me as any younger sibling’s dream – more desperate to be free than cruel or mean-spirited. Maybe it’s the purple gum, but I found it to have a Willy Wonka kind of poetic justice.


  12. This is an excellent story. I love the voice and that it’s just so fresh and young. I hope I get to read more of your work… on Fridays 🙂

    I am very curious as to who Margaret is…


  13. Fabulous! I loved it. I too want to know who Margaret is, sticking a hint in somewhere might be worthwhile. Maybe at the beginning, to frame the story?
    It’s kind of like Shannon Esposito’s story from this week – seeing creepiness through the innocent and accepting eyes of a child makes things even more creepy. And you’ve got the POV and hence the increased creepiness spot on.


  14. I loved it…brings back memories. I keep alot of these old devices around to show my kids. The record player, tape players, rotary phone. Can’t beat these old devices. They have so much character on their own that they can flow into stories very well. I have an older sister and there’s been times when I couldv’e used that particular recorder 🙂

    Nice job.



  15. Pingback: September Review of Goals « Writing in Black and White

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