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.
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