By Adam Lock
When the DJ stops talking I press record on the Hi-Fi.
‘Nope,’ Dad shouts from the kitchen.
I press stop. The Top Forty is down to five. I write the date on the cassette insert: 27th July 1986.
Dad appears from the kitchen with two plates. He puts one of the plates on the floor next to me: cheese sandwich, cheese and onion crisps, and half a Mars Bar. Mom would never let me have half a Mars Bar, but she’s living with Aunty Sue for now.
I’m eating my sandwich when the next song comes on. I press record and wait, my finger ready to press stop.
‘Nope,’ Dad says.
I press stop.
I smell Dad’s lager when he opens the can and pours it. He has three cans every Sunday.
‘“Let’s Go All The Way,”’ Dad says. ‘Sly Fox. Bet you — number three.’
We eat our sandwiches.
The next track starts and I press record.
‘Yep,’ Dad says through a mouthful of food. ‘Told you. We’ll have this one.’
I nibble the chocolate coating covering the half Mars Bar until there is only the nougat and caramel left.
The song fades out and I press stop, making the button sticky.
‘I don’t like this fading out nonsense,’ Dad says. ‘Songs should end properly. Should have an end.’
Number two opens with violins.
‘“Papa Don’t Preach,”’ Dad says. ‘Madonna. We’ll have this one.’ He takes the empty plates into the kitchen.
The DJ talks over the end of the song and I press stop. This song fades out too.
The UK’s number one starts and I press record. Over a slow drum beat and synthesiser the DJ says, ‘Chris De Burgh, with the wonderful, “Lady In Red.”’ I wait but Dad doesn’t say anything from the kitchen. The voice on the radio sings about a woman who looks lovely.
‘Dad?’ I call.
The song is about a woman’s dress and her hair. The white reels of the cassette turn inside the Hi-Fi.
I go into the kitchen. ‘Dad, we having this one?’
He’s sitting at the kitchen table, tea towel wrapped around his hand, staring at the window.
The voice in the other room sings about dancing cheek to cheek.
He wipes his eyes when he sees me. ‘No,’ he says. ‘Already have this one.’ He looks sad and angry at the same time. ‘Songs with fade-outs give people the wrong idea,’ he says. ‘Life doesn’t have fade-outs. Life is all about decisions, about abrupt endings.’ He points a finger at me. ‘In the end, Craig, life is about definite endings — one way or another. Remember that.’
The next day Mom tells me she’s moving out for good.
“Lady in Red” is UK’s Number One for three weeks, replaced by “I Want To Wake Up With You,” by Boris Gardiner, which also fades out.
Adam Lock won the STORGY Flash Fiction Competition 2018, placed 3rd in the TSS Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been longlisted and shortlisted for numerous competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Adam has had stories appear in many publications such as Former Cactus, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Syntax & Salt, Occulum, and many others. Links to these stories can be found at: adamlock.net. You can also connect with him on Twitter: @dazedcharacter.