Uncle Bob’s Radio
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I’ll never forget last summer if I live to be eighty. My cousin, Tommy, and I spent two weeks with our Uncle Bob and Aunt Carol on their farm in the country. The first couple of days were fun playing with the farm animals. He had goats, chickens, pigs and an old horse. There were also two hunting dogs and several cats and kittens. We played in the stream in the woods behind the barn when it was hot. But, soon got bored, as most kids do.
Uncle Bob had to drive to a neighbor’s to help him work on a tractor and told his hired helper to keep an eye on us. Before he left, he told us we could play inside where it was cooler, but whatever we do, don’t touch his old radio.
Aunt Carol was picking warm ripe tomatoes in her garden. Tommy and I took off our tennis shoes and padded in sock feet across the cool kitchen floor to the living room. We looked at old pictures and played cards for a while, but soon got bored with that. Tommy said, “I want to listen to music. Let’s turn on the radio.” I reminded him what Uncle Bob said, but he wouldn’t listen.
We went across the living room where the radio sat like a statue on an old table in the corner, covered with dust. It didn’t look like it had been touched in fifty years. “I don’t think we should mess with it, Tommy,” I said. Tommy laughed and switched it on anyway.
At first we heard only old sounding songs that we’d never heard before. They reminded me of old movies that Mom watched when Dad was out of town, sad songs, mostly. Then, a shrill howl came out of the speaker that made us both jump back and fall onto the couch. A horrible voice started talking. It was deep and scratchy sounding. “She’s in the river,” the voice moaned. “I tried to save her, but it was no use. The river swallowed her and I’m alone!”
On and on it went. We were shaking and holding onto each other. We knew it was not a radio program we were listening to. I ran to the cord and unplugged it from the wall. It was as quiet as a tomb.
We felt a presence behind us and spun around to find Uncle Bob standing in the kitchen door. “I thought I told you kids not to turn that thing on!” he yelled. He was almost as pale as we were.
“What was that, Uncle Bob?” I asked.
He walked to the kitchen and we followed on his heels like puppies. He poured us each a tall glass of lemonade and continued outside to the back porch swing. I let the screen door slam behind me. Tommy and I climbed up on the porch rail and waited for Uncle Bob to tell us his story. Goose bumps chased up and down my back and neck in spite of the ninety-six degree temperature outside.
“That radio belonged to your Aunt Carol’s brother,” he started, taking a long drink from his glass. “His wife drowned in the river many years ago. He didn’t want to go on living and spent the next six months doing nothing but grieving and listening to that old radio and its sad songs until he died. Now, every time it’s turned on, his voice comes over it. He blamed himself for Susan’s death. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a bad accident. She tried to catch her hat that blew off into the river and fell in herself. The current was too strong and she couldn’t swim.”
The next week we mostly followed Uncle Bob around the farm, getting in his way. We sure didn’t want to listen to his radio anymore, that’s for sure. I hope he doesn’t put it in his will for me, either.