Cruising down the road, and an old song plays over the airways, taking us back to another place and time. Whatever we’ve heard on the radio has an uncanny staying power you can’t forget. Music, or even stories, forge our memories.
With nostalgia — or not — writers took to the radio as a signal for crafting stories. Flipping through the stories in this collection is like dialing in different stations. Hope you tune into some favorites or surprises!
The following is based on the September 10, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something heard on the radio.
PART I (10-minute Read)
Journeys of a Kind by Saifun Hassam
It was maybe in 1967.
Sitting on the steps outside the kitchen.
Farm fields, wheat rustling in the slight breeze.
Great music pouring out of the transistor radio
Something about a guitar man, wandering the lands.
She cried and she laughed – just like the song said.
She’s now 70?
Those faraway crazy days listening to
Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Joan Baez.
Now it’s the Intenet.
Vivaldi; and Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”.
Great mix of classical guitar and jazz piano by Claude Bolling;
Jazz of Michael Silverman;
And the haunting notes of Eric Tingstad’s “Badlands”.
Tuning In by Norah Colvin
On sheep and cattle stations in outback Queensland in the pre-television and digital era, when mail and groceries were delivered fortnightly, the party line telephone and radio linked families with the outside world.
Mealtimes were scheduled to conclude with news broadcasts. The chatter and clatter ceased the moment chimes announced the start. Graziers inclined towards the radio, concentrating to extract words from the crackle, hopeful of positive stock reports, promising weather forecasts and news of world events.
Unable to affect, but affected by, the situations reported, the graziers returned to the day’s tasks, hopeful of better news next report.
“We Interrupt This Programme” by R. V. Mitchell
Six-year-old, Alice was dancing with her doll to the music on the radio. Suddenly, the music stopped and a man’s voice said, “We interrupt this programme, with an important bulletin. The United States’ fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii has been attacked by air and naval forces of the Empire of Japan. I repeat, the American fleet has been attacked in Hawaii.”
Alice ran to tell her mother.
“Mother, the Umpire of Japan attacked Hawee.”
Her mother instantly went pale, and stared out into their Nebraska pasture.
“Mother, where is Hawee?” the little girl asked.
“Too close, Darling. Too close.”
On the Radio by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Welcome to the Mercury Theatre on Air…” the voice echoed from the radio in the next room.
Rosemary stayed at the sink. She scrubbed hard at a burned spot in the pan. It was her turn to wash the dishes. Meanwhile, her brother and parents relaxed at the table, sipping coffee after dinner.
“…An unusual object has fallen on a farm in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey…” The radio sputtered with static.
Grover’s Mill? That’s where I live! Rosemary felt fear.
The announcer’s voice declared, “…It’s the War of the Worlds. Is there anybody out there?”
The radio went silent.
Radio Ga-Ga by Tyler M Deal
Narrator: Nearly paralyzed with fear, she inches closer to the open window. The cold, night air chills her skin. Closer… closer… hands trembling, she reaches for the window seal. She swallows hard and looks out. A shadow in the darkness; a gruesome disfigured hand reaches up and… and…
Announcer: We will pause here briefly with this ad for Radium Water. Radium Water, it’ll cure what ails ya and leave you with a healthy, vibrant glow. Radium Water! Available wherever NukEx products are sold.
Narrator: And now… for the thrilling conclusion of… The Withered Hand of Rrrrrrrrasputin!
On Being a Believer by Judy Marshall
If you found inspiration today from God’s word, please support our broadcast with a donation…
Grandma rose early Wednesday mornings to hear Dr. Samuel preach. Her battered old radio sat on the kitchen table.
KRST-AM crackled from 8:00 to 8:30 with Dr. Samuel’s soothing voice. Wednesday’s were almost better than Sunday services she attended. She felt renewed from the singing and fellowship of her fellow worshipers.
From these inspirations, she wrote checks. She tithed with a monthly check as God directed She donated to Dr. Samuel and bought his books.
Grandma truly was a believer. RIP with God, Grandma.
October Road by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The sun was a memory, the road a straight line swallowed by an empty horizon. This relic of a rental was so old, the radio was one speaker, with five buttons and a dial to select AM stations. Too late even for radio ministry, too early for the farm report; he cranked open the window for the wind’s whistle.
Rubbing his eyes with one hand, he cupped the wheel with the other.
“Joe? Are you there?”
He started, cranked the window shut to hear the radio
Her voice was clear and strong, as if she was still alive.
It Had to Be a Sign by Anne Goodwin
“Living Doll” crescendoed as Steve pushed through the swing door into Theatre Six. Three figures in scrubs, and no instruments in sight except the whiteboard marker pens held, like microphones, to their mouths. It had to mean something, Jerry dancing in the middle, the father he never had.
He used to jive with his mother when his big sisters were at Guides. “Did he really do that, Mummy? Did Cliff Richard lock a lady in a trunk so no-one else could have her?”
Now he has a house, a cellar, bolts across the door. A girlfriend, threatening to leave.
In And Out On The Radio by Hugh W. Robeerts
“Hello,” said Juliet, knocking the side of the ostentatious object, “Who’s in there?”
“Come away,” demanded her mother.
“How can all those people be in there? Why don’t they come out?”
“Don’t be silly! They can’t come out. They’re not inside the radio. They’re broadcasting from the BBC.”
“I want to broadcast from the BBC and come out on the radio,” demanded Julia.
Forty-one years later.
“Today on BBC Radio 4, we’re interviewing actress, Juliet Greenwood,” announced the radio presenter. “Good morning, Ms Greenwood. Are the rumours true?”
“Yes, they are,” declared the radio soap opera star. “I’m gay.”
True Radio Memory by Sue Spitulnik
A phone call on a weeknight from my UPS driver son wasn’t a common thing. I asked, “What’s up?”
“Every place I made a delivery today the ladies were crying about some DJ dying. Who was he and were you crying too?”
“On my God, yes. Bill Coffey from WBEE dropped dead yesterday after the show. Terry and Billy told us this morning. We all cried together.”
“Did you ever meet this guy?”
“No, but I knew him well. Those DJ’s are my friends.”
“They don’t know you.”
“But I feel like I know them.”
“I don’t get it.”
Lost Daughter by Charli Mills
Clementine heard her mother over the Stockton radio. She’d entered the small house at the edge of farm fields, picking up fallen produce in the road. Harvest trucks left a trail, speeding to city markets. Her landlady called the rental the Road Garden. Clem thought she meant “rose” and was disappointed to find weeds and a weeping willow. Her mother played Rambler on the banjo and Clem recognized the Tennessee picking popular among California cowboys. She recognized her mother’s name but not her voice. One day, maybe she’d meet the woman who abandoned her for a life of music.
On the Radio by Eliza Mimski
I’m sorry, so sorry
That I was such a fool
I didn’t know
Love could be so cruel…
Brenda Lee’s voice bled through the radio. The walls sagged, the lights dim with memory.
Marla could not turn back the hands of time. She was sorry. She had been a fool. And from her end, cruelty had entered into their break-up.
There was only one thing to do. She would buy new makeup. She would get a new haircut. She’d go to her aesthetician. She’d practice her coy smile in front of the mirror.
She would get her man back.
Songs One Can’t Forget by Frank Hubeny
“I hope the kids don’t remember that song you used to sing to them about the bird and the word.”
“I didn’t sing it for long. When they got older, I pretended to be the voice of their doll, Sweetie Baby.”
“You know, we still have that doll in case they ever want it.”
“It’s good to keep stuff like that. Actually some of those old songs aren’t any goofier than the ones they sing today. No wonder we’re all messed up.”
“At least the grand kids don’t know the song.”
“Unfortunately I sang it to them as well.”
Triggering the Howling Stage by Anne Goodwin
I considered myself happy, that final summer of my childhood, playing housewife, home alone. My mother away, securing my future, my dad at work, my brother at play. My chores complete, I’d doze off with the radio in the afternoon heat. Until a sentimental song kicked me into consciousness, ambushing me with feelings I didn’t recognise as mine. A howling thrusting from my bowels and discharging from my throat. An animal sound, alien, drowning the jingle, almost choking me. Arrhythmic breathing, such wild and weird wailing, it made me laugh. A dramatic overture before the symphony of weeping commenced.
OMG by Simon
A man was walking down the road thinking. He was listening to radio station, a hot news on the radio station, it said “Ghost writer exposed, he is none other than Sam from a small village in India, and we will be hearing his success story from him very soon, until then stay tuned.” Everyone celebrated and jumped and lifted him. He did not understood why they are behaving strange, his Mom came outside and gave him a spoon of sugar and said, “You idiot, you never told us you are writer.” Sam gasped and said, “OMG! I’m revealed!”
Live Author Talk by M J Mallon
Those bloody motorbikes can’t they stop! 1 A.M. no chance I’ll get any sleep. Tomorrow’s the live show. Never done this before. What will it be like? I’ll soon know. Introverted writers, tonight at 9 p.m. I’ll talk live. Bound to be a problem with the connection. We’ll get there… I did it! I listen, damn, I can’t see my weird mannerisms, but I can hear them. Perhaps I should have had some water instead of that glass of wine, stupid faux pas, one or two!
PART II (10-minute Read)
Radio Stories by Susan Zutautas
Dan Hill a Canadian pop singer/songwriter was on the radio telling the story of how “Sometimes When We Touch” came about.
A girl he liked was dating a football player and he wrote and sang her his song. She felt he was too intense for his age. Off he went hurt by her reply. He tucked away the song until he was older.
Working with Barry Mann one day he asked him to come up with music for his poem, not mentioning any of the history behind it. It came out in 1977 hitting #3 on the U.S. billboard.
Heard on the Radio by Anita Dawes
I remember falling in love with a song
After hearing it coming from
my mum’s little Dansette radio
Years later I bought it on vinyl
Played it until it became paper-thin
The neighbours banging on the wall
Begging me to play something different
It’s strange how one song
Heard on a tiny radio
Can colour your life
To me the world suddenly
became wonky, off-kilter.
Why do people think they can take
what doesn’t belong to them
Changing Nations with their greed
remains one of my favourite songs
to this day
Driving Me by Joanne Fisher
As she drove me home, she sang along to some song on the radio. I wasn’t even sure what it was. She glanced sideways at me and smiled.
“Hey this could be our song babe!’ she said, and then she abruptly began to sing again loud and off-key, as always. Our song? We had only been going out for two days now, and I wasn’t that sure if we were going to last, yet.
“Sure sweetie.” I replied with a half-smile. She laughed loudly and patted my leg.
“That’s my girl!” she exclaimed. And then she started singing again.
Radio Reboot by Bill Engleson
“He finally bought it?”
“Bloody miracle. Melania kept pounding away at ’em. Know what finally brought him around?”
“The initials. DJT. She kept repeating FDR JFK DJT FDR JFK DJT.”
“Yup. Had him running around the bedroom chanting it. FDR JFK DJT. It was a hoot.”
“And he’s willing to go to the next level?”
“Bet your booties. Anything to get the geriatric vote back. And the younger demographic will be amused.”
“Not quite a fireside chat.”
“No, but ‘Tweet nothings from the Prez’ has a ring. Every radio station we can get. 7:00 am…sharp.”
Mixed Media by JulesPaige
Even those stations that attempt to bring us enjoyment often spouting that they are the best – this is the icing on the cake – we’ll take care of you, we’ve surgically removed all of the calories. A line we fall for too easily because we sometimes just really want to be fooled. We want what was, that simpler time forgetting the long list of woes each preceding decade has had to deal with. And yet we still seek that sugar rush. Looking for a sweet life wanting music that soothes.
frosted, sugar, chilled?
media complicates things
with their bias views
Good News on the Radio by H.R.R. Gorman
David wrote nervously at his desk. He scribbled numbers and added them to prepare other people’s taxes. The radio played in the background, droning out music and ads from a tinny speaker while David waited.
When the news came on he fiddled with a key on his ring. Bay of Pigs, Gulf of Tonkin, U2 spy planes: one day they’d go too far, and the red trigger would be pushed.
David was prepared. Years of food, fluorescent lighting to grow plants underground, a generator, barrels and barrels of diesel. Just give the word, radio, and he’d leave accounting forever.
1938 CBS Mercury by Kerry E.B. Black
The rich-voiced announcer interrupted our background music with a report. A Professor from Jenning Observatory detected explosions on Mars.
I shared a nervous laugh. “Nothing to worry about, children. Let’s carve our pumpkins.”
The reporter interrupted again. A hideous monsters that had fallen from the skies. I bundled the kids close, jack-o-lanterns forgotten. We crept outside, but nothing disturbed the starry expanse overhead. No Martians. No attacks.
A neighbor asked if we were alright.
We whispered, “Martians are attacking New York.”
“You don’t say?”
“Way I see it, you shouldn’t listen to Orson Wells’ show. Charley McCarthy’s funnier.”
Station To Station by Geof Le pard
‘Let’s have some music, Logan.’
‘There’s nothing worthwhile.’
‘That’s ridiculous. American has more stations than All India railways.’
‘But they’re vacuous. Not like Radio Three on the Beeb.’
‘You mean pretentious presenters widdling on about Bach’s innovative use of the semi-breve?’
‘Exactly. Better than some tight-trousered troubadour bemoaning his herpes.’
‘That’s your summation of a whole genre, is it? Go on…’
And now a word from our sponsors, Artic Deodorant…
‘See, just bloody adverts…’
‘Shush, you may learn something…’
It may be winter outside, but it’s always August under your armpits. Freshen up…
‘You’re right. Turn it off, Logan.’
Beyond by D. Avery
They pulled the door shut against the snow squall. “We made it.”
He fumbled for a switch. “There’s still electricity.” Then the lights flickered out.
“Not surprising in this storm, but look, there’s wood, and there’s coals glowing in the fireplace. The owner must have preheated the cabin for us.” He soon had a fire blazing. She spotted a battery-powered radio.
Roads becoming impassable…
“Radio works… now for this lantern.”
Police have suspended their search for an escaped serial killer.
The lantern beam encircled them like a snare. Stepping from the shadowed edge of light, a silhouette took form.
Time in a Radio by Chel Owens
“The shadow knows…” cassette-crackles our road trip-bound car, forced upon us by ancient parents. I can’t wait for
“That was Mars, The Bringer of War…” intones the always-calm classical voice, soothing from my bedside speaker. I’ll never change to
“Help! I need somebody…” Another sort of Classic, crooning comfort. “Here comes your ghost again,” cannot be replaced by
“Video killed the radio star…” my teenage mouth moves along. Why kill art; why listen to anything but
“The shadow” bzzt “Mars” bzzt “diamonds and rust” bzzt “all that glitters is goooold” bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Dial broken, static cleared; I play them all.
Music by FloridaBorne
The first time I heard the continental divide of music, I was at a stoplight that stayed red for so long it tried my patience.
“Bye Bye Miss American Pie…”
The light turned green just as the song began, and I shifted into first gear. I drove a Nash Metropolitan, not a Chevy, and there was no levee in sight.
Age 21, with an entire lifetime ahead of me, the song was screaming out a message I was much too young to understand.
It’s been almost 50 years. Will our republic lose control of the plane in this battle?
On The Radio by Donna Matthews
I drive across the lot and find a spot. I turn off the engine, head in, and scan quickly for an open seat and friendly face. New writing class jitters.
The instructor opens with the 19th 9/11 anniversary. 19 years! I still remember all that time ago sitting in traffic, hearing the news on the radio, and thinking how surely it was a terrible accident.
Our assignment is to imagine a moment from the perspective of someone there. This is horrifyingly simple. I picture the spouse picking up their car from the ferry dock among the hundreds still there.
Now Why? by Reena Saxena
The road trip was taken against her wish.
A sense of foreboding descended on her, as they drove on the same zig-zag roads climbing up the mountains, but she controlled herself. Teenage children don’t listen anyway.
The familiar refrain of a song brought her out of her reverie.
“OMG! This is not possible. It’s the same song.”
“You enjoy old songs, Mom…”
“This radio channel closed down long back.”
The same figure in black stood on the roadside with an infant in her arms. She had stopped them a decade ago.
She’d died fifteen years ago. Now why?
iAiai by D. Avery
“Pal, do you have a ipod?”
“Should git one.”
“Pal, we’re out here all the live long day, we should have a playlist fer when we work.”
“Yer hardly workin’, Kid. Jist leave the singin’ ta the birds.”
“Y’ever yodel, Pal?”
“Ah, jeez. Who’s there?”
“Little Old Lady.”
“Little Old Lady who?”
“Gotcha ta yodel, Pal!”
Brain KROT by D. Avery
“S’pose all we need’s thet old radio in the bunkhouse, tuned to KROT. Weatherman says them high winds is slacked off. Says the skies are not cloudy all day.”
“Sportscaster says the Rodeo’s comin’!”
And the Ads Played On
“Yep, KROT’s a good station, plays jist what ya wanna hear when ya wanna hear it.”
“How da they manage that, Pal?”
“Reckon ‘cause they’s fictional, like us. Shush listen.”
Come shift or shine ya don’t need no fancy wine but fer a real good time try Ernie’s Corn Juice! Ernie’s Corn Juice— dis still the one fer fallin’ down fun.
“Ernie’s advertisin’ on KROT!”
‘Ello. Dees ees Pepe LeGume of LeGume’s Cleaning Services. Leave a shine behind! For a clean that lingers, hire LeGume’s.”
Frankie delivers da letters with an eye to quality.
“Kid, iquit radio!”