Why a magnet?


The broken radio lay discarded on the junk heap. Its still-shiny chrome and black plastic casing stood out against the dark red of the rusted anvils and old machinery. It was strange to see it there instead of on its customary place on the dresser.

We grabbed it,  and began twisting the dials, raising the antenna and pushing it back down, pressing buttons. But nothing happened. The radio was truly broken. Then one of the speakers came loose, giving a glimpse at the inner workings of the device. My brother began to pry it open further. I was the hesitant ninny. I knew how vital the radio was to everyday life, how valuable electrical goods were. But my brother said they didn’t need it, wasn’t the replacement in there in the kitchen already?

I was curious too to see inside the radio, so my protests didn’’t last long. I wanted to know how this little box brought us music from America and beyond, and let us attend sports events taking place a hundred miles away.

But when I saw the magnet in the centre of the speaker, I was stumped. What could it possibly have to do with radio broadcasting? A magnet was a magical thing of itself to us children, our concept of it highly influenced by cartoons, where the bad guy was lifted up and held tight by a massive red and silver U-shaped specimen, betrayed by his belt buckle. But I knew this black circle that looked like a piece of rubber was a magnet, because it looked exactly like the fragments we’d played with before. They must also have come from obsolete radios, taken apart by either someone curious or someone thrifty. And knowing my dad, I’m going with curious.

My brother and I split the magnet in two. I took my half into school, and it was a sensation for a day.

Thirty years later, I listen to music and radio programmes on my laptop. I can’t even see the speakers, and have no idea if they need magnets or not. But the excitement and wonder of that afternoon pulling a radio apart is as fond a memory of a time gone past as the sound of crackling voices coming over the airwaves as a station bursts out of the white noise and into life. Beat that, iTunes podcasts.


Inspired by Daily Prompt: Magnet


Broken home


I come from a broken home. Nothing worked properly in it. The wind blew in the windows through the gaps between the panes and the frames even when they were shut tight. Some were shut so tight they couldn’t be opened any more, so the breeze through the frames was often a blessing.

The gas oven had to be lit with a match, an exercise that had to be done at just the right time. Too early, and the ring would flare out as soon as the gas hit the match, scorching fingers. Any absentmindedness in lighting meant the gas had to be turned off again and the room aired out before it was safe to strike that match.

It was not wise to plop onto any of the couches or armchairs, or a bottom could hit the floor instead of being comfortable suspended in a soft cushion. Armrests collapsed easily too under elbows, particularly when a scalding mug of tea was in the hand.

The bath was forgotten about once the shower was installed, until a new puppy arrived that needed a wash. Then it was discovered that the taps had corroded from misuse and the bath really was just the storage bin it had been used as over the past few years. The shower was the only option then, with its weak water pressure and moody temperature gauge that seemed to take pleasure in alternately burning and freezing any users under the pathetic dribble of water from the shower-head.

Even the chimney didn’t work properly – going on fire three times before a guard was fitted on top to stop crows dropping twigs down the chute. Though, as a child, the short-term excitement provided by the arrival of a fire engine and the potential drama in ending up homeless rather made this little inconvenience rather appealing.

As an adult, I was determined to never live like that again. In my home, everything is brand new. Everything sparkles and shines. No gadget is older than five years old. The windows and doors hermetically seal the building to such a degree that we had to keep a budgie as an early warning. On walking out in the morning, the sensation of air flowing over the body can be quite unnerving.

Ripped or damaged clothes are destroyed in a furnace before they can bring shame on the family. A broken plate sends reverberations of horror and panic through my children – they wince and shrink into themselves, knowing what punishment is coming their way. I almost enjoy watching them squirm in terror.

But my family shall never experience the degradation of growing up in a broken home, I can promise you that.