Broken Things

by 

Author : Adrian Berg

A man and his son stood together on a mound, surrounded by a vast field of garbage. They were ragged, the boy with wild, uncut hair and the man with a knotted beard.

The setting sun painted the sky red above them as they sorted through the junk. The boy picked up a metal box that had dials on the side and a handle on top.

‘What’s this, father?’ he asked.

‘Let me see,’ the man said. ‘That’s a radio. I haven’t seen one of those in a long time. People used them to listen to music and voices that were sent through the air.’

‘Can you make it work?’ the boy turned the box around in his hands.

‘I doubt it.’

He started putting it down.

‘Tell you what,’ the man said and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. ‘Let’s take it back with us. Maybe we can fix it. If not, your mother can use the casing to plant herbs.’

The boy nodded and put the radio in a faded satchel. ‘Why did people throw away all this?’ he asked and looked out at the hills of discarded things, dotted with cracked television screens that reflected the setting sun.

‘It’s not important. It was a long time ago.’

The boy looked up at his father, shrugged and turned his back. For some time they continued scavenging. The only sounds were of busy hands moving useless gadgets aside and the whistling wind. The boy picked up a yellow plastic brick with a piece of glass and some buttons on it.

‘What’s this, father?’

‘That’s a gameboy. Kids used to play games on those.’

‘Can I take it as well?’

‘What for, it’s just a piece of plastic?’

‘I like the color.’

The man looked at his son. ‘I guess you can use it as a paper weight.’

He pried a blow dryer out of the rubble, cracked it in two against a stove and took out the heating element.

‘Were they fun?’

‘What?’

‘The games.’ He held up the yellow gameboy.

‘I suppose. I remember one that I liked a lot when I was your age, called Tetris. You had to move falling blocks and fit them together.’

He tried to show with his hands but he could tell the boy did not understand.

The man looked at the garbage around them. ‘Let’s finish up and get back home while we still have some light.’

He picked up two bags and descended the hill. The boy followed with his satchel. As he jumped down he saw something that looked like an open plastic book. One side was covered in keys, though some were missing. The other side had a glass screen. In the middle was a round button. The boy stopped to press it.

‘Come on,’ the man shouted and the boy hurried to catch up.

They walked down to where two horses were tied to a rust-spotted oven. The animals pawed the dusty ground while the man untied them. They mounted the horses and rode east.

‘Do you really think we can get the radio to work?’ the boy asked his father.

‘You know what, we might actually. There’s no signal though, so we’ll only hear white noise.’

‘I don’t mind.’

They rode past a truck that was tipped over on its side and were gone from sight. The rubble field was quiet. On the side of the mound the glass screen flicked on, showing blue with white writing for a moment before fading to black.

 

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