Tall And True Short Reads

A Song on the Radio

Episode 4 (11 October 2020)

Elliot parked at the side of the road close to the beach. He grabbed a brown-bagged bottle of tequila and the lemon and salt shaker he’d pinched from the restaurant where he worked as a kitchen hand. Tie a Yellow Ribbon was on the radio and Elliot turned it up loud to hear it over the breaking waves.


A Song on the Radio

Show Notes

Season One: Episode 4 (11 October 2020)

A Song on the Radio is a short story from TallAndTrue.com, written and narrated by Robert Fairhead.

Copyright notice: Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree written by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown, recorded by Tony Orlando and Dawn, released February 1973.

Read the story: https://www.tallandtrue.com.au/short-stories/a-song-on-the-radio

Podcast website: https://www.tallandtrueshortreads.com

Support the podcast: https://supporter.acast.com/tall-and-true-short-reads

Buy Robert’s short story collections online:

Story Insight

I wrote A Song on the Radio in April 2020 for Furious Fiction, a monthly 500-word short story competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. The brief for April’s story was that it had to begin on THE SIDE OF A ROAD, and include a SPLASH and the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON, and LEMON, the first letters of which spell, April.

A Song on the Radio was my first attempt at Furious Fiction and it was timely because it coincided with the first full weekend of COVID-19 lockdown in Australia. As I later wrote in a Tall And True blog post on the experience, I typed in the brief and stared at it on my otherwise blank computer screen. It felt like a Rorschach test, only with words instead of inkblots. But slowly my writer’s eye discerned shapes in the random pattern:

A car pulls up and parks on THE SIDE OF A ROAD, near a beach. There is the SPLASH of waves on the shoreline. And a bottle of Tequila, with salt and a LEMON (lick, sip, suck). An APRON is spread on the sand. And, of course, harking back to a song on the radio from my youth, there’s a yellow RIBBON, tied around an old oak tree.

A pattern was forming, but who could I weave it around? The Tie a Yellow Ribbon song suggested characters and a storyline. A recently released prisoner, Elliot. In my story, Elliot’s been in and out of jail and is now working as a kitchen hand (hence the apron). And the Yellow Ribbon love interest? Gail, whom Elliot met in rehab between stretches in jail.

As for the remaining words in April’s brief, age spots mark the skin PIGMENT of Elliot’s hand, above the Tequila salt lick. And he lost contact with Gail during his last long stretch in jail, because as I wrote, “Life stands still on the inside, but not on the outside.” Every morning Elliot checks his phone’s message app ICON, hoping to see an overnight response to his calls and texts. But he knows life’s not a song on the radio.

I hope you enjoyed A Song on the Radio as much as I enjoyed writing it for Furious Fiction. Please subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it via your favourite listening app. And don’t forget to tell your family and friends about Tall And True Short Reads and the Tall And True website.

The next episode of Tall And True Short Reads, The Cat in the Trunk, will be in your podcast feed shortly. In the meantime, check your feed to make sure you haven’t missed any of the earlier episodes.

Note: In the original Furious Fiction version, I quoted Tie a Yellow Ribbon lyrics in the parts where Elliot sings along with the song. I was concerned about the copyright implications of this in the podcast (and potentially in the story), so I changed Elliot’s “sing-alongs” and made them “reflective conversations” with himself and Gail. But hopefully, the underlying references and homage to Tie a Yellow Ribbon still come through, like a song on the radio.

Podcast Theme and Sound Effects

Royalty-free music from Pixabay.com: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 15 in D major, Op. 28 ‘Pastorale’ – IV. Rondo. Allegro ma non Troppo, performed by Karine Gilanyan.

Sound effects licensed under Creative Commons 0 from FreeSound.org.

Production Notes

Tall And True Short Reads is produced using Audacity. Thanks to Josh (VoiceOverMaster) Meyer for Audacity recording tips and tricks.

Podcast episodes are recorded in Sydney, Australia, on the land of the traditional custodians of the Eora Nation.

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