Flash Fiction: ‘Tapping on the Glass.’


I hear him tapping on the glass.

No one else sees him, out there, on the other side of our living room window. They hear the tapping and tell me it’s the wind. But it’s him, my father, tapping on the glass.

I have his old things. When he died, I took his records and his stereo from his house. It all sits in my living room, a nice setup, the amp all tubes and warmth, the turntable a Linn Sondek. The speakers are big, carpeted boxes, worn at the corners. Heavy. Handmade.

His record collection is vast, all of it rock-and-roll. No jazz, no classical. Rock is a broad genre, and there are examples from most of the many sub-genres, if one were inclined to file them that way.

But not every sub-genre, I notice.

I hate looking at his things. They remind me of him, of what he did to me. I keep them out of some hopeless sentiment. A friend suggests it may all be worth something to a collector, but I know I’ll never sell them.

Sometimes, I put one of his records on. I let the amp warm up, select something I recognize. The turntable spins. He kept his records in good condition. He cared about them.

He’s gone for months at a time. He comes back when I put one of his records on. He taps on the glass, keeps on tapping when the music stops. He stays for months.

So I stop. For years, his records sit, side-by-side, untouched.

He comes back and taps on the glass. Wants to be let in. Wants to be near his records.

I can’t let him in.

Things are missing from his collection. An entire sub-genre. I dislike the act of assigning genre. He didn’t. It mattered to him.

Progressive rock. Not one example. The odd timings, the tempo changes, the unconventional musicality. He used to make the music, and his music was, conventionally, rock-and-roll. Always.

I want him to leave. And I have an idea.

At a garage sale, an old man is selling records. I pick one I think will work, and I drive home with the record on the seat.

My father waits for me, at the window, like always, tapping. The tapping has a regularity to it, I notice.

I hold the record up, showing him what I found.

The tapping stops, and he stares at me.

I switch on his gear. His amp warms up. The record is clean when I take it from the sleeve.

I put it on the turntable and set the needle.

It starts soft, then builds, the tempo increasing abruptly. The five-fourths time signature. Seven-eighths, now. Back to five-fourths.

My father is gone. I watch the window as the music plays. He doesn’t return.

The next day, I buy more records, more of the same. My father’s records sit untouched.

And he stays gone.

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