cassette player

My little brother went through a heavy metal phase. A guy at his snooker club got him into it. He played doubles with him every so often, and after one game he gave Andy a mixtape of Iron Maiden, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, etc.

Andy loved it. He came home everyday after school, and listened to the tape on his old Walkman so dad wouldn’t hear it. Dad hated metal. He thought it was something evil. If you play those records backwards, he said, you can hear satanic messages. I saw it on TV. Mum told him not to believe everything he saw, it’s only music, but he told her she was being naive. There are members of bands like that in jail in Norway, you know. Apparently, they murdered people in some sick ritual.

One day when Andy was out playing snooker, dad went into his room to find out why he always had those bleeding headphones on. He hit the roof. The moment Andy got back from the club, Dad was on him: what’s this, eh? Where’d you get it from? Tell me – where? Are you a satanist now, is that it?

He yanked the tape out, tore it up, stamped on it and confiscated the headphones. Andy shouted and cried, and went to mum for some support. It was only music after all. But she just told him, well, you know what your dad’s like. If he says he doesn’t want it in the house, then.

Andy was angry for weeks. He refused to speak to dad, and would sit in his room for hours in silence while he read or did his homework. At dinner he spoke only when spoken to, and when he finished eating, left the table, and went back to his silent room.

Eventually, though, he got another tape. I don’t know how – it was probably the guy at the snooker club – but he got his headphones back after mum intervened, and every time he heard dad heading towards his bedroom door (he only listened through one earphone just in case), he flipped the tape over so it would play the Beach Boys or Simon and Garfunkel, something dad liked anyway, and when dad took the headphones, that’s what he heard.

It didn’t last like that for long, though. One day after snooker, Andy came home raving about a t-shirt the guy at the club had, a Metallica one with two skulls on it facing each other, one of them attached to the other by some sinewy looking thing ending in a hand, shards of broken glass falling behind them. It was so cool he said he was going to buy one for himself. He had a paper round. It would only take him two weeks to save up for it.

I told him dad would never let him wear it, but he just said dad could go fuck himself. He was fourteen. He could wear what he liked, just like Neil, the guy at the snooker club.

The next day he went to the music shop on the High Street to see if they had any in stock and, when he found it, dropped by every day the next two weeks on the way home from school to make sure it was still there. It was between a Pantera Far Beyond Driven and a Megadeth Killing is my business…and business is good. When he went in he’d pretend to look at some CDs and posters, then go over to the t-shirt rack, pick it up and stroke it like it was a pet or a lover.

At the end of the two weeks he went and bought it. He took it down off the rack like he was handling some priceless antique or something, and when he tried it on he beamed: it’s perfect. He practically skipped out the shop, and on the bus home he kept getting it out to admire it again, either that or make sure it was actually there and his, not a dream.

I asked him how he was going to stop dad from seeing it – he couldn’t hide it like the music, it’d have to be washed at some point – but he said he wasn’t going to hide it – why should he? Neil didn’t.

When we got home, we found dad in the kitchen. He asked why we were back late, and Andy took the t-shirt out of the bag and said, because I was buying this. Dad looked at it and said, oh, right. Let’s have a look at it then. Come on. Try it on.

Andy looked at me confused – why wasn’t he raging? – then shrugged, unbuttoned his school shirt and put it on. Dad looked at it and said, not bad – why don’t you go through to look at yourself in the big mirror in the bathroom?

Andy did as he was told, and went through, Dad and I following. He stood in front of the mirror and when dad asked him to give us a spin he did. He said it looked good, and me and Andy agreed. He said he was proud his son could set his mind to something, and get what he wanted. It was just a shame he’d bought something he was never going to get any use out of, and with that, he grabbed the t-shirt by the neck and tore it in two.

No son of mine, he said, is going out my house wearing something like that.

After that, Andy had no tapes and no headphones. Dad went to the snooker club to find out who this Neil was, and told him to stop giving music to his son. Andy cried then went silent again. Two years later when he decided to leave home, mum asked him why he’d chosen to live so far away on the other side of town. Andy said, so I can wear any t-shirt I like.


11 thoughts on “Sad But True Metallica T-Shirt

  1. Terrific story. You captured it to a T. My father banned Peter Sellers singing “They’re removing grandpa’s grave to build the sewer”.

  2. Brought back all the times I had to hide stuff when I was growing up. Recently a friend told me she couldn’t buy frosted cereal since she was an adult. I stopped in the middle of the aisle and said, “…wait, isn’t that why we worked so hard to get here…so we could buy any damn cereal we wanted?” She said she stood corrected, bought two boxes of crap cereal, and began formulizing what she was going to tell her kids when she ate the crap cereal. I think these things are about the only reason it is cool to be an adult.

    Great story.
    Peace & Love

      • Yes, most definitely. The decision to buy that crap cereal, or the metal head t-shirt, are in response to what we know others will berate or insist we cannot have. Those in authority most often are to blame. This is probably why I never had children: I didn’t want to deprive some poor teen of having a mega death t-shirt, or tell them they couldn’t enjoy Count Dracula cereal. LOL

        Peace & Love

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