Dashes and Dots

My sister got the car, a 1970 Lincoln Continental painted slate grey in pristine shape. I… got a CB radio.

The saddest day of my life was when my parents sat my sister Janette and I down and broke the news. Our grandfather had died of a stroke sometime during the previous night. Janette sat stone-faced and stoic, she was well into her terrible teens and showed emotion differently. But tears could not so easily hide from my eyes.

“Billy,” my mother said with a soft affection and cracked voice. “I promise you he is in a better place. He is watching us now.” Her hands smoothed my back and I sobbed into her shoulder.

The words were meant to give solace, but all I thought of was how wherever he was, I would never see or speak to him in this life again. Pictures of him flashed in my mind. His hand on my shoulder guiding me on my first bike ride without training wheels. Camping trips in the Sonoran woods where he taught me to fish and understand Morse code. But the mental picture that stuck out the most was him seated in his beat up love seat, slacks pulled up well past his waist, nose buried in some Dean Koontz book, asking about my day. I would never see him on that chair again.

My grandfather had spent the last twelve years in an old folks home and pretty much had zilch in the way of material wealth, aside from a few meager possessions and his Continental. So I wasn’t disappointed when I’d learned I had been bequeathed his CB radio. That is, until I heard Janette, no tears stone-face Janette, had been given his car.

I’m ashamed to admit that when I received that crummy taped cardboard box carrying the radio inside, I threw it in my closet in anger. I was only 14 and had never even so much as started a car. But it was the thought of Janette– perpetually sour, who hardly even acknowledged my existence and gave my grandfather so little attention in these last years, had been given his most valuable possession.

Time tempers all wounds and my anger was short-lived. At the end of it all I missed my grandfather and that couldn’t be tarnished by any disappointment. He was buried a week later, beside my grandmother. Two months after he had passed I finally took the cardboard box out of the closet.

The radio was short, grey and rectangular. It had a bunch of dials I didn’t know how to work. I couldn’t make heads or tails on how to use the machine, so I dug my hands back in the cardboard box thinking maybe my grandfather had left an instruction manual or something. What I found was treasure: an envelope addressed to me with a note inside:


If you’re reading this now you know what that means. I love your mother >and your sister was my first grandchild, that’s a very special thing. But >you have been my favorite since the first day I saw you in that delivery >room. One of my greatest memories is the first time I held you in my >arms. You wrapped your little fingers around my hand and gurgled! I >didn’t even care when you spat up on me because you were smiling .

There are two highlights in my life. The first was marrying your >grandmother, you only know her from the stories your mother and I’ve >told. Let me say this Billy, no story comes close to the reality of the >precious time I spent with her. The second highlight of my life was every >minute I ever spent with you. You are more than my grandson, you are >my best friend.

I am sad that I won’t get to watch you grow or see you get married, hold >my great-grandchild. I wish I could’ve saud goodbye to you properly. I >hope to God there’s a heaven above where I can watch over you.

The radio, well CB Radios aren’t exactly user-friendly Billy but I am sure in >time you will get the hang of it. This Cobra model comes equipped with a >battery and a built-in antenna. I have already adjusted the frequencies so >all you have to do is switch the far left dial clockwise to power it up. Try >not to get into too much trouble.

I love you, Grandpa


Press the button on the left side of the mic to talk and the button on the >right side to send out morse signals. I know you haven’t forgotten how >morse works.

When I finished reading the letter I was in tears. Every word written was more precious to me than any Lincoln Continental. Janette could have a world of them and I was fine with that, I had a goodbye and my grandfathers love.

After a few minutes of letting the waterworks die down, I turned back to the radio and switched the dial on the left. It sounded like one of those old handheld radios sets turned to a frequency between AM stations. I quickly learned I could change the channel by turning the far right module. Or just by clicking the little button that said ‘seek’, which would cycle quickly through the 40 available channels until it found one in use.

“… Wanna give LeAnn a call then, she gives a real mean hummer.” A distorted voice spoke from the speaker.

An equally garbled voice replied, “I won’t be in Gaines for a month at least, but I will give her a ring when I come around. That’s for sure.”

I picked up my mic and pressed down on the button to the left.

“What’s a hummer?”

“Get off this frequency kid! It’s in use,” said the first voice very angrily. The second one was laughing distorted garbled chortles in the background. I made a mental note to ask my dad what a hummer was before I clicked the seek button again, but there was no other action. Bored, I switched the set off and lay down to sleep.

I awoke to the sound of my alarm, which was strange since it was 3:45 in the morning and I hadn’t set it to go off that early.

Beeeep beeeep, beep beep, beep beep beep, beep beep beep.

The fog began to lift from my mind as I was forced up unable to ignore and drift back to sleep. That wasn’t my alarm tone.

Beeep beep beeep beeep, beeep beeep beeep, beep beep beeep.

The same pattern of beeping noises repeated over and over again as I pulled myself up slowly from my bed and made my way to the source, which glowed light blue at the end of my room.

‘Funny,’ I thought, ‘Didn’t I turn you off?’

I didn’t give it any further thought however. Still groggy and desperate to get back under the lulling warmth of my covers, I switched the CB off and went quickly went back to bed.

It’s funny how quickly life can take on some normalcy after an event so devastating. It had been three months since my grandfather had died and though I still felt the pains of sadness when I thought of him, it was less and less frequent. Instead my focus turned back to girls in my class, playing computer games with my friends, television and homework. It was as if my grandfather had never existed for most of my days. The CB radio had gone untouched in all that time.

The night of the next occurrence I was up late reading The Langoliers on my tablet in the appropriate darkness of my room. My parents had gone out to some dinner party and Janette… well, she only lived here in name only. I was at the part of the book where Mr. Toomey was running around the airport, head bashed in and in a crazed state, when I noticed that my tablet’s glow wasn’t the only source of dim illumination. Looking up I saw that the CB radio had been powered on.

Beeeep beeeep, beep beep, beep beep beep, beep beep beep.

‘What the hell?’ I thought as I got up from my bed. I came to the immediate conclusion that the thing must be broken as the beeping pattern kept repeating.

Beeep beep beeep beeep, beeep beeep beeep, beep beep beeep.

‘Wait…’ It hit me fast then. All the lessons my grandfather had given me over the course of years came rushing back. These weren’t random bleeps and bloops. This was a message.

Beeeep beeeep, beep beep, beep beep beep, beep beep beep.


Beeep beep beeep beeep, beeep beeep beeep, beep beep beeep.


I stood frozen in front of the set. Someone must be playing some sort of trick on me, my mind immediately rationalized, but underneath the easy comfort that that explanation gave me, I was terrified.

The message kept repeating, over and over again until in nervous desperation I picked up the microphone and spoke.

“Very funny,” I said in a faux firm voice that cracked round its facade. I continued, “but the joke is over and you should really stop now.” It didn’t. Again and again the same message came pulsing through: miss you, miss you, miss you, miss you. I switched the radio off but its glow remained, and so did the ceaseless message. What could I do? I couldn’t call the police, I would sound absolutely insane. And the thought of breaking the machine would never occur to me, It was my grandfathers last gift after all. So I spoke again.

“Who is this…? Why are you doing this?”

To my surprise the message changed briefly. I really wish it hadn’t.



I could not move. I could not think. All I could do was stand paralyzed by an insurmountable fear. I had often wished before that day for just one more time with my grandfather. One more chat. One more opportunity to say I love you. The thoughts would bring me in me a bittersweet feeling. In theory it would have been amazing, but in reality it was beyond ghastly. I didn’t doubt the reality of the moment, I knew innately that my attempt to rationalize this as some prank didn’t gel with what my constricted heart-felt all too clearly. This was happening.

I zoned out in that state of dumbstruck horror as the messages repeated again and again. After a minute I came too.

“Grandpa… where are you?” I… really shouldn’t have asked.


My heart sunk.


The messages stopped. I felt on the verge of passing but was able to hang on to consciousness out of fear of what may happen to me while I was passed out. There was silence for what seemed like forever. I began to breathe again. Too soon.

Scrape scrape, tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap.

I didn’t have to investigate to know that those sounds were coming from outside of my front door. I couldn’t have investigated either way. With tears in my eyes I felt my horror rise to a level I never thought possible. Here I was, alone at home being tormented by a ghoul. An actual ghoul, not just a figurative one. ‘And the worst part was he is my grandfather.’

The scrapes and taps continued but that word running through my head had an instant effect on me. The morse code on the door became muted as my mind remembered him sitting there, on his favorite chair and asking me about my day with a genuine interest. In my memories I felt his arm balance me as I attempted not to crash on my first big-boy bike ride. I recalled seeing his face take on a youthful glow each time he spoke of my grandma. He was always there for me. My grandfather loved me.

Scrape scrape, tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap.

I was still crying, but they were different tears now. Not ones of terror… but sadness. I knew what to do.

“Grandpa,” I spoke into the CB microphone. “I miss you too…” I was bawling now but also feeling some relief to have been giving this moment, as if terror had never been present at all.

Scrape scrape, tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap.

“But you need to go now. You need to go and be with Grandma.”

The noises slowed.

“You never got a chance to say goodbye, I didn’t either. It’s the thing I’ve wanted more than anything since you left us. I love you grandpa… I love you. I will see you again. I know this. I can’t wait to tell you all about my life when I do.”

The noises stopped. I stood in breathless silence for what seemed like an eternity and when I realized their would be no more messages to come, I cried both in relief and in sadness. But a part of me was happy too. I had gotten that one last time with him.

I don’t know when I passed out that night and the next day would have felt like a dream if it hadn’t been for the phonecall. We were all sat round the table, eating our breakfast (or I was trying to, I still felt very very strange) when the phone rang.

“No no honey, I’ll get it,” my father said to my mother as he stood up and walked to the phone.

“Hello. Yes… Mhmmm.”

He looked at mom with a screwed up face. Finally, after an eternity of listening to the other end of the line he said. “Alright. Thank you very much for letting us know.”

“What was it honey?” my mom asked concerned.

He just sat there a moment and looked around at all of us.

“Umm, well that was the police. They said that someone had been disturbing your father’s grave. The..uh… soil was dug up.” My mother’s eyes grew wide and her mouth hung open.

“Honey… it’s okay. The officer told us the body wasn’t tampered with. But… umm, well this is strange, they found a handheld CB radio in the casket.” My father didn’t know what to say; my sister was intrigued and my mother was appalled. But I… was strangely content while I feigned an alarmed face.

That day I boxed up the CB radio. Like I said before, I would never get rid of my grandfathers last gift to me, but I could sure as hell store it in the garage as far away from myself as possible. I was about to turn the doorknob and head back in the house when I heard it for the last time.



With tears in my eyes, I smiled and stepped inside.


  • Jessica

    I love this story rock on