Circuit Bender

Submitted into Contest #115 in response to: Write a story where a device goes haywire.... view prompt

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Fiction Historical Fiction

Truman Moore hit the rewind button on his father’s double cassette deck. The tape reels spun quickly, like two tiny washing machines whirling in tandem spin cycles. After a few moments, the tape’s end triggered the deluxe deck’s auto stop function and the cogs clicked. Truman hit eject, popped the warm, unlabeled tape in its plastic j-card box, and placed it in a larger cardboard carton among other newly duped cassettes. He took the box, labeled Jefferson High School AV Club, downstairs to the basement and placed it with the other parcels. 

While Truman was downstairs, Mr. Daniel Moore, Truman’s father, snuck over to the stereo. Mr. Moore rarely used the stereo, unless he was duping his favorite vinyl albums to cassette. The Moore family hi-fi system was located in their living room, on the other end of the house, away from the den. Mrs. Moore watched TV and drank boxed wine incessantly—the den was her space. Mr. Moore and his son made the executive decision to move the stereo from the den to as far away from the den as possible so that they could listen to records at a reasonable volume without disturbing the queen. 

Mr. Moore placed his copy of Kenny G’s Duotones on the turntable, popped a new Memorex blank cassette into the duplication deck, and put the system on standby. He dropped the needle on the record and “Songbird” began to fill the house by way of his monstrous Wharfdale custom speakers. The dupe deck captured G’s performance so that Daniel could enjoy Kenny G in the car on the way to work.

Truman burst into the living room from the basement.

“Dad! What are you doing!?”

“What?”

“Don’t use the tape deck!”

“Why, I’m making a copy of—“

“It’s not calibrated for vinyl to cassette. It’ll overload the capacitors and then—“

The cassette deck sent up a cloud of thick brown smoke. Smooth jazz continued to float through the house.

“Truman! What the hell did you do!”

“I was duping some tapes for school. I modded the machine to dupe faster. I installed a circuit bender. I didn’t know you were going to use the tape deck for Kenny G.”

Mr. Moore marched over to the stereo, waving his hands to waft away the smoke. He lifted the needle from the record and turned the master switch to off. 

“Truman, look, I’m sorry I raised my voice just now, but you’ve ruined a very expensive piece of hi-fi equipment.”

Truman looked down at his checkered Vans slip-ons. “Look, Dad, I can fix it. Just let me change out the capacitors and—“

“No. I’ll call repairman. You should be studying. It’s a school night for Christ’s sake.”

“Please, dad! It’s a simple fix—“

“No! Go study. I’ll take care of it.”

Truman’s brow broke the slightest sweat. He walked toward the stereo, as if to grab something from behind it.

“Truman! Upstairs! Now!” his father said.

“But I study in the basement.”

“Whatever! Downstairs! Now!”

Forty-five minutes later, a dark brown Chevy utility van rolled up to the mailbox in front of the Moore residence. YAKOV BELOV AV REPAIR was stenciled in fresh white spray paint on the side of the van. A mustached man in a work jumpsuit walked through the evening light along the driveway. He had an odd gait, as if he had sustained a serious injury early in life and he walked the best he could with what he had. Mr. Moore opened the front door before Mr. Belov could ring the door bell. 

Truman heard the extra footsteps on the ceiling and made his way up from the basement. 

“Mr. Belov, this is my son, Truman.”

“Ah, nice to meet you, young sir.” Belov pointed to the tape deck. “Your father tells me that you bent the circuit or something?”

“I was-“

“Truman, back to your studies, please,” Mr. Moore said. 

“American children. So . . . how you say . . . industrious?” Belov said.

“I-“

“Truman! Downstairs!” his father said. 

Truman retreated to the basement, his brow furrowed.

“Do you think you can fix it?” Moore said.

“Ah, yes. No problem. Belov fix for . . . fifty dollars.”

Moore rubbed his evening stubble with is index finger and thumb. “It’s a little more than I wanted to pay, but you're here on a Thursday evening. Yes, that will be fine. Proceed.”

“I’ll just need to get some parts from my furgon.”

“Furgon?”

“Oh, sorry, my van.” 

Mr. Moore returned to the den. He sat in front of the TV and read the newspaper while the Cosby Show ran in the background. Mrs. Moore stitched a cross stitch, said very little, and sipped on a third glass of boxed red wine. 

Ten minutes later, Belov returned from his van with three capacitors, a circuit board, and a few wires. When he entered the living room to work on the cassette deck, Truman stood behind the stereo, waiting for him. 

“Ah, comrade. What brings you up here?”

“Mr. Belov, I can’t let you change out the circuit board on the tape deck.”

“And why is that, pray tell?” 

Truman paused when a waft of Belov’s body odor hit him square in the nose. 

“Well, I . . . I can’t tell you.”

“Come now, you can tell Belov anything. I’m here to help. You tell. Belov fix.”

Truman scrambled into the front pocket of his acid washed jeans. He pulled out a hundred dollar bill.

“Look, I’ll pay you twice as much as my dad is paying you. And, we can make it look like you fixed it. You’ll walk with $150 for one house call. That’s more— “

“What, more than Belov makes in a week? Come now, you shouldn’t be so . . . how you say, presumption?”

“Presumptuous.”

“Yes. Well, I’ll tell you what, if you tell me why you don’t want me to fix your tape deck, I’ll take your deal.”

Truman paused. He blew the bangs out of his face with an upward puff. 

“OK, but, Mr. Belov, you have to promise not to tell my parents.”

“Ah, who do you take me as? A Siberian who cannot keep his word? I tell you young Truman, I, Belov, do solemnly swear on my mother’s grave, who is buried in Novosibirsk, God rest her soul, that I will not tell your parents what your are doing with this here tape deck.”

Truman paused. His hands shook and he tried to hide them. From across the house, Mr. Moore laughed at a Bill Cosby joke. 

“I’m duping tapes,” Truman said. 

“You’re duping tapes? So what, anybody can dupe tapes at home with these decks. That’s what they’re for. If it’s for your personal use, who cares, right?”

“I’m duping at 100x. I buy new release cassettes at Record Bar, I dupe 50 copies, and I send the package to Germany. I get $100 in cash sent back to me a week later.”

“I knew you were . . . how you say . . . enterprising.”

“The thing is, to convert the deck to ultra fast duping, I used a circuit bender and a modded capacitor. If it’s not properly changed out—“

“The device goes haywire. Belov understands.”

“We got a deal?”

“Of course, comrade. But, your bent circuit . . . It is fried. Unless you have another modded cir—”

Truman pulled a second bent circuit and a modded capacitor from a small gym bag. 

“Let me at least help reinstall. I have tools.”

Belov removed the screws from the tape deck, much faster than Truman could with is handheld Phillips head. Truman removed the burnt capacitor and the fried circuit board. Belov modified the new circuit board with a variable speed switch that could be activated out of view, from behind the device. 

“Good as new, eh?” Belov said.

“Better than new. Shoulda thought of that.”

Belov left the living room to tell Mr. Moore he had fixed the tape deck. Truman hid by the front door, away from his father’s eye.

“What was wrong with it?” Moore asked.

“Bad capacitor and bad circuit. Belov changed them out.”

“What do I owe you?”

“Fifty dollars. Let me run out to my van and write up the ticket.”

Mr. Moore returned to the den and Truman snuck from the shadows. 

“Thank you, Mr. Belov,” Truman said as Belov approached the front door.

“You’re welcome, kid.” Belov winked at Truman. From the front window, Truman watched Belov climb into the side door of his van, turn on a light, and shut the sliding door. Something struck Truman as being out of place with Belov’s last comment to him. It was as if, for just a second, Belov lost his Russian accent. 

“Who’s van is that?” Mrs. Moore said as she peeked out the window, some thirty minutes after Belov had left to write up the ticket.

“Honey, that’s the cassette deck repair man,” Mr. Moore said.

“Who? How long’s he gonna take?” Mrs. Moore walked to the kitchen and poured herself a sixth glass of boxed wine. As she returned to the den to watch Cheers, Truman emerged from the basement. “Dad, I’m sorry I broke the tape deck. I won’t do it again.”

“It’s OK, son.”

Truman looked out the window. “Is Belov still here?”

“Looks like it.” Mr. Moore looked closer at his son. “Are you OK? You’re sweating.” 

“I’m fine, dad. I’m just . . . Mr. Belov gives me the creeps.”

“He’s from the Ukraine, or somewhere in the U.S.S.R. He’s just a little diff— “ 

The doorbell rang and interrupted Mr. Moore’s consolation. Mr. Moore opened the door. 

Two men in black suits, white collared shirts, and black ties stood in the door. They wore sunglasses at night. 

“Mr. Truman Moore?”

“Yes?” Truman said from behind his father’s shoulder.

“I’m Agent White. We are from the FBI. You are under arrest for violation of 17 U.S.C. section 506(a). Specifically, the unauthorized reproduction and distribution, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies or phonorecords, or 1 or more copyrighted works, with a retail value of more than $2,500. Said infraction carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.” 

“What?!” Mr. Moore said. “No, you must be mistaken. Truman is an honor student. He hasn’t broken any laws.”

Agent Brown pulled a small dictaphone from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and pressed play. Truman’s recorded voice rang through the foyer: I buy new release cassettes at Record Bar, I dupe 50 copies, and I send the package to Germany. I get $100 in cash sent back to me a week later.

“You were saying?” White said.

“There must be some kind of mistake,” Mr. Moore said.

The agent rewound the tape and played it again.

“Dad, he’s lying! I didn’t say that! That’s not me!”

The agent on the right removed his sunglasses. “Comrade,” he said.

“Belov?” Truman said.

“My name is agent Joseph Brown.” Agent Brown had Belov’s eyes, but no mustache and his hair was slicked back with pomade. 

“But you promised,” Truman said.

Mr. Moore’s jaw dropped to the ground. Tears welled in his eyes.

“He promised, dad! He promised he wouldn’t tell!”

“Agent Brown?” Mr. Moore said, his hands trembling.

“Mr. Belov never said a thing to your parents, Truman. But he told us everything.”

Agent Brown and Agent White carried Truman into custody. Mr. Moore considered liquidating some junk bonds to pay for Truman’s legal fees. After a few minutes, he couldn’t think of what else to do so he sat in front of the TV and watched the rest of Cheers. There, as Norm and Cliff bullshitted their way out of some conundrum, a passed out Mrs. Moore didn’t even notice that Truman was gone. 

October 15, 2021 10:23

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