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forty Stories - "Mixtape"
Episode 1619th July 2023 • A Little English • Edward Cooper Howland
00:00:00 00:20:25

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Have you ever lost a friend? Not, like, lost them at a concert. I mean, have any of your friends died? A few of mine have. This is a story about losing a friend. And the pain of losing that friend. It's a story about how groups of friend cope with the loss of a member. And about family, and brothers. But mostly, it's a song about the power of silly pop songs. I hope you love it, because I'm very proud of this story.

Season 3 Episode 16

Thank you for downloading this episode.

👉The story begins at 03:20 and the tiny lessons begin at 15:45

👉You can find the transcript after the Credits!

👉Visit our website to download the Podcast User's Manual and find out more!

A Little English is written, produced, recorded, edited, mixed, mastered and scored by Edward Cooper Howland.

All stories are either in the public domain, or written by me.

Copyright 2024 Edward Cooper Howland

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Hi. My name is Cooper, and this is…A Little English. Every episode, I read a short story. After the story, there are three tiny lessons. 

I hope you guys are all enjoying this Forty Stories project. If you are, please do me a huge favor and share this show with a friend. Do you know anyone else who likes podcasts? Or who is trying to improve their English? Please share this show with them. I don’t do any advertising or anything, so I need your help to reach a larger audience. Thank you!

I think I can safely say that we have entered act two of forty stories. Pretty much every story has three acts. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. Middles are usually the hardest part to write. But actually I’m really excited about this, because it means I’m done introducing characters. The world is built. So it’s time to really explore these people and this world. Time to have them meet each other and interact! I think it will be really exciting. 

By the way, there is a content warning on this story. It’s about death. Specifically, it takes place a few years after someone commits suicide. So nobody dies in the story, but somebody did die a few years ago. So if you don’t feel good about listening to that right now, come back another time. It’s a good story, and important, but it’s kind of…heavy. 

Also, there are a lot of song titles in this story. And I think that if you don’t know the songs, it would be very helpful for you to read the transcript, get the names and listen to them on youtube or whatever. I think the story will make more sense when you hear the songs. 

So anyway, here’s the story.  It’s called “Mixtape”

I thought I was early, but they were already waiting for me. Kevin and Ben were sitting in camping chairs around a pile of wood. And there was another person with them. Maybe a girl? Or a little kid? Either way, I was pretty upset.  It took a few minutes to climb down from the top of the sand dune, and a few more to get close to where they were sitting. The mystery person was sitting on the other side of the pile of wood. 

I dropped my case of beer down next to me and just started yelling. “Guys, what is this? This is supposed to be our night. Remember, we talked about this? No girlfriends, nobody but us and - “

The kid stood up, and I could see that it was Finn. He was apologizing. 

“Tommy, I’m not gonna stay. I was just talking to Kevin last week, and I told him about this thing that I found, and we thought you all should see it. Or, like, hear it.”

I was so shocked that I just sat down in the sand. 

“Oh Finn,” I said, “I’m so sorry, kid. I had no idea it was you. I thought one of these knuckleheads brought their girlfriend or something. I had no idea, dude.”

Kevin spoke up. 

“Nobody is trying to mess with tradition, Tommy. It’s just us and Mark here tonight. I mean I was thinking that sooner or later Finn should join us, but he’s only - how old are you, Finn?”

“I’m twelve.” 

“Right so Finn’s only in - seventh grade?”


“Sixth grade, right. So he’s not really old enough to, like, hang out. But I was thinking, maybe he’s old enough to hang out for a minute anyway. And then he brought me this tape.”

He handed me a cassette tape. Like from the 80s. Like, for music. The case was clear plastic, with a folded paper insert.  The writing on the paper was definitely Mark’s. It looked like a teenage girl had done it.  It read, “Mark’s Pop Mix, Volume One.” It didn’t have a tracklist. 

“So like, do we have something that can play this thing?”

Ben smiled at me. “We do, but we’re waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“For midnight.”

Finn walked home around ten. By midnight, the fire on the beach was going strong and so were we. Ben had borrowed his mom’s old boom box and bought about a dozen batteries for it. We were playing songs off our phones and counting down the minutes. 

At 12:01, Kevin raised his beer into the air, and shouted towards the ocean.

“I would like to make a toast to our dear departed friend, Mark Anderson, who left us two years ago today, just eleven days before his twenty-second birthday. Are you out there, buddy? It’s your boys here. Kevin and Ben and Tommy.”

 He paused for a minute, and looked back at us. We both gave him thumbs up, so he continued shouting into the ocean. 

“Mark, we miss you. We don’t know why you had to go, but we love you so much. Your little brother brought us this mixtape that you made, and we thought that this would be the right time and place to listen to it. So, if you don’t mind, we’re gonna give it a listen. OK?” 

The wind blew and the waves crashed on the beach. The fire popped and hissed. Ben hit play on the boombox. 

The first song was “One” by U2. Ben put the boombox down in the sand, and sat down in his chair. The song built up and crashed down, and Ben covered his face with his hands. 

Things didn’t get any easier from there. “Karma Police,” by Radiohead. “Nothing Compares 2U” by Sinead O’Connor.  “In the Air Tonight,” by Phil Collins. We sat in the sand, silent until we heard the click from the tape.

“Is that the end?” I asked.

“That’s the end of side one.” Ben’s eyes were red. So were Kevin’s. So were mine. 

“Are we gonna listen to side two?” 

“I think we have to,” said Kevin. 

“I need another beer, first. We all do.”

We cracked our cans open and touched them together.  Ben turned the tape over and hit play. It was “Purple Rain.” Purple freaking Rain by Prince. I don’t know why, but this was too much for me. I couldn’t think or breathe right. I picked up a rock the size of a baseball and I threw it into the ocean.

“What the hell, man?” I screamed to the waves. “Why did you do this to us? We needed you here with us!” Kevin wrapped his arms around me and we crashed down into the sand. 

 “Maybe if he wasn’t listening to such depressing pop music all the time, he would have stayed here with us instead of walking into the ocean. Why couldn’t he just listen to like some metal or something angry? Or happy? Or, I dunno. Anything other than this sad old garbage.”

Kevin held onto me very tightly and let me cry into his chest. 

“Um, you have to open the paper.” We heard a small voice coming from behind us. 

We all stopped. Ben turned on the flashlight on his phone. Finn raised his hand to keep the light out of his eyes. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I hid over there behind the dune. I just really wanted to hear the tape, too.”

We all just stood there, drunk, covered in sand, wiping tears from our faces and stared at him. 

“But, like I said. You gotta open the little paper insert and read it.”

“What is it, like a suicide note,” said Ben, “cuz there is no way-“

“He didn’t leave a note,” said Finn. “And I’m pretty sure he made this mix a while before he… Just read it,” and he handed the cassette tape box to me. 

I opened it slowly and pulled out the little piece of paper. It shook in my hands as I unfolded it. 

On the inside, in bright sparkly letters, it just said, “Sing along.”

“Sing along?” I looked at Finn. “I don’t get it.”

“These songs,” said Finn. “You gotta sing them. I think they’re only depressing if you sit there listening. I think it’s a karaoke mix.”

Ben laughed a little and mumbled quietly. “Purple rain, purple rain.” Kevin joined him. “Purple rain, purple rain.” I joined in, and so did Finn. 

We continued to sing, through “Back in the High Life,” by Steve Winwood and “Your Smiling Face” by James Taylor. By the time the tape ended on “Man in the Mirror,” by Michael Jackson, we were all standing, smiling, shouting into the wind, tears streaming down our faces. 

“Play it again,” said Finn. “Play the whole tape again.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “But first, let’s text Mrs. Anderson and tell her that Finn is with us.”

Whoooo, how you guys doing? Was that too sad? Honestly, I don’t know. But I like it. I think this might be my favorite story in this project so far. When I was in college, a friend of mine died. He didn’t kill himself, but he did die, and it really messed us up. So writing this story was a way for me to sort of explore those emotions, but not to make it all about me and my life and my friends. Plus, I got to share a bunch of amazing pop songs with you guys. I hope that if you don’t know these songs, you’re gonna listen to them immediately. And if you do know, I hope they got you to feel some feelings!

Let’s do some tiny lessons

The Big Picture is, of course, an ocean scene.

Why did they wait until midnight to play the tape? Take a minute and think about it. I think they did it because they wanted to wait until the anniversary of his death. They said that it was two years ago today, and they said that after midnight.

How about a dance at the Dictionary Disco?

The first word is maybe the best word ever. Knucklehead. A knucklehead is an idiot. A stupid person. Like your knuckles are solid bone, right? So a knucklehead is someone whose head is solid bone. No room for a brain. It’s a great insult. 

The second vocabulary word is, Boombox. A boombox is an old kind of portable stereo. All you young people don’t know about these, but it was basically a radio and a tape player, and two speakers, ina box but you could power it with batteries and carry it around

Finally, let’s have a Melody Moment. I wanna talk about Accents. Specifically I wanna tlak about Tommy’s accent. Tommy is from Massachusetts. How do I know? Because I’m from Massachusetts, and he talks like people I grew up with. Actually everyone in Forty Stories is from Massachusetts, more or less. But Yeah so, Massachusetts accent. What make you sound like super massachusetts? No R’s. Cah and heah and theah. It actually sounds very English to my eahs. But that makes sense because Massachusetts is in New England. I don’t have this accent, but it’s super fun to do it. I wanna do more. 

Let’s do the credits.

Let’s do the credits. 

Thank you for listening to Season 3 Episode16 of A Little English. 

Every episode is produced entirely by me, Edward Cooper Howland, here in Chiba, Japan.

If you like the show, tell someone about it! A recommendation from a friend is the best way to get someone to listen, and I would really appreciate it. 

This season, all the stories are written by…me! HOnestly, I’m not even using ChatGPT for editing any more. I’m just writing. 

So;., thank you  so much for listening.

For now, be kind to yourselves, and to each other.





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