After tea, after Coronation Street, Mama would want the telly off before she ran him a bath. She gave him this privilege, only to stand; hands in her skirt pockets, tiny smile and squishy, puffs under eyelashes. Mama would wait and nod. This was not a job for the remote. No, this was his, so he was careful to stand upright and look the off button in the eye. Never an on button for him – Dada was the lucky man there. Fingers of dough curled into a roll, left one digit straight and defiant. As his hand rose it was always heavier at that second than at any other and he held his careful aim, as if preparing to fire an arrow. Just like the fox, Robin Hood.
A loud crash of cymbals shook the back of his brain when his index made contact. The off button slid and the click was strong enough to echo through the telly’s body and out the hidden gills that could murmur dust for words. He had once seen these on an expedition to find something or nothing. At this point Mama would turn and leave.
He found himself alone with the high sigh of this reprieved machine, so quiet he could not be sure it was a sound at all. Devoid of light the screen had the latent energy to rustle and settle itself. Yet he saw no movement – just himself in a closed off looking-glass. He knew this trick but this was not what he set out for.
Both little fists took the edge of the cabinet for balance as his bare toes bore his whole weight. The frame was no longer in his vision. The blankness was vast, only exercising static as the tilt of his cheek grew close. Micro-hairs would begin to tug in their pores. With proximity, they felt the force far more than the plain of his skin but it was enough to drag the rest of him.
The connection was instantaneous. A crackle went out as a tide to probe his podgy jaw, rearrange his eyebrows, trace his ear. His scalp became the floor of a forest of branchless trees. For a moment he caught the warmth of all the smiles of all the characters he had seen that day. And as he spread his face across the glass, just as he was about to climb in too, he was in the air. Puppy fat squashed against not-yet bones by sure hands. Laughter above him. Black screen replaced with white tiles and bubbles. Mama’s smile had grown.