Old Television

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. 


Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow

You can watch it rotate. You her me. You her she. She her me. You. What no one notices is drizzle is heavy. So slow, unrepentant. Umbrellas are useless. Hoods pointless. So you stand, rain mac open. The up-gust of moisture pulls down your ringlets, licks and sticks them to your forehead. The carousel: one full rotation. Mirrors. Lights. Red and orange and blue. 

Blue is for today. Twice you attempt to hold her hand. She doesn’t even feel your fingertips. If you ask she says oh, I forgot my gloves. My hands must be numb. She does not blush, so you do not ask. However, she links arms with me, whispers about someone or other, keeps my neck warm. You cannot be jealous of this for, she and me, we are sisters. You win her a balloon. She chooses a whale. Blue.

Orange is for yesterday. I sliced oranges for the wine. Hot and cheap on the hob, the pot’s glowing copper bottom. We over-dosed on nutmeg. What I wanted and you wanted were the same. I sat between you and her on the floor by the cinder splintered logs. Glow. Sheepskin between our toes. She laughed too much, we both noticed. Every time I tried to stand to check the supper she’d pull me back, look straight at you. I felt the ticking seconds seep into my ear canals. I wanted to bang your heads together. 

Red is for tomorrow. She gets paid then and likes to treat us. Hung over, over-heating as we watch the roads freeze smooth. We will only manage the cinema. I will hang back and whine about wanting the aisle seat to stretch my legs out. Childish, but it’ll be what gets the job done. You should put your arm around her, but do you? Brave. To make it back to the cottage will take tight-grip steering. You become nervous, embarrassed even, and I will count the rear-view lights up ahead. She will grate on us. Agitated passenger. Grit lorry from the other direction. Too fast for her. She will laugh too loud and alone. And you’ll remember her on the carousel. Why ride it in the winter? The car: one full rotation. Mirrors. Lights. Blue and orange and red. Blue and orange and red.