by Mitchell Waldman

I threw the television out the window. Let me tell you why.

You used to be able to laugh at the crazies in the streets. Laugh because you didn’t know what else to do. And even then the laugh would come out like a bashful belch, that sick helpless feeling in the pit of your stomach. But now you can’t even laugh. Because times are hard for everybody. And nobody thinks, and nobody feels anything anymore.

It scares me sometimes. I mean, I’m only twenty-three and my girl, Lucille, she’s just turned twenty-one and we’re not lambs or nothing, but with the baby coming…I mean what kind of world is this? Instant this, instant that. Reality TV, canned television families – they can solve any crisis in twenty minutes and get out of it for the better. And the ads, the you-can-have-it-all-too ads, if you just drink this soft drink or smoke this cigarette, or wear these jeans. And people walking the streets barking like dogs because they can’t make it, make it.

The thing that’s the scariest is that people, most people, buy all this shit. They sit in their little rooms and soak it in, the propaganda, the life-you-can-almost-live-from-your-living-room without lifting more than your remote control finger.

Everything’s clean on TV – your five-minute births (no blood), your quick credit salesmen feeding the lines (“You in a hole? We’ll help you dig it deeper.”) – and the people, the people eat that shit up. It makes me want to puke.

Listen: I’m twenty-three years old. I work in a drugstore as a stock clerk. I’m no born again rebel trying to bad mouth everything but it’s like this: this ain’t no American Dream anymore, it’s an American nightmare. Consumerism gone mad. Everybody trying to sell you, take every bit that you have and more. They play the sucker game – you need, you need this, you need that. Everybody needs so damned much. But, tell me this – what more they got inside when they get that fancy car, that newest cell phone that will all but take a shit for you, that six-bedroom house with the pool, the Jacuzzi and the private tennis court?

I work in a drugstore, but I tell you this — I’ve got plans. I’m not going to be one of these suckers, these saps that suck it all up, take all the crap that people will hand you. I’ve got a brain and I’m going to use it. You see, I’ve thought this out.

I’m going to tell you something: Lucille screamed. She screamed like she’d seen the face of a cobra when I couldn’t take any more of the brainwashing need need, take take, game and threw the goddamned box out on the street. We live on the third floor and it made a crash – glass flying everywhere. I felt like I was free after that. Lucille thought I went crazy. She started yelling at me and pounding on my chest and pulling my hair like I’d taken away her fix or something – it was a terrible sight to behold. But I guess that’s what I did really. For all her complaining that I might’ve killed someone, might have fallen out the window, that was what it was about – no more mind-numbing-let’s-not-even-think-about-it trash spewed into our heads. I mean I think she’s really afraid, afraid she’ll have to think about it now. The baby. Whether we should get married. Whether we should have a future. What she’s going to do.

And she’s scared. I can tell ya – we’re both scared now. But that doesn’t mean you don’t think about it.

It was easy really: I slid the screen up slowly – the metal made a horrible screeching sound – turned the metal tables on the inside of the window frame down to keep the screen held up. Then I walked barefooted, not making a sound, not saying a word, across the room, unplugged the cord from the wall, unscrewed the cable line from the back of the set, then picked up the television in my arms. It was dead, didn’t feel anything like a baby. And all the while Lucille was starting to lose it, saying “IJ, what on earth are you doing? Have you lost your mind?” But I wouldn’t answer. I was a man with a mission. Grim-faced, walking in slow even steps, cradling that box of plastic and glass and metal in my arms, even swaying it gently, talking to it at times, going coochy coochy, shit like that. And Lucille, she just about had that baby right then she got so upset. I mean she really thought I’d lost it when I started shoving that damned thing through the window – it wouldn’t quite fit through, too wide (ours is a very narrow view of the world), so I was struggling, trying to squeeze it through. And that was when Lucille grabbed me. First she got me by the shoulders and started tugging, then she starting tearing at my shirt, tore it all to shreds, then started banging on my back with her tight little iron curled fists. But I was too strong (still had my mission) until with one final puff I got the damn thing through and heard it crash and saw it smash like fire into hundreds of glowing glittering pieces.

And then I turned around and she started wailing on my chest and my shoulders and arms, but I didn’t care a lick. I just grinned, fulfilled for the moment at least. Opening up new doors. I mean I don’t want my kid to be a robot, a pine tree soaking up all that bad light. You know what I mean.

Things are going to be different for us. We’re going to have a better life. Can I tell you something?: This is just the beginning.

 

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