We Interrupt Your Scheduled Programming
by Chuck Von Nordheim
Her body jerks itself awake. The move causes neck strain, a side stitch. The TV buzzes. Across its screen, phosphor dots spin. The static first alerts her to oddness. Since childhood, no station has ceased its broadcast. Goodbye anthems. So long test patterns. Next, she notices the plastic knob. On it, numbers—2 through 13—glow. Is it another pointless upgrade? Before her birth, perhaps, Dad flipped channels by twisting a dial. But no one does now.
She shifts toward the TV. Her bed, at least, remained unchanged. Smooth satin presses against her palm. Beside her, the dint left by lover. Cool now, due to his long absence, but ever present. Why do men always leave me? Nearing the screen, the hair on her arms rises. She smells ozone and burnt dust.
Her finger clasps the dial’s ridged edge. With a hiss, the light the screen emits intensifies. Her pale thickness seems to jump from the fleeing shadows. Am I really this ugly? Pushed by the need her veined wrist relays, the TV tuner clicks. Static whirr. Cool darkness. Static. Dark. Then, the screen displays a scene she recognizes.
Under a glint of basin-held water, red tiles form her high school’s name. A jade lawn and a fountain’s pearl spray indicate a rain-blessed land. Taut muscles relax. After a whiplash crack, joints loosen. Cast off ease reclaims her. Was my life this blessed? When did it wither? Abruptly, a man sprouts from the lawn, his body a sturdy trunk, his hair an untrimmed hedge.
With a bound, the green man soars to the basin’s brim. He dances on the wide, gray slate that seems polished as the floor of a temple. On his left, earth. On his right, water. Overhead, the air. In her mind, she tries to stir up the real thing this vegetable imp represents. He pirouettes. He twizzles. Maybe the boys she spurned because they seemed crude, wild. Too unlikely to provide. When the dancer runs his stick digits through his leaf beard, it buzzes like static. When he slides his root feet over the slate, it hums like electricity. She watches him and remembers the swish of denim, and black t-shirts that smelled of hemp. Inside her, a dewfall occurs after a long drought.
The hedge face turns. Flower orbs lock gaze. Not slowing his dance—échappé, Russian split—the green man does this. He speaks with the sound of wind soughing through grass. “I am here always. I will never leave you. Flip the channel. Flip the channel.” Then the light emitted by the screen from the screen intensifies again, sending her back into her dry slumber.
◊ ◊ ◊
Chuck Von Nordheim
A northeastern Los Angeles County resident, Chuck lives where chaparral shifts to desert. An Air Force Honorable discharge recipient, he maintains membership in Iraq Veterans Against the War. An MFA graduate, his surreal/magreal work has appeared In Midway Journal, Dime Show Review, and Theaker’s Journal.