That Tiny TV, by Rose Marshall
Wheel of Fortune. Every day. Every damn day that’s what she watches. It’s like she has to watch it or else she’s miserable and we can’t watch anything else. If I want to watch something else, she, like, freaks out and says that I have my own television in my room. She knows how small that TV is and she wouldn’t watch it if she was forced to either.
“Fine,” I tell her. “We can watch Wheel of Fortune and I’ll play pool on my phone.”
“That’s alright, dear,” she says. I listen to barking dogs and wailing police sirens outside. Those sounds don’t bother me anymore. It’s those ‘dings’ that the lady makes every time she touches the white squares to make the letters appear. Those dings piss me off. And the host’s voice and the sound of the wheel ticking. After playing pool on my phone for a while, I look up at the screen and see the woman, the old plastic woman that touches the squares. She kind of looks like my mom and that makes me angrier than ever. I don’t want to think about her. It’s my turn, I tell myself quickly, and I look down at my phone to make my move with the virtual billiard stick.
“Your thirteenth birthday is coming up, Keegan,” the old hag tells me. No duh, woman. I know when my own birthday is. I nod my head really fast. “So what do you want for your birthday?”
Why does she keep talking? That kid from Michigan might get the phrase right after asking for a ‘j’ or another vowel and win that fancy yacht that everyone wants but she wouldn’t know ‘cause she’s too busy running her mouth and not paying attention. “Uh I don’t know grandma.”
“You’re going to need a lap top for school later, aren’t you?” She doesn’t know how to shop for laptops. If I tell her that’s what I want, she’ll probably manage to find the crappiest one to give to me. Something from some pawn shop, I’ll bet. “Sure, whatever,” I tell her.
“Well do you want one? I can always give you something else,” she says.
“I don’t know-a,” I tell her. Adding the extra ‘a’ syllable at the end of any word tells the person that you’re mad. She should know that rule by now since we’ve been living together for about six months I think. Click, tap, tap. Yes! In goes the magic eight ball. My hand makes a fist and I push down my elbow.
“What is it, honey?” the hag asks.
“Nothing-a,” I tell her.
“Keegan. You need to calm down,” she laughs. “I’m just asking you a question.”
What the hell? I am calm. She needs to calm down. She always thinks I’m so angry. “Quit telling me what to do. You’re always telling me what to do, grandma!”
“You don’t need to yell,” she says in a calm voice. God, she’s annoying. She looks down at my cell phone. “The flip one?” she asks. “What happened to that big Samsung that Roy gave you? The smart phone with the big fancy screen.”
I thought I’d forgotten about him. I wish I had forgotten about him. “It’s still in the box,” I tell her.
“Did you even open it?”
“I told him I didn’t want a present from him. He doesn’t even like me. He just wants to impress me.” She knows I’m right about that.
“Your mother loves him. And he sure loves your mother.”
Watching that small TV sounds more fun than listening to her ramble on about some jerk-wad all day. I set my phone on the coffee table and see all of the post cards from San Diego and a couple from France, along with one from Alaska. They signed their names on the post cards. Roy and Jenny, Roy and Jenny. Then I see one from Baltimore. “Honey, I really think that you should take the gift from Roy and use it. He has a lot of money you know and he could buy you anything you want. And anything you need for that matter.”
I breathe through my nose, smelling the harsh mix of grandma’s onions from the kitchen and the sewage that seeps around the poorly constructed trailer park. The air fresheners she put in this trailer aren’t working. “If he had money, he could have kept mom’s house,” I say under my breath.
“He keeps sending you things. Don’t you want those cool things?”
“I don’t want that fucking phone!”
“I want my mom to come home and give me a present herself.”
My face is two inches away from hers all of the sudden. As I notice this, I back away and turn around to walk to my room. I slouch as I walk. My head and face are really hot. Why? Because that woman really pushes my buttons. I get so angry I tear up, but I don’t cry. I’m not a baby. I slam the door and turn on the tiny television, turning the volume up and trying to drown out the rap music from the trailer next to us. I can still hear the obnoxious ticking of the wheel from the other room, too. I hate this television with the tiny screen. I hate it. It isn’t the one that I want.