by Geoff Schutt
The TV was a little old black-and-white, but it still worked fine. She wanted a color — not a color TV, but a single color for the black-and-white. She went to the hardware store looking for those colored party lights. The hardware store had them on clearance. People were switching to the newer light bulbs, the ones that save energy and last forever. Well, she thought, I don’t need forever. She tried to remember how many light bulbs it would take. Her preference was green, but there were only two green lights left, not enough — not even close. There were plenty of blue light bulbs. Blue would be okay. Blue would work. Yes, it would be fine. The more she thought about it, turning the black-and-white TV to blue was even better than green. She needed green light for the distance, for later. Green light was the ending. Green light was like the end of Gatsby’s pier. Green light was all F. Scott Fitzgerald and filled with glamor and tragedy. This was the middle. This could be blue. There is still some glamor in blue, she thought. Or tragedy. Maybe one or the other, but probably not both, this being the middle. She wasn’t sure and she didn’t really care. Either one would be fine.
Eleanor removed all of the regular light bulbs, and replaced them. She put the regular light bulbs in the trash. She folded up the plastic garbage bag and began to crush the old lights, stepping on them. The shards were breaking through. One of the shards went right through her shoe. She cut herself, but it didn’t really hurt. She didn’t even care if she was bleeding.
She cleaned up the mess. Her father wouldn’t be home for hours. She didn’t want forever, but she did want now.
She turned the station from something to nothing. To those tiny white dots, the white noise white dots, except now they were blue. She had a blue TV, and all she could think of was to watch the tiny dots — these magnificent tiny blue dots.
Eleanor showered herself in the blue light. She bathed in it. She turned up the volume on her blue TV. Tiny blue dots can make a lot of noise. You don’t think about the noise the dots make, really, but they do. She danced a while, in front of the TV, to the noisy dots, like they were a band playing her favorite song, right now. And when she was tired, from all of the excitement — and this was exciting to her — though ask her why and she wouldn’t be able to tell you — she sat down, legs crossed. She was breathing hard and deep.
She saw there was a world in those tiny blue dots. She saw everything — her world at least. She saw her father. She saw herself. It wasn’t so much fun seeing herself.
I think I forgot to rinse some of the old colors from my hair, she thinks. There’s too much lather. There’s not enough blue on me. Look at my arms. The blue is reflecting off how white I am, how pale I am. I have alabaster blue skin, isn’t that funny? (No, it’s not.)
If I can see the world, I can see anything, can’t I? It doesn’t have to be my own life. It can be a stranger’s life. I can make my own TV show. I’ll call it Blue TV Show, to go with my blue TV.
But at first it was her world.
I can see my mother. I’m not sure I want to see her. She looks so lost — see that? I like her looking lost, she thought. This is something to write a postcard about: Wish you were here, but I guess you are, aren’t you?
You’re not here anymore, can’t you see that? (screaming at the blue TV)
Eleanor knew what she was missing. Refreshments. Snacks. Popcorn. Chips. Or maybe just a drink. She made herself a vodka drink. There wasn’t any orange juice left, just grapefruit. Her lips puckered when she sipped her vodka drink. It was a strong drink, but she could handle her liquor. She always could. From the age of whatever, when she was even younger than she was now, when nobody was looking because they were fucking drinking so much and it was easy to drink right along with them – even though she had to pretend she was not alone. They drank theirs, and she drank hers. And nobody was the wiser now, were they? Nope.
I am watching you, she says to the tiny dots on the blue TV. What game shall we play next? I’m sick of my world. My world makes me want to vomit.
She drank, and she drank some more. The blue light was making her dizzy. Her blue alabaster skin was goose bumped. She was cold.
She put her face very close to the screen, but was careful not to touch it. There was purity in this blue TV. You cannot buy purity. It happens or it’s part of you, but you cannot go to the store and buy purity when it’s gone.
I can see you, so won’t you come out and play? What are you afraid of — me? I’m harmless.
(I am lonely though, she thinks.)
(Eleanor hopes her father screams when he gets home. She has no more screaming left inside her own body, and she needs his screaming to make her feel whole again. She remembers her foot, cut from the broken glass from the light bulbs. She still doesn’t feel any pain, and the dried blood, well, it’s blue, so it must not be real blood. Real blood is not blue. She must be faking it. She made it all up. It didn’t happen.)
Okay. So here’s how it goes. Are you with me? I put you and you over to the left. That would be stage right —right? And I put you in the middle. And you — I don’t have a place for you yet. What’s your name? What kind of experience do you have? Do you have a resume? I’m sorry, but you can go backstage for now. Off camera. Get yourself a soda pop. You just go to the side, where I can’t see you.
You, there in the middle — you leave as well.
I just want the other two of you. Have a conversation. Just start talking already, will you?
There is a man. There is a woman.
The man says, I can see the moon from here. Look — it’s so close we can touch it! The woman says, I don’t like the moon. I prefer the stars. The man says, Well, we all want to be stars don’t we? But the moon — now look at that. It’s really something tonight.
The woman says, It’s blue. It’s too bright, she says. I can’t see my stars, she says.
You’re a damned fool, the man says. You want to see something else when something grand and glorious is right in front of you. You want to see something that isn’t there.
Well don’t we all? the woman says.
Yes! Yes! Eleanor is saying.
Eleanor is saying, in a whisper — I want to see what isn’t there.
The vodka drink has made her all emotional. I want to see what I can’t see. What’s hiding, I mean. Because it must be hiding.
She moves back from the TV, her head spinning.
Won’t you just tell me a story? she is thinking. You can lie if you want to. It doesn’t have to be true. Just tell me a story. You can even scream the story if you want to – yes, you in the spotlight. I’m talking your direction. Don’t move from the spotlight. I mean you, yes.
I want to listen to what I can’t hear, and I want to see what is invisible. I want to see what’s really in the blue. I really wish you were here.
(an excerpt from the novel, The Girl Behind The Glass)
About Geoff Schutt:
“Blue TV Show” is an excerpt from Geoff Schutt’s first novel, The Girl Behind The Glass. Schutt’s short fiction has been published widely since the 1990s, including Gordon Lish’s The Quarterly (Vintage Books/Random House), The Best of Writers at Work, The Wastelands Review, The Heartlands Today, Modern Short Stories and The Laurel Review, among others.
In addition to his fiction, Schutt has also received artist grants for his performance art – in particular, for his interactive storytelling, which involves the audience in the finished piece.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, he has lived in recent years in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Asheville, North Carolina, and currently writes full time in the Washington D.C. area.
Geoff Schutt is represented by James McGinniss at McGinniss Associates Literary Agency, New York City.
His blog, which chronicles the process of writing of The Girl Behind The Glass, is located at http://geoffschutt.blogspot.com