Hélène is sad about her new TV. She and her husband have held on resolutely to their old-style, glassy-front TV for years (what were those called again? not tube-style but the ones that came after), but the other day they decided to check out a flat-screen. First they looked at a 42-inch, which seemed huge. Then the salesman showed them a 72-inch. “Good Lord, it’s bigger than our house. No, thank you, that’s not us. We couldn’t possibly.” He then showed them a 52-inch. It cost only a little more than the 42-inch, which suddenly started to look…so small.
They got the 52-inch home and set it up in the living room, across from the couch. Hélène said she cried, literally shed tears, at seeing it there. Their living room is filled with large, exuberant oil paintings, warm canvases of reds and yellows. There are delicate ferns hanging in the windows, and lots of books in tall bookcases. But now when you walk in, all you see is the TV. It rules over the couch like a stern schoolmistress. “Sit quietly and watch me, or else.”
“S-sorry, Miss, I just wanted to do some vacuuming?”
“B-but the ferns? They need water.”
“I’ll tell you when they need water. Turn to channel 57 at 11 am. The Garden Master will tell you.”
“B-b-but I always water them on Mon—“
Hélène has guests coming over tonight to watch a movie. They’re old friends, and she is already dreading, already trying to figure out how to explain the TV. I tell her, “You don’t have to explain anything to them,” but we both know I’m wrong. They’ll see it soon as they walk through the front door. They’ll wonder about it even as they hug hello in the foyer. They’ll think, “What’s come over our enlightened, vegetarian friends?”
At least until they step into the living room, and the Schoolmistress sits them down, and the movie begins. At which point, all they’ll wonder is whether she comes with a popcorn setting.