Real and pretend ghosts

Totally.
Totally.

Last night, in the last three minutes of an episode of “Caprica,” where Dad is trying to get robot Zoe to shoot the dog in order to prove she’s not Zoe, Dave shut it off. “I’m done,” he said. He stood up. Then he sat down and set the Roku controller on the coffee table. Then he stood up again.

I stared at the suddenly-black screen. A second ago I’d been watching a border collie cocking his head, all confused, looking from the robot to Dad. Clearly he knew Zoe was inside the robot. He really wanted her to throw the ball so he could fetch it, but instead Dad had given the robot a gun and made her aim it at the border collie.

“I can’t do this,” he said. “I know it’s not real and all that, but it’s just.”

“Of course,” I said, “It’s no big deal.” And we spent the rest of evening reading or talking or something.

I still want to see the last three minutes. I bet the robot misses. If the robot doesn’t miss, I too am done with the show. Why am I done? I don’t know. Because the fake killing of a dog doesn’t seem fair. Why doesn’t it seem fair? Human characters have been killed right and left – the two Tauron guards, everyone on the commuter train. But when you bring a cute, wriggling border collie onto the set and ask us to pretend for him that he is the dog in the story, it’s different than when you bring humans on to the set and they pretend they are Tauron guards or commuters on a train, and all we have to do is decide whether they pretend well enough.

But a border collie is unsurpassed in being a border collie. When it delivers a red ball to the feet of a hunk of metal, I have to do the translation. And when Dad then forces robot Zoe to shoot the dog instead of throwing the ball, and I have to then untranslate that in my head to make it okay, because of course no one’s actually getting shot, I feel foolish. I feel like they misused my good will, my willingness to pretend. I feel silly.

The vibe last night was that we wouldn’t be watching “Caprica” ever again. It’s too bad, because despite lukewarm reviews from “Battlestar” friends I’d been loving the ways it explored how the Cylons came into being and why they were so gosh-darned upset at humans. In fact, this morning, when Dave was downstairs, I opened Netflix on my phone to secretly watch the last three minutes. I figured, if the robot missed, I could subtly work in an argument to keep the show in the queue.

The episode was still in the Continue Watching row, with three minutes left. I hit Play and kept my finger over the Pause icon, in case I heard Dave coming up. I turned the volume way down.

The little circle spun, the screen looked ready to display, but it stayed black. It was like there was a ghost in the machine, keeping me away. I hit Play a few more times, like that would help. I waited, looking from the door to the screen and back again. Dave stayed downstairs. The circle kept spinning and the screen stayed black.

Eventually I gave up and got on with my day.

Home schooling

TV screen
Bad teacher.

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?”

“Sit.”

“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—“

“Sit!”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

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.