Friday, December 09, 2005
She opened the door and went into her parents' room. No one was there, the room dark. TV off. The Girl listened. Only the metallic clanking of the radiators.
She had seen something, too, besides the pictures of naked ladies and sofas, in the magazine pages. But she couldn't remember. It was as if she'd been in a trance and was only now coming back to herself with no memory of what had occurred. But the voices were clear enough, in her head anyway. Strange.
She picked up her trumpet and shook it. The spit valves, uncorked, flung bits of moisture everywhere. She depressed the valves, practicing the Haydn solo's fingering. She was not allowed to practice for real after nine thirty.
But the magazine beckoned her. She felt fevered, chilly, tried to think of what Ms. Shumer from Fourth Grade Gifted Program would do. The Scientific Method. She went back to the bed and flipped methodically through all the pages, stopping at each one for exactly five seconds: one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand. Flip. No voices this time. The Girl sighed and flopped onto her side, her hand toying with the magazine's pages. Suddenly she did hear something.
"Hey, man, it's that kid again. Or some kind of hand, look like a kid's hand. Man, what happened to the game? Damn!"
She sat up. She looked at the open page, an ad for an expensive cognac with a giant curvy bottle that a small naked woman leaned against in profile, her head thrown back, her spine tracing a gentle "S" in answer to the bottle's contour. Then the Girl saw something else: a man's face, peering at her from behind the image-or not quite behind, but instead of, so that the real estate where the bottle had been was now occupied by this dark, intelligent, unsmiling face. The Girl brought the magazine up to her eyes to get a closer view.
"Change the pinche channel, man, come on! Carajo!"
"Man, don't you think I'm trying to change it? It won't change!" As the first man turned his head, she saw ropy muscles stand out on his neck, then got a quick look at his companion, a slight man with a mustache and slicked-back hair. Both the men kept glancing to a spot at the back of whatever room they were in.
The Girl spoke.
"I'm really here, you know. Hello hello."
Silence. The face in the page frowned profoundly, clouded with alarm, then vanished. The Girl waited. Then she heard voices again, lower this time.
"Naw, man, I didn't hear nothing."
"OK, man, I am telling you (vicious stage whisper) this ain't no TV program. Wake up, motherfucker! That little girl just spoke to me, and I am not crazy, ok?"
She tried again.
"Hey-where are you guys?"
The Girl glared hard into the page, trying not to blink and feeling hot irritation gather behind her eyes. Yet the faces of the two men did not reappear. She relaxed. A bass voice spoke quietly. The first man.
"Uh, hey kid? If you're really talkin to us, blink twice. No, once, blink once."
She blinked. The man's face reappeared.
"Uh-Are you looking at a camera? I mean, is somebody filming you?"
"Filming me? No, I'm looking at a magazine. I see your face, though. It's like the picture's there, but then you take its place. Are you guys really seeing me on TV?"
"Yeah." The man rubbed his forehead and eyes, letting his fingers come to rest like pincers on the bridge of his nose. His collar was a coarse khaki and looked stiff. "On the Rec Room TV. On One Oh Two Wing. Has this ever happened to you before?"
The Girl's thoughts spun faster and faster, trying to comprehend all the strange things she was hearing and seeing. Her own door she had left wide open. She hoped her brother wasn't hearing any of this from the other side of the wall. She couldn't risk breaking eye contact with the magazine to get up and shut the door, so she lowered her voice.
"What? Have I ever opened a magazine and seen real people inside who talked to me? No. What does, uh, One oh two wing--"
"It's like saying cell block 102. We at Marion Prison, Joliet, Illinois, kid. You're on the TV. And I don't know how you got in here."