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Friday, December 26, 1997
By Paul Ford
Craig Roberts Watches Television
Craig Roberts got home from Christmas in the late afternoon, off the Greyhound at Port Authority. He took the A out to Brooklyn.
He walked into his apartment, tired, and turned on the television. On the news, he saw a fire, somewhere in the city. Pictures of firemen, women crying and holding each other. He thought, "Why do fires always happen at night?" The television began to quiver.
"It's the train passing," he thought. The TV kept rattling. "I wonder if it's an earthquake?" Nothing else in the apartment jiggled.
With a burst of static and a loud sound of tearing plastic, the TV gave out a sound like a kicked dog. Craig jumped back in his chair, then rushed to the circuit breaker and turned off the line.
Even without power, the thing hopped on its stand. Its old plastic channel knobs spun by themselves. Scared, Craig edged over to it, holding his body a few feet away. He couldn't see any source for the commotion. Gingerly, he pressed down on the formica top of the TV. The set squealed.
The soft gray of the tube split open, fluidly. The glass didn't shatter. Hundreds of tiny televisions poured onto the floor. Some rolled around, squeaking. Some righted themselves and tuned to the same news station as their mother. While the little tubes spilled out, the parent TV, its screen opened wide, gave off a sigh of smoke, and expired in a hissing pile.
Cued by a deep, metallic laughter, Craig lowered his eyes to see the VCR, sitting on the stand below the dead TV. It jiggled, too, but more gently. Suddenly, with phallic grandeur, a black cigar emerged from its video hole. The end of the cigar began to smoke.
In absolute confusion and fear, Craig surveyed his apartment. Within a minute, all the baby televisions began to cry.