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We sit side by side on the couch with our coffee. We watch some nothing on TV this time every morning, which is what is scheduled to play, and what we’re scheduled to watch.

This station is off. This station is dead air. Sometimes, instead of the rough, gray, chalky static, they broadcast the classic American Anthem sign off routine, or the movie theater countdown from five to zero, or the colorful screech bar display of a system fail, or a Morse code number station. We sit side by side, doing what we’re scheduled to.

Sometimes, I think about touching you, but that’s not scheduled. I am scheduled to gaze and smile at you while sitting on the couch with my coffee, watch some nothing on TV, side by side with you.

Sometimes my eyes lose focus, and I think you are crying. But then, I look back at our screen, and see it was a trick of the light. Soon, I don’t bother to turn my head: I can clearly see us both reflected in its dusty glass. Sometimes, I think about reaching across the few inches that separate my hand from yours, but that is not in our schedule.

Then, as though it were another program, we hear it. But the bird inside the TV is not on a program tuned to this station. Neither of us have time to say it but we know. This sound is not in our TV. It is a clear, brilliant window that has suddenly opened inside of each of us.

We are both afraid to move too fast, lest it be frightened and fly away. Tears roll down your face. I bridge the inches-wide gap between my hand and yours.

Then our bird comes bursting out of the machine, beating itself in frantic circles, cutting itself on the hot glass tubes and wiring.

Nothing we can do can stop it. So we don’t try. And before we can think of anything, it stops.

It had yellow green and blue feathers. Now it only has red.

We both look away, because we cannot look at it, or the broken screen, or each other, anymore.

Flash Fiction by Genelle Chaconas
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Published in Summer 2017


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