The freshman class always has winners and losers. There’s always a telegraph machine, some guy with a pompadour and socks pulled up to his knees, reading comic books and eating crackerjacks off fine China that he keeps stacked in his locker under physics books and comics. The freaks. That’s what the other kids call them. A high school with its cliques is like a living room—potted plants, tables, pot holders, water, candles, and ashtrays, or TVs, lacquered consoles, VHS machines, DVD machines, and wires. And popularity—it’s always a battle.
“I have been Mr. Popularity since I was zapped in and charged up. My click is better than yours. I don’t care what happens to this future, let ‘em hook PCs to me, or conglomerate everything they can. Let ‘em. I’ll always be a brain’s favorite. I am entertainment manifest,” TV says whenever he’s allowed time.
Plant always answers the same thing. “Listen dude, you are numbness manifest.”
Surely if they could move on their own, TV and Plant would brawl, leaves smutched against volume knobs, but as the laws and parameters of physics and technology and entertainment currently are, nothing ever happens except the bickering. I think Plant secretly admires TV’s charm and TV actually respects Plant’s stability and quiet strength. “Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid’s nemesis, was afraid of plants, you know.”
“You know that, Plant, because I showed you that history program! You were all glued to me then!”
The bickering is eternal. Really I like Plant a lot more. Plant is older for one thing, by millions of years. Plant saw the fish take to the land, she saw the dinosaurs disband into factions and then fall, she saw comets slam the skull of the earth, she saw the cosmic serpents disappear into the spinning milky way stars, and the planets in the sky change color of the years. You’ve got to respect age. And she’s a good plant, not the kind the weeps, or looks like an explosion, or tries to eat you. No, she’s just real green and standing tall—the kind with honor and integrity and pride.
TV is a blockhead. He looks like the Korean radish side dish, kak-doo-gi. Even the flat-screen new one’s look like radios on steroids. TV that Plant argues with is at least eight years old.
“Imagine a life without movement. He’s not even real. He’s just an empty tube,” Plant says confidentially to pot holder. “All that life and excitement passes into him and then out of him—it’s elsewhere. With me, I’m real. I am what I am.” If Plant could smile, this current pose would be a smile. People come and think that it’s a tribute to their good watering schedule. Little do they know to attribute it to self-satisfaction with her own wit.
“You know, you’re not exactly running water yourself!” says Pot Holder, and all the items in the room collapse in stitches. “You take forever to get any bigger and then once you do, they come and snip it off. They—what’s it called?—prune. That’s it, they prune you.” TV is now laughing the hardest.
“Laugh it up,” Plant says. “Get that picture tube so hot that it ruptures. Then who’ll be laughing?”
TV, always a bit paranoid about that particular demise, tames his laughter. He can already feel the pixel electrodes spinning inside of him. It makes him dizzy, just to think about. Then he gets superstitious like thinking about it alone will cause that downfall.
“Am I too hot? Do I look hot?” TV asks VHS Machine.
“I don’t know.”
“I’m serious! Something’s wrong.”
Plant looks at TV—always somewhat aware of what he’s doing but, of course, too coy and sensually hesitant to say anything about how she really feels, but wondering if his teasing isn’t the symbiotic other end of the same thing, that same fire deep from the inside, those strange resonances, somewhere on the DNA word strand of what makes a thing a thing. Are these things ever one-sided like the Romantics obsessed about?—and notices there is something strange about him. For one thing, he’s on. There’s that radiance, that electronic fizz in the air. She hadn’t noticed it actually, but had felt it surrounding her the whole day. TV usually emits that sludge under the full beam of images and sound that makes his programs, but now something was wrong and the whole room knew it. There was even a faint line across the screen like the final fadeout had come and the electric eye had closed, or like a garage door had come down and left a trail where it smacked the ground.
Plant, Pot Holder, Water, Candle, the whole clique was looking at TV. TV knew it. It was pity. The pixels were spinning. They were heating and firing up all over the place, little swirls of pink and green shooting over the screen. The crowd hissed with surprise. There was a suck in of breath, which now was collectively held. The front door opened. In came the human. Immediately, as if sensing something was wrong, he came to TV. He leaned down, looking his weird blinking circular dual television receptors right at the swirling pink electric line, and pressed a button twice. TV jolted. The screen changed to a different shade of brown nothingness with pink and lime swirlies and then suddenly there was full-blown picture reception—a news broadcast showing politicians mingling in a big indoor amphitheatre with flags and banners strewn inadvertently—for a brief glorious moment. Then TV was turned off.
The human went to Fridge (but that’s another story).
When I looked closely, I could see tiny patches of blush on the insides of Plant’s leaves.