About the Writer
Todd Mercer won the Dyer-Ives Kent County Prize for Poetry (2016), the National Writers Series Poetry Prize (2016), and the Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Award (2015). His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance, appeared at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer's recent poetry and fiction appear in 100 Word Story, Bartleby Snopes, Flash Fiction Magazine, Fried Chicken and Coffee, The Lake, Liars’ League NYC, The Magnolia Review, Postcard Shorts, Softblow Journal, and Star 82 Review.
The honeymoon year was a home-cooking adventure, joyful domesticity inside Storybook cottage. They cooked love notes for each other in the form of casseroles.
The couple lost The Magic quickly though. There one day, no sign the following morning. The house was messy with drop-in company coming. Inside five manic minutes they cleaned the place, including stowing armloads of undifferentiated stuff into a black hole called the garage. Someone threw The Magic into the garage rafters when their company pulled into the driveway.
Dinner went long, with too much wine. No one realized The Magic was misplaced.
Soon the television seemed more valuable than sit-down meals. All that chopping and simmering and roasting and basting felt like a lot of bother.
Daytime sun was a problem. Their sheer curtains let too much glare on the TV. They tacked bed quilts over the windows, watched her shows, watched his shows. That summer was over-warm. Instead of heating the kitchen, they dabbled in Lean Cuisine™. It was marginally healthy. But then Swanson™ or Banquet™ had a triple coupon sale. She crammed her minivan with meatloaf and Salisbury steak.
It was okay until it wasn’t okay. The cable started messing up. Not always, but they couldn’t rely on it to function.
Time spun out. They ate Chicken a la King through autumn. They consumed more fish sticks than either cared to confess to. Guests steered away from the house with quilts in the windows.
One day he pushed the power button, but the TV didn’t respond.
They sat in hers and his La-Z-Boy™ recliners and watched nothing on the empty screen. It wasn’t the best, but it was good enough to do every evening.
He said, “I have a sense that other couples aren’t their own prison guards.”
She said, “Shhhh… my show’s on.”
They seldom left the recliners. The Magic was as close as thirty feet away, gathering cobwebs.
When the van-full of TV dinners ran out, they stopped eating without discussing it.
They took up drinking. It was enough. The whiskey dinners certainly improved the quality of the shows on the TV that didn’t show shows anymore.
Their favorite show featured a young-ish couple who were sweet to each other. The couple on the show had droll misunderstandings that were easily corrected. They ate fresh vegetable and whole foods. They smiled and looked at one another when speaking.
What great fun watching this from dual La-Z-Boy™s, on an evening they nicknamed We’re Not Counting Drinks Night. Oh my God! He wanted to watch that show all the time! Later they re-named that night How Did We Burn the House Down?
It was too much, and it was actually not okay.
A firefighter extricated The Magic from a steaming pile of ash and tumbled masonry.
A live-news reporter asked the couple, “How does it feel to lose everything?” He clearly thought but didn’t add, through negligence. Before either could respond the firefighter laid the magic at their feet, charred and half-consumed.
For nearly an entire ninety-second human interest segment they were the main show, all across the greater Action News area. They were inside the screens of thousands, bein’ real. They looked so fragile for their ages, blinking at the sun above the driveway, about half blind.