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Dianne McKnight

Television

I

One summer when she was a girl she spent nights lying on her bed in the dark looking out her window to her neighbor's house, watching their television, the first on her block. Voices and music drifted over the hedge of yellow roses that separated the yards.

If the shades on her neighbor's windows were up she saw a box filled with shadows. But she liked watching even more if the shades were pulled. Nothing like the ordinary light from lamps, the light behind the shades from the television was alive, rising and falling, filling up, emptying out, light and dark and light again. She imagined floating up to the ceiling on pale silver water, floating back down. She dreamed of growing up, of changes. When the music was beautiful she dreamed of true love.

Girls at school talked about their wedding nights like they were just around the corner instead of years away. Teresa, a sixth grader, wanted to wear a white negligee over a push up bra. But she said she would wear pearls.

II

In high school she met her first boyfriend. It happened just like she'd hoped: a nice, good-looking boy asked her out. On Friday nights that first fall they'd ride around after football games looking for a place to park, the song "Last Date" on the radio. But the first time they kissed, her first and his too, they sat on the couch in front of the television at her house. He put his arm around her and drew her near. His eyes were closed when his mouth bumped into hers, late night tv in the background, the sound of wild laughter. His lips moved as if they shaped faltering words and hers made words back, words with no sounds, but she heard the orchestra, felt the light change.

III

In college on a starry December night she walked to the student union to see the Vietnam draft lottery on tv. She took a seat in the back of the room. In the light from rows of overhead fluorescents, the television looked weak, like it would never be up to the task at hand. But when an old man drew the first number someone turned off the overheads and the television lit up full strength, beamed its hardest industrial grey. The room was jammed with students and they sat there in light like cement, heads black against it, breathing, changing breath.


Dianne McKnight holds BA and MA degrees in English, and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. She has published in various literary magazines including River City Review; recent flash fiction and nonfiction appears in Doorknobs and BodyPaint, Tattoo Highway, riverbabble, flashquake, and In Posse Review. She won the 2003 Bloomsday Prize and the Hayward Faultline Prize, and was a finalist in recent Glimmer Train and Tattoo Highway contests.

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