The day was like any other day the children sitting on the floor complaining about the poor reception our old worn out TV box was spilling out again. Their favourite programme was covered in a blizzard. I told them in my most monotone voice possible: “There is nothing I can do.” This was true reception was a bunch of white and black dots. I had done everything possible. I had rung the TV Company on several occasions but all I was hit with was an answering service: “Sorry, all our staff are busy at the moment please hold the line and one of our operators will assist you shortly.” Forget another bill; impatience got the better of me.
The children whined, I could hear the TV hiss that became a permanent fixture inside my head. “Why can’t you climb on the roof and wiggle the…the…?” It was little blonde haired Helen or Helly for short always full of questions.
“Aerial?” I quipped.
“Yes!” She screamed, jumping off the carpet and into my lap.
“Well,” I thought scrunching up my lips, “It is too dangerous and besides daddy's back is sore.”
Helly was standing on my legs now her little arms coming worrying close to my face. Kieran started to cry his eyes dazzled by the blizzard in the box.
TV meant everything to them; they’d been able to watch all their favourite shows until the bad reception showed up.
The whining continued amongst the rain and wind. Outside dogs barked insanely on. I didn’t know what to do, I had idolised married life and now with two crying kids fighting for the space of my lap I grimaced. I felt like grabbing little Helen by her arm and throwing her against the floor, Kieran would probably need to be thrown harder as he was a butter ball.
The door slammed, mummy was home, the kids flocked to the career woman all dolled up. They hung onto her sobbing in between whines and the occasional word of “TV!” followed by “Daddy!”
“What have you done again?” She barked - a lovely little welcome. “You know if I was to stay at home things would be so much better, the kids would be happier, the laundry would be…”
“Yes, yes,” I interrupted. You have told me for the hundredth time how everything would be so much better. Can you give it a rest?
I let her eat her dinner in peace as I fought to get the children settled, I should have never decided on kids. I pulled Helen by her arm, struggling to pull off her woolly green jumper so I could get them all into the tub, Kieran argued with me said, he would only have a bath if the TV was fixed. I succumbed to his blackmail and promised that the blizzard would disappear the next day. After submerging the kids in bubbles a struggle ensued to get them out, into their pyjamas and under the blue sky covers that they slept in. I pulled out Tomas the Tank Engine and read in all my possible voices just as to entertain them. They didn’t see the humorous side of it and just stared at the wall, a blank expression displayed on their faces. Finally they fell asleep and I turned off the light, tip-toed down the hall and went to check on mother downstairs.
She was sitting on the couch with a bowl of noodles in hand complaining about the TV. “Why can’t you get it working, you know you can’t do anything right.”
“I tried,” I said throwing myself on the couch next to her, she pulled away. “Tomorrow, I’ll sort it out.”
“You have been saying that for the past week, and still nothing.”
“Maybe it’s not a bad idea to stop watching so much TV; do you know how much the children watch?”
“That’s because you sat them in front of the TV everyday for so long, the kids will do whatever you let them.” She made a large grunt and then shrugged her shoulders. “You know what you should go live with Barry, you never do anything at home anyway and the kids seem to always be upset.”
“Barry?” I questioned.
“Yes go live with that lazy bastard I’m sick of you and quite frankly the children are sick of you. A grown man should be able to take care of his own kids. You sicken me.”
“Well if that is what you want fine, I’ve had enough of you and the kids anyway.” I headed out the door not bothering to take anything other than the keys off the wall, made sure to slam the door behind me, jumped into the car in the driveway and sped away. Who needed a wife, an angry wife at that, who needed screaming kids, who needed TV?
A day passed, no word from the both of us, no one willing to make a compromise. Barry was a bum, married life was better than rubbish strewn all over the floor and a pile of unwashed dishes. After struggling if I should ring I picked up the phone and dialled home.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello,” the voice replied – it was Helen, a soft whisper voice.
“Is mummy there?”
“Yes but she doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“Well ask her again…”
The phone went quiet, I could hear a shuffle of feet and a shout: “Daddy’s on the phone!”
“Hi,” I replied.
“Hi, so are you calling to apologise?”
There was no point in arguing so I replied: “Yes!”
I would bite the bullet and let her win again. “If you’ll have me back, I’ll try harder.”
“Trying is not good enough – the TV…?”
“I’ll get it sorted out.”
“Ok see you then.”
I opened the door, everything was quiet, not a sound.
“Hello dear,” she said poking her head out of the kitchen, “the kids are playing in the garden. Good to have you back.”
I grunted, gave her a peck on the cheek and then went to work fiddling the back of the TV- no luck. I phoned the TV Company, the answering service greeted me. “For assistance press one, for product information press two, for queries press three…”
I pressed one and waited for five minutes but no one replied, so I hung up and dialled again - same response. Slam went the phone.
I wasn’t going to let a TV ruin my marriage so I got a ladder from the shed employed the help of Helen to stand in front of the TV and Kieran to hold the ladder. We had worked out a system. I would fiddle with the antennae, Helen would shout out when the picture was good and this message would relay to Kieran then it would be passed on to me which meant my job on the roof was done. I climbed the ladder to the sloping roof and then I carefully walked towards the chimney my feet shimmying me along the black tiled roof. When I got to the chimney after a few awkward moments, I started to move the aerial around and then waited for a response. I heard a roar from Helen, Kieran shook his head and shouted: “NO!” I bent the antennae with one hand and held onto the red bricked chimney with the other. Still a loud: “NO!” I moved around to the other side of the chimney so I could get a better hold on the aerial, moved it again and then forgetting where I had put my feet felt my legs go out from under me. I grabbed at the TV aerial but it slipped out from under my hands. A big roar was heard from the house: “YES! YES! TV! TV!”
I was lying on the green grass, still as ever. I couldn’t think what happened.
“YES! YES! TV! TV!”
Stop it would you? I struggled to get up stretched my arms out in front of me and then raised my hands to pull myself up. Nothing! A surge of pain shot through my body. I tried again.
“YES! YES! TV…!”
It was quiet all of a sudden, a little cry and then a few short gasps.
“Daddy…?!” Little eyes peered down at me. “TV is fixed, get up.”
Kieran grabbed my arm and pulled.
“Argh no, no, don’t do that!”
“NO, NO!” I protested.
Mummy was peering over me, a disapproving look, and said “I told you to be careful I told you to get someone, a professional…”
No you didn’t, you suggested nothing, and all you wanted was the TV to be fixed.
She slowly dialled the emergency number as I lied still as ever and listened to the sound of Barney’s voice come from the sitting room, “Hello kids, let’s sing a song!”
When they came they stretchered me off, my wife wearing an expressionless face. Tests were done, I was given bad news and then sent home.
A few days later I sat in front of the TV with no miracle to talk about, no salvation song to sing. The children glued to the tube, and me in a wheelchair with a broken back annoyed about the purple dancing dinosaur smiling out of the TV set.