The old man was asleep in the recliner with the remote in his hand. Television was on with the sound turned down. It was Michael Landon mouthing words. Wearing a cowboy hat. Riding a horse.
The TV was always on. Twenty-four hours a day. If he wasn’t watching it she was. Or, the kid. He watched a lot too. They watched in different shifts. Mom watched in the daytime up until the evening news. Then the boy would take over the remote and watch prime time before going out for the evening. And the old man took the graveyard shift. Alone in his seat with a knitted blanket on his legs. He wouldn’t move till morning.
There was a loud noise coming from the kitchen. Boy had made it home. Talking to himself. Moving objects around in the refrigerator. Finding a six pack of beer in the back. Ice cold. He took all of em. Sat down on the flower pattern couch and picked the beers one at a time from the plastic rings. The boy noticed the remote dangling from the old man’s fingers. Gently he grabbed it. Started flipping through channels. Re-runs of The Love Boat was on. Kind of a Love Boat marathon. Episode after episode of people taking a cruise and getting laid. Always with a drink in their hand. This appealed to him. He had dreams of going on a cruise. Had dreams about Julie, the activities director. Loved her eyes. Thought she was really sharp. The blonde put a smile on his face.
When did you get here? the old man asked as he stretched. Did you just get home? the boy kept looking at the show. That’s my beer boy, dad said. You know the rules, he pointed at the remote the boy had in his hand. Why don’t you hand that thing over? It’s not your turn, boy looked over at him.
You were asleep. You were asleep so I took it. Just like your beer. It sat in there for a week untouched so I drank em, he smiled in the dark.
That’s not the point. You know the rules. You broke the rules. It’s a matter of respect, he looked at the television. A matter of respect. I had it on Carson, the old man said. Carson was on. With Charo.
That was hours ago dad, the kid said. Sun will be coming up soon.
Give me that remote, dad demanded, getting out of his recliner, standing over the boy. The boy teased him with it. Held it off to the side while blocking the old man with his leg. I said give it to me, the old man kept reaching for it. The boy kept laughing. The old man tried to slap boy, but, his wrinkled hand was pushed away. More laughter from boy. Like he was being tickled. The old man walked away from him. Went down the hall and knocked on the bedroom door. Boy’s got the remote, he yelled. He took it from me, he screamed some more.
Do you know what time it is? she asked. The old man stood there. He could hear the boy laughing in the front room. Mom came to the door. Do you know what time it is? she looked at him. It’s three o’clock in the morning, she declared. Three in the morning. She shut the door. He opened it and went to his side of the bed. Got down on his feeble knees and searched with his hand for his pistol.
I’ve had enough of this, he mumbled, finally securing the gun in his palm. I’m gonna show that boy who made him, the old man marched down the hall. He stood over the boy again. You gonna give me that remote? the boy laughed harder. The old man pointed the pistol at his head. Give me that remote, he said in a hoarse whisper. Boy just kept laughing. Laughing at the television. Doc and Isaac, the bartender were talking. The kid turned the volume up real loud. Give me that remote, he yelled over and over with a shaking hand. Give it to me.
The pistol was fired. A stream of blood came from the boy’s skull. There were pieces of his head all over the room. The old man took the remote and sat back down. He turned it to Bonanza.