Chester’s Broadcast Day


For Chester, it was always time for television. Good television, bad television, sometimes even just the television itself. When it was nine o’clock and time for bed, and the oversized, overheated and newly purchased 1974 Zenith Color Console was switched off, Chester ignored the unfounded warnings of radiation, sitting as close to the set as possible, watching the glowing white dot fade into obscurity, leaving nothing to view but the dust from the olive green shag carpet jump up and attach itself to the purplish television tube.

During the school year, Chester began his television viewing day at 6:55AM, rising and dressing only a few minutes earlier. He slumped in front of his usual bowl of cereal and glass of juice in his usual seat at the kitchen table, just in time for the closing credits of Sunrise Semester, a few public service announcements, and finally, the geometrically animated opening of the local morning program.


Chester would linger in front of the set, until he was put out of the house by his mother, and would linger again by the kitchen window, peering thru until his mother closed the heavy shades.


At school, Chester would spend longer than necessary in the hallway extending his walk between classrooms to include a stroll past the teacher’s lounge, where he pressed his ear against the metal door, struggling to hear the faculty television, hanging above the pop machine. Sometimes he would get lucky and catch a glimpse of the screen as the door was opened.


Chester did not eat lunch with the rest of the students. Instead he raced past the cafeteria, milk money clutched in his palm, to the pay telephone around the corner from the gymnasium, where he dialed his home number. His much younger brother usually picked up, and, in exchange for a portion of Chester’s milk money, he would lay the receiver on the kitchen countertop, next to the television, so Chester could hear every word of the mid day talk show. Rarely did their mother emerge from the basement laundry room during that time to catch them, and sternly disconnect the call.


Often, after lunch, Chester would complain of an upset stomach and ask to be sent to the nurse’s office, across the hall from a small audio visual storage room. Chester would lie on a low cot under a worn blanket, and watch the janitor rewind and fast forward educational programs on a tall rolling television.


After school, Chester jumped off the bus, and headed towards home as fast as he could, to avoid the teasing and bullying of other boys, but mostly, stepping over the mail on the porch, to catch the last few minutes of the only remaining afternoon game show. He sat, cross legged on the floor, taking in every bell, buzzer, flashing light and applause cue, before his mother awoke from her afternoon nap on the nearby sofa. Beside him was his battery charged cassette recorder, saving each broadcast moment for replay at a later time in the safety of Chester’s bedroom.


Chester ate his dinner lifelessly, then offered to clear and wash the dishes and set the table for the next day’s breakfast, so he could return to the kitchen set, and watch a muted western or horror movie as he worked. His much younger brother would stand guard by the door, earning more lunch money in exchange for alerting Chester if their mother was in the area.


Homework was absently finished, and, by prime time, Chester was back in the now dark living room, his silhouette lit by the ever changing images from his favorite variety show, or situation comedy, or outer space adventure.



Finally, at 8:59, Chester’s broadcast day would end with the flicking on of the overhead light, followed by his mother ordering him to bed, where he would lay awake for hours with his cassette recorder, recalling the varied televised wonders from the day.


One cold winter afternoon, Chester came running from the bus stop, as usual. But instead of, stepping over the mail, he was stopped by a note taped to the front door. “Read this, Chester”, his mothers sloppy handwriting commanded, “Your brother and I are going to lunch with friends. Find someone to play with until I come home.” Chester turned the locked doorknob, turned it again, then, panicked, banged on the heavy wood to no avail. He then quickly circled the house, only to find that every window was locked, as well as the storm door leading to the basement laundry area.


Chester began to sweat, and then shiver, in his thin windbreaker. It would be getting dark soon, and he had nowhere to go, no one to play with, and no television. Around him, a light frozen rain began to fall.


Hours later, Chester’s mother and younger brother sat snugly at the kitchen table, absently wondering who he had chosen to spend the afternoon with. Little did they know that Chester had walked a blistery mile to the local strip mall, and was about to be put out into the cold by the owner of the local appliance store, after standing silently in the center of the showroom, engrossed in the different programs being shown on the many varied television sets for sale.


That night, Chester lay in his bed under layers of blankets, his mothers hand on his hot forehead. “You have a fever and the sniffles, Chester. Do you know what that means?”


Chester gulped and replied, hoarsely. “That I can stay home from school, and…watch…television?” He shivered with excitement, and patted his cassette recorder.


“No, I’ll dress you in an extra sweater and you can take a box of tissues with you. No one stays home from school in this house!”  His mother snapped. Chester began to cough uncontrollably, and then fell into a deep, restless sleep.


That night Chester quietly passed away, and stepped into a bright light, a light that would keep him transfixed for all eternity. His broadcast day had just begun.


The End