Frank, Sammy and Eric used to sit together every evening in
their small, square lounge. From the flattened settee they took turns with the remote,
seeking some viewing to liven the endings of their various days. Favoured compromise
options included historical documentaries, nature programmes, or a videoed Grand Prix. The
voting on Eurovision was another annual favourite. Only Eric was keen on all that
cooking muck, as the others called it, and none of them liked Changing Rooms. They
watched a few episodes of the first series of Big Brother but unanimously judged it
ridiculous. Since then theyve steered clear of the reality genre
altogether. What a waste of schedule space that is.
This summer the three have been trying something
different. For a break in routine they sometimes go out of an evening. First they make a
flask of tea or pack some beers. Then they agree on a destination. Frank, Sammy and Eric
have lived together for twenty-one years now, and reaching agreement is something
theyve developed skills for doing without realising exactly what techniques they
adopt. They dont ever go far though, on account of the settee.
It was acquired in 1984, from Franks aunt, to
replace a scrofulous leather banquette. Back then the settee was quite perky, although it
had already fallen out of fashion. But it has the advantage of hardly showing tea stains
and smells pleasingly of cheese and onion crisps. The arms and legs are covered in cat
hairs, matted down to form an extra fleece. The chocolate-and-ginger-coloured velour has
worn away in many places, giving it the patina of an aged teddy bear. The feet are rather
muddy this year.
Tonight the sky will remain light until nearly nine
oclock. Despite the gathering cloud it looks as though rain will hold off. Sammy and
Frank carry the settees frame down the lane and along the track. They follow the
footpath across the fields, lifting the settee carefully over stiles. Eric brings up the
rear; he peers around a pile of cushions wedged under his chin, and wears a rucksack
containing the evenings refreshments.
They contrive to heft the settee over the fence onto
the motorway embankment. They plump up the cushions, extract the flask, and there they sit
and watch the show.
The evening is dry, but hardly fine. The
clouds remind Eric of something from his parents wedding anniversary party:
profiteroles in a golden toffee sauce. Behind them the light oozes down out of the sky.
The three men sit by the roadside and watch vehicles
rushing past. Its loud, and theres an aroma of exhaust fumes but its
certainly different from being stuck indoors. Eric rummages in the rucksack, pulls out a
packet of jammy dodgers and passes them around.
Any garibaldis? Sammy asks.
Sokay. Thesere fine.
They munch slowly and wash the biscuits down with
milky tea. Occasionally they spot something and one or other will make a remark.
Another Norbert Dentressangle there.
Dont see many Eddie Stobarts out this way,
The most exciting thing that can happen with the
lorries is when one thats drifting on and off the hard shoulder suddenly does a
little wiggle and a tail swerve. Presumably the driver was dropping off and jolted alert
again when he spotted three men and a battered sofa, parked up by the side of the road.
Frank, Sammy and Eric watch as a line of black cattle
begins to slowly process its way across the over-bridge that connects a vivisected field.
The light dims as the cows flanks sway ponderously across the skyline. The sound of
their hooves is drowned out by traffic. Eventually, the last bovine backside idles its way
off the bridge. The show is over. No credits roll down through the darkened sky.
Frank, Sammy and Eric hoist the bedraggled settee over
the fence and struggle across the field. They carry it up the lane and back home, with a
white light attached at the front and a red one displayed to the rear. Theres
nothing in the Highway Code that covers travel with soft furnishings, but they all agree
this is a prudent action in a world gone slightly mad.
This electronic version of
"Reality TV" appears in The Barcelona Review with kind permission of the author.
It appears in the collection Watermark, MA Creative Writing Bath Spa University,
2004. Book ordering available through amazon.co.uk
This story may not be archived, reproduced or
distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.
Pauline Masurel has written short (and even shorter) fiction. Her writing
has been featured in anthologies, on radio and on the Internet. She has worked with
assorted writers and artists, both online and off. In 2004 she received an MA in Creative
Writing from Bath Spa University College. She now lives in
Bath, although for over ten years she was resident in Berkshire and shared her home with a
televison and a 1970's sofa.
Further information about her writing and collaborations can be found at unfurling.net