Tea with Lucy

2010-11-25 00:00

IT has been said that if you untune your TV, in part of that static hiss, you will be able to hear an echo of the big bang that happened about 14 billion years ago. Of course, you don’t have to settle for an echo.

Rewind to the nineties, a lazy afternoon in a small redbrick house in Boom Street. In the garden, there is a neurotic dachshund called Sebastian, who once destroyed someone’s favourite Bruce Springsteen album, when he rode around on the record while it was playing. Inside, lying in bed reading the Sunday papers, is a man still in the tie-dye phase of his life.

In another room, is a woman with a screwdriver, a great idea and a fear of exploding things. She comes through to the bedroom where the man is lying in bed. She leans in the doorway, and says something about not being a science person. He sighs, pushes the paper aside and gets out of bed.

And in the lounge, there it is. One terribly ugly television tube, removed from its faux wooden case. It is chubby and grey as a shark. The science person bends down to look at it. She hands him the screwdriver. They crouch closely around the television tube, and she points at the stainless-steel straps that form a seal around the edge of the screen. “I think it can come off, if you just lever them up. I would do them one at a time …”.

Feeling cold in his kikoy, he gets to work. The metal straps pop off nicely, one after another. He has done about six of them and has the screwdriver poised under the third last strap, when there is a boom. The biggest boom. Their eyes are closed, and it’s only silent because they can’t hear anymore. Then he tells her to take her hands off her face. “Can’t,” she says, afraid she doesn’t have one anymore. Through her fingers she sees the room.

The television tube is gone. Or rather, it has moved. In large shards and millions of tiny slivers, the tube is now spread evenly over the adjacent kitchen on the right, the bathroom on the left, up the passage to the front door, and 40 feet out the back door, as far as the pawpaw tree. And here and there, lie contortions of steel strapping.

“It imploded*,” says the amazed science person. “Yeah,” she says.

After they have wrapped her hand and his leg in assorted dishtowels, she suggests that they have tea with Lucy, who lives around the corner. It seems an awfully important thing to do, until the shock ebbs, and they crunch around the house looking for car keys to take themselves off to hospital.

It takes most of that wintry afternoon for the doctor to pluck the grey particles out of their wounds and stitch them up. Long enough to explain how it seemed a good idea to turn a television set into a fish tank. Still thinking about tea with Lucy, she rambles on about how nice it would have been to turn on a TV and see small orange fish swimming up and down the screen. Because television’s not good for you, she says.


* Old TVs have cathode-ray tubes that contain a vacuum. If damaged, they implode violently when air rushes in. This releases hazardous materials such as lead, phosphorous, cadmium, barium and mercury. It’s a really bad idea.

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