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Home page > English > Short Story > Gertie’s Television

Gertrude Stone was a very unhappy overweight girl who’s only pass-time involved sitting in front of the television. It probably wasn’t her fault that this inactivity was her only activity. Her mother Edith had used it as a babysitter from pretty much the word go, hence Gertrude had never learnt or wanted to learn how to interact with others. Her long brown hair was dull and unkempt and her chubby face was pale and pasty from an almost complete lack of sunlight.1While other fourteen year old children rushed home from school to grab a snack then go off to play with their chums, Gertie (as she was often called) came home, grabbed a big bowl of chips and settled down in front of the tele where she stayed until bedtime.1She would watch anything. The Bold and the Beautiful.1 Cheese TV. Tonight Live. Even Jerry Springer. Nothing was too annoying, too stupid or too cheesy if Gertie had the remote.

Gertie liked to pretend she was the people in the shows. They led much more interesting lives than she did.1 Often Edith would enter the room to find Gertie with a completely vacant look on her face and call her name several times before getting any response.1It was quite scary. And so when it had happened for the umpteenth time one week during the Christmas break, it was not surprising that Edith snapped.

“ Gertie! Gertie! GERTIE!!” she all but shouted at her dark haired daughter who was sitting in a pile of junk food wrappers that threatened to engulf even her large frame.

“ What.” she answered, the vacant expression disappeared and was replaced by a look of annoyance. She tried to look around Edith who had stepped into her line of sight, blocking the beloved television.1Edith grabbed the remote and snapped off the TV.

“Mum! I was watching that.”

“ I want you to get out of the house for a little while. It’s not good for you to sit in front of that thing all day.”

“ And do what? Visit all my friends?” Gertie sneered sarcastically.

“ I’ve just made a batch of scones for the new neighbour and I’d appreciate it if you took them around for me. Did you know she has a son your age?”

“ Well I suppose someone who looks like me shouldn’t aspire higher then marrying into housing commission.” But at the no nonsense look on her mothers face she added.

“ Fine. I’ll take them. But don’t expect me to throw them a welcoming party. Bugs Bunny is on in twenty minutes.”

After Gertie had left Edith took the television remote and put in her apron pocket. The particular model they owned could only be operated with it and she was sure that after a couple of weeks at the most, her daughter would find another activity to occupy her time.

Gertie at this time was stamping through the neatly tended flower bed her Mum was so proud of leaving a sweet smelling trail of destruction in her wake on her way next door. That’ll teach her she thought very satisfied with herself as she mowed cheerfully through the daisies that bordered their lawn and stepped onto the neighbours driveway.

She knocked on the front door but when the new neighbour opened it she reeled backwards in surprise upon recognising the woman that stood looking at her with a slight smile lifting the corner of her perfectly painted lips.

It was Pamela Anderson from Baywatch. Gertie couldn’t believe it. The smouldering sex siren wore a red silk dress with delicate frills that showed off her sculpted legs and the air was filled with the scent of expensive perfume.

“ Hi! You’re Pamela Anderson right?” Gertie breathlessly asked.

“ I don’t think so honey. My name was Claire the last time I checked. You’re from next door right? How are you?”

“ No. I mean yes I’m from next door and I’m fine but you have to be her. I mean either that or you’re her stunt double.”

“ My aren’t you just the sweetest thing to say so but no, my name really is Claire.”

“ Oh I get it. You don’t want anyone to know. It’s okay. I won’t tell. These are for you. My Mum made them.”

She thrust the plate of scones at the confused woman then closed her eyes and breathed in the heavenly smell that emanated from her.

The next thing Gertie knew she was being shaken by the shoulder and a cigerette roughened voice was saying Are you all right dear?”

She opened her eyes and stumbled backwards shocked when she saw the middle aged woman in the tired red dressing gown standing where a second ago had been a goddess.

“Where’s Pam? Who’re you?” she said

The woman looked closely at her.

“Are you alright dear? Do you want me to walk you home?” she asked and attempted to place one hand on Gertie’s forehead in a motherly fashion.

Gertie jumped back before the woman could touch her and ran home, confused at what had just happened. She slammed the front door after her and stood trembling with her back against it trying to figure out what was going on.1Edith poked her head into the hallway from the kitchen at the commotion.

“What’s wrong Gertie?” she asked seeing her daughters

white face in the dim light.1The lady next door… one minute she was there and

then…” Gertie trailed off. She walked into the loungeroom and plonked herself down in front of the television. Edith waited for her to start yelling about the remote and when she didn’t she figured that Gertie was sulking and continued preparing dinner.

Gertie at this moment was engrossed in a re-run of MASH. The ads came on and she was just about to get up and go in search of a snack when she saw it. In an advertisement for the ANZ Bank set in a grocery store. It had just been a glimpse but she could of sworn that the young overweight girl that had waddled past the camera, a basket full of junkfood, was her. But it couldn’t of been. Could it? Anyway, her stomach was growling so she dismissed it and headed toward the kitchen.

Edith was just serving up dinner so she grabbed her plate and headed back into the lounge room to watch the end of MASH wondering why her mother had been looking at her so strangely when she said she was going to watch TV.1It was quite a boring episode but she seemed to have misplaced the remote. Gertie had just opened her mouth full of food) to yell at Mum across the hall when she realised that one of the nurses assisting the doctor on TV was her. Partly chewed corn stared to fall from her still open mouth into her lap when she realised that the other nurse was also her.

She jumped up and the plate that had been balancing precariously on her lap fell to the floor. Not even noticing she fell on her knees in front of the TV in a pile of chicken nuggets.1Edith chose that moment to poke her head into the room and seeing Gertie in her present position she hesitatingly asked her if everything was alright.

Gertie turned to face her beaming from ear to ear. Mum! You have to see what’s on TV?” she said,1 spraying food in all directions. But when she turned back the credits had started to roll and tears sprang to her eyes as the greatest moment of her life came to an end.1Terribly disappointed Gertie fled to her room where she threw herself upon the bed and cried her eyes out. It had been a strange day. Eventually the tears stopped rolling down her chubby cheeks and still sniffing she decided to go and see if there was anything left to eat.

Mum was sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and the opened bottle sitting in front of her. Gertie immediately knew something was amiss because Edith virtually never drank.

“What’s wrong Mum.” she asked apprehensively. Day’s like this one only got worse and she braced herself for the worst What were you watching on the TV?” Not expecting the question but sure something bizarre was going on she lied. Frank Sinatra was on MASH and I thought you might like to know seeing you’re probably his only living fan.” Edith burst into tears and Gertie backed silently out of the room feeling like she was in the middle of The Twig light Zone. She went straight to bed hoping today had just been a dream and she’d wake up in reality tomorrow. Gertie was woken many times during the night by the sound of her belly rumbling like thunder. When she finally got up the first thing she thought of was bacon and eggs and after making them she headed for the lounge-room. She was surprised to find that the TV was already on. The news had just started and a female reporter told of the current bushfire crisis in the usual deadpan voice wearing the pre-requisite sympathetic look that was somehow devoid of all emotion.1Gertie was just about to start looking for the remote again when the reporter turned to her left and she caught sight of the woman seated next to her. It was her. A very glamorous looking her. She wore a blue suit, gold dangling earings and bright red lipstick. Gertie briefly wondered where she’d gotten the outfit but suddenly the camera shifted again and there was a male Gertie with the Sports Update. She gazed in shock at the man who was undoubtedly herself. Overcoming her initial disgust she quickly realised how poised and professional she (he) was. How witty and handsome. It was unbelievable but here it was right in front of her face and she couldn’t doubt her own eye’s. Could she?1An ad break came on and a thousand Gerties ran across the screen in a cheesy breakfast cereal commercial screaming,1"Kick it to me! Kick it to me!”1Miraculous. Wonderful. Words just weren’t enough to describe how Gertie felt to be the centre of everything.

( Well everything on channel 10 anyway)

She didn’t move from the couch all day. Not even to get something to eat. Her breakfast lay untouched in a pile of rubbish and some ants attracted by the greasy bacon started to consume it. Gertie never looked away from the TV. Not even when Edith poked her head into the room numerous times and demanded to know what she was doing ?What does it look like I’m doing?” she answered every time and Edith would leave the room shaking her head and muttering under her breath.1Gertie was enthralled by herself on every show. Gertie’s Catch Phrase. Judge Gertie. The Gertie Stone Show. Tonight live with Gertie Stone. I Dream of Gertie. (Although even she had to admit that the producers should’ve put less revealing clothes on her in that one) Gertie’s Backyard. It was all gold. She sat up all night. The next morning Edith entered the room around seven and with tears in her eyes she asked Gertie if she’d like anything to eat.

“No. Get out of the way Mum.” she answered, trying to look around her without making the effort of rising off the couch. Edith turned around and looked at the blank screen What’re you watching Gertie?”1 At that moment there were two Gerties on the screen hosting The Disney Show. Gertie looked from the TV to her mother then back again and suddenly realised that Edith wasn’t seeing what she was.

“ Are you alright Mum?” she asked,“ Can’t you see for yourself what’s on?” There is nothing on. The screen is blank. What the hell are you playing at young lady? If you’re trying to worry me sick well you can stop right now because it’s worked okay.” Edith yelled. Mum, maybe you should see a doctor.” Actually I’m going to Gertie. Today, when I take you" to the appointment I’ve made for you.” I’m not going anywhere.” screamed Gertie, “ There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s school holidays and I’m doing what I usually do and if you have a problem with that it’s just to damm bad. Leave me alone” But Gertie Leave me alone!!”

Fresh tears started falling from Edith’s blue eyes as she realised that there was nothing she could do. Or was there? A few hours later, Edith asked Gertie if she would like to go out for lunch by way of an apology.1"We could even go down to the bistro so you can watch TV as you eat.” said Edith.1Gertie was suspicious of some ulterior motive but knew that she should try and be supportive of Mum. They walked to the Pub which was only a few blocks away, still, Gertie was sweating and panting heavily by the time they got there. She mopped her red forehead with the back of one chubby hand as they entered the Bistro and was immediately grateful for the freezing blast of air that greeted them.

Gertie plonked herself down on one of the comfortable padded chairs that graced the room and waited for her Mum to get back from the Bar with some cold drinks. She looked around the room and saw a TV on the far side set high on the wall. A news report was on telling of an escapee from Pialla, the local mental institution. Boring. Gertie was just about to get up and ask someone to change the channel when it finished abruptly and there she was. Judge Gertie. She was so wrapped up in the show that Edith had to call her name four times to get her attention and give her a frosty lemonade. Edith sat watching her daughter for ten minutes before she couldn’t take anymore. She signalled to the barman and the waitress across the room and they came and stood behind Gertie before Edith once again called her several times before getting a response.

What! Didn’t you say I could watch TV here? It’s a bit hard when you keep talking.”

“Gertie the television isn’t on.” What are you blind or something? Can’t you see me?” Gertie,” Edith said taking a deep breath. Here goes nothing she thought. “I asked Bob to turn it off when I went to the bar. It’s not on.”

“That’s right.” said Bob. He had the remote in his hand as he sat down at the table and the waitress followed suit. Now,” said Edith, “I brought you here so there were other people to tell you as well that there is something wrong with you and we have to get you to a doctor. I’ve had the remote for several days now and you’ve been staring at the blank screen seeing something that isn’t there. The television over there is not on but you can see something can’t you.” Gertie was starting to feel really angry now. This was obviously some kind of conspiracy. They were all against her. Even her own mother I’m going now.” she said. “ I don’t know what kind of game you’re all playing but I don’t think it’s very funny.” She stood up. Gertie this is no game.” said Edith and something in her voice made Gertie doubt herself for the first time. But she wasn’t about to let go of what she saw as the best thing that ever happened to her DROP DEAD! ALL OF YOU!” she screamed and ran from the room.1She bolted out the door and took off towards the main street, not caring where she was headed, blinded by tears of rage. It wasn’t long before she was out of breath and sank onto the pavement sobbing. People walked past staring and once she stopped panting she started to yell at them.

“What’re you looking at? Do you have a problem? What!1 "Am I wearing your shirt or something? Take a bloody photo!”

She abused people left and right and they sadly shook their heads at her and kept walking.

Is there something wrong with me? thought Gertie. Why do I feel so strange? Why are they looking at me like that?

She started to feel short of breath and her heart was pounding so hard she could feel it drumming in her ears. Gertie turned and saw that she was out the front of Bing Lee. Ten televisions set up in the window showed Judge Gertie handing down decisions on the society dregs that were unlucky enough to be in her courtroom. Her heart stopped pounding and she approached the shopfront getting so close her nose mashed against the window startling the sales assistant who’s counter faced the street.

“Everything’s fine.” she assured herself.

Gertie sat down on the footpath and watched the TV’s. It might have been half an hour later when the police officer approached her.

“Are you all right miss? Miss? Miss? Hello. Can you hear me dear?” he said.

She turned to him, her eyes unfocused and dreamy.

Can you see me?”

Of course I can see you.”

“Oh thank God! You have to help me! They all think I’m crazy! But you can see me right!” said Gertie.

“It’s going to be okay love. I think I know what’s going on here. Why don’t you come with me and I’ll sort it all out?” said the officer sympathetically. Gertie got up and took his outstretched hand like a child and allowed him to lead her to his car. The whole time babbling I’m not crazy! It’s them. I’m so happy you can see me!”

He settled her in the back of his patrol car before getting in the front and radioing headquarters I’ve got the girl who escaped from Pialla with me and I’m just running her back to the home.” he said.

“You can see me!” said Gertie.

The End

-----------------------------

To Kamran,
                  I have  attached both pieces of work to this e-mail which
I offer to you for RAHA. They are both copyrighted by me in 2003 and have
never been published. The following is a short biography as requested.
  I am 27 years old and have a twenty month old son named Javier. I spend my
life now looking after him and my partner and writing short stories loosely
based on my misspent youth.
  At school though I was in advanced classes I was persecuted by my teachers
because of the actions of my friends many of whom were drug addicts and
thugs to say the least. While at school some of my poetry was published in
English textbooks and my stories and speeches recieved rounds of applause
from my classmates. But I found it impossible to censor my work which
resulted in a constant fight with my teachers. I’ve always believed that you
should say exactly what you mean if you are to be true to yourself and
others. I refused to back down and left school early concentrating on music
which is my other passion. To anyone that recognises my last name, yes, I am
a direct descendant of Sir Edward Elgar the world famous composer.
  My parent were deeply disappointed at my leaving school and I moved out at
17. I struggled and am not proud to say that I became a drug abuser. This
led to me meeting a man who abused me in so many frightful ways that I’m
writing a book on domestic violence to try and help people who find
themselves in the situation I only just managed to escape from. Seven years
after leaving him I’ve only just got my life back together again and urge
all people to break free of the chains that people who would control you
place around your neck.
                                                               Thanking You
Belinda Elgar

 

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