by Katherine Horrigan
It was the year that Mama gave me the Sparkle Plenty doll, the one with the long blonde hair. I spent hour after hour braiding Sparkle Plenty’s hair as Mama drove us across Texas, looking for someplace that struck her fancy. She had a dream for us, Mama did, even though she didn’t talk about it much. It all happened on the day Mama broke her rule that if there weren’t enough trucks and cars in the parking lot, the food wasn’t worth eating. Motorcycles didn’t count, which was okay by me. At the grocery store she had shown me a picture of Marlon Brando on a motorcyle in the checkout line of the grocery store. He gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Even though ours was the only car out front of the small cafe, we ate breakfast, Mama drinking black coffee out of a brown mug, me with Sparkle Plenty in one hand, a gooey cinammon roll with thick white icing in the other. I carefully ate around each raisin so I wouldn’t have to spit it out. The only other person in the café was the nice Mexican man who wiped down our table. The rag he used was gray and yucky. That didn’t keep my Mama from talking to him.
“Hey Pedro, what’s going on back there?”
I looked where Mama looked and saw a light through the glass window at the top of the swinging door to the kitchen. The light went on and off like ours did in the bathroom before it went out. We lived with Daddy then, before he went out, too.
Mama put down her brown coffee mug, stood up, and grabbed me by the arm. I grabbed Sparkle Plenty.
“You’re gonna wanna see this, honey. It’s the latest advancement with a capital A.”
We followed the light through the swinging door into the kitchen. A small black box sat on a wooden crate with a picture of red apples on the side. There was a noise coming from the box like the radio sounds when it’s between stations, and what Mama called “snow” was on the screen. The Mexican man with the dirty rag came in and pointed.
“That means ‘Look,’” Mama whispered. But why was she whispering? And what was so great about this box of snow and noise? Mama had this look in her eyes, like the time she let John Carroll Stanley from next door hypnotize her. I was scared then, scareder now. Mama took my hand and we stepped closer to the box. That was when we first saw them, the arms, long white arms stretching out from the television set, almost touching us, hands and fingers moving, opening and closing over and over, reaching.
I heard the spit-sound of the Mexican’s lips opening, showing us his teeth, smiling. The moving white arms had pulled him into the box. “Venga aca,” he said, still smiling. He reached out his arms, now all snowy white, and Mama let him pull her in, too. I saw her face, all white now, fill up the screen. Her snowy white arms reached out to me, hands and fingers opening and closing, grasping the air. I kissed Sparkle Plenty goodbye, and stepped into the buzz of the test pattern, the white of the snow.