Five hundred channels. When you see the ad it looks worth it. Slow-mo lions jumping out from behind long grass. Drama you can’t afford to miss. News that keeps you on the cutting edge. Live sporting events (okay so that doesn’t interest me so much) and a forty gig hard drive that saves whatever programmes you want it to. It’s like having your own channel. That’s what the ad says anyway. What it doesn’t say is that after the first month you’ll have seen everything. That you’re paying for 11 months of repeats.
Right now I’m having more fun flicking than watching. My TV is straight out of the 80’s. Standard as definition can be. My parents picked it up back when it was top of the range. About a decade later it got handed down to me. The TV is monitor-white with a blue rim around the screen. It probably looked pretty cool way back when. At either end of the brand name there are two points that jut out like little robot arms. They don’t do anything just accentuate the vintage look. Underneath a small, grey stand lifts the TV up. Think R2-D2 holding a twenty inch blackboard.
Dodgy colour pairing aside it actually looks more a T-Rex. The plug arcs from the wall like a tail. The stand resembles the muscular legs of the Jurassic Park star. Not Laura Dern. R2-D2’s blackboard is now a gaping mouth. Switch to the city channel and you’ve even got teeth. Okay so they’re zig-zag designs on the top and bottom of the screen. You get the idea. Then there are the tiny arms by the Sony insignia. No reason for the Tyrannosaurus’ birth defected arms. Nature balancing everything I guess. When the Rex wasn’t eating the other dinosaurs they were able to laugh behind its back. I bet it wasn’t even that ferocious. If the thing tried to drink from a lake it could easily have fallen over and drowned. Tenner says this happened at least once.
I’m naked. It’s okay I’m not expecting anyone. Maybe that makes it less okay? I didn’t exactly get dressed today. It was eleven or twelve when I woke up this morning. Now it’s dark outside, late. A picture of Wolverine is trying to jump out of a t-shirt on the floor. Jeans are heaped beside him like a denim pyramid. Underwear curves my bed like a moat. There’s a greasy smell from all the delivery boxes. Pizza, Chinese, chips. Countless cans with two straws sticking out. As a kid I used to drink coke with my nose. I’d end up coughing, spluttering and nearly dying. This usually resulted in a slap from my dad. I eventually stopped trying to drink with my nose but the extra straw still remains. A statement of defiance. I’ll clean the room tomorrow.
My phone starts ringing. It’s Jess.
“Alex I can’t get that stuff tonight he’s not around.”
“Do you have any left?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine for tonight like.”
“Okay, do you have enough food for tomorrow?”
“Are you not coming up tomorrow?”
“I can’t. Roger’s got a day off school.”
“I should be okay I think.”
“He’s back on Friday so I can drop up your shopping then. Same as last week yeah?”
There’s a pause for a second. A hesitation. I know what she’s going to say before it comes out.
“Did you ring that number I gave you?”
“Not yet. I will though.”
“When I’m ready.”
“Alex ring the number. Ma thinks she should call the mental.”
“She doesn’t need to do that Jess.”
“She doesn’t know what’s up.”
“Just tell her I’m fine.”
This time I try not to hesitate.
“Yeah. Yeah I am.”
“Yeah totally. Don’t worry I’m not gonna...I’m fine.”
“Okay. Okay good.”
“I’ll talk to you soon.”
All I’ve done today is stay in bed and watch shit television. If I don’t do something soon I’m going to start getting bed sores like those whale-people you see on Channel 4 documentaries. Giant-fat women who can’t leave the house. Only difference is they’re fat and I’m skinny. There’s the woman thing too. Why is that second on my list?
I hear a weak chirp coming from the closet. It freaks me out until I realise what it is. Then it freaks me out more. When did I clean him last? I can’t even remember! The closet opens and the smell of urine and shit is raspy.
“Oh Jesus Christ C.A!”
Guilt shows up and kicks me in the stomach.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have gotten mad at you like that. It’s my fault.”
C.A. doesn’t come up to the bars of the cage. I catch a glance at my lad and remember I’m naked. I pull the Wolverine t-shirt on and try not to fall when I put my feet through the boxer leg holes. The cage clips off at either end. He still won’t come out. He’s okay though? Has to be, he chirped right? I put the cage on the floor and grab C.A.’s wooden lodge. There’s a pyramid of cavy logs in the right corner of the plastic box. C.A. doesn’t run towards me or run away he just looks at me. His hair doesn’t look so bad. He’s probably fine. I stroke him under the chin but he doesn’t move. He begins to chirp a little.
“You’re a dick Alex! I should call the ISPCA!”
“I’m sorry C.A. I totally forgot. Just been up in my head all week!”
“I am so fed up with the ‘in my head’ excuse!”
“Do you want some broccoli? I can go to the shop and get you some broccoli or something.”
“C’mon C.A. I really am sorry man. Really like.”
C.A. doesn’t say anything for a bit but eventually chills out and lets me pick him up. He climbs up my arm and starts nuzzling my arm pit. I should clean up now and take a shower. When your cavy, or guinea pig, wants to hang out in one of your stinkiest regions you know you’re starting to smell more animal than man.
Ma thought the cavy would be good for me. Whatever that means. C.A. was originally under the window-sill but listening to him chirp at four in the morning got him a transfer to the closet. It’s like one of those squishy-squeaky kid toys going off over and over. At first you smile and go “aww he’s cute” then it’s two hours later and you’re like “anyone for cavy meat?” Then there’s the weird shudder noise he makes. Like a door creaking closed. He shivers when he does it. I think it’s the cavy equivalent of a purring cat. When I first got him he was afraid of everything. He’d chirp, hear me and then stay dead quiet. He’d even sneak out to his food tray. I was like David Attenborough or something. If I spoke too loud or made any noise he’d zip back to his cabin hungry. Unfortunately I named him Captain Anxious at this early stage in our relationship. As time ticked he started coming out of himself more. If I could rename him I’d go for Sigmund. I talk to him when I’m down or whatever, it helps.
There’s a carrot hidden under some weird looking green stuff in the fridge. I hold it up to C.A.’s mouth and he starts carving at it with his teeth.
“What’s up C.A.?
“Do you think we could watch a DVD or something?”
“Yeah, what you in the mood for?”
“Kinda like to watch some of the old Batman cartoons. The one where the Hatter puts Batman in that weird dream world.”
“Shit yeah, that’s a great episode.”
“But Al clean your room first. It’s worse than my cage man.”
We head back to my room and I put C.A. in his box. I can’t hear him scurrying over the noise of the vacuum cleaner. When the room looks good and only smells bad I put on Batman: The Animated Series. We sit in silence and I stroke him underneath his chin. He does the closing door sound.
Hours pass and we watch Batman and Robin defeat everyone from Clayface to Poison Ivy. But the best episodes are always the ones that feature the clown prince himself, the Joker. He’s like Batman’s alter ego. After Bruce Wayne I mean. Batman walks the sanity tightrope. I mean dressing up as a bat just to punch guys...and let’s not get into the ethics of an adolescent sidekick. See Joker represents everything that Batman could have been because of his parent’s death. In one of the comics Joker goes mental because his own family die. I guess there’s also the issue of falling into a vat of chemicals. The old radiation card. It’ll give you spider powers, make you go green when you’re angry and if you’re really lucky turn you into a blue, naked god type. Thing is if you’re a baddie you just go crazy. Unlucky son.
“What’s up C.A.?”
“You know I’m a girl guinea pig right?”
“Uh, no actually I didn’t. Why you bringing this up now?”
“I just wanted to say that if I was a human, despite you being really shit at cleaning up after me, I’d go for a guy like you.”
“Where’s this coming from?” Okay I’m not crazy or delusional or whatever. The pig chirps and I imagine what it’s saying. Well not like actively imagine, just whatever comes into my head. It’s weird though, I wonder how long my subconscious has been throwing this bomb around. Sometimes it feels like you are the last person in control of your brain.
“I’m just saying. You’re a good guy, sweet and nice.”
“Don’t girls like bad and mean though?”
“Girls do, women don’t?”
“Things keep going the way they are I don’t think you’re going to see me with any kind of girl or woman.”
“What about Ellen?”
“You have a missed call from her you know.”
Batman is on Man-Bat’s back. He’s flying through this construction site and lamping Batman off any steel girder he sees. Batman must be thinking about jumping off. Fuck hanging on the ride’s too bumpy. But Batman never does. He holds on, takes the beating and eventually manages to overpower his enemy. Commissioner Gordon shows up, arrests the mutant bat and it’s another day at the office.
“Alex honestly, completely honestly, if I was human I’d go for a guy like you.”
I don’t say anything for a minute.
“Thanks C.A. You know I was thinking I could get you a partner, I know there’s not a lot of room in the cage but if you want a boyfriend...”
“You think a random cavy would make me happy?”
“I don’t think it would be random. I think whatever pig I got you would be fate, it’d be meant for you.”
“Heh, romance? It’s all variables Alex, no such thing as fate.”
“Everything happens the only way it can C.A. I know it’s shitty on the heroin abusers but if something happened wrong here the very fabric of time and space might be fucked forever!”
“I don’t need anyone Al.”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
“Of course not. I have you.”
It’s late when I decide to call it quits. C.A.’s having trouble keeping her eyes open. I should have told her that if I was a guinea pig I’d defiantly go for someone like her but the moment seems to have passed. She yawns and I pick her up.
“Time for bed” I kiss her gently on the top of her head.
“I love you C.A.”
“Chirp” she replies.