Wednesday, September 17, 2008


He was stretched out on the awning above the verandah, limbs starfished out. I could already guess he had his tongue hanging out. That was the thing about Donny. Everything he knew came from such watered-down information.

He only ever watched movies, which was strange. No TV shows, no news or sports. Just movies. The video store down behind town had been a normal mid-sized, middle-ground place, but thanks to Donny’s persistent ordering, it now resembled some sort of national film archive. The owner of the shop, a man by the name Greg McAdamson—who had been a bit-part player in a few action films back in the early 80s before he broke his collarbone so badly it looked like his torso had been stuck on backwards— for his sins, encouraged my brother’s film obsession, and was now stuck with the movie-inhaling monster he had created.

Donny watched with headphones. He had an old TV/VCR that he kept polished and painted, like it was a vintage car. He had it under the house, which was where he watched his movies. When mum said he wouldn’t let Donny watch any more movies in the house, Donny just drilled a hole in his bedroom floor and fed a power cable through. He made me help him drag a couch he’d seen on the road from three blocks over and that was where he sat.

The problems all started because dad loved junk mail. When we moved in, the letterbox had one of those NO JUNKMAIL PLEASE signs on it that dad ripped off, leaving a hole in the letterbox, which, to his sudden joy, allowed more room for catalogues. One particular evening, after he had gone through all the mail, he’d left a few brochures lying on the table. Donny and I, who⎯due to an unfortunately short-sighted extended bedtime bargain years before—had the dubious pleasure of washing up every night, were mucking around playing whisk/spatula gladiator when one of dad’s brochures fell to the floor. It was one of those glossy catalogues full of stupid gadgets for the very rich or very bored: motorised tie racks, laser back-scratchers, that sort of thing. Except that when the catalogue fell to the floor, it just happened to open to a full page spread on a “new visual technology”. It looked just like a CD, only a dotted line joined it to a picture of a whitebread family clustered around a big screen TV watching Lethal Weapon.

Donny dropped the whisk from his hand and covered his mouth with the other. What’s up? I asked him. With a shaking finger, he pointed at the catalogue. Look, he said. Look. I glanced back down, and realised the ad continued onto the next page. It said, in bold letters: THE DEATH OF VIDEO. Donny trembled with what I imagined was fear, anger or both. Digital Video Disc, he whispered. What’s that mean?

And that’s why he’s up on the awning out the front of our house, pretending to be dead, or pretending to be what he’s seen thousands of actors do in thousands of movies, each copying the other until the end of time. Or at least until the end of video.

No comments: