We All Watch TV
Maureen sat on the sofa, watching "The Ellen Show." Technically, the show was called "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," but Maureen thought of it as "The Ellen Show" because while the show had guests and talked about other things, the show was really only about Ellen. On the TV screen, Ellen smiled brightly, flashing her unnaturally white teeth. Instinctively, Maureen smiled back. Today, Ellen was wearing a white jacket that nipped in at the waist and a pair of dark blue slacks. There was something comforting about Ellen: her idiotic dancing, her non-confrontational clothing choices, her weirdly glowing skin. "That is ENOUGH," Leonard barked from the next room. Maureen stuffed another Tagalong Girl Scout cookie into her mouth. Without chewing, she compressed the cookie between her tongue and the top of her mouth. The insides smooshed out, pushing gooily between the gaps in her teeth. Leonard was talking on the phone. Probably to some person selling newspapers. They were always calling, and Leonard was always roping them into long-winded conversations about global warming and whether or not the country was becoming more communist or not. Maureen chewed slowly and tried to remember the Girl Scout's name. Something terrible ... like ... Regina, but starting with a W. The girl had smelled poorly and not left when Maureen had told her no. Instead, the girl had leaned her head against the screen in the door until Leonard had seen her there, and gone out with five dollars, and taken the Tagalongs. On the show, the scene cut from Ellen on the sound stage where she went to work every day to one of her producers standing on a front porch somewhere in America. A woman opened up the front door, saw the Ellen producer, and screamed loudly. The producer followed the woman who was running away down the hall. Eventually, the producer was able to cajole the woman back in front of the camera. The woman was panting heavily, her glasses crooked. "I'M ELLEN'S BIGGEST FAN," the woman shrieked. In the studio audience, everyone laughed jovially. "I do not agree with your positioning on Alaskan glacier retreat," Leonard announced haughtily. This was the segment where the woman who was Ellen's biggest fan got to choose between what she wanted and what she needed. "What'll it be?" Ellen inquired from the studio in her chipper manner and tilted her head at the camera like she was trying to hear the glaciers disappearing. "WHAT I WANT!" the woman screamed, strident and abrupt. The woman's family had crowded around her in the hall, which now contained the producer, the camera crew, the woman, the woman's husband, and the woman's son. The boy was wearing glasses and looked confused. He was maybe six. He had on a red polo shirt with his name embroidered over his heart. STEFAN, it read. "A trip to Mexico!" the producer shouted. The woman jumped up and down, almost crushing the boy and knocking the husband against a wall. Maureen considered what she would do if Ellen's producer showed up at her front door. Yell and cry, for sure, and then maybe pee a little in her underpants from the excitement and nervousness. She wondered if given the opportunity to pick between what she wanted and what she needed, what she would do. What they needed was new tile in the bathroom because every time Maureen took a bath, she was faced with not the shiny tile, but a gaping hole where the tile was supposed to be, and instead of there being tile there, there was the water-stained wall behind it. Maureen looked down at herself. There were Tagalong crumbs all down her front, and the box was empty. "Impossible!" Leonard chastised somebody he did not know and would never know. What she wanted was a cruise to Alaska. She would go by herself. She would witness the glory of the Aurora Borealis. She would eat freshly caught oversized shrimp. If things got too boring, she would throw herself overboard, and she would swim to a loose piece of ice, and she would build an igloo on it, and she would fish in the frozen sea. On the TV set, the applause was almost deafening.