By Doug Cornett
Victor daydreams that he lives with the Channel 8 news team. All of them together—Sports, Weather, Man and Woman Lead Anchors, and Victor—in a wooden-planked house up in some giant tree. They swing on vines and eat all of their meals at a long communal table, like civil, smiling Vikings. Victor makes a toast and swashes his apple juice on the person to his left, but it’s ok; The Man on the Scene is nothing if not forgiving.
Everyone has their job: Sports chops wood for the fireplace; Man and Woman Lead
Anchors bring home buckets of macaroni and cheese each night for dinner; The Hard-Hitter keeps vigilant watch for bad guys, for there are always bad guys. Victor’s job is to play the banjo while the others gather around and tap their feet. Sports jigs and hambones, and Weather sways like a charmed snake. In his daydream, Victor and the Channel 8 team are just like the Swiss Family Robinson, but much better-looking.
Victor’s real family doesn’t fit into this scenario. Sometimes, he feels guilty and tries to stick them in. His parents stay in a tree across the way, and he visits them occasionally to eat bowls of cereal and have his temperature taken. His little sister lives with Victor and the news team, but she stays perfectly quiet and still in the corner like a stuffed animal. Eventually, though, his family disappears from the fantasy: they step on a rotted plank and vanish, or the vine they are swinging on snaps and they plummet out of sight. Most often, like marshmallows, they simply brown, shrink, and turn into something like ash.
There are always costume parties, even though it’s not Halloween. Sports goes as Magic Johnson, and he looks exactly like him. Man Lead Anchor goes as the Ultimate Warrior, with bumpy muscles all over his arms and legs. Weather goes as a cross between Betsy Ross and a Lady Pirate, and she carries two swords. The Man on the Scene, who is hilarious, goes as a baked potato with sour cream and Baco-Bits. Victor goes as the Ultimate Warrior, too.
Victor wakes up on his birthday to find the news team has covered the floor with buttered popcorn. His room is filled with new things: a Huffy ten-speed; a Nintendo Power Glove; a Hot Lixx Guitar. But that’s not all, they tell him, handing over a gold box. Inside is a microphone with neon yellow racing stripes.
Welcome to the team, they say.
Doug Cornett earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Portland State University in 2011. His work has previously appeared in Superstition Review, Prick of the Spindle, Ooligan Press, and elsewhere. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches high school English.