1 Short Story

By J.P. Sortland


The bunny ears were acting up again.

Niles Stromdahl’s consciousness emerged from a six pack slumber on the La-Z-Boy. Calloused hands gripped the arms on the fabric chair, his rough fingers tracing hints of orange thread that snaked in and out of the Sears pattern. Several colors were utilized within the woven design, but amidst a brown backdrop the orange stuck out the most. Though Niles had never admitted it to anyone, he loved the orange thread for its audacity to be bold.

His body and chair creaked in unison as they moved upright. Whichever entity was responsible for the vertical maneuver could never be determined. He hurt every day, but that was what the six pack of Hamm’s was for.

Mrs. Stromdahl had said that Hamm’s would make him hurt the next morning. And if he hurt so much why didn’t he go see Doctor Zimmerman? Niles made sure that was the last time she asked. Not that he wanted to, but that’s what was expected of men like him in the Iron Range.

It wasn’t that he enjoyed Hamm’s either. That was the funny thing. His vision slowly adjusted, bringing the room into focus, particularly the TV sitting in front of him on a too tiny plastic table. If you could even call it a table, Niles mused, observing the cheap China-made square legs that supported the TV. It was an abomination in engineering, but Mrs. Stromdahl had picked it up at a rummage sale and that was that. Despite, as Niles had pointed out to her, that the mere act of picking up the table caused the four square legs to fall out.

“Well don’t pick up a table unless you’re gonna move it,” Mrs. Stromdahl said. That was that.

The cheap legs weren’t causing the bunny ears to act up, as much as Niles wanted to fault them. They neither added nor detracted to the reception. They merely supported the screen that broadcasted the confusion before him.

Surely, he thought, it’s that light in the front yard casting its glow on the glass. His face, mouth open, reflected on the TV. He cocked his head in dumb amusement.

He was on TV. A tilt of his head brought an avalanche of reception troubles and from behind the black and white blizzard, his face set into motion.

My God, he breathed, his lips out of sync with whatever this doppelganger spoke. Squinting, he brought himself closer, his wool socks pressing into the rug that had been trod on too many times but was necessary in this cold climate and hid an even more dilapidated laminate flooring underneath.

A glitch in the reception brought another cascade of snow and another vision appeared. A group was listening to him. They all wore white, he was wearing white too. Niles let a huff escape. He’d never worn all white, unless you counted his briefs and undershirt before he got dressed for the mines.

The group, he realized, were young nurses and doctors. They listened with interest as he instructed them on some muted plan from beyond the airwaves. The assembly dispersed.

Niles gripped the TV’s imitation wood. He’d never commanded that many people’s attention, ever the wallflower at the union meetings, never uttering more than monosyllabic responses, never initiating anything.

His image nodded at him. Nile’s eyes locked with his own. The thought of them being capable of seeing one another filled him with shame. He wondered what cosmic shift had occurred to deliver this vision into his trailer.

The face of a beautiful nurse appeared on screen with him. Her mouth tight and determined, she would assist him anyway she could with any operation. There was something else on her mind as he lectured her through the screen.

Niles froze in anticipation of their soundless discussion. The nurse walked off, and with it Niles’ heart sank, longing for the love and tension he could sense between them. He prayed she return, and she did.

They embraced in a kiss. Cradling the TV, Niles wept.

The image turned to snow once more with the same fury that fell outside.



J.P. Sortland

was born and raised in North Dakota and Minnesota. He now lives and writes in Brooklyn.