Disclaimer: The magnified screen was actually a thing of the 1980's but I put it in the 1970's for this story. I had one when they first came out and got to thinking about it recently. Although I’m sure they’ve improved by now, back then. . .well. . .they could stand improvements. Any mistakes are mine.
The Big Plan
By Audrey W.
Johnny and Roy walked into the dayroom ready to start their shift. After each had gotten a cup of coffee, they sat down at the table, joining their other shiftmates while waiting for roll call. Gage took a sip of coffee, then stared at the TV across the room.
“What in the world is that?”
Chet glanced at the television and turned back to Johnny, a smug grin on his face. “That’s a ‘big screen’ TV.”
“A big . . .?” Johnny got up from the table, his mouth hanging open as he made his way over to the contraption Chet called a ‘big screen TV’.”
Two thin posts extended out horizontally from underneath the 19-inch TV they originally had, and a large square of magnifying glass was fastened on the end of the rods in front of it.
When he got beside the set-up, Gage frowned. “Well, you can’t see the darn thing unless you’re directly in front of it!”
“John, John, John,” Chet said, shaking his head as he got up from his chair. “Just think of how neat it’ll be to see football players almost as big as life! It’ll be like sitting on the sidelines!” He placed his hands on Johnny’s shoulders and guided him in front of the magnified screen. “And the Miss America Pageant! Just imagine the swimsuit competition with the chicks! It’ll be great! So what if we have to sit right in front of it,” he shrugged. “It’ll be worth it!”
“I don’t know. . .”
“Mike and I tried to talk him out of it, too,” Marco said. “We couldn’t do it, either.”
“Just pull your chairs over here, you’ll see,” Kelly suggested.
Captain Stanley stuck his head in the doorway. “Anyone gonna join me for roll call?” When his eye caught the screen, he stepped the rest of the way in. “What in the hell is that?”
“A big screen TV,” Roy said, grinning.
“Cap, it’s great! If everyone would just give it a chance,” Chet whined.
“Well, how about everyone give roll call a chance,” Hank said, motioning towards the doorway. As the others filed into the apparatus bay, he glanced one more time at the magnifying screen, then shook his head. What next?
After chores were done and they’d been on a couple of runs, the men of A-shift gathered in front of the television to watch an afternoon game show. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder, three in front and three right behind the others so that each could see the screen clearly. All the men felt uncomfortable in the cramped space, elbowing one another when they felt their already small space was further compromised.
“Chet, you know this is one of the worst ideas you’ve had,” Johnny said, getting up from his seat between Captain Stanley and Roy. He stepped over the captain’s feet and stood over by the bulletin board.
“Yeah, Chet,” Mike added, standing up from his seat in the front and walking over towards the doorway. “I don’t think I wanna be this close with any of you.”
“I’ve seen enough,” Marco said, getting up and joining the other two.
That left Roy and Captain Stanley in the back row, and Chet alone in the front. Hank stood up, shaking his left arm. “I had to hold my arm so tight against my side, it’s cramping on me.”
Chet turned around and looked at Roy. “You’re enjoying it, aren’t you?”
Roy shook his head. “I think it’s kind of hard on the eyes after awhile.”
The stocky fireman faced forward again and folded his arms across his chest. “You guys aren’t giving it a chance.”
“Chet, it’s just not right for the station,” Johnny said as he followed the others out of the dayroom.
Kelly glanced around at the room. It was just Henry the Bassett Hound and him.
The dog lifted his head, then laid it down again and closed his eyes.
“You, too?” Chet looked at the big screen in front of him. After a few minutes of sitting amongst the empty chairs around him, he got up and turned off the TV.
Man, that thing is giving me a headache.
Johnny came back into the room and saw the fireman rubbing his forehead. “Somethin’ wrong, Chester B.?”
“Yeah,” he replied, disappointment in his voice. “The big screen gave me a headache. I guess I’m not as sold on it as I thought.”
“You want me to take it off your hands? I’ll give you twenty bucks for it.”
“Yeah. . .sure. . .take it. . .” Chet said, making a waving motion towards the screen. “But I thought you didn’t like it?”
“I don’t. But I will when Jeanette comes over for our date tomorrow night and we sit in front of the magnified screen together . . .close.” Johnny waggled his eyebrows as he handed Chet a twenty-dollar bill.
Now it was Kelly’s turn to stand opened-mouthed as Gage left the room with the magnified screen and the metal rods in his hands.
“Son of a gun,” the fireman muttered as he sat down again. He glanced at the 19-inch television screen in front of him. “Now I’ve lost out on two things. A big screen TV and a winning strategy for a date.” He stuffed the twenty dollars in his pocket and folded his arms across his chest. “And I thought I had a headache before. . .”