My neighbor Swamp Rabbit knocked on my door and let himself in when I didn’t open it.
“Why don’t you quit tweaking that thing?” he said, meaning the short story I was writing. “I bet you ain’t changed ten words in ten hours.”
I shrugged. “We’re in a lockdown. I’m sheltering in place. I’ve got all the time in the world.”
He turned on my TV, which he likes to watch when he’s hungover. Then he picked up the remote and got into a channel-surfing rhythm, pushing past cable news and a couple of miniseries on HBO. The sports channels were showing a very quiet game of baseball in South Korea (no fans in the ballpark because of social distancing rules) and a Phillies game from 1992.
I’m not a major fan of Bruce Springsteen, but I couldn’t help thinking of an oldie of his called “57 Channels (and Nothin’ On).”
“Why don’t you get your guitar and play that song you wrote about the COVID-19?” I said.
“I need my TV fix,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “If all else fails, there’s always some new show about Hitler. He ain’t never goin’ go out of style.”
“No politics,” I warned him. “No orange hog monster.”
Snippets of TV shows from another century appeared one after the other — “Gilligan’s Island,” “Perry Mason,” “Friends.” None of this stuff felt good for my eyes, not to mention my mental health.
After a while I told Swamp Rabbit to settle on something and he narrowed the options to three movies and a cartoon show. I read the titles and plot summaries on the TV screen.
Invasion U.S.A.: “Slavic mercenaries with bazookas hit Florida at Christmas, drawing an agent (Chuck Norris) out of retirement.”
Song of India: “A prince of the jungle (Sabu) frees beasts trapped by zoos for callous Indian royalty.”
X-Men: Dark Phoenix: “During a rescue mission, Jean Grey is hit by a cosmic force that makes her infinitely more powerful but far more unstable. The X-Men must unite to save her soul…”
SpongeBob SquarePants: “SpongeBob and Patrick must save Mr. Krabs when he gets trapped in the bank.”
“I’m gonna pass on them movies,” Swamp Rabbit said. “What about a psycho-killer biography or one of them shows about peeps in jail? You know, real lockdowns.”
He surfed past a few hundred more channels. The Hitler shows were all reruns. In the end he went with SpongeBob, for obvious reasons. (Cue up Springsteen video.)
Footnote: Actually, TMC is good sometimes, and there’s always Netflix.