Best Man, Dog, and Videocorder

The videocorder had the wrong impression of me. That's what started my divorce. Well, no. Rewind the video of life a tad, back past the altar to Fred and I at the bachelor party. I gave him a mini-microwave cupholding auto cell phone shaped like Marilyn Monroe. He gave me a videocorder that recommends movies for you, using a linguistic-analysis algorithm to scan online catalogs for keywords from titles you watch.

Forward to wedding one, the usual near-symmetrical shot of myself and spouse and the overpaid busybody rhetorizing on the vows. Ring, ring, jabber, kiss. Fred at my elbow doing Best Man and the Maid of Honor in near-fluorescent pink, her makeup, that is. Green dresses for the women's side, black for the men. We wore tuxes. Oh, and Brutus the dog, who jumped in the limo and bared his teeth, so we put a ribbon on his tail and he came to the church and killed every rat in the basement while the ceremony went on. OK, fast forward through the obligatory honeymoon stuff. Hundreds, no thousands, of frames of the same motion repeated. Of course I was smiling when I got back to the shop.

Inch the tape along -- there! Fred's wedding to fluorescent pink. He's happier in this frame than I've ever seen him standing up. His expression so bright it nearly burns out the tube. By Jesus, their children will glow in the dark. Me in the tux on which Brutus had sprayed so the rental guy, Brutus snarling, said give me ten bucks and you've got a suit.

Married life. Closeup of self at the tube, scanning this, surfing that. Nova, the Savage Planet, Jacques Cousteau undersea. Me and Fred watching pink-orange models of cholinesterase inhibition. Spouses? At the mall. How the godhell much can be left to buy? Brutus developed a taste for mall goods after chewing up Marilyn. Stores have all closed; chewed-up merchandise and lost customer base after all the parents moved away, Brutus their excuse. The kids provoked him; he gets plenty of squirrel and sparrow and steak without the complication of bassinettes. But the parents raised a stink so we keep to the house: inhibited cholinesterase, ancient Egyptians, architecture in Tibet, the life of the Castro. That's some gay place out in SF. Sequins and feathers and ribbons and underneath it all, men. Videocorder must have gotten turned on.

How do you convince a videocorder's algorithm you're straight? The next menu was nothing but stuff that made Fred rush to cover the screen. Me too. Both of us there with our palms on the glass, reaching around each other to grab the remote. Well, skip past that frame. You convince an algorithm by feeding it data. Me and Fred, with straight and narrow porn on the tube in the background. The same stuff, only blurred, as the honeymoon shots. Us drinking beer for the most part, playing cards, reading books, bellyaching. See, our heads aren't even turned to the screen. Because while the corder is showing its stuff, we can't surf channels. What else, really speaking, is there to do? Sometimes we turn on the radio and dance.

And then the Spousal Discovery shot. Caught in the act. Four feminine eyes bugging out at the straight and narrow, Brutus devouring groceries unobserved. The screen, the videocorder's report of recent selections. What kind of free country have we got left where a divorce lawyer subpoenas your videocorder? And all of the rest, with the papers, the rumors, the alimony. Brutus has still got subpoena-server on his breath. Oh God to rewind again.

About the author:

Sara Greenwald's stories have appeared in Comet, Moondance, Thirteenth Moon, Chalk Circle, Stories, Bread and Roses, and Janus Magazines. Her work was nominated for Best New American Voices 2000 and received an honorable mention in the 2000 New Millennium Writing Awards. She has an MA in English Literature from Columbia University and an MFA in Writing from the University of San Francisco.