Zenith

The television was a beauty, a vintage Zenith 19" console model, one of the first color TVs, long and wide as a coffin but twice as deep, a relic of a time when a TV was furniture, the futuristic tubes and circuitry housed in hardwood, the twin speakers screened by taut cloth and carved walnut reminiscent of a cathedral. Left behind by the house's previous owner because it was too large to move and its colors were fading, it was a vacuum tube monster that took ten minutes to warm up and so was left on all day, even if the sound was turned down leaving the off-tint characters to read each other's lips.

When it finally was turned off at night with an air of ceremony, the picture collapsed into a pinprick that grew smaller and brighter until it winked out. If I closed my eyes right after, I could see the after-image hanging there, drifting with the movement of my eye, a fading star.

There was a phonograph built into one side of the set, with an am/fm stereo receiver on the other side. A stack of Beethoven and Dvorak was perpetually poised above the automatic four-speed (16, 33, 45, and 78 rpm) turntable by a stabilizing arm crimped like a lightning bolt; up to ten lps could be played consecutively, but only one side at a time as the machine, for all its automated wonder, couldn't turn them over. So Jerry bought two copies of his favorite multirecord sets, stacked them alternately so he wouldn't have to get up and interrupt his reading. Some records were badly worn on one side, pristine on the other. It occurred to him to flip them over so they'd wear evenly, but after a while he got used to the distortion and imperfections, the pops and hisses without which the music as he now knew it would sound incomplete.

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