Every night we gather around the television, eager for the next installment of our evening program. My mother has prepared us a platter of fried cod and diet pop, which she insists on filling constantly throughout the hour of 8 to 9 Central. Last week, I drank about five liters of diet pop over the course of said hour, and my chest felt like it was going to die.
“QUIET! IT’S ON!”
This week on: “What a Heart Wants.” 22 singles have arrived in Bermuda, fighting for a shot at love and a million dollars. If they can all find their perfect match, they’ll win their chunk of the prize – if not, they’ll head home brokenhearted and empty in pocket.
We’re halfway through this season and nearly no progress has been made. There have been plenty of trips to “the Boom-Boom room,” but everyone appears dead in the eyes and can’t seem to perform at all. It’s a haunting sight, watching these faux humans interact with each other. They are all gorgeous, tanned, hulking with muscle and silicon breasts – but their brains are non-existent, incapable of even basic human communication.
“MOM! ARE WE OUT OF RANCH?” My sister Bernice loves ranch. She is practically addicted to ranch – condiments in general, she is an absolute condiment freak – but ranch is by far her favorite. I’ve watched her ruin elegant eggplant parmesans with the horrid white sauce, drowning even the most decadent dishes with it. She’s lucky that society doesn’t care about that sort of gluttony anymore, or else I seriously think she might be executed.
“NO HUNNY. WE HAVE PLENTY OF RANCH IN THE COOLER.”
I watch my sister hobble from the couch to the garage, the short trip taking about one commercial break. I should not shame her – I have at least two hundred pounds on her – but Bernice is absolutely useless. She makes no effort to question authority or read stimulating think-pieces, wasting away her days on her cell phone, taking photographs of mountains. She has accepted this sloth lifestyle like the rest of our society without thinking twice, and it’s turned her into a dull piece of bread.
She’s back at a pivotal moment: Dane and Taylor, a confirmed “no match” after Week One’s episode, have started to hook up - again. My mother nearly spills her carafe of pop on our cat, she’s so excited. This show thrives on this sort of drama – the singles are horny and illogical, pursuing “love” over their potentially significant cash prize. It’s preposterous, the idea of finding your soulmate like this. As if these contestants even have the capacity to feel. They’re all vile, and we’re even viler for engaging.
I look to see that sister has already devoured about five pieces of fried cod has proceeded to pour ranch directly into her mouth. My mother claps along, dragging the beat like a drunk conductor. I’m glad that my father isn’t here to see this; he is, thankfully, dead.
My mother begins to sing, one of her old favorites:
“IF IT HADN’T BEEN FOR COTTON-EYE JOE – I’D BEEN MARRIED ALONG TIME AGO! WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, WHERE DID YOU GO? WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, COTTON-EYE JOE?”
I don’t know why this song ever existed, but it has not aged well. Dane and Taylor are smashing their plastic faces together. I hope that the producers are happy with all this. They’ve forced these brainless people into a sex-crazed frenzy and have successfully dragged my family along with them. I look over to see that Bernice has started to pour ranch onto our cat’s head.
“RANCH HEAD, RANCH HEAD! COOPER IS A RANCH HEAD!”
My mother begins to cackle, a true witch’s cry, and I’ve had enough. I smack the pot of ranch out of Bernice’s hand, sending it crashing into our ottoman. Ranch everywhere, and suddenly everyone’s silent. My eyes are twitching.
“WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS COUNTRY!”
My mother’s mouth is hanging open, and my sister has started to cry.
“WE DON’T HAVE TO CRUMBLE TO THEIR STANDARDS. WE CAN EAT MORE VEGETABLES AND EXERCISE REGULARLY. WE CAN IMPROVE.”
My mother picks at one of her curlers.
“You sound like your father.”
“GOOD. HE WAS A GOOD MAN.”
“HE DIED ON A YACHT WITH HIS MISTRESS!” “I’M GLAD HE WAS GETTING SOME SUN!” Everyone is silent for about five minutes. The commercial break has ended, and we’re back on the island. The host is pouring mai tais for the twenty-two singles. Immediately, my family is transfixed again. I stare at a wall.
“You know that these people aren’t real, right? Like – this isn’t how –"
They’re not listening, so I give up and pour myself some more pop.
“AAAND – THAT’S A WRAP ON EPISODE FOUR!”
The production crew claps lightly and returns to the snack table. The host, a handsome dude with no charisma, lights two cigarettes at the same time and walks away. The producers approach the singles.
“Great work, everyone.” “So great.”
No responses. Their lifeless eyes do not blink, not even once.
“We’ll be shooting tomorrow’s episode, well – tomorrow.”
“So we’ll be putting your back in your cases until then so you don’t get all washed out by the beautiful Bermuda sun!”
“Get some shut eye, ya hear!”
The producers wave the crew over to collect the singles. The guys look long and hard at the dolls, unsure how to best maneuver them into their storage spaces. Their hollow bodies are shockingly heavy, and the crew is quickly drenched in sweat.