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Duty Done

The breakdown was coming.

Phil could feel it in his bones. It was inevitable, really. He was old, much too old to be working the way he was.

But times were tough all around, and everyone had to do what they could to make life just a little more tolerable.

Phil felt lucky to be able to contribute.

Still …

The fever had settled deep into his core, and it radiated out like a sun, threatening to melt his skin. His vision was fuzzy, and his ears popped like a staticky old radio.

If he could just unplug for awhile, maybe he could avoid disaster.

His eyes grew heavy, and just when he thought he might drift off to sleep, panic surged through him like electricity, and then a loud *pop*.

And then … he winked out.


Heather tried to save the Pop-Tarts, but self-preservation sacrificed the plate in favor of using her hands to break her fall. She landed hard on the floor beside the old television set, puffing out a grunt as she crashed.

“Mommy, the TV is broken,” Emma said from her perch on the couch.

Heather clutched at the cabinet of the console unit and pulled herself to a standing position. Even through the wooden sheath, the heat from the TV set felt like electric fire against per palms.

She looked at the breakfast pastries scattered across the floor. In the middle of them was the severed electrical cord, same one she’d tripped over.

One jagged end still hung from the outlet, the other curled around itself like a sleeping dog.

“We may just have to let it rest for awhile, sweetie,” Heather said to her daughter.

Heather squatted in front of the ancient set to turn it off, as if that made a difference. She couldn’t even remember where the TV had come from.

As she flipped the switch to “off,” Heather’s hand rubbed against the manufacturer’s logo tag, and she noticed the “co” at the end of the word had worn off through sixty years of human contact.

It now read, simply, “Phil.”

The motionless screen was blank gray-green, except for one long, slender horizontal black line in the center. It reminded Heather of a giant sleeping eye.

Published inFlash Fiction

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