Prerecorded For Your Viewing Pleasure

3106 words. Luanne’s husband brings home an experimental DVR device a few months before TiVo officially releases. While this seems exciting and fun, their son William begins to struggle with his basic chores.

“Come to the kitchen, come look at what I brought home today!”

I saw Ethan carrying a small box into the house.

“What’s in it, Honey?” I always sat in the kitchen while waiting for my husband to come home, so I was already there. It didn’t stop him from calling to me, anyway.

“I’ll tell you when William is here. William! Come here!” Ethan placed the box on the table, and sat down. William, our son, came in following that statement.

Ethan got straight to opening the box once William was present. “I got a DVR! I know how excited you guys were about TiVo, so I got this one!”

“No way, Dad! That wasn’t supposed to come out until March!” William was eyeing the box as harshly as his little nine-year-old body would let him.

“This isn’t a TiVo, Will. This is something different. We got early access to a different company’s DVR.” Ethan lifted the DVR out of the box. He beamed with pride.

“A different company? Is that why the box is unlabeled?” I said. William examined the box closely, and even lifted it up to look underneath it. It was completely clean of any branding.

“Okay, so we have a DVR. How are we going to contact this random company if there’s something wrong with it? How do we know this DVR even came from a trustworthy source?” I drilled Ethan. He clearly didn’t think this through.

“Well, um, I guess we don’t have any real way to take this back to the company. Either way, we still have a DVR. If it doesn’t work, we can just throw it away and get the TiVo later. It isn’t any sort of big deal.” Ethan picked up the box, and took it into the front room. William followed him excitedly. I wasn’t on board with a mysterious DVR.

“Let’s see, I just have to plug this into here, and that into there,” I heard Ethan say. William just giggled with glee. Eventually, I got up from the table to see what Ethan was doing. Much to my surprise, he was already done.

“That was much easier than I expected. Well, let’s test this thing out.” Ethan sat on the couch, and turned on the TV. Then, he used the DVR remote to power it on.

“Was there even an instruction manual for this?” I asked. I leaned in the doorway between the kitchen and the front room.

Ethan shook his head. “If the menu is good enough, we shouldn’t need an instruction manual.”

On the TV was simply some news station. However, Ethan hit his remote, and then there was a simple blue menu sitting over the face of some anchorman. Well, half of his face. The menu took up the top portion of the screen.

“See, this is easy to get, Lu. There are options for record, watch, and schedule recording. Well, besides settings and exit. That’s really easy, right?” Ethan moved his little hand-thing between the options. “Look, there are even buttons for pausing and fast forwarding the show. Isn’t that cool?”

“Dad! Let’s watch something that’s been recorded! Let’s do it!” William shouted.

“There isn’t anything to watch yet, sport. We haven’t recorded anything yet.” Ethan tousled William’s hair. I looked back at the screen, and stared at it. None of us had ever seen a DVR before, but Ethan heard about it a few months back at some technology demonstration. He told us about it, and we got pretty excited too. It wasn’t until a while after that I realised that I really wouldn’t use it often.

“Try it anyway, Dad! Maybe they recorded something for us to watch! Try it,” William said. He got slowly quieter then. He probably realised how loud he was being.

“Alright, lil’ Will. I’ll try it for you. But don’t expect any shows to be there.” Ethan moved his screen hand over the option that said ‘watch.’ When he hit enter, the blue menu at the top suddenly took up the whole screen. You could still hear the audio from the news, but you couldn’t see anyone.

“Huh. You were right, Will. There are some shows recorded. They mostly look like cartoons, though. Maybe they were recorded as a test before I got it?” Ethan looked up at me, and I shook my head.

“Well, I guess you can watch one of these cartoons, sport. I think your mom wants to beat me.” He laughed, and William laughed to.

“Alright, Dad. I’ll wait for you to get back.” Ethan handed Will the remote, then stood up and came into the kitchen with me.

“Okay, dear. What do you want to say? I know you seem really bothered by this whole thing.” Ethan pulled me near him, and kissed my forehead.

I pushed him off. “You can’t sweep me off my feet right now, Ethan. Seriously, how do we know that William isn’t going to find something deranged recorded on that thing? How do you know the only shows on there right now are cartoons?”

Ethan shook his head. “Well, I looked at the shows, for one. And still, we can just check everything tonight. If there is something bad on there, we’ll just delete it before William looks at it.”

“What if he’s already found something, though? We can’t risk that!”

As if just to prove me wrong, the Pokemon theme song started up. “That doesn’t sound terrible and messed up to me, Luanne. Just relax. We’ll be fine, and we saved money on this. And if it ends up being bad for everyone, I’ll be sure to make it up to you. Is it okay if I kiss you now?”

I looked towards the living room. The TV simply showed regular old Pokemon.

“Alright, Ethan. You can kiss me now.”


William came home from school the next, and was still just as excited about the DVR.

“Hey mom! Can I watch the DVR?” William asked.

I shook my head. “You still have to do your chores first. This is still just like when we had regular TV.” William nodded.

“Alright, I’ll do my homework and then sweep in the bathroom, then can I watch the DVR?”

“Well, those are your chores, so yes. You can watch the DVR after you do those.” I replied. William jumped in joy, then rushed toward his room. I smiled at him, then returned to reading. I always read in the kitchen once William got home, so that he could watch cartoons once his chores were done. It also let me make dinner easily.

After a little while, I heard the TV start in the front room. It wasn’t much of a big deal, because that was what often happened when William finished his chores. He was very good at finishing his chores properly.

Some more time passed, and I cooked dinner. Ethan was home from work a little bit before I was done with dinner. He was spending a bit of extra time at his job, so he came home later than he normally would. Times were a bit rough, but we tried to spend little on things we didn’t need, so that we wouldn’t end up in poverty like so many of mine and Ethan’s friends from high school fell into.

Either, Ethan talked with me while I cooked dinner. Once it was done, I called William into the kitchen for dinner. We all ate and talked, and it was nice.

Afterward, Ethan went over William’s homework with him. I cleaned up in the kitchen. Once they were done, Ethan motioned for me to sit at the table with him.

“Honey, I wish you had checked William’s homework before I came home. He had done so many of the problems wrong. I mean, I understand a mistake or two, but William is really good at math. That DVR distracted him.”

“Well, I’m sure he’s just excited. Give him a day or two, he’ll probably get over it by that time. He’ll fall into a regular schedule, and it’ll be just fine. It’ll be like before, and we won’t have to worry about him slacking off on his chores. I’ll pick up after his sweeping for tomorrow, and you can just go over his homework like always. It’ll be alright.” I kissed Ethan on the cheek to reassure him.

“You’re probably right. Yeah, okay, I’ll do that for you. I shouldn’t worry about Will so much.”


The day after, William came home from school at the time he always does.

“Hey Mom, I’m going to go watch the DVR,” William said as he walked past.

“Make sure you do your chores first, William,” I replied. William nodded and walked into the front room. He turned the TV on, but I didn’t hear him change the show. He must have just prepared the TV for later.

After some amount of minutes, I went and checked on him. He was sitting in front of the TV while doing his homework. “William, you know you aren’t supposed to watch TV while you do your homework.”

William nodded. “I know. But I like the background noise. I just want it to play while I do my homework. I’m not even really watching it.” It was believable, because he was focusing very harshly on his homework.

“Okay, William. I’ll let you sit in front of the TV while you do your homework if you can get 100% on your homework today. Then, if you can keep up that scoring, you can keep watching TV with your homework.”

“Okay Mom. Dad will check it when he gets home.”

“Actually, I think we’re both going to check it today. Your dad saw a lot of mistakes last night when you were doing your homework with him.”

William shrugged. “Okay. But Dad’s better at math then you.”

I didn’t say anything to that. He was in the third grade, I knew for a fact that whatever he was doing I could do just as well. But, there was no need to argue.

“Either way, I’ll be checking your homework as well as Dad. Besides, whatever you’re doing I can do easily. I still handle the house’s money.” William shrugged again.

I went back to the kitchen to keep reading. A few minutes passed by, and then I heard a rise in static coming from the TV. It was small at first, but it grew louder after just a moment before quickly cutting off into silence. Then, a regular theme song started playing.

I got up and walked over to the front room to find out what had happened. “William, what was that I just heard?”

William shook his head. “It was just some static. I changed the channel to one we didn’t have on accident. It’s no big deal.”

“Is your homework done?” I asked. William pointed to the floor, not taking his eyes of the television. I picked it up and took it into the kitchen. Half of the problems weren’t even done.

“William, you haven’t done half of your homework,” I informed him after walking back to the front room.

“I know, I was going to do the other half after one episode.”

“William, if you just did all of your homework, you wouldn’t have to split up your time watching TV at all. What’s gotten into you?”

“Don’t worry, mom. I’ll get it done just after this episode. I promise. It’ll be really good, too.”


“William, did you finish your chores that you needed to today?” I called from the kitchen.

“Yeah, Mom. They’re all done. I swept and did my homework.” William replied.

I couldn’t really believe that.

“Bring me your homework so that I can check it, William.” I laid down the magazine I was reading and looked toward the door into the living room.

“Alright, just let me get to a commercial break.” William said.

“Will, you can pause the TV because it’s on the DVR. Just pause it and bring me your homework.” Will knew he could pause the TV, because he had been told he could do that the first day we got it.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to miss anything! This is really important!” William called.

“You can rewind it, William.” He was really starting to get on my nerves at this point.

“Then I have to watch it all again!” Hearing that, I began to tap my fingers on the table.

“William, what could you be watching that’s so important?” I got up from my chair. I knew I could’ve have done this already, but I was trying to give William a chance to police himself. I didn’t think this would happen.

“It’s just cartoons mom, but I really need to watch it,” William said.

I shook my head, and walked into the living room. I learned then why William was being so defensive.

The TV was showing only in black and white. The image on the screen was also very blocky, as if they turned the person on TV into a video game character or something. Despite the blocky shades of grey, black, and white, I could still tell what was going on. A woman was being brutally murdered in greyscale, but the sounds were still of just regular Tom and Jerry. I even heard Tom’s iconic scream while in the kitchen.

“William! We need to turn this off right now!” I marched over to the TV, and did just that.

“Mom! No!” William shouted at me. He grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from the TV. I let him hang onto my arm, because I could still use my other to unplug the DVR.

“Mom! What are you doing! I was watching that!” William hopped up, and tried to use his whole weight to pull me down.

“William, stop that this instant!” I shouted. His little nine-year-old body wasn’t heavy enough to stop me.

“He grunted with effort as he tried to pull me down.”

“William, do you have any idea what you were just watching? Whoever sold us that damned DVR is a maniac!” I pushed William off of my arm, and he fell down to the ground. He laid there for a second.

“William, we have to get rid of this thing. That was terrible. We aren’t going to test things like this ever again. We should have just waited for a proper TiVo, and not gotten this thing.” I turned away from William, and started to take the DVR off of our TV and unplugged all of its wires.

I heard William start to run away. I turned back, and saw a blur dash into the kitchen. “William, what are you doing? Your dad is still at work.” I left the DVR there, and then followed him into the kitchen. I heard a drawer open followed by clinking metal.

“William, what are you doing?” I turned into the kitchen, and saw William holding a small kitchen knife. He screamed and jumped at me. I lifted my arm to protect myself from the assault, and so that I could try to take the knife from him. There would be no way for him to really injure me. He only grabbed a steak knife.

I felt the small knife cut my left arm, then I used my right to grab him. I took the arm that held the knife, then used my cut arm to take it out of his hand. I saw my blood fall onto the floor as I moved it. Maybe he cut me just a bit worse than I thought.

“William! What has gotten into you! Why are you behaving this way?” William struggled to get out of my grip. I looked over at my cut arm. It was bleeding an amount, but didn’t really hurt. I think that the cut was long rather than deep.

William didn’t say anything, but instead stared away from me while he tried to get away.

“William, we’re going to just wait right here for Dad to get home, and then we’ll see what happens afterward. Does that sound proper?” Again, William said nothing.

So, we waited for his father. It had to have been at least fifteen minutes of me holding him, because the blood on my arm had dried and scabbed over by the time he opened the door.

“Good. You’re home. Hold onto William for me,” I said. He looked at the two of us, confused.

“I haven’t got all day. Come on now.” I motioned with my cut arm for Ethan to hold on to William. His eyebrows rose in surprise for a moment, but then he came over and held onto William. William was tired out, and so he had essentially stopped struggling.

I walked over to the sink and washed my arm clean. I was right about the cut not being very deep. It cleaned up really fast, and the scab looked like a very long cat scratch.

“Come on, William. You’re going to your room. Your mother and I have things to talk about.” Ethan carried William into the hallway door that connected to the kitchen, and presumably to his room.

Only a couple moments later, Ethan was back in the kitchen with me. “Jesus, Luanne. What happened?”

“You’re damned DVR happened! William was obsessed with it! Worse yet, he was watching some women get murdered on it! You told me that all of the prerecorded things were just cartoons, and that I didn’t need to worry! You were wrong!” I shouted at him.

“Oh. That’s awful. Alright, honey, I’m sorry. You were right. We’ll get rid of the DVR immediately. I’m so sorry about this. Next time, I’ll talk to you before I get something like this.” Ethan stood up and stretched. “I still feel so stiff from sitting at a desk all day, though.”

Then, we heard glass crash. The window had broken in the front room. We both froze.

We heard a grunt, something heavy fall, and then soft patting. I snapped out of the terror, and ran the front room.

The window for our front room had been broken. There was blood on one of the shards. I ran over, and threw the curtains aside. William was running away, with the DVR in hand. Carefully, I climbed out of the window after him.


A car horn rang through the quiet evening. William stopped in the middle of the street, and looked over. A car swerved away from him.

It swerved straight towards me.

Author: Kay Walker

I write short stories, and post them to my site

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