When I was nine I desperately wanted my father and uncle to see me as an exceptionally bright kid who wholly deserved their love and protection. But it was a tough sell. For them, booze, bar whores, and Camels always came first.
Fourth on their list of favorites was the big TV in the living room. Guzzling beers, they’d watch Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller pitch for the Cleveland Indians, hoping their extravagant bets would pay off.
I came up with a plan that would show those two drunks how bright I really was. Each day for a week I secretly took the back off the TV, and slightly moved the magnet strapped to the neck of the picture tube. This made the screen get dimmer and dimmer, until they finally noticed.
“Hey, you can hardly see the fuckin’ thing,” my father said.
“Yeah,” my uncle said. “We gotta call Charlie.”
“He’ll charge us an arm and a leg. Fucking blood sucker.”
“Wait,” I said. “I know what’s wrong with it.”
My father and uncle turned and looked at me.
I nodded. “Yep. I read about it in Popular Electronics.”
I got my tool box and made a big show of removing the Phillips head screws from the back cover, and then sliding the magnet back to its original position.
“Holy shit, look at that! It’s perfect!” my father said.
“This kid’s somethin’ else, huh?” my uncle added.
Their admiration of my TV repair skill quickly faded, however. Soon it was back to business as usual. They really had no time for a wise-ass like me, who, if you really got down to it, was a royal pain in the ass. “He’s always wantin’ somethin’, huh?”
Well, I’d show them.
In my basement workshop I had an old 1,500 volt neon sign transformer I’d found in the alley behind the Avalon bar. Following the design of Marconi’s first radio transmitter, I used it to build a powerful electromagnetic jammer that to my perverse delight scrambled all the television and radio signals within a mile-and-a-half radius of my house.
I waited for the right moment. They were upstairs watching the last game of the World Series. Cleveland is ahead one to nothing, two outs, bottom of the ninth. The count is three and two. Bob Feller winds up. And the pitch…..
At that moment I flipped the toggle switch, and the jammer hummed. They saw the picture dissolve to snow. The speaker hissed.
“Oh for CHRIST’S FUCKING SAKE,” my father shouted.
“What the FUCK!” my uncle moaned.
My father kept shouting, and cursing, as if it would bring the picture back. I almost fell to the floor, trying to mute my laughter.