Couch Potato is the ninth of ten short stories published as a collection by writer and filmmaker Christopher J. Aran in his book, Awake While Dreaming.
The story explores the effects of fear and laziness.
So I get this call from my mom and I can’t reach the phone. It’s on the counter over there, somewhere. There, I can see the damn thing ringing. That little light blinking at me like some angry little sci-fi robot begging me to pay attention to it, but I’ll be honest I get dizzy standing up too fast. That would be bad if I stood up, blood rushing through my skull, then fell over and crashed my head onto something. Besides, even if I didn’t get the head rush, there’s so much shit lying around I could trip and hurt myself. Same end to the story. Head. Crash. Bad. Clearly I live alone but somebody should really clean this place up before I hurt myself. Anyway she left a message about how it’s been forever since we spent time. She’s concerned cause she’s getting collection bills at the house in my name. All sorts of crap. Concerned about the last time I went to work. Work? Man, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a job. At least one that I needed to leave my house for. So over that 9 to 5 grind shit. I make my own schedule. I’m the master of my own fucking destiny. Television, Movies, and Video Games man. That’s my job. I’m doing research here. Serious shit. That’s what I’ve tried to tell her I’m going into. I’m going to be a creative developer but I have to do the research. I’ve got to put the hours in. Going back to school would be a joke when all the course material is home study anyway. And the amount of media out there is overwhelming. I’ve got so much to catch up on. The last part of her message is about just that. She says the TV’s sucking my eyes out. Turning my brain into some kind of potato salad where the mayo is going all rotten. Something about how she can smell it from home. I smell something too, but its not mayo, which is kind of freaking me out. She talks about the age- old couch potato syndrome. She’s worried I sit on my ass all day drinking beers glued to my flat screen and that I never leave the house. Some crap about needing fresh air. Clearly that’s why I leave my window open mom. Then the answering machine shuts its electronic mouth. Thank god that’s over. Now I can raise the volume again and hear what’s going on. Luckily I’ve got a bottle of uppers next to me on the couch and with fifteen more levels to go on this game I’ve got to stay awake and in tune. Luckily I’ve stocked up on chips and soda, my favorite snacks while I study.
After spending the last few hours working to reach another disappointing ending to another shitty game, I know I can do better when I finally start developing. If these guys can make this crap I surely have a shot. I’ve only got a few pills left. On the floor there seems to be a few more pill bottles than I remember. Guess I’ve been here a while. Gets me thinking though, there’s worse things than drugs and video games I suppose. Fear and laziness for two. Chronic masturbation for three. Which of course is permission, if you will, to avoid the opposite sex. Don’t engage with the enemy. Can you image the amount of hours wasted listening to a woman complaining about whatever could be wrong during the course of her day? I’d want to come home from work and relax in front of the TV and all I’d hear would be bitching about this or bitching about that. It’s like my mom on the answering machine, but live. Right in my face. No thanks. The sex I’d be gunning for just isn’t worth it. That’s why I’m a jerk off junkie. Proud of it too. I’m tweaking on the feel of my couch for the 7th day in a row and I haven’t spent a dime. No one to tell me otherwise. I switch the games up from time to time. I do porn of course, my DVR, that keeps the research going. Keeping up with my online gaming community most certainly, and then, oh where did the daytime hours go? My next extremely important obligation that’s ummmm…..I promised myself I’d take a break and go out tonight to a movie. More procrastination is what my mom would say. Or at least leave on my answering machine. No I’ve got shit straight here. Everything I need. Scrolling through my options…right now, and I’m thinking about going to watch the next big smear of shit on the big screen. I must obviously be into scat as I’m constantly watching movies more often than new ones get released. Screw it, I’ll wait ‘till I can rent it online. I can make better stuff anyway so why waste the time going out when I can spend it writing something better at home. So glad I decided to stay in and change my career path. Not only have I saved a shit ton of money but I’m getting a practically free education from my couch. And these days with everything at the touch of a button, who has to move to be stimulated? I mean really.
It’s about 4am and I’m watching the news again. Fucking pills keeping me up longer than I thought. Can’t even remember what month it is. Anyway another guy gets shot in the ghetto and his ass is painted all over the sidewalk. Another reason not to leave. Getting a bag of groceries could get your ass killed. But watching this guy jogs my memories. There’s something amazing about a tragedy. An accident. Those moments where you’re lying in the gurney looking up through vaseline eyes at the savior called the EMT. Watching homie quite literally on the block brings me crashing back hard. Mortality. I can feel it at the core. Somewhere under the layers of bacon bits and Choco Rings. I’m a sucker for that shit. I sense it, knowing now more than ever, seeing this dude on the ground makes me really truly understand. I can fucking die. When I was 23, got hit by a car and bounced like a bloated beach ball. Funny cause that’s how I really feel now. Back then, I laughed. At 27 years old I was coming down from the high of my first dive from 13,000 feet, fucking parachute rope snaps 15 feet before I’m supposed to land. I did more damage to my ego and my new jeans than I did to my body. Scenarios that can kill. I laughed at it. Now I’m seeing this guy in front of me through a plate of glass via signal transmission from miles away, and understanding that the simplest everyday shit can take your ass away. Death rolls up to take you on a ride to the next party. Not one I’m ready to go to yet. Seeing that guy, that’s why I don’t walk out anymore. I can create my masterwork from home. I’ve got everything I need here. Ideas are growing in my head the more I consume. Fuck leaving. I’m good right here mom.
I couldn’t tell you how many days I’ve been out. The room is freezing and there seems to be snow on the windowsill. My place is trashed. There’s a foul smell of shit and it feels like I might be sitting in some. I’m not sure what’s going on right now. My shirt feels too tight for my body. I can see the buttons ready to tear and bits of my stomach and chest creeping through the stretch points. I kind of feel like puking but I can’t move. I hear the phone ring again but I’m too dizzy to get up. Let the answering machine take it. Why is my TV broken? Mom? Calling me again? What month is it you’re saying? That’s impossible. I try to get up to get the phone ‘cause I can’t believe what she’s saying. My legs won’t move. My arms won’t budge. What the fuck is going on?! This isn’t real. My thighs have grown into the couch. They’ve taken root into the fabric. I can feel it like the cushions are part of me. My fingers have grown in too. What the fuck is happening?! …