The television blinked to life at the press of a button. The next would switch the VCR on. A little green light appeared and one more button started the sixth tape in their home movie marathon. It was a walk down memory lane and he, the Operator.
The screen came to life with laughter. The time stamp read June, 1995. The camera shook and the woman behind it walked up to the man at the barbecue grill. His apron was stained and smoke obscured him.
The woman laughed and said, “Thomas, what are you burning now?”
The man gave a wink and assured her he was making the food of the gods before she panned away, capturing flashes of people fleeting across the screen. The camera paused on a woman, lounging and smiling in a poolside chair. Her halter top was bright pink and her face was shaded by a wide straw hat and sunglasses. He knew by the photos, this woman was Diane, her sister.
“Eva, you’ve out–”
The Operator stopped the tape there and popped it out before putting in another. Static buzzed till the tape came to life with Eva’s voice in mid-sentence
“–go buddy. Try again. Thomas come here.”
She was filming a baby, struggling to his feet in his blue overalls. The yellow ducky on the left corner of his pocket matched his hair. The child stood, wobbling like a new born deer before taking his first shaky steps.
The Operator heard muffled words behind him. He turned his head to give his profile, raising a single finger to his lips. The tape continued. Thomas’ voice could be heard.
“Whoa! You’re doing it Jr! Keep it up Tommy boy.”
Another muffled moan came.
The child on the tape wobbled towards a table and finally fell, but not before taking the bowel of apple sauce that sat on the table, down with him. The woman filming laughed. Behind him though, came a whimper and a cry. The Operator stopped the tape and put in another before finally turning around.
Eva looked at him with red rimmed eyes. He didn’t bother taking the tape off of her mouth. She would only scream. Her face was shiny with sweat, brows pulled together and muscles tense enough to show the vein in her forehead. Thomas laid on his side, liquid drying on his head. One eye was swollen, the other was black and blue, cracked open just enough to watch the screen.
The Operator made sure he would see. He had to. His last guest shook, face wet with his tears. Jr had grown up. His red and white striped shirt was spotted with blood. The Operator smiled and moved over so he wouldn’t obstruct their view. After all, it was their precious memories, their special night.
Eva whimpered again, her shoulders shook. He thought they should have enjoyed the moment, watching joyful memories. The Operator turned back to the television. It would all end soon. After they finished watching their lives flash before their eyes.