The Silver Linings Playbook (Chapter 22)

Balanced Very Carefully, As If the Whole Thing Might Topple When the Heater Vents Begin to Blow Later This Fall

From the basement, I hear my dad say, "It goes right here, on this table." Three sets of footsteps are moving across the family-room floor, and soon I hear something heavy being set down. After fifteen minutes or so, the sounds of college football explode through the floor above – big bands playing, drums galore, fight songs being sung – and I realize my father has replaced the family-room television. I hear the deliverymen's footsteps exit, and then Dad increases the volume so I can hear every play call the commentators make, even though I am in the basement and the basement door is shut. I don't follow college football, so I don't really know the players or the teams being discussed.

I do some curls and simply listen, secretly hoping Dad will come down into the basement, tell me about the new television, and ask me to watch the game with him. But he doesn't.

Suddenly, maybe a half hour after the deliverymen leave, the volume is turned down, and I hear Mom ask, "What the hell is this?"

"It's a high-definition television with surround sound," my father replies.

"No, that is a movie screen, and – "

"Jeanie – "

"Don't you 'Jeanie' me."

"I work hard for our money, and I won't have you telling me how to spend it!"

"Patrick, it's ridiculous. It doesn't even fit on the end table. How much did you pay for that?"

"Never mind."

"You smashed the old television just so you could buy a bigger one, didn't you?"

"Jesus Christ, Jeanie. Will you please stop bitching at me for once?"

"We're on a budget. We agreed – "

"Oh. Okay. We're on a budget."

"We agreed that – "

"We have money to feed Pat. We have money to buy Pat a new wardrobe. We have money to buy Pat a home gym. We have money for Pat's medications. Well then, the way I see it, we have money for a new fucking television set too."

I hear my mother's footsteps exit the family room. Just before my father turns up the game again, I hear her stomp up the steps to her bedroom, where I know she will cry because my father has cursed at her again.

And it's my fault their money is stretched.

I feel awful.

I do sit-ups on the Stomach Master 6000 until it is time to run with Tiffany.

When I finally go upstairs, I see that Dad's television set is one of those new flat-screen models they advertised when we watched the Eagles play Houston, and it is literally almost the size of our dining-room table. It's huge; only the center third rests on the end table, making it look as if it is balanced very carefully, as if the whole thing might topple when the heater vents begin to blow later this fall. Even still, while I do feel bad about Mom, I have to admit that the picture quality is excellent and the speakers set up on stands behind the couch fill the house with sound, making it seem as though the college football game is being played in our family room – and I start to look forward to watching the Eagles on the new set, thinking the players will almost appear life-size.

I stand behind the couch for a second, admiring my father's new television, hoping he will acknowledge my presence. I even say, "Dad, did you get a new television?"

But he doesn't answer me.

He is mad at my mom for questioning his purchase, so now he will sulk. He will not talk to anyone for the rest of the day, I know from experience, so I leave the house and find Tiffany jogging up and down the street.

Tiffany and I run together, but we do not talk.

When I return home, Tiffany keeps jogging without even saying goodbye, and as I jog up the driveway to the back door, Mother's car is gone.