MAN ON THE MOON - janet freeman

Cassie’s family is the first in her neighborhood to get cable TV, which comes in the form of a little black box displaying 32 buttons. Instantly she’s a fan of MTV: the vee-jays, the man on the moon. Her stepdad, however, prefers the Playboy channel. Cassie knows this because when she comes down in the morning the channel is still set to it.

The first time this happens she recoils from the television with a sharp exhale. But then she moves close to the glass, wide-eyed as a naked man and woman frolic around on shag carpet. After twenty minutes her Wheaties have become soggy lumps floating in sour milk. The bus that carries her to second grade will be coming soon. Cassie goes back upstairs, stretches out on her bed. Stares at the ceiling.

One night soon after, she sits in the basement with her cousin Scott, watching a movie on the Playboy channel. At one point Scott locks himself in the bathroom. He’s in there a long time. Heat scalds Cassie’s cheeks even as her legs become frozen to the plaid couch. When Scott slips back into the recliner she stares quietly at the TV. Her cousin doesn’t look at her.

After he leaves Cassie flips to MTV, relieved to see the man on the moon, the smiling vee-jays. But then she goes back to the Playboy channel, where a black-toothed pirate is pinning a knife to a woman’s throat as he plunges into her.

Fucking cunt, breathes Cassie, hand sliding to the puddle moistening her Wonder Woman Underoos. You fucking deserve it, you cunt cunt cunt.

Janet Freeman
A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan