Ray, when he was home, was the biggest competition for the set in the den. Especially during basketball season. Frannie would curl up at the far end of the sofa in her flannel gown and wait him out, watching him mutter unaware at the screen as the last few minutes of the game ticked down with interminable slowness. Sometimes, he'd make a disgusted noise, stand and turn the TV off abruptly before realizing she was still there.
"Frannie! You should be... oh."
And then he'd smile and and shake his head and turn the set back on, tuning to her station. Ray thought it was funny that she liked the old movies. "People don't just start to sing," he'd say, like she was a little bit dumb, or just too young to understand. Ray liked Dirty Harry and things like that. Loud, scary, fast color movies Frannie wasn't allowed to see, although she knew there was a lot of shooting and car chases and women who took their tops off.
But Frannie thought Ray was the one who didn't understand. From the moment the music swelled and the credits flickered black and gray, she was in another world. It was kind of like the fairy tales Maria used to read to her when she was little. A place of dreams. Women so beautiful, they seemed to glow. Men who were neat, and tall, dashing and romantic.
When she watched the Late Show, Pop stopped drinking. There was no horrible tension that built, and built, and built until it exploded into screaming matches and slamming doors. Nobody yelled at Ray that he would never amount to nothing, or Maria that she'd better watch herself before she got knocked up by that stupid goombah Tony, and she'd better not expect him to take care of the little brat when she did. And Ma didn't look so tired all the time, crying silently as she folded laundry when she thought nobody could see.
Frannie tucked the hem of her nightgown under her legs and bathed in
the glow of silver. She knew it wasn't really this way, not like the movies.
But she preferred to dream.