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The TV Set Mystery

Morty was the only one on the whole block who didn't have a television. He lived with his mother in a little apartment over the grocery store. They were very poor. His mother worked all day in the laundry.

Morty didn't know it, but his mother was saving up to buy him a television set for his birthday. She went without lunch so that she could put some extra money away. But by the day before Morty's birthday, she still did not have enough. On the way home from the laundry she passed a pawn shop. There was a sign in the window: SPECIAL CLEARANCE SALE. She pushed open the door and went in.

In a dark corner, in the back of the store, she noticed a TV set covered with dust.

"Oh, that doesn't work," said the owner. "But maybe all it needs is a new tube. I'll sell it to you real cheap."

So the next afternoon they delivered the TV set. Morty eagerly turned it on. Nothing happened. His mother promised to take all the tubes down to the drugstore for testing that weekend, when she was off from work.

Morty went to bed disappointed. The weekend seemed so far away. He couldn't sleep. Just after midnight, he got out of bed and tiptoed to the TV set. He tried the knob again. Suddenly a flash of light appeared on the screen. The picture cleared. A show was on. It was a war picture. He turned the knob. On a different channel a talk show was running. Morty quickly changed the channel again. This time it was a western. He settled back to watch.

It seemed so real -- as though he could just reach out and touch the actors. Morty stretched his hand toward the screen. It felt as though there were no glass there at all. There was none. His hand passed right into the TV set. His fingers closed around a cowboy riding a horse. He lifted him right off his saddle and out of the TV set.

At that instant, all over the country, people watching that western gasped as they saw a giant hand reach into the picture and snatch the cowboy away.

"Hey! What's going on?" the cowboy yelled in a tiny voice, as he struggled in Morty's hand.

"This is great!" Morty thought. Clutching the cowboy firmly, he reached into the TV set with his other hand. The horse had stopped when he felt his rider disappear, and now he was looking about uncertainly. Morty gently picked him up and brought him out into the room.

He put the horse and the cowboy into a large paper bag. Then he poured his goldfish and some of its water into an empty milk bottle and emptied the fish tank. He quickly transferred the cowboy and his horse to the fish tank.

Then Morty raced over to the TV set and turned the channel again. This time he saw a movie with a famous actor and actress. He reached in and snatched the two of them out of the screen.

News flashes reported the two mysterious happenings. Reporters called the homes of the actors and the actress to get their comments -- and discovered that they had suddenly disappeared!

All over the world, people wondered. Where had they gone? Who -- or what -- had taken them?

Meanwhile, Morty covered the fish tank and carried his captives to his room. He played with them on his bed for more than an hour. Then he put them back in the fish tank and went to sleep.

The next morning, after Morty's mother had left for work, he scooped some of his cereal into three bottle caps. They made fine bowls for his tiny guests. He gave them toothpicks to eat with. Morty poured some milk into his mother's thimble, and they drank from that. Then he covered the tank again and raced off to school.

Everyone at school was talking about the strange thing that happened on TV the night before.

"I know what happened to them," Morty whispered to his friend Mickey after school. Mickey didn't believe him. So Morty pulled out a tiny cowboy hat.

"See?" he boasted. Then he raced off down the street.

Morty sneaked his new friends some bits from his dinner, but he couldn't play with them until his mother went to sleep.

The three tiny people had spent the whole day trying to think of a plan. They could not climb out of the tank, and Morty always watched them when he took them out. The only thing they could do was try to persuade him to let them go.

"It's not fair to keep us here," the actor told him. "What about our families? And besides, you could get into a lot of trouble if they caught you."

Morty thought for a few minutes. It might be fun to see what happened when he put them back. So he switched on the TV set and turned the knob until a talk show came on. They were talking about the day's big news -- the missing actors and actress.

Suddenly a giant hand reached in and deposited the actor and actress, the cowboy, and the horse right in the middle of the stage.

"What happened? Where have you been?" the M.C. shouted. But none of them would say.

"We'd better not tell you," said the famous actor. "You know, they're always running reruns of our pictures..."








©1973, 2013 The Silversteins