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by Adam Lock

I’m a Generation Xer, born to boomers, father to millennials, and the only one who can use Twitter. I don’t do Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook.

“Have you ever watched Friends?” my son, Tom, asks.

“No, I’ve never watched the most popular television sitcom of all time,” I say.

I sit and watch it with him.

“I don’t remember this one,” I say. “Thought I’d watched every episode at least three times.”

Between scenes there’s a shot of the Twin Towers played to music.

“Twin Towers,” I say.

“What?” Tom asks.

“You were born the day after it happened.”

“The laughter sounds fake,” he says.

“It does. Canned-laughter.”

The TV goes black and a message appears: “Network error: There is a problem connecting to Netflix.”

“Our wifi sucks,” Tom says.

I watch the black screen as Tom turns off the wifi hub at the mains and back on again.

I turn off the TV, count to ten and turn it back on.

The episode of Friends begins where it left off. Ross tries to flirt with a woman who delivers pizza but he’s no good at it. Rachel loses Monica’s earring. The six of them, young and beautiful, sit in their usual places in Central Perk. Monica uses two hands to lift her cup. Joey says something stupid and there’s canned-laughter.

The screen goes black and the error message appears again.

“I give up,” Tom says, getting up and walking out of the room.

I sit forward and stare at my reflection in the TV. I imagine the six friends in Central Perk moving to the window to look up at the belly of a low-flying jumbo jet. The New York sky is clear all but for an aeroplane rumbling low through Manhattan reflected in glass skyscrapers. Chandler makes a joke about the pilot taking a wrong turn but there’s no canned-laughter — it doesn’t work anymore — millennials don’t buy it.

It’s 2019 and Ben from Friends is twenty-six.

Adam Lock writes in the Black Country, UK. He is the winner of flash fiction competitions, has been nominated for the Best Small Fiction Anthology, and has had over fifty pieces of short fiction published in a variety of online and print publications. He is also the author of the novella-in-flash Dinosaur. You can find links to his stories and blog posts and sign up to his newsletter at adamlock.net. You can also find him on Twitter @dazedcharacter.