Exhausted, I must’ve fallen asleep on the basement sofa. When I awoke the next morning, I was curled up in a little ball, my head resting on a red velvet pillow, and a fuzzy blue and green blanket draped over me. The storm had been a doozie. Craning my head, I saw Rory at the other end of the sofa mirroring my position. Grandma and Grandpa were nowhere to be found.
I sat up and yawned. Rory stirred. Then panic set in. It was Tuesday, a school day. What time was it? I could see daylight out the basement windows. Why had grandma or grandpa not awakened us? Today was our final tests in history and physical sciences. We couldn’t afford to miss them.
“Rory, get up!” I said, throwing the blanket off. “We have to get to school.”
“Oh!” he gasped, sitting bolt upright.
We scampered upstairs to find Grandma in the kitchen just starting to make breakfast. I looked at the clock over the sink, it read 6:10. Whew!
“Good morning, boys. Did you sleep okay through the storm?”
“I guess,” I replied, rubbing my eyes.
“Get dressed and come for breakfast.”
We went up and dressed for school. I grabbed my backpack and shoved the school provided tablet into it. Mrs. Graham would upload the tests to our tablets, administer them, and after grading, delete the test. She did tell us that “back in the old days” they actually used paper to print the tests out and students had to mark their answers with pencil or pen. How archaic!
Breakfast consisted of cold cereal, toast, eggs, and bacon. All of us ate like we’d been starving for days. When breakfast was finished, grandpa headed out to the truck. Rory and I brushed our teeth and soon joined him. I stepped out into the bright morning sun and was immediately horrified. The storm had severely damaged the barn. A good chunk of the roof facing the house was peeled off, and I saw wisps of smoke coming from it. “Grandpa, what happened?!” I said.
“Looks like it took a lightning strike.” He walked closer to the smoldering building. Much of it was still intact. “Was probably raining so hard it put out the flames.”
“Will it be okay?”
He nodded slowly. “I reckon so.”
Rory elbowed me. “The bot.”
“Can I go in and check on the bot?”
“You need to get to school.”
“It’ll only take a second.”
I tore across the yard to the barn. The doors were still latched shut. Upon opening one, I was shocked to see so much daylight coming in from above. Everything was wet. Quickly, I made my way to the workbench. The sun shined in, illuminating the gold color of the bot. Somewhere in the storm, the tarp had blown off. The smell of smoke and damp wood hung in the air.
As I approached the bot, it seemed undamaged. Little bits of charred wood clung to wet metal. It appeared that it had escaped the wrath of the storm. I saw a dark area of scorched metal on the left side of the bot’s chest and shoulder.
And then shock.
The bot sat up!
“Holy—!” I said, jumping back. How had this happened? Last night the bot was lying there lifeless; now it was sitting up, regarding me. Its eyes were glowing, still rather faintly, but it was alive.
“Jonah?” the tinny mechanical voice said.
My heart was beating so fast I thought I’d pass out. Suddenly I was lightheaded. I was face to face with the living bot, and speechless. All I could manage was to let my jaw hang open.
The bot cocked its head slightly. “Jonah?”
“Jonah!” Grandpa hollered from the truck.
The bot nodded once. “Jonah.”
I felt the gravitational tug of two celestial bodies. Grandpa was beckoning me to school, but the bot was enticing me to stay. How on earth had this happened?
“Jonah! Let’s go!”
“Coming, Grandpa!” I looked at the bot in total disbelief. “Stay here,” I blurted, not taking my eyes off the machine as I backed from the barn. Latching the door, I hurried to the truck.
Grandpa seemed moderately irritated by my sluggishness. “Is that bot still in one piece?” His tone of voice showed displeasure.
“Uh, yes, Grandpa, it is.”
“Pity,” he replied, putting the truck in gear.
I said nothing more. Secretly, I hoped grandpa would not find the bot and dismantle it. I knew he’d be returning home and working on the wrecked barn after he dropped us at school. I feared the worst.
We pulled up if front of the school and Rory and I hopped out. I was brimming with excitement but had to keep it in check until grandpa was out of sight. The truck pulled away and I grabbed Rory. “You’re not gonna believe it!”
“Hey!” Rory griped, trying to shake loose of my grasp.
I dragged him around a corner that was flanked by a hedgerow. “The bot’s alive!”
“The bot, it’s functioning. It spoke to me!”
“You’re joking, right?”
Rory studied me for a moment. I’m sure he saw the seriousness engraved on my face.
“Yes!” I finally let my grasp slide. “It said my name!” Just then, I saw Dagwood walk by. I shot out, snatched him by the back of his shirt, and yanked him behind the shrubs. Considering he was twice my size, it would normally have been a difficult maneuver. But I was hyped up on adrenaline and I felt like I had superhuman strength.
“Hey!” Dagwood said.
He turned, realizing it was me. “Oh, hi Jonah, hi Rory…What’d you do that for?”
“You’re not gonna believe this.”
“Did you guys get hit by that bad storm? We found some barn tin in our yard this morning. Looks like it came from Mr. Cranwinkle’s barn.”
“The bot’s alive!”
The expression on his face scrunched in confusion, then slowly softened, a slight smile forming on his lips. “It works?”
“Did you get it fixed?”
“Not exactly. I put in the last parts before the storm and then it got bad, so I went to the house. This morning I went out to see how bad the damage was, and the bot sat up and spoke to me.”
Dagwood threw his arms in the air and hopped up and down. “Wooo-eeeee!!!”
“But you can’t tell anyone. Got it?”
“Oh, no, I won’t say nothin’ to nobody…Pa’s gonna go over later and help Mr. Cranwinkle with the barn—it’s the least he can do after all the help your grandpa gave him over the years.”
“I hope they don’t do anything to the bot.”
“Why would they?”
“Grandpa isn’t too fond of them.”
“Didn’t he used to build ’em?”
“Yes. But that doesn’t mean he likes them anymore.”
The bell rang, calling us to class.
“I’ll come over after school. I wanna see the bot.”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Okay, gotta go.” Dagwood dashed off to class.
“Come on, Rory, let’s go. I hope this day goes by fast.”