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Friday, January 23, 2015

Servo 12:3

Servo 12:3

The next morning I was up bright and early. Unfortunately, the sun wasn’t. Heavy snow clouds drifted over the land threatening to unfold a new blanket of white. I was not deterred by the potential storm; rather, I looked forward to more ammunition for our snowball fight.
In the nearly eight months we’d been in Nebraska, I noticed I’d changed. Without the precious internet, I found myself outside more. Rory, Dagwood, and I played. We did silly things like riding our bikes at break-neck speed down a long steep hill; climbed the high rafters in Dagwood’s massive barn, and spent hours exploring what we thought were distant corners of the town on weekends. We had no problems keeping up with Dagwood as he rode to Jimmy’s house. I feared the busy road no more.
Suzette never made any attempt to make friends, play, or even enjoy life in the Outer States. Why she chose to wallow in self-pity escapes me. She was young, beautiful, and could command the world with her brilliant IQ. Instead, she allowed misery to overtake her.
Deciding it was a moot point to dwell on my sister’s melancholy, I got up and dressed. Just as I prepared to leave the room, I glanced at the clock: it said 7 a.m., and I wondered what Grandma would be making for breakfast. Opening the door, I was surprised to hear the house silent. Was I the only one up? Impossible! Grandma was always up hours before us busily working in the kitchen. I craned my neck and tuned my ears downstairs. Nothing.
I went down and stopped on the last step. No glorious aroma of bacon cooking. My acute nostrils picked up the faint tang of coffee. I followed my nose, but not to the kitchen. Instead, I went down the hallway toward the very last door—the library. A faint light shone under the bottom of the door. Who was up? Grandpa? I never ever recall seeing Grandma in the library. It seemed to be a place exempted from her housekeeping exercises. The shelves and books were covered in an unhealthy layer of dust. I paused at the door listening for a sign of life. Through the heavy oak, I thought I heard the earthy crinkle of a page turn.
My left hand reached for the old brass knob. It rattled slightly as my fingers closed on it. The library was not off-limits, but for some reason, I felt I was intruding. Did Grandpa want some time alone? Surely he wasn’t tired of us; we rarely crossed paths with him except at nights and on the weekends.
With the utmost of quiet, I opened the door slightly and peered in. Grandpa was in his favorite old overstuffed leather chair, book in hand, and a large mug of steaming coffee on the table next to him. He glanced up. “Good morning, Jonah.”
“Umm, good morning, Grandpa,” I said, feeling like I’d invaded his solace.
“Come in.” He gave a gentle gesture with one hand.
“I’m not interrupting, am I?”
“No, no. I was just doing some reading before your Grandmother gets up.”
“Oh.”
“She was tired, so she wanted to sleep a little longer.” He stretched. “When you get old, sometimes you just wanna slow down once in a while.”
I sat down in another chair. “I don’t know how Grandma does it, she’s amazing.”
Grandpa smiled. “I don’t know how she does either. That woman works harder than any bot I’ve ever seen.”
“Definitely!” I met his smile with a big grin.
“And just like a bot, once in a while, Grandma needs to recharge her batteries.”
“Like the grandma in I Sing the Body Electric.
He chuckled. “That grandma was a bot.”
“I know.” I cupped my hand to my ear. “I sometimes wonder about Grandma. How she can work so long and so hard like she does? I listen closely for the ticking and whirring.”
“You won’t hear any ticking and whirring out of her. Maybe a little whining and complaining once in a while.” He closed the book and gently rested it on the table. “If there was any model for the perfect service bot, it would be your grandma.”
A devious, wonderful thought entered my head. “Grandpa?”
“Mmm?”
“Why don’t we make Grandma breakfast?!”
He picked up his mug of coffee. “That’s a bold idea, Jonah…Except you’re lookin’ at the most inept man on earth in the kitchen.”
“Rory and I can do it! We’ve watched Grandma cook. We’ll keep it simple: toast, eggs, bacon, and juice.” I stood, feeling oddly empowered. “And you can surprise her with breakfast in bed!”
Grandpa chuckled. I could see he liked the thought of my crazy plan. “All right. I’ll, uh, supervise you two—make sure you don’t burn down the house.”
I went to the door. “I’ll get Rory and we’ll get started right away.” With not a second to waste, I tore upstairs and into Rory’s room, not even bothering to knock. “Rory, wake up!”
My little brother bolted upright in bed. “Huh? What?”
“We’re going to make breakfast for Grandma.”
“We? Who is we?” He blinked several times.
“You, me, and Grandpa.”
“Breakfast?”
“Yes!”
“We can’t cook.”
“Yes we can. I told Grandpa we’ll keep it simple.”
He climbed out of bed and started to dress. “How simple? A bowl of cereal with milk?”
“No, no, silly. Toast, eggs, bacon, and some juice.”
“Do you even know how to cook an egg?”
“Sure, I watched Grandma enough.”
“And she’s been doing it for hundreds of years.”
I smacked him. “She’s not that old!”
“I meant she’s been doing it a long time. It might not be as easy as it looks.”
“How hard can it be? Heat up a pan, melt some butter, crack and egg into the pan, and when it’s done on one side, you flip it over.”
Rory finished putting on his shoes. “Fine, then you handle cooking the eggs.”
“Then you can do the bacon.”
“Umm, okay. But I don’t like it when it splatters.”
“Grow up!”
Minutes later we converged upon the kitchen. I went to work grabbing two cast iron frying pans from a cupboard. Rory was rummaging in the fridge for eggs and bacon. “Hey, get the butter, will you?” I called, placing the pans on the electric burners. Then I lifted a hefty spatula from a cylindrical crock and waved it around like a sword. This was indeed exciting.
Rory came over with armloads of goods. He tried to place them on the counter, but fumbled. It seemed like slow-motion as I watched the eggs slip from his grasp. I made a mad dive for the carton, saving them at the last moment. The packet of bacon hit the floor with a loud smack. Good thing it was in a plastic wrapper. Only the butter managed to make it to the counter.
“Oops, sorry,” Rory said.
“Maybe you should have made several trips.”
Grandpa wandered in and sat down at the table. “Making a mess already?”
I stood, egg carton in hand. “Saved!”
Rory stooped and snatched the bacon pack from the floor. “It’s okay.”
We set about making breakfast. In a matter of ten minutes, the whole room smelled of bacon, eggs, and some slightly burnt toast which Grandpa helped scrape off the blackened edges. As we prepared the plate for Grandma, I gently lowered two fried eggs—very pleased that I’d not broken the yolks, and Rory added the thick, greasy strips of bacon. We poured a big glass of orange juice and Grandpa managed to find a tray to put everything on. I only wish we had a teeny vase with a single red rose in it—that would have made the whole dish.
Just as Grandpa was picking up the tray, Suz came in. She stopped and looked around. “Where’s Grandma?”
“She was tired, so we’re bringing her breakfast,” Rory said.
“So who will make mine?”
I shot her a snide glare. “Why don’t you make your own?”
“Are you absurd?”
A devious smile wormed to my lips. “Perhaps.” I held the door while Grandpa exited. “Maybe since you’ll be eighteen soon you should learn to cook.”
“How dare you say that!”
“I’m just saying it’s a skill you might want to learn.” With that, I said no more and accompanied Rory and Grandpa up the stairs.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Servo 12:2

Servo 12:2


We toiled for what seemed endless hours. And when finished, there were two walls about three feet high, ten feet long, and a foot or so thick. They were spaced about twenty feet apart. During our labors, Dagwood explained the process of a snowball fight. Apparently we were to make dozens—no, hundreds of baseball-sized snow balls and keep them behind the wall. Our opponent would do the same—although I’m not sure who the opponent would be. Upon a signal, we were supposed to throw the balls at our opponent, aiming to strike them. The rest of the rules were totally ambiguous.
I made one last snowball and placed it on the growing pile. “Dagwood?”
“Yeah?”
“Just who is our opponent?”
“Oh, tomorrow Otto will be coming over. He’s your opponent.”
“Just him?”
“Well, I guess to be fair, him and me.”
“So, Rory and I will be trying to hit you and Otto?”
“Yup!”
“And this is fun?”
“You bet!”
I looked at the massive snow-works we’d built. “And this was supposed to be fun making these big walls?”
“It’s part of the game. If we’re lucky, they’ll freeze overnight and be harder in the morning.”
“For what purpose?”
“Protecting against the snowballs.”
“Ah.”
Dagwood trotted behind the other wall and picked up a snowball. “The name of the game is not to get hit.” He cranked his arm back and let fly. The snowball headed right for me. With what little instinctive reflexes I had, I ducked, letting the clod of snow sail right over my head. Dagwood chortled. “There ya go! Now throw one at me!”
I picked up a ball and cupped it in my hands, firming the snow a bit more. Taking aim, I reared back and threw it with all my might. It wasn’t enough. The wad of frozen precipitation impacted the berm a few inches from the top. Dagwood slapped his thigh and guffawed loudly.
Now angered at my ineptness, I grabbed another and let fly. This one managed to hit him square in the chest. His laughter stopped as he was surprised by my actions. “Hey, you hit me!”
“Isn’t that the object of the game?” I folded my arms smugly.
“Well, yeah. But after that first one—”
“What?”
“You threw like a girl!”
“Might I remind you that I have never thrown a snowball before.”
“It’s just the same as throwing a ball, silly!”
Before either of us could say anything, Rory launched a snowball at Dagwood. It flew right past him. My friend returned fire. Rory took a hit in the right shoulder. I laughed, finding it amusing to see my brother spitting out snow that had splattered all over him.
Soon, volleys of snowballs were flying back and forth. The sound of laughter filled the area. Yes, we were having fun. All the hours in the freezing cold building everything, and now we were having fun. I peered above our wall and saw Grandpa looking out the window at us. It was hard to tell, but I think I saw a smile on his face.
By late afternoon, our massed piles of snowballs had been exhausted, and so were we. All of us had laughed so much, it felt good. Dagwood came from his battlement and joined us in reloading our stock. “Did you have fun?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yes.”
“See, you don’t need computers to have fun.”
“No, I suppose you don’t.”
“How goes the work on the bot?”
“Well, I’m having problems with the memory core.”
“Maybe Otto can take a look when he comes over.”
“I’d like that. He has more experience with these older bots. Dad and I used to work on the newest models available. Old technology is a stumbling block to me.”
“I’m sure Otto can figure it out.”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Servo 12:1

Servo 12:1


I sat by my window and watched the snow fall in gentle sloppy flakes. Back in New Philadelphia, it would snow quite often, in fact. But it was never much snow—a few inches at most. Here in Nebraska, there was a good two feet on the ground and it appeared that it was in no hurry to stop. I found it quite beautiful, yet troublesome.
After a week of good rest and plenty of Grandma’s fabulous food, I was on the mend. Rory and Suz were feeling better too. I was now allowed outside the protective parameters of the house. My work on the bot would continue. It was Saturday and I wanted to get going as soon as possible.
The wind blew, stirring a flurry of snow from the ground, swirling it into something of a snow-nado. I had always been fascinated by weather anomalies. Tornadoes scared the life out of me, but somehow I was drawn to them. I watched as the little tempest wormed its way across the yard and past the barn, disappearing somewhere into drifts resting in the field.
Deciding that I needed something to eat, I headed from my room and clomped downstairs. There was a delicious aroma emanating from the kitchen and I knew to expect something fabulous for breakfast. With all three children feeling better, Grandma was determined to cook enough food to fill out any inch we lost during illness. To that end, I would never protest.
There was something about Inner States food that now seemed lacking. Having never had anything but, we were programmed to accept what we were fed. The government provided the mandate of what was to be served to the inhabitants. That food had a fibrous, plain consistency in everything you ate. Things like bacon, real eggs, and fried chicken simply didn’t exist. Even worse, hamburgers were for the most part, not even made of meat. They were an amalgamation of vegetable matter, various plant proteins, and the tiniest hint of something related to beef. I could still taste the juice and fat from the ones Grandma made for dinner last night. Heavenly!
Rory was already at the table, fork in hand, making short work of a stack of pancakes. Grandma could make the most amazing things from a simple batter. And sometimes she’d put chocolate chips or fresh blueberries in them for us. Suz, with all her implied distaste, actually relished the pancakes with little bits of raspberry—although she’d never give a hint at that. I knew my sister well enough to see the barest intimation of a smile as she shoved a forkful into her mouth. And Grandma made raspberry syrup to go with them. I know she did it for Suz’s benefit. Rory and I were overjoyed with the chocolate chips.
“Good morning, Jonah,” Grandma said, seeing me enter the kitchen.
“Morning, Grandma.”
“Hungry?”
“Oh, yes.” I plopped down in my usual seat, and moments later, a plate of pancakes was being magically lowered in front of me. I took a deep breath, inhaling every molecule of the rich buttery perfume emanating from them. Reaching for the maple syrup, I glanced up to see Suz wandering in. She looked tired. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” was all she said before taking her seat.
“You don’t look it.”
“I’m fine.”
I figured she’d never open up to any of us. Suz was too distressed over leaving the Inner States; her whole life had been ruined by being forced to come here. She was utterly miserable and there was little we could do to make her feel better. In a way, I secretly wished for her birthday to come. At age eighteen, she could do what she wanted.
Rory and I chose to ignore Suz and focus on enjoying breakfast. Being a Saturday, Dagwood would be over in a half hour. He’d told me at school Friday that we were going to have fun. I wondered what he was up to. As hesitant as I was in the beginning to make friends with Dagwood, he’d ended up being the best thing that happened to me so far. And his cousin, Otto, was equally helpful with getting me bot parts. Granted it took longer than I usually liked, but with our covert operations, we had to be patient.
Breakfast was nearly over when I heard knocking on the door. Grandma went to see who it was. A few seconds later, Dagwood galumphed in. “Morning, fellas!”
“Morning, Dagwood,” Rory and I said.
“Ready for some fun?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” I replied.
He gave me a solid smack on the shoulder. “Aw, quit bein’ so stiff and starched!”
“Well, how am I supposed to act?”
“Loosen up!”
“Uh…”
“Never mind. Some fun’ll take care of that.”
We got up and put our dishes in the sink. Suz was tasked with breakfast dishes on the weekends. Rory and I went to the hall, put on the heavy snow boots, coats, and hats that were bought for us, and grabbed our gloves.
Dagwood opened the door and led the way out to the snow filled space between the house and barn. “Ready to build a snow fort?”
“A what?” Rory said.
“Snow fort. So we can have snowball fights.”
Rory cocked his head. “How can a fight be fun?”
“You’ll see. Come on, help me build the walls.”

Friday, January 2, 2015

Servo 11:3

Servo 11:3


Being bedridden for nearly a week had its ups and downs. The upside was I had plenty of time to spend with Dad. The power cord for my tablet was stretched to the max, but I could keep it plugged in and resting on the edge of the bed. And the boxes of data sticks were tucked into the nightstand—within easy reach. I spent many hours listening to his log entries, my eyes closed, envisioning him sitting at his desk, how I’d seen him so many times in the evening after he came home from work. The more words I heard, the more I missed him, the more my resolve grew and I knew I had to bringing the bot back to life.
The definite downside to being so ill was Grandma wasn’t about to let us out of the house. No trips to the frigid barn to work on the bot. I wanted to be well so I could continue my work. The bot’s memory core was still under my bed. I’d found an old shoebox and placed it inside to hopefully eliminate any suspicion Grandma might have when she was in our rooms. I could tell she didn’t like bots. Any mention I made of them received a glowering expression on her part. After a few times I decided it was just best to not say anything about what was going on in the barn. Perhaps she was in a state of ignorance is bliss, I can’t be sure.
As I lie in bed, my head finally beginning to feel like it belonged to me again; I picked up my tablet and scrolled through my father’s log entries. I was listening to the year 2045. That was a very good year for father—he’d invented the cerebral actuation servo, or as he called it, CAS. It wasn’t anything special by today’s standards, but it revolutionized how a bot’s neural-electrical signals were fed throughout its body. Consisting of a very tiny motor and a of couple micro switches, the CAS was the main functioning system of the bot’s neural network. Earlier bots had a clunky system referred to as the neural gain feed. It consisted of thousands of tiny wires that ran all over the bot’s body. As a signal from the memory core was sent out, there was a single wire that ran to the part being moved. Needless to say, that when a bot was damaged, it was far too simple to accidently reconnect the wrong wires together and the bot would do strange things. Father told me one time he mixed up a couple of wires and the bot, instead of raising its arm, as instructed, would jump up and down!
The CAS fixed those problems. It made my father famous in the world of robotics. I don’t really remember any of that; I was just three years old at that time. All I know is there were many elaborate parties we were taken to—Suz and me, and lots of fuss made of us. There is one faded memory I do have of a party: an older man picked me up, held me in his arms, and declared that I would be the next great robotics scientist. My father beamed with pride, I remember the smile on his face. He was so thrilled to hear that. I bet secretly he wished it would come true.
Now, at this tender time in my life, I wanted so badly to please my father. I wanted him to be here with me as I made advances in his work. Could I? Well, not with the deplorable working conditions I had, and a bot that was ancient. Maybe after I was grown and found my way back to the Inner States, I’d get a job at Servidyne and pick up where he left off. That seemed like a million years and a million miles away right now.
I sat motionless for a moment while contemplating the next installment of my father’s log. Ever so slowly, Rory and I had been rebuilding the old bot. At first we started at the top, but then realized that parts were hard to come by. So we took a different approach and started at the bottom by rewiring the legs and torso. That alone had wasted several months of precious time. I wanted desperately for the bot to function. There was something I wished to breathe into it.
Sighing deeply, I rested my head against the headboard and clicked play.

“Log entry number 185. August 10th, 2045. Today was an excellent day. After three successful trials on the CAS, I’m ready to demonstrate it to Servidyne management. I think they will be very pleased with this new system…I have experienced one difficulty: the main drive actuator tends to stick once in a while—”

I giggled upon hearing this. In robotics history class at our former school, this was a test given to students. They were required to figure out the acceptable method for remedying the sticking servo. As the son of the inventor, it wasn’t exactly fair of me to ace the test having prior knowledge and expertise from the creator himself. My instructor was surprised that I had the answer—and the correct answer, so quickly. I guess she thought I was an absolute brain-child.
But my short-lived glory was cut even shorter when father came to pick us up from school one day. My instructor immediately recognized him, and subsequent tests for me became increasingly difficult.

“I feel that with time and advancements in technology, the CAS will eventually become a thing of the past like the neural gain feed that my predecessor and mentor, Dr. William Benke, designed. His work in the field of robotics was years ahead of his time. I only wish I could have had more time spent with him before his untimely death.”

My heart froze. What did he just say? Untimely death? How convenient that seemed. A brilliant scientist dies before his time. Shivers went down my spine. This whole mysterious case just got even more mysterious. Had I stumbled into a conspiracy? Or was this just absolute coincidence?
Knocking on my door snapped me into the real world. “Yes?” I called.
“Can I come in?” Rory asked.
“Yes.”
The door opened and he wandered in, still looking pale from his bout with influenza. “What are you doing?”
“Listening to Dad.”
“Oh.” He climbed onto the bed. “Have you been able to access the bot’s memory core?”
“Nope. I’ve tried with no luck. All I can think is we’re missing a part.”
“Missing what? It looked like it was all there.”
I set my tablet aside and sluggishly climbed from bed. My feet, upon reaching the floor, slowly gave way allowing the rest of my body to slouch miserably on the hardwood. Most of the aches had left me, but I was shattered from fighting the virus. Who would think that something so microscopic could wreak such havoc upon a life form thousands of times its size?
With care, I inched under the bed and retrieved the shoe box. Normally it was barely a feather-weight, but in my compromised physical state, it felt like a brick of pure cobalt. I sat it on the bed and climbed back into my plush divan. My fingers rested on the edges of the box top.
“If we are missing a part, it could be difficult to get.” Rory motioned for the core. “All that work would be for naught.”
I handed it over. “Maybe not…”
“What do you mean?”
“Dagwood came by for a visit.”
“Yeah, heard him.”
“He’s got someone that has an old 108.”
Rory perked up. “Really?”
“A cousin or something. He said they get together often and next time he’s going to bring him over and introduce us.”
“Excellent!”

Friday, December 26, 2014

Servo 11:2

Servo 11:2

Two days passed and of course I was absent from school. Rory and Suz were in attendance— well, they were until they took sick. The school nurse called Grandpa and he had to retrieve them. Now all three of us were miserable at home. Poor Grandma did her best to keep us hydrated. She made a big pot of fresh chicken broth and would bring cups of it to sip. At first it tasted terrible. Suz wanted nothing to do with it; I could hear her protesting loudly down the hallway. But after another two days of nearly starving, we all decided it was the only thing keeping us going.
As I lay in bed wishing I was dead, there was a faint knock on the door.
“Jonah?”
It was Dagwood. I hadn’t heard him arrive at the house, let alone scale the creaky stairs to the second floor. Was my head so fuzzy that I missed all that? He was by no means a quiet individual.
“Jonah?” he called again.
“Yeah, Dagwood?”
The door opened a crack and he peered in. “I came to see how you were.”
I sat up in bed slightly. “Miserable.”
“Your grandma says y’all got the flu.”
“Yes.”
He came in all the way, shutting the door carefully.
“Should you be here? I mean, I’m sick,” I said. In a way it was comforting to see his softly rounded face.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Had a mild case of it already.”
“Did it make you feel like you wanted to die?”
Dagwood shrugged his shoulders. “Naw, not really. Felt bad a few days and missed some school.”
I retrieved a damp cloth that was sitting in a bowl on the nightstand. With it, I dabbed my forehead and cheeks. “You probably think this is crazy, but I’ve never been sick before.”
“Because you’re one of those GEE kids?”
“Yeah.”
He shrugged his shoulders again. “Not your fault.”
“I suppose not. But living in this environment it’s opened us up to getting ill.”
“We all get sick, just part of life.”
“Your life, and what used to be my life, are two very different things.”
“I know. You’re here now, though.”
With my feeble nature, I almost let the words slip but I don’t want to be. Had I said them, I fear I probably would’ve hurt his feelings. Dagwood was proud of who he was and where he lived. This was his world, not mine. My attempts to fit in were as weak as my current physical state.
“Oh!” Dagwood said loudly, thrusting his finger into the air.
I startled, not exactly ready for an outburst like that.
“I forgot.”
“What?” I tried to calm my nerves.
“I also came over to tell you about my cousin, Otto.”
“Umm, okay.”
“Otto Arkman, he’s my ma’s kin.”
“And…?”
“He’s eighteen.”
At this point I was starting to get a little annoyed. “Dagwood?”
“Huh?”
“What is it about your cousin?”
He fell silent for a few moments, almost as if collecting his thoughts. “He’s real smart—maybe not as smart as y’all, but he’s smart.” Then he picked at his fingers. “He lives in North Platte. That’s over in Lincoln County.”
“Oh.”
Dagwood pulled a chair up next to my bed. “I wanted to tell you about him because he’s into electronics and stuff.”
“I see,” I replied, trying to be polite.
“His family is kinda rich. They have about two thousand dairy cows—and a bot.”
“How can he help me?”
“They came over for a family barbeque this weekend and I asked him what kind of bot they had.”
I perked up slightly.
“He says they have an old model 108. Helps with getting all the cows milked.”
“Did he say what year it was?”
Dagwood scratched his head. “Umm, what year is yours?”
“It was made in 2022.”
“His is 2024.”
Despite the utter disheveled condition of my poor brain, I was beginning to see where Dagwood was going with this. “And their bot still works?”
“Yup! Plenty fine.”
“And they can get parts when it breaks?”
“Yup!”
At that very moment I wanted to hug the daylights out of my simple-minded friend. “Could he get me parts?”
“I’m sure he could.”
“How would I get them?”
He waved his hand through the air dismissively. “Pishaw! They come over all the time.”
All the time?”
“Yeah. I dunno why I didn’t think of that sooner.” He playfully smacked himself on the forehead. “They’re coming over in two weeks; you wanna meet him?”
“Of course!” I blurted out the words with the most strength I’d had in days.
“If you want, I can bring him by and you can show him your bot.”
“Yes, yes, perfect!”
He stood and returned the chair to its original place. “Well, I better be goin’. You look like you need to rest and get better.”
“Thanks for the visit.”
Dagwood smiled broadly. “No problem, friend.”
“I look forward to meeting your cousin.”
“He’s pretty cool, you’ll like him.” He opened the door. “I’ll see ya ’round, Jonah.”
Before I could reply, he disappeared.
I sank back into the bed, my heart thumping with excitement. At the time I may not have known it, but I was learning a valuable lesson about the Outer States: it’s not what you know, but who you know that can solve many a problem.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Servo 11:1

Servo 11:1

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. Soon winter was upon us. The other kids in school steered clear of us. That was fine by me. Dagwood was my only friend besides Rory. Suz had grown even more distant toward us. I knew she hated it here and couldn’t wait to leave. Her eighteenth birthday wouldn’t be until March next year. I’m pretty sure she was counting the days until she could run away from this horrible place.
At first, I hated it too. There was little for GEE kids to do. But work on the bot kept my brain engaged enough to make it bearable. Rory and I took near weekly trips to Jimmy Pineapple—err, Pinepply, for parts. I now believe Dagwood has thoroughly corrupted my brain with his malapropisms. I can’t say his name without calling him Pineapple. Oh dear!
Grandpa had been generous enough to purchase bicycles for us. I think he believed the exercise would do us well. In a way, it has. Although Rory and I have become far more dare-devil on the highway as of late, we have made excellent use of our new conveyances.
It was now early December and I awoke one Saturday morning feeling like there were a thousand little demons with sharp hammers banging away in my head. My hips, back, and knees felt like they were being twisted apart. Was I dying? I’d never experienced such agony. My whole body was cold, sweaty, shivering, hot, and jittering, all in the same moment.
Slowly I climbed from bed. Only last month Grandpa and Grandma had finished redecorating another room. It was now mine. I actually loved it. The d├ęcor was tastefully masculine, the bed, new and comfy, and I had a great view of the barn out front. And best of all: I didn’t have to tolerate Rory’s incessant snoring anymore! How a child of his young age could…what was that term Dagwood used? Oh, yes, saw logs, was beyond me. But I was eternally grateful to have my own abode. I still didn’t have a proper closet, but a stand-alone wardrobe proved a suitable substitute. No longer did I have to tromp upstairs to the very creepy attic to fetch my school clothes.
I groaned as I pulled on my robe and headed for the door. Surely Grandma would have a remedy for whatever ailment I was suffering. My head began to spin, I reeled to one side and nearly fell over. My only saving grace was the door knob. I grabbed it and held on for dear life. That wasn’t the worst of it, no, then came the horrible feeling that my stomach was wanting out through my mouth. Having never been sick a day in my life, I can only assume this is what was implied by the term “throwing up.” Oh, it was awful!
With every bit of waning strength, I yanked open the door and made a beeline for my grandparent’s bedroom. It was only a ten foot walk, but it seemed to take hours. My feet were lead, my legs, cast iron, and my mind traveling at light speed. I knew where I needed to be, but I didn’t seem capable of getting there.
At last I finally reached the door. My knuckles stung fiercely as I rapped on the door. “Grandma!” I tried to shout. What came out was more of a whimper. “Grandma, help!” I knocked again. Pain shot up my arm. “Grandma!” I slumped to the floor.
Perhaps it was the sound of me hitting the aged hardwood floor that finally roused her from slumber. A few moments later, Grandma appeared. “Jonah? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, I feel terrible!”
She reached out and placed a gnarled hand upon my brow. “Yes, you’re burning up. Let’s get you back to bed.”
“And I feel like I want to…throw up.”
“Your tummy bothering you?”
I nodded, fighting back the acid that was threatening to come up. It felt like an active volcano was cooking inside me.
Without a word, Grandma reached inside the door, produced the wastepaper can, and handed it to me. “Just in case,” she said, getting a hand under my arm and helping me to my feet. I wobbled and nearly fell again. “Sounds like you have a case of the flu.”
“Flu?” I replied weakly.
“Influenza…Don’t get too worried, it’s common out here.”
“But—”
“We’ll get you fixed up. Most likely you’ll feel pretty bad for a few days.”
“I want to die!”
“Nonsense,” she said with a little chuckle. “You’ll be all right.” With her free hand, she pushed open the door to my bedroom and guided me in.
By now the whole world was spinning and I wanted to lie down. My stomach refused to surrender. I could feel it coming. Without warning, I dropped to my knees and paid homage to the waste can. Grandma was gently patting me on the back, trying her best to comfort me in my time of agony. How much more of this would I have to endure?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Servo 10:3

Servo 10:3


I left Jimmy’s that afternoon with a backpack full of parts. I couldn’t wait to get home and show Rory. He’d probably be mad at me for leaving him out of the excursion, but I didn’t care. Dagwood was kind enough to give me loan of his sister’s bicycle. Perhaps I could get Grandpa to buy us some with the money provided for our maintenance.
After dinner, Rory and I went to the barn. In my absence, my little brother had done some cleaning up in the old place. The workbench was now cleared, save for the bot parts on it. I felt exhilarated as I approached. My backpack weighed heavy with parts and wires.
“So what did you get?” Rory asked as he flicked on the lights.
“Quite a few of the boards the mice chewed, some wiring, and a couple of small actuation motors.”
“Cool!”
I placed the pack on the bench and opened it, carefully removing each piece. As I laid them down, Rory picked up each one, inspecting it. When the bag was empty, I took a step back and surveyed the wreckage of bot strewn all over. This was going to be a lot of work. “Oh,” I sighed, “where to start?”
“Start at the top.”
“I suppose that would be logical.” I went to the bot’s head. Leaning over, I looked to see what kind of tools would be needed to disassemble it. “Rory?”
“Yes?”
“In your cleaning up, did you find some hand tools?”
“Lots.”
“Where are they?”
He wandered over to a large shelf. “I organized them here. Hope Grandpa won’t be mad.”
“Can you find me a small screwdriver?”
“Flat?”
“Yes.”
A moment later, one was thrust at my face. I took it, giving him a look of displeasure in regards to his somewhat rude actions. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome…I figure you can do the fixing, and I’ll give you the tools.”
“That’s fine.”
With screwdriver in hand, I commenced to removing the bot’s front facial cover. The memory core that we previously removed was still tucked under my bed. I had yet to find a way to charge the small batteries enough to get it to work. There had to be a way, I just hadn’t figured it out.
“So, how does it look?” Rory pestered, looking over my shoulder.
“Broken,” I replied with irritation. Evidently more mice had moved in and set up housekeeping in the space just below the bot’s eye sockets. There was pink and yellow fluff crammed everywhere. I began picking it out. “What is this stuff?”
My brother roamed around the barn trying to find the source of the mysterious fluffy material. Several minutes went by and he reappeared with a handful of pink fluff. “Look.”
“Where did you find that?”
“Stuck between the walls over there.”
“What is it?”
“Perhaps some sort of insulation. What do you think?”
I took the handful and examined it. The fluff was stuck to a brown paper backing. Turning it over, I read: R-15 residential insulation. “You’re right. It’s insulation. But I’ve never seen any like this.”
“We’re out in the old world now,” Rory replied. “They don’t have all the nice new stuff we have.”
“True.” I set it aside and continued probing for more that found its way into the bot’s head. These country mice were certainly industrious. When I thought I had all of it out, I picked up the screwdriver and began working my way farther inside. Once in a while I’d require another tool. Rory was always quick to bring it to me. As each part was removed, Rory took it upon himself to clean and organize them. I have to admit, he was good at that.
Time must have escaped us, because no sooner had I emptied the bot’s head of parts, Grandpa came into the barn. “Hey, time for bed!”
I glanced out the dirty window and indeed, it was dark—quite dark. “Sorry,” I said, putting down my work and giving Rory a nudge.
“You can start on that bright and early tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” I shuffled past him. “Grandpa?”
“Yes?”
“Would it be possible to use some of our money to get us bicycles?”
“Bicycles?”
“So we can get around without you having to take us everywhere.”
“Can you even ride one of those contraptions?”
“Yes, Dagwood let me borrow his sister’s bike. After a few incidents, I did quite well.”
He rubbed his chin. I soon learned that he did this when he was in deep contemplation. “Well, I need to go into town tomorrow. I suppose you boys could ride along and we can stop at the store and find you some.”
I smiled broadly. “Thank you.”
“Do you think Suzette will want one?”
Rory and I burst into laughter. “Not on her life!”