Kindlegraph

Friday, August 15, 2014

Servo 4:1

Servo 4:1

Two days later, Grandpa loaded us up in the truck. He drove into Broken Bow and the local school. As he pulled into the parking lot, we got our first look at Outer States children. They didn’t look so dissimilar from us. Their choice of clothing, however, was quite different. The girls wore dresses in various colors. Most had their hair tied up with ribbons. The boys were outfitted in what Grandpa called “blue jeans.” I suppose it was the fabric of choice for the working class.
He parked the truck and got out. The three of us were rather hesitant. I knew from what little reading I had done on the plane that these children were not GEE. They had been conceived and born like had been done for thousands of years. There was nothing special about them. I was confident they were nowhere as intelligent as we were.
“Come, children, let’s get you enrolled in school.” Grandpa led the way to the office. Along the way, I could see the kids giving us funny looks. It was as if they’d never seen school uniforms before. The three of us were all dressed similar. We wore white shirts, gray pants, and black shoes. Suz wore a dark gray skirt instead of pants. We all felt quite naked, however, without our tablets. In our society they were used so much they literally became an extension of the body.
Grandpa found the admissions office. He held the door open for us. I entered first. There was a middle-age woman sitting behind a desk. She didn’t have the most pleasant of expressions on her face. I can’t imagine I did either, considering where we were.
“Hello, Mrs. Bagley?” Grandpa said, closing the door once Suz had shuffled in.
“Yes.”
“I’m Abe Cranwinkle. I spoke to you the other day about three children.”
“Oh, yes, have a seat.”
I looked around, there was only one chair. Grandpa quickly occupied it and left us standing against the wall.
“As you can see,” he continued, “they come from the Inner States.”
“Do you have transcripts for them?”
“No, they only showed up here a couple of days ago.”
Mrs. Bagley looked at me. “Can you tell me what school you attended?”
I straightened up. “The New Philadelphia School for Enlightened Students.”
“Mmm, you’re one of those, huh?”
Never before in my life had I heard someone berate a GEE. We were held in high esteem because of our enhanced intelligence. Here it seemed, we were going to be looked down upon. My emotions and still tender psyche weren’t ready for that. “Ma’am? Why is being intelligent so wrong here?” I finally mustered the words.
“Because you’re so smart, we don’t have a teaching curriculum for you.”
Rory spoke up. “You mean we’re too smart for school?”
“Probably.”
“So what can we do?”
She nervously shuffled some papers on her desk. “I’ll have to make some calls and see.”
I glanced at Suz. From the moment we arrived at the school, I could see her beginning to boil. This was not a place for her, and now it had been confirmed. She began to laugh. The laugh grew louder and more hysterical until it nearly went out of control. I reached over and swatted her. “Suz, knock it off!”
Of course she ignored me. All she could do was laugh and point a finger at Mrs. Bagley. My sister knew she was too smart for this school. And she was probably twice as smart as the woman sitting behind the desk. I secretly think Suz liked that. She had power over these commoners. After a few minutes, her laughter died out.
Rory was nearly as bright. His IQ had been tested at 188. But he used his brain and applied what he was taught. Suz just seemed to let her intelligence seep out along with her stupidity. Such a waste. Strangely enough, I was the dumbest in the family. I was the one with great aspirations, and yet my IQ was only 170. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
Back in New Philadelphia, we all wore our IQs like a badge of honor. Sure, I was one of the less intelligent in my class, and I even got teased on occasion. Surprisingly, it was usually Rory who came to my aid. He would tell the class bullies that I’d been dropped on my head as a baby, so the lower IQ wasn’t my fault. Eventually they backed off and left me alone. I wonder how the dumb kids in this school are treated?
“Mr. Cranwinkle, can you give me a few days to figure out what to do with them?”
Grandpa stood and ran his hands down the front of his shirt. “Well, I guess I don’t have any other choice.” He went to the door, opened it, and waved us out.  
Once in the hall, Suz piped up, “So, we’re too smart for school!”
“Don’t get so excited, Sis. This may mean we have more housework to help out with,” I said. That answer zipped her lips and made the smug grin on her face rapidly disappear. TouchĂ©! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Servo 3:2

Servo 3:2

With our first disturbing night in the dilapidated house behind us, I decided to explore a bit. The structure was surprisingly big. Everywhere I went, there was another door. Just when I thought I’d run out of doors, another appeared. Stepping up to it, I smelled an incredibly musty, what I would consider, stench. It seemed to be emanating from behind the door. Did I dare open it? Was there a body of someone hidden back there? The house was pretty creepy.
I reached and grasped the smooth, round brass knob. It was worn from probably hundreds of years of use. Giving it a gentle turn, the knob made a loud squeaking sound. I froze, afraid of being discovered in a place I wasn’t supposed to be. My ears heard nothing except wind whistling through the screen on the window to my right.
With a little more effort, I finished turning the knob. It clicked. Then I leaned close, put my other hand against the door and pushed. The door scraped open and I thought the whole world would hear. Again I froze. Nothing. Not a single peep from Grandma who I was sure had to be just down the hall.
The door opened to near darkness. The moldy reek hit me full force, almost making me ill. I’d never smelled anything that bad before in my life. Peering in, I could see little. There was a window in the room, but a heavy curtain was drawn across letting in only a sliver of light. My eyes began to adjust. I ventured slowly. The single ray of light was highlighting the dust particles that hung in the room. They looked like little gnats hovering about.
I stopped in the middle of the room and slowly circled. I was surrounded by books! Books that rarely anyone of our influence would have seen. Everything in our sphere of existence was digital. The only real book I’d ever seen was in school. Our English teacher brought in a tattered copy of someone called William Shakespeare. I remember him as some dead Englishman who wrote odd poems. The teacher was even so brave as to pass the book around the class, letting us all touch and smell it.
That was my first and only experience with a printed book. Now I was in a room surrounded by hundreds—maybe thousands of them. I wanted to take in a deep breath to fill my young lungs with all this information. Did I dare? Mother had always taught us that old things could make you sick. I wondered just how given that we were genetically engineered in a lab to be resistant to most illnesses. I’ve never been sick a day in my life.
My eyes fully adjusted to the dim light. I began to wander around, looking at the books on the shelves. They were all so foreign to me. And it was bizarre to have to crane my head to the side so I could read the titles. With our reading tablets, there was none of that. Everything was aligned to our anatomical comfort.
I reached out and touched a couple of them, feeling the rough, grainy covers. They seemed to be bound in some sort of brown material. With a shaky hand, I slid one from the shelf. It felt heavy despite being only a few inches square. It was much heavier than our tablets. As the book came into my hands, I noticed the edges of the pages were colored in a rather pretty mosaic of colors. I’d never seen anything like this before.
Carefully, I cradled the book in my left hand and with my right, drew the hard cover back, revealing a title page. A Christmas Carol was written in funny lettering. Below it was evidently the author, one Charles Dickens. Hmm, never heard of the guy, I mused, turning another page. When I saw the date on the book, I realized why. It had been written over two hundred years ago! Things written before The Great Separation were seldom taught in schools.
I closed the book and gently returned it to the shelf. Then I wandered, looking at a few more. One title caught my eye: I Sing the Body Electric. Such an odd name for a book. I had to see what it was about. This book didn’t appear to be as old as the other, so I plucked it from the shelf. The cover was definitely unique. Splashes of purple and black and what appeared to be a gold-colored woman in profile. Stories by Ray Bradbury. Who was this guy?
With a little less care, I opened to the page where the date would be found. It said 1969, first printing. Okay, so what? Then I flipped to the index. This was such a strange feeling. Our tablets had an index readily available, if you wanted to go to a particular place, you just touched the text and zing! you were there. Books and all this paper seemed such a waste. This was the year 2055, things could change for the better.
As my finger drew down the line of the index, I saw the same name as the book title. It was then I surmised this was probably a collection of what was called short stories. Locating the one that shared the book title, I leafed through the pages until I found it. It didn’t take but a moment or two before I was engrossed in the abstract prose of the author. No book I’d ever read was like this. He minced words, split sentences, and had me by the tip of my brain.
“You like science fiction?” Grandpa said, scaring the life out of me.
I stood dead still, afraid of the punishment that would come from breaching the inner sanctum.
“That’s Ray Bradbury.”
“Uh, yes, I saw that.”
Grandpa approached. “He was one of the greatest sci-fi writers of the twentieth century.”
“Oh,” was all I could squeak.
“Take it, read it, if you want. Just put it back when you’re done.”
“Really? You’re not mad that I’m in here?”
He waved his hand as if to dismiss me. “No, no, these books have been here for years without someone to read them.”
“Have you read them all?” I asked.
“Yes. Some I liked, some I didn’t.”
“Where did you get them?”
“Well,” he said, settling into a brown heavily padded chair. “Because I’ve been around since before The Great Separation, I knew where all the libraries were.”
“Libraries?”
“Where they kept books—so folks could check them out and read them.”
“Oh,” I said again, taking a seat across from him. I was quickly realizing that Grandpa was a fascinating old man, and I longed to know him better through his stories. “There were no tablets?”
He chuckled. “Not until early in the twenty-first century. Books were all our ancestors had.”
“How primitive.”
“And after things went bad, I rounded up as many books as I could and built this library.”
For some reason, I felt restless, so I got up and wandered around again. “All these books?”
“Yes, I had a couple of truckloads that I salvaged before many burned.”
“Burned?”
“Millions of books were lost when the cities burned. I saved what I could…These are some of the last known specimens in America.”
“I read that the war was terrible.”
Grandpa leaned forward. “It divided this country. That why it’s no longer called the United States of America. Now it’s just plain ol’ America.”
“Did you fight in the war?”
“No, but I had a hand in the killing of hundreds of thousands.”
“How?”
He folded his arms and rested them on his stomach. “I worked for the same company as your father.”
“You worked for Servidyne?”
“How do you think your father and mother met?” He gave a purposeful wink. “You mother was my daughter.”
I vaguely remembered my father saying something about how they met. But there was a bigger, deeper question burning inside me. “Grandpa? Did you build battle bots?”
“I was one of the chief designers.”
There was fear, wonder, and awe enveloping me. My Grandfather had been one of the primary instruments in the death of this country. With his battle bots, he turned the tide of the war and created the dual cast system of today. The rich lived in walled cities of splendor, while the working class and poor toiled to feed them. All my life I had known nothing of what existed outside the walls.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why were Grandma and Grandpa living here? “Grandpa?”
“Mmm?”
“If you were a designer, then you were rich. Why did you come out here?”
“After the war I realized there was nothing for me in the city. I wanted to breathe the air as it flows across the land, not cleaned and filtered.”
“So you moved to Nebraska?” I was stunned.
“Yes. The land was cheap, and I have always dreamed of having a farm.”
It was at that moment I fully believed my Grandfather had lost his mind. No one leaves paradise for the filth and stink of the Outer States. My mind was blown.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Servo 3:1

Servo 3:1

That evening, after a rather unusual dinner, we were getting ready for bed. I heard a panicked cry from Suzette. Fearing she’d encountered a venomous bug or ferocious rodent, I ran to her room and banged on the door. “Suz? Are you okay?”
A moment later she opened the door, her tablet in hand.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It won’t work!”
“What?”
She handed it to me. “It doesn’t work!”
I poked at the screen; all I got was fuzzy static. “Hmm,” I said, turning it over in my hands a few times as if attempting to find the source of the problem. “I dunno.”
“Make it work, Jonah!”
“Sis, I don’t know what’s wrong with it.”
Grandpa Abe must have heard our exchange. He came from their room. “What’s going on?”
I held out the tablet. “Suz’s tablet isn’t working.”
He chuckled. “It won’t.”
“Why not, Grandpa?” she asked.
“There’s no internet here.”
I watched Suz’s mouth fall open. “WHAT??!!” she screamed.
“Our lovely little farm is far away from the Inner States. Internet signal doesn’t reach here.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Suzette put her hands over her mouth, crumpled to the floor, and cried like a baby. My dear sister couldn’t live without her precious net.
Rory heard the commotion and came from the room. “What’s wrong?”
“Have you tried to use your tablet?” I asked.
“No, my battery died and I was trying to figure out how to charge it.” He pointed to the wall. “Where’s the wi-tricity antennas?”
Again Grandpa chuckled. “There aren’t any.”
He scratched his head. “Well, then how do you make the lights work?”
“Wires,” Grandpa said. “This house has wires that bring electricity to everything.”
Rory looked at me. “Didn’t they mention something about that in school?”
“Vaguely.”
“Well how am I going to charge my tablet?”
“Why bother? It won’t work anyway,” Suz grumbled.
“Huh?”
“There’s no internet here. This place is the middle of nowhere. We’re marooned!”
“No internet?” Rory echoed. I could see his face going pale.
“That’s what Grandpa just said.”
Rory slouched to the floor. “No wi-tricity, no internet, no tablets. What are we gonna do?!”
It seemed that I was the only cool-headed one in the group. “Grandpa, how do kids here learn?”
He rubbed his hand across his white-whiskered face. “When you get enrolled in school, they’ll issue you a tablet that has all your learning materials on it.”
Suz stood. “So there is internet here.”
“No. The tablets are pre-loaded with everything you need.”
“What good is that? How will I do my homework and reports? How will I communicate with my friends back home?”
“You’ll adjust…And this is home now.”
She scowled. “This is not home! How could Daddy send us here?”
“Suz,” I said calmly, “Daddy didn’t have a choice. He died. Grandma and Grandpa Cranwinkle were the only relatives alive. We aren’t old enough to be on our own.”
“I’ll be seventeen soon; I want to go back to the city.”
“Eighteen,” I added. “You have to be eighteen to be on your own.”
Suz huffed and stomped off to her room, slamming the door. I looked down at Rory, who was still sitting on the floor in shock. “You need to get to bed.”
“I don’t wanna go to sleep. I hate this place.” He got up and went to the room, closing the door loudly behind.
Grandpa regarded me. “How come you’re not upset about all of this?”
“I guess I am kind of. But part of me knows that if I don’t accept this, things will be harder on all of us.”
He put his leathery, wrinkled hand on my shoulder. “You’re a good boy, Jonah, and I think you’ll grow up to be a fine man someday.”
I looked into his tired eyes. “Daddy was a good man.”
“Yes, he was.”
“And I don’t think he died accidentally.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I just have a feeling.” I paused for a moment, gave a polite nod, and headed back to the room. Without the use of my tablet, how was I going to hear my father’s voice?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Servo 2:3

Servo 2:3

Grandpa Cranwinkle trudged in the door with the last of our bags. I’d packed reasonable, just one large suitcase and my carryon bag. Rory had two small suitcases, and Suz apparently had tried to pack the entire house into the two largest suitcases our family owned. She also had a weighty carryon. I’m sure the baggage handlers were cursing under their breath when they loaded her things.
“Okay, children, let’s get you moved in,” Grandpa said, taking my bag and heading upstairs.
We followed him. As I ascended the steps and saw the burgundy and cream vertically striped wallpaper, I noticed photos that hung on the stairway. Were these family of mine? Their faces looked unfamiliar, except when we got to the top, I saw one of my mother. She had to have been in her early teens and wore clothing similar to what Grandpa was wearing. Mother was standing on the ground beside a horse. She held its head by two long strap-looking things. Had she ever mentioned being around a horse to us? I didn’t recall. Was this why Rory was interested in horses? I figured I’d find out eventually.
Grandpa stopped at the first door at the top of the stairs. We stood on a wide landing that somewhat doubled as a hall. There was deep dark wood paneling on the bottom of the wall and the burgundy and cream wallpaper carried on its motif up here. He opened it and went in. “Rory, Jonah, this is your room.”
“We have to share?” Rory said, disdain in his voice.
“I’m afraid so. At least until we can get another bedroom painted and ready…We weren’t exactly expecting long-term company.”
“We weren’t expecting to be sent away from our home,” Suz replied. “We were quite happy where we were.”
“I’m sure you were…Unfortunately, life changed which cards you were dealt.”
Suz folded her arms across her chest. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Grandpa reached in and turned on the light. “It means that your life is now changed and you’re stuck with it.”
“What about the cards?” Rory asked.
“Cards?”
“Yes, Grandpa, you said cards. What about them?”
“That was figuratively speaking.”
“Oh.”
I almost wanted to laugh. Yes, I love my brother dearly, but his naivety about the world was almost too much. Rory seriously needed lessons on how real life played out. Maybe this would enlighten him.
Our room was nothing fancy. There was white wallpaper with blue flowers, the window treatments were lacy white, and the spread on the bed was similar to the wallpaper. The floor was wood. It seemed lacking in the comfort department. A dark wooden dresser and a trunk were the only other fixtures in the room.
I looked around for a closet. “Grandpa?”
“Yes?”
“Does this room have a closet?”
“No. I’m afraid you’ll have to put your clothes up in the attic.”
His statement caught me off-guard. “What?!” It was bad enough that I was being forced to share a room with my little brother, but to keep our clothes in another part of the house; that was downright odd.
“It might only be for a month or so. Just until we can get another room ready and then find a wardrobe for this room.”
“Wardrobe?”
Grandpa brought his arms out away from his sides, stretched them wide, and then moved them above his head as if to describe something large. “A wardrobe is a large cabinet where you can keep clothing.”
“What about a closet? Doesn’t this house have them?”
“Very few. This house is over one hundred years old…Actually, getting closer to two-hundred.”
“I bet it’s full of bugs!” Suz said. She’d been keeping quiet as us boys were introduced to our living quarters.
“This is a farm, there are bugs here, and snakes, and rodents like mice and rats.” Grandpa replied nonchalantly. “This is not sterile city living.”
“I hate them all!”
“You’ll get used to them.”
I nudged Rory and we went and brought in our bags. Somehow we’d have to share this small room and put aside our sibling rivalry so we didn’t inflict bodily harm on one another. At home we were blessed with separate rooms, which was a good thing since we didn’t always get along.
“I’ll leave you boys to get unpacked. What you can’t fit in the drawers, I’ll help you with in the attic tomorrow. Dinner will be ready shortly.” He went to the door. “Come, Suzette, I’ll show you to your room.”
I heard them go down the hall. A few moments later, a loud protest came from Suzette. It was clear she didn’t like her living arrangements. I wasn’t too keen on mine, but Grandpa said it was only temporary. Let’s hope so.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Servo 2:2

Servo 2:2


The truck bumped along a dilapidated road. We seemed to be driving forever. Really, it was only a few miles, but Grandpa wasn’t making any attempt at going much more than forty-five. Finally we turned onto a dirt driveway. Dust rose behind as the truck jostled and rattled. I saw a white two-story house. It was big, square, and had loads of windows. The roof was dark gray and a little of the paint was peeling from the siding. I recall having seen something similar in my history texts when we covered the Great Separation. It called the people who worked the land “farmers” and those who raised animals for consumption, “ranchers.” I wondered what grandpa did. I almost hoped he was a rancher; I’d been curious for some time about the actual processing of animals for human consumption.
“All right, kids, here’s home,” Grandpa said, pulling up to the house and shutting off the noisy engine.
“I’m not going to live here,” Suz protested. “It’s horrible!”
Grandpa swiveled around partway in his seat so he was looking back at her. “I’m sorry this is not to your standards, but this is where you will be living.”
I glanced back and saw the expression on her face; she was nearing tantrum stage. “Suz, we don’t have a choice. How about just accepting it?”
“NO!” she screamed. “I will not!”
Without another word, Grandpa snatched the keys out of the ignition and climbed out of the truck. He walked to the house and opened the door.
“Come on, Rory,” I said, getting out and opening the back door for him.
He hopped out, his shiny black shoes landing on the dusty ground and creating a cloud around his ankles. “It’s an old house.”
“Yes, it is. Maybe we can find some hidden passages or something.”
“Oh, that would be neat.”
I knew Rory liked reading mystery books. Perhaps with the age of the house and promise of adventure, it would soften the blow to him somewhat; I could only hope. As for Suz, I had no idea on how to gain her acceptance of the situation. Time might mellow her somewhat.

When we first entered the ancient looking farm house, I immediately saw disdain on Suzette and Rory’s faces. They are neat freaks, terribly so, and I knew this would not suit them. A thick layer of dust lay on just about everything. For the most part, the contents of the house seemed in their place. There was no dirty laundry strewn about, no leftover dishes scattered on tables and floor. The place was just old. My nose picked up the musty odor of age. I’d never smelled it before, but I knew what it was.
Light filtered in through dusty windows giving the entire place a sepia tone. Someone might have mistaken it for warmth, but this old house was far from it. Perhaps we would find that warmth. Maybe it would be in Grandpa’s smile, or a hot meal, or maybe even seeing the sun rising each morning. I wasn’t sure. This was home now and I needed to figure out how to make the best of it.
We were met by Grandma Cranwinkle. She looked nearly as ancient as Grandpa. She wore a blue floral printed dress and a white lacy apron was tied around her waist. It definitely reminded me of an image I’d seen in the school texts. Her hair was grayish-blue and hung in large curls about her head.
“Hello, children,” she said in a melodious tone. I’m sure she was trying to exude as much warmth as possible in this austere environment.
“Hello, Grandma,” I said. It was impossible to hide the discomfort in my voice.
“Ah, you must be Jonah.”
I nodded.
“You look so much like your father.”
“I do?”
“Yes, you have so many of his facial features…And those beautiful blue eyes.”
“Oh,” was all I could manage.
“Grandma, where’s your service bots?” asked Rory.
The old woman brought the tips of her fingers together in front of her chest and pressed them into a steeple form. “You must be Rory.”
“Yes.” He looked around. “Where are your bots?”
“Oh, no, we don’t have those here.”
“Well who does the cleaning? The cooking?” he insisted.
“I do, child.”
I watched Rory’s eyebrows go up.
“You cook?”
“Yes. This is my house. I don’t live in privileged society as you did. I suppose if I really wanted, I could get Abe to build me one. But truly, I’m happy doing the work myself.”
Suzette decided to throw her weight into the conversation. “Who’s going to do our laundry?”
Grandma regarded Suz, ever so slightly cocking her head and working a smile onto her aged lips. “I’ll teach you.”
Imagine the total amusement that rocketed through me as I watched Suz’s jaw drop almost to the floor. My dear sister, the one with an IQ of 195, was now going to have to deal with housework. I wanted so badly to laugh. Of course I knew there were going to be demands made of me. Being the middle child, I always seemed more flexible to change than the others. In a way, I suppose I was ready to have my eyes opened to the world. Maybe this would help me grow up. My only fear was would I ever return to the Inner States? If I was going to follow the dream of picking up my father’s work, I had to go back.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Servo 2:1

Apologies for not having this out yesterday, but we were supposed to take 2 sick birds to the vet at 2 pm, instead the vet called us a 9 am to have them there at 11:30. Needless to say, we were there almost 3 hours, and when we got home, we had gobs of stuff to take are of with them and the rest of the flock. Hoping all will be well. So, without further adieu, here's Servo.

Chapter 2:1

I gazed out the window of the plane. It was a small one. We’d had to change planes in Chicago in order to get out of the Inner States. Our flight from New Philadelphia had been pleasant. The food was good, and the stewardesses nice. Now we were crammed into this flying tin can that pitched and bucked with every little thermal. I watched the skies change from deepest blue to something of a washed out sepia color. I figured it was what they called pollution. Having never seen it, only heard about it in school, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The land below seemed dusty. I saw circles and squares of green interspersed with large amounts of brown as the plane descended toward our destination. Everything looked flat. Not a hill, not a valley, nothing.
Our family plan representative assured us that everything was taken care of. She’d contacted our only surviving relatives, Abe and Eliza Cranwinkle. They were my mother’s parents. We’d heard about them, but never met them. I often wondered why they didn’t live in the Inner States. My mother never said she came from a poor background. In fact, she never said much about her early life. Was she that ashamed?
We were headed to somewhere called Broken Bow, Nebraska. I’d tried to access information about it on my tablet, but we lost signal after we left Chicago. I suppose I should have done it earlier. According to what I found, we were going to the geographical center of the state. After The Great Separation, the Inner States reorganized and some of them were combined or renamed. The Outer States, for the most part, retained their original identities. Well, except for that place that was once known as California; it had mostly fallen into the ocean after a massive earthquake and was basically uninhabitable. Only the utter scum of the Earth lived there in clan-type societies where the strongest survived. The images and accompanying text on our tablets told a chilling story. I’m glad we’re not going there.

The plane touched down and rolled to a stop. I peered out the window and didn’t see much. To my right was the “terminal” with a few hangars and tarmac. To my left was a field that held long stripes of dirt pushed into neat rows. Little green leaves came from the ground. I didn’t know what it was. I assumed it was some sort of food crop. In the Inner States, all our food is brought to us processed. We were told what each food item was supposed to be. Sometimes they all looked and tasted alike.
As the plane taxied to the end and turned around, I saw a property with a few shiny metal buildings. Some were long and rectangular; a couple were round with pointed roofs. I wondered as to their function. The whole landscape stretched on for miles. I glanced over at Suz and Rory, both somehow still asleep. Perhaps all the crying exhausted them. It had been a rough two weeks. I knew I’d have my time to cry, but it seemed I wasn’t ready yet. Someone in the family needed to be mature and stoic. Somehow that responsibility fell on me.
Minutes later, the tiny plane was pulling up to the terminal. The door opened and people started to get up. There were only fifteen of us on the plane, so it didn’t take long. I nudged Rory and Suz. “Hey, wake up, we’re here.”
Rory opened his eyes, yawned and stretched.
Suz rubbed her eyes. “We’re here?” she asked.
“Yeah.”
“Well?”
I think she was expecting me to give her a rosy statement about the fabulous grandeur of the place. “It’s small, really small.”
She squinted and looked out the window. “This?”
“Yeah.”
“Oh, no, this won’t do!”
I gave her a shove, trying to get her out of the seat. “It will do; we don’t have a choice.”
Rory got up and collected his things. “Maybe Grandpa Abe has a horse.”
“A horse?” I said. “What do you know about horses? You’ve never even seen one in real life.”
“But I want to.”
“I hear they smell,” Suz said, roughly snatching her bag from under the seat and elbowing her way down the aisle.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I dunno, Rory. We’ll see.”
We walked off the plane and into the brilliant sun. I could feel the dust hanging in the air. And there was a heat to the gentle breeze that I found unwelcoming. So far my observations of the place hadn’t revealed anything exciting. In fact, it was just the opposite.
A man dressed in a blue uniform held the door open as we entered the terminal. Our baggage would be unloaded and brought inside shortly. We felt a cold rush of air hit us. This building had air conditioning! I breathed deep, feeling the coolness chilling my lungs. It felt wonderful.
There were few people in the terminal. I scanned the area hoping to find someone who resembled a grandfather or grandmother. Having never met them, it was a strange and unnerving feeling. I wasn’t even sure how old they were. I only assumed that they were old.
“Suzette? Jonah? Rory?” a raspy male voice called.
I turned to my right and saw a tired-looking little old man standing about fifty feet from us. He wore a faded red plaid shirt, brown pants, and held a brown narrow-brimmed hat in his hands. Grandpa looked ancient. Most of his hair was gone, leaving gray wisps trailing from the sides of his head, and brown splotches dotted his pale face and head. Wrinkles covered every inch of exposed skin. He must have been a thousand years old.
“Jonah?” he said again.
“Grandpa Cranwinkle?” I said, still very leery of him.
“That’s right, Abe Cranwinkle.”
I think he did that to reassure me we weren’t being kidnapped. Somewhere I’d read that kidnapping was a common practice in the Outer States. This place was bad enough; I didn’t need it getting worse. For now, I was the protector of my older sister and younger brother; neither had their wits about them. I was forced to remain calm and logical until such time that I felt everything was safe and sound.
“Hello, son,” he said, holding a hand out to me. “Let’s get you three home.”
“How old are you?” Suzette blurted. Despite her unobvious high intelligence, my sister had the tact of a rock.
“I’m eighty-seven years old.”
“Why are you so wrinkled up? Don’t you have laser-primming surgery?”
“An old man like me has no use for that sort of stuff.” He motioned. “Come, you all must be exhausted from your journey.”
We collected our bags from the carousel and he guided us out to a large truck-like vehicle. It was yellow, mostly rusted, and covered in dust.
“I’m not getting into that,” Suz protested.
“It’s that or you’re walking home,” Grandpa said, not flinching from her intentional barb.
“That thing is gross!”
“Get in,” he said firmly, putting our bags in the back of the open bed.
“I want to go home, back to New Philadelphia.”
“I’m sorry, this is your home now.” He opened a rear door and gestured for her to get in.
Suz stood fast. “No!”
I was tired and in no mood for an argument from my sister. I reached out and smacked her on the back. “Get in!”
She spun around, her hand reared behind her head ready to strike at me. “Jonah!”
“Let’s not fight, Suz, just get in the truck.”
“It’s filthy!”
I stared her down. “Get in,” I said in a low tone. She regarded me with distaste and let out a little rebellious snort as she climbed into the backseat. I’d won the battle, but not the war.
Rory got into the backseat, and I took up position in the front. We set out from the airport, going what I thought was south. After a few minutes, we entered a small town.
“This is Broken Bow,” Grandpa said. “The population used to be about three thousand, but now, with the feedlot closing, it’ll probably drop more.”
“Feedlot?” I asked, unsure of the term.
“It’s where they bring cattle to fatten them up for slaughter.”
“How gross!” Suz cried from the backseat. “How can they kill animals?”
I turned in my seat. “Suz, you know those hamburgers at the Paradise CafĂ© that you love so much?”
“Yes?”
“Where do you think they come from?”
“EW!”
“Yes, you are eating what once was a living, breathing, animal.”
“Oh! I thought they made those burgers from plant material.”
I shook my head. “Nope.” Was my sister just playing blind to the issue? Or was she really that dumb about life in general? I’d make up my mind later about that.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Servo 1:2

Happy 4th of July! Hubby drove down to Tennessee and came back with a carload of fireworks. Gonna be mighty noisy in this neck of the woods tonight!  At least the weather is supposed to be good- last year we had massive thunderstorms and tornado warnings. The sun is out and the temps quite comfortable. Ahhhh...

Here's your weekly installment of Servo. Much more to come.

Servo 1:2


We were sent home via a bot taxi. Mrs. Lowe called for one and programmed our address into its computer while still in the comfort of her office. I didn’t figure she was the kind to be out in the weather very long. She didn’t look happy at the funeral.
On the way home, I’d had thoughts about reprogramming the taxi to take us somewhere else. The problem was, I didn’t know where else to go. Home was our sanctuary and refuge, no other place brought us that solace.
“Good evening, children,” one of our service bots said as we trudged into the house.
I paid it no mind, instead, I headed for my room. The clothes I wore now reminded me of my father’s death, and I wanted to be far from them. Once changed, I brought the clothes to a bot. “Incinerate these.”
“But Master Jonah, these clothes are not damaged,” the bot replied. “Shall I clean them for you?”
“No, I want them gone, out of my sight!” I could feel the cracks forming in my mental fortitude. Another few minutes and I might snap. “Just get rid of them.”
“Yes, Sir,” the bot mindlessly replied. I watched it turn and head to the garbage disposal chute. It opened the door and piled the clothes in, then closed the door and returned to its station near the kitchen.
My father had only been dead a few days, buried a few hours, and I missed him like it had been years. I was at a complete loss for what to do. I only knew I needed to do something to keep his memory alive. I headed back to my room, but on the way, paused at the doorway of his home office. Everything was there: desk, computer, digital files, papers, and his old trusty chair.
I crept in. The lights were off, but I knew my way around quite well. I’d spent hundreds of hours in this very office discussing things with my father. He would tell me the advancements they were making on the bots, show me schematics, and one time, took my suggestion and incorporated it into the software. Imagine how proud I felt about that!
Going around the desk, I pulled out the chair and sat down. It was so strange. This was his chair. I usually got one of the spares and sat next to him so I could watch what he was doing. My hand stretched forward and turned on the computer. Technically, I had no right to do that, it was Servidyne property for the most part. But something egged me on. My gut told me his death wasn’t an accident. Did I expect to find the motive buried somewhere in his files? Was there something he was working on that warranted his death? I might never know, but my mind wanted to hear him again.
The screen flashed bright blue and then the desktop icons started showing up. My father kept an audio log of his work. Copies were kept at Servidyne and here at home. I knew the police had confiscated the work files, but did they realize he had a second set? The cursor moved over the icon, it flashed, waiting for me to click on it.
My finger tapped the inteli-pad and I watched the log open. A blank white screen appeared followed by a chronological listing of his log entries for the last six months. I glanced over my shoulder and saw several plastic cases containing data sticks of his other years’ entries. Somehow I knew they would find their way into my suitcase. I wasn’t going to leave the last shreds of my father around for the cleaners to discard. His words were precious to me, and I was going to preserve them.
I moved the cursor down to the last entry and clicked on it. The screen blinked and then a black box showed with a white arrow on it. I tapped the pad and closed my eyes as the voice of my father filled the room. His voice was deep, commanding, yet ever so loving toward us children. His entry began:

“Log entry for March 29th, 2055…Today I suffered a setback. The graphene base for the neuro circuit board failed for some reason and caused the whole thing to catch fire. Good thing I had a fire suppression canister right by. Although I don’t think Mr. Pierce was too happy when I informed him of the failure. I probably set the company back six to eight weeks…And then there is the other problem: the main gyro-servo…I’ve completely redesigned the mechanism to perform on a much lower voltage. But the problem I’ve encountered is that even with the correct voltage, it’s not working when installed into a bot body for testing. It was designed to allow longer time in between charges for the bots; thus creating less down time. And being lighter, more energy efficient, and an overall better servo, it should have worked like a charm. Instead, all it does is sit there. Maybe I’ll have to build a bot with the old servo and submit that. It may take me a lot longer to perfect the new servo, and I can’t hold up production much longer than I already have…Signing off.”

The audio ended, leaving a low static hissing that enveloped the room. An eerie silence made my heart pound. I’d heard his voice, that comforting voice, and it made me want to cry. My father was a proud man, and to hear the disappointment and frustration in his words pained me. He was a brilliant man, how could a dumb little servo cause him such grief? I’d built them by the dozens at school in electronics class. My instructor was impressed with my skill. How I wish father was alive now. We could work through the problem and then he'd get recognized at work for his achievements. Instead, he'd be remembered for his past achievements.
I opened the desk drawer and rummaged around. A small box of data sticks was hidden under papers. I took one and inserted it into the computer port. Then I downloaded all the recent files. Father’s ghost was going with me. No one but me would know that I had all the data sticks.
Turning off the computer, I got up and carefully removed three boxes from the shelf. They weren’t big, probably four inches square, but they were all I had of my father. I would guard them with my life. Perhaps over the next few years I can learn from them. Maybe when I'm older I'll be able to return to the Inner States and get a good job. I fear there is nothing for me in the nowhere land. How could our parents have done this to us?