Kindlegraph

Friday, March 27, 2015

Servo 16:1

Servo 16:1


April showers did indeed bring May flowers. The barren plains exploded into a cannonade of colors. Reds, blues, yellows, oranges, and purples replaced the several feet of white snow which was my only perspective for much of the wintertime. There was such a complete metamorphosis of the world around me. I felt new and alive again, my seasonal hibernation was over. We could finally shake the heavy coldness from our shoulders.
Suz celebrated her eighteenth birthday the end of March. Mine had been mid-February, still in the clinches of blizzardville. Turning fourteen hadn’t been a big event for me. Rory was to have his eleventh birthday in a couple of weeks—the end of May. I considered him the fortunate one. He usually had fine weather for his festivities.  
For much of the new year, the bot remained stagnant in the barn. I’d gone over the code dozens of times and could find no error. My communications with Otto were sparse; he was busy with the family farm keeping cows happy and warm. I did ask him about getting a new memory core. His response: raucous laughter. So taking that as a “no,” I decided to give things a rest until the weather warmed up. And now it was looking like we could resume our work on the old hunk of junk. 
It was Saturday morning after breakfast. Suz was hurriedly getting ready for a date with Otto. Yes, she was still seeing him, and that shocked the daylights out of me. My sister wasn’t the kind to be hanging with one guy for very long. The fact she’d been seeing him several months now led me to think something was going on. She never said much about what they did on their dates. Not that it mattered anymore, she was considered an adult. There was nothing Grandma and Grandpa Cranwinkle could do.
Rory and I were just coming out of the kitchen when we heard knocking on the door. Suz had gone upstairs to assumedly finish primping and prepping for her date. I answered the door, knowing it was Otto.
“Hi, Jonah.”
“Hello, Otto.”
“Have you got that bot running yet?”
“No.”
He stepped into the entryway and looked around. “Suz getting ready?”
“Yes.”
I glanced over and saw Rory watching our exchange. “Hey, Rory?”
“Yes?”
“Can you excuse Otto and me for a few moments?”
“Uh, yeah. I’m gonna go to the barn. Grandpa said I could help plant corn today.”
“Thanks,” I replied and waited until he left. “Otto, can I talk to you?”
“Sure. About what?”
“Suz.”
“What about her?”
“Look, I may be her younger brother, but she’s my sister and—”
He put his hand up to stop me. “We haven’t done it…If that’s what you wanna know.”
I breathed a careful sigh of relief.
“Look, I like Suz a lot. But I respect her. We’re both adults, and should she choose to—”
“No!”
“It’s her decision.”
“Jonah?” Suz said. She was standing behind me. “What’s going on?”
I turned to her. “You and Otto.”
“So?”
Suddenly I became tongue-tied. “Behave!” I barked and stomped out the door. Crossing the yard to the barn, I went in and found Rory tinkering on the bot. Grandpa had yet to appear. “Suz is gonna get herself in trouble.”
“It’s her life,” he replied, nonchalantly.
“Aren’t you worried about her?”
“Nope!”
“Not in the slightest?”
“No. She was mean to me quite often.”
“Still, she’s your sister.”
“And she’s an adult now.”
His words hit me like a slap across the face. Even my little brother had readily accepted her place among the grownups. Why couldn’t I? Outside I heard car doors close and the engine start. The car pulled away and silence replaced it. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am blowing this all out of proportion.”
“Yup,” he said, removing the junction interface.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking things again. Now that it’s warmer, we can work with clearer heads. No need to worry about frostbite.”
Above on the metal roof, I heard the scuffing and scurrying of birds; then the tell-tale “caw-caw” of crows. I was happy to hear them. Spring was my favorite time of year, and I was glad it arrived. We’d been in the Outer States about a year now, and I was feeling like this was home.
Grandpa wandered in and looked over Rory’s shoulder. “Haven’t got that bot working yet?”
“No, Grandpa, we’ve done everything and it won’t work.”
He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. “It was your waste of time.”
I spoke up. “What could be wrong with it?”
“I dunno. It’s old and I have no desire to work on bots ever again.” He went to the side of the barn. A large pile of white sacks were stacked against the wall. “Rory, are you gonna help me?”
“Yes, Grandpa.” He put down a screwdriver and went to assist.
As much as I tried to embrace the rural lifestyle, I could not bring myself to perform the arduous task of planting corn. I’m sure Grandpa would’ve appreciated all the help he could get, but I wanted to work on the bot. My mind was telling me I was close to getting it to function.
Rory and Grandpa loaded up the sacks and climbed onto the tractor. The loud roar of the diesel engine starting made me jump. I glanced over my shoulder and saw them. Grandpa sat in the seat, Rory was perched on the left fender next to him. They were talking quite loudly, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Soon, the barn filled with noxious fumes from the exhaust.
I coughed a few times. What were they waiting for? Were they trying to asphyxiate me? Finally, after a couple minutes, Grandpa put the mechanical beast in gear and drove out. I listened as the tractor disappeared down the drive, the racket of the engine slowly dying out. The fumes still hung heavy in the air. I went to one of the back windows, and with some effort, opened it to let the place air out.
As I turned back to the workbench, my heart nearly jumped out of my throat. Dagwood was standing a mere foot from me. How on earth had he entered so stealthily?
“Hiya, Jonah!”
“Dagwood!” I said, grasping my chest.
“Did I scare you?” He replied, seeing the color draining from my face. “Gee, you scare easily.”
“How did you get in here?”
“I Indian walked.”
“What?”
“I got a Great Uncle who’s an Indian. He taught me how to walk real quiet.”
“Ah…Can you do me a favor?”
“Sure!”
“Don’t do that again!”
Dagwood put his hands over his stomach and laughed loud and long. “You’re too funny, Jonah!”
I managed a few deep breaths to settle my nerves and went back to work. Dagwood took up position on my left side watching me. “Still not working?”
“No.”
“Well, that stinks.”
“Yes, it does.” I regarded him. “What are you doing here?”
“Thought since it was such a nice day, you might like to go for a bike ride.”
“Maybe. I don’t seem to be accomplishing anything here.”
“Saw Rory and your Grandpa goin’ out to plant. Aren’t you helping?”
“Not in the mood. I really wanted to get this bot fixed.”
“Why don’t we ride over to Jimmy’s? He might have an idea.”
It’d been ages since we’d been to Jimmy Pineapple’s. The winter locked us down to minimal travel. Now the roads were clear, and I’d wanted to get over there to relieve the ruined bot of some more wiring and maybe a memory core. “Sure, why not.” I put the junction interface and memory core into the bot’s head and covered everything up. “Let me go tell Grandma where I’m going.”
As I left for the house, Dagwood stopped me. “Hey, Jonah?”
“Yes?”
“Umm, as I was riddin’ up here, I thought I smelled cookies.”
Something about his observation made me smile slightly. “I’ll see if she’s got some we can take along.”
“Awesome!”
I left Dagwood on the front porch and went inside, heading for the kitchen. Besides informing Grandma of our plans, I wanted to wash up. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies hit me like a freight train. Dagwood was right. That boy seemed to possess a nose so acute he could sniff out a single cookie hidden in a cornfield.
“Hello, Jonah,” Grandma said as I entered the kitchen. “Did the cookies call your name?”
“No, but they did Dagwood’s.”
She uttered a girlish giggle, something rather odd sounding for a woman her age. “Yes, he’s like a blood hound, isn’t he?”
“I think so. We were gonna ride over to a friend’s house. Is that okay?”
“Is Rory going?”
“No, he’s helping Grandpa.”
She took a gingham check cloth napkin and gently stacked a dozen still warm cookies into it. “For your trip.”
I took the delectable packet. “Thanks, Grandma. We’ll be home before dinner.”
“Have fun, and be careful on the road.”
“We will.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Servo 15:3

Servo 15:3



Another day of school dragged by. Mrs. Graham made sure to query me heavily on the previous night’s homework. I was ready for her, never missing a question. She must’ve been satisfied; she changed her focus to Rory, who was also up on his studies. Suz was surprisingly quiet for much of the day.
Grandpa picked us up after school. More storm clouds gathered, more snow on the way.
“Good afternoon, children,” he said, opening doors for us.
“Hi, Grandpa,” I said, sliding into my position in the front seat.
“Have a good day at school?”
“Not too bad.”
“Looks like more snow.” He closed the door and went to help Suz. “It’s been years since we’ve had this much precipitation during the winter.”
“Is that a good thing?” I called over the seatback.
“Darn good thing.”
“Does that mean you might get to plant corn next year?”
“Certainly not hurting.” Once Suz and Rory were in, he closed the door and went to the driver’s side. “Now what we need is a fairly dry spring so everyone can plant.”
“Do you think that will happen?”
“There’s no telling how the weather will go.”
“Grandpa?” Suz piped up. “Why do they not have weather generators here?”
“Too expensive.”
“I’d think it would be a priority.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Well, much of this food goes to the Inner States.”
“Yes.”
“So there need to be perfect weather to feed everyone.”
He paused before starting the engine. “Well, if the Inner States folk are so worried about their food, why don’t they buy weather generators for us?”
Suz was silent a few moments. “I don’t know why.”
“Because all they want to do is take, not give.”
“Not everyone is like that.”
“No, but the government is the one who decides where the money goes.”
“You don’t think they would buy needed equipment?”
Grandpa turned slightly in his seat. “We’ve been in drought for over five years. Not once has the Inner States offered to help. Yet they complain when there’s a shortage of food and the prices go up.” He started the truck; the grumble of the engine pretty much ended the conversation.
Just as he was pulling away from the curb, Dagwood ran out. “Hey!”
Grandpa stopped.
I rolled down the window. “Need a ride?”
“Boy howdy do I! I got caught passing a message to a girl. The teacher gave me fifteen minutes detention.”
“Passing a note?” I opened the door.
Dagwood clambered in. “I didn’t write the note, I was just passing it.” He closed the door, turned to me, and smiled. “But she was a pretty girl!”
“Worth getting caught?” Grandpa asked.
“I thought so. But the pretty girl thinks I’m dumb.”
“Don’t pay any mind to what others think. You’re a good young man, Dagwood.”
“Thank you, Mr. Cranwinkle.”
Grandpa aimed the truck toward home. Along the way, snowflakes began to fall. “Am I dropping you at your house?”
Dagwood regarded me. “Can I hang out with you?”
“I don’t see why not,” I replied. “Don’t you have homework?”
“Did it during detention. There wasn’t much.”
“Right. How will you get home later?”
“I’ll just walk. It’s not that far.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? The storm might be a bad one.”
“I can always call Pa to come get me with the tractor.”
Grandpa drove slowly down the road. The snow plows had piled snow so high there was barely enough road to drive on. A few remnant rays of sunshine glanced off the drifts reflecting silver twinkles. I thought it looked beautiful. My favorite things were the icicles hanging from the gutter edges. One outside my window looked like an ice sword. How I dreamt that I could fight a battle with it. Living in the Outer States had definitely caused my imagination to grow.
“How much more of this snow are we going to have, Grandpa?” Suz asked.
“It’ll stop when it stops.”
“When will that be?”
“Spring hopefully.”
“And then the flowers come out?”
He chuckled. “Maybe.”
“Why won’t they?”
“Been so long in drought, most of them have died.”
“Pity. It would be nice to see them.”
“Maybe Mother Nature will work some magic.”

Friday, March 13, 2015

Servo 15:2

Servo 15:2


That night, after supper, I went to the barn. My mission was a strange one. I wanted the bot’s faceplate. My reasons were obscure, even for me. After returning to the house, I went up to my room and closed the door. The memory core was tucked under the bed. I reached under and grabbed the shoe box containing it. Piling everything on the bed, I got my tablet and plugged it into the wall outlet. The battery was getting old and not able to hold a charge long. I doubted that I’d ever get a replacement.
I went to the wardrobe and opened one of the burled walnut veneer doors. It was a massive piece of furniture: six feet tall, five feet wide, two feet deep, and very dark in color. Much of one wall was taken up by it. Inside the door was a mirror about three feet long. Some of the silver backing had peeled off, leaving dark splotches near some of the edges. Grandpa told me he’d bought it at an estate auction. Despite the age of the furniture, I loved my room and the privacy it afforded me.
As I stood in front of the mirror, I studied my features. Those who knew my father said I looked quite a lot like him. Perhaps I did. I had the same blue eyes, sandy brown hair, and jaw line of my father. Of course my mother had blue eyes—in fact, everyone in the family did. I guess being GEEs meant we had a close blend of our parent’s genes. Rory had slightly darker hair than me, and Suz was blonde like our mother.
Leaning closer to the mirror, I put a hand to my face and felt the warmth of my skin. Then I retrieved the bot faceplate from the bed and again appeared in the mirror. Slowly I brought the faceplate up. It was smooth, cold, and unfriendly. I pressed it to my face, wanting to become the bot. Gazing into the mirror, I saw my face replaced. Smooth soft skin became shiny hard metal; my lightly curved lips transformed into a slit for a mouth, and my delicate upturned nose, now just a bump. How unhuman I’d become. Deep inside, my motivation simmered. I wanted bots to become more human. Bots needed to have warmth, compassion, and a heartbeat.
Had anyone in the family entered my room at that very moment, they would have thought me mad. Why was I wearing a bot’s face? To me, it all seemed illogically logical. I was attempting to channel my inner designer. Maybe I was a bit crazy, I don’t know, but I needed to feel what it was like to be a bot. After several moments of wearing the face, I removed it and went to the bed.
Turning on my tablet, I waited for it to boot up. I took the memory core from the box and connected the interface cable to the tablet. A little green light on the core lit up. That was normal. At first when I’d started working on the core, a red light had shone, indicating damaged or corrupted lines of code. After weeks of work, the core had finally returned to functionality. Or had it? The bot was not working and everything Otto checked could not produce an error. So it had to be me.
I opened a program and began reviewing each line. It was like staring at alphabet soup. Grandma made excellent chicken alphabet soup, it was one of my favorites. This mess was far from fun and tasty. My eyes began to bug out after half an hour of work. I knew I better stop or risk missing something. I scrolled through the lines slowly.

<setup/boot/2334569/cut/log98/mode/trans5454/fin>
<setup/boot/2334570/cut/log98/mode/trans5455/fin>
<setup/boot/2334571/cut/log98/mode/trans5456/fin>
<setup/boot/2334572/cut/log98/mode/trans5457/fin>
<setup/boot/2334573/cut/log98/mode/trans5458/fin>

And on and on it went. The more I checked, the less I found wrong. Why would this bot not function? I felt like an island: alone and with no one to discuss the code. Otto was good, but he’d never dealt with the very private inner workings of a memory core. I wondered if he’d be able to get me a new one. Probably not. I’d be stuck trying to fix this one until I graduated school.
Feeling utterly hopeless, I closed the program and disconnected the core. I returned it to the box and put the lid on. Then I grabbed a memory stick and plugged it into the tablet. Dad, please help me. I started the playback and listened carefully. My father never kept secrets from us, not even on special occasions. I remember fondly my sixth birthday. He took us to a wonderful amusement park in Florida. The sun felt so good on my face. How I missed it now as winter raged on. And I miss seeing my mother and father so happy together.
I listened to his words until it was time for bed. Once in a while, Grandma would come up and “tuck” us in for the night. I wasn’t sure why she did it; perhaps it was to make sure we actually went to sleep. There was a light tapping on my door.
“Yes?”
“Come to tuck you in, Jonah,” Grandma said.
“Okay.” I quickly flipped the bedspread over the bot’s faceplate.
She opened the door and approached. “You’re not ready for bed.”
“I was just about to change.”
“Well, then I’ll just give you a good-night kiss.”
As she leaned down to me, I listened intently. No ticking, no whirring. She was not a bot and would never be a bot. How she accomplished everything she did on a daily basis boggled my mind. Her warm lips touched my forehead. “Get a good night’s sleep.”
“Yes, Grandma.”
She straightened up. “Were you listening to your father?”
I nodded.
“He was such a good husband to your mother.”
“And a good father to us.”
She smiled broadly. “The best!”

Friday, March 6, 2015

Servo 15:1

Servo 15:1



Monday rolled around and I secretly hoped for a snow day. No such luck. Grandpa spent Sunday on the tractor plowing the driveway so we could make it to the road. I wanted so much to have another day that I could scrutinize all the code in the bot’s memory core. The frustration that it wasn’t working made a sore pit in my stomach. How could I have messed it up? I was the son of one of the finest bot designers on the planet. What rookie mistake had I made? Now I’d be forced to spend an entire worthless day in school before I could get home and work on it again.
The three of us sat in our tiny broom closet classroom. Mrs. Graham was droning on about Outer States history. Normally I enjoyed history, but not today. My mind was firmly fixed on the bot in the barn. I contemplated the snow falling outside the tiny window. This had to be the longest, coldest winter I can ever remember.
“Jonah? Will you please explain to me the Constitution of the United States?” Mr. Graham said.
I snapped back into the here and now. “Uhhhh.”
“You did the reading assignment for chapter eleven, didn’t you?”
“Uhhhh.”
She rose from her chair, folding her arms. “That’s not like you.”
“Sorry,” I squeaked.
“And would you care to explain why you did not do the assignment?”
“I was busy working on a project.”
“Project? Certainly not a school project.”
“No. Something personal.” I imagine the amount of remorse in my tone of voice was enough to prove I felt guilty about skipping the assignment.
She stared me down. “Don’t let it happen again.”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Suzette, would you be so kind as to explain the Constitution of the United States?”
I watched my sister stretch tall and straighten in her chair. She placed both hands on the desktop and gave her lips a quick lick. “The Constitution of the United States was a document created the seventeenth of September in the year 1787 by our founding fathers. It was designed to outline how the country would be run, rights of the citizens, and government.”
Mrs. Graham nodded. “Very good, Suzette.”
My sister shot me snotty glare. Had I not had Rory in the desk between us, I’d have reached over and smacked her. Of course that would have led to being in more trouble than I already was. Tonight, I’d make sure I did the assignment. Mrs. Graham always gave us tests on Fridays, so I had a couple days to prepare. My perfect grade point average would not be tarnished.
The morning session ended and the bell sounded for lunch. I was starving. We hurried out of class and jostled our way to the cafeteria. Since there was so much snow on the ground, we were forced to eat inside. I didn’t like eating in such close proximity to the other kids; they always seemed to gawk at us. You’d figure that with all the time we’d been there, the novelty would have worn off. Nope!
Rory selected a table far in the back. I think he felt self-conscious about being watched as well. Suz plopped down with her back to the wall. For some reason, she wanted to see what was going on. The noise was intolerable. Hundreds of voices competed to be heard above the others. Shrill cackling, bellicose laughter, and the occasional screech; I hated it.
I’d no more taken a huge bite of a delectable roast beef sandwich when Dagwood showed up. He sat down on the bench with enough force that it bumped me into the air slightly. I was certainly not expecting that. Some of my sandwich went down the wrong pipe. I began to cough.
“You okay, Jonah?” Dagwood said.
I shook my head.
“I’ll fix ya.” He reached behind and smacked me in the back with terrific force. I was nearly sent face-first to the table. I coughed a couple more times and felt the bite of sandwich realign to the correct direction. Grabbing my drink, I took a swallow, helping it down.
“Now are you okay?”
“Yes, I think so,” I croaked. “But you didn’t have to sit down like that.”
“Like what?”
“You sent me flying.”
“Pishaw! Did not!”
“Yes, you did.”
“Oh, well, then I’m sorry. I’ll sit down more careful next time.” He opened a beat up steel lunch box and dug out a sandwich. “Momma made me peanut butter and jelly.”
“How delightful,” I said with a heavy note of sarcasm.
“This is extra special jelly.”
Rory decided to join the conversation. “What’s so special about it?”
“Peach blush marmalade.”
“Then it’s a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich.”
Dagwood frowned. “Aw, don’t be so technical about it, Rory.”
“Well, it’s not jam, and it’s not jelly, it’s marmalade.”
“Peanut butter and marmalade—there’s no ring to it.”
“Ring?”
“Yeah, you know, somethin’ catchy.” He began to gyrate in his seat. “Peanut butter—jelly! Peanut butter—jelly! Peanut butter—jelly!”
“Ah.” Rory turned his attentions back to lunch.
“Jonah?” Dagwood said.
“Yes?”
“You gonna work on the bot today?”
“Shhhh!!!!”
“Geez, come on, no one in their right mind can hear you.”
Suz regarded Dagwood. “I heard you.”
“You don’t count.”
“Don’t I?”
“You know about it.”
“And what if I said something to someone else?”
I gave Suz a vicious glare of daggers. “You better not!”
“Or what?”
“Don’t taunt me.”
“Why? What will you do to me?”
“Suz, this is not the time or the place. Please, just drop it.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

Servo 14:3

Servo 14:3


Morning arrived bright and early. The sun was shining and reflecting off the fresh snow. I was up and ready to get to work. I went down and found Rory already jamming waffles into his mouth. Today the bot would work, I was sure of it.
“Morning, Jonah,” said Grandma as she plopped a big plate of waffles in front of me.
“Good morning,” I replied, wasting no time digging in. Being so cold, I knew I’d need every available calorie to keep warm. How I miss the days when my father would smuggle me into his fancy workshop at Servidyne. There was so much to see and do, it always amazed me. And I never had to work with frozen fingers.
As I gobbled down breakfast, I saw Suz wander in. She seemed unusually calm, not her normal agitated self. Grandma must have sensed it too.
“Good morning, Suzette,” she said in an uplifting tone.
“Good morning, Grandma,” Suz replied, taking her seat.
“Jonah said you were out with Otto Arkman.”
“Yeah.”
“Interesting young man.”
“Yeah.”
I could tell Suz was not going to divulge information about her date with Otto. Still, I wondered what went on. Had they kissed? Just talked? Or did something a whole lot more adult happen? Trying to read my sister was like trying to read a multivariable calculus book. Except in this case, I think the book was easier to understand.
Rory and I finished long before Suz. We dumped our plates in the sink and hurried to the hall so we could pile on the layers of snow clothes. Grandpa bought us special boots that were supposed to keep our toes toasty warm. I’m confident the salesman pulled the wool over Grandpa’s eyes. The boots did little to keep out the cold.
After several minutes of dressing, we tromped outside to the frozen tundra. There was so much snow it was getting hard to see the old wire fence that ran along the driveway. I wondered how we’d get to school Monday. The sun shined, icicles hung long on the eves of the barn and house, glimmering like silver daggers. I heard noise coming down the drive. It sounded like a motorcycle.
Craning my neck, I tried to see what was approaching. Rory paused and watched with me. Several moments later a snowmobile rumbled toward us. Someone in an orange snowsuit was piloting the vehicle; another person was seated behind in a black and white snowsuit. Both wore helmets, so I had no clue who was calling on us.
The snowmobile halted in front of us and the driver cut off the engine. Silence quickly filled the air. It was immediately replaced by Dagwood’s bellicose voice. “Mornin’ Jonah!”
“Hi,” I replied, surprised by his arrival.
“Brought Otto with me.”
Otto removed his helmet and nodded. “Morning.”
“Snow too deep for your car?”
“Yeah, barely made it to Dagwood’s. He was nice enough to dust off the snowmobile and bring me over.”
Rory was staring in awe of the machine. “Dagwood?”
“Yeah?”
“Would you take me for a ride on that?”
“Of course!”
If there was one thing that endeared Dagwood to me, it was his boundless enthusiasm. No matter what the task, he was up for it.
Otto climbed off and placed the helmet on the seat. “Shall we get to work?”
I led the way to the barn; we were forced to wade through nearly two feet of snow. Then we teamed up to dig open the barn doors. Five minutes later, we were finally inside. I went to the bench and uncovered the bot. “We left it to charge all last night.”
Without a word, Otto went to work. He started at the top and worked his way down. Nearly a half hour later he came up for air. “I don’t see anything wrong.”
“I didn’t either. But why won’t it work?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno.”
Rory leaned forward. “Could it be all the lines of code you fixed, Jonah?”
“Fixed?” Otto said, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I went through each line and cleaned up the memory core.”
“That may be the problem.”
There was no hiding the audible groan that emanated from me. Had I messed up? Had I deleted something I shouldn’t have? My stomach churned. All the work we’d put into the bot and maybe I’d screwed it up. My heart sank.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Servo 14:2

Servo 14:2

I wasn’t wrong in my ascertainment of the weather. The wind threatened to blow us clean off our feet as we struggled to cross the open gap between house and barn. I have no idea of the temperature, but it was biting cold. My nostrils immediately froze and I felt my boogers freezing as well. Oh, what an awful sensation! I pulled the thick scarf farther up until the only things that remained to be seen were my eyes. Snowflakes ripped through the air searing any bare flesh they touched. How I longed for the warmth of spring.
We reached the barn and hurried inside. Snow was piled high against one part of the door that had a crack in it. Nature was trying to invade any structure it could. The sun might be shining, but we couldn’t see it through the dense mat of clouds that continued dumping snow. It was late afternoon and I knew Grandma would have dinner promptly at 6 p.m.
I flicked on the lights. “I don’t know how long we’ll be able to work, it’s freezing in here,” I said, going to the workbench and removing the tarp from the bot.
“Is this the only part we’re missing?” Rory put his arms on the bench to watch me.
“Well, if I want to try and turn the bot into Dad, I’ll need another memory core, junction interface, and more wiring.”
“Can Otto get that?”
“Some. But for the wiring, I think we can visit Jimmy.”
“Maybe his bot’s memory core will be intact.”
“I doubt it.” I removed the bot’s faceplate and dove in.
We worked for nearly an hour. Even with numb fingers I carefully installed the junction interface and connected it to the memory core. The bot’s batteries had been checked and charged weeks ago. All that remained was to flip the switch.
I stood back and admired our work. The bot was complete. Granted there were still some areas on the bot’s external housing that were tarnished, but overall, it was ready to live again.
“Rory? Will you do the honors?” I said, pointing to the bot’s neck.
“It’s ready?”
“Sure. We’ve checked everything two or three times. It should work.”
“Gosh!” Rory said, rubbing his mittened hands together. “You want me to throw the switch?”
“Why not? You worked just as hard as me.”
He shook his head. “No, no, you were the one who made friends to get parts. You should do it.”
I stared at the lifeless golden bot and prayed that when I flipped the switch it would come to life. Why wouldn’t it? Everything had been rewired, the mice evicted, and it boasted a new junction interface. The memory core had every line of code scrutinized and verified before making any changes. There was nothing that should keep the bot from functioning. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, you did most of the work, you should have the honors.”
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” I said, pretty much fabricating a lie.
Rory folded his arms. “Nope, it’s all yours.”
“Fine.” Slipping off my glove, I reached behind the bot’s neck and found the switch. “Here’s to all the months of work.”
An audible click could be heard as I threw the switch. Rory and I watched. Nothing. We watched longer. Nothing. I flicked the switch on and off a few times. Nothing.
“Batteries are okay?” he said.
“Yup. And I checked all the wiring again the other day. Why isn’t he working?”
He?”
“Well, it’s going to be Dad, so that makes this bot a he.”
“Mmm, guess you’re right.” Rory inspected the bot. “But what’s keeping him from functioning?”
“I dunno…We might want to call it a day; I can’t feel my fingers, toes, or nose anymore.”
“Me neither. Should we plug him back in to charge more?”
I grabbed the charging cable. “Can’t hurt I guess.”
Rory helped sit the bot up so I could plug the cable into its back.
“We’ll leave that go another night.” I said. “Come on, let’s get back to the house and thaw out.”
We covered the bot, left the barn in haste, and tore across to the house. As the front door closed behind us, we began rapidly stripping out of our snow gear. A delicious aroma permeated through the house. Pot roast, I believe, one of my favorite meals.
I looked at the clock on the wall of the entryway. It was close to 6 p.m. I was confident Suz wasn’t home, and she probably hadn’t bothered to tell Grandma where she was going. She’d been gone over four hours. A part of me was worried.
Going into the kitchen, I bellied up to the sink and washed my hands. Rory stood behind waiting his turn.
Grandma was humming a lively tune as she stirred something on the stovetop. “Jonah?”
“Yes?”
“Have you seen Suzette lately?”
“She went out with Otto.”
Grandma ceased her humming and stirring. She turned to me. “Out with Otto?”
“Umm, yeah.”
“Well, this is a surprise.” She returned to her culinary endeavors. “A surprise.”
“I don’t know where she is,” I said, not exactly trying to cover for her.
Just then I heard the front door open. And there was giggling. Giggling. Girlish giggling. It was a sound that I thought would be absent from my ears the rest of my life. Was my dear, sour-hearted sister actually happy? What on earth had gone on between her and Otto? Whatever it was, it shocked me.
I poked my head out of the kitchen to see Suz and Otto standing in the entryway. It was obvious she was gooey for him. The last time I saw her like this was about three months before our father died. She was falling all over herself for Robbie Banks who was two grades higher than she was. I didn’t like the guy, he seemed more self-centered than Suz—which I now find hard to believe.
But here she was, standing in the hall, swaying back and forth, and hanging on his every word. Oh, I wanted to barf! This was my friend. How could she? I was the one who took the time to foster his friendship, and now she was stealing him from me. I couldn’t let that happen. “Otto!” I said, bursting onto the scene.
“Oh, hey, Jonah.”
“Hey, uh, I installed that junction interface, and nothing!”
“Nothing?”
“Nope. Not even a spark.”
“Batteries charged?”
“Yup, but we’re charging again. And we checked them, so we know they work.”
Otto rubbed his chin. “Hmm, not sure what it could be.”
“Do you have time to look at it?”
“Getting kind of late. Can I come over tomorrow?”
“Sure, sure. Thanks.”
He looked at his watch. “Well, I better get going. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay.”
Otto leaned a little closer to Suz. “I’ll see you tomorrow, too.”
She giggled.
The sound was like fingers on a chalkboard to me. I felt my nerves twitch. This wasn’t Suz; this was a fake someone switched in the middle of the night. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Servo 14:1

Servo 14:1


As winter dragged on, I was growing less and less enthusiastic about venturing to the barn to work on the bot. Otto secured the interface cable and I spent much time in my room reprogramming the memory core. It was painstakingly slow work; the core had a dismally small memory bank and I had to go through thousands of lines of code to decide what to “keep” and what to “throw.”
My biggest stumbling block was Otto’s difficulty in getting the precious junction interface I so desperately needed. Without it, the memory core and the whole bot were useless. He told me that it was a difficult part to get, and I was now in full agreement with him. My thoughts began to wander to Jimmy’s partially destroyed bot. I couldn’t remember if the head was obliterated or not. Maybe that one tiny part was still intact. Did I want to ride all the way over there for the possibility of an empty hand?
I sat on the bed looking out the window. Snow fell in torrents. Would this season ever end? I desperately craved warmth, flowers, and rain. A faint glow of light wormed up the driveway. A visitor? In this weather? I saw the glow become two—that of headlights. I went to the window and peered out. The car pulled up near the house. Someone got out. It was difficult to tell just who it was. The darkly clad figure dashed onto the porch and I lost sight.
Below me, knocking on the door. I knew Grandma was in the kitchen; she’d answer. A few moments later, I heard her shoes clacking across the hardwood floor. The door squeaked as it opened. Muffled voices. Then, “Jonah!” she called, “It’s Otto.”
I tore from the room, down the stairs, and nearly tripped over my feet as I hurried to greet my friend. “Hi!” I said, skidding to a stop in front of him. Grandma retreated to the kitchen.
“Hey,” he replied nonchalantly. “Did you see my new ride?”
“Ride?”
“The car. I bought it two days ago.”
“Oh, excellent. Congrats.”
“Thanks.”
Above on the landing I heard the floor creak. I glanced up to see Suz peering down. I knew what she wanted. Two months had passed since she asked me to find out if Otto liked her. I hadn’t forgotten, but I wasn’t in any hurry either.
“Hey, Suz,” Otto said, giving a slight nod.
My eyes darted back and forth watching each of their body language. Perhaps there was some chemistry.
“Hello, Otto,” Suz replied, coming downstairs. She didn’t stomp down the steps like she tended to. No, this time she sauntered like she was in some romantic movie. Maybe I wouldn’t have to use any of my match-making skills after all. Suz was readily telegraphing her desires to Otto without my help.
“Did you hear?” he said.
“No, what?”
“I got a car.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful.”
I swore I could see gooey sap dripping from her voice. This was not the same sister I’d been living with for nearly a year. No vile stare, no vicious jabs, no protesting, nothing! It was if she flipped a switch and became someone else. Is this what love does to people? Fascinating.
Otto opened his knee-length black wool coat and dug around an inside pocket. After some difficulty, he produced a small white box. “Here,” he said, offering it to me.
I took it; hoping it was the junction interface. The box was the right size for such a part. Lifting the top off, I saw the tiny interface with accompanying servo. “Yes!”
“That should help you out.”
At that moment I wanted to throw my arms around Otto and hug the daylights out of him. “Thank you!” Finally the precious part I needed to make the bot functional. My enthusiasm nearly overwhelmed me. I wanted to get right to work. But something stopped me. I paused and watched the interaction going on between Suz and Otto.
“Hey, would you like to go for a ride in my car?” he asked.
“In this weather?”
“It’s got a good heater in it.”
I was totally dumbfounded. Was my sister being that stupid? Our school in the Inner States taught us about sex. Yes, it was part of the curriculum in the sixth grade. We learned all about it; how to do it, how to prevent pregnancy, and even the miracle of birth. School taught that sex was best left to the responsible adults in society. Our time would come; we needed to exercise patience. I knew Suz had paid attention in class, and once I even caught her watching a dirty movie on her tablet. Did she intend on breaking the rules? What was this newfound rebellion? It was only a month and a half before she turned eighteen. Why now?
“I’d love to,” she said. “Let me get my purse and coat.”
I stepped in front of her. “Suz—”
“Shut up, Jonah.”
She pushed past me and went to the hall closet, retrieving her coat and purse. Without another word, she collected Otto and disappeared out the door. I was left to watch and wonder if my sister would become the biggest moron on the planet. What did I care? She would soon be on her own and able to make decisions as an adult. I still had five more years to wait. Truly, I wasn’t looking forward to the mating game.
Rory came from his room. “Hey, was that Otto?”
“Yup!” I held the little white box up in triumph. “The junction interface!”
“Awesome!” He thundered down the steps. “Can we go work on it?”
“Sure. That wind’s really whipping. Better dress warm.”