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Boy Meets Robot
It seemed like nothing at first, but then what happened that hot, summer day changed my life forever.
It was the middle of summer, one of those summers where the heat blazes down and has the capability of making any neck bright red within ten minutes. Out here in the middle of nowhere, it gets pretty brutal. So there I was, stuck in my bedroom with nothing to do but watch water drip from a leaky pipe outside my window. It evaporated upon contact with the red-brick roof, fading into the haze of the scorching Arizona sun. I was also a bit sore about the fact that my father was no longer here to spend it with me. He had been like a best friend to me, and all this time I had to think about him only made it worse. If he had been here, we would have been out riding ATVs in the dunes, or maybe chilling in the shade. Suddenly, I heard my mother call from downstairs,
“Joseph! Lunch is ready!”
I stomped down the staircase, the wood creaking below my leather boot-clad feet. I turned around the corner, my mother waiting there for me, her blue eyes twinkling as she held a plate of sandwiches before her. I snatched up one and began to munch on it hungrily. My mother did the same, but slid a plate beneath my hands, giving me an angry look, chiming, “Manners...don’t forget them, even if I am your mother.” She smiled, and I continued to munch on my turkey and cheese sandwich, my mother soon standing and pouring me a glass of pink lemonade. I gulped it down, the artificial flavor slipping down my throat, cooling me against the heat. But I then realized what I was eating used to be my dad’s favorite.
I stood, about to go back to my room, when my mother placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. “I love you, son. Don’t ever forget that.” I gave her a weak grin, and trudged back up the stairs, continuing my ritual of watching the dripping water dissolve into thin air. Practically a minute later, someone knocked on the door, so I leaped up and raced down the stairs yet again. Upon opening the door, I saw it was my good friend, Grace. Despite the heat, she’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt, her dirty blond hair pulled up into a wavy ponytail. Her cheeks were flushed, and I could see her skin starting to burn. I quickly let her inside.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” I repeat.
“I have to show you something.”
So I followed her, my shaggy brown hair now shoved into a baseball cap and sunscreen smeared all over my arms and face. We walked silent for a few minutes until she made an unexpected right turn, heading towards a hill. After pulling my legs over the crest, I saw a beaten up wooden shack down in the valley, surrounded by patches of spiky barrel cactus and long scraggly strands of blooming ocotillo. I was wary of going down there, but Grace said otherwise.
“You have to see this!” she insisted, grabbing my wrist and starting to stride down the hill.
Now we stood before the shack, the door cracked and broken, making it easy to enter. Grace pulled open the door, dragging me inside. The shack was a workshop of some sort. Metal parts and gears lay all over the floor, the air smelling of stale gasoline and rust. We turned around a corner, and she pointed towards some kind of machine, partially covered by an oil-splattered cloth. She let go of my wrist and yanked off the cover, revealing a robot of some sort. Its head and body were square pieces of metal, and two red bulbs were placed where its eyes should be. A strip of gadgetry substituted for its mouth, and a video-screen was welded into its chest. Grace rose her eyebrows, and jammed a red button on the chest of the machine. It began to buzz to life, its parts jittering and shaking, its head moving back and forth. Then a pop sounded throughout the shack, and the eyes lit up.
“Bzzt...Greetings, master. I am Rob-bot 2.0. How may I be of service?”
“Whoa...” I said, “That’s cool.”
Grace nodded her head, her arms crosses over her chest. “I know right?”
But what was weird was the fact that he had the same name as my dad...sort of. My dad was named Rob, but his name is like a stranger in my head. I haven’t thought about him in a while, for he died just six months ago. But there’s no point thinking about him now.
We wasted away our afternoon journeying through the desert with our new friend. We rode on Rob-bot’s back, our hats pulled at fierce angles over our faces to hide our delicate skin from the sun. We stopped by my house once to get some water, but then quickly came back and explored some undiscovered areas nearby. Some of our findings included an owl’s nest in a bulky saguaro cactus and a small pink flower, just about to bloom.
By the end of the day, both Grace and I were exhausted. After Rob-bot and I dropped her off at her house, we began to roll along the dunes towards home, but he took a sharp left turn when we were about four minutes away. I told him that we were going the wrong way, but he said nothing in response. We went up and over a hill, and once we trudged down, my breath stopped, my eyes widening in awe.
We had stopped at the secret place my dad and I used to come to every night, just when the sun was about to set. The two beat-up wooden boxes we used to sit on were still there, planted next to each other, overlooking the cliff below. The sun was a sliver of yellow against the crimson-orange haze of the sky. It was more beautiful than I remembered. I hadn’t been here in what seemed like forever.
I walked over to the cliff’s edge, which was blocked by a fence that my dad and I had made back when he was alive. There were a bunch of dents and scratches in the wood, and even a nail or two sticking out, but it still made my eyes start to tear up. I ran a hand over a post, a splinter getting caught in my thumb, making me wince. I then turned to Rob-bot, and asked, “Why exactly did you bring me here?”
The screen on his chest buzzed to life, showing an image of a younger version of me, probably from when I was six years old. I was holding a bowl of chocolate cake batter, and it was smeared all over my face. I was sporting a wide grin, which stretched all across my face, making some of the batter drip off of my face and onto the kitchen floor. The only person who had seen me that day was my dad. My mom had been away at work. I then realized the point of all of this.
“Joseph...bzzt...I am your father.”