Σάββατο, 4 Ιανουαρίου 2014

The Matildas




On the midnight of his 8th birthday, when mom and dad were asleep, Jeremy flicked the ON switch of his little sister.

Jeremy wanted nothing more than a little sister of his very own. He had gotten tired of being the only kid in the house, with no-one to play with him when he was bored, without a little girl to share the stories the he wrote on his little notepad for her, that he was sure she’d like: they had unicorns in them and rivers of syrup and castles and knights.
“Oh sweetheart, you can’t have a little sister just yet” mommy would tell him in the brief moments they had together after she’d stop looking at the screens. He’d make a fuss of course, and bang his hands on the table.
“What if you had a baby brother? Would that be so bad?” his dad would ask him, between peeks at the mountains of papers filled with squiggly, wriggly lines spewing out of the machines. So he’d kick at dad’s papers and pour coffee on his jeans.
But Jeremy didn’t want a little brother; he would just take away his toys and bash them and break them. They would fight and bicker and when he was older, he would have to drive him to school. Little sisters need drives to school too, but at least they don’t fuss when you don’t let them sit on the passenger’s seat.
So Jeremy studied the schematics that his mom worked on and he read the books in the bookshelves. He got the joints from a yard sale and he ripped the wires from his teddies. He built the eyes from the digital cameras in the attic and painted them himself (one green, like mom’s the other brown, like dad’s). He borrowed a couple of processors from the 3d printer that was buried in the garage to build a brain and made feet and fingers from silly putty. The skin, he made out of felt.
He blew his candles and he was quiet and smiled for the guests, went to his bed on time and slept without a word, making sure not to arouse any suspicion. When his little sister began to function, she gurgled and purred and played with Jeremy, it made him so happy! She was smart and could write her name with the blocks, she didn’t cry or make a mess. She listened to his stories, clapping her little hands and went to sleep when he flicked her OFF switch.
So Jeremy took her and put her in his toy locker. He called her Matilda, because he liked the name and he taught her to record and say back his name. And the days passed by happily and mom’s belly got bigger, dad’s hairline got thinner until one day they left the house and came back with a little sister.
“Come say hello, Jeremy” they told him “we’ll call her Matilda.”
But Jeremy was struck dumb, when he saw the little thing in the blanket, eyes squinting and gurgling. That was not what he wanted! So he brought his Matilda from the toy chest and showed it to mom and dad. This was his sister, he’d built it himself!
His dad looked at Jeremy’s Matilda with grime in the felt. He saw her eyes washed out and chipping, the joints creaking, her voice and her gurgles a rasp. He took it from his hands and put it straight in the trash. “Go back to your room and no dinner tonight” and Jeremy bawled and he cried until he was hoarse. When he was done, his father came to see him “I’m proud of you boy, you’re a bona-fide genius. But what you made down there can’t be your sister. She’ll never grow up or learn how to love you. You’ll just scrap her next year when you’re older. But I bet that Matilda you made will make lots of kids happy.”
So dad told Jeremy about things like patents and MENSA-grants, about robotic applications and how young geniuses were treated in the scientific community. He’d made a crude living being, so it would probably set him for life. I guess I can love her then, Jeremy said. But he didn’t mean it, not a single word.
 They went to see the baby next morning, as she slept in the crib. But something hissed under the blanket, spokes and joints ground and whirred. Dad screamed when he saw the grimy felt on the blanket and mom bawled when she the little gray thing in the trash-can. And Jeremy winked at his very own Matilda, who smiled and gurgled and kicked her silly putty legs.

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