by Darby Larson
On a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of summer, on Seventh Street just outside his house, as he was walking home from the grocery store, he almost tripped over a cardboard box full of nuts and bolts and large metal springs. He set his groceries down and inspected the contents. Each spring was about a foot long, six inches in diameter, sturdy. The nuts and bolts were the size of fingers with rings.
At that moment, Dean decided he would build a robot, a human-sized robot that would perform tasks like loading and unloading the dishwasher and dragging the garbage cans out to the street the night before trash day. He only needed to acquire energy converters and metal skin. He set the box in his garage, because in his garage, he decided, was where the robot would be built.
The effort involved would be considerable, but the reward exquisite. He wouldn't lift a finger for the rest of his life.
- - -
Dean's house was one of only three along Seventh Street. His father owned all three houses, suburban replicas of each other painted slightly different shades of gray, and lived in the house next to Dean's. Across the street was a field of weeds, home to a family of moles. Seth, Dean's brother, lived in the third house with his wife Misty and six-year-old daughter Michelle.
Dean regarded Seth as an idiot who would rather spend his time laboring than stopping to think about what he could be doing so as to not have to labor so much.
Seth was a welder by profession and ran a small auto-body and welding shop from his garage. Dean had no profession and lived off an inheritance entrusted to him and Seth two years ago when their mother had died of heart failure.
The day after Dean found the box of parts, he went next door to his brother's house and made a deal with Seth to deliver several mangled pieces of sheet metal, taken mostly from wrecked Cadillacs, to his house the following day, in exchange for his fixing his brother's broken computer.
- - -
The morning after he fixed Seth's computer, Dean walked outside to find a large pile of scrap metal on his driveway. A Post-It note was attached to the pile.
thank you Dean for fixing my computer, it works great, you are truly a genius, here's the metal you wanted, I gave you a little extra, love your grateful brother, Seth
Dean needed the metal to be inside his garage because inside his garage was where the robot was going to be built, not out on the driveway. Did Seth think he was going to build a robot out on the driveway for all the world to see?
- - -
Neal, their father, a skinny man with long silver hair, was a genius like himself, and so it was his father who Dean approached about energy converters.
Dean entered his father's house and found him sitting in the living room in his favorite leather recliner, reading a newspaper.
"Dad, I'm looking for some kind of converter that will produce electroencephalographic current."
"Check the basement."
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Darby Larson has had literature published at Mcsweeney's Internet Tendency, Opium Magazine, Eclectica, 3AM Magazine, Barrelhouse Magazine, Eyeshot, Bullfight Review, and .ISM Quarterly. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Sarah.