Letting Life Lead
The rain pelted then rebounded on the wood deck. As the sun began to set, the solar lamps on the posts glowed. The seven-year-old girl in a green rain hat, coat and boots rested her chin on the deck table. She watched the three glasses marked with crude measuring lines. “It’s an experiment.”
“I see. Can’t you do that inside?” Nana’s shoes just touched the lip of the single stair.
“I’m collecting the rain.”
Jaime blew hair from her lips and chomped her teeth to make the sound rattle in her head. “I –” she sighed, “I can’t remember when I started collecting rain, but I think I wanted to know if all the cups fill at the same time or not.”
“What a curious way to say that.” Nana clucked her tongue. “You don’t need to watch them.”
“Won’t you come outside, Nana?”
“You know I don’t do well in the rain.”
Jaime splashed her way back taking the long way around the deck to where the water puddled deepest. By the time she made it to the door, the sun slept and Nana was a dark silhouette against an orange halo.
“Why don’t you like the rain?” Jaime asked while Nana meticulously dried and hung the plastic-smelling rain gear. Jaime poked a tongue through the hole where a tooth had been and curled her toes in the fluffy towel on the floor.
“It’s not good for me and I don’t like getting wet, that’s all.”
Nana shooed her through the spotless kitchen to where dinner — kept warm under silver domes — waited. Jaime tapped the dome with a spoon and made faces in the polished surface.
“The other kids are weird.”
“Such talk. Why do you think they are weird?”
“They’re too happy and too nice to me.”
Nana chuckled. “Is that all?”
“I pushed Sven in the dirt and he just laughed. Shouldn’t he have been mad?”
Nana placed a staying hand on Jaime’s spoon-tapping. “I am sure he knew you didn’t mean it.”
“But I did! Why aren’t you mad at me? That was wrong to do.”
“It’s been hard for you hasn’t it? Coming here? I think everyone understands that. Come now, eat your dinner.”
Jaime slumped back in the chair then sank further until her bare, big toe could touch the center bolt under the table. “People are machines aren’t they?”
“A lot of strange wondering in there today.” Nana smoothed her black hair with two hands. Jaime mocked the action by ruffling her own wild, brown corkscrews. “What makes you think that?”
“Well — machines have parts that make them move, and people have cells that do different things to make them move.” She lifted her arms up and flapped them down. “They need energy to go. They sleep to recharge. And they think.”
“That’s true. Some very particular Robbies can learn, but most are only programmed to do a certain task.” A little floor Robbie rolled by sucking up floor debris as it passed. “That one only cleans floors.”
“But it learns where it can’t go. Isn’t that thinking?”
“I suppose…in a manner of speaking. But only a person could decide to quit and fly to meet the pot lights in the ceiling instead.” Nana took the untouched plates and tilted her chin towards the hall. “If you aren’t hungry, why don’t you go to bed? I’ll come find you in a while.”
Jaime oozed off the chair. She attempted to annoy the floor Robbie by getting in its way. It only turned and resumed its task. Bored, she bunny-hopped to her room.
In the kitchen, Nana accessed an up-link. Rain exploration on schedule. H10 inquisitive but showing signs of distress. Is it advised to —
Startled by Jamie’s screams, Nana left the relay unfinished and rushed towards the hall. Blood dripped from a jagged, two-inch gash on Jaime’s left arm. Nana applied pressure with the kitchen towel. “What hap — ”
“I thought it was me!” she sobbed. “I thought I was a Robbie. I wanted to be sure. I don’t want to be weird!”
“You aren’t weird, you are a little girl. Your brain is just too big for your body. Here now, let me fix you up.” Nana soothed and wiped away Jaime’s tears.
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