A Human for a Heart
Someone gave Lilah a second hand robot for her birthday.
(Boxy, old school robot, about ten foot tall, protruding steel frame around chest plate.)
Its log sheet said it used to plough fields,
(Robot, picks for hands, working furiously under the sun.)
but one day it decided to stop working,
(Robot sitting in field, farmer kicking it, crows sitting on it, cobwebs here and there.)
so was left at an thrift shop.
(Robot in pile of cloth and bric-a-brac next to donation bin, undies and tennis racket without strings on its head. a few smaller robots in the pile too – they are not uncommon.)
Lilah looked at the robot inside and out. It seemed sad.
She said: “I’m Lilah, nice to meet you. How can I help?”
The robot was built to serve. It wasn’t ready for that.
“I. Am. Cold,” it stated, and turned itself off.
Lilah was fascinated. The robot was cold, but had a warm motor.
“I wonder what it meant…?” she mumbled to herself.
(Lilah putting head inside the framing of its chest plate, to put her ear to its chest)
Lilah took the robot to school for show-and-tell.
(Lilah is straining, pushing against robot, standing in little red cart. She is next to boy in deep sea diver’s suit, girl with a little dog, someone with a sheep, various quirky show-and-tells.)
But all the kids in the school yard laughed.
“A broken robot!” they (pointed and) teased.
Just like they did that time she adopted a three legged dog,
or when she said she saw fairies behind the old blackwood.
Her classmates made her want to just run away and hide.
(Lilah, red-faced, straining, as she walks backwards, pulling red cart with robot on it.)
(Lilah arms and legs wrapped around robot as cart rolls down hill.)
Lilah took her robot where the other kids would never go.
(Scrap metal yard in back of creek, Robot lying down on edge of paddock, weed or two here and there, Robot in with rusty scrap metal objects, the occasional other far more rusted robot, missing many bits.)
“I feel cold, too,” she said, and curled up inside the robot’s chest plate,
where everything was warm,
and fell asleep.
(Robot lying in grass on edge of scrap metal yard. Paddock with occasional long-abandoned robot behind them. Lilah curled in the framing of her robot’s chest plate.)
Lilah dreamed of being tall enough to eat fruit from the old overgrown orchid. And, when she woke…
(Lilah sitting up in framing of chest plate, confused. It is full of apples.)
It was late. She went to go home.
“Don’t. Leave,” the robot said. “I’ll. Feel. Cold. Again.”
(Lilah, walking away, about to bite into apple, looking back as robot sits up.)
Lilah and the robot started hanging out after that.
(Lilah, gripping robot’s head awkwardly as she watches a butterfly.)
The other kids just couldn’t get it.
“It has to DO something!” they insisted.
(Lilah sitting on robot’s shoulder while kids below her throw their hands around, animated, if not angry, as they shout this and that.)
“Teach it to fight dinosaurs!” they said.
“Or pick on bullies!”
“Do your homework for you!”
They were so predictable.
(Robot running, feet off ground due to long strides, Lilah standing, feet on its chest plate frame, looking back over its shoulder – at out-of-frame kids they are leaving behind)
Next time Lilah went to sleep , she dreamed and dreamed of wondrous things.
(Robot lying, spread arm and legs, in long grass, the odd grasshopper here and there. Lilah curled up in it chest plate.)
Objects built without purposes.
(Robot face poking above work bench edge, looking at small, mechanical gears and cogs and glass objects that look pretty but have no purpose. It is gently poking at one with its robot finger.)
Music that drifted out of letterboxes and up storm drains.
(Robot in nexus of tunnels, playing violin)
Talking with owls.
(Night, Lilah shoulder riding robot, using binoculars attached to top of its head, while it tilts back, talking to owl flapping wings just above it. Weird, coils and and cords coming out of robot’s chest plate to megaphone-like device in it’s hand, “Hoot, hoot” coming out of device.)
And robots that learn how to hug.
(Lilah hugging robot. Can just make out oil tear.)
Only to realise they weren’t dreams…
(Robot hugging girl back, small stars of pain coming from her ribs, surprised look on her face.)
(Bully from earlier resisting robot hug, terrified, other kids running in fright.)
Some kids cried. Some learnt how to sigh, others just found they suddenly felt glad.
(Kids lining up to be hugged by robot. A few that have been hugged have range of expressions, like tears but relieved smile.)
“This s my gift,” the robot said, as if it had saved everybody’s mood.
Then a cry came out! “A Monster! HELP!”
(Monster towering over town.)
(Monster arm swatting aeroplane)
(Tanks tossed through air.)
“What can that bucket of rust and bolts do?”
(Robot, with Lilah, and roller-skate wheels on feet, swishing forward – while people run, scared, the other way)
(Robot, arms extended super long, as it pulls monster’s face down into frame to hug. Monster looks baffled.)
(Robot hugging monster. Monster has tears in its eyes)
(Robot and Lilah waving goodbye to monster who is receding over horizon, smiling, waving back – love heart optional.)
(Robot on back, floating down stream, Lilah sitting in its chest plate, flower in her hand.)
Nobody was sure what to make of it after that.
(Robot, with Lilah curled up in its chest plate, walking down the street, everybody mostly happy, ignoring it, as if it belongs.)
“Thank you,” Lilah said. “I feel warmer these days.”
“Me. Too,” the robot replied.
(Lilah sitting on robot’s shoulder, at night, reaching for an apple from an apple tree. Owl on other shoulder.)