Excerpt from Mason Johnson’s Sad Robot Stories

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“Robot,” Sally always greeted Robot as his bulky, copper-colored body stood on the stoop of her home. “You don’t need to knock! Just walk on in any time you want.”

Robot always knocked, though, no matter how many times she told him he didn’t have to. He liked hearing those words come from her mouth. Those words were like floating amongst gentle waves in the ocean.

At least, that’s how Robot imagined it. He saw himself in spare moments of happiness—his metal body usually too blocky and cumbersome for everything and everywhere—floating back and forth with the tide. He stretched out with ease, his copper plating reflecting the sun.

But that wasn’t reality. The reality was that Robot was used to sinking.

Some nights, Sally made casserole. Other nights she made chicken pilaf, or homemade mac & cheese. Sometimes Mike cooked, often sticking to hamburgers and hamsteak. On the nights Mike didn’t cook, he surveyed the boxy, two-floor house they lived in, cleaning up wherever possible—an impossible task. This left Robot to entertain the kids in the front room.

Mikey Junior was a lanky, curious-eyed six-year-old, and Marie was a round, surprisingly articulate four-year-old. Whenever Robot came over, Junior would start with an interrogation, trying to discern what was and wasn’t different between robots and humans.

“Do you poop?” he asked as they stood amongst discarded toys.

“No,” Robot said.

“I know how to poop,” Marie pointed out.

“I guess I don’t,” Robot said, lowering himself onto the ground, his legs spread out straight in front of him awkwardly, all to be nearer to Junior and Marie.

“I can teach you,” Marie said.

“He probably doesn’t have to poop,” Junior pointed out. “He’s not like you. He doesn’t poop his pants when he’s too lazy to walk to the bathroom.”

“Oh,” Marie said, now banging on Robot’s legs, his shins, the giant ball bearings that were his knees, seeing which parts made what sounds. “Mum and Pop still think I do it by accident.”

Marie’s favorite game was to sit on Robot’s large, flat head. She’d sit Indian style, her hands holding on to the square edges of his skull. Robot would turn his head quickly, back and forth and back and forth, left right left right, yelling, “Where’s Marie? Mikey, we seem to have lost Marie!” Marie, barely holding on, would stay perfectly silent (she was hiding after all), as Mikey rolled around on the couch clutching his stomach, his laughs the sound of howling coyotes.

Sometimes, after the apocalypse, Robot even missed the coyotes from the zoo.


MasonHeadshotMason Johnson lives in Chicago and angers people on the internet. Professionally. Mason also writes. Check out Hypertext’s interview with Mason here.

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