From Embark! (YA Fiction)—>
Alena laid down in the grass, the night had completely set in. She threw down her pack with a swift toss beside her. It collapsed in a heap, but a silver ball escaped from the top of the bag. Alena attempted to grasp at it, but it rolled quickly out of her clutches. The ball moved effortlessly through the grass for a few feet and then began to take a new shape. Its contents folded over on itself at fluctuating hinges and edges, a steely frame emerging from the sphere. Alena huffed with agitation, “I don’t have time for you tonight…” Stubby legs and arms protruded out from the frame, with deep lines that outlined the metal appendages. It now took a near aggressive stance standing in the grass without any support. The legs were small rectangular wedges that carried the newly emerging body with surprising balance. A head began to rise among the turning and churning of pivots, first through the stomach and then the shoulder joints. The small rectangular prism locked into position and a voice chirped with enthusiasm, “I am Tiny Man!”
The robot pumped one of his bionic arms, followed by a short jump and kick that brought Tiny Man’s legs suspended above the tips of the grass for a nanosecond. It was the same dramatic routine with each reboot—not Alena’s idea. With a fluid landing and apparent gusto for fleeing the containment of Alena’s bag, Tiny Man checked his surroundings with a swivel of the head. “Where have you brought me tonight Miss Thomas? The temperature is pleasing.” He strode in circles as if analyzing the field’s conditions, his circuitry pulsating with hues of blue and red.
“We’re at Lookout Point Tiny Man, and…” Alena selected her words carefully. His emotional software took every word to his metaphorical heart. “…you managed to get yourself free.”
“That I did Miss Thomas! In a turn of luck your rucksack toppled with enough force to propel me from my cloth container. A small probability I will add, given the care that you take to protect me.” He pounded his tiny claw-like hands together with a clank!, and bowed. “I am very grateful for your constant care.”
Alena’s smile passed through Tiny Man’s visual scanners, which made his circuit boards glow a dark purple. Alena gave Tiny Man the ‘I need to protect you’ speech whenever he asked why he didn’t get more time to spend in the ‘free world’ as he called it. It was Alena’s way of saying ‘you’re in the bag because you’re a meddling repair bot who has a horrible track record of getting me into trouble’ without harming his sensitive, imaginary soul. “It’s really not a problem. I’m glad that you’re getting a chance to stretch your legs.”
“Miss Thomas, I really don’t stretch. I bend.” He made his knee joints open and close to demonstrate.
“It’s an expression that we use to signify someone having the chance to escape from a setting or environment that is possibly tedious or stressful. Function, Add to memory,” Alena said.
A blue light flashed behind his head and an automatic response was drawn out from Tiny Man’s vocal module. “Adding to memory…complete.” Alena struggled to make any updates or improvements to Tiny Man’s central engineering, but her pride and joy was the lexicon drive that facilitated his language abilities. Daddy’s close friend, Jean Paul, helped her install it to give Alena a personal project that she could take responsibility for. It was right at her level—a good mixture of personal interest and research to build for her portfolio. For a repair bot his size, Tiny Man had incredible functioning on many levels of communication and emotions. He could hypothesize about a cause and effect situation, identify non-verbal cues, and even do a decent job of maneuvering through sarcasm. Alena’s favorite function (or malfunction depending on how you looked at it) of the lexicon drive was Tiny Man’s talent of complimenting people in direct and obvious ways. It made for interesting interactions with the citizens of Cerulean. “Your nostrils are like two tiny caves. Beautiful!” “I’ve never seen such hair that so resembles a bramble bush. How unique!” Most of the townsfolk and regulars knew of his antics, but to those who hadn’t received a Tiny Man compliment, the reaction was consistently memorable for Alena.
“Well, I feel like I’ve had a good chance to stretch my legs tonight. Sometimes I need to get out of that old house and feel free. Kind of like you and my bag Tiny Man, right?” Alena watched Tiny Man strut through the blades of grass, who decided to sit down for a moment. He sat cross legged and looked from side to side. There was an air of innocence and wonder that made Tiny Man a charming companion when he wasn’t asking his constant questions. “Should we get back home Tiny Pants? Daddy will be wondering if his supplies came in,” Alena said.
Tiny Man moved one robotic arm in front of his legs in a sweeping motion, signaling to his lower half. “Although you continue to use variations of that phrase involving my name, it still contains no trace of meaning, and as you can easily see, I have no need of pants. Secondly, your father knows perfectly well that his supplies are in. The magna-trains keep the same schedule every week and every month. Why does he need you to report back to him?” Tiny Man shook his head in near disappointment. “Humans can be a headache. I wish you could input an instruction manual for homo sapiens to my main hardware.”
From Microwave Horror Story (Teen Fiction)—>
NOTICE TO ALL READERS:
My life is seriously messed up. You think you’ve got problems? Really? Kids bullying you? Parents getting a divorce? Dog died? Didn’t make the middle school basketball team? That’s nothing. Try moving into your new house, only to find a possessed microwave that sucks one of your friends into another dimension. Yeah, like I said, my life is seriously messed up.
That’s only the beginning. The stupid thing can’t make up it’s mind. Sometimes it spews monsters into our world, and me and my friend Spike have to either kill them or figure out how to stuff them back into the microwave. Then it goes scary vacuum on us, and we try not to get pulled into whatever place it takes its victims. I can’t make up stuff like this man. I’m not that smart.
Before I tell you all about the worst year of my life, I have to start at the beginning, back before Hillsdale. I didn’t always live like this, constantly tortured by a kitchen appliance. There was a time when my parents and I lived a normal life. My sisters tortured me with Barbie dolls and poured their teapots all over my bed. Idiots.
From The Troublemaker (Short Story)—>
Mr. Denning walked by a banner that read, “Sabres on the prowl!” He came down to Mr. Bradbury’s room and lightly knocked on the door. There was no response so Mr. Denning turned the doorknob and peered in. “Is it alright if I come in or should I wait outside for a minute?”
A broad grin came across the face of Mr. Bradbury. “How are you?” He sat behind an oak desk and wore a plaid bow tie. His remaining hair curved over the back of his head, which was soon to be lost. “I left the door open for you sir. Please, come and sit over here. I’ll just be another minute. I have been swamped with my teacher observations this morning. They were long overdue.” He scribbled something down. “I do appreciate your patience.” He sent Mr. Tolovski another long and unnerving smile.
He slid papers around and initialed documents in a frenzy as Mr. Denning watched. The man worked as if on an assembly line, putting away large green envelopes and filing forms, all the while stacking plastic trays that held referrals for misbehavior. Mr. Bradbury eyed Mr. Denning gaping in a stupor of amazement, his mouth drooping. “You didn’t know that I really worked in the paper business, did you?” he laughed to himself. “I wear many hats at this school—director, designer, disciplinarian, and sometimes, office worker.” With that he hooted again, and Mr. Tolovski shifted in his seat.
“You seem very organized and efficient,” Mr. Denning said for lack of anything to say.
“You’re too kind sir. Yes, I am a talented man indeed.”
With a flick of his wrist and running his fingers through his slick brown hair, Mr. Bradbury looked up from his now organized work space. “Ahh. Feels good.” He drummed his fingers on the edge of the desk and focused his attention on Mr. Denning. “Thank you again for your patience and coming in today. I know that you’re concerned about Frank. That’s what I like to see in a parent—initiative, grit, responsibility. It all gets lost in this crazy world we’re living in. You’ve got to get your priorities straight. Am I right?” Mr. Denning tried to open his mouth, but Mr. Bradbury answered his own question. “Of course I am! Little known fact, but it’s rare that I find myself in the wrong.”
Mr. Denning nodded complacently, his eyes catching a bizarre photo on the wall. Mr. Bradbury stood between what appeared to be his friends, if you could call them that, smiling brightly on a boat dock. He had a pink button up flapping in the wind with yellow Bermuda shorts and boat shoes. In both his hands he clenched two large fish by their tails, while his fellow fishermen pointing towards him with faces of irritation. The awkwardness of the picture caused a strange swelling of humor inside Mr. Denning.
“Would you like to share with me what’s tickling your funny bone?” Mr. Bradbury asked. His enthusiasm bubbled like a science experiment.
“No not really. I was thinking about how funny it was that my wife couldn’t pronounce the word Worcestershire last night at dinner. She has the hardest time with it. But let’s talk about Alec. Your time is too valuable for Denning table talk.”
Mr. Bradbury emitted a hearty laugh. “You are a funny man.” He then transformed his disposition brusquely. “Alright let’s talk.” He stood up and brought his hand to his chin. “Mr. Denning, how long has it been since you last heard an update from Alec about his current academic situation?”
Mr. Denning shrugged and scratched his head. “I mean…he tells me that classes are good.”
“Ha! Good? By good does he mean walking a razor thin line between the living and the dead?” He swirled his finger through the air and then pointed to the ground.
“Not following you Mr. Bradbury. But I get the feeling you don’t care if I am,” Mr. Denning muttered under his breath.
“Your son is a puzzle sir. Not just any 100 piecer. No! He’s more like a 10,000 that keeps you up late at night and as much as you would like to walk away because you’re bone tired, you can’t because you only have a few missing pieces to make it complete.” Mr. Bradbury exhaled and brought both hands to his hips. He shook his head, clearly flustered. “I can’t…figure…him…out,” Mr. Bradbury said with accompanying chops to his hand.
Mr. Denning started, albeit insincerely “I do apologize if this has cost you nights of sleep. I would hate for you to…”
“Every student matters!” he interrupted. “Every student matters. Your son is no exception, and we are going to work this out. I know we’ll make the pieces fit together.” He sat down with a thud. “Now, are you aware of the atrocious state of your son’s grades?”
Intrigued by the next round of theatrics from the assistant principal, Mr. Denning played stupid. “I haven’t heard much except for the fact that he loves his physics classes. Is there anything that is especially troublesome?”
From Neighbors in the Supernova (YA SF Novel)—>
August 12th, 1995
“Today you are going to do everything I want you to do. No hiccups this time.” Frank slouched low in his recliner, his stomach curving upward as he sat motionless. Years of bad eating habits made for poor posture. He observed the pristine model rocket sitting on one of the oak bookshelves. Recoated with a glistening green, it sparkled sitting next piles of dusty covers. Frank broke into a wide, ominous grin.
He had been sedentary for a little under a half an hour in the living room and hadn’t managed to move since. His joints were as tight as screws. Frank closed the footrest and listened to the clanking of metal from underneath, as well as his knees give their usual pop. There was something remarkably satisfying listening to the cogs obey and function properly. He inched forward on the weathered seat. Setting his feet, Frank laughed. This is hard work Frank thought.
Frank’s recliner was positioned in the center of the living room, with a checkered rug underneath. Book shelves scratched the ceiling at every corner. It formed a solid wall, releasing its scent of dust and paper into the cramped space.
Frank had a little bit of everything. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, self-help books, classic adventure tales, and old magazine collectables littered the ledges of his personal library. They towered over the other furniture, which consisted of a few aged coffee tables and offbeat lamps, and of course, his recliner.
It was his place for thinking, eating, and sleeping through the afternoon. Life revolved around the armchair. He only left home to get groceries at the local Food More and take out the trash to the curb. It was a monotonous cycle that Frank couldn’t seem to break.
But that was about to change.
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