100 Stories in 100 Days *UPDATE*

It’s time we had a talk. About two weeks ago, I took on the challenge of writing 100 stories in 100 days. This was a foolish thing to do on my part. Writing a story a day for 10 days would have been ambitious; 100 days was damn near suicidal. It’s not that I had a problem writing every day, I’ve certainly been writing every day since the challenge began. Finding something I felt comfortable enough with to share each day, on the other hand, that’s the rub that really got me.

Anyway, the point is this: I’m extending the challenge to something a bit more manageable. I will be looking to put out at least one story each week, although some weeks may have more. One story a week feels a lot more doable, like I won’t be pulling my hair out every night the way that I am now.

It’s a start, at least.

It’s a Gift

Cara was bad at receiving gifts, which was perfect because Rufus was bad at giving them. In fairness, it wasn’t that he was bad at giving, but that his actual gift choices were a lot less than perfect: for her past two birthdays, he’d given her a Chia Pet and a novelty ice cube tray. Upon unwrapping her third birthday present to discover a singularly ugly ring, it should have come as no surprise to anyone that Carol responded with the question “Is this it?”

Even still, Rufus felt hurt. Rather than wait until the last minute to find something like he so often did with birthdays, he’d decided well in advance to go hunting for a gift that would be unimpeachable this time. After wandering the streets and peering through shop windows on his lunch break, his eyes had eventually fallen upon the answer to his prayers resting on an old velvet pillow behind a dusty pane of glass.

The ring was remarkably unimpressive in seemingly every respect: the metal was cloudy, its black stone was all but devoid of facets, and it seemed as though it had been fashioned to fit someone with an octagonal finger. Still, the ring seemed to pulse with good intentions. Above it hung a sign which said “DEAL” in large, honest letters, which was enough to make Rufus bite.

The man behind the counter watched with hawk’s eyes as Rufus entered the store and set the little bell by the door to tinkling. “Good afternoon my good man, welcome to CUTTER’S CURIOSITIES.” He pronounced the name with golden syllables, matching the sparkling paint with which it was printed on the sign above the counter.

“Hi… about that ring…” Rufus found the words pouring from his mouth before he’d even finished with his greeting, but thought nothing of it.

“Ah yes, you were admiring the Ring of Arunuu? A wise choice.” The man flitted out from behind the counter and up to the window display, whisking the ring off its pillow and holding it aloft between his thumb and forefinger for Rufus to see. “To look at it, not the flashiest or prettiest of jewelry, but then again it’s not meant to be is it?” He asked as if expecting an answer, but did not wait for one. “This ring is special, you see. It exists to be wanted, to be desired and longed for.”

Rufus licked his lips and thought for a moment. “How is it that this Ring of… Abubu or whoever… how come it’s so desirable? Looking at it I know it can’t be worth much.”

The clerk laughed. “Ah, and yet you cannot help its allure can you? The ring is desirable, not for any of its physical characteristics, but because it wants to be wanted. A piece of jewelry like any other, to be sure, and yet within it there flows a certain, what is the word? A certain energy.”

“So it’s magic then,” Rufus said.

The other man shrugged, placing the ring back on its velvety pillow. “Not magic, nothing so coarse as magic. Just an energy, is all. The ring senses desire, fosters longing in those who do not possess it.” Rufus looked at it; even in the sunlight the black stone failed to produce a glimmer, and yet he knew in his heart that this was the perfect gift. A ring that inspired such desire as to overcome its mediocrity would surely be the ideal present for his dear Cara.

“How much for it?”

The shopkeeps’ ear twitched, and he turned to face Rufus with a smile. “For you, fifty.”

Rufus had walked away from the store feeling up on the whole thing, and the ring sat in his drawer waiting to be given. And yet, when Cara’s birthday came at last, her face did not beam with excitement upon the opening of her present.

“Of course that’s it, look at that thing will you?” Rufus waited for the ring to work its charm, to hook Cara in its tendrils and reel her in, but the moment wouldn’t come. She looked at the ring, sitting there in the little green and yellow wrapped box, and then up at her lover, the man with whom she’d decided to spend her life. He smiled; her countenance reminded him of  a cat’s upon being presented with a dog toy.

Cara grasped for something positive to say, but came up disastrously short. “Thank you. It’s… it’s not great.”

Rufus was crestfallen. What had gone wrong? The following day, on his lunch break, he revisited the store where he’d purchased the ring. The bell beside the door tinkled as he entered, but this time the clerk was not behind the counter. “Hello” he asked, “anybody here?” There was a rustling from the back of the shop, and the shopkeep appeared from behind a swinging bead curtain.

“Hello again my friend, how may I be of assistance?” The man could see that Rufus was agitated, even before he reached into his pocket and pulled out the tiny gift box, slapping it on the counter.

“Well, you can start by explaining what kind of game you’re playing with this Abubu ring.” He pointed at the box, saying “I thought it was supposed to ‘foster desire in the heart’ or somesuch. Damn thing did the opposite!”

The shopkeep smiled earnestly. “I believe there has been some confusion. I said that the Ring of Arunuu wants to be wanted, to be possessed. I made no claims on the disposition of an individual once it came into their possession. Whether or not you inferred it is another matter entirely.”

Rufus felt in his gut that he’d been bamboozled. “I think you let me infer that, I think you knew that I’d do it and you let me do it anyway. You’re a real piece of work, you know that?”

“Sir, please do not think that I intentionally deceived you; if I have done so, it was purely by chance. Please, allow me to refund your money. Keep the ring as well, if you wish.” The clerk pulled a $50 bill from the register, the same $50 bill that Rufus had paid for the ring in the first place. “No hard feelings.

Rufus took the money, but hesitated upon picking up the gift box with the ring in it. A crushing feeling of ownership washed over him; looking at it, he felt none of the gravitic attraction from before. “Yeah, you can keep it.  Thanks for the refund though.”

Stuffing the cash into his pocket, Rufus turned and exited the shop through the door, setting the bell beside it to tinkling. The shopkeep returned the ring to its seat on the velvet pillow in the window display where it sat, blithely unsparkling beneath a sign that said “DEAL” in large, honest letters.

The People Around Us

Emily Ingram’s parents argued whenever a storm was coming, so she would stand outside on the porch and listen to the stories that the trees told when they thought no one was listening. The wind swept through their boughs giving them breath, like a bow drawn across a fine catgut string, and the trees’ leaves would tremble with the strength of their voices. When they’d lived in the city for a time, the Ingram family had stayed in an apartment next door to a couple who spoke Cantonese. Listening to the trees speak with storm winds felt a lot like hearing Cantonese again, not knowing what the words meant but feeling the emotion instead.

Against the churning cauldron of rain-heavy clouds in the sky, the canopies of the trees cut impressive profiles; the leaves were black as soot flakes from a wood stove, and together they waved like billowing carpets in the wind. The tallest of them, a thick red oak with gnarled roots that Emily had named Horn, towered over the rest with ease, and there were times when she could swear she felt him looking at her. Horn was a truly remarkable creature; Emily called him that, a creature, because that’s what he was, really. Her science textbook had told her that trees could grow, trees could eat, they could even breathe; so what made them any different from animals? From Emily herself?

Her teacher, Mrs. Humburger, had chided her when she asked about it in class one day. “Plants are not people, Miss Ingram, they are Plants. If you go around in the real world talking about how plants are people, everyone will think you’re a crazy hippie and nobody will want to hire you. Now, recite from page sixty-three please.”

Yet, when she got home and looked at them, Emily swore that she felt a connection with the trees. How could something that breathed and spoke not be like her in the least little way? She saw them quiver and sway before a storm, like Emily did when she knew ice cream was coming. She saw them embrace as lovers, interleaving their branches like fingers only to cast themselves apart on a rogue gust. It was all well and good for Mrs. Humburger to say she was wrong; she was the teacher, that was her job. All it did, though, was make Emily more certain that she was right.

When she told her father about it at the dinner table that night, he laughed. “That Mrs. Humburger is a real ball-breaker.” Turning to Emily’s mother, he asked “Remember parent teacher night?”

Her mother cringed in her seat. “I do not like that woman. She reminds me of a toad with a bad wig.” Emily laughed. “I shouldn’t say that; don’t laugh at your teacher, Emily.”

“Listen to your mother, honey. We might not like her, but Mrs. Humburger’s right about one thing: plants are definitely not people.”

The matter was settled for her parents, but Emily still heard whispers when the wind whistled in the treetops at night. She didn’t dare go outside to listen, but would instead press her ear against her bedroom window and strain to hear the trees speak.

One Saturday morning in July, her father’s favorite radio show was interrupted by an emergency weather announcement: a super-storm would be sweeping the entire county, and residents were advised to stay inside their homes for the duration of the event. It was bright and sunny when the announcement was made, but by mid-afternoon the skies began to darken like water with drops of ink. The wind chimes on the porch began to sound, slowly at first and then more continuously, to the point where Emily’s mother had to take them down because she feared they might break. True to form, this sparked an argument between her parents. Emily took refuge on the porch, and listened to the trees.

They sounded scared. As the wind swirled through their branches, the elms trembled and shivered in terrific fits of anxiety. The red oaks stood firmer, but their voices still betrayed trepidation; only Horn seemed unaffected. Upright and resolute, his branches didn’t even appear to be moving in the wind.

Emily sat on the porch with her knees bent, Indian-style, and felt the wind blow her hair about her face. The sky had darkened to an early-evening hue, and all around her the trees were murmuring. With an insidious tapping, the rain began to fall. The droplets were fat, and soon the sound of them slapping every surface seemed to drown out all other noises. She couldn’t hear her parents arguing inside, and even the wind-voices of the trees were barely audible. Emily was beginning to wonder just how bad the storm was going to get when a brilliant flash of light filled her vision, and for a brief moment the entire area was illuminated in a white glow. Then, a split second later, came the deafening boom. And then came the screaming.

Horn was on fire. The entire length of him was bathed in dancing yellow flames that spread quickly upward into his canopy, which was instantly engulfed. The sight was terrifying, but it was the sound that made the biggest impression on Emily. As the wind whipped through and fed the dancing flames, she could hear the great tree screaming. It groaned and cracked, and emitted a piercing shriek of what she knew was pain. The shock forced her up onto her feet, and she too began to scream.

Her parents rushed out onto the porch and saw the tree ablaze, saw their daughter crying fiercely. Her father shouted against the wind, “What the hell are you doing out here Em? You’re supposed to be inside, it’s too dangerous!”

“Horn is dying,” she sobbed, “we have to help him!”

Emily’s mother wrapped her arms around her and scooped her up off her feet, carrying her back inside. Once the door was closed, she put her daughter down and said “It was lightning baby, lightning struck that big old tree. It happens sometimes.”

The storm raged on through the night, but by the next morning it was gone. Before breakfast, Emily went outside to get a look at the aftermath.

The yard was strewn with fallen branches and leaves, and a couple of smaller trees had been brought down by the wind. Horn was still standing, but that was all that could be said for him. His trunk was charred and black, and there were no leaves on his branches anymore. Emily cried again as she stood before him, then wiped her tears and listened. She couldn’t hear any voices. There was no wind blowing, and everything was still.

Any Excuse

The cat leapt onto Bernard’s desk, swatting his typewriter. “Dammit Snickers, Daddy can’t play anymore. He’s got work to do, see?”

Snickers stared at Bernard, his chocolate paw on the typewriter. He mewed plaintively.

Bernard stared at the page. Pure white.

He grabbed Snickers’ toy. “Five more minutes, that’s it.

When a Good Man Cheats

Nothing in the bread bowl had seemed appetizing, but that didn’t stop Carol from chewing through three Pumpernickel rolls before her parents showed up. Mr. and Mrs. Corwin, or “Stuart and Bonnie” as they preferred to be called, arrived at 8:02 pm in outfits that could only be described as intimidating.

Stuart wore a double-breasted suit, jet black and tailored, with a shirt the color of bleached bone and a burgundy tie in a Windsor knot; Bonnie wore an emerald-colored off-the-shoulder dress, and a string of pearls around her neck that could choke a hippo. Carol had chosen her best work outfit: a light grey pencil skirt, a pumpkin-colored blouse and a blazer she’d picked up at Marshall’s for $25.

“Hi Mom, Hi Dad” said Carol, rising from her seat and kissing both of her parents on the cheek.

“Hello Caroline,” said Stuart, pulling out Bonnie’s chair and then his own. “Lovely to see you again.”

“Will you look at that shirt, Stuart? Our daughter is positively glowing” said Bonnie, her white teeth flashing.

“Thanks Mom” said Carol, reaching for the bread bowl again before stopping herself. “You look great, as usual.”

“Oh this old thing? Just something your father picked up for me, I said it was too much but you know him. Always the gentleman.”

A waiter came by with the menus. Stuart ordered the duck confit with garlic potatoes for himself, and the herb-encrusted chicken for Bonnie. Carol asked for the lamb, and a glass of Cabernet. When the waiter left, Stuart adjusted his knife and fork so they sat perfectly parallel to the plate. “So, Caroline, how is Brian?”

Carol hesitated for a moment before saying, “He’s great. Fine, really.” The blue in her father’s eyes glittered like sapphires in the light of the candle on the table. “How have you two been?”

Before Stuart could respond, Bonnie jumped in. “Oh, you know how it is. One month we’re at home, the next month we’re on vacation in Bali; I’m sure Brian keeps you busy like that too.”

Carol stared down at her plate and said nothing. As if in response, the waiter came back with her wine, a long-stemmed piece of crystal filled nearly to the brim with inky crimson. Carol took a deep gulp and set the glass back down beside her plate.

“Actually, Brian’s the reason I asked you guys to have dinner with me tonight.” Carol took a long breath before saying the words she’d rehearsed in the mirror before leaving her apartment. “We’re getting a divorce.”

Bonnie’s face froze in a silent shriek. Stuart’s upper lip quivered for a microsecond, but remained firm. What felt like hours of silence passed, before Stuart broke it. “What did you do?”

Carol spun her eyes up to meet her father’s, stared at him with the sapphires he’d given her. “I didn’t do anything, we just… we can’t be together anymore.”

Her mother’s death mask softened, and she actually let herself laugh. “Oh honey, you’ve only been married a month! You’re still getting used to each other’s little quirks, it’s completely natural; your father and I hated each other for the first two months after our honeymoon. You need to give it time.”

Carol’s eyes began to water. “Brian doesn’t have any little quirks. It’s not about the honeymoon and it’s not about me, we just can’t be together anymore okay?”

Stuart stared at his daughter, before repeating himself. “Caroline, what did you do?”

She began to sob. “I didn’t… it’s not like that, dad!”

Bonnie had a brainstorm. “I think I know what this is. Carol, honey, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if Brian cheated on you. It’s always hard when a good man cheats, but you can recover from this. Believe it or not, your father and I went through the same thing.” She entwined her fingers with Stuart’s, and said “If anything, it made our marriage stronger.”

Carol’s tears stopped, and her face  “Brian didn’t cheat on me, mom; he beat me.”

Now it was Stuart’s turn to be shocked. He sat in silence, staring at the bombshell his daughter had just laid out before them. “He beat you?”

Just then, the food arrived. The waiter mixed up everyone’s order, giving Stuart’s duck to Carol, Bonnie’s chicken to Stuart and Carol’s lamb to her mother. Nobody corrected him, or even seemed to notice. “Bon appetit,” said the waiter.

“Yes dad, he beat me… with his fist. And before you ask, no, I don’t know what I did to deserve it.”

Bonnie was horrified, but this time Stuart cut her off. “How can you think I’d ask something like that? Is that what you think of me?”

“Really, dad? You can’t figure out why I’d think that’d be your next move? Maybe because it’s all been my fault, every bad thing that’s ever happened in my life. Isn’t that what you’ve always told me?”

Stuart’s upper lip trembled. “But not this… never this…”

“Oh, what-ever. Don’t break character now, it doesn’t suit you.” Carol looked down at the duck on the plate before her, sizzling sweetly in its own juices. It made her want to throw up. “I can’t do any more of this,” she said, getting up to leave.

“Don’t go honey, please” squeaked Bonnie, reaching for her daughter’s hand. Tears slipped from behind her eyes, loosening the mascara on her lashes. “We love you.”

Carol reached for her purse and stopped. “I know you do, mom. I came here to tell you guys, and I told you. I just can’t be around another screwed-up couple right now.” She turned to her father, whose penetrating blue gaze was nowhere to be seen. “Good job cheating on mom, by the way. I hope she fucks a cabana boy on your next trip to Bali.”

Death Is Hard to Live With

Tim died in June but, after the funeral was over and everyone left, he started to get lonely. Even worse, the collar of the shirt he’d died in continued to be as itchy as it ever was. He spent his first few dead days wandering the graveyard where he’d been buried, hoping to meet a fellow ghost or phantom or spectre, but he found the place to be as desolate in death as it had been in life. Row after row of grey teeth shot up from the ground, emblazoned with last names and Born/Died dates, but there was nary a spook to be found.

It was a full week before Tim met his first dead person, an overweight ghost named Clyde. He’d been walking down the street, wondering why he was the only person who’d ever died and became into a ghost, when he rounded the corner and spied Clyde, a fellow apparition at last, licking an ice cream cone. Tim started to wonder how exactly this other ghost was holding an ice cream cone, when he realized that Clyde wasn’t actually holding it himself: there was a young woman standing beside him, holding a chocolate ice cream cone she had ostensibly purchased for herself, and here was Clyde licking it as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing?”

Clyde took one last fat lick at the dribbling chocolate and turned to face Tim. He was a man in his forties, or at least he had been when he died, with a balding wisp of hair atop his head and a bloated body stuffed into a black-and-gold tracksuit. With a confused look on his face he replied, “What?”

Tim persevered. “I saw you, you were just licking that lady’s ice cream. How can you even taste it?”

“I don’t have to taste it now to remember what it tasted like before. Licking it just helps put me in the state of mind to recall better.”

Tim wasn’t quite sure how to respond, and so he rolled his eyes. It was something he’d hated seeing people do when he was alive, but he wasn’t anymore, so the whole social rulebook kind of went out the window.

“Lemme guess: newly dead?” Clyde smirked in a way that Tim did not appreciate one bit.

“What’s that got to do with it? Don’t try and change the subject.”

Clyde wiped his hands on his tracksuit and extended the left one to Tim. “Name’s Clyde; it happened to me about a year ago. Fell down the steps at a Saints game; trying to carry too many beers and wieners back to my seat, I guess. By the time I hit the bottom, well…” Rather than explain further, he grabbed the top of his head and pulled to the right. His neck bent about 90 degrees, until he was staring at Tim sideways.

“Jesus,” said Tim, “alright, I get it. Enough.” Clyde laughed and brought his head back up to where it normally ought to be.

“Man, you’re gonna have to get a stronger stomach. You’re dead for fuck’s sake!”

Tim began to bristle at this other man’s coarse language, but stopped. “Right… I keep forgetting that.” He sat down on the curb and held his head in his hands. The itchy shirt collar tickled his neck, but he couldn’t bring himself to scratch it.

“Aw, shit” said Clyde, and awkwardly shuffled his bulk until he too was seated; his legs were splayed out into the street, almost unbent at the knee. He patted Tim on the back as he let out a soft whimper. “Alright, that’s enough of that. You’re dead, get over it and figure out what to do with yourself. You don’t see anyone else weeping like a girl around here.”

Tim lifted his head from his hands. “I haven’t seen anyone else around here period. You’re the only other ghost I’ve actually met. How can that be?” He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his sweater. “Even the graveyard was empty.”

Clyde laughed. “Sheeyit, think about it for a second. Why in the hell would anyone wanna  hang around that creepy place? You’re dead! You can go anywhere, see anything, but instead you’re gonna camp out  in some park full of dead bodies?”

Tim thought about it for a second, and then said “Wow, you’re right. I’m a complete fucking idiot.” Clyde snorted, slapping him roughly on the back. As strange as it was, it felt nice to actually be touched by another human being. He held out his hand, saying “My name’s Tim; I choked to death on a cluster of raisins.” Clyde took Tim’s hand in his own, and began to shake violently with laughter. Tim turned red.

“I guess it’s not as glamorous as being King Klutz. How hard can it be to carry a tray?” Clyde whooped, slapping his knee mirthfully. In spite of himself, Tim began to laugh as well. His shirt collar began to itch again, but this time he wrenched the stuffy button-down up over his head and hurled it into the street. Sitting next to Clyde on the curb in his undershirt, he started to wonder if maybe death wasn’t the end of the world after all.

One Hand Washes The Other

To Jonas, the bathroom was a place for business. The trays of mints and colognes sat waiting to be used, and the tip jar waited anxiously. Rarely fed and forever hungry, that jar.

A young man and an older executive-type entered the room, headed straight for the standing urinals against the wall. Jonas kept his gaze level, his hand clutching the wad of paper towels in his back pocket.

The older gentleman finished first, washing his hands with the almond-scented soap before shaking them dry, splattering water on the mirror. Jonas grimaced.

As he accepted the towel that Jonas held in his hand, the old man winked and dropped a dollar into the jar. Jonas smiled, stuffing the remaining wad back into his pocket.

Now the young man stepped forward. He looked at Jonas in the mirror, and smirked as he scrubbed his hands meticulously. After washing, he popped one of the red and white mints into his mouth and gave himself two spritzes from the clear blue cologne bottle next to the sink.

Jonas held out a paper towel, but the young man rebuffed him. The mint clacking in his teeth, he laughed and wiped his hands on his pants. Jonas smelled the rich peppermint, mixed with the heavy musk of the cologne, and felt it strike his face like a fist.

“Thanks bro, but I got it.” As the young man strode from the bathroom whistling a happy tune, Jonas shoved the paper towels back into his pocket.

Before long, a fat man in an overcoat waddled into the bathroom and stood at one of the urinals. Jonas stood upright, clutching the paper towels in his pocket once more.

The Lighter Kind

After waking up from the accident, Calvin felt no different than he had the for first 9 years of his life. His head hurt like hell, and his entire body was wrapped in bandages, but he was still Calvin. Still the kid who, just a year ago, climbed a tree to chase a lizard and fell to the ground, breaking his collarbone. Still the boy who’d hopped into his father’s new Cadillac with his friend Bobby, and promptly reversed straight through the garage door. Growing, sure, but still the same.

He’d heard the doctors tell his mother that the bandages could come off today. The beeping of the life support machines beside his bed counted off the seconds and the minutes and the hours, and he knew it would be happening soon. He was excited to get up, to get out of his lumpy hospital bed and stretch his legs, and it wouldn’t be long now.

The door squeaked like a mouse, and Calvin heard three sets of footsteps enter the room; he smelled his mother’s perfume, like rich velvet in his nostrils. “Is he awake” he heard his mother ask, “Can you hear us my baby boy?” Calvin tried to speak, and found that he could not. His body felt as rigid as a log lying there in the bed, and he heard the rustling of papers before the doctor spoke.

“He can certainly hear us, and he’s very much awake. We thought it would be simpler if we limited his mobility and stimuli for the time being.” The man sounded like his Math teacher, formal and curt although not unkind.

Calvin heard his father’s voice; “What are we waiting for? I think the quicker we pull this band-aid off the better.” He heard his mother sniff.

“We need to talk to our son,” she said.

There was a moment of silence followed by the tapping of computer keys, and the machine beside the bed began to thrum. Calvin felt the way he did when his foot would fall asleep, except this time the feeling was all over. Tingling, like a warm light was washing over his skin.

The doctor spoke again asking, “Can you feel that Calvin? Move your fingers if you feel the tingling.” Calvin attempted to wiggle his fingers, and found that he could. He knew that they’d moved, but he couldn’t feel it. He heard his mother gasp, and the tapping of the computer keys.

“Wavesigns are normal, this is very good. Can you move your toes for me?”

Calvin’s brain told his toes to wiggle, and wiggle they did. He didn’t feel them, but he knew that they’d moved because he heard his mother let out a faint but definite peep. The computer keys clicked away again.

“Fine motor control is normal. I believe Calvin’s ready to open his eyes now.” He heard another flurry of typing, and his eyes felt as though a weight had been lifted. He opened them slowly, and a brilliant light filled his view.

As the brightness faded, Calvin began to see his mother and father standing at his bedside. His mother had on the same dress she’d worn to his 7th grade piano recital. His father wore one of his brown suits, the one with the pocket that Calvin had slipped a frog into during one of the family’s garden parties. To the right he saw the doctor, an older man in green scrubs seated at a computer station, poring over reams of data as they scrolled past on the screen. Calvin looked down and saw that half of his body was hidden by bedsheets, and the exposed bits were wrapped in white gauze.

The computer keys clacked again, and Calvin felt the warm light spread through his chest, out to his arms, out to his legs and up his neck. “Okay Calvin. You can speak whenever you’re ready.”

“Mom? Dad?” Calvin’s voice sounded like it used to when he would talk into the rotating fan, chopped and oscillated. His mother started to cry, and his father smiled.

“Hey Squirt, where’ve you been hiding?”

Calvin sat up and replied, “Not hiding, I’ve just been sleeping! I’m done sleeping though, I wanna get out of here.” He looked down at his hands and said “I can’t wait to…” Calvin trailed off as he caught sight of the gap in the gauze wrapping on his wrist. The skin beneath it was grey.

Before his mother or his father or the doctor could say anything to stop him, Calvin began pulling at the bandages on his arm. Every layer he removed revealed more grey, from his wrist all the way down to his forearm, and all the way up to his hand. His hand was made of metal.

“I don’t… What is this? Dad?” His voice sounded like a panicked air conditioner.

His father’s face stiffened. He looked like he had something to say, but he couldn’t say anything. In the silence, the doctor spoke up.

“After the accident, we had to salvage whatever we could. Everything beyond repair had to be replaced.”

Calvin looked at his hand. “Replaced… like with robot parts?”

The doctor bristled. “The correct term is full-body psychosynthetic prostheses, but yes; if it helps, think of them as robot parts.” Calvin’s mother choked back a sob, his father rubbed his fingers against the side of his head, and Calvin remained seated bolt upright.

“So… I’m a robot now?”

“No no no,” his mother breathed, “you’re still you. Don’t think that you’re not.”

“But I’m kind of not anymore, aren’t I? I’m like at least half robot.” 

All four occupants of the room sat in silence, with only the beeping and thrumming of the bedside machinery filling the void. Calvin looked at his hand for a moment, then at his parents, and back to his hand.

“This is has to be the coolest thing to ever happen to anyone, ever!” Calvin’s voice trilled like a bird in a bathtub. “Bobby broke his knee last summer and all he got was a couple of lousy screws; I get to be a robot!”