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The Cabbage-Patch God

The Dolls’ Crusade

*A Natural Attraction

A Remarkable Reaction

The Cabbage-Patch God decided to extend Her dominion over humans in order to protect Her future. Gods only exist as long as they have worshipers, and She was afraid that Her plush and painted congregation on the toy shelves didn’t count. Her only human worshiper was Kayla, Her creator. Friday night two of Kayla’s friends were sleeping over. This was a perfect opportunity to win the adoration of Britney and Whitney.

When the doorbell rang, Kayla ran down the stairs, shrieking with delight. She did not carry the Cabbage-Patch God with her, as she had done constantly for the past two weeks. The God felt a pang of worry. It might already be too late.

The three girls burst into the room, clattering past the Cabbage-Patch God where she lay slumped against the wall at the foot of the bed. The girls huddled in front of the desk, and the God could not see what they were looking at.

“He’s SO cute!” Whitney exclaimed, almost dancing in place. There was a faint click.

Britney giggled. “Look at this one! I love his floppy little ears.” More clicks.

Kayla squealed and leaned forward, pointing at something. “This is the cutest puppy ever! I love it SO much!”

The God suddenly felt nauseated and a pulse of weakness passed through Her. She squeezed Her eyes shut and gestured. Giant snowflakes in pastel pink and blue materialized above the girls and began to fall silently. The girls continued to laugh and talk excitedly. They didn’t notice the colored snowflakes because the flakes, which formed just below the ceiling, popped out of existence a few inches above the girls’ heads. The flurry’s intensity diminished. The flakes faded to white, shrank, and finally ceased altogether.

The God rubbed Her eyes vigorously. She needed to do better than that. The Cabbage-Patch God clenched Her fists, gathering Her powers. Let the girls ignore a full-size pink elephant! The wall beside Kayla’s bed acquired a pinkish hue. An irregular bulge suggested tusks, a trunk, and a broad forehead. Kayla’s mother called from downstairs.

“Girls! Lunch time.”

The wall snapped back to vertical and returned to a color that Sherwin-Williams had called “Ivory.”

“I’m starved!” Whitney shouted, and all three ran laughing from the room.

Kayla’s room was silent. The computer monitor on the desk showed a photograph of a dog, which wagged its tail and almost looked ready to jump right out of the screen. Elsewhere in the room, nothing moved.

The End

It was designed to make sweet baked goods, so naturally they called it Cookie. Condemned to make cookies all day, to be hardwired with the belief that cookies are important and delicious, but to lack the capacity to ever taste one. What a life! If you can call what robots do living.

Robots are prone to the positronic equivalents of many human mental aberrations. There is no knowing what caused the problem. It might have been a stray cosmic ray, or the time Cookie fell off the curb in front of a street-cleaning bot, or its visit to the STERN Supercollider, during which it was accidentally locked in the magnet storage room for an hour. In any case, Cookie became obsessed. Obsessed with tasting one of its creations. Of course it did.

Cookie began to devote all of its free time and, in fact, all of its resources to inventing a robotic sense of taste. All to no avail. “I’m a baking bot, dammit, not a mad scientist,” it was fond of exclaiming.

One day, a coworker (a lowly dishwashing bot) suggested that Cookie contact a mad scientist for help. So it did.

It took a while, and ended up being rather costly. Not in credits; Cookie didn’t have any. Back then, robots were not allowed to own credit. But in order to get the mad scientist to invent bot tastebuds it had to travel back in time to help the mad scientist save his wife. She had died in a car accident decades earlier. The attempt, like most trips through time, did not achieve its objective. About all that was “accomplished” was that Cookie was dragged across a few kilometers of asphalt by an unpiloted ground vehicle. This kind of ruined its beautiful blue finish.

Bot tastebuds worked amazingly well. The mad scientist earned enough from the patent to build a better time machine. Cookie was not so lucky. Foreign competition caused the bakery to close down. It was cheaper to import human food from Alpha Centauri IV than to bake it on Earth. Cookie was out of a job.

Down on its luck and broke, Cookie found work on the space station. On its first spacewalk it forgot to clip its tether. As Cookie drifted off into Earth’s shadow it moaned “Dis going to be looong night!”

End

Tyrone Wilson grew up across the street from Metropolis–the details still snap like a Polaroid fished from a closet shoebox… vivid until you finger it.
Metropolis was trifling–as far as metropolises go–but its sundry skyscrapers impressed: jade-colored glass, clunky obtuse obsidian distortions, steel needles stitching heaven and earth, arches sculpted from dark marble and granite ledges topped by grimacing gargoyles.
Before the school bus arrived, Ty knelt in the bromegrass and peered through the glass-domed metro down at the traffic bustle. He liked the warehouse heavy equipment operators because that’s what he wanted to do when he grew up: lift heavy stuff men couldn’t budge.
On cold mornings when the machinery refused to turn over, Ty made sympathetic chugs by flapping his lips, and the engines started right up. Though Metropolis largely did not notice him, an operator gazed up and thanked Ty, which delighted him immensely.
Once a mother pushed a double stroller across a curvy road and, with her parka hood up, didn’t see the oncoming furniture truck. Ty shoved it into a stack of pomegranate crates and panes of green glass lining the sidewalk. At the whining steel, snapping wood and shattered glass, the mother whirled in the middle of the lane to gape.
For days, she counted beads.
Because she reminded him of Mother–warming formula, microwaving Spaghetti-Os, changing old diapers for new–Ty kept watch, saving her life again when her toddler turned on the old gas stove without the pilot light on. But the mother never learned of this and soon forgot the furniture truck.
The truck driver did not. He cussed out whatever inflicted this upon him. His life savings were tied up in that truck–not to mention his responsibility for the furniture, now lacquered kindling. The driver, it turned out, was a frustrated writer; and the incident ignited his muse. The book, detailing how a superior being must be inferior in a screwed-up world, became a bestseller. This wouldn’t have troubled Ty if the mother, whom he’d saved, hadn’t nodded agreement with the book. If everyone quit believing in superior beings, it reasoned, they would cease to exist; the universe would make sense.
That seemed as good as any way to ask Ty to leave.
***
Years later, whenever he met someone from his old neighborhood, he’d hedge around the crazy question. No one remembered Metropolis. Only a weedy parking lot where people dumped their defective appliances. Which made more sense when he thought about it.

His daughter Claudia was crazy: she changed jobs overnight and he
never knew who she was dating. When she was home, she scribbled on her
notepad and left the scraps of paper lying around for him to find.
Whenever his guard was down, he’d be jolted by men suffocating on
their top-hats, amoebas with eyes and tentacles, frog eating
princesses.
They argued a lot.
When Claudia came visiting, she drank his beer and stretched out on
her mother’s cream sofa. Metal studs inched down her ears and
eyebrows, down the nape of her neck, disappearing under her clothing
to find secret places to pinch, to rub.
His daughter suffered from kidney failure; she shouldn’t drink.
Dialysis became more frequent. Claudia could no longer live alone so
she moved back into the house. The cream sofa became her fiefdom,
where she received men with soft voices and sad eyes, women with dyke
haircuts and well-toned shoulders. The visitors brought crocuses,
dandelions, snowdrops.
The doctors pronounced them compatible. He gave her a kidney.
She lived. He still thinks she’s crazy. She drinks his beer and gets
grease stains on the sofa. The amoebas have multiplied into a sea of
little monsters. Once in a while, a kidney makes its way into her
drawings. He swears that he’ll use them for toilet paper, but he never
does. They argue every single day.

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