Short Story: Robot

Wednesday, 9th August 2017

Another short piece written for Oxford University's 'Writing Online' course. This one is based on a quote from Overheard Everywhere:

Two-year-old girl looking at tv tower: Daddy, what's that?

Daddy: That's a television mast, so you can watch tv.

Two-year-old girl, after a long pause: Sooo, not a robot? 

(Perth, Australia, 3rd April 2017)


Phoebe lives with her mum in a small house in the suburbs. She goes to see her daddy at weekends, and always wears her best dresses - the ones with the ribbon ties, that match her pink glasses. Her mum complains that the dresses always come back with oil stains. She tries very hard not to get them dirty, but secretly doesn't really mind. She's going to be an engineer, and real engineers don't mind getting dirty.

Her daddy lives in the middle of the city, where he has a very important job fixing machines that have broken. He shows her all the bits and pieces in his workshop, and he says he can fix anything.

“Look,” he says, “this bit came from a toaster, but that’s not all it’s for. See what it can do.”

And then he slots it right into the opened-up body of a robot puppy, and just like magic, its ears wag and and its eyes light up and it wobbles across the worktop.

“Voila! It has a whole new life now. It can be anything it wants. Just like you.”

What Phoebe most wants is to move back to the city with her mum. She likes her new garden, but she misses her daddy, and she misses all the machines, too.

At night, before her mum comes to tuck her in, she sits up in bed and presses her nose against her window. Her breath makes tiny clouds on the glass, and she watches the the tall metal mast that rises up from behind the shed. The red light on top of it blinks at her to say hello, and she waves back.

You’re stuck, and so am I, she thinks. But don’t worry, Robot. One day we’ll go together. You’ll like the city. All your friends are there.