A Twelve Cities Christmas: Robbie Re-Write

What news does Piper plan to break to Robbie over the holidays? Read on to find out. Featuring characters from T.J. Lockwood’s Clockwork Villains (Forthcoming).

THE SMELL OF GARLIC FILLS THE AIR. Despite my constant feedback Robbie keeps modifying the recipes to how he feels it should taste. The house can’t eat food and yet it is in charge of my nutrition. I know exactly what he’ll say if I raise any questions.

I knock the gingerbread crumbs off my sweater and take a seat at the lone place setting on the dining room table. A moderately-sized box sits across from me like some kind of displaced center piece.

You know what they say? You can’t have too much garlic.” The oven door opens and a pair of metal arms extend down from the ceiling and remove the roasting dish. Inside is a lab grown chicken, slow-roasted and stuffed a top a mountain of potatoes and root vegetables.

A meal for one prepared by a machine.

I sigh and take a sip of water. “You can always have too much of something, Robbie.”

The oven door closes and the arms pick up a meat fork and a carving knife. “That is not what Francesco Del Noche says.”

I shake my head. “TV chefs don’t always know best.”

He is human. He must know better than I.” He starts slicing the meat.

Truth is, if he was one of the greats then he would have already earned his ticket.

I stand and make my way over to the fridge. The door opens just as I get within reach of the handle. Inside, each shelf is lined by LEDs. I stand and ponder what I want to drink as the lights of all but one shelf turn red. Robbie is making his strong recommendation. I reach towards the green-lit shelf and pick up the container of white grape juice. “Robbie?”

The metal arms pause. “Yes, Piper?”

I take a deep breath and pour myself a glass of juice. “I… don’t think school is going to work out.”

It’s silent for a few long seconds before the arms return to their task. “You have three acceptance letters to prime universities. They would not have sent them to you if you weren’t built for education.”

I nod. “It’s something I feel in my core. There has to be more to life than a predetermined path. We have free will.”

The metal arms pick up and discard the chicken bones in a small waste bin. “But your ticket, miss. It is imperative that you earn it.”

I am no genius and I don’t want people being disappointed when they find out what I already know. Thing is, how do you explain that to a machine? It processes information in a linear manner. Point A must always make it to Point B. There are no detours.

I replace the juice in the fridge and retake my seat the table. One of them metal arms puts together a plate of food then sets it down in front of me. In the beginning there was Robbie. He’s always been there. How do I make him understand that I am not my father?

I take a deep breath and slowly begin eating my food.

One of the arms leans on the chair across from me. He always does that to make me feel like I’m not eating alone.

There’s too much garlic in this. Yes, such a thing exists. Still, I continue clearing off my plate at a steady place. One of Robbie’s metal arms descends from the ceiling with a meticulously wrapped gift box in hand.

Merry Christmas, Piper.”

Inside is a book. I don’t have to unwrap it to know that it is one of my father’s hand-picked gifts from before he received his ticket.

When everything in life is predictable it is time for change. I take a breath and start to think about what I really want to accomplish in my life.

I want to see my father, but it will be on my terms not his.

There has to be another way to earn a ticket.