Category: Odd Electronics

Adopting a Grandparent

Mrs. Jenkins’ mother had passed away a week ago, and now the Jenkins children had no grandparents at all.   “We’re both orphans now,” Mrs. Jenkins whispered to her husband at the funeral.   He nodded and they both cried.

Three weeks later, the Jenkins family poked around an antique shop half-heartedly. They’d planned this vacation hoping that it would cheer everyone up after the funeral.   Instead, they all seemed to be performing the motions of playing tourist while lacking any interest at all in what they were seeing.

“Well, I don’t see anything,” Mr. Jenkins said.   “Who wants to go back to the beach?”

“Not me,” Cameron said. “It’s too sunny and sandy and windy and loud.”

“Why did we come here anyway?” Daniel asked. “We aren’t having any fun.”

“Hush,” Mr. Jenkins said. “Of course we are.”

“I’m not,” Cameron said. “I want to go home.”

Mr. Jenkins opened his mouth to reply, but he didn’t know what to say. He wanted to go home, too. Not just to their snug little home in a little town at the edge of a big city.   He wanted to go back to his childhood home. It felt like everything should be in its place, just as it existed in his memory, but he knew that it was all gone. He sighed.

“Hey, everybody, come look at what I found,” Mrs. Jenkins said just then. The boys followed their father to the back of the store where Mrs. Jenkins was waiting.

“What is it?” Cameron asked.

Mrs. Jenkins was standing in front of what looked like a dusty metal statue. She smiled.   “It’s a robot. The really old kind like my parents had when I was little.”

“That’s a robot?” Daniel asked. “It’s so big and weird looking. Does it even work?”

“The tag says that it doesn’t function well. It needs a good home,” Mrs. Jenkins said.   “What do you think?’

“Well, it probably won’t take up much space,” Mr. Jenkins said. “What do you think boys?   Should we add him to our family?”

“It’s a him?” Cameron asked. He looked up at the robot. “I guess it does look like it has a funny mustache. Grandpa had a mustache. I remember.”

Daniel squinted. “I don’t remember Grandpa. He had a mustache?”

“I want it,” Cameron said. “We can call him Grandpa.”

“Yeah, let’s get it,” Daniel said.

The Jenkins family left the antique shop with an old robot and smiles on their faces. It didn’t take long for the robot to become one of the family. Everyday he slowly shuffled from one room to the next performing small tasks. Everyone smiled and patted his arm when they saw him. “Hi, Grandpa,” they’d say. “How are you today?”

The robot hummed and coughed in response and they would nod and smile. Sometimes he came to a halt in front of the back window and just sat and stared.   Mrs. Jenkins left a blanket on the chair by the window, and whoever was closest would put it over his shoulders.

Cameron made a birdfeeder at school that he hung outside the window so that the robot could watch the birds when he was at the window. He and Daniel loved to share all of their art projects with the robot. The robot would always accept them and hang them on the walls like treasures.

They also liked to practice their instruments when the robot was around. He often recorded their performance to play back later at a random time. “Grandpa loves us,” Daniel said once. “That’s why he likes to remember what we play for him.”

“I think he must,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “And we love him, too.”

“Of course we do,” Daniel said. “He’s Grandpa.”

House Call

The washing machine was making a terrible noise. It screeched and thumped and screeched some more.   “Should we call for someone to come fix it?” Mom asked. She looked worried.

“I’ll look online and see if there is a quick fix,” Dad said.

“I’ll look too,” Mom said.

But, in the end, they couldn’t find anything. The washing machine continued to screech, no matter how full it was or how carefully they tried to balance the load.

“We have to call someone,” Mom said. “Let’s look online for reviews.”

Mom and Dad wrote emails for estimates and finally, a week later, they decided on Motor Care Services.

“I’m tired of washing things in the sink,” Mom said. “I hope they can fix it quickly.”

Jeremy, who had to help wash things in the sink, agreed. It wasn’t nearly as fun as it sounded. Honestly, it didn’t even sound fun. When the doorbell rang, he hurried to be the one to answer it.

There was a little man made of metal at the door. He was holding an old-fashioned doctor’s bag. “Hello, young human,’ he said. “Are your parents here?”

“Mom! Dad!” Jeremy yelled. “The repair person is here!”

Dad came in the room. “Really? Already? That’s wonderful.”

He paused when he saw the metal man. “Are you here from Motor Care Services?”

The metal man held out a hand and dad shook it. “Mr. Frank?”

“That’s me,” Dad said. “And you are…?”

“Call me Andy,” the metal man said. “Could you show me to my patient?”

Dad led Andy to the laundry room. Jeremy followed behind him, and Mom joined him, both of them hovering by the door and watching. Dad waved a hand toward the washing machine. “It keeps making a terrible screeching sound no matter what we do. Is there anything you need?”

Andy inspected the washing machine. “You’ll need to plug her in so that I can talk to her,” he said.

“Yes, of course,” Dad said. He picked up the plug where it was resting on the back panel of the machine and leaned over until he could plug it in.

“It’s a she?” Mom asked. “Does she have a name?”

Andy turned. “Yes, Mrs. Frank. I’ll ask.” He started to root through his bag and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. Then he started to make quiet clicking and whirring sounds.   Even though they hadn’t started a wash cycle, the washing machine started to screech. It paused and Andy began to click and whir some more.

After several minutes, Andy stopped writing. “Her name is Lauren. She has a sock stuck under her drum and it’s unbalancing the loads.” He clicked and tutted. Lauren screeched. Andy scribbled something and put his pen down. “I can fix it, but she’d like to be unplugged for the procedure.”

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Dad said. He leaned over and pulled the plug and draped it back over the back panel.

Meanwhile, Andy pulled a long, thin tool out of his bag and bent it into a u-shape. Then his eyes grew brighter, like flashlights. “I’ll need you all to leave the room for a moment,” he said. “I’ll call you back in when I’m done.”

They all left and waited outside the door. In a few moments, Andy called them back in. Andy handed Jeremy his long-lost blue and white striped sock.   “I believe this is yours.”

“Thanks,” Jeremy said. “Um, Mr. Andy, what’s the dryer’s name? Does the toaster have a name? And the stove? And the microwave?”

“That’s a lot of questions, young human, and none of them are my patients,” Andy said. The dryer rumbled. Andy nodded. “He said his name is Harold. He hasn’t met any of the others.”

“Should I plug her back in then?” Dad asked.

“Yes, yes. That would be great,” Andy said. Once Dad plugged the machine in, Andy whirred and tutted. The washing machine hummed. Andy nodded. “She feels much better now. Call me if there are any more problems. I’ll send you my bill,” he said. And then he left.

Cat Problems

Mrs. Jones nearly tripped over the cat again. She clutched at the counter to stop her fall.   “Frank,” she said loudly, “We need to talk about the cat.”

There was a creak from the other room as Frank stood up.   He shuffled into the room. “I thought you loved the cat, Mary?”

Mary Jones huffed and poured a glass of lemonade for her husband. She set it down at his place on the table. “Sit,” she said. “This isn’t about whether or not I like the cat. It has problems. We need to take it in to get it looked at.”

Frank sat. “But it has a lifetime guarantee and we’ve only had it for two months.” He gulped his lemonade.

Mary poured herself some lemonade and sat down in her chair. She stood up, moved the cat, and sat down again. “I love the idea of a lifelike robot cat. I’ve always wanted a cat, but my allergies prevented it. It was a very thoughtful gift.”

Frank smiled. “I’m glad you like it. I knew you would. Can I have some more lemonade?”

Mary rolled her eyes and got up to get him another glass.   She handed it to him and sat down again. “I like the idea of the cat.   The cat itself has problems. It keeps chewing on the bars of soap in the bathroom.”

“So those were bite marks! I thought they were, but they were too small to be your teeth marks,” Frank said. “Your jaw is a little bigger than that.”

“You thought I was eating soap?” Mary asked.   “And you didn’t say anything?”

“Well, I knew it wasn’t me. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t you, jaw size and all, so I thought I was mistaken. I didn’t think about the cat. Pretty funny, right?” Frank laughed.

“Frank, the cat shouldn’t be chewing on the soap at all.   It will mess up its insides,” Mary said.

“You’re probably right. I’ll go look that up in the user manual, and we’ll see if we need to take it in. I’m glad we had this talk,” Frank said. He started to stand up.

“Wait, that’s not all,” Mary said, holding up a hand.   Frank sat down again. “It keeps hiding under the dirty clothes. When I walk past the basket, it jumps out and the laundry goes all over the place.”

Frank laughed again. “That’s great! I need to see this. Where is the cat now?” He looked around. “Here, kitty kitty.”

They waited a moment. Nothing happened. “Is it supposed to come when you call?” Mary asked. “I don’t think that real cats do.”

“Of course they do. I had a cat growing up that would show up whenever we started opening a can, just in case it was something for her to eat,” Frank said.

“That’s not calling her at all,” Mary said.

“Same idea,” Frank said. “Maybe you should unwrap another bar of soap.”

Mary laughed. “Be serious Frank, I bruised my elbow when I jumped back the last time the cat exploded out of the laundry. It’s not safe. Besides, what if it shut down for sleep and I accidentally put it in the washing machine?”

“That would void the warranty,” Frank said. He looked a little worried. “Make sure to check the washing machine before you use it. And the dishwasher too. And maybe the bathtubs and sinks.”

“I think sometimes it’s trying to trip me,” Mary said.   “I know it sounds a little paranoid, but it just happens so often that it appears where I’m not expecting it, just in front of my feet.”

“Maybe it’s lonely and you need to cuddle it more,” Frank said. Just then, the cat ran through the room, dragging a blue silk necktie. “That’s my new tie!” Frank frowned. “Maybe there is something wrong with that cat.”

“It’s been eyeing your baseball card collection,” Mary said. “I’ve had to chase it out of your study and shut the door several times.”

“My baseball cards?” Frank scowled. “That’s it.   I’m taking the cat in tomorrow to get it fixed.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Mary said. “Would you like some more lemonade?” Frank handed her his glass. She got up and nearly tripped over the cat again, catching herself on the table with her elbow. The cat ran off again. Mary sighed.


Time Travel

After six decades of work, planning, and determination, Johan finally perfected his plans for a time machine. When he told his sister Anna, she was worried about the consequences of his discovery.

“Johan, if you change the past, you may not like how that changes the future.   Look forward, not back,” his sister said.

Johan laughed. “Anna, if time travel is possible, I can keep changing things until I get the outcome I want.”

Anna frowned. “And if you see yourself?   Will you go mad?”

“Does it matter?” Johan asked. “I can fix that too. There is nothing I do or have done that can’t be fixed now. The world is at my fingertips. I can live a thousand lifetimes and pick the one I want to keep.   I am now effectively immortal.”

“Perhaps you are already mad, Johan,” Anna said. Johan just laughed.

When Johan gave the plans for his machine to his younger self, the older self and his machine disappeared and young Johan was alone. The future had changed and older Johan, as he was, would no longer exist.

It took young Johan a decade to build the machine from the plans.   Finding funding was difficult.   He considered publicizing his research and asking for donations, but he hesitated.

If others had the option of changing time, they could change it in ways he didn’t approve of. They could steal his work and keep him from being born. They could hurt things he loved and help things he didn’t care for.

He only trusted his future to his own hands. So, he kept the research quiet. He worked at a terrible job that he hated to earn the money for materials.   He took classes to learn the construction techniques he’d need.

Young Johan worked through holidays and had no other hobbies. He had no friends and nothing he did for fun.   Anna, Johan’s sister, was the only person he told about the time machine.

“Johan, I don’t think this is a good idea,” she said. “I think you need to remember to live in the present.”

Johan laughed. “I can live all I want when the machine is finished. I have multiple lifetimes ahead of me.”

“Do you remember your last lifetime?” His sister asked. “The lifetime where you created this machine?”

“No,” Johan said. “This time I’ll keep a journal. I won’t include technical information though, just in case it falls into the wrong hands. I’ve already memorized and burned the plans for the machine.”

Anna frowned. “I don’t think that’s wise Johan. If you can’t refer to the plans, you may make a mistake in your work and not know it.”

“I’ll be fine,” Johan said.

Finally the machine was ready. He was a decade older and wiser. Perhaps he could give his younger self some pointers so this moment could come sooner.   Johan thought about it.

He remembered watching his older self fade away, leaving no memories behind.   If he gave the information to his younger self, his present self would cease to exist and he’d have nothing to show for all his work. He would be gone before he had a chance to really live.

Perhaps he could study some history and live in the past for a while first.   He could carefully use his knowledge to protect himself and perhaps make a little profit to pass on to his younger self later. It wasn’t as though waiting a bit would make a difference to his younger self.

When he was ready, he could reconstruct the plans and pass them on with the money he’d made and the lessons he’d learned. That would make everything easier. He picked a date to visit and prepared to leave.

“Johan, you don’t have to do this,” Anna said.

“I have waited my whole life for this. If I don’t go, I think I would always regret it,” Johan said.

“I will miss you,” Anna said.

“You won’t remember that I left,” Johan said.

Johan pressed buttons and pulled levers. The machine disappeared and reappeared. However, something must have gone wrong. There was no civilization on the horizon.

Johan stepped out of the machine and looked around at the strange forest.   He leaned over to examine an unusually large flower when the ground began to shake. He had enough time to stand, turn, and face his fate. Then a dinosaur ate him.

The machine was smashed. The knowledge of time travel was lost to the world. Anna did miss him after all.


Out to Pasture

“The refrigerator is getting old,” Mom said.   “It’s not keeping things as cool as it should.”

“It’s been a good old fridge,” Dad said. “It’s kept things cool for us for years and years.

“What’s going to happen to it?” Kara asked.

“Well, we can’t keep it if it doesn’t work well,” Mom said. “We just don’t have the space.”

“You aren’t going to kill it?” Kara asked. “It’s not Fridgie’s fault that he’s getting old. It’s not fair.” Kara began to cry.

“Of course we won’t kill it,” Dad said. “We’ll put it out to pasture.” He tore a paper towel off the roll and handed it to Kara.   “Now dry your eyes and blow your nose.   In that order. There you go.”

“What does out to pasture mean?” Kara asked, still sniffling a little.

“Well, when something is put out to pasture, it doesn’t have to work anymore. It can wander around in a nice field and eat grass and think about the meaning of life in peace,” Dad said.

“Fridgie doesn’t eat grass!” Kara said.

“Are you sure?” Dad asked.

“I think so,” Kara said. “Does he?”

“When it’s out to pasture it does. It will chase chickens and cows around and make a humming sound when it gets close to catching them,” Dad said.

“Like the vacuum?” Kara asked.

“Just like that,” Dad said.

“But how will he move around?” Kara asked.

“When it’s not full of all our food, it will be light enough to float,” Dad said.

“But where is his mouth?” Kara asked.

“It’s that little grill down there at the bottom.   Haven’t you heard him purr when mom wipes out his shelves?” Dad said.

“Mom, is that true?” Kara asked.

Mom was heating some soup on the stove. “What was that, dear?”

“Does Fridgie purr when you wipe out his shelves?”

“Hmmm. I haven’t noticed,” mom said. “Can you set the table? Bowls and spoons.”

“Okay,” Kara said. “Dad, can you reach me the bowls?”

“Here you go,” Dad said.

“What else will Fridgie do in his pasture?” Kara asked.   She set the table, spoons to the left of the bowls.

“We’ll come visit and he’ll wag his cord when you pet his doors. He’ll sleep standing up.   He won’t climb trees though.”

“Of course not. He’s too big,” Kara said. “What will happen when he dies?” She petted the refrigerator door, looking sad.

“Oh, he’ll be recycled of course. Then they’ll use his parts to make new refrigerators for other families, and Fridgie will live on in all those new refrigerators. It’s the circle of life,” Dad said. He got a box of crackers out of the cupboard and brought it to the table. Mom brought the soup to the table and set it on a hot pad. They all sat in their chairs.

“Dad, are you telling the truth? Will we really take Fridgie to a pasture where he’ll run around and chase chickens and eat grass?” Kara asked.

“What do you think?” Dad asked.

“No, not really. Except the part about recycling him, maybe,” Kara said.

“I think you’re probably right,” Dad said.


An Especially Strange Coconut

“I’ve brought home a treat today,” Dad said.

“What is it?” Walter asked.

“Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” Dad said.

“Oh, weird,” Walter said. He opened his eyes. “It looks like a hairy bowling ball. Is it dead?”

“That is a coconut,” Dad said.

“That is so weird. It’s like a grown up kiwi fruit, but less squishy,” Walter said. He tried squeezing it harder between his palms and then turned it around in his hands. “So, how do you open it?”

“Follow me!” Dad led the way to the garage, where he pulled out a hammer.

“No way!” Walter said. “Can I hit it?”

“First we need to drain out the coconut water,” Dad said. He used the hammer and a nail to make two holes and then poured the water into a bowl in the kitchen.   Then, he spread out a towel on the floor and handed Walter a hammer.

“After you crack it open, we can scrape out the insides,” Dad said. “Well, go on.” He held out his arms wide. “Hit it like a piñata.”

“Yes!” Walter said. It took a few hits, but the coconut cracked open.

“Dad, is there supposed to be a phone inside?” Walter asked.

“No, there’s not,” Dad said. They both looked at the little black cell phone inside the coconut. “How did it get in there?”

“I don’t know,” Walter said. “I checked it, it was sealed tight.”

“I think it had to be or the coconut water would have leaked out,” Dad said.

The phone started ringing. “I think you should answer it, Dad,” Walter said.

“Yes, of course,” Dad said. He picked up the phone and tried swiping the screen.   Nothing happened. After a few moments the phone stopped ringing.

“It doesn’t have any buttons,” Dad said. Dad was turning the phone around in his hands when it started to ring again. He nearly dropped it.

“Careful!” Walter said, and reached his arms out to catch it if it fell. It didn’t.

Dad held the ringing phone up close to his face.   “Hello?” he said. The phone lit up. A blue light blinked at one end, next to a steady yellow light. White letters on a green square on the front showed the time, date, and GPS coordinates.

“Oh, good, you found my phone,” a deep voice said from out of the phone. “Just keep talking and I’ll find you.”

“What do you mean? How will you find us? Where are you?” Dad said.

“That’s great. Keep going,” the voice said. There was a banging, clattering sound outside, as though something had bumped into the trashcans out front. A moment later, there was a knock at the door.

“I’ll get the door,” Dad said. Walter followed right behind him.

A tall man was at the door. Walter had never seen someone so tall. He was unusually skinny and had a long, long face.   Walter was pretty sure he wasn’t human.   However, he wasn’t completely certain.

“Hello,” the tall man said in a deep voice. “I believe you have my phone.”

Dad looked down at the phone in his hand. The screen was dark, and the blue light was off, but the yellow light was still on. He handed it to the tall man.

“Thank you,” the man said. “These new phones are always getting lost the moment you set them down. I’ll have to send it back to the lab. Where was it this time?”

“Inside a coconut,” Walter said.

“That’s a new one!” The man said. “Thanks for finding it. Well, I have to go.” He walked down the street and turned the corner.

“Do you think he’s still there?” Walter asked.

“I doubt it,” Dad said.

Walter ran to check and walked back. “He’s gone. Do you think he was an alien?”

“I have no idea. That was so weird,” Dad said.

“Weirder than coconuts,” Walter said.


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