Summer Daze

By Chris Thompson

There’s a cloud of black flies buzzing and a heat wave burning, what games we play among the hissing of warm summer lawns…

You see that Planter’s peanut can over there? The one next to the 7-Up bottle?” My cousin Jasper asked me.

“Yeah, I see it. You gonna’ bulls-eye it?” I asked sarcastically.

“Hell yeah I am!” Jasper replied as he excitedly pumped the cocking lever below the muzzle of his Model 25 Daisy air rifle. He had a face like a linebacker, a pair of wide-set eyes above a short stubby nose and he was wearing his straw cowboy hat, the same one that our grandfather had given me for my tenth birthday, his long blonde hair poking out from beneath its ample brim.

“Watch this.” he said, as we both laid down in the fresh cut grass of my uncle’s backyard. Looking at me he pushed the brim of his cowboy hat up with his index finger and smiled a big toothy grin. The cloudless blue summer sky stretched perpetually above us and the hissing of the cicadas in the trees droned endlessly on as we lay there and scrutinized the assorted targets spread atop the low stone wall.

My cousin snickered and lowered his head to focus, intent on putting the rusty Planter’s can squarely in his air rifles sights. I watched inquisitively, each second ticking slowly by, as he carefully lined up the shot. Time seemed to stand still within that moment before he fired. I could see the just-cut blades of grass caressing the soft fuzz of Jasper’s face and I could hear the cloud of black flies buzzing loudly above us, dancing on the thermals radiating off our warm summer skin. Jasper brushed his long bangs out of his eyes and puffed in a big gulp of air. Holding his breath, he closed his eyes for a moment before opening  them slowly, pausing for only a second before he fired his first shot.
Pt-ching! Went the Planter’s can, kicking up off the low stone wall and launching violently into the humid summer air, rotating wildy with the force of my cousin’s dead-eyed shot. The noise was loud and it echoed around the outbuildings surrounding the yard, frightening a small flock of sparrows from the nearby trees.
;;
“Whoa!” I exclaimed. “Nice shot ‘cuz!” A surge of excitement coursing through me as I caught his boastful eye. I had to admit, he was becoming a first-class shot.

“Yeah, not bad huh?” Jasper replied. “I’ve been shootin’ that Planter’s can off this wall all summer. It’s gettin’ to be that I shoot at it in my dreams. It’s pretty full of holes by now though I imagine. Thinkin’ I might have to retire it reeeeeal soon. Replace it with another one of my fathers old oil cans from that pile behind the barn. Or maybe steal one of my sisters new dolls?” He said, nudging me playfully in the ribs. “But not yet. How about for now you go put it back on the wall will ya’ Tobias? And while you’re up there, take a gander at Mr. Peanut there on that can.”

I sauntered up to the wall, not twenty paces away, and dug around in the squat boxwood shrubs growing behind it until I found the beat up can. I held it up to the sky and squinted my eyes, peering softly inside at the tiny shafts of dusty sunlight shining in through the numerous holes. The can sure looked like Jasper had been shooting it up all summer. I reckoned by now it was more empty space than can. The few copper-colored BB’s still stuck inside the peanut can rattled about loudly as I rotated it. I brought Mr. Peanut into view and I broke out into laughter as I saw the BB hole right through his monocle.

“Hey! Right through his eye ‘cuz’!” I yelled back to Jasper, my eyes still transfixed on the hole blazed through his head. “Mr. Peanut’s as good as dead.” I laughed as I set the can back down.

Without warning the soft ground around my feet suddenly erupted as a volley of BB’s buried themselves in the lawn. The pwaft! pwaft! pwaft! of the spherical pellets striking the ground reverberating all around me.

“Hey what gives?” I yelled, jumping instinctively into the air, my own straw cowboy hat falling off my head. “What the heck Jasper? That’s not cool!” I scolded loudly as I turned to face him. He was laying there in the sunlight, spread out upon the emerald grass, a look of satisfaction in his narrowed eyes, smiling smugly as if he was enjoying toying with his new found target.

“Jasper that’s not cool!” I repeated angrily. “Those things hurt!” I yelled at him as I stormed back towards the yard, zig-zagging left and right slightly as I closed the distance between us, stooping down quickly to grab my hat. I looked around for witnesses to Jasper’s crime but the only person nearby was his neighbor Mr. Sullivan and he was too busy skimming Japanese beetles and mosquitoes out of his above ground pool to take notice.

Jasper just lay there in the grass with that wicked smile spread across his face, silently following me with the sight of his gun as I hastily made my way back to his side. “I could’ve hit you easily you know.” He said as I sat down in the grass besides him, beads of perspiration from the sudden rush of adrenaline forming on my brow. I wiped my sweat off on the sleeve of my Epcot Center t-shirt and put my cowboy hat back on my head. “When you were up there at the wall Tobias.” Jasper continued, staring up at me from where he lay on the lawn. “I could’ve shot you square in the ass right then and there while you were leaning over in the bushes. Now that would’ve been fun.” He said, sitting up and looking at me mischievously through the long bangs of his moppy blonde hair.

“Fun for who ‘cuz?” I deadpanned. “Definitely not for me.

“Man you don’t ever sweat do you?” I said changing the subject, not wanting to indulge my cousin in this stupid little game. I pulled out my red handkerchief from my back pocket and wiped the perspiration again off my face. It was hot out, maybe ninety five degrees in the shade and I was feeling flush.

“Nah.” Jasper said stretching out his arms as he yawned “I’m as cool as can be. The heat doesn’t really bother me at all.”

“Well you’re lucky then. But this heats gotta’ break sometime soon you know. Remember last summer when it was all hot like this and then the weather finally broke and that crazy thunderstorm came outta’ nowhere and destroyed the old Starlight Drive-In one town over? Remember that?”

“Yeah I remember.” Jasper said half-listening to me, half-paying attention to shooting another target on the wall. Pt-ching! Went the sardine tin as it spun off over the bushes.

“Hey Jasper, lemme get a few shots in. It’s my turn anyway.” I said reaching for the gun. Jasper turned to me, his hands firmly grasping the rifles stock. “I’m serious Jasper. Don’t try that stuff again. I’m not kidding. That wasn’t fun.” I spoke forcefully as he reluctantly handed over the rifle. “What do you want me to shoot?’ I asked as I laid down in the grass besides him.

“Fine, fine. I won’t try and shoot you.” He said dejectedly. “Why don’t you aim over there, at that old tennis ball.”

He seemed dismissive in his reply, as if he was no longer interested in shooting anymore and he just looked off into the distance as I fumbled with the gun. “Let’s see if you can’t knock that old ratty thing off the wall.” He said half-heartedly, watching as a black carpenter ant crawled randomly across his arm.

I hit the tennis ball on the fourth shot. Grazed it actually so it just spun anti-climactically off the wall. It landed in the dirt with a dull sounding thud and a big puff of dust. My uncles old farm dog, a gray-faced retriever named Molly, came out of nowhere and ran excitedly over to the ball, picked it up in her jaws and took off for the cool shade of the porch where she could chew on it without interruption. Molly loved tennis balls.

My cousin was howling with laughter the whole time. “You shoot like an old lady!” He bellowed at me, clutching his sides with laughter, his cowboy hat falling over his eyes. “Look at how tense and rigid you are when you fire the gun!” He roared, pushing his hat back up again. “You close your eyes when you pull the trigger, you know that Tobias? You can’t expect to be any good at hitting targets if you’re afraid of the gun in the first place!”

He was starting to get on my nerves with all his carrying-on and such but I realized he did have a point. “Lemme try again.” I said laying back down in the grass. I steadied the rifle and tried to concentrate on hitting the empty 7-Up bottle, its thick glass glowing a translucent green in the afternoon sun. I closed my eyes like my cousin had done and took a deep and steadying breath.

But before I could take the shot Jasper jammed his elbow into my ribs, causing me to misfire the gun. The soft lead pellet of the BB shattered a ceramic owl my aunt used to keep the squirrels away from her bird-feeders. She’d be pissed about that one I thought for sure. I know how much she loved her birds.

“Ow, you ass!” I yelled, lunging over to try and punch Jasper on the shoulder. He was too quick for me though and was on his feet in no time, his shadow falling across my prostrated form, blocking out the sun. He’d always been the better athlete, always had more stamina and was quicker in a flat out run. This time it was no different. In the blink of an eye he was up and on his feet, doubled over and howling with laughter.

“You shot an owl!” he roared. “My you’re quite the hunter aren’t you Tobias? What are you going to kill next? My mothers garden gnome? Her collection of ceramic ducks?”

“Shut-up!” I hissed.

“Hey everyone!” Jasper called, cupping his hands to his mouth. “Come see the great and mighty Tobias! The slayer of backyard decorations!” He shouted at the top of his lungs.

“Shut-up!” I yelled again. “You made me miss Jasper! It’s your fault the owl broke not mine!” I was getting really pissed off. I stood up fast and angrily stared him down. He raised his hands and motioned at me as if to say You want a piece of me? And I did so I swung at him, going for his chest with my free hand while the other still clutched the gun. He twisted as if anticipating my strike and was off running down the yard in an instant, before I could recover. Naturally I gave chase, my left hand gripping the smooth wooden stock of the Daisy rifle as I ran.

He took me around his house and out into the front yard, past our grandparents sipping mint iced-tea as they sat in the rockers on the front porch, the sounds of old-time jazz drifting out from the wireless radio in the front hall. Out and around my aunts yellow rose bushes we went, and in-between a gap in their neighbors fence. And out towards the low buildings on the side yard where the chickens and roosters slept. And up the hill and around the barn until Jasper was almost in the backyard again. I was fighting for each breath in the thick humid air and having a hard time keeping up. I lapped at his heels the whole way round, never quite catching him and blinded by anger and demanding justice. Finally fed up with the pursuit, I just shouted out that he was a jerk. I had closed the gap between us, maybe he was only a half-dozen paces or so ahead, but I just couldn’t go on any more. Gasping for breath I decided to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Dropping to one knee I swung the Daisy air rifle up before me, pumping the cocking mechanism a good dozen times as quickly as I could before he was gone from my sight. I brought the butt of the rifle up to my shoulder and steadied my hand on the barrel. I fingered the trigger and squinted my eye as I lined up my cousins buttoxs in my sights.

Taking a deep steadying breath I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger, the air gun shuddering slightly as it discharged its load, the butt of the stock recoiling lightly into my shoulder. As I opened my eyes I watched in horror as Jasper turned suddenly back to face me, to evaluate where I was at. The BB pellet was already in flight and a look of concern flashed across his face as his eyes went wide with fear a moment before it struck. I had misjudged his motion, hadn’t expected him to crouch and turn, and the soft lead pellet struck him below the eye, causing him to spin and crash wildly to the ground.

“Jasper!” I yelled. “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” I muttered to myself repeatedly as I ran swiftly to where he fell. I just killed my cousin! I thought as my pulse thundered in my temples and my heart leapt into my throat. My parents and then Jasper’s parents and then the authorities are probably going to kill me. String me up at dawn’s first light. I thought, my imagination reeling. When I approached Jasper he was laying on his stomach in the grass, his hands about his face and moaning as he rocked back and forth. “Jasper!” I called out. “Are you alright? It was an accident. I didn’t mean to….you know I….I mean….I’m sorry ‘cuz. Talk to me! Are you alright?” I was freaking out by then and there were tears streaming down my cheeks. I looked to the gun still clutched in my hand and I threw it violently to the ground, in that instant promising to God or whatever higher power existed that I would never, ever misbehave again.

Jasper rolled over and what I saw threw me for a fright. He pulled his hands down from his face and where the BB had struck him looked all strange and out of place, like something I’d never seen before. The skin below his eye had torn off slightly and a flap of it was hanging off at an odd angle. Below it I could make out what seemed like a dull gray piece of grooved metal surrounded by wires and screws.

“Jasper…y-y-your face!” Was all I could stammer, the words spilling forth on lips that had suddenly gone numb. It was simultaneously a question and a statement. I looked around desperately for some help, some aid in understanding what was going on. There was no blood at all. No reddening or bruising of Jasper’s skin where the pellet had struck. It was as if the skin below his eye had been merely pulled back like the peeling of an orange.

He kept staring at me, at the look of fright painted across my face, as he ran his fingers probingly around his wound. “What the hell…” He began to say as he fingered the textured metal below his skin, but before he could finish my aunt Margaret came running out the door, across the back porch and down the stairs, her paisley house apron fluttering on the wind as she ran. She had seen the commotion while looking out the kitchen window, her floured hands mid-knead in a pie dough for dessert and ran immediately to our side, her baking forgotten.

“Jasper!” She screamed when she saw him laying on the ground. “Jasper! Oh my God are you alright?” My aunt Margaret dropped to her knees, the long blonde curls of her hair spilling out from the bun atop her head. She pulled Jasper up into a sitting position and cradled his head upon her chest, her floured hands leaving great white streaks across his blue coveralls. “What happened to your face?” She exclaimed as she ran her bony fingers gingerly over the spot beneath his eye, tried repeatedly to fold the flap of skin back up and set it into place even though it just kept falling back down.

She glared in my direction, tucking the loosened strands of her fallen hair behind her ear. “How did this happen? What did you do to him Tobias?” She demanded, her eyes glancing to the air rifle laying on the lawn. “How did he hurt his face?”

“I w-w-was chasing after him and the gun went off by mistake and it hit him in the eye.” I lied, the words spilling forth from my mouth before I even knew I’d said them. Yeah that’s right, I thought, it was an accident. Maybe they’ll buy that. I could see my cousin Jasper looking at me as the words came out my mouth, the wheels within my mind turning as I formulated my defense.

“It just went off auntie! I didn’t mean it!” I began to sob uncontrollably for added effect. “It was an accident. It went off by mistake. I swear!” My cousin began to open his mouth as if to object and I got scared, thinking he might give me up. But I think he saw the terror behind my eyes and instead changed his mind.

“Go get your uncle, Tobias!” Aunt Margaret yelled at me, “He’s over in the barn. Tell him to come to the house right quick. That there’s been an accident.”

“Okay…” I sputtered, my tears still filling my eyes. I looked to Jasper one last time before I left and he managed a weak smile. Maybe it’ll be alright! Maybe he won’t give me up! I thought as I sprinted off for the big red barn, to my uncles little workshop where he spent the majority of his days.

I struggled as I tried to pull open the barns great big door. Glancing up at the enormous sun-bleached deer antlers my uncle had hung above the doorway momentarily gave me pause, they were frightening to behold. I could only imagine coming face to face with the owner of those horns and that thought followed me as I pushed into the cool air of the musty, shadowy barn. The place reeked of wet hay and diesel and manure and I had to take slow, deliberate breaths as I penetrated deeper inside.

I came upon my uncle in his workshop, crouched over one of his messy shop tables smoking his cheap Prince Albert cigars. A single fluorescent light glowed harshly overhead, flickering occasionally as it cast dull and strange shadows across the cluttered room’s walls.

“Uncle?” I said meekly as I inched forward into the workshop, encroaching from the shadows into the ruddiness of the single fluorescent light. “Uncle, it’s me Tobias. There’s been an accident and auntie wants you back at the house.”

My uncle jumped at the sound of my voice, startled by my intrusion into the sanctity of his quiet, disordered realm. He turned slowly to peer at me over his shoulder, a pair of intricate magnifying lenses strapped upon his face, his blue-green eyes appearing a hundred times larger than they actually were.

I stepped back anxiously with fright when I saw him. He stood up from his work table quickly, threw a ragged, oil-stained cloth over whatever he was working on. It was something metallic, with bolts and wires and rods coming off of it, that much I could see. The odors of soldered metal mixed with cigar smoke were acrid and harsh and they hung thickly in the air. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I could barely breathe.

“What did you say son?” My uncle asked, pushing the magnifying glasses up onto his balding, grease -stained head, his eyes to my relief, returning to a more normal size. He was a broken man. Bent and weathered from a lifetime of neglecting his health but he managed to walk quickly toward me despite his limp, glancing over his shoulder one final time to make sure his work was covered. “What did you say about auntie now, son?” he repeated as he put his arm around me, carelessly pushing my face into his greasy coveralls as he guided me out the room.

“She wants you back down at the house uncle.” I said on muffled breath as I tried to loosen myself from his steady grip. Finally breaking free I came to a stop and confessed my sins. “There’s been an accident with Jasper! I shot him in the face by mistake with his BB gun and now aunties all upset and crying and Jasper has this strange metal and wires coming out of his face and I don’t know why and I thought I killed him and I thought he was dead and now I don’t know what to think!” I professed, feeling overwhelmed and beginning to cry, the tears coming in big gasping sobs. I could barely breathe in that darkness and I was fearful I might retch. My uncle put his arm back around me and we hastily left the barn together, crossing back out into the sunlight. I took in a deep cleansing breath, grateful for the gulp of fresh air.

“There, there son.” My uncle said rubbing his weary eyes in the sunlight. “It’ll all be okay Tobias. Now let’s hurry down to the house and see if we can’t find out what’s going on before auntie has to come after us and we’re both in big trouble. Alright?”

“Okay.” I said, my head down as we walked together to the house, my uncles arm reassuring and firm on my shoulder as a thousand thoughts raced frantically through my mind. I had no idea what to expect when we walked into the farmhouse’s kitchen and when we finally did I was startled by what I saw.

Jasper was sitting there at the kitchen table, eating a massive slice of my aunt Margaret’s blackberry pie, the purply syrup of the blackberries spread all about his face. There was a bandage taped below his eye where I had shot him and it was keeping the flap of skin in place.

“Hi Dad!” Jasper exclaimed through a mouthful of pie, his short legs kicking wildly with delight under the kitchen table, his animated greeting spilling crumbs from his mouth onto the patterned tablecloth. Finishing his bite he picked-up a tall glass of chilled milk and watched the two of us over its rim as we walked into the room.

“Hi son.” My uncle answered quickly, his eyes darting from the bandage to the slice of pie to my aunt Margaret leaning with her back to the kitchen sink.

“I gave him a piece of pie to quiet him down George.” My aunt said in response to his look of confusion.

“What’s going on here Margaret?” He asked my aunt as he made his way towards Jasper.

“I don’t know George.” My aunt replied. ”The two of them were fooling around and Jasper got hurt. Tobias shot Jasper by mistake with the BB gun below his eye. It’s not bad but it gave me quite a fright. I told you something like this would happen if we let Jasper have that gun but you didn’t want to listen to me did you? A boy has to be comfortable around a gun you said. Well look what’s happened now George. We’ve opened a can of worms. There’s no going back, Tobias has to know the truth.”

I had no idea what was going on. My aunt thought that Jasper’s wound was not that bad? It was pretty bad in my mind. The worst actually. And I had to know the truth? What truth? My head was spinning and I just kept on staring at that bandaged flap of skin, the image of the glowing wires in Jasper’s face playing over and over again within my mind. And to top it off it smelled like delicious blackberry pie in the house, one of my alltime favorites, and I could really go for a piece and no one was offering me any, and Jasper was really enjoying his and I was all sweaty and I was nervous and just overcome with confusion. I couldn’t take it anymore and I just blurted out.

“What the heck is going on with Jasper? Did any of you see his face? You had to! Will someone tell me what is going on? Is Jasper going to be okay?” I yelled, pulling a chair out from the kitchen table and collapsing into it, pushing my cowboy hat down low over my eyes as I sulked.

“You deal with this George.” My aunt said. “I bandaged him up as best I can. Grandma and I have dinner to prepare.” Through the holes in the straw of my cowboy hat I could see my aunt grab a big bowl of fresh picked peas from off the counter and head out onto the back porch, the muffled sounds of her and my grandma’s talk drifting softly in. Without speaking my uncle crossed the kitchen and opened a drawer in the cupboard above the sink, pulling out a small metallic box. I pushed the brim of my hat up with my finger and watched as he brought it over to the table, setting it down gently between Jasper and me.

He pulled a chair over to Jasper and opened the box, pulling out several strange looking instruments, a roll of some light pink rubber-like tape and a small amber-colored dropper bottle filled with a clear-looking liquid.

He pushed the half-eaten plate of pie away from Jasper and waited for him to finish his bite. When Jasper was done chewing my uncle put his hands on his face and gently turned his head to face him. He grabbed a pair of what looked like tweezers from off the table and carefully pulled the bandage off from below Jasper’s eye.

He worked quickly, his hands moving in an intricate dance of skill and precision. First he pulled back the flap of skin with the tweezers and cut it off with a complex looking set of shears, the shiny metal of the instrument glinting in the overhead light as he worked. With the flap of skin removed, the underlying metal and screws and wires were revealed. My uncle grabbed a miniature puffer bottle and blew the dust and dirt and grass out from the “wound”. I just sat there stunned, staring at my cousin as my uncle worked. Jasper was idle, just looking off into the distance, not moving at all as if he was in a trance.

My uncle finished cleaning out the grime and then he snipped off a piece of the rubbery looking tape. He carefully dispensed a dropperful of the clear liquid onto one of its sides. The pinkish rubber shuddered and hissed, releasing a blue puff of smoke and my uncle quickly placed it where the flap of Jasper’s skin once was. Instantly the pink material began to grow and curl, expanding rapidly to cover the entirety of the wound. In a matter of moments it reached the borders of Jasper’s skin and as I watched, my eyes going wide with disbelief, the wound completely disappeared. Vanished as if it had never been there at all.

Placing his tools carefully back inside their metallic box, my uncle turned to Jasper, ruffled his hair with his hand and put his cowboy hat back on his head. Jasper smiled lovingly at my uncle as he ran his fingers softly over his freshly healed wound. “All set?” He asked my uncle.

“All fixed.” My uncle said, as if they had done this routine together a hundred times before. “Go outside and play now Jasper.” He said firmly. “I want to have a talk with Tobias.” Jasper leaped up from his chair and was out into the backyard in a flash, the screen door slamming behind him loudly, closing with a sharply sounding whap!

Uncle George turned to face me from across the table. I just stared at him with disbelief, my jaw hanging slack as I tried to process what I had just seen. I tried to speak but no words came out my mouth. I wanted to say a thousand things at once but it was all knotted up in my throat.

My uncle took the liberty of starting the conversation instead. “Your cousins not real Tobias. Not in the sense that you and I are.” He began, placing his forearms on the table and leaning in. “Jasper’s a robot, a facsimile of a boy. Do you understand?” I shook my head no, then yes, then no again. I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Your auntie and I couldn’t have children after Melissa was born. Aunt Margaret had always wanted two children, a girl and a boy, so I built Jasper for us. We treat him like he is a real boy and we’ve loved him like he’s our own flesh and blood ever since. Can you understand that son?”

I could but it still didn’t make sense to me. “But he’ll never age! Never grow up and get old!” I exclaimed struggling to imagine my cousin as an elderly robot. From what I could understand from my comic books and the movies robots weren’t alive, could never grow old like people or animals and could not die.

“Oh but he will Tobias! He’ll grow old just like you and me. I’ll make the modifications to him as long as I’m able and then when he’s old enough I’ll teach him how to do it himself. Don’t worry Tobias…he’ll still be your cousin right up until the very end. Until the day we all die. But I suspect I’ll have to make a few modifications to his circuits later tonight. He’s been acting out a lot lately and I have my suspicions it’s part of the reason why he got shot.”

“Don’t change him uncle! Don’t change a thing!” I pleaded. “He’s my best friend and I like him the way he is! If you want to treat him like a real boy then you have to leave him alone. Life doesn’t work that way. You can’t just change something in a person that you don’t like by flipping off a switch!” I could feel my tears starting to well up in my eyes again as I pleaded my case.

“You’ve had a long day Tobias.” My uncle said, as he pushed towards me the remainder of Jasper’s pie. That made me soften up a little, put a bit of my frustration aside, but it still didn’t change the fact that I was upset. It just made it slightly easier to handle. I picked up the fork and devoured the remaining pie in a several humongous bites. It was delicious. Like a perfect distillation of summer, all sugary and sweet, and the beginnings of a smile formed on my face.

“You make a good point Tobias.” My uncle said, leaning back in his chair and lighting another one of his cheap cigars, the stale smoke drifting upward to dance around the overhead light. “I’ll have to think more about what you said today but I think you may be onto something son. Maybe I shouldn’t be tampering with Jasper’s circuits, trying to fix what may not be broke.” He exhaled a big puff of blue smoke, pondered its existence as it drifted across the room. Looking back to me he said, “Now go run along and play before the sun goes down, I’ve got some thinking to do.”

“Yes sir!” I saluted, sneaking a last bite of pie before I headed back outside. The screen door went whap! again as it snapped closed behind me and I made my way out across the porch with newfound excitement. Everything seems like it might be right in the world I thought. Molly the dog was still atop the stairs chewing on her beloved tennis ball, and Grandma was rocking on the porch with auntie, shelling the peas for dinner in the late afternoon sun like always. And Jasper was there too, sprawled out in the fragrant grass of the backyard, laying on his back and twirling his cowboy hat above him with his finger, not a care in the world.

I bounded down the stairs two at a time, letting out a cowboy’s whoop! as I descended. The sudden sharpness of my call causing Jasper to look my way. As I ran over to him he smiled and I sat down next to him in the grass.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Yeah sure, I’m fine.” He said. “This kind of thing happens all the time with me. I’m a scrappy little kid ya’ know?”

“Yeah, I know.” I said, remembering all the cuts and bruises I’d brought home. “I’m sorry that I shot you Jasper.”

“I know.” He replied, sitting up on his elbows.

“And thanks for not ratting me out to your parents.” I said punching him lightly in the arm.

“Anytime ‘cuz.” He replied. “And I guess I kinda had it coming to me.” He said, a mischievous smile spreading across his face.

“Yeah, you did.” I said laughing out loud a bit. “But it doesn’t really matter anymore because you’re a robot!” I yelled pushing him back in the grass. “Do you know what kind of fun we can have with that?”

“I know! Cool, right?” He said.

“The coolest.” I replied. “Hey, we got a few hours until supper! You wanna go play kick the can?”

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