A Robotic Heart started its literary life back in 2009 or so, not too long after writer AnimatedC9000 discovered The Jim Henson Hour. The story documents Digit retelling events of his life, including how he became semi-robotic and how he came to work with the Muppets, all from his point-of-view.
Also available on the Muppet Central Forums (in its current "Revisited and Re-Wired" edition), FanFiction.Net (currently trying to update to feature the content from the current "Revisited and Re-Wired" edition), and Archive of Our Own (where the chapter titles come from).
Chapter 1: Prologue: The NightmareEdit
It was the same as it was every night. There I was in the same dark room, and there were my friends, Lindbergh, Vicki, Waldo and all the others, gathered around the same confounded table they were in every dream, performing the same doomed experiment. As I watched them, I noticed, as I always did, that something didn't look right. The chemicals they were mixing were too volatile, and anyone with any training in chemistry could tell that there was a great risk of a dangerous reaction. The people gathered around the table however, had no training. As I looked on with apprehension, I saw Waldo pick up a beaker of what I could tell to be Macguffium-239, a highly explosive and very delicate agent even under the best of circumstances, and move to pour it into the compound. Knowing that I couldn't let this happen, I tried frantically to get the attention of one of them. Finally, my calling and arm-waving got the attention of Vicki, who smiled and waved me over. I ran over, in the hopes that I could stop this experiment before it went too far. It was too late. The chemical had been poured; the damage had been done. I heard a ground-shaking explosion, and saw a large cloud of smoke. I felt myself being thrown backwards by the blast, but I knew I was the only one. I couldn't see them, but I knew the others had been caught up in the explosion. Suddenly, I felt myself falling rapidly...
... and immediately found myself screaming as I fell out of bed.
As soon as my body hit the floor, I sat up and breathed heavily, trying to calm myself down. I’d experienced that dream--no, nightmare--for weeks upon end now and didn’t know how to prevent it. At first I thought it would pass, but now...
Looking up, I saw my friend and roommate standing at the doorway of my room in his pajamas, tiredly rubbing his eyes. Floating beside him was a little computer graphic who yawned. “What’re you doing screaming in the middle of the night?” my friend drowsily asked me.
Apparently, my scream of fright had awoken them from their slumber. Not knowing how to answer either of them, I simply remained silent.
“Did you have a bad dream or something?” the floating creature asked. "Must've been really loud..."
"You were screaming like you just saw something bad, or something," the other added.
I could not believe how correct both Lindbergh and Waldo were... “... well, yes,” I replied, “but… you see… I've been having this.. dream for...”
“I know, nights now,” my kiwi friend finished, moving to kneel beside me on the floor.
“We’ve been hearing that same scream for lots of nights in lots of weeks now," the graphic said, his drowsy eyes looking at me. "What’s going on with you? You're not glitching or anything, are you?”
"No, Waldo, I'm not glitching..." To be perfectly honest, I had been asking myself the same question ever since I first had that nightmare. The friends, the dark room, the chemicals, the explosion... it could possibly mean only one thing... “Lindbergh, I think my past is coming back to haunt me...”
Lindbergh looked me over. “... your past? ... like, when you became--”
“Yes, that.” Lindbergh was the only one other than myself that knew about what happened to me… how I became the way I am today...
But he, ever the optimist, tried his best to reassure me that things were okay. “Aw, don’t get yourself worried about this stuff, Digit. Maybe you did something all those nights to make you have that dream... like some of your wires got crossed again.” He paused. "... do you want me to look?”
“... no,” I said after a period of silence, crawling back up to my bed. “I think I can make it...”
He looked sort of sad after I said that. “Well, okay,” he said, then he returned to a semi-chipper voice. “I hope you get to feeling better... Good night, Digit.”
“Good night, Lindbergh, Waldo,” I nodded as they were leaving.
Poor little Waldo, ignorant of what had went on in years past (as he was not even there with me until the 1980s), raised an eyebrow in confusion. "When what happened--?"
"It's a long story, Waldo," Lindbergh interrupted, leading him out of the room. "Digit doesn't like to talk about it."
"Aww, but I wanna know!" the graphic whined. "He's basically my dad; dads are supposed to tell stories of the good old days when they rode trolleys to work and when sugar costed ten cents a bag and stuff like that!"
"It's hard to understand if I told you, Waldo," was one of the last things I heard Lindbergh say that night. "Maybe he can tell you all about it someday." Then he closed the door and went back to his room to sleep again, Waldo no doubt floating back to his computer resting site with questions in his computer-generated head still unanswered.
Lindbergh had been one of my oldest and dearest friends. He’s been with me ever since the accident and has never left me since. We were so close that we even moved in together after I was released from the hospital. From then on, we've pretty much been inseparable, partially because we became best friends, and partially because he's one of the only ones that knows how to actually fix me whenever I glitch.
Then there was Waldo C. Graphic, the self-proclaimed “spirit of 3-D”. He was a playful computer graphic who always had fun on the job and elsewhere. The little graphic had gone through a lot, including major redesigns from when I first activated him on a computer. I considered him to be the closest thing to a son that I'd ever have. After all, I basically coded him from scratch and activated him at all those places, including our former workplace, Muppet Central.
Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t have other friends. There’re the members of Solid Foam, a band that I was in back in the Eighties (and a little bit earlier). I played keyboard, Clifford played bass, Beard was our guitarist, Flash on saxophone (although he could also play the fiddle), and his girlfriend Francine was our drummer. We were close as well, and it seemed as if we knew what was going on with each other, especially during that one period of time...
So many other names came to my mind. There was Kermit the Frog, my boss and friend. Gonzo was also there, that delightful little alien who loved dangerous stunts and poultry. So was Leon, Kermit’s chameleon cousin and con artist. Still more were Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, his assistant Beaker, and all of the Electric Mayhem.
And then there was that one name that was so dear to my heart. The very mention of it sent a vision of happiness and loveliness to my mind. She was always so happy and upbeat, with the sweetest personality I could ever think of. She was so beautiful and magnificent, a real angel on Earth... at least to me.
At that moment, my hands felt over just a few of the items that I had taken out during my moments of solitude. A high school diploma... a photo album... a college degree... a paper heart... All of them brought back so many memories...
I knew that I couldn't go back to sleep. My mind was wide awake and didn't want to shut down for the rest of the night. Having nothing else to do, I sat down at my desk and booted up my laptop. Then, when everything was situated, I started to reminisce about the times gone by, typing memories that flooded into my mind down on the computer.
Chapter 2: Recollections of a Human Life
I'm sorry to say that I can't remember that much about my life before the accident. I'm pretty sure that it was an average life. I vaguely remember getting good grades, but I also remember not having that many friends. I don't remember having any siblings, either; I do, however, remember having an imaginary friend that later was the main influence to a special creation of mine. I doubt that I was ever in a relationship back then, given that I clearly remember that I didn't go to any prom.
However, my earliest childhood memory that I can fully remember involved working on a science project when I was in middle school. I was frustrated, not being able to figure out why a certain part in my experiment wouldn't work out. I was in the midst of a break when a knock came on my door.
"May I come in, sweetie?" a woman asked, poking her head into my room. Her hair was light brown in color and she had a very radiant smile. The detail that was very prominent about her was her species: She was human.
"Sure, Mom," I replied with a sigh.
The woman I referred to as Mom entered the room and sat down beside me on my bed. "How's the science project coming along, Michael?"
My full name was Michael Lloyd Scott. That was when I was still human and was in a family. From what I could recollect, it was just my mother and I. I don't remember having a father figure in my life.
"Not so good, Mom," I said, motioning over to my experiment. "I can't seem to make it work."
Mom took a look at the project, then back at me. "Son, you have the best grades in science that I've ever seen. You're telling me that you can't get the project- that, remember, you designed - to work?"
"I've tried everything," I told her. "I've looked and re-looked at the plans. Heck, I've even redesigned a few parts so it could work."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Mom, I've tried everything."
She had me there. After a few awkward moments of silence, I answered her. "... what do you think I should do?"
My mother looked at me and smiled. "Michael, I know you can think of something to make it work. You just have to keep trying until you eventually get it right."
If anything, my mother was a great motivator. She was always encouraging me to try new things and also was very supportive in my experiments.
Looking back at my experiment, I pondered my mother's words. What else could be done to improve it, I wondered.
Standing up from my position near the edge of the bed, I headed towards the desk that supported my project and began to look over it and the plans again. Before I began to tinker, however, my mother spoke again. "Remember that bedtime's in an hour."
I flashed a smile as I looked over my shoulder at her. "Okay, Mom," I said in return. "Good night."
"Good night sweetie." With a smile and an air kiss, she left the room.
I ultimately stayed up late that night, tinkering and fixing my project until I thought it would work. Then I activated it and watched as the experiment worked like a charm. With the work finally completed, I almost immediately fell asleep afterwards.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that my project earned an excellent grade in my science class. In fact, it might not surprise anyone if I revealed that my grades were excellent in all of my classes. (Except for P.E. I've never been that athletic.) All through my school years, I was in the top students of my class and excelled in pretty much every subject. (Again, not in P.E. at all.)
Among my fellow students, however, I wasn't what some might consider "popular". You see, I was mostly known to be studying by myself or experimenting than being involved with a group of people. As a result, I hardly received an invitation to any of the major parties or had a date for prom.
Still, I did manage to have friends in the teachers. They were always encouraging me to do the best that I could in my classes, just like Mom was encouraging me at home. I even actually had after-school access to the science lab thanks to Mr. Hucklebee, my science teacher in high school.
While in school, I also took an interest in photography. I'm hardly one to brag, but I took pretty decent pictures back then, and I still do every once in a while. In fact, it was because of my skills in that area that allowed me to join the school paper staff and (eventually) the yearbook committee.
By the time I was a senior, I was named the valedictorian of my class. My grades were high, my social life was improving (a little), I was the principle photographer for the yearbook committee, and my future seemed bright. It seemed that nothing in the world was going to stop me from achieving my major goals in life.
That is, until that one fatal day in early June that changed my life forever...
Chapter 3: Doomsday
The day started out like any other normal day. I went to school, took my classes, ate lunch, and studied (or, in that day's case, took my final test of the school year). However, I had planned to stay after school for a major science experiment I was planning on showing the university I had applied to, as well as to develop some last-minute photos in the lab for the yearbook.
It was quite normal for me to stay after school to work on some days. My mom always knew that I was either at the school when I wasn't at home (or if I didn't tell her that I was going to a different place beforehand, which was rare) and even the students expected it from me. To be honest, I didn't know I was that predictable…
Anyway, on that particular day, I was walking the halls towards the science classroom with Mr. Hucklebee, the science teacher.
“Thank you so much for letting me use the lab for my experiment, Mr. Hucklebee," I thanked him.
“It’s no trouble at all, Michael," he replied, handing me the keys to the science lab. “Just make sure to lock up after you’re through.”
“Oh, I will, sir.” I didn't know how to thank him enough. That science teacher was one of the nicest guys that I’ve ever known.
After he left, I immediately rushed to the photo lab to check up on the photos and to develop some negatives. Being the head photographer for the yearbook staff, I also had a key to the journalism room and the photography lab.
I took my time developing the negatives. After all, I had plenty of time later to do my experiment. Besides, it was almost the weekend anyway.
As I strolled back to the science lab, I thought about my life so far. I was going to be graduating from high school the next day, the valedictorian of the class. As part of the tradition of the top-honor students, I had a speech written up for the graduation ceremony that I put much time and effort in.
I unlocked the door to the lab and set my things on top of and around a vacant desk. I unfolded the experiment plans and left then open on the table as I went over to the cabinet to fetch the beakers and the other supplies.
While all of this was going on, I was going over the speech in my head. "Fellow graduates, this is a day of rejoicing.”
After setting up the beakers, I carefully brought over the chemicals needed for the experiment. “Today is the day that we leave the life we once knew and go out into the realm of the unknown to polish out skills.”
I hadn't realized it until later, but I accidentally brought over a very fatal chemical over to the experiment table instead of one of the ones that was needed... “Who knows the great dangers that we might face for the rest of our lives? Nobody knows for sure...”
With all the materials gathered, I officially began the experiment. “... but with our education, our generation will surely rise up to meet any challenge.”
Chemical after chemical, the reactions unfolded out before me. “We must learn to chart our own course in life. The road will be challenging, but for with hard work comes great results...”
After time had past, I had jotted down and gathered most of the information that I needed, the experiment looking to be a success. Just like I had hoped. “...whether they be small...”
I then reached for the beaker containing the fatal chemical, macguffium-239. “... or colossal in size.”
Carefully, I poured a small amount of it in a tube and watched, notebook in hand, ready to record the results. “Because we have the keys to our own futures...”
A single drop was about to enter the compound. "... it would be very frightening if that life was misused in the wrong way.”
It’s amazing how a simple mistake can change a person’s whole life.
An explosion rang out through the almost vacant halls of the high school. Inside the science lab, glass was shattering and the place was filling up with dangerous smoke. The force of the blast caused me to fly backwards into a cabinet.
My head crashed into a shelf and I immediately blacked out, not knowing that this fatal experiment was the ending of the life I once knew and the beginning of a very different one.
Chapter 4: Identity Crisis
“Doctor, will he be all right?” What do they mean, will I be all right?
“No one can be for certain about that, ma’am. We can only wait for him to wake up.” Wake up? Then why can I hear you?
“We’re here to run some tests on him, just to make sure he’s still alive.” I am alive. Why do you think I’m deceased?
I heard these voices and more as I lied on a flat yet elevated surface, my eyes closed. I could hardly remember anything that happened. All I know is that I was someplace different than what I was used to.
Over the next few days, I slipped in and out of consciousness, only listening to the voices and sounds around me, until one day when I managed to open my eyes a little. All I could do was look around the room. I was in a hospital room with machines all around me for some reason. It was apparently in the isolated part of the hospital because there were no visitors coming to see me at the moment.
Immediately, numerous questions flooded into my brain. What happened? Why was I in this place? Why was I surrounded by machines? And why was I picking up radio signals all of a sudden?
A nurse entered the room as I was pondering. “Good morning, mister Doe,” she said with a smile. “How are you doing?”
I tried to sit up more and answer her, but it hurt to move. I let out a moan in pain.
“Ah, don’t move around so much,” the nurse said as she helped me lie back down on the hospital bed. “You’re in the hospital, sir. There was a chemical explosion in the next town, and we found you among the rubble.”
Chemical explosion? I suddenly realized that the experiment that I was doing had something to do with this. What went wrong, what went wrong...?
What appeared to be a television screen suddenly turned on and started to visualize my thoughts. I saw very faint outlines of myself grabbing the necessary equipment, the chemicals, and-- wait a minute!
The “movie” immediately rewound and paused. There was a name on a chemical container that could hardly make out. Ma... uffi... was that a cursive Q or a 2...
My eye sight immediately refocused to read the words. Macguffium-239! Of course! That was a very explosive chemical that, even under the best circumstances, was very dangerous. How could I’ve been so blind as to pick that one up?
I looked over at the nurse. She was studying some printouts that appeared out of a printer. “Why, you’re adjusting to your new gifts very well, young man.”
New gifts? What did she mean by that?
“I’ll tell the rest of the staff that you’ve woken up and run these printouts to the doctors,” she said before she left the room, leaving me alone.
For several days after that, the doctors all came and ran several tests on me. Tests, of memory, tests of knowledge, tests of skill, all while I was still in the hospital bed. Of course, I had no clue what the tests were about, yet they seemed to please the doctors so much that they were calling me “a medical wonder”.
When the doctors weren’t in the room, I was left alone to my thoughts. I couldn’t move around well just yet, so most of my time was spent lying in bed, thinking to myself and listening to TV and radio broadcasts. Actually, the receiving of the broadcasts further puzzled me. Was I some kind of transmitter person now? What was happening to me?
One day, everything was running well. I was listening to a radio melodrama about a woman, a man, and a jealous suitor when a few doctors came in.
“Hello,” I said in a weak voice, somewhat surprised that I could still talk after what happened. Judging by the doctors’ reactions, they were surprised as well. “Are you here to do more testing?”
The two doctors exchanged glances between each other before one of them spoke to me. “You’ve come a long way since you’ve arrived, young man,” he said to me. “If you don’t mind, we’re going to operate on you some more.”
I involuntarily sat up in the bed. “More operation?” I asked through the pain. The other doctor was moving closer to me, reaching his hand out to something on my chest. “But why? What were the first operations for?”
All I got in reply before I blacked out was, “We’ll tell you everything when you wake up again.”
I learned later that a team of both scientists and doctors operated on me so that I could have a better life support system. That makes sense to me now, but at the time, I didn’t know what all of that talk meant. For all I knew, they were treating me like some piece of machinery more than an actual person.
Anyway, after I woke up again, I realized that I finally had full control over all of my actions. I could finally sit up by my own, move my hands around, and my head could turn.
In all of this rejoicing, my mood turned to concern when I noticed that my skin seemed pale. Actually, it seemed paler than that of a regular human’s skin. Very suspicious…
Stranger than that was what appeared to be a control panel on my chest. Far from the IV connectors and chest compressors one might have expected to see hooked up to a patient, it had all sorts of buttons and switches on it, including one for the master power. By now, I know how to operate it, but back then I was wondering why I even needed it.
I scratched the top of my head, wondering what was going on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had no hair on top of my head but what felt like wires growing. By then, I was beginning to freak out a little.
Curious to see whether I could control the movement of my lower half as well, I carefully scooted over to the side of the bed until my legs dangled off the side. I cautiously stood on my two feet and started to take my first few steps. As I walked around, I noticed that my movements were accompanied by a soft whirring sound. At first I thought that the noise was all in my head, but judging from all the other things that had happened to me, I knew that something was up.
Quick a I could, I rushed over to a mirror to examine myself. When I turned on the light, the reflection that I saw made me scream in shock.
No more was I human. I was now part-human, part-robot -- what the sci-fi community would later define as a cyborg.
Chapter 5: Lindbergh
For the next several weeks or so, I was in a slight denial. I didn't want to believe that I was turn into a robotic person, especially since I had almost no control over it. Yet, with help from counselors and a new friend, I managed to overcome those problems and learned how to control myself.
During those weeks, specialists were in my room, trying to help me readjust to everyday life. I learned how to control my motor reflexes better and how to improve my then-weak speaking skills, among other things. They all said that I made amazing progress, but there was one slight problem. (Besides the fact that they kept calling me “mister Doe”.)
Sometimes during the lessons, I acted up. That is to say, the electronics inside my body acted up. From time to time, my motor reflexes would short-circuit, my voice system would malfunction, or I'd blow a fuse when I blew my nose. My case was a curious one, and finding someone who could fix all of my glitches would be quite a task.
Fortunately, I met the right man- or bird, I'd rather say- for the job clearly by chance one day.
It was late morning, sometime close to noon. My legs were being unresponsive, so I was forced to stay in bed. I was sitting up in my hospital bed, working on a crossword puzzle in the daily paper ("Let's see… Thirty-two down: Acquaintance…"). In the middle of completing an entry, I heard a knock on the door.
"Who is it?" I called out, half-expecting for it to be a doctor or a nurse to run some tests on me.
"Plumbing services!" an unfamiliar voice replied to me. "May I come in, sir?"
I blinked. Plumbing services? What did I need a plumber for? Unless there was something wrong with the sink again… "Sure, come right on in," I said. "The door's unlocked."
The creature I saw enter the room then made my eyes widen. It was a kiwi bird with shaggy brown feathers and beady eyes. He wore a shirt, overalls, and a hat, and had a tool belt around his waist. "Thank you," he said to me before going to work.
At first, I didn't know what to make of the situation. All I knew that I was a robotic patient at a hospital with a kiwi plumber in my room. Abandoning the crossword puzzle, I decided to speak to the bird as he started to set up his workspace. (A plumber was better than no visitors at all.) "So... you're the plumber?" I asked.
"Uh-huh," the kiwi answered, not looking up from his work. "I'm also an expert at first aid, a TV repairman, a pipe fitter, and a sheet metal worker."
I was surprised about all of the jobs that he had. "Quite a résumé," I commented.
"Thanks," he said, turning to me with a smile on his face. "You're not so bad yourself."
I was slightly confused about why he said that. "I beg your pardon, sir, but-"
"Oh, it's Lindbergh," the kiwi said to me, standing up and tipping his hat. "Lindbergh C. Kiwi, at your service."
"A pleasure to meet you, Lindbergh," I replied with a slight smile.
"Don't mention it, sir."
Sir? That was a little bit too formal for my liking at that moment, especially since he went to all the trouble to introduce himself to me. "You can call me... Michael, if you'd like," I introduced myself, remembering my name as somewhat of a faded memory after all the times the staff referred to me as mister Doe. "Michael... L. Scott. Pleasure to meet you, Lindbergh."
"Michael Scott?" Lindbergh repeated, curiosity in his voice. "Why does that name sound familiar?"
I blinked. Did he know about me? I searched my already fuzzy mental database for some clue. "... well, I was the vale... vale... val-e-dic-torian of my class, which I believe graduated this pa-"
"Wait, I got it!" the plumber exclaimed with a snap of his winged fingers and a turn towards me. "You're that guy who founded that natural history museum in Columbia! My second cousin loves that museum!"
... or he didn't know me at all and mistook me for someone else. (Is Michael Scott that common a name, I wonder?) "No, wait, wasn't he that mathematician, or was that that one golfer...?" the kiwi pondered before I sighed. "Never mind," I dismissed the conversation, "I thought that... never mind."
"Never mind about what, Michael?" Lindbergh asked. "I have time to talk about it."
"I-I don't want you to lose your job because you were talking to me," I responded, half-telling the truth behind my reasonings. After a few seconds of silence, the repair-bird shrugged and turned back to his project. However, it felt a little too quiet then, so I decided to just make casual conversation. "So... what does the 'C' stand for, if you don't mind me asking?"
The kiwi looked up. "Huh?"
"The 'C' in your name," I clarified. "Sorry if I'm prying into your life a little too quickly..."
"Oh," he said, slowly nodding. "It's no problem. That my middle name, Clive."
"Nice middle name," I commented.
"Eh, you get used to it after the years. Especially since my twin brother has the same name that I have."
"Your parents named you both the same?" I questioned, my head tilted in confusion.
"Nope! Mom and Dad named us Lindbergh and Clive," Lindbergh started to explain in a more chipper tone, eyes glued to the pipe leading out from under the sink, "and they gave us the other's middle name. School was tough for us because of that. The teachers could hardly tell which one of us was which. But it all worked out as we got older!"
My eyes widened. "Really? How?"
The kiwi smiled (which was hard to tell because of his beak). "Clive was more interested in acting. Me, though," he shrugged. "I was more into wood- and metal-working. My dad actually gave me my very first tool set! Ever since then, I started to work and now I can repair just about anything!"
Suddenly, something in my head seemed to click. Maybe he could help me with some of the problems I've been having recently, I thought. "Listen Lindbergh, do you think you can help me out a little?"
The kiwi, surprised by my request, responded almost instantly as he tightened a bolt on the sink. "Sure Michael, what is it?"
I looked down at my legs, which were under the sheets of the bed, as I began my explanation. "You see, I've been confided to my bed for a few days because the motor reflex mechanisms in my legs have shorted out. The doctors say it'll take some time to fix, but I was wondering if you could help out with repair some."
"Sure I can!" Lindbergh happily replied, grabbing his wrench and making it over to my bedside. "Just let me see what I can do here..."
After having assistance swinging my legs over to the side of the hospital bed, he began to work. The kiwi then started to mess around with some of the knobs on the control panel on my chest, trying to find something before he unscrewed a panel on the back on my head. I tried very hard not to laugh as he searched around. "Aha! Here we are!" Tightening what appeared to be a few loose bolts with a screwdriver, he then closed the panel back up and started to test my reflexes by possibly the only way he knew how to: by pounding a hammer against my legs.
"OW!" I immediately retracted my legs from the hard hit. "What was that for?"
"Just testing your reflexes," Lindbergh explained me. "They seem to be pretty good. Try to walk around now."
Taking his advice, I stood up on the floor and started to take some steps around the room. I wasn't making awkward movements when I was moving anymore. "I... I can walk again!" My hand grabbed his wing in a fast handshake. "Lindbergh, you're a life saver! Thank you!"
"Aw, it's no trouble at all," the kiwi said back, a sense of a job-well-done in his voice. "Just doing my job."
The door opened. “What is going on in here?” a very alarmed nurse demanded.
Oh. Right. We were in a public hospital. I had let out a scream of shock. I was now standing on the floor on my own two feet.
And I might have just cost the plumber his job.
“I fixed the sink,” Lindbergh piped in, putting down his hammer and breaking the silence that was settling in. He turned the faucet on and off, proving his point.
“He did more than that,” I quickly added, continuing despite the odd look the nurse was giving me. “He fixed my legs! I can move again!” I quickly demonstrated by walking back and forth before almost toppling backwards. “It's a miracle...”
“Then what was with that scream I heard?” the confused nurse asked.
“That was fixing his legs,” the kiwi answered before I could open my mouth. “Special technique. I couldn't believe it actually worked.”
“Um, ma'am,” I spoke up again, trying to help our case, “I know that the staff has been searching for a repairman to help with my problem for a while now. Well, with the hospital's permission, I would like for him to be my personal repairman.”
"Me?" Lindbergh asked, blinking.
"Yes," I said. "From now on, you'll be in charge of helping me fix my malfunctions and glitches whenever they may happen. That is," I added as I glanced towards the nurse, "if the hospital does allow it..."
With those words (and a bit of pleading), I had not only found a repairman, but a best friend in Lindbergh C. Kiwi, one of the nicest birds I've ever known.
Chapter 6: Departure from What Once Was Normal
It wasn't until years later that I decided to research just what all brought about the decision to make me a cyborg. What I found out was surprisingly shocking. According to the medical records I had faxed over, there was no possible way to identify my body among the rubble. My face was deconstructed, my dental records near-unidentifiable, any sort of fingerprints were damaged, and my vital signs were all over the place. In order to save the life of a Mister John Doe, they decided to perform an experimental procedure to bring me back to life.
I could go into detail about the actual procedure itself, but I think I might make myself a bit queasy just rambling on about it. Besides, that's not either here nor there.
Now, back to the part where I was just about to be released to the hospital.
Eventually, I was released from the hospital after recovering for a while. Since they had no record of any relatives and couldn't get anything from me because of my fuzzy memory, Lindbergh was kind enough to drive me out of the hospital in his company car (“I got it from my uncle,” he explained to me later) and to my house. I wanted to show my mother (by then already becoming a memory) that I was all right, and that I had made a new friend while I was in the hospital.
Unfortunately, Mom was out of the house that day, and the door was locked.
“Darn,” I said in defeat after fiddling with the doorknob for a while.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” my kiwi companion asked me. “This is your home, right? Maybe I took a wrong turn somewhere back there.”
I nodded in his direction, searching under the mat for a spare key. My search was rewarded.
“It looks like a nice place, Michael,” Lindbergh commented to me.
“Wait until you see the inside,” I said as I unlocked the front door and let the two of us in.
“Gee, it is a nice place!” he exclaimed, looking around.
A smile crept on my face. I was finally home. After countless days of being in the hospital, I was finally home. I sat down on the couch. It felt good to be back.
Lindbergh was looking at the pictures on the wall. “Is this your mom?” he asked.
I walked over to him and looked at the picture that he was observing. In that picture, my mother and I were standing side by side, smiling at the camera. “Yes,” I answered after taking it all in. “That’s my mother and myself in that picture.”
“Wow, both of you sure look happy.” The kiwi turned to me. “Where’s your father?”
I paused, trying to remember what happened to my father, but all I drew was a blank. “… I guess… I guess I’ve never had a father,” I admitted to him. “For as long as I remember, it’s been just me and my mom living together. She raised me all by herself. I think...”
“I’m sorry to hear about that,” he consoled. “Your mom must be pretty amazing.”
“Yes,” I said with a smile and a nod, “she truly is amazing.”
The attention of my friend shifted to a door that was partially open. “What’s this?” he wondered out loud, opening the door. He gasped with excitement. “Neat! Is this your room?”
I looked into the room in question. Lindbergh was right, the room that he found was my old room. Everything was still in place, just as I remembered it. The only thing that changed was the calendar.
“Wait a minute…” I was beginning to realize something. “Lindbergh, how long was I in the hospital?”
The kiwi looked at the calendar. “About a month, maybe?” he replied. “And that's probably more, depending on the time I was hired to help fix you. Why do you ask?”
“I want to know if I missed graduation or not,” I told him, rummaging around in the drawers of my desk for the written speech that I had prepared.
“I’m sorry, Michael, but school let out about a long time ago.”
Lindbergh helped me up off the floor after I had sunk to my knees in shock. “Are you okay?” he asked.
I could not believe it. That lab accident didn’t just hurt me physically, but academically as well. Without graduating from high school, I couldn’t go onto college and earn a degree. As if things weren’t already bad enough…
The sound of a throat clearing made me turn my head. Something had caught his eye. “Michael… there’s something I think you should know…” My companion grabbed a newspaper from the top of my desk and held the title up for me to read.
“Local High School Student Lost in Explosion” was one of the headlines.
“They think that you’re dead,” Lindbergh said to me.
I sat down on my old bed as I let all of the information sink in. No… it couldn’t be possible, they couldn’t think that I was dead.
“And… the hospital could only get so much information out of you,” my friend confessed, sitting down beside me. “That's why they called you John Doe. I’m sorry, Michael.”
My answer to him didn’t come right away. I was in a deep state of disbelief. Everyone thought I was dead, the hospital only knew my first name, I hadn’t graduated from high school, and to top it all off, I had been turned into a cybernetic being for the remainder of my life.
Lindbergh patted me on the shoulder. “You want me to leave you alone right now?” he questioned.
I mumbled something to him that had hardly any meaning whatsoever, even to me. I lied down on my bed, staring up at the ceiling and pondering the events that had happened. Lindbergh ended up sitting at the foot of my bed, offering his condolences until I couldn't hear them anymore.
I must’ve fallen asleep sometime later, because next thing I knew, Lindbergh was shaking me awake. “Michael, wake up,” he whispered to me. “Your mom’s home.”
Immediately, I sat up in bed. “Mom?” I repeated.
“Yeah,” the kiwi said quietly. “I don't think she saw me, but she might suspect that something's up! Didn’t you say that you wanted to see her again?”
I looked down at my hands, pondering my options. I did want to see her again, but how would she react? Would she be happy to see me alive, or would she reject me?
“Here she comes!” Lindbergh warned, scurrying back from checking outside my room door.
I moved to do something, but I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought to myself, Should I hide, or should I do something else like--?
“Who’s there?” a female voice called out in slight alarm.
I froze in place. I didn’t know what else to do but to meet Mom face to face.
Footsteps were heard coming closer to the room until they came to a halt. It was at this time that I turned myself around to face the doorway.
“… Mom?” I questioned almost wordlessly, stepping closer to her.
She backed away out of confusion and fear. “Who are you?” my mother asked in a voice above a whisper. “How did you get in here?”
“Mom, it’s me,” I told her, “your son, Michael.”
My mom had a look of disbelief. “… no,” she finally said after regaining her train of thought. “This can’t be happening. They told me you were…”
“I’m alive, Mother,” I said to her, coming closer. “Please… give me a chance to explain myself.”
“They said that... that you were lost in the explosion! Why should I believe you!?”
“Mom!” I didn't like raising my voice, but she was acting a bit hysterical. She had every right to, of course, but I still wanted to make her see that it was really her son talking to her. “If I offer a piece of knowledge that only the real Michael Lloyd Scott would know, would you hear me out?”
“Lloyd?” Mom repeated, her voice hushed.
I was busy searching my memory banks for anything that would make her see the truth. “When I was younger, I... I made that imaginary friend. The shape-shifter? What was his name--?”
A hand stopped me from continuing. My mother nodded, removed her hand and asked me to explain things.
Tears formed in my mother’s eyes out of a mix of emotions as I began to tell my story to her. She seemed confused and upset, like she couldn’t believe what was happening.
“… and then Lindbergh and I came here so that you would know that I was all right, Mom,” I finished in a comforting voice. “I wanted you to know that I was alive and well, that’s all.”
My mother cried as she hugged me in happiness. “My baby,” she said through the tears. “I… I can’t believe this. It’s like you’ve come back from the dead.”
A warm smile came upon my face as I hugged her back. “I know, Mom,” I told her. “It’s been difficult for me to believe all of this as well.”
Neither of us spoke for a while. We were just so glad to see each other again after all that we’ve been through that we couldn’t think of more words to speak.
I turned to see a sniffling Lindbergh watching us, a tissue box close at hand. He stared back at us in surprise when he found out that we were looking at him. Clearing his throat, the kiwi went over to my mother and presented her with the tissue box. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Michael’s Mom,” he said in a friendly voice. “Need a tissue?”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Lindbergh,” Mom replied, a warm smile on her face. “Thank you for helping my son.”
The bird blushed (though it was hard to tell with the feathers in the way). “Aw, it was nothing, Mrs. S,” my friend said back. “Anything for a friend, really.”
I smiled as I observed my mother and my friend as they chatted with each other. They were getting along just well for two people who’ve just met. It seemed as if they were old friends by the time the chat started to wind down.
Good thing too, since I had just remembered an important matter that was needed to be discussed. “Mom, what’ll I do now that I’m… like this?” I asked her.
“Sweetie,” she said to me, “you’ll be fine. I know it pains me to say this, but… now that you’ve finished your schooling, I think it’s time that you live on your own.”
Since everyone in town thought I was deceased, that meant that I had to go to a different city, possibly a different state, to begin my new life. “But… that means I might never see you again.”
Mom held back more tears. “Michael… it’s just like I’ve always tell you: You can do it. You just have to believe in yourself.”
I was choked up at this point. “I just got back, Mom,” I told her. “I don’t want to leave now.”
“And what if you stayed?” Mom sat back down on my bed, trying to compose herself. “Honey... as much as I'm so overjoyed that you're back, not everyone will know how to react to you now. I don't even know if I can take watching you...” She bit her lip. “Michael, I only want what's best for you. Even if it means leaving...”
I glanced away, away from her nearly-quivering form and over to framed pictures of how things used to be. She was right. I wasn't the same boy the townspeople used to know. I had changed, transformed against my will into some horrifying creature (to most people) that would have me ran out of town even the moment that I tried to tell them who I really was...
A feathered hand patted me on the back. “Hey, it’ll be all right,” the owner of the wing told me. “Besides, I’ll be with you.”
“I’m sure you and Lindbergh will be fine,” my mother said, a few stray tears rolling down her cheeks.
I hugged my mother again. “I promise to write when I can,” I told her, trying to prevent the tears from flowing. “When I remember, at least.”
“Promise me you’ll be okay,” she said back, looking at me straight into the eyes.
Trying to keep from crying myself (if I even still had tear ducts then), I looked back at her. “I promise, Mom.”
Those were some of the last words I ever said to her. After that, Mother and Lindbergh helped me pack my things and loaded them in the back seat of my friend’s car. I hugged my mother one last time before getting into the car, driving off into the sunset and leaving behind the life I once knew so I could begin a new life.
Shakespeare was right. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Chapter 7: On the Road to Somewhere
After we left my home, we traveled for quite a while. We occasionally took some side-stops for some photo opportunities, but our only main stops were for food, gasoline, and sleep. (Both of us slept out in the car to save money for the former two items until one night, when I malfunctioned from chills so badly that we had to check in to an actual place where we could sleep.) Other than that, we drove on the open road by daylight, determined to find a place to live (or possibly a college I could attend; Lindbergh had also expressed the idea of getting a degree in electrical engineering to help out with my circuitry repairs).
It was during one of our stops at a diner that I started to feel a little homesick. Even though it had only been about a week since we had left, I was concerned about my mother and her safety. As much as I had wanted to stay with her, I knew that there was no other choice but to move on.
Lindbergh and I were seated in a booth, waiting for the waitress to come by with our orders. I was staring out the window, watching the cars go by. As I thought about my troubles, I let out a sigh.
My companion must’ve heard the sigh (obviously; he was sitting right across from me), because he immediately spoke to me afterwards. “Something wrong, Michael?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Lindbergh,” I said to him. “It’s just that… well…”
The kiwi nodded, understanding my problems. “You miss your mom, don’t you?”
I swallowed something that was in my throat before responding to him. “… yes,” I confessed, looking down at my hands, “very much so.”
“Aw, don’t worry too much about her, Michael,” my friend said to me. “You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you. Besides, it’s natural to get homesick every once in a while.”
“I know that, Lindbergh,” I addressed to him, hardly looking up, “but I think that this is an extreme case of something, if not homesickness.”
“Michael,” the kiwi began, “it’s okay if you’re like this right now. You’ve just left your home, you've been through who knows how much, and you have a lot of things on your mind right now. You probably feel that the whole weight of the world is on your shoulders now, am I right?”
“Something like that, yes,” I responded. “Plus, I want to find a college to go to so that I can at least get a passable job.”
“Well, whatever happens,” Lindbergh continued, “I want you to remember one thing.”
It was then that I looked up at him. “What’s that?” I asked.
My friend smiled at me. “I want you to know that you’ll always have a friend in me.”
I gave a small smile back, pondering my companion’s words. Out of all the people I knew, he was the only one other than my mother who treated me like I was still normal in appearance and not like I was an experiment out of a science-fiction film. In all honesty, he was the first true friend that I ever had. “Thank you, Lindbergh.”
“Blasted TV,” I heard a man say before he stood up.
“So, do you feel better?” Lindbergh asked with a smile.
“Why yes,” I answered, “but I still have a funny feeling in me that won’t go away…”
“Wonder what it is,” the kiwi commented.
Around that time, the man started to change the channels on the TV. Right at that moment, I started to glitch up a bit.
“And now for the forecast of the week,” I began before I started to sing. “Sunday, Monday, happy days! Tuesday Wednesday-- Sunny day! Sweepin’ the clouds away! Lucy, I’m home! Book ‘em, Danno!”
Little did I know (as well as I later learned from Lindbergh explaining things to me) that some of the patrons of the restaurant were giving me odd looks. Fortunately, the channel-changing came to rest on a broadcast of “Hello, Dolly!” “… and one more thing: we are not coming back to Yonkers until we have each kissed a girl.”
“Guess it was a glitch after all,” I heard Lindbergh say. “I should fix that soon.” He paused. “But why do you want to kiss a girl?”
“I’m twenty-eight and three-quarters,” I answered him, influenced by the broadcast. “I got to begin some time.” In actuality, I was around 19 or so.
“Well, I’m a plumber,” my friend replied. “I thought I could meet girls any time I wanted to.”
“Here you go, boys,” a female voice said. It was the waitress, but in my glitches state I mistook her for the title character from the movie.
“Mrs. Levi,” I said, slightly surprised.
The waitress raised an eyebrow. “Uh yeah. You’re orders are here.”
“Oh goody!” Lindbergh softly exclaimed.
“We were only talking,” I told her, trying to cover up for my friend and myself.
“Right,” the waitress said. “Now, unless these are your orders, I could probably send them back to the kitchen to exchange them for your actual meals.”
“What ladies?” I asked her, still in tune with Michael Crawford’s character.
“Okay, kid, you’re freaking me out,” the waitress said to me.
“Okay, here’s a cheeseburger with no onions…” She set the plate in front of me.
“Irene Malloy?” I repeated.
“The name’s Babs.” The waitress rolled her eyes before handing Lindbergh his order. “You put up with this guy?” she asked him.
“Oh, he’s just glitching,” the kiwi explained to her.
“… your orders cost $9.95,” the waitress told both of us, “and you can pay before you leave.” She left the table herself, muttering something under her breath about “weirdos”.
I had a look of surprise on my face. “A millinery shop,” I stated.
“Why are you talking about a hat shop?” Lindbergh questioned before starting to eat.
“Adventure, Barnaby,” I said again, my voice growing in excitement.
“It’s Lindbergh, actually,” my friend said, concern in his voice.
“Living, Barnaby!” I exclaimed.
“Who’s Barnaby? I’m not Barnaby!” the kiwi stated, concerned about my well-being.
“Will ya come, Barnaby?” I asked him.
“I’m already traveling with you,” “Barnaby” answered. “Of course, I’ll come!”
“The lights of Broadway!” I exclaimed, stepping onto the table. “Elevated trains! The stuffed whale at Barnum’s museum!”
“Wow, I didn’t know that they had a stuffed whale there,” Lindbergh said before he continued to eat. “We should go there sometime. New York sounds nice around this time of year.”
“Let’s get dressed, Barnaby,” I told him, “we’re going to New York!”
“We are?” my friend asked, nearly finished with his meal.
I answered him by singing. “Out there, there's a world outside of Yonkers. Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby… there’s a slick town, Barnaby. Out there, full of shine and full of sparkle. Close your eyes and see it glisten, Barnaby. Listen, Barnaby…”
“I’m listening, Michael,” “Barnaby” told me, “but all I can hear is you singing along with the TV--oh, I think I know what's going on now.”
“Put on your Sunday clothes, There's lots of world out there!” I sang again, getting up from the table. “Get out the brilliantine and dime cigars.”
“But neither of us smoke,” the kiwi reminded me.
“We're gonna find adventure in the evening air,” I continued to sing, hardly hearing my friend over the music. “Girls in white in a perfumed night where the lights are bright as the stars!”
“It sounds fancy!” Lindbergh commented.
“Put on your Sunday clothes, we're gonna ride through town,” I continued, glad that my friend was getting into it, “in one of those new horsedrawn open cars!”
“Yeah!” my friend exclaimed before joining me in singing the rest of the verse. “We'll see the shows at Delmonico’s, and we'll close the town in a whirl. And we won't come until we've kissed a girl!”
I was surprised, but not too startled, to hear Babs the waitress sing as well. “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out,” she sang. “Strut down the street and have your picture took. Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about. That Sunday shine is a certain sign that you feel as fine as you look!”
A female customer and her male friend joined in and started to sing with her. “Beneath your parasol, the world is all a smile that makes you feel brand new down to your toes!”
Lindbergh and I joined them in song. “Get out your feathers, your patent leathers, your beads and buckles and bows,” we sang. “For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday... No Monday in your Sunday... No Monday in your Sunday clothes!”
Then, all the diner seemed to come to life with the sound of music. “Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out. Strut down the street and have your picture took.”
“Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about,” Babs sang as she led us in the verse. “That Sunday shine is a certain sign that you feel as fine as you look!”
“Beneath your parasol, the world is all a smile,” the waitresses and female customers sang.
“That makes you feel brand new down to your toes,” we all sang. “Get out your feathers, your patent leathers, your beads and buckles and bows. For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday clothes!”
After that verse, all the patrons and employees started to dance, including Lindbergh and myself. I was actually surprised by my own dance skills, considering that I‘ve hardly danced before.
“Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out,” the children in the diner sang. “Strut down the street and have your picture took.”
“Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about,” the women sang.
“That Sunday shine is a certain sign that you feel as fine as you look!” we all sang. “Beneath your bowler brim the world's a simple song, a lovely lilt that makes you tilt your nose. Get out your slickers, your flannel knickers, your red suspenders and hose. For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday clothes!”
“Modulate, everybody!” someone shouted.
“Put on your Sunday clothes there's lots of world out there,” everyone in the diner sang. “Put on your silk cravat and patent shoes. We're gonna find adventure in the evening air.”
“To town we'll trot to a smokey spot where the girls are hot as a fuse!” Babs sang out, mainly addressing my companion and I.
“Wow!” all of us exclaimed before we continued to sing. “Put on your silk high hat and at the turned up cuff. We'll wear a hand made gray suede buttoned glove.”
“We wanna take New York by storm!” Babs took the solo as Lindbergh and I were happily going along with it, dancing towards the front of the diner.
“We'll join the Astors at Tony Pastor's and this I'm positive of,” everyone sang. “That we won't come home…”
Lindbergh gave the cashier a ten-dollar bill to pay for our meals. “No we won't come home…”
The two of us then danced to the door and finished the song. “No we won't come home until we fall in love!”
The door closed behind us, leaving the two of us outside the diner.
“Wow, that was fun,” the kiwi commented to me, walking to the car. “Everyone seemed really into it! You know, New York does sound like fun, Michael. We should go there sometime.”
“Adventure, Barnaby!” I exclaimed, sitting on the hood of the automobile.
“Oh yeah,” Lindbergh remembered, “you have a glitch.” He went to get his tool belt out of the car and then dragged me to the back seat. “This will only take a few minutes, Michael.”
That’s all I remember hearing before I shut down.
When I woke up, we were on the road again. Lindbergh was listening to the radio while driving.
I tapped my friend on the shoulder. “Lindbergh, why was I dreaming that I was in a musical?” I asked him, puzzled.
“Long story, Michael,” the kiwi answered. “I’ll tell you all about it later.”
Chapter 8: Desperate? Maybe
As much fun as falling in love and kissing a girl had sounded at the time, I was too devoted to my studies to pursue such an idea. Besides, based on my past experiences with romance, I wasn’t exactly what people might call a ladies’ man. The accident made my love life even worse… Come to think of it, up until a certain series of events in the 1980s, I never really had much of a love life to begin with...
Anyway, Lindbergh and I were searching for a college for both of us to attend. We roamed from town to town in the car for weeks, looking for a college to accept me (as well as traveling from whatever job to job Lindbergh might have gotten along the way). So far, we hadn’t found any that would accept a… person with my condition. Preferably, they also were looking for an applicant who wasn't officially confirmed dead or missing. As well as someone who's appearance almost immediately didn't make the secretary call security. Or someone without too noticable of an avian ancestry.
“Lindy,” I remarked to him one day, “with my kind of design, I belong in a technical institute instead of a regular college.”
“I think they could use you on the science force, Michael,” my friend told me, hardly taking his eyes off of the TV he was repairing. “Besides, I think that the space race is really getting big now. Hand me the screwdriver, will ya?”
Indeed, I had heard much about the race to space growing up. Ever since I was younger, I had always dreamed of working as a scientist for NASA, helping figure out more efficient ways to launch our astronauts into space and what experiments would work up there. To tell the truth, I was also fascinated with the unknown, and outer space had definitely captured my imagination, wonder, and interst. But if not that field of interest, I was always open in other studies relating to similar fields.
“Yes, I know that,” I said to Lindbergh, handing him the aforementioned screwdriver and peering over his shoulder as I watched him work. “I wonder if there are any technical institutes nearby...”
Shrugging, he responded, “Who knows? We'll just have to keep looking.” With that, he finished screwing in the last screw for the back of the repaired TV. “And, done! All finished with the repairs, Mister Gold!” he chipperly announced, lifting his head.
“Thank you, boys,” the elderly gentleman said, reaching for his cane as he stood up from his arm chair. “I'll be sure to pay you both for graciously helping me with that blasted thing. I don't understand it myself. It's been running great all this time, and yet one day it refuses to cooperate.”
“You're just lucky we happened to be passing through,” Lindbergh noted with a nod, moving the TV set back into place. “I had another job here in town, so things seemed to work out perfectly, didn't they?”
Mr. Gold nodded. “Indeed. Now, forgive me if I'm prying...” He turned to face the both of us. “But I couldn't help but overhear you two talking about getting into a college? A technical institute, your friend said.”
Lindbergh and I glanced between each other. “Well...” he began.
“It's complicated,” I explained. “I had a university already lined up, but due to certain events, I'm not able to attend.”
There was a bit of a pause hanging in the air before the man nodded again in understanding. “Fortunately for you gentlemen,” he calmly spoke, “I happen to be... acquainted, let's say, with a staff member at such an institution in a town nearby. You two seem to be in dire need of attending a college, from what I've heard, so...” A slight smile pulled on his face. “How's about I write you boys a letter of reccomendation and schedule for you to meet my acquaintence?”
My eyes widened. “Really?” I asked, not being able to believe it. “You would do that for us? Oh, thank you sir!” I joyfully began shaking his hand out of gratitude. “If there's anything we could ever--”
“Ah!” He held his hand up to stop me short. “You already did. So, in return for fixing my TV, I owe you.”
“Wow! Helping us out with a college for fixing a TV! What they can't pay you with these days,” Lindbergh said in awe. “You just tell us if you need anything else to be fixed again, and we'll be happy to help!”
“I'll keep that in mind, erm...” Mr. Gold paused and looked at us, confused as to what our names were.
“Lindbergh Kiwi,” the kiwi filled him in. “And this is--”
“Scott,” I said. “Erm, that's my last name though. My first name... erm...” I was a bit uncomfortable telling him my first name, especially since using my name with the other universities had gotten me a lot of questioning as to if it were a joke or if I had faked a death.
Mr. Gold sighed. “John Scott it is, then,” he concluded. I gave him a sheepish smile. Oh well, it would have to do.
Nodding, I agreed. “Thank you again.”
“Yeah, thanks a lot, Mister!” Lindbergh thanked him, packing up his toolset.
“Don't mention it,” Mr. Gold replied, a smile on his place. “I'll be sure to get you directions to the Jack Haley Technical Institute.”
My friend saluted as he continued to pack up up. I turned to him and gave a shy smile. “Thank you so much,” I thanked him again. “But, if I may ask you a question?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Why are you helping us?”
The elder man let out a light chuckle. “Well Michael, let's just say that I know how to recognize a desperate soul.”
After making all the arrangements, Mr. Gold sent us on our way with what we needed to get us there: food, directions, gas, the letters of reccomendation, and a nod. We never saw or heard from him again.
I held out a map for my friend to look at as he drove. I could hardly believe it. There I was, thinking that I wouldn’t get an education, and the opportunity of my lifetime was in the next town. It was a dream come true.
“Michael, you got your portfolio with you?”
The words of my comrade hardly reached my ears. I was too busy imagining what it would be like to finally work for NASA and to live my dream of being included in scientific history. It was remarkable. It was energizing, it was wonderful. It was--
“Michael! We’re almost there!”
Finally, my mind was brought back to reality with the help of my flightless friend. “Um, thank you for telling me that, Lindbergh,” I thanked him.
“Aw, it’s no trouble, Michael,” he replied. “Just didn’t want you to be so quiet anymore, so…”
“Found it!” I had been rummaging through my things, trying to find my portfolio to present to the college.
Lindbergh parked the car in the parking lot of the institute and helped me out of the car, the letters in his wings. “Well, Michael,” he stated, “this is it.”
All I could do was nod at my friend’s comment. This was it, my big chance--no, what we could do to show them all that we could be accepted into society, get a college-leveled education, and earn a job.
Naturally, I was nervous about everything.
“Lindbergh, what if they don’t accept me?” I asked him, a hint of doubt in my voice. They would accept Lindbergh, no problem. What if they turned me down because I was… different?
The kiwi patted me on the back. “You’ll do fine, Michael,” he said to me in a friendly manner, “I know you will.”
I gave the plumber a small smile in return. “Thank you, Lindbergh,” I replied.
“Anytime, Michael,” he replied. “Now, let’s get you accepted into that college.”
“Right. You too.” With that, both of us walked through the school doors and to the admission department office, never leaving the other‘s side.
There was a woman behind a desk typing on a typewriter. She seemed to be a secretary of sorts, so I knew that this must be the right place.
“Is this the administration office?” I asked the woman.
“Yes it is,” she answered, glancing at me as she spoke.
“Are you holding interviews for students today?” Lindbergh asked. Oh, how I hoped they were…
“Why, yes,” the woman said. “I’ll go tell the interviewer you’re here, Mr. …”
“Oh, we have an appointment,” he continued. “A Mister Gold told us to come here and meet with a...” He glanced at the name on the envelope before showing it to the secretary.
She observed the envelopes before nodding to us. “Mr. Scott, Mr. Kiwi,” she stated before going into another room.
I sat down beside Lindbergh in a chair, letting out a sigh of relief. That part was done.
“You’ll do fine, Michael,” my friend told me in a sing-song voice.
“Says you,” I answered in the same manner.
After a while of waiting, the secretary motioned for me to go inside.
“Wish me luck,” I whispered to my companion before standing up and walking into the interview room with my portfolio.
For confidentiality reasons, I won’t go into great detail about the entire interview. To be honest, I can't really remember a thing. It was all so fuzzy. I think I was nervous, but I tried not to show it too much.
After the interview was over, it was Lindbergh's turn. I waited patiently until he returned and joined me on a bench outside the office, awaiting our results.
“I think that it went pretty well, actually,” I confessed to the kiwi, trying to make small talk.
“You see? There was nothing to worry about, Michael,” my friend said to me.
The conversation continued from there, but the talk was halted when the secretary came out of the office. “Congratulations, Mr. Scott, Mr. Kiwi,” she told us. “You’ve been accepted into the campus.”
I immediately stood up, joy filling my body, and shook her hand. “Oh, thank you, ma’am!” I thanked her. “Thank you so much!”
The woman chuckled a bit. “I’m sure that you and your friend will enjoy it here” were her last words that she spoke to me before she disappeared back into the office.
“The recommendations worked!” Lindbergh happily exclaimed.
“We’re going to be roommates!” I added, a look of excitement on my face.
College was going to be great. Lindbergh and I had been accepted, I was going to get a higher-level of education, and my best friend would be with me through it all. I could hardly wait for the classes to start.
Chapter 9: Tune that Name
After we were admitted into the university, the college allowed us to move into a dorm in advanced. This, of course, meant that we finally had a steady home in a place where one could get an education. However, that accomodation didn't cover the holiday seasons. We would pretty much be on our own at that point. Our belongings combined wasn’t enough to fill the dorm room, so naturally we had to go to town a lot to buy the essentials needed to make the dorm look more acceptable for living.
It was about one week until classes officially started and Lindbergh and I were in town running a few errands. One of our stops was the supermarket to pick up groceries.
“Check.” A few boxes of Frosted Flakes and Cheerio’s went into the shopping cart that Lindbergh was pushing.
“Check.” A loaf of bread came to rest inside the cart
“Tomatoes and lettuce?”
“Double check.” The produce items were placed into the basket.
I did a double take at my friend. “Are you sure I can handle water, Lindbergh?” I asked him. “You and I both know that I’ll short-circuit if too much water gets into my system.”
“I know. I was just testing you, Michael,” the kiwi told me as we made our way to the different aisles. He paused. “I mean, John. Sheesh, it's gonna be hard calling you that from now on.”
Out of my new alias as John Scott arose new problems. I myself was trying to distance myself far away from the accident and anything possibly leaking out that the same college-bound student who had the name supposedly died the same day “I” was found unconscious. Poor Lindbergh was trying his hardest, but the name change was something he had never gotten the hang of. He told me that the name John didn't suit me. In fact, according to him, I didn't even look like a Michael. (“No offense,” he had apologized.)
“One thing's for sure, I’ll have enough testing to do when classes start,” I remarked, a slight chuckle in my voice.
“You and me both, but you know what they say,” my friend told me as he was putting a jar of pickles into the cart, “the mind never sleeps.”
“Indeed,” I replied in agreement. “Mine also picks up radio and television signals that keep me up sometimes at nights.”
“Wow, the hospital must’ve went a little overboard,” Lindbergh commented, heading towards the checkout line.
I nodded, trying to think of what the hospital must’ve used to reconstruct my brain. TV cables, antennae… maybe it was something to do with my hair?
As I was pondering all of this, I noticed a flyer on the message board and went to check it out. I grabbed the flyer off the board and read it silently to myself. “Come see the Solid Foam at the Groundling Café. Enjoy the music while you relax. Donations are accepted.”
“Hey, Lindbergh,” I said to my friend while walking over to him, “take a look at this.” I handed him the flyer.
“The Groundling Café, huh?” Lindbergh read in amusement. “Sounds like some sort of coffee shop.” He looked at me. “Maybe we should go there sometime.”
“How about dinner tonight?” I suggested.
“Sounds like a plan,” the kiwi agreed, picking up a few sacks of groceries. “Now come on, let’s load these into the back of the car.”
That night, after everything had been unloaded, the two of us drove into town to the Groundling Café for dinner. I was more curious about the band that was playing there than Lindbergh was, but that didn’t matter between us. Besides, we needed some reason to celebrate the beginning of the school year, anyway.
The waitress seated us at our table and took our orders before departing. I was searching around with my eyes for the band that was supposed to be at the café, but so far, I found no musicians.
"Where are they?" I muttered to myself.
"Where are who, Mic--John?" my friend asked, puzzled and catching himself.
Not expecting my friend to have heard me, I gave him a confused look in return.
"Who are you looking for?" Lindbergh asked again. “Do you know someone here?”
I shrugged. “Not really.” Before I could answer him any further, the waitress came with our refreshments and treats (although I thought I specifically asked Lindbergh not to order me coffee or a mocha or any type of drink). Despite what it might've done to my system if I consumed it, I picked up one of the cups of coffee and decided to make a toast. "Here's to four or more years of successful college classes," I said to my friend.
"Here's to our continuing friendship," the kiwi toasted back.
“To the future,” we both agreed. We clinked our cups (or the closest to clinking two coffee cups together) and started to consume the beverages.
At that very moment, a wail of a saxophone sounded throughout the restaurant and all of the patrons, including Lindbergh and myself, turned their heads towards the small stage.
On that stage, what I assumed to be the members of the Solid Foam band were playing a song. There were four performing musicians when I first saw the band: a lead guitarist, a bass guitarist, a saxophonist, and a drummer.
How can I describe the people that would become my future bandmates by relying on my first impression of them?
To be honest, when I first saw them perform, I thought that they were … a pretty diverse group. I hadn’t seen any other group like them beforehand, and I probably will never know another one like them.
The bearded lead guitarist looked like he was in his early- to mid-20s with a laid-back, country feel to him. The bass guitarist, also in his early- to mid-20s, was a purple catfish-like creature who wore sunglasses. The saxophonist looked young, probably not even out of high school yet (if even that), but he could play like a professional. The drummer, who appeared to be around the same age as the saxophone player, was also the only female member in the group.
The band played their best for the crowd that night. I could see that they were doing excellent in performance, but it seemed as if they were missing something. Perhaps they needed a musician to join the group? Maybe they had a member that was out with an illness. But wait, if that were so, why not just replace them?
Some of the crowd clapped following the end of their performance, and Lindbergh and I were among them.
"Wow, they sure are good," the kiwi said to me.
"Yes," I agreed with him, "I've never seen a group like them before."
"I think that's because this is the first band that you've ever seen up close and personal before, M--John," Lindbergh told me. “I don't blame you. I've never been in one of these coffee shops before, especially one with a band.”
I couldn't help but agree with him. Even before the accident, I hadn't been invited to see a band or musician perform in concert.
"Hey, here's an idea," my friend said with an air of confidence after the band had performed a few songs. "Why don't we go meet them?"
Lindbergh must’ve gotten to known me really well during our short time together, because he just read my mind. “Exactly,” I replied. “Let’s go right now.”
So the two of us went from our table over to the area where the band was taking a break. Out of the two of us, I was the most intrigued about meeting the band. I excitedly sauntered towards their table…
… and tripped over a cord that I hadn't noticed before I could reach the group.
“Hey man, you okay?” a voice of one of the members asked me, most possibly belonging to the guitarist.
“I… think so,” I wearily replied, standing up with Lindbergh’s help.
“Good, because it looks like you might need a little bit more help the way you’re going,” the purple bass player said to me.
“As if I don’t have that much troubles already,” I told him.
The young saxophonist mumbled out a sentence.
“What did he say?” I asked the band.
The bassist spoke up again. “He said that you gave him a little scare when you fell, Robot Man.”
They had already noticed my most prominent feature, but they were talking to me like I was a normal person. That was a good sign.
“Hey, you got a name?” the man with the beard asked.
I realized that I had not introduced myself yet. “Oh, excuse me for not mentioning it in the first place,” I apologized. “My name is Michael--I mean, John!” Darn it, now I was messing up. “John Scott, that is my name, and this is my friend Lindbergh.”
“Hello!” the kiwi greeted.
“We watched you guys perform,” I explained. “You all sound pretty good.”
“Thanks,” the female drummer spoke up.
“Always great to meet a new fan,” the lead guitarist stated. “Friends call me Beard,” he said, extending a hand.
“Pleasure to meet you, Beard,” I said in return, shaking his hand.
“I’m Clifford, the group’s residential bass player and all-around cool person,” the purple man introduced himself. “Nice to meet ya, MJ.”
“Nice to meet you too,” I replied with a confused smile. “MJ?” I mouthed to him.
He shrugged. “For Michael-John. That’s Flash,” Clifford said, motioning over to the young (not-even-really-in) high school student. “He plays the sax.”
The saxophonist, now known as Flash (a nickname, I would later learn; I'm still not entirely sure of his real first name), nodded in agreement. “Yeah,” he started out saying before he mumbled a sentence again.
“He’s been playing since he was a kid,” the bassist explained. “Not even in high school yet, and he's got the chops to play just about anything.”
“Oh,” I answered, nodding in agreement. “He’s pretty talented.”
Flash mumbled a “thank you” to me.
“And last but not least, there’s Francine,” Clifford concluded, waving a hand towards the drummer.
“I could’ve introduced myself on my own, Clifford,” the girl stated with a chuckle, leaning forward a bit in her chair.
“Yeah,” the bass player went on, “she's cool. Anyway, Franny’s our drummer, and Flash’s girlfriend.”
“Not my girlfriend!/Don't call me Franny!” the two high school students exclaimed at the same time.
Both Beard and Clifford got a good chuckle out of that. “Nah, they’re just really close,” Beard told me.
“Oh, okay,” I said, nodding my head.
"Hey, do you guys live around here?" Lindbergh asked the band.
"Flash and I go to school in the next town over," Francine answered, "and Beard and Clifford live in some apartment complex in the city."
"Yeah," Clifford agreed. "It's not much, but it's home."
"What about you?" Beard asked my friend and I.
"Oh, we're going to high scho-- college, I mean," I corrected myself, "at the Jack Haley Technical Institute."
"Uh huh," the kiwi said. "We live in the dorm building."
"A college man," the bass player said with a nod. "Good luck with classes next week, man."
"Thank you for the support," I thanked the band.
"No trouble at all," Beard replied, writing something down on a piece of paper.
"You'll need all the help you can get," the drummer added. “At least that's what's Flash's brothers have said. We really don't know what it's like yet.”
"Hey man," Clifford spoke up, "if you're ever in a jam, like if you got no place to go for the holidays, just give us a call."
Beard gave me the piece of paper that he wrote on. "Here's the address, telephone numbers, and apartment numbers that Cliff and I live at," he said. "You can come over at any time."
My eyes widened. "Really?" I asked, bewildered by the offer. "Why, that's very nice of you both."
“Now we have a place to go when the dorms close for the holidays!” Lindbergh added excitedly.
"It's cool," Clifford answered. “We're always hip to help a fella out.”
“Tell that to our bills,” Beard nearly deadpanned before laughing.
That reminded Lindbergh of his idea of opening a side business to help pay our way through college. While he was questioning Beard and Clifford about that, I felt a nudge on my shoulder. Turning, I saw the saxophonist.
“Hey,” he greeted.
“Greetings,” I said with a smile. At least being friendly with the two... closest to what my age was then was an option?
The dark-haired girl sitting next to Flash nodded a greeting. “So... you're a robot,” she said.
“No, only partially, but I'm still getting used to it,” I explained to them. “It hasn't been all easy so far...”
Flash and Francine looked at each other, then at me, then at each other, and then back to me again. “What'd you say your name was?” Flash asked. “Scott?”
“No, it was Michael,” Francine said.
“Johnny?” another voice spoke up, poking me in the shoulder.
“I thought that was his name,” the guitarist said, correcting me.
Clifford didn't say a word, only looking at us from over his shades before shaking his head. “Anyhoo, you two hip dudes ever get in a jam, Beard an' I'll help bail you out. You're all right in my book.”
The band members spoke and nodded in agreement.
"They like you, John," my friend whispered to me. For once, he had gotten it right. Still, it didn't feel right.
But what he had said was true. Even though I was different than most people, here was a group who accepted me for who I was. I knew that the people in the group would be my friends, just like Lindbergh had been.
"Well... thank you very much," I stated, nearly speechless.
“You know, you don’t look much of a... John Michael whatever,” Beard commented. “Sounds sort of like an analogue name.”
A few chuckles arose from the others as I stared at them quizically. Analogue? Were they comparing me to a TV set? I might be able to be repaired like one at times, but I knew that I definitely wasn't a TV set.
“Man’s got a point, though,” Clifford spoke up. “You’re more of a digital guy rather than an analogue.”
“Digital,” I repeated. “Right...”
“Digital...” That voice came from Lindbergh, who appeared as if he was also pondering something. “Has a nice ring to it. Digit-Al.”
Opening my motuh at first, I paused, trying to replay it in my head a few times. Digital. Digit-al. Digit Al. Digit--
“Forget the Al! Maybe we should call you Digit from now on,” Beard said with a laugh.
“Digit,” I repeated, thinking about the name. A smile crept up onto my face. “I like the sound of that,” I told the band and Lindbergh.
"I like it, too," Lindbergh agreed.
“All right, then,” Clifford concluded. “From now on, we’ll call you Digit.”
Before that conversation had even ended, I received a new name (one that I would use full-heartedly now) and a wonderful group of new friends. I could tell already that my life was going to go great from then on.
Chapter 10: Life Upgrades
My new name proved to be more fitting than I thought it would. Not only was I a "digital" man (according to the Solid Foam members), but my progress in my classes showed me that I was a technological wizard in my own right. I continued to amaze my teachers, friends, and even myself by the way I could easily complete assignments.
"Gee, Digit," Lindbergh commented one day after classes had been going on for four weeks, "at this rate, you'll be working for NASA for sure!"
"You really think so?" I asked him while I was studying for a test that was coming up the next day.
"Sure, at the rate you're going," my friend encouraged me. "I hope you do well on that test tomorrow."
"Thank you, Lindbergh," I said, giving the kiwi a friendly smile. "I'll do my best. And I hope you do well on yours."
"And that's the best people can do," the plumber completed. "Why, you can even do more than your best if you try hard enough."
“Agreed wholeheartedly on that.” With a nod, we went back to studying for our respective tests.
The next day, I caught up with Lindbergh at lunch after the testing was over to have a conversation with him.
“Have you ever really considered driving?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I'd like to learn how to drive again. You know, since you have varying schedules with your for-hire repait duties, I'd like to learn how to drive myself around. Besides, this town's a bit bigger than the one I lived in, Lindbergh.”
The kiwi munched on his sandwich before he swallowed. “Gee, never really thought about that,” he commented. “We can try to get you to the driver's registration place sometime. It'll have to be when we're not in classes, though.”
I nodded. “Because we are here to learn first and foremost.”
“And involvement never hurt anyone, either,” Lindbergh agreed.
About a half a week later, Lindbergh fell through the front doorway to our room late at night, coming home from a late night on the job. I turned on a lamp as he rolled himself on his back. “How'd you beat me here?” he asked, obviously a bit delirious.
“Lindbergh, this is our room.”
“I thought the ceiling looked familiar.”
College life continued as normal from that point on until about a week or so after that incident. Sometimes we met with the other Solid Foam members for dinner or catching up on things that happened, but for the most part it was just Lindbergh and me. I decided to strike up another conversation with Lindbergh during lunch one day.
“Lindbergh, do you remember when we met Solid Foam?” I asked him.
“You mean Beard, Clifford, Flash and Francine?” my kiwi friend replied.
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Sure I do.” Lindbergh paused to take a bite out of his sandwich. “Why do you bring that time up?” he questioned after he swallowed.
“Well…” I didn’t know whether or not he’d believe me about what I was going to say, but he was my friend and I trusted him. “I’ve been thinking…”
“Back to the first time we met the band,” I continued, “I couldn’t help but notice that they were missing something.”
The plumber stared at me, a puzzled look on his face. “What do you mean, Digit?”
“I don’t know,” I confessed. “It’s like they needed an extra member to join them for their careers to really take off.”
“Really?” Lindbergh spoke up in a semi-confused, semi-knowing voice.
I nodded in response. “In fact, Lindbergh…” I took a moment to prepare for what I was going to say next. “Last night, I had a dream that I joined the band.”
My friend’s eyes widened in mid-bite. “You did?” he asked in awe.
“Yes,” I answered him. “In fact, I think it might even be a sign.”
“How?” the kiwi quizzically responded.
“You know how you keep saying to me that I needed involvement with a group of people?” I told him. “I think this might be my chance to show them that I can belong in a group.”
“That’s really neat and all, Digit,” Lindbergh commented. “Actually, when I said that, I was meaning that you should join a club or something. Besides, I didn’t know whether or not you played and instrument.”
“I--” I stopped mid-sentence, realizing an important obstacle that seemed to prevent me from joining Solid Foam.
I could hardly play an instrument.
The next afternoon, after our classes were over, Lindbergh and I drove into town until we found a music store. I was determined to find an instrument that I could know how to play and that would be of use to the band.
“What sort of instrument did you have in mind, Digit?” my friend asked me once we started to look around the shop.
“I’m not so sure,” I told him, “but I’ll probably know it when I see it.” We then went our separate ways to search for an instrument.
I first made my way over to the brass instrument section. There were trumpets, tubas, and other brass instruments galore, but none of them felt right for me. Besides, whoever heard of a trumpet player in a rock band?
I stayed clear of the stringed instruments. Beard and Clifford were already covering the lead guitar and the bass, so they probably didn’t need any more of those type of musicians.
I also discouraged myself from venturing to the percussion section. The only percussion instruments I could think of were the drums, and Francine was already the drummer of the band.
“May I help you?” the owner of the shop asked me.
“Why yes,” I answered him. “You see, I’m looking for an instrument.”
“Well then, you’ve come to the right place,” he said to me. “Welcome to Radice’s Music Shop! I’m the owner, Mark Radice.”
He seemed like a friendly fellow that knew what he was talking about. I was sure that he could help me. “Thank you for the welcome, Mr. Radice.”
“Please,” he said, “call me Mark. Now, what seems to be your problem?”
“Well, Mark,” I told him, “I want to join a band, but I’m not quite sure which instrument I should play.”
“We just need to narrow it down by what type of band you’ll be joining,” Mark explained. “Jazz, swing, rhythm and blues…”
“A rock band, actually,” I told him. “I’m planning on joining a group called Solid Foam.”
“Solid Foam, you say?” the owner of the store repeated, his eyebrows lifting.
“Well yes,” I answered, surprised that he had heard of them. “Do you know them?”
“Know them?” The man chuckled. “They’re some of my best customers. Why, just last week, I sold Flash some reeds for his sax. Plus, Clifford and I go way back. They also told me about their new friend. Robotic man, pretty nice.” He looked me over. “You’re Digit, right?”
They even told him about me. “Why, yes I am.”
“I thought so,” Mark told me. “Come here, I think I know a good instrument for you.” He led me to an area with all kinds of pianos.
While I looked around, I became confused as to why the store owner brought me over to the piano section. Even as a child, I wasn’t exactly gifted with the ways of the keys. The few piano lessons that I had in sixth grade proved it.
Mark brought out two keyboards and set them up for me to play. “Try playing these,” he said to me.
I stood between the set of instruments, staring at them. I knew I couldn’t play them, especially after the accident. “Sir, I don’t know if I--”
“You’re a technological wizard, right?” he asked me. “That’s what I’ve heard about you. Just try to play them this one time and see if it works for you.”
Taking a deep breath, I placed my hands over the keys of one of the keyboards. I was trying to convince myself to play them. Come on, Digit, you can do this, I thought to myself. Just think of it as… typing on a control panel.
“Let’s hope this works,” I mumbled to myself before I closed my eyes and started to play the instrument.
I couldn’t believe what happened next. There I was, playing the keyboards to the tune of a famous song by Elton John. Suddenly, it seemed as if all the band joined in: Beard on guitar, Clifford on bass, Francine on drums, and Flash singing the lead vocals. We were all playing in front of an audience of fans who screamed wildly as our leading man sang.
I was playing my heart out on the keyboards throughout the whole number. I could feel my fingers flying with such dexterity that they seemed to take on a life of their own. My efforts were rewarded when the crowd reacted to the ending of the song with thunderous applause. Right then I knew that this was my ticket into joining the band.
“Wow, that’s great, Digit!”
The voice of my friend made me open my eyes and come back to reality. I saw Mark and Lindbergh, applauding for me.
“That was a really neat song,” the kiwi commented. “‘Crocodile Rock’, right?”
I nodded in response. “Yes.”
“You’re a very good musician, Digit,” Mark encouraged me. “The band will definitely accept you as a new member, I’m sure of it.”
After we paid for one of the keyboards, the two of us (Lindbergh and I) drove over to the apartment complex where Beard and Clifford lived. We lugged the instrument upstairs (not an easy task) and set it up once we were inside.
My audition for them went well and I was immediately placed into the band as the keyboard player. Everyone was excited about me joining, especially Lindbergh. He became our manager of sorts, picking out locations in nearby cities to play at and what time and date the performances were.
I’ll never forget one of the first gigs that the band had with me as their newest member. It was a Saturday night, and the club was packed. All of us were playing our hearts out (or, in Flash’s case, singing our hearts out) to a particular song called “Crocodile Rock.” The performance was received with a great amount of applause.
That applause seemed to only encourage me more to stay with the band and to be a musician. After that day, all of our performances seemed like wonders to me.
The best part about it all was this: I finally found a group that I belonged in. A group that’s so strong, we still keep in touch to this very day. And to think it all started with a single trip of a wire…
Chapter 11: Happy, Happy Holidays“Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock, jingle bell sing and jingle bell ring…”
The melodic sounds of Christmas carols flowed from the radio and into our ears as we drove around the town in the month of December, looking for decorations and such. Since the campus was closed for the holidays, Lindbergh and I had taken temporary residence at Beard and Clifford’s apartment building, staying with Clifford for the time being. Flash and Francine’s parents also allowed them to come over for the holidays, so we all thought that we could take a drive through town to see what we could find to add some Christmas spirit to the apartment.
Lindbergh, Flash, Francine and I were all together in the back seat of Clifford’s car, with Clifford and Beard in the front two seats. Even though Lindbergh had his own car, we were all car pooling to avoid wasting gasoline. The radio was on and we were conversing while the carols were playing.
“I love the holiday season,” Lindbergh said. “Everyone’s got a smile on their face and the whole world is truly in the Christmas spirit.”
“Yeah,” Beard agreed, “and the glitter of it all keeps it sparkling every year.” Everyone chuckled at that comment.
The radio then switched over to “Jingle Bells”, but a female's hand soon switched it over to another holiday station. “How many versions of this song are there?” Francine asked with a sigh.
“Hundreds, probably,” I answered, trying to think of all the versions I’ve heard over the years while nearly everyone else groaned as “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” came on. “I guess everyone’s had their shot at it once in a while.”
She shrugged, reaching over to turn the radio off. “Well, better that than--”
“Hey, everyone, guess what this song is,” Clifford suddenly stated, interrupting Francine (and essentially batting her hand away from touching the radio) and launching all of us into a guessing game. All of us listened as he started to hum a semi-familiar tune.
The drummer was probably the first one to get it. “Oh no,” she grumbled. “Clifford…”
The man in in question just kept on humming, a slight smile forming on his face.
Beard joined in with Clifford. “Ba-dum-bum-bum-bum… Da na na na na na, ba-dum-bum-bum-bum…”
It was at this point that Lindbergh discovered the song and started to sing along. “To lay before the king, par-um-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum…”
It was then I realized that the song we were trying to figure out was “The Little Drummer Boy”. I decided to join in and harmonize with the three that were already singing. “So to honor him, par-um-pum-pum-pum, when we come.”
At this point, our own drummer was resorting to burying her face in her hands while our bassist, guitarist, and even saxophonist busted out laughing. “Guys, you know I hate that song,” she complained.
“Sorry, Fran,” Clifford apologized the laughter, “but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
“Shut up,” Francine told him, snatching the sunglasses off of the driver. “And I’m not giving them back until you stop singing and/or mentioning that song.”
“Ha ha ha, very funny, Francine,” Clifford retorted sarcastically before sighing. “Okay, I’m sorry about… you know what. Now give me back my shades, we’re almost there.”
The female drummer put on a triumphant grin and handed Clifford back his sunglasses (“I might keep them.” “Ask for your own for Christmas, girl!”) as we pulled into the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. Once inside, we decided to split up into small groups to cover more ground. Naturally, I was paired up with Lindbergh for the shopping trip. Our job was to get the lights for the tree and a some extra lights and displays for various places in the apartment.
“So what kind of lights do you have in mind, Digit?” my friend asked me as we made our way towards the Christmas lights.
“Well, we should probably get some white lights for the tree,” I replied, “and then maybe some colored lights for the displays so that we could work with them a little bit more.”
“All right.” We then came across several boxes of Christmas lights with different lengths written on them. “Let’s see… ‘seven feet’, ‘eight feet’, ‘nine feet’ ‘twelve feet’…” Lindbergh turned to me. “You think eight is enough?” he asked.
“Considering that the tree has to fit inside the apartment, eight’s plenty,” I answered him.
“Okay,” the kiwi said as he lifted the box up. “Now to find some multicolored ones for the displays.” He glanced down at the heavy box of lights in his hands. “Hmm... maybe I should put this in a cart," he concluded.
"I believe there's still some up front," I told him. "Let's go see if we can grab one."
"Okay." The two of us then set off for the front of the store to get a shopping cart. "Hey Digit, did you ever have a tree growing up?" I was asked on the way up there.
"... well, yes," I replied to my feathered friend. "The tree was small, but it was just right for Mother and me." I felt myself smile as I remembered all the Christmases I had back in my old home with my mother. "Every year, we'd wrap presents for ourselves, neighbors, relatives, and close friends and store them under the tree until Christmas Day."
Lindbergh nodded, a look of understanding in his eyes. "My tree was small, too," he told me. "We didn't always have much under it, but we were all happy with what we had. My family used to make ornaments to go on the tree: popcorn balls, paper chains... little pictures of ourselves on hooks," my friend described to me.
"It sounds like a nice tree," I commented. "My mother and I made some ornaments every year, but we also bought some more to make the tree look more festive." A sigh escaped my throat as I remembered all the good times I had with my mom in my old home back in Illinois. "You know what they say, Lindbergh," I stated, trying to hide my homesickness as I pulled out a cart, "'There's no place like... home... for the holidays...'"
The bird placed the box in the cart before putting his arm around my shoulder. "Yes, but there's another saying about home, too," he said to me reassuringly, "'Home is where the heart is.' We're both together with a new family this year, even though we're not related to any of them."
I paused and considered my friend’s words to me. Over the passing months, I had gone from living with my mother in some state (oh no, I've forgotten where I grew up...), human and almost friendless, to a half-robotic person in a Kansas town (was it Kansas? I've forgotten...) who was in a band, played an actual instrument, was going to college, and had a group of very close friends. Even though I still missed my mother, Lindbergh was correct in his comment. I did have a new extended family in this place, a family that I cared about and who cared about me back.
I managed to get a smile on my face. “Thank you, Lindbergh,” I thanked him, “for being such a great friend.”
“That’s what friends do,” the kiwi told me. “They stick together no matter what.”
After getting the rest of the lights and a few displays, we ventured to the ornament section of the store to meet up with the others. From the looks of everyone, they seemed to have successfully gathered all the items that they were assigned to get and were ready to select more decorations for the tree. (“Why can’t we just make our own ornaments?” I heard Lindbergh ask. “I’ve got this neat idea for decorating an old wrench that I have.”)
As for myself, I had a special project in mind. Not only were Lindbergh and I working on the animated displays, I had planned to make an moving ornament to put on the tree. It was going to be perfect: the ornament would have the grace of a butterfly as it would dance around a snow-covered town to a beautiful Christmas carol… Now if only the technology would catch up to the idea...
I was snapped out of my thoughts by the appearance of a thickly clothed… animal, to give a generalization. All that was visible through the heavy clothing were two bulgy yellow eyes that were looking around the store in a strange manner. There seemed to be a tail poking out amongst the bundle as well. He was spooked by the passing-by of an employee and started to hurry away into our groups’ general direction.
The next thing I knew, I was knocked to the floor in a hurry.
“Digit!” Lindbergh quickly rushed to my side and helped me up. “Are you all right?”
“Well, Mrs. Claus, how’s your hubby?” I half-dazedly asked in response.
“He’s okay,” my best friend told the rest of the group. “He’s just got a small technical problem. Nothing I can’t fix.”
The creature’s eyes grew wide. "Hey, um ... you get any other channels? 'Cause, see, I gotta few in mind ...."
"I'm Mr. White Christmas," I introduced myself, "I'm Mr. Snow."
Lindbergh held me still to prevent me from breaking out into song and dance. "What do you mean, sir?" he asked the heavily clothed reptile.
"Well, ya see, uh, heheheh," began the lizard. However, Francine cut him a deadly glare, making the reptilian nervously chuckle and shake his head. "Uh, yeah, never mind. Well, anyways, thanks for breakin' my fall," he continued. "I'm Leon."
"Friends call me Snow Miser," I sang, "Whatever I tou--"
I was cut short by the hand of my avian friend. "This is Digit," he introduced me to him, quickly turning a knob on my control panel. "My name is Lindbergh."
"And we are the band currently known as Solid Foam," Clifford said, introducing the rest of the band. "What brings you around these parts, Leon?"
Leon glanced around and lowered his head. He shrugged. "Aw, well, you know how it is," he told them. "The holidays can get to be hard for anyone without ... without," he continued, starting to blubber, "a family of their own." He wiped his snout on his sleeve. "I'm just tryin' ta get through the holidays, rememberin' my girlfriend." He looked up hopefully. "Did I mention she was hot?"
He seemed to be concerned about his holiday season so far, so I decided to ask him what was wrong. "Is something wrong, Leon?" I asked, hoping my talk would help him.
Leon nodded, tears freely flowing as he started to break down. "A coupla years ago, I cared deeply for my smokin' girlfriend Susan. We did everyt'ing together: watched TV, went strollin' in da park, lit fireworks, heheheh." He couldn't help but grin at what must have been fond memories. Suddenly, though, he got strangely quiet. "Winter came along, an' she got sick. It was super freaky, she was so pale. All she wanted was a Christmas ... a Christmas," he continued.
There was a long pause. Nearly everyone was sniffling at that point (well, maybe Lindbergh and I were the only ones who were really sniffling; the others mostly had looks of concern on their faces). He told us, "She just had to have her man get her a Christmas tree. She got out some cherries an' popcorn an' construction paper, so she could make da decorations while I went lookin' for da tree." He wiped his snout on his sleeve again. "I was tryin' ta find da perfect tree for my girl, but soon there was nuttin' left but scraggly lil' branches what was supposed ta be trees. I couldn't let my girlfriend have somethin' like that."
"Man, that's awful," Beard commented sadly.
Clifford nodded in agreement. "Yeah, you must've had it really tough," he said to the lizard.
Flash hugged Francine for comfort, a few tears coming out from under his eyes. The drummer blinked and gave him a confused look before hugging him back.
Lindbergh was close to tears, and even I was trying not to sob. "What a touching story," I stated, trying to hold back the tears.
"Can you dig it?" Leon added teafully. "I searched for hours for da perfect tree." He shook his head. "I came back just before dawn. My long search had finally turned keen on me, baby. I was sho dis would make her happy." He sighed. "I carefully opened da door so she wouldn't hear me." His voice continued to break up. "I found ... I found ... I found her face in a bowl o' popcorn. I was, like, 'Hey, sunshine!' She wouldn't answer. Den I realized ... she had done left dis world for sho." He cried some more as everyone looked on in sorrow. "So, now I gotta gets me a tree so I can look at it an' put her last decorations on it, so her hip memories can live on."
That just about did it for me. By the time he finished up with his story, I was bawling, tears streaming down my face. "Why did she have to go-o-o?" I tearfully asked Lindbergh.
The kiwi put his arm around me and patted my back. “She’s in a better place now, Digit,” he told me, trying to calm me down.
“Poor guy,” Francine commented, still in Flash’s embrace. Her expression was of one who didn't quite know what to make of the situation.
Flash nodded and mumbled out, “Nothing like that should ever happen to somebody, especially during the holiday season. We should definitely help him out.” He them mumbled something to Clifford, also asking him what he though of the subject.
“I don’t know,” Clifford said, “this dude looks like he’s up to something.”
“How can you say that?” I asked the bass player through the tears. “He has lost the love of his life to illness. Imagine if you lost your mother to that same disease that she had.” I wasn’t exaggerating: I’d be devastated if I found out that my mom was sick during the holiday season. “I say we help him,” I added, a wavering amount of sureness in my voice.
“I agree with Digit and them,” Lindbergh agreed with us. “It’s Christmastime, and Christmas is about helping others.”
“Well, Cliff,” Beard told his apartment buddy, “it’s a group decision: Should we help him or not? It‘s your verdict.”
The bass player looked around at the rest of us before letting out a sigh. “All right,” he said in defeat, “we’ll help him out. But don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he added under his breath.
Leon's eyes widened. He glanced around at all of us, momentarily unable to speak. "I can't believe this!" he exclaimed. "Thanks, guys! You guys are slammin'!"
"Well, it's Christmas, man," Clifford replied to the lizard. "It's the least we could do to help."
“To the trees?” Lindbergh asked.
“To the trees,” everyone else answered, ready to head up to the front of the store and pay for the Christmas decorations.
I hooked my arms around Lindbergh‘s wing and Leon’s arm (who was possibly thoroughly confused) before we se out for the front. “Weeeeee’re off to see the Wizard--” I sang joyfully before I was cut off by the rest of the band with a sure “Not right now!”
I grinned sheepishly in response. “Right…” We all (Leon included) headed up to the front of the store to pay, all without breaking out into song and dance.
All of us looked on as Lindbergh and Flash bravely set forth to climb a tall building. The climb would be dangerous, but thanks to Lindbergh’s equipment, they would probably be all right.
“I just hope that he knows what he’s doing,” Francine commented to me.
“It’s okay,” I told her, “Lindbergh’s had experience doing these things.”
“I meant Flash.”
My eyes widened with realization. “Ooh…”
When the two climbers reached the top, they looked around. “I don’t see a tree up here,” the kiwi shouted over to the saxophonist. “Do you see anything?”
The young man held on to the top in exhaustion, gasping for breath.
“Hey, you two!” a man with a megaphone suddenly yelled from behind the rest of us, startling us all. “Get off of the playground equipment!”
“Wow, I can see the Wal-Mart from up here!” Lindbergh commented.
Down below, Francine buried her face in her hands.
“We’ve gotta long way to go,” Clifford stated as a group of children formed to stare up at the bird and the teenager.
"Don't worry, Leon," Lindbergh said to the reptile as the group walked down the sidewalk, "we'll find a tree for you soon."
"Yeah, um," Leon began loudly, then lowered his voice, "that's the important thing."
We passed a mime performing on the streets. Almost all of us slowed down to watch him perform, but Clifford continued onward down the street side.
The mime pointed in the bass player’s direction in surprise and quickly (and silently) started to follow him.
“This should be interestin’,” Beard whispered as we all followed, wondering what the mime was going to do next.
The purple bassist was walking with his head down and his hands in his pockets. He let out a soft sigh. The mime followed suit, miming all of Clifford’s actions.
Flash was the first to let out a chuckle, quickly followed by Francine and Leon. Clifford turned around to see what was going on, and the mime froze in place, pretending he was in a box.
The purple male shrugged it off and continued on, the mime and our group following him. Reaching into his pocket, the guitarist pulled out a candy cane and started to lick it, his face becoming less serious. The mime followed suit, pulling an imaginary candy cane out of his pocket and licking it gleefully.
This earned more giggles from the group. “Guys, what is going on?” Clifford asked before turning around, only for the mime to be pretending to wrap a Christmas present and give it to him. “… thanks,” he answered, a little bit freaked out. He then continued down the street, whistling a tune to himself. The mime, being the showman that he was, lowered his eyelids and followed in silent suit.
This was enough for Clifford to turn around and catch the mime in the act. “Get outta here, man!” he yelled at the street-performing mime. The white-faced man put on a sad face and ran away, crying silently. “Wait, come back! I didn’t mean--” The bass player sighed. “Great, I’m an enemy to all mimes now,” he said sarcastically.
The rest of us were still laughing. “What’re you laughing at?” Clifford asked us. We immediately calmed down before setting off again.
At the lumber store, Lindbergh and I were glancing at the axes. The kiwi took one off the shelves and gave it to me to hold. “Cool, you look like the Tin Man!” he exclaimed.
“Do I really?” I asked in amazement.
“Except you don’t have that one thing on your head,” he continued. “Why don’t we go find one?”
Before I could answer him, Beard approached the two of us with a glass of eggnog in his hands. “Hey, guys,” he began, “how’s it--?” The guitarist didn’t have time to continue, for the next thing that we knew, he tripped over a stray log and spilt his drink all over me.
Everything that happened next was all a blur to me. All I can remember was my arms waving wildly around with the axe still in my hands. Then I shut down from all the glitches I had.
Later I learned that we were thrown out of that store.
Possibly inspired by Flash's actions earlier (or determined to do one better), Francine started to climb a giant red slide in the mall in order to speak to the department store Santa about getting a tree for Leon. We all watched in amazement from the ground as she scaled the slippery slide on her way to the top.
“Mmm, that sure is one strong-willed woman you got there, Flash,” Clifford teased the saxophonist. “She sure can climb.”
“Shut up,” the teen mumbled, embarrassed a little.
Leon suddenly walked in front of us and stopped. He kept staring at the ground. "Uh, look, fellas," he began softly. "You guys are pretty far-out, an' I've been a total chump, y'know? You dudes were totally down wit' tryin' ta help me an' everything. You didn't even focus on da inconvenience I was causin'. I just ... I just can't ruin da Christmas of such funky fellas. Let's just go back ta my place. I'll make this alright."
“What! ?” We all turned at the sound of Francine’s voice yelling at the Santa on top of the slide. “I just climbed up this stupid slide just to ask you for a tree, probably making myself look like an even bigger idiot in the process, and you tell me ‘you'll splinter your nails, kid’!?”
We all looked at each other in concern. Before any of us could act, however, the department store Santa Claus had fallen face first down the slide and into the “snow” on the ground.
Francine came down the slide a few moments later, a look of anger on her face. “Let’s get out of this dump, guys,” she said to us.
"C'mon, bunny," Leon said as he elbowed Francine. "You and the guys need ta come over to my place."
"Don't call me bunny," she said to the lizard. With that, we all exited the mall, exhausted from the day's events. (Though we never did find out if they found a replacement for that mall Santa that day.)
"Are we there yet?" Lindbergh asked for the tenth time. We had been walking with Leon to his apartment for quite a while (we had to park Clifford's car quite a ways away) and were all wondering when we would reach the place.
"Keep your pants on, birdy," Leon replied to the kiwi. "We're almost there."
I took this opportunity to quicken my pace to be beside the lizard. "Sir," I said to him, "thank you so much for inviting us to your home on this cold winter evening. We all deeply appreciate what you're doing for us, even though you have so little to offer. You are a truly generous person, Leon," I finished with a smile.
Leon looked away. I could see him sigh silently to himself. His eyes moistened. He tensed as though he wanted to answer ... but he didn't. All he did was open the door to his apartment…
… and boy, were we surprised with what we saw.
The place was brightly decorated. Christmas knick knacks were on the shelves and the side tables. The table in the dining room had a decorated turkey on it, ready to be eaten. But what surprised us the most was the fact that there was a tree in the middle of the living room.
“Hold up!” Clifford exclaimed, breaking our awe of silence and turning to Leon. “You mean to tell us that you actually had a tree? And I bet that story about your dead girlfriend is fake, too!”
Leon chuckled to himself as he wiped away the water from his eyes. "Yep," he confessed, "this was all for you guys! Merry Chris--"
The reptile was cut short by Francine’s hands wrapping around his throat. “Listen, you little two-faced liar,” she growled through gritted teeth, “if you think that you can just expect us to forgive you just like that, you’ve got another thing coming!”
“I can explain, girlie!” Leon choked, gasping for air.
“Start talking,” she demanded, her hands still around his throat.
Flash, Lindbergh and I intervened in between them, the saxophonist taking the drummer’s hands off of the lizard’s throat, the kiwi and myself getting our host away from the slightly angered female.
“Let him explain,” I told the others, “he must have a good reason behind all of this.”
"Indeed I does, Digit," the lizard said before starting to tell his real story. "Y'see, I saw you guys performin' a coupla times at some of da clubs I go to. And when I heard you all play, I thought to myself, 'Wow, these guys can really rock,' you know? So, when I heard you were all in the neighborhood, I decided to invite ya all to my home to celebrate the holidays."
“You see?” I defended him. “He only wanted to spend the holidays with us.” I gave them a smile, hoping to help ease the tension.
A few moments of silence followed. I was starting to believe that nobody was believing either Leon or I. The stares from Clifford and Francince didn't help, either. They seemed to both have a look of “I knew it” or “I told you so” on their faces.
Lindbergh spoke up. “Well, thank you for having a change of heart, Leon,” he thanked the lizard for his generosity. “We’re glad to spend the holidays with a new friend.”
Leon’s eyes widened. “You really consider me a friend?” he asked the others.
“Well, I do,” I answered before them. “And… I believe that people deserve a second chance at things. So guys, can we start over with him?”
I had some doubt that my words would make sense to them, but in the end, everyone had found a friend (define that as you may) in Leon. After we agreed to spend the night there, Leon started to hand out some Christmas presents to everyone. I was very grateful, for my gift was the other keyboard that completed the set of two.
“Francine, look up,” I heard Flash say to the drummer. As I looked up, I as well as the others plainly saw the two teenagers kissing underneath the mistletoe.
“About time,” Clifford commented with a smirk on his face. The two teens blushed at the bass player’s words before they kissed again briefly.
When the New Year came around, I knew what I was thankful for. I was thankful for having so many new friends that have helped me out in so many different ways. From then on, I knew the true value of friendship and I still treasure it to this day.