Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | April 16, 2008

The Blue Kickball

Sighisoara, Romania. June 14, 2004.

“Want to meet my robot grandma?” Amitha whispered to her new friend, Dina.  They’d been friends for fourty-five minutes, ever since Dina showed up outside Amitha’s apartment building with a blue kickball.

She’s a robot?”  Dina twisted her neck sideways as a normal looking grandmother-type person approached, towing a little boy by one hand.

“Can’t you tell?”  Amitha held out her bag of sunflower seeds and Dina took a handful.  “She’s a robot, and that little boy?  He’s not my brother.  He’s an alien. He made my grandma from pieces of his ship.

“Stop it, that’s ridiculous.”  Dina bounced a little on the kickball, which made an excellent seat.  Amitha had to squat on the cobblestones and try to keep her jeans from touching the dust.  Robots don’t like dust.

“Found a new friend, Amitha?”  The robot grandma asked.

Her voice seemed normal.  It had just the right amount of sugar and cinnamon and paprika that a grandmother’s voice should have.

“My name’s Dina, and Amitha says you’re a robot.”  Dina laughed, expecting the grandma to scowl and scold her granddaughter for telling such an outrageous lie.  That’s what Dina’s own human grandmother would have done.  She was seventy-seven and she couldn’t put on her own slippers.  Dina had to do it for her, and she never did it quite right.

But the robot grandma didn’t scold or scowl or even frown.  She nodded and kept on walking.  The little boy frowned a little, though.

“See?”  Amitha said.

“I still don’t believe you,”  Dina stood up and held the kickball under one arm.  “Robots are only in stories.  So are aliens.  She just didn’t hear me.  My own grandma never hears anything unless I climb up on the counter to reach the sugar bowl.”

“Robots have excellent hearing.”  Amitha grabbed for the kickball, but Dina turned sideways.

“Prove it.”

“Give me the ball.”

Dina hesitated.  What kind of friend insisted her own family wasn’t human?  But she handed it over.

“Catch!”  Amitha shouted, and tossed the ball.  The little boy held up one hand, and the ball was there, balanced on his fingertips.  Or maybe, just maybe, an inch above them.

“Come on, George,” Grandma said, and plucked the ball from the boy’s hand.  “We’ll be back for dinner, Amitha.  Let your friend in and get her some tea.”  Grandma tossed the ball.  She didn’t even watch as it traveled in a perfect arc through the air, and landed exactly in front of Amitha, who sat on it.

“Robots don’t drink tea!”  Dina whispered, as the alien and robot turned the corner.

“Of course not,” Amitha answered.  “The motor oil is in the next cabinet.”

And that is how Amitha found herself to be the owner of a brand new blue kickball.

She celebrated with a tall glass of motor oil–the tea was only for company.

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