Robots and Dinosaurs
(From Come As You Are, a novel in progress)
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer
Hannah softly finished off the last verse of Old MacDonald had a Farm as her baby brother’s eyes fluttered closed. Fussy all day – probably due to all the cooing and cuddling as he was passed around from one relative to another – Teige had started to wail as they wrapped up an early lunch. Catching a glimpse of her mother’s defeated and demoralized countenance, Hannah had taken it upon herself to grab Teige from the clutches of a well-meaning aunt and usher him towards a much needed nap.
“You know your dad used to sing you that song.” Her mother’s voice – soft but strained – wafted out across the quiet room, startling Hannah out of her reverie.
“It was one of your favorites,” her mother continued, “Of course, your dad felt the need to…” she paused and smiled sadly, “modify the lyrics.”
“He did?” Hannah asked, knowing the answer but anxious to keep the conversation alive. Afraid that eye contact will startle her mother back into silence, Hannah keeps her eyes on her brother and her back to the doorway.
Lately, any time her mother has realized she’s indulging in memories, all conversation has quickly ceased. And Hannah’s aided and abetted her every step of the way – at this point, dwelling in the past is just not an option.
“He did,” Hannah can hear the smile in her voice and her heart leaps with hope and fear. “Your farm had robots and spaceships and even a dinosaur or two. No child of his was going to be stuck with ordinary farm animals. He always wanted you to know that anything was possible – you just had to imagine it.”
But that was wrong, thought Hannah, you could imagine things that would never come true. The impossible was cold, hard and irrefutable. Her father must have known that. It was a lesson she herself had learned by the time she was ten years old. He was an adult. And the truth was – a truth, by the way, that hurt to acknowledge – some things were never, ever going to happen…could never happen. Why did he try to teach her otherwise? Whatever sort of armor or advantage he’d been trying to pass on had ended up being about as sturdy as those papier-mache animals they’d made in kindergarten – pretty to look at perhaps, but not designed to last more than a week or two.
How selfish of him to try and craft a different reality for her. In the end it hadn’t helped any of them. Robots and dinosaurs were useless; about as welcome on a farm as she was in this new home, in this new town – surrounded by unfamiliar furniture and unrecognizable faces.
Her brother was finally sleeping soundly, visions of staid brown horses and friendly cows dancing behind his eyelids. She’d teach him about reality, she silently promised his bruised eyelids. He wouldn’t bank on the value of dreams, because he’d know the true worth of a reality he could touch and see.
He wouldn’t grow up expecting the exceptional. There’d be no waiting for miracles. Because even though she knew better, her early indoctrination had stuck. No one had been around to dose her with reality and inoculate her against fantastical expectations.
And so she is vulnerable, still waiting for her father’s robots.
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