The Cardboard Robot
The Cardboard Robot
by Chadwick St. John
This is the story of magic, wonder and dreams.
Setting: a small, old wooden house. It is a cloudy evening and a storm is growing.
The atmosphere is serene, and comfortable.
A warm fireplace highlights the rooms.
An old man and his grandson live alone in a small, old wooden house. It is a small even for the two of them, yet is warm from the fireplace and the heart of an ailing man who loves his grandchild more than anything in the world.
The grandfather had a workshop in the basement, and filled his time with repairs. He worked every day building things, fixing whatever he could and most of all, crafting unique toys. He had been working on a surprise for his grandson...a very unique and special toy that he kept a secret. Only working on it at night when the boy was asleep. He was nearly finished...and tonight was to be the final nights work before sharing the gift to the boy.
It was late, and the grandfather tucked the boy in, kissing him goodnight. The boy’s room was warm despite the cold rain and increasing wind outside. Comfort and luxury was in the mind and hearts of these humble people. The boy smiled and curled up closing his eyes as his grandfather quietly walked out of the room, closing the door halfway, and heading into the basement where a final night of work awaited him. Tonight he would finish the boy’s gift: a Cardboard Robot!
The CARDBOARD ROBOT, although it was made of actual cardboard, was built quite strong, reinforced with a skeleton made of wood poles, held together with screws, bolts, hinges and rivets. The exterior was made of cardboard, tape, glue, cloth and cut pieces of aluminum cans. It was decorated in great detail with shining cut pieces of plastic, metal, and glass with painted chicken wire reaching around its joints and interiors. There were even polished coins from some Asian country faceted into its frame. The glass and plastic pieces reflected the work light and strange rays shined like a prism. It was beautiful to the eye. To an everyday eye, this looked like a worn down, mistreated, once functioning robot. It was a work of art. With no batteries, moving parts or power, it was a full functioning toy just as the old man planned it to be...and he was excited to finish it.
The old man worked into the night as the rain fell and the trees blew against each other, dancing and swaying around their cozy domain. It was near midnight, and the rain was falling harder as the old man was falling closer to his workbench exhausted. His head sliding down near his tools and the Cardboard Robot...his eyes close slowly just as the thunder crashes. (CRASH!)
The old man pops up his head for just a moment, and realizes the storm outside his cellar window. Unconcerned, he inserts the final glass piece into the chest of the robot. He hunches over near his tools and quickly falls asleep. It is only a moment until midnight.
A grandfather clock strikes midnight together with the lightning and thunder. (CRASH)
Lights flicker. (SHHHHMMMMMmmmmmm..)
The work light goes out.
Lightning flashes in through the cellar window.
It goes dark.
Suddenly, the CARDBOARD ROBOT light up!
First its feet, hands, the chest, shoulders, hips...Blue, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, White...shining in all directions.
Then the eyes ...light up the cellar like search lights ...reflecting shadows as they pierce the darkness shining up at the cellar ceiling!
The robot jolts its body...it fingers twitch...its hands move...then its feet... it rises up, sitting on the workbench. It looks around, studying itself and the surroundings. It instantly becomes self-aware. It hops off the workbench and tries to stand, but sways, leans and falls down crashing into the floor exactly at the moment of another thunder strike.
The old man pops one eye open, but doesn’t move, closing his eye again, thinking it only the storm and is back to sleep in seconds.
The CARDBOARD ROBOT rises up from the floor, swaying, shaking, and learning its way up to its knees, then to its feet, learning about itself and its surroundings, bumping into boxes, tools, toys, chairs, and the workbench itself. The Robot's strange moves are rhythmic in its other worldliness, mimicking a dance with the captivating atmosphere of the storm.
The noise of the storm and the CARDBOARD ROBOT awakens the boy from his sleep.
He climbs out of bed, and into the hallway, walking slowly, searching for origin of the noise. He cracks open the basement door and the small amount of light from the fireplace shined down the stairs into the cellar. The shadow of the boy is cast down the steps as he carefully, and quietly creeps down to see whatever he can. At first, he sees the lights shining around...then he crouches down lower...lower on the steps, peeking through each wooden plank and under the handrail. He sees lights flickering, and hears strange noises...but cannot make out what is happening. He rubs his eyes...slowly climbing down another step. His eyes grow larger and larger...he is in shock of what he sees...A dancing ROBOT! Lights flickering and swirling around as the ROBOT moves and dances itself off the ground, and away from each object and wall. The boy sits in amazement at what his grandfather built!
Suddenly, the ROBOT crashes onto the workbench, exactly as the old man sat it.
Lightening crashes! CRASH!!! The boy gasps!
The CARDBOARD ROBOT’s lights go out and the work light flickers back on.
Grandfather whips up his head and looks around. He sees nothing out of the ordinary, but his grandson, who stares at him and the CARDBOARD ROBOT in bewilderment. The old man smiles, happy to see his gift has made the impact he could only have hoped for. The boy walked slowly, carefully toward the work bench, looking up at his grandfather and at the ROBOT in complete awe. The old man was thrilled, unaware of what the little boy had just witnessed a moment earlier.
The boy took his hand, carefully feeling over the fine craftsmanship and details. Looking up at his grandfather with a tear in his eye he falls into his arms. They embrace in the dim cellar as the storm continues on its path and the rain pours down.
Secretly, just behind the two of them, a bright red light shined, just where the old man secured the final piece of glass... in place of the heart of the CARDBOARD ROBOT.