Almost Family – A Short Story

Then he lost a leg.

By this time he’d become accustomed to this. It had ceased to embarrass him but it had caused a bit of hysteria from the crowds intent on their Christmas shopping, because he looked so human, he supposed. He’d stepped awkwardly on the edge of the kerb and it just parted company with the knee joint. He picked it up and stuffed it into his rucksack, and hailed a passing taxi home.

The first time it happened was in the summer. Lunching with Amelia Brown at the Dorchester he had passed the salt and his hand had fallen into her tomato soup. Without further ado, Amelia summoned a waiter who fished it out with a pair of silver tongs, wrapped it with a spotless napkin and parcelled it neatly in cooking foil.
Amelia indicated she had finished her soup and proceeded to demolish the Dover sole she had ordered for her main course. It was typical of the Dorchester that no one else appeared to have noticed.

He knew he should have reported immediately to the nearest Service Centre but he was unwilling to face the prospect of being recycled. He wasn’t past it yet, and he enjoyed his current employment with the Brown family, and they were prepared to overlook the loss of the odd limb from time to time.

Jeffrey Brown was a talented engineer and he normally managed to reattach the offending bits and the children were becoming rather blasΓ© about it all. No need to make it official just yet he told him as he refitted his lower leg, you are almost one of the family after all. We can keep you going a bit longer, Charlie 3.

On Christmas Day Charlie rebooted himself in the morning and by afternoon he was feeling disoriented, confused and was aware of generating too much heat on his skin-like exterior covering.

He staggered around the kitchen but bravely managed to produce the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings before asking to speak to Mr Brown

The family gathered round in the evening and tearfully said goodbye to their faithful factotum. “What’s wrong with Charlie?” sobbed little Amy.

Her father sighed and said gravely. He has a virus, Amy, and I can’t fix him this time. He’s just worn out: his chips are fried and his circuits are blown.

Mr Brown gently pressed Charlie’s deactivation button and only then did he unpack Charlie 4.

54 thoughts on “Almost Family – A Short Story”

  1. I rarely watch television, Jazz, and I cannot remember the last time I watched Ch4!

    The inspiration for my story is much more likely to be Asimov, or other classic Science Fiction writers.

  2. Bloody hell!

    First I stand accused of plagiarising some television programme on Ch4, by Jazz which I have never even heard of, never mind watched, and then Asimov! Make up your minds chaps.

    If by plagiarism, Bearsy you mean writing my take of the well explored theme of relationships between humans and humanoid robots then I happily admit that.

    If it’s any more than that please direct me to the relevant Asimov story. But actually I shall take your accusation to be more of a compliment than any serious complaint.

  3. Jazz.

    What exactly is your problem?

    No one forced you to read the story. I have no problems if you don’t bother to read my posts or choose not to comment.

  4. The song Lobachevsky by Tom Lehrer contains the following immortal words –

    Plagiarize,
    Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
    Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
    So don’t shade your eyes,
    But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize…
    Only be sure always to call it please, “research”.

    In my world view, Lehrer and Asimov inhabit the same delightfully different space-time continuum; I greatly admire them both.

    Hence my entirely friendly comment. It is a shame that you reacted so badly to my poor attempt to elevate you to their God-like status. But never mind. 😦

  5. Bearsy.

    You obviously did not read my final sentence.

    “But actually I shall take your accusation to be more of a compliment than any serious complaint.”

    I wasn’t sure if you were serious but I gave you the benefit of the doubt. πŸ™‚

    I was actually miffed about Jazz’s accusations , which put me in a rather cross frame of mind.

  6. My good humour has now been restored by coffee and shopping in Dorchester, Bearsy, so I shall now thank you properly for your generous comment!

  7. “Anyway robots are boring,”

    Jazz,, so why are you bothering to watch a programme on Ch4, which having googled it, seems to be about robots!

  8. I still haven’t entirely recovered from the furore caused by one of my Monty Mouse pomes, Janus, so perhaps I was being a little over-sensitive about some of the reactions my short story. 😦

  9. For Ara: I liked it.

    I hold your hand in mine, dear
    I press it to my lips.
    I take a healthy bite
    from your dainty fingertips.

    Also from Mr. Lehrer.

  10. AramintaJazz,, so why are you bothering to watch a programme on Ch4, which having googled it, seems to be about robots!

    I haven’t really watched it, I caught part of one episode where an old chap is trying to hang onto an obsolete and decrepit robot to which he has become attached. Needless to say he fails and the poor old machine is sent to the crusher.
    Other episodes are languishing on the recorder awaiting scheduled deletion unless I choose to watch them which is unlikely.

  11. Jazz, the word original in matters of the creative arts rarely applies. Every piece is derivative to a greater or lesser extent. That’s why plagiarism is so ill-defined. Plots began with Adam and Eve, if it’s science fiction you’re after – and even if you ain’t.

  12. Of course one should. Any ideas for for original themes would be most welcome, Jazz.

    The topic for the monthly competition is set by previous winners so the stories have to fit in somehow with that too.

  13. So there is no such thing as originality, it’s all derived ?

    Well I guess some things are more derived than others.

  14. While Ara’s short story is a bit stereotypical, it was a decent read.

    I actually quite like the Humans series on CH4, which is a channel I rarely watch, except for Countdown and the lovely Rachel of course. The programme is about the possibility of A.I.becoming so advanced that robots could replace humans and/or interact with them on an equal basis. And, BTW, if the first domestic robots that come out look like Gemma Chan, I want one!

  15. Hi FEEG.

    Thank you, moving on from the “bit stereotypical”, if I may, I shall just cling on to the more positive “decent read”, which has cheered me no end. πŸ˜‰

    I find the subject of androids and A.I. quite fascinating actually, but especially the kind who take over mundane domestic chores!

  16. All this talk of channel 4 and plagiarism.
    It is clear….I mean, the link between Ch4 and Charlie4…..
    Personally I never watch Charlie4….er. Channel 4…..well, you know what I mean.

  17. Araminta Yes, there must be millions of stories out there about a humanoid robot whose hand falls off into the soup at the Dorchester!

    Well I suppose it has more style than if the hand fell into a Bargain Bucket at KFC.

    Not that I ever go to KFC.

  18. I’m delighted beyond reason that you enjoyed it, Gaz.

    Regarding the purported link between Charlie4, and Ch4, I feel tenuous springs to mind, but had I watched the blooming programme I could avoided all this brouhaha and called my robot Robbie. πŸ™‚

  19. I once read that there were only five stories in the world, all others were merely variations and embellishments.
    At that point I probably gave up and went and lurked in the greenhouse.

  20. JM, this may be a complex issue. ‘Frequent’ may be an overstatement and ‘a couple of occasions’ an understatement. 😜

  21. I vaguely gather the Greeks nailed it first in a more codified manner but no doubt floating around since the dawn of time. I mean what else was there to do in caves (besides the obvious). Stories could be told in the dark. Common sense tells you there are only so many variations on themes. Only so many appeal to humanity and the same themes occur again and again in updated versions.
    Things that ARE NOT US—-but can be frightening and shivery and HERE with an elastic imagination.
    Dragons, dinosaurs, maybe extraterrestrials, God, robots, all the same old tale of the iron pot and have obsessed humanity since whenever.
    Interesting that humanity has changed so very little in the odd few million years.
    Pretty well everything is plagiarism!

  22. Funnily enough I have just been composing my latest tall tale for my arrival home. I have to cross the Towy river to get into the village. The pub being a mile down the road. I always enter dramatically with a tale that I only just managed to cross the bridge and that the dragons who live under the bridge managed to recognise me and were too busy eating locals from the next village or a bus load of tourists etc etc This is an endless variation of the same tale which is much enjoyed by the locals, bugger the USA, flight home, iniquities of Heathrow. The Towy river dragons are an invention of mine that has been an ongoing saga for decades. They are expected, and are quiescent during my absence, no-one else seems to be able to report on their antics. The audience have to be reminded what happened a decade ago, This goes on for several hours of heavy drinking and becomes more fanciful by the hour and the free drinks!
    Of course, far funnier than any real news, which is generally a list of those that have died since lasttseeing one. The Welsh are obsessed with death. Nearly all their tales and myths have a bad ending for someone!

  23. Wonderful, Tina, but yes, that is rather the point of fiction: the imagination runs riot and we each have our own individual contributions to make. It’s wonderful entertainment even though the themes are as old as the hills.

  24. Moving on, Ara.

    As you may or may not remember I voted for your ‘Keep Taking the Pills’ in April 2015 instead of this tale. Still don’t think I was wrong.

    http://my.telegraph.co.uk/detectivemouse/araminta/16012103/keep-taking-the-pills-short-story/

    Until this exchange on the Chariot, I had not been clear about why ‘Almost Family’ did not for me. I now think that Bearsy and jazz have given me the explanation, for which I thank them.

    Isaac Asimov has been one of my favourite authors for the past 50 years. Inter alia, his Laws of Robotics and the fallout therefrom have given me so much enjoyment.

    I now reckon that ‘Almost Human’ did not rock my boat for that reason. Not plagiarism or lack of originality but just over exposure. In my opinion.

    Colour me jaded!

  25. Dear Jaded.

    Oh but I do remember, John. My sudden success in the recent Creative Writing Competition top three is still something of a shock, albeit a very pleasant shock. I’ve entered stories intermittently for some years now with few of them collecting any votes at all!

    I have decided that Short Story writing is a bit like blogging. It’s impossible to predict why some are better received than others, and merit has little to do with it! Take this post as an example, without the input by Jazz and Bearsy then it might well have passed down the Home Page with nary a glance.

    “Almost Family” was a last minute second entry that month, and took far less effort than my re-write of “Keep Taking the Pills” . I must admit I find it impossible to predict how any of my stories are going to be received, but I still enjoy writing them, and reading the rest of the entries.

    I am also an Asimov fan, I started reading his books and those of the other classic Science Fiction authors in my teens and I’ve re-read them many times over the years.

    Over exposure is fine, John, I much prefer it to plagiarism or lack of originality!

  26. ….but enough of this cosy BigHouse literary tosh. I hate supernatural stories, just for that reason: there is no real supernature for them to reflect.

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