Lewis and Susan Jenkins

* Watch this space for comments, back- story, essays, or other notes about the story. When an asterisk is red, the note is fresh. It will get less red as it ages.  If a chapter has any changes on its page, an asterisk will appear opposite its chapter line in this main Table of Contents. An asterisk after the Table of Chapters title itself signals a change to this intro page.

I used to be a programmer (assembler, Cobol, Forth, C, +,++, etc., Javascript, Java, Basic, HTML, XML, Unix, Linux, etc.) but now I write essays and book (soon to be books -- next year, I hope).  Since I'm a writer, "they" say I should have a "platform". So here it is, with one book sitting on it, all alone at the moment.

Diary of a Robot

        Table of Chapters
Chapter 0. Problems
Chapter 1. Headaches
Chapter 2. Happy Holidays
Chapter 3. Mr. Nice Guy
Chapter 4. The Brainless One 
Chapter 5. A Little Crazy
Chapter 6. Grave Consequences
Chapter 7. Core Directives
Chapter 8. Expect Difficulties
Chapter 9. Caveats
Chapter 10. Mister Machine
Chapter 11. Good News, Bad News, El Cheapo
Chapter 12. New Memories
Chapter 13. Little Problems
Chapter 14. Lasers, Language, and Happiness
Chapter 15. Chatterbots
Chapter 16. Ready Or Not
Chapter 17. Not a Turing Test
Chapter 18. Reality Test
Chapter 19. Chess, Anyone?
Chapter 20. FOM
Chapter 21. Chairman of the Board
Chapter 22. The Usual Suspects
Chapter 23. M. God
Chapter 24. Walkabout
Chapter 25. Why
Chapter 26. First Blood
Chapter 27. More Machines?
Chapter 28. POV
Chapter 29. ROI
Chapter 30. Last Blood
Chapter 31. Don’t Want to Talk About It
Chapter 32. Round Table
Chapter 33. A Change of Mind
Chapter 34. Threes
Chapter 35. Knight Moves
Chapter 36. Little Combinations
Chapter 37. Can We Talk?
Chapter 38. Pas de Deux
Chapter 39. The Jig Is Up
Chapter 40. Good, Bad, Ugly                     Chapter 41. Function Goes On




Thank you, Bruce McRae.

The Acknowledgements page for Diary of a Robot says that if you remember me, I am thanking you. Those are not empty words. The first crack I took at writing that page had so many names, and kept getting so many more, that I had to stop and write it the way it is now. There are a few people who may have difficulty getting my thanks in print or in person because they’re dead. As a way of making partial amends, this story is about Bruce McRae, and it’s bitter-sweet.

Bruce was my age, or maybe a year different, but he was a short kid, shrimpy even, and lived farther from the epicenter of my world than most of the neighborhood kids who played kick-the-can in the vacant lot between our house and the Andreoli's on summer evenings. Before the Andreolis moved in, the house was owned by the Brocks. My dad and Mr. Brock did a wonderful thing: They pooled money, bought the vacant lot between their houses, and split it down the middle so no one could build a house between them. As a result, we kids had a big place to play when we were small. That lot shrank a bit as we got older, but by then schools had been built within easy walking distance. Also by then, kids had graduated to games that needed more space and marks on the field.

Some games were more fun in the big yard without more space or marks. One that I remember more-or-less from start to finish was when we played kick-the-can the only time I was It. There were over a dozen kids playing. The signal to scatter was given and before I took two steps in the crowd, Its hand had grabbed my shirt.  I do remember kicking myself for getting caught first. When that game finished it was my turn to be It. I also remember thinking that maybe kids would decide to go home and I would be off the hook. When everyone wanted to keep playing, I had to go along. It would have been selfish not to.

I am—or was—fairly fast and cagey, and soon enough I'd caught everyone except Bruce. All of my prisoners taunted me as I methodically checked every hiding place around, starting with the closest ones, moving to those farther out, and re-checking the close ones from time to time. I didn’t care about the taunting. I wanted to win, and I knew how. It was getting fairly late now. With the gathering twilight I got very methodical, and the kids got very vocal.

One place I hadn’t looked was quite far away. Bruce could never have beaten me to the can from there if he had tried when I checked other places, but I had run out of other places to check. So I had to peek around that far back corner of my house. If Bruce were on that side of the house I could catch him before he ran the other way around to kick the can and set all of my prisoners free. Just as I reached the corner I heard something.

Many times that evening I had glanced in Bruce’s direction but hadn’t seen him, although he was there to be seen. I didn't look carefully where he was because he obviously couldn't be there: There were no holes or depressions to hide in and nothing to hide behind.

Probably every one of my prisoners knew where he was. Bruce had been lying flat, out in the open grass, on a little rise at a place where the lots meet. Because of the twilight and the very slight elevation and Bruce’s slight frame, he had taken the chance to work his way very slowly, crawling on the open ground, toward the can. When he was sure he could get to it before I could get him, he jumped up.

I started back to the can, but it was too late. He kicked it. Everyone scattered. I was so upset that I selfishly told them I wouldn’t try again. It was late, anyway, and getting dark enough so that I would have been It all night.

I said this story is bitter sweet. I’ve just told you the sweet; it’s a great little vignette of my education as a human being and writer. I remember Bruce every time I think of kick-the-can. In Diary of a Robot there are references to selfishness, hiding in plain sight, and seeing what’s there to be seen. When you read them, remember this story and Bruce McRae.

A few years later, when I was in High School, my mother called down to me in the basement. She said that Bruce had died in a car accident. He was driving a convertible, hadn’t been wearing a seat belt, lost control of the car, and it rolled over on him. It was the saddest day of my life to that time. Even if you didn’t know Bruce McRae, son of Akron Municipal Court Judge C.B. McRae, please know of my thanks for the things he taught me.

Lewis E. Jenkins