“Heya, Bucket, come ‘ere, boy!” Dougie rapped his HAMMER against his toolbox, looking around for the dog. “Bucket, where you at?”
A jingling and a clanking told of the dog’s approach, and around the corner of the barn came Dougie’s gray pet, with its rusty patches here and there. “Gives it character!” Dougie’s grandpa often said.
“Aw, Bucket, lookitch you,” Dougie sighed. “You git into a fight or sumpin’?”
Bucket just yipped happily and lolled his tongue out to the side.
“Aw, who’m I kiddin’. You don’t even notice, an’way. ‘Sides, we had work to do n’matter what. C’mon, less go git you in the barn.”
Dougie walked into the barn and the dog ambled after him, a grinding/clanking coming with him as he limped on one of his legs.
They got to the tool bench and Dougie grunted as he lifted Bucket up onto the bench and laid him on his side. He grabbed a book off the shelf above the bench, the cover already slightly tattered, the pages curled and dog-eared and smudged with grease stains.
“Awright, lessee here,” Dougie said to himself, paging through.
“For repair of injured limbs below joints, first remove the limb at the joint.”
“‘K, Bucket, you know this oughtn’t hurt a bit.” He grabbed the SCREWDRIVER off the bench, flicked a switch on its side and it hummed life. Pressing down one of the buttons, he touched it to the joint of Bucket’s injured leg. Sparks erupted from the SCREWDRIVER’s head as half a dozen small mechanical arms spread out and began separating a myriad of microscopic connectors. Dougie moved his hand slowly, careful not to stray off his line. Bucket whined once, lifting his head and looking to see what Dougie was doing, but kept the rest of his body still.
At last the limb was free, and Dougie pulled it off to the side.
“Activate access points F and J, and examine the diagnostic panel,” the book read. Dougie flipped the leg over and tapped the small buttons with the appropriate letters next to them. Flaps opened and Dougie was looking at the labyrinthine arrangement of filaments and diodes and condensers and resistors and processors and spires and nanobeds and linkages. In the center of it all was a screen, and an amber colored light was blinking at its corner.
Dougie consulted the book. “For amber light codes, see page 294-G.” Dougie turned the pages, shaking his head. “Too many diff’rent codes, if ya’sk me,” he muttered. He reached the appopriate page and looked at the list. He had to count in his head how long between blinks, and how many shorts and longs followed by how many seconds of darkness. At last he was sure he had it right, and turned to the page the chart indicated.
“Using your PLIERS, position the fiber clusters at hinge joint 2 into a zeta-max form, as indicated by the following diagram.” Dougie studied the diagram carefully, then grabbed his PLIERS and applied them to the hinge joint.
Zeta-max turned out to be much more complicated than he expected. It required him to hold the PLIERS in both hands so that he could touch three buttons simultaneously and still flip the impeller switch on an off at the right intervals. A few times he felt the tickle of Bucket’s tongue licking the back of his hand while we worked. “Leave off, Bucket,” he grumbled, intent on the work.
At last he had things arranged according to the diagram. “Once you have the hinge joint into zeta-max, apply setting 17-B to your HAMMER and strike three times, pause for five seconds, then strike two more times.”
Dougie scratched the soft whiskers on his cheek that he hadn’t dared to shave for fear they wouldn’t grow back, picked up the HAMMER, turned the switches to setting 17-B. He struck the limb right at the spot where the PLIERS were holding things in place. A whoosh swept out from the toolbench and shook the whole barn, so that Dougie hesitated a he pulled the HAMMER back. He gulped, not expecting that kind of reaction (though he had to admit he’d never used setting 17-B before). He struck again three times quickly, and each time there was a different noise that drummed at his ears and shook the wood of the barn. A screeching, then a buzz, then a strange crackling energy kind of noise.
He paused. Had he struck three or four times? He looked at the limb. How long was he supposed to wait? It took him several seconds to find the spot in the book, and once he had he realized he had waited far more than five seconds. He looked at the HAMMER, wondering if it had built up too much of a charge and something terrible would happen.
“Welp,” he said to Bucket, “no goin’ back now. Either you’ll have a workin’ leg else you’ll be as lame as my grandpappy. Here goes!” He struck another time, and there was no sound at all, not even the sound of the HAMMER hitting the limb. Dougie cocked an eyebrow, then scowled, then grit his teeth and tried striking one last time.
Colors burst from the HAMMER and sprayed out around the room, and the tool swung out of his hand and flew across the barn, putting a crack in one of the timbers before it came to land on a hay bale. Dougie’s hand felt a little tingly, and it smelled like burned rubber.
Cringing, he undid the PLIERS and closed the flaps. At first they wouldn’t latch down together, and Dougie wondered if that was related to the original problem or something he had done. But he noticed that the screen was no longer blinking, so he thought maybe it was okay.
He brought the leg back over to Bucket and, with more sparks and what not from the SCREWDRIVER, reattached it. He gingerly set Bucket on to the floor.
“Well, boy, give it a go.”
Bucket turned a few circles, no strange noises issuing forth and no sign that it was giving him problems. Then he faced the door of the barn, wiggles his hips once, planted the leg Dougie had just worked on, gave a little bark, and launched out of the barn doors.
Dougie stood staring, mouth agape. “Well, I’ll be darned,” he said. “Never done that afore…”
Bucket came trotting back into the barn, tail wagging happily. Dougie retrieved his HAMMER, set it next to the book, and stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Bucket,” he said, “go fetch grandpappy.”
This story should not have been written, but I wrote it anyway.