Once upon a time was a boy named Me. Me wasn’t like other boys you know, though. Me was made of gears and metal and steam. He would come to school and clank up the stairs and sit in his seat and hiss all throughout his classes as warm steam shot out of his ears. He was quite popular in the winter, as all the girls would try to huddle close enough to him, to use him as a radiator. Most of the time, though, the other children avoided him. No one played with him at recess because he was just too weird.
But there was a little girl in his class named Olivia. She wasn’t Me’s friend, but she was very, very interested in Me. You see, she liked to take things apart and put them back together. She would disassemble her pencil and put it back together every class. She would take apart her books and put them back together, though sometimes she would mix up the order of the chapters. And she wanted to take apart Me and put him back together again. It’s not that Olivia didn’t like Me any more than any of the other children did. She didn’t hate him. She just liked taking things apart and putting them back together!
Well, one day, Me got in trouble. Mr. Mercer asked everyone to give over their homework, and Me couldn’t. “Why, Me, what happened?” asked Mr. Mercer.
“I can’t give you my homework,” Me replied. “The dog ate it.”
Mr. Mercer told Me he had to stay inside during recess.
Olivia saw her chance. As the children lined up for recess, she “accidentally” stepped on Mr. Mercer’s foot.
But Olivia said nothing.
She, too, sat in her desk during recess.
She found herself staring at Me, just a desk up and over. And she…
…she did nothing.
She opened her mouth to speak.
She said nothing.
Me turned around and looked at her. He rolled his clockwork eyes. The gears in his head tick, tick, ticked. He stood and clanged down the short distance between their desks, and he reached behind her neck. She felt him doing something there. And suddenly… she felt she could speak again.
Me’s mechanical voice clicked at her, “Your gears have worn down. You must oil them.”
All Olivia could say was, “What?”
“Your gears are running down.”
And then the bell rang, and all the children stumbled in from recess. Me went back to his desk.
Olivia ran up to the teacher’s desk. “Mr. Mercer, am I a clockwork child?”
Mr. Mercer looked sadly at Olivia. “Yes.”
“But… but why? I thought I was a normal girl!”
“I can’t answer that, Olivia. You need to talk to your parents. It’s their business.”
And that night Olivia did. “Am I a clockwork child?” she asked as her parents were trying to do the dishes. They didn’t let her do the dishes anymore after she disassembled all the plates one night.
Her parents looked at each other. And they sighed. And they explained: She was not the first little girl in their family named Olivia. But one day there had been a fire, and now they couldn’t see that first Olivia again. So they got this Olivia. But it was ok, because they loved her like a real child.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because… because we wanted you to have a normal childhood.”
And they hugged her. And even though she was a clockwork girl, even though she wasn’t what she thought she was, her parents loved her just as much. And wasn’t that good enough?
She went back to school the next day, and she and Me began to talk. And soon they became best of friends.
Sometimes I make up stories for my children at bedtime with their help. They help guide the story, and give the characters their voices. I roll with whatever twists and turns they come up with. Tonight, we told this story. And now I repeat it for you.