By Rhys Hughes
The Pedlar on the Roof On the roof across the way a man is perched like a hawk hawking his wares without any care for his safety. Where does he think his customers will come from? He is selling bicycles high up there and daring those below to try them out with a shout that is like the squeal of rusty brakes. “These bikes are real, not fakes!” He has won me over with his words and over I cross from my roof to his on the tightrope of the washing line. The loss of coins jangling in my pocket and notes folded in my wallet is no big deal when in exchange I receive a sturdy frame on two wheels that I can ride. The transaction is made and back along the perilous line I now promenade with the bicycle on my shoulder. If I was bolder I might trundle across like a circus acrobat but the risk is too great. Back on my roof I mount the saddle and set off on a journey entirely in tight circles: how divine! I ring my bell to express my delight to the man who sells these things. He is a pedlar on his roof. I am a pedaller on mine. Robotson Crusoe There was a robot named Crusoe who belonged to the crew of a cruise ship. He scrubbed down the decks and cleaned all the cabins until he was unfortunately shipwrecked. A dreadful storm bashed a hole in the hull and into the sea he was hurled but because he mostly had air in his head he floated quite well for several days until he washed up on an island. A totally deserted island. Robotson Crusoe was lonely and sad but decided to do the best that he could like a dutiful mechanical lad. He made some trousers and also a shirt from the biggest leaves on the trees and though for his dinner he usually ate bolts (rusty bolts) he made do with nuts (coconuts) and grew somewhat thinner, and though he liked hotels he lived in a hut. He was onto a winner but… One morning he found a footprint in the sand that belonged not to himself. Had someone else been stranded? He searched the island and found an android who called himself Diode Defoe. The stranger explained, “I fell from a plane while I was cleaning the wings. I fumbled and tumbled and plunged through the clouds and after landing I shouted aloud but no one came to my aid but I feel fine because I’m very well made.” Robotson Crusoe bade him welcome and they soon became best friends, two cybernetic maroons mentally in tune, for there was plenty of room on the island, that totally and utterly and not very subtly remote and pristine island. And boom! the waves crashed down on the beach and they surfed the breakers though it might seem rash for metal beings to sport in the brine, and in the evenings they drank coconut oil, which to robots is just like wine. The things they did were jolly good fun, they slid down the dunes and basked in the sun and played bongo drums on driftwood logs and blew mellow tunes on seashell flutes. How cute they looked in banana leaf suits but the point is moot. They went to the cinema arm in arm to watch the manatees play in the sea and that was their Saturday matinee. Beach cricket too and oh! what a view was had when they climbed the trees. “Let’s build a canoe,” suggested Crusoe on a day when the sea was all smooth, “and paddle away and pray that we may arrive on an inhabited shore.” But Diode Defoe shook his head and roared, “No! I beg you, dear Robo, to forget that idea. I love it here and wish to remain. Don’t you feel the same? I hope you will agree to stay. Finally free and very happy, our troubles all in the past, never again will we slave on behalf of human depravity.” Oh, his words rang true and old Crusoe thought so too, after a little pondering. “Then all our wandering is at an end and this is our home,” he said at last. They embraced, danced and pranced, as you might do too (if they were you) and to celebrate the momentous decision they thought it better to take a siesta. Robotson Crusoe and Diode Defoe are dozing now, swinging not fast but slow on a hammock with nowhere to go…
Rhys Hughes has lived in many countries. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Since his first book was published in 1995 he has had fifty other books published and his work has been translated into ten languages.
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