flash fiction


As Robbie made his way through the grocery store, he heard people talk about him under their breath. He’d walk down an aisle and hear a curt exhale of air, then see the back of someone walking the other way. Someone who’d rather not shop in the same vicinity as him. All the people staring, then they’d look away when he caught their glance. Each aisle was the same.

It wasn’t until check out, Robbie met a friendly face. The electronic smiley face on the self-checkout screen was happy to help Robbie with his purchase.

“Oh Mommy, look!” a little boy shouted from behind his mother’s shopping cart. The mother pulled in line behind Robbie, and he didn’t have to turn his head to know the kid was going to say something rude. “Can I touch him?”

Robbie heard the mother whisper something to the child, and the kid was quiet for a few moments. Robbie was almost done scanning his items and felt something hit him square in the back of the head.

“Oh Jesus, Max!” the mother hissed. Robbie turned and saw that she was picking up a candy bar the kid had thrown at him. “I’m so sorry about that.”

Robbie froze. He took an extra moment to process what the woman was saying to him. Robbie had never been apologized to or had his feelings regarded.

“Did you feel that?” the kid half shouted. The mother tried to hush him up again, but the kid persisted. “Do you have a brain?”

“Max! Stop it,” the mother said. She gave an apologetic look to Robbie before she backed her cart away and dragged the kid to a different checkout. That apologetic look burned in Robbie’s internal memory. It was like the woman regarded him as a real person.

Robbie took a moment to get back to his finishing his purchase. If he could smile, he’d be smiling.

On his way out, a man purposely bumped into Robbie, causing him to drop his bags full of food. “Is all that for you, dumb-bot?” The man laughed. “Won’t human food rust your innards?”

Robbie stooped to pick up his items and put them back in the bag. The fruit was bruised, he’d need to get replacements. A human hand handed him the ice cream carton he had dropped. It was the kid’s mother. Her sight made Robbie’s processors whirr harder for a split second. He took the carton of ice cream from her, and she didn’t flinch.

“You’re very kind,” Robbie vocalized.

“I had a Robbie growing up. He was hung from a streetlight one time, just running errands. After that, my parents were afraid to let him leave the house. We spent a lot of time together.”

The mother turned to her kid, who had been staring at the interaction, and called him over.

“Max, this is a Robbie. He’s as real as you are.”


Written for Writer’s Digest’s weekly prompt: Character Content.

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