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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Young Writers Project: The Making Of Konrad

Courtesy, Susan Reid
Nicole Tucker, 16, of Lyndon, wrote this story as a prequel to a short book she's been working on. She read the story at the Young Writers Project fall conference at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

Mrs. Perkins stormed into the business meeting, stumbling over her high heels, her hair looking like it had gone through a tornado. Her face was beet red from anger and her eyes had a look of slight insanity to them.

Situations like this, except with different people, had happened so many times that Mr. Kiln instantly knew why she was barging in on his very important meeting.

"I quit!" Mrs. Perkins bellowed.

Some of the employees closer to the door yelped and began to scoot away in their chairs.

Mr. Kiln sighed. "And why would that be?" he asked, although he already knew the answer.

"Your child is a demon!" she screamed. "She climbed up to the roof through her bedroom window and I had to go after her!"

"And why did she do that?" Mr. Kiln asked, secretly handing a pack of ear plugs to the person beside him to relieve them.

"To fly a kite!" Mrs. Perkins said, as if flying a kite was the most absurd reason to go to a roof. "I knew the salary you were giving me was too good to be true! You can't find anyone to take care of her, can you?"

Mr. Kiln readjusted the papers in front of him. "David, will you please take care of Lucy for the rest of the day?"

The employee named David stood up. "Yes, sir," he said, sounding very happy to be able to leave the situation. He went in a wide circle around Mrs. Perkins and out the door.

Mr. Kiln looked at Mrs. Perkins. "You are relieved of your duty as Lucy's caretaker. You may leave."

Mrs. Perkins nodded piskly. "Good riddance!" and with that she stormed out the door.

The grateful employee next to Mr. Kiln pulled out his earplugs and smiled. The other employees began to scoot back to their original places.

"Now then," Mr. Kiln said after everyone had calmed down. "If we may continue ..."

"Uh- sir?" one employee said, raising his hand hesitantly.

"Yes, William?" Mr. Kiln asked.

"Who's going to take care of Lucy now?"

Mr. Kiln looked down at his hands, and waited a long time to answer. Mrs. Perkins was one of the last caretakers in the city. All of the others had quit because of similar circumstances. "I'm not sure," Mr. Kiln finally admitted.

Mr. Kiln sat at his workshop desk, still worried about what he was going to do with Lucy. Somebody had to take care of her. But nobody wanted to.

He suddenly got an idea. An idea he was sure was going to fail, but an idea all the same. He needed somebody that would never lose patience with Lucy's antics, and the only way to ensure someone would have that patience would be if they didn't have emotions. Mr. Kiln looked over at his pile of metal scraps. Every year for Lucy's birthday he made her a toy robot. What if he just made a babysitter?

Mr. Kiln booted up his computer and began building the code, making blueprints, and gathering supplies. He had never made an A.I. meant for children before. Lucy's birthday was four days away, so he didn't have much time.

Most people would be concerned about someone spending three straight days in a workshop without sleep, but the employees were used to Mr. Kiln doing just that. Since they hadn't received any commands, they peeked through the window of the workshop door, watching eagerly. They knew that when Mr. Kiln got that absorbed in his work he was making something life-changing.

Three days of coding, melding, soldering, and employees peeking through windows came to a close as Mr. Kiln came out of the workshop, a ponze sphere in hand. It was about the size of Mr. Kiln's head, and all that the employees could see on it were two circles that almost looked like they could be eyes, and a rectangle that almost looked like it could be a mouth.

Mr. Kiln walked to the center of the room, an eager crowd of employees following. They gathered around him, not daring to speak a word.

Mr. Kiln stood on a chair so everyone could see. "Ladies, gentlemen," Mr. Kiln began. "Meet Lucy's new babysitter, Konrad."

At the sound of his name, Konrad's eyes lit up. A small hole opened on top of his head, and three small helicopter blades extended out of it. The blades started spinning until Konrad was hovering just above Mr. Kiln's hands.

"He works!" Mr. Kiln said, laughing. He stepped down from the chair to get a better look. "He really works!"

Konrad's eyes began to flicker, a puff of smoke and a weird noise coming from the top of his head. Then he crashed against the floor, parts scattering everywhere.

Mr. Kiln's face fell as he looked down at the pile of poken pieces. "I guess I spoke too soon."

To be continued...

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