A Letter To My Son (A Robotic Robin Hood I Built That Decided It Would Rather Be a Pizza Chef)
My boy. My shiny metal boy.
When I built you in my garage six weeks ago, with your permanent aluminum green tunic and your permanent aluminum feather in your permanent aluminum cap, I had a specific purpose for you in mind: you would patrol the streets of Seaford, Long Island, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. You were designed to detect injustices, specifically injustices involving rich people and poor people. There are a lot of each around here, believe you me.
I remember switching you on for the first time, eager to let you loose on the town to find members of the Seaford elite (like the DelGaudios up the street with their multiple flatscreen TVs and one of those barbecues with a side-table and bun warmer built in) for you to rob from. Many people I used to speak to (before their families took priority over their friendships with me) have told me that you do not truly feel like a dad until the baby comes out and looks at you in the eyes. I felt the same way after I activated you for the first time, flipping the “on” switch that I, for some reason, decided to put under your armpit, making it VERY difficult to switch you off. I guess that is a lot like regular children. Life is funny some of the time.
“Papa,” I programmed you to say, your eyes glistening as your lenses adjusted. “I must rob from the rich and give to the poor.”
You reminded me of myself at your age: so young, so pure, so in a garage, so eager to take those DelGaudios down a few pegs. Your metal mustache and goatee combo quivered and sparked as you took in your new surroundings. You looked at the floor, the lack of car, my SIGNED photo of one of the freaky robot guys from one of the Star Trek movies (one of my main inspirations for getting into the robotics game). Then you walked through the garage wall into the living room and fixed your robo-gaze on a commercial that played on the TV.
“Oy! For what be thine this?” you said in the best version of an English accent I was able program.
“That’s the television, champ,” I replied. “It’s a machine just like you but it doesn’t break into rich people’s cars while they are driving in them and take their sacks of money and give it to poor people like me, who could barely afford the expensive robot parts you are made of which is why I had to cut a lot of corners.”
“Television champ,” you repeated. “Please, guvnuh, I would like some more, sir.”
“Well,” I explained (a little annoyed that we were not yet in the DelGaudios’ Subaru Forrester, scaring them and their six children and Doberman Roscoe and demanding their extravagant grill), “this is a commercial for Antonio’s Pizzeria on Merrick Road. The man in the commercial must be Antonio.”
Your eyes boggled (something only robot eyes can do) as you stared and glared and stared again at Antonio, studying him.
“I want to make da pizzas like the guvnuh on television, m’lady,” you declared, adding a Long Island accent to your database.
This did not sit or stand well with me. I had spent literal days reading a website on how robots work and it was looking like I could have spent that time doing something useful like joining the army and dying in vain.
“NO!” I shrieked, still somehow attractively. “You were designed to do one thing made up of several smaller things. Robot… what is function A?”
Your Automated Directive System (ADS) kicked in and you replied “ROB FROM RICH!”
“Correct,” I said. “What is function B?”
“GIVE TO POOR!” you answered. Good, good. I was calming down.
“And then I make da pizzas?” you asked.
There was an awkward beat. I think it was coming from one of our neighbors’ yard parties. They always seem fun but I have no time to attend or to even be invited.
You broke the silence: “Papa… I want make da pizza pies.”
“That wouldn’t make sense!” I snapped back. I was angry and decided to lash out. “Look at you! What pizzeria would let you be a chef in it? You are green. You have a b’feathered hat and stylish facial hair. “Robo-in Hood” is beveled into your chest. Clearly you are made to rich-rob and poor-give and that is it.”
This was all true but not nice of me of say out loud. Your welded-up eyes welled up and you somehow cried real tears which confused the shit out of me.
You collapsed on the floor, breaking through the large wooden spool I use as a table. I left the room to collect my thoughts.
In my kitchenette (technical term for a girl kitchen) I realized that this is all part of being a parent, ya know? It is like in that movie where the parents have kids. The parents in the movie put the kids first and then the movie ends and then it won an award. Yes, it was my dream to have a robotic son who would steal bags of coins from the rich people in my neighborhood and bring them to me so I could buy fancy binoculars with which to spy on those same neighbors to see how sad the robbing had made them, but it was my robotic son’s dream to make pizza pies for the nice people. Perhaps, in this scenario, I was “the rich” and he was “the poor.” After a long sigh (a full minute) I grabbed something from the counterette and walked back to your cryin’ room.
“Here,” I said, tossing you a roll of paper towels.
“Perchance what is this, Weasley?” you asked.
“It’s a pizza-man hat,” I answered. I did not have an actual pizza-man hat, but what did you know? “You’re going to need it for your pizzeria. Just promise me one thing… promise me that when you are in that hot pizzeria and you are cooking those hot pizzas under those hot pizza lights, you will look up from your ingredients and think…,” I started to tear up at this point because I have feelings, “… promise me you will think of me… and know that I am proud to be your dad.”
You stopped crying and looked up at me. I remember thinking, in that moment, you seemed so mature. Even though you were only fifteen minutes old, you could have passed for however old the real Robin Hood was at the height of his fame. You stood up and looked at your pizza-man hat, then back at me.
“Papa,” you said. “What are ingredients?”