Short Story 6
Harold was tending his piccolo patch.
It was a moment he would remember forever, or, at the very least, while he had the ability to remember.
As he looked up to the sun to gauge its effect on his peculiar harvest, Jean, sat high above him on Travis – a camel – blocked his view, forcing his ocular receptors to adjust dramatically. “What on Earth do you think you’re doing?” She inquired, equal parts shocked and interested.
“Ah. Mrs Tranmere.” He stood up, quietly, smoothly, and with only the slightest of pneumatic effort, being sure to place himself between Mrs Tranmere and the patch of ground discordant with the rest of the garden.
“Miss”, she corrected Harold, “Harry hasn’t been around for some time now and you know that.”
“Of coarse ma’am” he responded, quickly and plainly.
“Besides” she continued, not altering her furrowed brow, leaning around Harold as he slowly adjusted to obscure her line of sight, “what ARE you hiding?”.
She gave up leaning and slumped back onto Travis’s rear hump, bemused, “I didn’t even know you COULD hide things”.
“I’m not”, Harold countered plainly.
“Or lie”, Jean’s eyes widened. This was all unexpected behaviour from Harold, a humanoid robot her late, slightly insane but wonderfully kind, Harry had built for her in his twilight years around 200 years ago.
She slid off Travis – who noticed this movement and smoothly descended his body in an attempt to ease the transition – another creation of Harry’s built for Jean after their honeymoon to Egypt. Jean thanked Travis sarcastically, tiresomely rolling her eyes. She was a proudly independent person and Harry was aware of this. Many of these features were implemented as a means of being a gentleman to her without having to suffer the brunt of her denial.
Harold smiled, just like Harry would have, as he pivoted, unlike Harold or any human could, to hide the patch, as Jean, smiling and glaring into his deep green eyes, possibly a deeper green than Harry’s but he could be forgiven for some exaggeration in such an otherwise perfect replica, took very small steps around Harold with her hands in her muddy denim gardening dungarees. “I’ll have to see e-ven-tual-ly” she sang, speeding up.
Harold stood straight up to attention, realising the games was up, as Jean froze in her tracks and stared, her mouth slowly opening in shock. She spoke slowly, in a confused dreamy daze, “How did you – do they?”
“- yes!” Harold’s eyes lit up, both figuratively and literally, as he smiled an undeniably Harry smile. “Would you like to try one?” He plucked a green piccolo from the ground, detaching it with a tiny snapping sound from a small bush of variously sized green woodwind instruments.
Jean carefully received the strange shiny green object into her trembling open palms. “Do I eat it or pl-”
“-both!” Harold interjected, excitedly, now chomping on a miniature clarinet. “They’re not quite ready. I haven’t had a chance to fix the tuning. This one at least has the finger holes in the right…”
Harold was interrupted. Not by any denial of words but by his favourite sound in his world. Jean had started to play a familiar melody on the piccolo. It was a piece of music only Harold had heard. It was written for Harry but was never played to him until his funeral.
Harold didn’t know Jean could play. “Did Harry know you could play?”.
Jean ignored him until she had finished. She slowly took the piccolo away from her smiling lips and sighed, “I’d been practicing in secret for a while. Always the methodical one and never an artist. I was always a little jealous and wanted to play at least one song for him.”
“What about WITH him?” Harold offered. “I think he might have known more than you thought about your practising and writing”. Harold plucked a flute out of the patch and started playing the melody.
Jean knew this must have been Harry’s plan all along. She knew she would probably not return to Harold after this as it filled her with a greater sense of loss now, however, she had also never felt prouder of Harry so, for the first and last time, she played.