Today's offering is another 20-rejection wonder. I don't have a great story behind this one - It's one of three I wrote during a long afternoon in the library, though I rewrote it from third-person to first-person before submitting it.
Despite not having a personal stake in "Maxie," it's still a personal favorite and I'm angered and baffled by its failure. Not long after one particular venue rejected "Maxie," they published a truly wretched human/robot relation story featuring flat prose, uncorrected formatting errors, a non-ending and a couple of plot points that the author seemed to just forget about. I read that story with my mouth literally open.
Before the story, I have a request. I've been getting a bit of traction on the posts for these stories, and that's great. However, I do post these for a reason - to promote The Fabulist. There are things you can do to help me that won't cost you a cent or take up more than a few minutes of your time:
- Download a free copy of The Fabulist and spread it around. Remember, as a CC book there's very little you can do that would constitute "theft" here.
- Download a copy of the Storyteller's Reserve short story collection, also free if you use the coupon code XF44B. I'm actually having a hard time generating interest in this one, so this would be a big help - and again, it's CC, so share.
- Give a listen to the podcast versions of the short stories, which as of this post have few it any plays. They're not my best work, but getting some hits on these will eventually trigger the YouTube recommendation algorithm, which means more people will see them, which means more people will find the site and The Fabulist. And the podcasts, like everything else, are CC.
Thanks for the self-indulgence. Now, today's story:
Most of the grown-ups don't like Maxie much 'cause they think him's one of the bad machines that got everyone scared. Him's a good boy, ain’t never done no harm to me or my folks or anyone else around here, but they all just see that he's real big and got metal all over him They think him’s gonna change one day and turn into one of the bad machines and then we’ll all be in a heap of trouble. They want him sent far away so's they don't have to think about him much. But he's real tame, just like an ol’ dog like what Mr. Greevey’s got. He always comes when I call him and listens to every word, even the big ones what some of the grownups don’t even know. Sometimes I ride down the street on his shoulders and all the kids run by his treads and shout “Maxie! Hey, Maxie, me next!” And sometimes I give them a ride, too, and we ride up and down the busted up street all day 'til it's dark
I know Maxie’s all big and scary-looking like the bad machines, but…look, let me tell you how I found Maxie and then you’ll see that he ain’t nothing like them. It was right near after the bad machines came through and blew up one of the neighborhoods a few blocks over. Mama said not to go down there 'cause there are crazy folk what still live in the ruins, but I ain’t scared of them so’s I went anyway. Now, there’s this weird old guy name of Mardak who used to live down there, who had this big, weird old house, and I heard Papa say once that this house would last past doomsday, so I wanted to see if it was still there. The roof and one of the walls were blown clear our but it was hanging in there, just standing like it wasn’t scared of nothing either And when I poked my head through the missing wall, well, there was Maxie, hiding out where no one would see him. There was Maxie, just near as tall as that old house with these big metal pincers and plates and treads and that one little green eye what kept rolling back and forth in his head, just looking for something. There was Maxie, just sitting there all slumped over and crying on the inside. Papa says he wasn't crying, it was something wrong with his servos or whatever, but I think that maybe a machine has to find its own way to cry, and that’s how he did it. I mean, after I found Maxie and got him to follow me, that crying stopped just like that. He was just lonely, is all.
No one liked that I found Maxie, least of all Mama and Papa who were just fit to give me a thrashing right there when I came back. The neighbors, they all run for cover when they saw Maxie come rolling up the hill with that big cloud of dust and steam and whatever coming out of him. I don’t blame them none for that - I mean, he don’t look any different than the bad machines that killed all those other people. But just then, before Mama could start lecturin’ and swattin’, Maxie went and showed them just what a good boy he is. These scavengers - that’s what some folks call them, but Papa says they’re just thieves - this whole big bunch of scavengers came on through. They were an extra mean bunch, and talking funny (Papa says it’s because they all take goofballs, whatever those are), and they were fixin’ to kill a bunch of people so’s to scare the rest of us into following them. They thought we were real weak and we’d just do what they said, but then Maxie rolled up and dealt with them like they was nothing at all. He just found the biggest one, gave him a good swat that sent him flying real high and real far, and the rest of them just turned around and run off.
People were still a little scared, but you know what else? Maxie saved the day again! It was the very next day, real early in the morning, when one of the bad machines flew on by and tried to shoot some people. I asked Papa once why the bad machines do things like that and he said they were broke inside, just like some people get broke in the head. Anyway, the bad machine was shootin’ all over the place, and Mama and Papa were scared, but I wasn’t scared because Maxie was gonna save us. So I just up and I just told Maxie to take that bad machine down, and Maxie just reached up and grabbed it by its weird wings and just ripped it clean in half. Maxie ain’t scared of nothing - that bad machine must have shot him twenty times and Maxie didn’t cry or nothing, he just did what come to him.
After that, Mama and Papa and all the folks living with us just loved Maxie and treated him just like he was family. Mama says that Maxie's the only reason we're all still here, that he's a regular lifesaver – a for real lifesaver, like she says we used to have before all the strong guys turned into scavengers or died. The other grown-ups, they weren't so sure 'cause they kept saying that no machine's a safe machine, that all machines are bad so’s we can’t trust Maxie. They say he’ll go and turn bad one of these days and then we’ll all be sorry. I don’t know why grown-ups are so scared all the time. I mean, the kids were real scared at first, but then I let Maxie pick me up and lift me real, real high while they watched, and they knew Maxie didn't mean no harm. Like I said, him's a good boy, he won’t hurt anyone what doesn’t try to hurt someone first.
We all get along real great most times, but sometimes I hear the other families in these parts talking - the ones that live farther out in other neighborhoods and don’t like us much to begin with - and they say that Maxie's bad news. They say they're gonna get together and rally everyone, and they’re all gonna take a vote to get rid of Maxie. After that, we'll have to send Maxie away or destroy him even, just put him down, like he was a sick old animal or something. I ain't scared none, though, 'cause of two reasons. First reason, we like Maxie too much, and the neighbors like him too, and they won't like having to get rid of him. Just let’s see them people tell us what to do, we won’t take it from those folks. And second reason, 'cause I won’t let ‘em. They come for Maxie and I'll fight them off, make them wish that they never talked bad about him. Maxie and me'll fight them off together. We'll win, too.
The Industry Responds!
"The worldbuilding is excellent, but there's just not enough of a story for us in this one, even at flash length. We do think this setting and concept could carry an interesting longer story!" -Cast of Wonders