“Mr. Acetone!” Blue Tie gasped in surprise as he came through the makeshift doorway at a jog. He was holding a lanky child out like it was an explosive, feet dangling. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“I told you he was coming,” Darlene said, agitated.
“So soon,” Blue Tie stammered, as if it were the end of his previous sentence. He pushed the child at me and dusted his hands, like the child was filthy even though it was not. “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”
I sat the child down in front of me. He was heavier than he looked. The child starred at me in silence. “What?” I asked the kid, then Blue Tie, “What?”
“Who brought their baby to work?” Mr. Acetone yelled and waited for a response, even though the other workers were out of earshot.
“I’m six!” the child yelled back, loud and proud. “Where’s my mommy?”
“That’s Sharron’s son,” Blue Tie said, as if that should answer any and all questions.
“Does this kind of thing happen often?” Mr. Acetone asked Blue Tie and ignoring the child.
“Only on Tuesdays and Fridays. And sometimes Wednesdays, or Thursdays. But never Monday.” Blue tied managed to shake his head vertically and horizontally within seconds of each other. He looked like a bobble head traveling down a back road on the dash of a suspensionless vehicle.
“Let’s have a word with Sharron, shall we?” Mr. Acetone strode towards the clock factory with Blue Tie scurrying in his wake.
The little boy squinted at me. “Are you one of them?” he asked and pointed a tiny finger at Darlene.
Darlene’s chair squealed in protest as she turned to look at us. “He has toys in the break room,” she said. Her eyes lingered on the child. He grabbed my leg and hid behind me, using me as a shield against her gaze.
I picked him up and adjusted him onto my hip. He was too big to be held like this. “We’ll go find you some toys,” I said. I took him through the back of the bank through a maze of hallways.
“Over there,” he pointed towards a door to my right.
“Do you wanna walk?” I asked. He just shook his head. Of course you don’t.
I could hear talking, including a string of swearing, coming from various rooms as we moved through the hallways. The kid maintained a tight grip around my neck, pulling out some of my hairs.
“They’re scary,” he whispered loudly into my ear. I could feel his spit spraying the side of my face.
“Yeah, I know, they scare the crap out of me, too. It’s like an asylum ran by the patients.”
“That’s a bad word,” he whispered again, but not directly into my ear. “What’s a eyeslam?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sorry. An a-sy-lum. It’s a hospital for…” I searched for the right word.
“Robots?” he whispered again.
I looked puzzled. That was not even close to the word I was looking for. He pushed himself from my arms as we entered the break room. He ran over to a toy chest in the corner and rummaged around for a moment. Finally he emerged from the toy box with a half-transformed Transformer clutched tightly to his chest. He crossed the room and held it out to me.
He pointed to a strip of plastic painted blue on the toy’s chest, “Robots. In the ah-size-em.”
I could hear footsteps coming down the hallway towards us. He heard them too and clutched the broken toy close to him while burying his face in my armpit.
“I know it’s a lot to think about,” Mr. Acetone was saying, “but you know what they say about promotions.”
Mr. Acetone, Blue Tie, and Sharron entered the break room.
“There’s the little guy!” Blue Tie burst in with what he likely thought was a playful voice. The kid and I both jolted in our seat. “And our little organizer,” Blue Tie exclaimed upon noticing me. He turned to Mr. Acetone. “Bobby is the one I was telling you about.”
An inappropriate rap song sounded from Mr. Acetone’s back pocket before he had a chance to comment. “I have to take this,” he said, looking at the large screen. “I’ll be back later, Sharron, to talk about that promotion.”
The child ran to his mother. She looked nervously at me. “Thank you for watching him.” Her eyes drifted towards Blue Tie, who had thrown the transformer toy into the garbage, rather than the toy chest. She whispered in her son’s ear then asked, “Do you want to say ‘thank you’ to Bobby?”
The boy got down and ran over to me, pulling my neck to his face. I leaned down to give him a hug when he whispered into my ear. His tight-lipped words were difficult to understand, “Don’t let the robots take my mommy.”
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