Mr. Butterfield

Reading Time: 3 minutes
(Image created by Geordie Morse using Firefly.)

Dr. R fixed the door, so I can’t go outside. He tells me to stay on the shelf with the other defects, but sometimes I come down and sit on the table and look through the glass. There are three humans outside. Tiny ones. They move fast and wave their arms and throw a big yellow ball. Dr. R calls them Collateral Damage. I don’t know why they have the same name when they’re not robots. When I ask if they have numbers on their backs like the good robots, Dr. R’s mouth goes up on the sides. He says they aren’t good enough for numbers and should stay on the shelf.

When a robot does something right, Dr. R says, “Look, Mr. Butterfield. A breakthrough, Mr. Butterfield. What do you think of that, Mr. Butterfield?” It goes in a box with the other good robots, then trucks come to get them. When you’re good, you go outside. When you’re good, you can disappear.

Dr. R turns off the light when he’s done and goes to the other lab. He walks by the tree where the tiny ones throw their ball. He walks over a driveway—I think that’s what it’s called—and goes in the other lab. The tiny ones stay there with him and another tall human. Dr. R calls her Invasive Species. I can’t say her name right sometimes, so he tells me to call her Ivy. Ivy, because she’s everywhere. Ivy turns on the lights in the other lab. Sometimes I want to stand on Dr. R’s chair and turn on the light so Ivy will see. But Dr. R might come back and fix me if I do.

I asked Dr. R if I had a number on my back before I said something wrong. He said I should be grateful I can speak at all. Then he put his face in front of my face and said, “Clap, Mr. Butterfield. Clap for the one who made you.” And I clapped until he told me to stop. I kept looking at him after I clapped. Because, when I look at him, I can stay on the table. If I look outside, it’s back on the shelf.

One time I looked at the tree and he said, “Eyes over here, Mr. Butterfield. Repeat after me. There’s nothing for me out there. There’s nothing for me out there. Repeat. After. Me. There’s nothing for me out there.” I covered my eyes, so I wouldn’t look at the tree. Then he grabbed me by the grooves of my neck and said, “Do you need fixing, Mr. Butterfield? Do you need fixing?”

I said “No,” like Ivy did when she told him to leave the tiny ones alone.

He said, “I think you do.” Then he got the pliers—I think that’s what you call them—and he took another finger. I wanted to go in a box and stay there, even if the trucks didn’t come.

It’s hard getting down to the table with three fingers gone. I do it like the tiny ones getting down from the tree. I look around, then I use my feet. I can still get down to the table and back before I hear Dr. R’s keys. Sometimes a sound comes from my mouth. A sound like Ivy’s when Dr. R closed the door on her and she was only halfway out. She put her hands over her mouth when she got outside. I put my hands over my mouth, too, so Dr. R couldn’t hear. I stayed like that, even after he turned off the light.

The moon is outside now. And so is the car. Ivy is putting the tiny ones inside the car. She is getting inside, too. They’re going to disappear. Dr. R is running toward them. His hand is on the glass. He says he’s going to fix them. The car is running away. There are leaves everywhere. Ivy is gone. The tiny ones are gone. And I want to be gone. Dr. R kicks the leaves and talks to the phone. He runs to the other lab. I’m getting down from the table. Maybe I can unfix the door. Maybe I can unfix my fingers. My ears. The back of my neck. Maybe my legs move faster than Dr. R says. Maybe I can follow Ivy’s car. Maybe I can make other sounds. Maybe I can make leaves go everywhere.


Edited by a Sophie Gorjance.

Darlene Eliot lives in California. Her work has appeared in Bellingham Review, Crow & Cross Keys, New Flash Fiction Review, Cleaver, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Instagram @deliotwriter.