Author Rolli crafts an intriguing tale in “Cousin” about a machine who tends a rose garden and gets more than he bargained for during a particularly strange afternoon. Congratulations to a talented new writer. This story will cling to your bones… or, for you robots, your overworked operating systems.
Though it should not be possible, there is a secret in my heart. Even when what I call a heart… is pure circuitry. Electricity. It is incorrect, and yet — it is there.
I have fewer duties in the evening. They run down, like a pocket watch. My Master, after I bring in his evening cigar, enjoys solitary reading. My Mistress listens to music. Later on, I fetch her a cordial, and brush her hair, and she too becomes independent. The Boy retires early. I accompany him to the foot of the stair; I watch him ascend. Though I would gladly assist with his tooth-brushing and read his evening story (these are the tasks of the Grandmother) I cannot follow. Such is the curse of wheeled feet.
When my household duties have lessened, I tend to the garden. It is the pride of the family, this garden of roses. It is from this garden that the great house, Rose Manor, derives its name. It has grown for a century and dwarfs in size any park in the city. The design is in itself clever, for the whole resembles a rose. In the center, at the very heart of the rose, is a green fountain. To circumnavigate the garden takes most guests the better part of an afternoon. It can take my Master, who is a contemplative man, until evening.
I wheeled down the garden paths one summer night, scanning the roses. My Mistress, though she seldom visited the garden, cried at the sight of a withered rose. I spotted one.
“Lord,” said a faint voice. “Lord.”
My senses were, though artificial, acute. The sound originated from the southeast quadrant. Abandoning the rose, I traveled in that direction, first down the main path, and then through a smaller artery of the garden. Here I discovered Leland.
Leland was the tenant — for Rose Manor was truly two houses. The great house, the main house, and another: a suite in the rear of the house, of three rooms, which were occupied by this man, a cousin of the family. I knew little about him — he was never mentioned by the family — except that he was a young man who had been injured.
He was facing away from me, Leland, and struggling with his chair, which was so close to the hedge. I moved around him and faced him.
“Can I be of assistance, Cousin?” I asked him.
Leland’s neck was unsteady. He lifted it for a moment, only, and then rested his chin on his left fist, which when still he kept always on his clavicle, in the manner of a violin.
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