Gardner’s Friend

Robin sat in the dirt by the shed and gazed down at his rusting arm. His name wasn’t actually Robin, but little Alfie had been so excited when he’d been brought home that they let him name him. The wind picked up and drops of rain started to bounce off his skin, so he curled himself up as tight as he could, not to keep warm, obviously – but to minimize the impact of the rain. 

The lights were on in the house and Robin could see them all sitting down for dinner, four seats around the table and only three people to occupy them. He wondered what the food would do to his circuitry and whether it would be worth the risk – then the lightning started, so he lay down on the ground and waited for the storm to pass. 

The next morning the sky was clear. Mr Wren emerged in his dressing gown, cup of coffee in hand. He opened the French doors and walked around the garden, lord of all he surveyed. ‘Good morning, Robin’ he said, lifting his coffee cup towards him. 

‘Good morning, sir,’ he said. Robin’s processes whirred as the image of being gifted to Mrs Wren popped back into his neural network. The smile on her face as they walked around the neglected patch of earth, oh the plans they’d made. 

In the beginning, they’d wash him down every evening, bring him in and oil his joints. For months Alfie ran around his feet as he dug and sowed, watered and weeded, until the garden was immaculate. When the job was done, they forgot to oil him one day, then they forgot a couple of days, then a few weeks, then months. 

‘How’s the garden doing Robin’, Mr Wren asked as he turned his face to the sun. Oblivious, Robin thought – ‘Fine, sir. General maintenance, although those petunias need some tending.’ 

Mr Wren looked down at Robin and frowned, ‘You’re rusting. You need to take better care of yourself’, he turned around and headed back into the house, shutting the French doors behind him. 

Robin looked around, and despite what he’d said, he knew there was very little to do. The hybrid seeds kept the pests away, frost resistant, heat resistant, full colour, with low watering requirements. 

The sun beat down, and his skin contorted in the heat as he pottered around the shrubbery making himself look busy. He stopped near the oak tree and touched it gently, remembering when little Alfie climbed up and he’d caught him just in time.

He got out the mower and ran it over the inch perfect lawn, the lines of the football pitch, long gone, along with Alfie sent to school. A dragonfly landed on his head, its legs sizzled as he swatted it away, leaving a detached leg dangling. 

From the front of the house, he heard the front door close and their car start. He carefully walked over to the windows and looked through to make sure that Mr and Mrs Wren had both left. Through the window he saw the photos of the family, and the one with all four of them standing in front of the rose arch, Alfie looking up at him with admiration. 

They’ll always need me, he thought, as he slowly meandered back to the shed, stopping every now and again to kick up some turf, pinch some petals, and harass the vegetation. At the shed he reached into the back and took out a packet of knotweed rots and began sprinkling them around the garden, his memory banks whirring as he went. 

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