Monday, June 20, 2011


Scottish Moon Walker, Unplugged  ©John Philip 2011

It took Spaldo ten minutes to negotiate the feet of the robot.  How could the giants leave it here in the field, so carelessly in front of him?  Had they underestimated his ability to escape that much??   The group of jacketed baldies carrying clipboards was far enough away for him to achieve the desired result: scaling the slippery dinosaur before they noticed he was out of the cage.

 After years of test piloting wheel after wheel in the lab, they had finally taken Spaldo out of the darkness and into the field, alongside of the monster they had been building for two weeks.  The red giant had decided that the massive steel dupe should smile, and attached the undersideof a used skill-saw under the propellant that they called “the brain”.  All the while watching from his cage, Spaldo could see that the weight  of the ornament might have proven a challenge: too heavy to propel forward, and the decorative smile might be wasted, setting  the team back days in design. 

Each night, under the florescent bulbs in the lab, Spaldo watched and sketched, using the ends if the drill bit shavings to scrawl the diagram of the controls on wood shavings.  Even if the giants could see them, the scrawl was unrecognizable to their goggled eyes, and they would go without detection.  While the giants snacked on Heineken and unsalted peanuts, they left the propellant exposed; making Spaldo realize that the eventual motion of the robot would be unusual- like a giant walking. 

The secret of the design (he could see with limited views from the glass cage) was in the twisted feed of steel ropes that directed the battery current from the enormous feet to the propellant, encased in a helmet of steel .  The eyes were radial gauges, made to detect motion and heat from oncoming giants, as the red and the baldies demonstrated, punctuating their eventual success with jumping up and down and clapping their hands together. 

The cage kept him from getting to the robot itself.  Glass was impossible to scale with his webs, trimmed every day after his last few escape attempts.  He angrily conceded his existence to being kept, like a simple rat, in a place that was not worthy of him, and his own mind wasted, other than to appreciate the giants’ accomplishments while they plugged along. 

It was one night before the test run that he saw the clipped one was out, scaling the robot without much effort.  The clipped one used to have wings and successfully escaped twice, only to steal the giants’ peanuts or smell the beer.  “Useless insect could have been miles from here,” thought Spaldo, secretly overcome with envy at the cunning of the clipped one to get freedom, time and time again. 

Clipped was walking across the dark side of the robot, Spaldo could see in the blackened shadows, the movements he was making, hanging on to the steel jacket and looking over the top of the cage with fans.  “What is he doing?” Spaldo thought, enthralled at the peculiarities of the lesser thing.  It was only when he came into visibility that Spaldo could see that the Clip had freshly exposed razors where his webs would be;  peeled back by the giants to prevent escape.  Exposed and sensitive to the metal of the beast, the bugs face was pained, but determined.  He tried to negotiate the cage, only to continually fail.

Getting off his wheel, Spaldo thought to summon the insect,  then rung the bell attached to his water tray.  It caught Clip’s attention, actually startled him, but he looked directly at Spaldo, who summoned him, with superiority, to come over.  

Clip appeared to obey, but began a journey that took the better part of an hour:  repelling down the robot, then scaling the workbench that held Spaldo’s cage.   As soon as he saw the razors, Spaldo felt a small feeling that was previously unrecognizable: fear.  Why had he assumed that this clipped insect was friendly?  He had an appearance of stupidity, but a large appetite.    As soon as the clipped one’s face appeared, Spaldo felt relief, the dumb eyes searching for him, then excitedly trying to poke his razors through the clear wall. 

“Too much time has been wasted,” thought Spaldo,  lifting a sketch that he had made of the room, etched finely into a wood shaving.   He carefully pointed out the basket of tools that held treasures: the sound machine, for one.  The clip one looked from the drawing to Spaldo, to the water tray to the robot, dimly distracted by the idea.  It was apparent he didn’t understand, and would be  little use to the genius that tried desperately to  think of an alternative plan. 

And then, it appeared.  Spaldo dropped the shaving and went to the food source, grabbing a pellet and flinging it to the basket, only to hit the top of the clear wall, the pellet bouncing back to him.  Another attempt from his water tray proved to be unsuccessful, but had seriously excited Clip, who could smell the food and followed the pellet wherever it went. 

Finally, balancing from the top of the wheel, Spaldo threw the pellet, which hit the floor and spun, like a top on the tile.  For a moment, Clip forgot he couldn’t fly and fell equally hard to the awaiting floor.  Spaldo watched, breathless, at the dumb insect dizzily standing, then scurrying toward the lone pellet, far from the basket under the desk. 

As if by miracle, the clipped one wandered under the desk, into the shadows (after finishing the pellet) and returned to the half-light, wearing small rubber shoes on his razors, and looking up at Spaldo.  It was hard for Spaldo to contain himself, who began to jump up and down like a giant, and scream out further commands to Clip, who realized he was being commanded, then returned to the basket, only to come out wearing a ball of fur around his abdomen, shaking his hips and waving at Spaldo. 

Spaldo could barely speak, out of discouragement and disgust, but angrily jumped and squealed more, sending the clipped one in and out of shadows, all the while returning with trikets that were completely unnecessary: shaved pencils, a ball of wire, a flag of Scotland. 

Then, the sound machine.  Success. 

Suddenly, the light appeared under the door. The familiar sound of keys jiggling startled Spaldo and Clip into a defensible position: Spaldo behind his wheel; Clip behind the robot’s foot.   The sound of a throat clearing, a flick of a switch;  the lights flashing, then beaming and humming could only mean one thing: morning.

It was the red giant, clearing his throat, ambling into the lab.  His paper cup steaming and his clipboard balanced between his briefcase and his white jacket, he walked in with his usual flat-footed clumsiness.  Keys still in hand, he passed Clip without notice, causing the clipped one to scale (in his new shoes rather quickly) the slippery aluminium beast and hide in the jacket.   Spaldo watched, and barely breathed. 

Soon the other giants joined the red, and they chatted busily, as they worked a little to close to the workbench.

It wasn’t until he saw a portable wire cage that Spaldo thought today may be his last day in the lab.  Used to transport the lesser rats to the field, Spaldo knew that most in the wire cage never came back.  Perhaps they escaped, he mused, but instantly chided himself for being so naive. 

In the wire cage, Spaldo sat.  Cold and without all of his etchings, he felt doomed and alone.  In about an hour he felt the cage tip and leer toward the colder pathway... toward the door... finally into the open field, just outside the lab window.  He was set, cage and all, in the itchy, dense grass that smelled like sewage.  He watched the giants’ feet scurry about, then settle down as a thud sounded in front of them. 

It was him.

He stood, smiling, and pointing toward the sun, shining like a god in a green sea, massive and bold.  Spaldo looked at every corner of his cage, and saw the gnawed markings of a rat, desperate to break free.  He tried to calm his beating heart, and looked at the latch from the inside, wire holding it in place.  His webs were no longer sporting his claws, so useful at times like this.  His webs were so...bare.  So itchy in this grass. 

He then saw that his cage was thinly welded at the webs, and he tapped through one square, then another, then another, until a block of cage fell away and folded under his weight.  Scraping himself as he broke free, he looked for the giants.  It wasn’t until he got to the robot.... in the itchy, green thick grass... the itchy, itchy...dense forest.  Finally, the familiar sheen of aluminium broke the feel of hopelessness and despair.

Those feet!!  Those massive feet!!  

It took him ten minutes to negotiate the feet of the robot.  How could the giants leave it here in the field?? Had they underestimated his ability to escape that much?   The group of jacketed baldies carrying clipboards was far enough away for him to achieve the desired result: scaling the slippery dinosaur before they noticed he was out of the cage.

©Janet Rodriguez 2011


  1. Wow!!! That is amazing Janet. Didn't realise a whole story/drama lay behind the drawing. I'll never look at it the same again. ;-)

  2. Thanks, John. It really is an amazing drawing, and like all good art, it inspires brain activity (thought). The challenge to write a story (on your website) was just too much to overlook!!! Thank you for lending me your drawing for here...Janet