With Silicon Eyes

by Craig Cortright
 art by Patrick Ijima Washburn


How interesting is the life of an automaton?

     I hate tractor shows. Yet I still love the tractor girl. So that’s how it all started.
Chandra loaded the picnic basket into the trunk of our Thunderbird and slammed the hood. Last month, in exchange for an hour of ecstasy, I had promised to take her to the Bickford County Tractor Show. The annual event attracts an assortment of farmers, amateur mechanics, and run-of-the-mill carnival vendors.
     As I closed the barn door I noticed Chandra’s wide smile and the sheer countenance of joy as she undertook the preparations for our adventure. Neither of us knew the true extent of the adventure awaiting us.
     Chandra’s long tan legs contrasted to the white shorts and red halter covering her perfectly-shaped breasts. Her long sandy-brown hair had just a hint of summer-sun blond, as it gently lifted off her shoulders in the light, warm, Indiana morning breeze. Just a hint of red lipstick and ruby blush kissed her lips and cheeks.
     “Did you get the Off Barry?” she asked.
     “It’s in the glove compartment, sweetheart,” I answered.
     “I think we’ve got everything, then…unless you want to take Silverberg.”
     I looked at our brown and white springer methodically digging a patchwork of holes around his doghouse. “No, let’s leave him this time, the tractors scare him.”
     She opened her car door and climbed into the front passenger seat, knowing I was admiring her flawless legs. “Ready?” she asked.
     “I’m always ready around you, babe.”
     She giggled. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
     I climbed behind the wheel and turned the engine. She fumbled through a shoe bow that held our precious collection of music tapes, finding a Garth Brooks album and inserting it into the car stereo. She adjusted the speakers and sat back and rolled down her window.
     Dust sprayed from behind the car  as we bumped out of the farm’s driveway and headed up 200 South towards the Blackford County Fairgrounds. The loose gravel road splattered pebbles against the Thunderbird’s frame as we rattled along at thirty-six miles an hour.
     “It’s been so dry this summer,” Chandra observed.
     “Yeah…corn is doing okay…could use a good soaking, though,” I shouted over the lines of “Low Places” and gravel roar.
     She sat back and stretched, her breast pushing forward against the halter. “Look, honey! Larry and Suzanne have their farm up for sale.”
     “Really,” I said, not really caring.
     “They never did recover from the big drought three years ago,” she said as the car lurched onto the paved road at the city limits. I slowed the car, remembering the Hartford City police’s propensity to take advantage of the twenty mile per hour limit on fairground road. Chandra sat up and waved at an elderly couple gingerly bending to their tomato plants.
     There was a line of cars leading into the fairgrounds. A sheriff’s deputy was directing traffic into the fairground’s dry dirt parking lot. I steered the car into an open spot at the end of a line composed mostly of pickups.
     As soon as I put the car in park, Chandra opened her door and began to examine the rows of display tents and venders. People strolled through the corridors formed by the tents, looking over the displays of tractor engines, farm supplies and flea-market trophies. “I want to get something to drink first,” she said.
       “Sure thing, honey,” I said as I rolled up the windows as a precaution to a July thunderstorm.
     A public address system boomed out messages as I took her hand and walked towards the refreshment stand.
     “That is right, folks—just two dollars gets you a chance to win this nicely-equipped Ford Ranger provided by Dubois Ford, at the corner of Highway Three and Washington Street in Portland.”
     “Two large Cokes,” I told the vendor.
     He turned and in one smooth motion gathered up two pre-filled cups from the fountain and placed them on the weathered wooden shelf in front of me. I asked how much. It was three bucks even. I handed him a five and handed one of the cups to Chandra. “Here you go,” the vendor said, handing me two damp dollar bills. Chandra sipped her cola and turned to examine the fairgrounds.
     “Where first?” I asked, sipping the cold cola.
     The public address system boomed “Folks, they’re gonna power up that big John Deere at booth thirty in about five minutes. It ought to be pretty interesting.”
     “Would you like to see that, Darling?” I asked.
     We spent the whole afternoon roaming between booths of tractor engines, combines, planters, and the usual carnival fare.  I bought her an Elvis T-shirt, a Buffalo Burger, cheddar fries, and pink cotton candy. We tried our luck at basketball shoot- for- dollars, and I managed to sink a three-pointer and win her a stuffed Elmo doll.
     Night comes late to Indiana in the summer, but mosquitoes come early, even in the dry summer.  Chandra slapped her arm and winced at the bite of the unwanted insect.
     “Better get the OFF,” I said.
     “Yeah, they’re thick here tonight,” she said softly.
     We walked back to the car and I opened the door, met by a blast of super-heated air, as the car had baked in the sun all day. I leaned into the car and opened the glove compartment to get the insect repellant, when I felt her hand softly stroking my arm. “Let’s go home,” she whispered, as I turned into her embrace. We kissed. As we drove home I asked, “Did you have fun today?”
     “Oh yes…I love tractor shows…it’s such an adventure. All the people, the engines, the noise…I love it all. Thank you, darling.”
     I smiled and turned into the driveway. Silverberg leaped up and trotted over to his empty food dish.
     “I’ll feed Silverberg, you go ahead and get ready for bed, sweetheart,” I told her.
     “I love the way you are so considerate of my needs, Barry. You’re so good to me.” She kissed my cheek. We made love until she fell asleep in my arms. After she was deep into her dreams I gently slipped out of bed and sat down in my storage compartment. I watched her breathing softly under the covers, opened my chest and removed the recharging cord and connected it to my transformer. As the power flowed into my batteries, I thought how lovely she was, and how happy we were. She taught me that her love is the only adventure that this million-year-old Martian combat asteroid ever required. I thought about what Chandra had said that cold winter night two years ago, when she found me damaged and hiding from the militia in her father’s barn. “The only thing that makes humans alive…makes us different from the beasts…the machines…the masters…the only thing is the love we give, and the love we receive.”
     As I turned myself off for the night, at last I understood this.
     I’m alive.