Life is so Wonderful
Steam Powered Giraffe Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
Nearly three hours and many revisions later, they were satisfied with this first version of what they’d done. They wore some of their old clothes and Rabbit put her hair in a ponytail. Two pairs of Iris Walter’s opera gloves sat nearby. Rabbit placed a fedora on The Spine’s head and instructed him to imitate his former-self. “You mean, like this?” he asked, dropping his voice lower and making jerking movements with his arms and waist. Rabbit squealed and stamped her feet with joy, shouting that it was perfect. The Spine then asked her to do the same and Rabbit blushed.
“I dunno if I can, really. I mean, I’m a girl, now, Spine.”
Not breaking character, he replied. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll do fine! Maybe.”
She laughed and took a deep breath. Dropping the pitch of her voice as much as she could, Rabbit said “Good afternoon, The Spine! My n-n-name is Rabbit, and I was b-built back in 1896.”
His eyes went wide and he nodded slowly. “You even nailed the glitches,” he said in his human voice. “Don’t forget the motions.”
“Right, gotta work on that.” She turned to the mirror. “Ah! Forgot my hat!” Putting it on, she did a double-take at her reflection and fell into character. “M-my, that’s a fetching robut ‘chya got there. Oh. Right. That’s me,” she said, miming the robotics. “Oh! Spine! Steam!” she cried and made a hissing sound with her mouth.
The Spine laughed. “Right. And gears, don’t forget gears.” He tried a few, mimicking the sounds his old body used to make.
Rabbit tried to do the same. “I think this is easier for boys, mine don’t sound right.”
“They sound fine.” *chjzzzzzzzz*
“No, yours are better.” *vzjjjjjjjjj* “See, mine are too high,” she argued and both of them jumped at the sound of someone pounding on the bathroom door.
The Jon’s voice shouted from the other side. “What are you doing in there?”
“Ah crap! I’m not ready!” Rabbit panicked.
The Spine grinned and switched back into robot-mode. “Sure you are, Rabbit. What’s the matter? Got stage fright? It’s just Jon.”
“I know!” she cried, following suit. “That’s why I’m so nervous!”
“Well, we’re stuck. We’ve got to go out that door some time.”
Rabbit made whining, nervous sounds. “Yeaaaaaah.”
“It’s ok, Rabbit. I’ll go with you.”
“Ya will, The Spine?”
She dropped character for a moment. “Ooh! Wanna kiss you so bad right now!”
“Well, Rabbit, I don’t... ah... I don’t think that’d be... uh...” *kshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh* He hissed as if a great amount of steam had escaped and he bent his knees and drooped at the waist.
Rabbit laughed hard. “Ok. Later then.” She gently kicked his shin with the top-side of her foot and hopped to the door. The Spine came ‘back to life’ and sauntered after her. Together, they opened the door and faced their friend.
“Sorry, there, The Jon,” Rabbit said, sheepishly. “We uh... we were havin’ some technical difficulties.”
“All better, now,” agreed The Spine who tipped his hat to him. “Are you ready to practice?”
“Yeah, The Jon! We gotta get ready to play in the park! Oh, it’s gonna be so fun!”
The Jon stood stock still and gawked at the pair before him. “Guys...?” he said quietly.
Rabbit giggled. “Yep!” She waved her gloved hands next to her face. “It’s us!”
The Spine put his hand on her shoulder which was the first thing that alerted her to the fact that something was wrong. Then she noticed what he had already seen: black oil tears leaking down The Jon’s golden face. “Guys?” he repeated. “You’re back? But... you’re not...”
“Whoa, hold on, there Jon,” The Spine said and wiped a gloved finger down the side of his cheek. “It’s ok. It’s us, we just put on makeup, see?” He held the finger out to show him the white and grey smear it had picked up.
“Why...?” The Jon asked, starting to sob. “Why are you doing this to me!”
“Jon, we didn't mean to...” Rabbit reached out to him but he stepped back and withdrew the feather from his hat. In a twinkling he was gone.
The moment he disappeared they both knew where The Jon had gone. The last time he’d left was a few years ago, immediately following their service in the Vietnam War. As soon he’d been reassembled and the chip that overrode the “flight” part of his “fight-or-flight” response was removed The Jon vanished without the dramatics of a feather wand to initiate his mysterious inter-dimensional inner-workings. While in Kazooland for nearly a year-and-a-half, in 1977 The Jon was elected Mayor of Biscuit Town.
The Spine was sure that he’d gone there now to calm himself down. He tried to reassure Rabbit that he just needed some space and that they couldn’t have predicted such a reaction, but Rabbit was inconsolable. At first she was angry with The Jon that he’d reacted so negatively to something she found such joy in, but soon, that feeling gave way to guilt and misery. The makeup that frightened and confused him was her idea, after all. All The Spine could do was hold her and repeat over and over that everything was going to be alright, though he wasn’t sure he believed himself.
In the weeks that followed, Rabbit practiced her accordion, mostly by herself. The Spine was off working with Peter and although they’d patched things up between them, Rabbit just didn’t feel that she belonged with the boys in the basement. Even when she’d been a robot, mechanics and science didn’t come to her as easily as they did The Spine. She had always preferred art and music and in the time that followed The Jon’s disappearance, she was glad she had them to occupy her mind. When she did get to see The Spine, it was usually for meals and for a short while before bedtime in the salons and parlors of Walter Manor.
The Spine was glad that Rabbit didn’t ask him very much about his work. She would talk ad nauseam about a book she was reading or a radio program she’d heard, an old jazz album she’d listened to on the phonograph, or a new song she was writing. He soaked it in and did his best to encourage her distraction. Little did he know that under the surface was something akin to her old malfunctioning boiler, rivets straining behind the pressure from within.
One evening, four months after The Jon left, Rabbit sauntered into the parlor with a tiny squeezebox in her hands. She flopped down wordlessly on the sofa next to him, opened the bellows and began to play a dark, song about a man in red suspenders playing a banjo in a swamp. It was strange and wonderful at the same time and The Spine complimented her on it when she was done.
Wanda Becile wandered down the hall from the kitchen where she had just finished cleaning up, bemoaning the lack of servants to her husband who had gone to bed rather than listen to the same story over and over again. She looked sadly on a portrait of her father and mother as she passed it and was about to launch into a lonely monolog about bygone days when she heard the sound of an accordion coming from one of the salons.
Rabbit set the squeezebox aside and twisted in her seat, stuck her feet over the arm of the sofa and put her head in The Spine’s lap. A reading lamp behind his left shoulder shone down in her eyes and she put her hand up to block the light. “You liked it?”
“I loved it. Creepy, but great.”
“That was the intended effect,” she said. “That’s what I did today. What did you do today?”
He blanched. “Things.”
Rabbit frowned, and, irritated by the reading lamp shining in her eyes, she swiveled and sat up beside him, peering up into his green eyes. His head was silhouetted by the light behind him. “Spine. What are you and Five up to down there?”
“Well, I’m trying to...”
Suddenly she stiffened and leaned toward him, staring at him as if his head was on fire. “Your hair’s blue,” she said in an accusatory tone. Sure enough, the way the light shone through his black hair revealed blue highlights. As she squinted to examine him, she also noticed that his face was paler than usual and his lips were nearly colorless--on their way to becoming blue as well.
The Spine squared his shoulders. “I...”
“You’re working with Blue Matter.”
“Spine, you know how dangerous that is!”
“Well, sure but...”
“But nothing, stop it. Doesn’t Five have Barbara for that sort of thing?”
“Rabbit I can’t stop it, it’s what I’m doing to help Walter Robotics,” he said firmly. “Pete doesn’t know half of what I do about it and we can only afford to keep Barbara part-time”
Rabbit shot up off the sofa and glared down at him. “Does ‘1950’ ring any bells with you?” she demanded. “You will recall that my power core alone was enough to vaporize The Second and Guy Hottie! And then poor Norman and The Third were... Spine, how could you think that I’d be ok with you working so closely with that stuff!”
“Rabbit, it’s not like that. Your power core was...” he winced remembering what Rabbit had looked like when they found the robot’s body torn to pieces. “It wasn’t in stable condition and Becile had been messing with it...”
“That is beside the point!” she shouted.
At last, The Spine raised his voice. “Rabbit, I have to! Walter Robotics needs me and if I don’t help, we’ll be on the street. I want to be able to provide for you, Rabbit, you and Jon, so you can make music and be happy! Can’t you see?”
Tears came to her eyes and she shook with rage and sadness. “I don’t wanna lose you,” she said through clenched teeth. She looked away.
The Spine deflated. “Rabbit, I’m sorry.” She turned to go and he grasped her hand. “Rabbit. Don’t go. Please? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell.”
“I don’t wanna be alone.” She looked back at him over her shoulder. “I miss you. I miss Jon. I can’t talk to Pete and Wanda hates me and...”
The Spine tugged her gently and she fell down into his lap again. He folded his arms around her. Rabbit hugged him back tightly while he kissed the top of her head and whispered consoling words to her. “Wanda doesn’t hate you. The Jon will be back and I am so sorry that I’ve been so busy I’ve neglected you. I want to help Walter Robotics. I want us to make money so I can support you but I don’t want you to suffer in the meantime. I know that there will be time for music and fun once we’re profitable again, but it doesn’t mean I can’t take some time now as well. I’ll try to be more mindful of that. Your happiness is so important to me. I love you so much.”
“Love you, too,” she muttered, her face buried in his chest.
“There’s a lot to be done. I’ve been teaching Five everything I know and together we’re working on some pretty incredible things. Soon I hope we can show you something in particular I know you and Jon are going to love.”
She sighed a few times as the last of her sobs petered out. “I wish The Jon had been zapped human, too. Maybe then he’d still be here.”
“I dunno, I think he’d probably be an eight-year old,” The Spine said, making a face. Rabbit chuckled lightly. “You sound tired.” She nodded against his chest.
“Spine, can I sleep in your room tonight?”
The young man’s cheeks went crimson. “Uh, yeah. Sure. Sure you can.”
Rabbit made a happy sort of humming sound and peeled herself out of his arms. She grabbed her squeezebox in one hand and his hand in the other and pulled him along with her toward his room.
Wanda Walter Hottie Becile flattened herself against the wall in the darkened hallway, just around the corner from them as they emerged and headed up the stairs to bed. When they had gone, she let out a breath she’d been holding and shook her head. “Well, that explains that,” she muttered, smiled and walked slowly, monolog-free to her own suite of rooms.