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The Machine

July 30, 2014

A piece of short fiction that acknowledges a stylistic debt to Mallory Ortberg’s wonderful Texts From.






oh hey


you ok?


fine, you?


I wanted to ask you something actually




ok, so
sometimes this gets awkward
I’m hoping it’s not going to get awkward but
it’s kind of got to the point where
can we talk about the machine?


what machine


you know, THE machine


there are a lot of machines, you’re going to have to be more specific


YOUR machine


i don’t have a fucking machine, okay


see, now it’s getting awkward
lemme start again ok
ages and ages ago your grandpa built a machine, yes?


i guess


and that machine hurt a lot of people


if you say so


yes, yes it did


your grandpa used to send it out ot hurt people and break their stuff and steal chickens


whats your point


well here’s the thing
the machine didn’t stop
your grandpa died, but the machine didn’t stop
it’s still doing what he programed it to do
every nght
it comes out of your bsaement and hurts people and breaks their stuff


you want me to apologize for my fuckin dead grandfather, is that it


no, I don’t
never mind





okay so




i was thinking about what you said
about the machine


were you?


yeah but look i dont know what you want me to actually do though
i mean i went down and checked it out, yeah?
i guess it’s kind of possible that what you said is true


you guess


yeah i mean it does kinda look like it might have been out
at some point


it very definitely is out every night, trust me


well ok but even so
i had a look at it
and i mean, i know NOTHING about this shit. i dunno how it works. i didn’t see like an off switch or anything
i dunno what you want me to do


I think you would need to totally dismantle it


as if
i told you, i don’t know shit about machines. i’d just hurt myself or something


I see.





hi, are you there?


i guess


so, you know we talked about the machine? well can I ask just one thing. a very specific small thing that I thnk you could do pretty easily.




you know the pincer?




The big, grabby, sharp pointy bit on the front. You can’t miss it.


oh is that a pincer, i thought it was like… a


well, we call it the pincer because it’s what it uses to crush things and steal the chickens




our chickens, that it takes back into your house all the time.


it does that? ijust thought we had a lot of chickens lololol






so, could you try and just disable the pincer? that one thing would really make a huge difference. i’m pretty sure that if you get at it while it’s recharging, you could unscrew it easily.


haha sorry no way, that sounds dangerous.




i don’t think so


well can you let me, or one of our engineers in to try?


i can’t just go letting anyone in to mess with the machine
no offense but you might do anything





so how about you at least give some of the chickens back?


what chickens




yeah but
we’re using them now


ALL of them/


i dunno probably we use a lot of chickens


we use considerably less than we used to


so you’re used to it now, right
look but
look anyway
id love to help but
how would we even know which are your chickens
they all look like fuckn chickems
wouldnt wanna give you one of ours by accident lol







you again


me again
I want you to do something.


lol don’t we all


Your machine doesn’t maintain itself. After your grandpa died, it shoud have fallen apart on its own by now.




I know, I know it’s not. And I’m not asking you to do anything to it this time!




This is about your uncle Joe.


what about him


I think he’s been oiling and fixing the machine. And I saw him go into your cellar with boxes, and the next night, the machine had new parts on it.




So he’s keeping it running, and he’s adding to it.


i don’t see what this has to do with me


well, can’t you make him stop?


he’s an adult isn’t he, i’m not responsible for uncle joe
not my problem sorry
talk to joe if you care so much


OH sure, I’ll just ask the guy running the machine that’s destroying my life to stop runnig the machine thats destoying my life when he’s clearly VERY invested in running the machine that;s destroying my life, sure, that’ll work









the fuck is it now?


I saw you.


sorry dunno what your’e talking about


You were going into the basement with an oilcan and a screwdriver. Why?


oh ffs


What were you doing with the machine?


jeez just stop would you what the fuck is wrong woth you. i told you, i’m on your side, aren’t i?


Are you? Then tell me what you were doing.


look, it was too noisy, ok? bits kept fallig off and crashing and it was making this screeeeeching noise.


It was starting to break down!!! We’ve been trying to weaken it, and it was working!!!1


well it was too loud, and i was trying to sleep so i oiled it and tightened some bits up till it was quiet
i need to fuckin sleep
what do you expect me to do

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