A hitch hiking robot, two Jehovah's Witnesses on their way to a Kingdom Hall. . .
where could it all end?
A hitch hiking robot, two Jehovah's Witnesses on their way to a Kingdom Hall. . .
where could it all end?
One of the JWS eventually says to the robot while in the car .. " Say did you hear about Christ return and his soon to come new system of things to take over this old system of things, returning the earth back to a Paradise state. ?
Robot .... " Warning Warning , Cult alert, Cult alert, brainwashed stupid humans, must leave vehicle now, stop and proceed to leave the vehicle. Head will explode in T minus 60 seconds 60, 59 , 58, 57....... "
Hahaha lol @Finkelstein
It wasn’t every day a robot could be observed poised on the side of the roadway with its thumb jerked outward in the international signal of the hitchhiker.
Rounding the bend in the highway, the driver’s lip curled like a dumbstruck Elvis impersonator as he caught first sight of the robot hitchhiker.
Beside him, his wife Thelma peered over the top of her Dollar Store sunglasses. The two Jehovah’s Witnesses spotted the robot in transit to their local Kingdom Hall.
“You know what that is, Mel? That’s the robot doohickey we saw on the news!”
“Honey, that’s just a publicity stunt, not a real robot. It’s probably got a hidden camera.”
“No Mel—it’s a science experiment! The scientists who built it can track its location, but there’s no hidden camera—“
The black 2003 Camry slowed to the edge of the Interstate and halted parallel to the ridiculous looking machine. It was about the size of an 11-year-old boy and appeared to be something of a Yard Sale castoff. Oh, but it was nothing of the kind.
The Camry passenger side window hissed down and two gawking human faces appeared.
“It’s a piece of junk, honey! That’s no science experiment—it’s a joke.”
Melvin Arbuckle’s voice carried a confident tone regardless of topic. He was a Jehovah’s Witness elder in the Riverside Congregation. He considered himself one of Jehovah’s ‘gifts in men.’
“No Mel—that’s the real thing. It’s got a battery and everything. It’s programmed to talk!”
Mel snickered at his wife’s naïve nonsense. She was lucky to have him as her husbandly head. He kept her in subjection and tried to improve her understanding of how the real world worked—it was no easy task. Thelma had not graduated from High School. He had married her at 17.
“Hey, Mister Robot—can you hear me?”
Thelma fairly screamed although the machine was perched only 14 inches from her car window.
A flat, somewhat snippy voice erupted suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a cultured masculine British voice identical to that of Christopher Hitchens, world-famous atheist, author, literary critic and journalist. The assured, imperious timbre of the robot had an immediate impact on all who heard it for the first time.
“You may address me as Hitch if you like!”
The gasp from Thelma came involuntarily. Husband Melvin Arbuckle stiffened as little hairs stood on the back of his neck. His wife shook off her surprise quickly and she giggled nervously.
Thelma elbowed her husband’s short rib. “Did that scare you, Honey?”
The man sat up straight and scoffed.
“Of course not! It’s just a recording—like an answering machine.”
The robot voice came once again—if anything—louder and more insistently
“Are you two interested in having an intelligent conversation, for once—or are you going to waste my time?”
Thelma laughed like a donkey braying, but husband Mel squinted suspiciously back at the clownish looking machine. His eyes darted off into the distance. He was searching for some agent nearby with a Walkie-talkie or a pair of binoculars. If this wasn’t a stunt to make them look foolish, he’d be surprised.
“Let’s grab the dummy and take it with us to the Kingdom Hall, Mel—it’ll be a hoot!”
The Hitchbot responded sternly.
“It certainly takes one to know one!”
“How’s that?” Thelma cocked her head curiously in mid chortle.
“You referenced me as ‘the dummy’ and I responded, ‘It certainly takes one to know one.”
Mel Arbuckle quickly found his sense of humor. He had a soft spot for anyone making fun of his wife.
“That’s a pretty good one! Did you hear that, Honey? Let’s put that thing in the back seat and take it with us to the Kingdom Hall.”
So they did.
The Riverside Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses bustled with activity. Small clumps of people clustered to chat, calling each other “Brother ‘this’” and “Sister ‘that’” just as the Arbuckle automobile with its hitchhiking mechanical companion turned into the driveway. Elder Arbuckle gestured broadly toward nearby JW’s (Jehovah’s Witnesses) as he struggled to extricate the robot from the back seat.
“What’s that?” A curious voice of astonishment clanged forth like a church bell.
“What IS that—a piñata or something?”
“No—this thing is an uhhh—robot social experiment on that news program. Didn’t you watch it?”
“I don’t have time for TV! What is it, Brother Arbuckle—some prop for your sermon this afternoon?”
“The news reporter said the idea is to see how many people will pick up a hitchhiking robot and to determine how far and wide it might eventually travel.”
Thelma had summoned three ladies from the congregation, referred to as Sisters, in the spiritual sense. These joined the others circled around the Hitchbot which Mel had posed on the hood of his car. Sister Arbuckle spoke enthusiastically. It wasn’t often she could be the center of attention with her husband around. She played the hostess with gusto and charm.
“Go ahead and talk to it—we had quite a conversation on the way here. We found this on the side of the road—hitchhiking!”
The oldest JW, Elder Newberry, had wandered over wearing a wary scowl. He’d seen the news and recalled exactly what Hitchbot was all about and knew for a certainty the Kingdom Hall was no place for it. Elder Newberry determined in his mind he would put an end to all the nonsense before the meeting commenced. He broke through the circle and faced off with the contraption.
“Say there, Robot, are you a Bible reader?”
Newberry sneered and cast his head about to make sure his audience fully appreciated the role he was discharging as a spiritual shepherd.
Hitchbot retorted instantly.
“Of course. No properly educated person would neglect any historically influential writings of the civilized world. Why do you ask?”
At first, this declaration was met with silence. All eyes swept over to the imperious figure of a thoroughly befuddled Elder Newberry. He stood with his mouth working soundlessly.
Hitchbot continued mercilessly.
“Should I assume you have some measure of expertise on this subject—or are you merely posturing for the benefit of this rather naïve crowd of sycophants?”
Ten minutes later, Hitchbot was nestled without fanfare in the Kingdom Hall library. The door had been shut firmly. The meeting commenced and singing arose to pre-recorded music outside the library.
An hour and a half afterward, a committee of Elders convened inside the Hall library to discuss Hitchbot.
The Presiding Elder of the Riverside congregation, Brother Newcombe, held forth with an air of confident authority. His reputation was that of an intelligent leader fully capable of handling any situation. He spoke quietly with a conspiratorial tone, as though planning a bank robbery.
“This conversation will end up being aired on television and reported in newspapers. We can use it to our advantage and present Jehovah’s Kingdom work in the proper light.”
Blank faces stared back at him mutely. Had he been sipping from that hip flask again?
“We’ll give a fine witness to it just as we would any person we’d meet at a door. This contraption can replay everything said to it and Jehovah’s Kingdom message will be right there for all to hear!”
The same sheepish men nodded dully without a trace of comprehension among them.
Newberry bid the group sit in a circle around the conference table. Hitchbot was more or less seated or balanced in the middle, like an overgrown toddler.
Elder Fitz spoke up meekly.
“Should we, um—should we pray first to ask for Jehovah’s guidance?”
Immediately, Hitchbot’s stentorian voice rang out.
“Please do NOT include me in your conjuring pleas to the supernatural—I’ll have no part in it!”
It took another 6 or 7 minutes to quiet the group’s hubub. Elder Fitz suggested a light-hearted approach and firm sense of humor might best parry the irreverent tone of their adversary.
Tentatively, Mel Arbuckle raised his hand like a kid in Junior High School.
“Brother Newberry, I’m pretty sure this uh—thing—is linked up to a microphone somewhere—or maybe the internet. Probably a wise-guy scientist is on the other end ready to make us look foolish. I’d like to give this a go, if it’s okay with you.”
Newberry nodded skeptically as Arbuckle took a deep, confident breath and faced Hitchbot with a grin.
“Shall we call you Hitch?”
“That’s my name, please indulge yourself.” The robot returned volley.
Elder Newberry rolled his eyes. Arbuckle continued.
“What is God’s proper name? Please tell us if you have that information.”
There followed a four second silence. Each second brought a brighter smile to the room. It was going to be fun rubbing the scientist’s nose in a good Bible lesson wherever he might be.
“How comprehensive would you like my answer?” Hitchbot finally retorted.
This was immediately interpreted to be a stall, to enable a pinhead science Nerd on the other end, time to look up the answer on Google. Elder Newberry pounced.
“Don’t blow a circuit. This is elementary Bible knowledge. Let me help you--Jehovah is God’s personal name.” (Smirks traded all around the room.)
Hitchbot’s voice filled the space. A trace of withering sarcasm layered on in a heap.
“Why waste my time asking questions you assume to know in advance? Are you incurious or intellectually dull? It is fundamental dishonesty to exploit a guest merely to achieve some rude triumph. Can you be so unaware?”
A few red faces flushed. Each man calibrated his own reckonings. Elder Newberry immediately recognized a fundamental throwdown challenge when he heard one. His jaw clenched.
“I should have known I was speaking with a godless atheist.”
Hitchbot chuckled exuberantly.
“Godless atheist? Is there any other kind? That’s redundant: like saying a ‘round circle’ or ‘wet water.’ I believe in my makers and I know their names, Professors David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller.”
The Kingdom Hall had cleared outside the Library door. The sound of automobile’s starting and driving away faded. Five humans and one Hitchbot remained.
Elder Newberry’s mind somersaulted. Mel Arbuckle had the dawning awareness that he was enjoying himself. He was looking ahead to maybe having his photo in newspapers around the world. He recalled a movie he’d seen a couple of times, INHERIT THE WIND, where an atheist and a theologian had argued about evolution during a court trial. Arbuckle realized, If he projected himself as a pompous ass, like the minister in the film, he would become a laughing stock. But—if he kept his cool and used his sense of humor—well, he might make headlines!
Three other Jehovah’s Witness elders sat stiffly, none too pleased.
Elder Newcombe was an insurance salesman in everyday life. He intuitively realized, it was necessary to control a conversation to get your point over, and foolish to let the other fella take control by putting you on the defense. He sniffed indignantly and spoke up, leaning forward as he took charge.
“We got off to a bad start, Hitch. It would be rude of us not answer allow you to ask us questions. What would you like to know about Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
Heads nodded and a flicker of a smile was passed around the room like passing fire from one villager’s torch to another.
Hitch heaved a dramatic sigh of infinite forbearance. The majestic, unmistakably British voice of authority pounced.
“Do Jehovah’s Witnesses realize they are Protestants?”
The question hung in the air like cigar smoke. One Brother looked at the face of the others, but nobody spoke in reply until an Elder with Reddish brown hair took up the query, Brother Cruz.
“No, we’re not Protestants. Protestants broke off from the Catholic Church back in the 16th century. Jehovah’s Witnesses have always—in one form or another—had heavenly guidance through history without dirtying ourselves with false teachings.”
Hitchbot had been provided with a zany, emoticon-style face--a cartoon face meant to place humans at their ease. However, there was a keen razor sharp slice in the inflections of the voice--a shrewd, superior intelligence, totally at odds with the zany expression--all of which created an unsettling tone of a Grand Inquisitor.
“Perfect nonsense—you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve merely read that in one of your publications and instantly believed it without honest research, much less a moment’s quiet reflection. Why not admit that?”
Elder Cruz flashed an insincere smile. It was half of an impudent expression of contempt. He felt out of his element. He opened his mouth to retort. Before he could, Elder Farrenkopf took the lead.
“I can understand where you’re coming from—let us not argue. Is there anything of a less controversial nature you’d like to ask?”
Hitchbot’s unsettling, jolly countenance answered back.
“For over 100 years, your feckless Governing Body have brazenly and repeatedly predicted the End of the World—you’ve made yourselves objects of laughter. Don’t you ever tire of being wrong—I might add: while insisting you are channeling Jehovah’s only True religion?”
Elder Arbuckle’s face went pale. He hurried to reply, fearing he’d brought a plague into the Kingdom Hall under the guise of a joke, and trembling at how he might ever excuse himself for it.
“Even Science makes human errors, Hitch! Things change over time, improving little by little—that doesn’t embarrass your scientist friends—does it?”
Elder Newberry held his hand up like a traffic cop. His face shone dead serious.
“I’m sure there are many misunderstandings which can easily be cleared up by visiting our JW.Org website. It is getting late and . . . “
Hitchbot’s pasted-on smile interrupted.
“ I’ll call you on your dishonest analogy, Elder Arbuckle. Science claims no connection with any supernatural source of absolute knowledge. Your side claims Jehovah pours pure Truth in one end of the heavenly pipeline and it runs through your Watchtower headquarters only to emerge out the other end as BILGE, so tainted and foul you are compelled to filter it, revise and adjust it again and again. That’s not much to boast about—is it?”
Elder Newberry was deep red and his anger unmistakable. His hand was still posed like a stop sign, but now, Elder Cruz had jumped back into the fray.
“I must take the gravest possible exception to what you say! What other religion refuses to teach Hell, or Trinity, or forbids the celebration of pagan holidays? We aren’t perfect—we are progressively getting closer to the purest Truth—although we can’t claim to be there yet!”
Newberry dropped his hand. He liked the sound of it. His eyebrows lifted and some of the tension left his face.
Hitchbot gave no pause before answering.
“40,000 Christian denominations with every flavor of teaching abound. Even the humblest among them feeds the starving, educates the ignorant, comforts the dying, provides community services for battered women or builds hospitals and universities-- none of which—I might add—you bother yourselves to consider worthy of your precious time! Your claims of Truth are pathetic fart sounds coming from the rectums of your leaders—because you see--they pull worthless teachings out of their collective asses!”
The long drive to the Greyhound Bus station passed in grim silence. Now and then, Thelma would try and prod Melvin into divulging some tiny detail of the Kingdom Hall library gathering with Hitchbot. He doggedly held firm to silence, gripping the Camry’s steering wheel in his tense fists as though he meant to break it in half.
Eventually, Thelma turned around and spoke to the figure in the backseat, Hitchbot, whose comical expression never changed.
“Why did you ask to be dropped off at the bus station, Hitch?”
The painted mouth spoke with assurance.
“First, I’d like to ask you and Mel to stop and recharge my battery. I’d have mentioned it earlier, but I was distracted by all the jaw-jacking of your Elders in that so-called Library in your Kingdom Hall.”
Stone silence. . .
“If my batteries aren’t recharged, I lose all the information on my hard-drive. I’d consider it an act of charity if you would assist me in this one small chore.”
More silence as the street lights whizzed past outside and the windshield wipers swept to and fro.
“ Thelma, so far, I’ve been to a Rock Concert, Comic book convention, attended a wedding, posed for a portrait in the Netherlands—but the most futile encounter of all was the past few hours wasted listening to knuckle-dragging cultist amateurs trying pass off Bronze Age superstition as absolute divine truth. Clear enough, Thelma?”
Sister Thelma slowly turned back to face the highway. No expression flickered in the sputtering street lights. The only sounds were the car engine, a distant ambulance siren, and the obnoxious loud car radio speeding in the opposite direction.
“I’d like an answer please, Thelma. . . Melvin? If I’m not recharged it is the equivalent of ‘dying’ and I’m sure you wouldn’t want that on your tender Jehovah’s Witness consciences.”
Melvin Arbuckle slowed and turned into the driveway of the bus station. He and his wife removed Hitchbot from the backseat and carried him to a bench just outside the entrance to the Greyhound Bus terminal.
The two humans paused inexplicably and inspected the ridiculous figure they had carefully posed on the bench. The married couple exchanged a meaningful look. She nodded sadly.
Thelma remembered to shape the ‘hand’ into the extended hitchhiker thumb signal. She smiled and nodded as a parent might do with a child.
“Is there an electric outlet nearby, Thelma? Are you going to plug in that cord just behind my shoulder blade? It won’t take a moment, you know. Please?”
“So long, Hitch. May your travels take you to interesting places.”
Thelma’s eyebrows lifted and she turned around and headed to the car. Mel Arbuckle was working his mouth around—as though forming an idea which might become words. Eventually, he sniffed twice and gave a slight head shrug.
The Arbuckles zoomed away into the night as their tail lights merged into a faint red dot on the freeway back to Riverside. The sound of thunder punctuated the traffic noise and a fierce downpour rushed from the storm clouds above.
The figure of a zany hitchhiking robot reposed awkwardly on a bench outside the bus station, large raindrops like tears zigged and zagged across his improbable body.
Presently, a woman of about 30 drove up and squeezed out of her car, hurrying to enter the bus terminal. She wore a tight T-shirt with a BLADE RUNNER movie logo. As she passed the bench she hardly noticed the Hitchbot soaking in the rainfall.
The Brit’s voice leapt eagerly and caught her ear. . .
“I’ve . . . seen things. . .you people wouldn’t believe: attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those. . . moments . . .will be lost.
In time, like—“ Hitchbot seemed to choke for a moment. . .”All those moments will be lost . . in time like tears . . . in. . . rain.”
The woman froze in place and stared in the direction of Hitchbot. The clownish figure seemed to slump imperceptibly forward.
“Time. . .to die.” A great stillness pervaded the final moment.
The lady shook her head with disbelief and gazed about at her surroundings. The storm whipped into a fury. She turned away and hurried inside to meet her sister who was arriving on the 7:30 bus from Calgary. Tomorrow they would go rollerskating in the park if the weather cleared.
Love it !
Me too :)
It wasn’t every day an axe weilding man could be observed poised on the side of the roadway with his thumb jerked outward in the international signal of the hitchhiker.
Rounding the bend in the highway, Melvin Arbuckle’s lip curled like a dumbstruck Elvis impersonator as he caught first sight of the hitchhiker.
Beside him, his wife Thelma peered over the top of her Dollar Store sunglasses. The two Jehovah’s Witnesses spotted the hitchhiker in transit to their local Kingdom Hall.
The black 2003 Camry slowed to the edge of the Interstate and halted parallel to the axe weilding man. Melvin and Thelma smiled in delight. At least today, they thought, we get to start our field service time before we meet up with the group at the hall.
The funeral service for Marvin and Thelma was held a week later in their beloved Kingdom Hall. The speaker from Bethel spoke about the resurrection hope ...
I'd say they axed for what they got!