Sophia Frabjous stood out in a crowd. While most eleven-year-old girls tried their best to appear as normal as possible, Sophia embraced her uniqueness. She reveled in it, in fact. This was not difficult for her to do, with her wild, curly hair which tumbled and lightning-bolted from her head in every direction imaginable (and a few unimaginable ways as well.) The fact that her hair was deep blue, the almost-purple hue of the staining juices of blueberries added to the oddness effect, as did the matching freckles spread pell mell across her cheeks and nose. It didn’t help that the pupils of her eyes were the oval shape and pale brown color of almonds, or that she wore the same lime-green dress with the Stargazer Lily pattern every day. And it wasn’t as if Sophia Frabjous was normal otherwise. Having been orphaned as an infant when her parents fell into a volcano on a business trip, she was adopted by the mayor of Sufficient Springs, Dexter Hambone. Hambone had been a family friend, and was a good foster parent, but a busy one, as he was always trying to find new ways to put his town on the map. Sophia also had a pet owl named Toledo, who could talk but generally cracked wise as opposed to actually being wise.
On this particular sunny Saturday morning, Sophia and Toledo were headed to the Arena Memorial Arena (an arena which was built in honor of the old arena, which had been torn down to make room for the new arena) to see her father’s latest big tourist attraction: the Robot Rodeo. Dexter Hambone was still hurting from his previous attempt at town notoriety, which had been to come up with a dance craze. Though he had no trouble at all coming up with names for the dances (The Andy Turn! The Sleuth Maneuver! The Scratchy Uncle! The Inside Joke!), he had no sense of rhythm and what choreographers would politely refer to as a “two left body.” So he was hoping the Robot Rodeo would make up for the total failure. And really, why wouldn’t a Robot Rodeo be an unparalleled success? Everyone loves cowboys, everyone loves robots, it seemed unbelievable no one had thought to combine the two before. Dexter had even built the robots himself with old car parts from the dump and computers that had been left behind at the old haunted school. They looked fantastic, and they had been programmed to rope like a real pro. Dexter didn’t even bother with a dry-run, that was how confident he was in this venture. How could anything possibly go wrong?
Sophia and Toledo were about a block away from the arena when they began to hear the commotion. Wild screaming, frantic mooing and metallic voice repeating, “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…” Toledo flew up to get a better view of the inside of the arena.
“It looks like your father has finally found his memorable event,” he remarked.
“We have to get over there before someone gets hurt,” Sophia said, picking up the pace of her stride.
“Or, we could wait and see if this all blows over, in a month or so,” Toledo said.
“Come on, you cowardly owl!” she yelled as she raced down the street to the arena.
Once they arrived, they agreed to sneak in from the back entrance, where they found Dexter Hambone cowering behind a curtain. “The robot- he- he’s gone cuckoo!” he cried. “I was all set to start the show, and flipped the ‘On’ switch, and all of a sudden, Butch turns at begins chasing me around the arena.”
“Butch?” Sophia asked.
“That’s the name I gave him,” Dexter explained. “After Butch Cassidy. I don’t understand it, he should be friendly, he should be decent, but instead he’s- he’s…”
“Cuckoo, I believe you said,” Toledo finished. “Well, this should be easy; all we have to do is flip his ‘Off’ switch.”
“That would solve the problem, yes, if I had installed an ‘Off’ switch. But, you see, I didn’t think of it. I thought we could be friends! And you don’t want to turn off your friends.”
“Yes, brilliant thinking, Mr. Mayor. Except you also don’t want your friends on a rampage through Arena Memorial Arena. That’s considered impolite where I come from, anyway.”
“Stifle your beak, wisebird,” Dexter snarled. “We don’t need your smart remarks right now; we need to help these people.” Sophia and Toledo peeked out from the curtain through the door that led to the main floor of the Arena. It was chaos! The whole town had come to see the Robot Rodeo, and the whole town was being chased by Butch, those who hadn’t yet been hogtied, anyhow. Butch continued to repeat, “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…” as he chased them around the arena. Cows were cowering (or them-ering) in the corner, eyes wild with fear. Butch appeared to be a regular cowboy, with a white hat, orange snap-button shirt and brown pants and leather boots with spurs that indeed jingle-jangle-jingled. The only clue that he was a robot was the giant battery jutting out from his back. Giant battery!
“How long does that battery last, Dad?” Sophia asked.
“That’s a Q battery; it’ll last for up to six months, unless he over-exerts himself. At this rate, he’ll probably run out of juice in, oh… three weeks? But the way he keeps splitting his concentration, he might last a bit longer. If he had something to focus on, some of that juice would go to his brain and be sucked up much, much quicker. But there’s too many distractions, there’s no way he- Sophia?”
“It’s too late, Mayor, she’s already jumped to her own dangerous conclusions,” Toledo sighed. And it was true; Sophia had found a unicycle from when the circus had been in town, and was now racing around the perimeter of the arena, taunting the robot cowboy.
“Come and get me if you can, Butch!” she yelled. Butch turned from the nun he was roping and took chase. He was fast, but Sophia was faster, having taken lessons from the bear who had ridden the unicycle in the circus. Pretty soon, the “et cetera’s” of the cowboy began to get deeper and slower, and he showed signs of lagging, until he stopped completely and fell to the ground, lifeless. Everyone cheered Sophia as she dismounted the unicycle and collapsed, exhausted. Even the cows mooed appreciatively.
“Great Grape-Flavored Grandfather Clocks, that was brilliant, Sophia,” Dexter proclaimed, helping her to her tired feet. “But poor, poor robotic Butch. He wasn’t evil, he was just misunderstood.”
“Misunderstood, my left talon,” Toledo said. “He was a bad cowboy. And a bad robot. That’s easy enough to understand, isn’t it?”
“I suppose you’re right. I probably shouldn’t have used those cursed computer parts from the haunted school to build him. The gypsy woman warned me, but I thought it was just constructive criticism. Anyhow, I’m ruined now. Ruined! My people will never forgive me, my reputation in the history books has been forever sullied and my robot is broken. Broken! Whatever am I to do?”
“I think I may have an idea,” Sophia said, putting her arm around her father. “Why don’t we put him in the Town Square Memorial Town Square, like a statue. It’d be like a memorial for today, the day we bravely defeated the evil robot cowboy. You’ll go down in history as the mayor who helped the town defeat this menace, the statue will become a tourist attraction, and your robot will have a place to be displayed. Kill two or three birds with one stone.”
“I’ve never been a fan of that particular expression, but I agree-a with Sophia,” Toledo said. The mayor decided to take a vote of the townspeople, who were all conveniently located in the Arena Memorial Arena (some still untying themselves) and it was unanimously decided that this was a fantastic idea.
And so, the statue/robot of Butch stands in the Town Square Memorial Town Square of Sufficient Springs, motionless, battery-less, and lifeless. Underneath him is a plaque that reads, “Butch the Misunderstood Evil Robot Cowboy, Defeated by Sophia Frabjous, Assisted by Honorable Mayor Dexter Hambone, Et Cetera, Et Cetera, Et Cetera…”