*clink!* *tink!* *tank!*
Everyone sat around a table made of tyres and metal. The group clinked their mugs together. Only, they were not drinking tea. The robot creatures all drank dark motor oil. Joe Sakana and Mike Himmel had fizzy drinks in their cups.
It was an amazing sight: two kids from Swindon and their group of living junkyard robots. An alligator, a tall frog, a large grasshopper and a droopy-eyed rabbit - the boys had brought them all to life by mysterious, heart-shaped electronic parts.
“Here’s to a wicked summer,” Mike toasted.
“Hear, hear,” Snappy, the robot alligator said. “Why is everything here ‘wicked,’ as you say?”
“It just means cool,” Tonk the robot rabbit said. He held a mug in his metal paw. “Chill out! Heh-heh!”
“Well,” said the well-dressed robot frog named Mayor Crick, “this town could use some cooler weather.” He adjusted his tie.
“Whoah! Your hat!” Mike said, noticing Joe’s new Captain Chickenpants hat. He snatched the hat off Joe’s head for a closer look.
“Look, it’s autographed too!” Joe smiled a proud grin.
“Wicked!” said Mike.
“There’s that word again,” said Snappy.
The robot creatures all sipped from their mugs at the same time. “Blech! Something is wrong with this oil,” they all complained. “This is not what we drank yesterday.”
“I know,” said Mike. “Yesterday we used up the last fresh can of oil. This stuff is from an old oil pan. It’s not any good?”
“No. It’s not good,” said Snappy. He threw his cup into the tall weeds. “You’ll poison us with this stuff.”
“Can’t you just drink it anyway?” Mike asked. “I mean, oil is oil, right?”
“Not at all! You gotta clean that stuff,” Tonk said. “I mean, like, you wouldn’t drink spoiled milk, would you?”
“It would make us sick,” Joe said.
“Exactly,” said Tonk. “We’ll clean this oil with a filter machine. I’ll build one, then show you how. There’s enough old oil in this junkyard to last us a lifetime.”
“I can help collect the old oil into cans while Tonk builds the filter machine,” said Ms Ratchet, the large robot grasshopper.
“Indeed,” Mayor Crick said. “This town must have clean— *click*— Clean— *click*— Clean—”
Crick’s whole body froze.
“My dear Crick!” Ms Ratchet said. She patted the robot frog on the back.
“The bad oil has done this!” Ms Ratchet’s large wings began to buzz nervously. She looked over at Snappy. “You’re a doctor, do something!”
Snappy stood to come help and said, “‘I— I— I—” But he froze too.
“That happened after only one sip!” Joe said, alarmed. “We’d better get that filter machine going before Tonk freezes up too.”
Tonk quickly sketched out a drawing of his oil-cleaning filter machine. Then he told Joe, Mike and Ms Ratchet to go and fetch parts from around the junkyard.
“Ms Ratchet, while you gather those cans, we can—” But before Mike could finish his sentence, she had frozen as well.
“Tonk!” Mike said. “You feeling okay? You’re the only robot who hasn’t frozen up.”
“I’m feeling fine!” Tonk said. He flipped down his welding visor and began joining metal parts together to make the filter machine.
After a while, Tonk lifted his visor. He was almost finished.
“Now we just need to get the filter in place. That’s the final item. It’s the most important part. We can’t use an ordinary oil filter, it needs to be a—” Tonk froze before he could finish his sentence.
“NO! TONK! It needs to be a ‘what’?” Joe asked, holding Tonk by his shoulders.
“Crikey!” Mike yelled. “What are we gonna do? We can’t just ask my dad for new motor oil. He’d find out what we’re doing. We have to finish building the machine ourselves and get some clean oil into these robots.”
“What was Tonk gonna say we should get for the filter?”
“Look – his drawing!” Mike held up Tonk’s sketch.
“It says, ‘foam and mesh filter’.” Joe pushed his glasses up his nose.
“Could we use a piece of mesh from an old convertible car top?” wondered Mike. “No. Maybe we tear a chunk of foam from an old car seat?”
“No. That’s not foam and mesh. Ugh.” Joe sat down on a tyre. “Tonk’s directions are very specific. We need to follow them. We can’t risk hurting the robots any more. What if we make them worse and they never come back to life?” Joe took off his hat and turned away from Mike. He pulled up his t-shirt to wipe away some tears.
“Your hat, Joe! Your hat!”
“Yes. You saw it already. It’s autographed.” Joe turned back around. “It doesn’t feel so important right now, Mike.”
“Joey, it’s perfect. The hat has a foam front with mesh backing. It’s just like the filter Tonk described.”
“You can’t be serious.” Joe looked at the signature on the hat. “Do you realise how long I waited to get this?”
“Like my dad says, ‘We make sacrifices, son’.” Mike yanked the hat from Joe. Then he stuffed it into the filter machine.
“Mike!!” Joe yelled.
Mike pressed the start button. The machine rumbled and whirred. Oil began to drip through the hat. It came out a light brown colour. It dripped into the cup below.
“Joe, look!” Mike paused the machine. He tilted some cleaned oil into Tonk’s open mouth. Mike pushed Tonk’s lower jaw up and down in a chewing motion.
They waited. Nothing.
“Oh, well,” said Mike. “I’m sorry, Joe. I’ll get you another hat somehow. I swear.”
“Don’t swear,” Tonk spoke.
“TONK!” Mike jumped up and down.
Joe stood, wide-eyed with a happy tear in his eye. “You’re alive!”
Mike hugged Tonk. “Ouch! You guys ain’t so huggable.” The boys laughed.
With Tonk back in action, they were able to quickly clean another batch of oil to give to the robots. One by one, the robot creatures were brought back to life.
The next afternoon, everyone sat around the table again. They clinked their mugs together. The summer sun was setting on the junkyard. The sky glowed orange behind the piles of old cars around them.
*clink!* *tink!* *tank!*
“A big ‘thank you’ to Mike and Joe,” Tonk said with a goofy grin.
“Quick thinking and a steady hand can often save the day,” added Snappy.
Ms Ratchet finished writing the date on the side of each can of cleaned oil. She had made a neat stack of small metal barrels.
“Now we’re organised. This will never happen again.” Ms Ratchet sat and snuggled close to Mayor Crick. She looked towards Joe with her kind, headlight eyes. “Sorry it ruined your nice hat, Joseph. Now how will you keep the sun off your head?”
“Don’t worry,” said Joe. “I’ll find a way to keep cool this summer.”
“Or rather,” said Snappy, looking proud of himself, “Keep wicked!”
Mike patted Snappy’s back with a grin. “Close enough.”