Hazel Fry squinted with intense concentration at the math problem set before her. After a long pause, she tucked the tip of her tongue against her top lip and said, “The square root of four?”
Two seconds later, her pen delivered a mild ‘corrective’ shock to her stubby fingers. “OW,” she complained, dropping it.
“Try again,” her dad encouraged.
“It’s too hard,” Hazel frowned. “Maybe….Sixty?” she got another shock and cursed, pitching it across table. “MOM!”
“I’m in the holo-combat arena with Max, honey!”
“It’s MY turn for battle time, squirt!” Max shouted.
“DAD!” Hazel whined.
“Leela, we’ve got a brain-go-dingy problem!” Fry replied.
For all of Fry’s pleading, there was no sudden appearance by Leela - his wife stayed with their son. “Don’t give her the answer, Fry, or she’ll never learn!”
She looked helplessly across the table at her dad, who wore his own frown of concentration. “Huh. Maybe it’s forty percent?”
A small pause, and a quiet, soft tone. “Yes!” Hazel crowed, moving on to the next problem. Fry whoo-hoo’d and went back to his can of Slurm.
Of the two children, Hazel was the easier one; she was very intellectual, very restless, but was generally good at obeying rules because of the stubborn temperament she’d inherited from both of them. Fry watched her with amused suspicion. He had no idea how the heck she was his and Leela’s child. She had no sense of wild impropriety, no loony desire for wild adventure. She was even a bit <I>timid</i>. Unlike Max, who could honestly use a bit of timidity. Fry swore the kid had been swung his way into the world, laughing at the wake of destruction he caused.
“Maybe I really shouldn’t have sat on that microwave before we had them,” Fry considered.
Hazel glanced up. “Dad, you said the soft part loud again.”
“Oops,” He grinned,. “You won’t tell your mom on me?”
“Fry, are you talking about sitting on the microwave again?” Leela asked, entering the room with Max.
“I was talking about microwaving my nuts!” Fry shouted. “I mean SOME nuts!”
“Eww,” chorused three voices in perfect harmony.
It was somewhere past eight o’clock. The dishes were on their third rinse cycle, and the TV tootled some kind of nonsense in the background. Leela gave the kids a quick quiz: yes, they knew not to bother Uncle Bender if he passed out, and no, he wasn’t allowed into the bathroom, where Leela had taken to hiding the silver after Bender tried to pawn it the last time he babysat. They were to be good, keep their bedtime, have one snack and not cause too much of a fuss. They would be back from their dinner date by twelve, and Leela wanted not to see hide nor purple or orange hair when she came home.
Uncle Bender arrived several minutes later, smoking a large thick stogie, and was immediately ambushed by his friend’s children.
“Wouldya get down?” he glowered. “Y’little meatsnacks! No I didn’t bring candy!”
“Uncle Bender!” squeaked Hazel, “I filed the serial number off the Borebie you brought me last time, just like you asked!” She held up the doll so he could examine it.
The robot softened somewhat at the sight. “Aww,” Bender said. “That’s some felony-level filing you’re doing, Haze. Keep it up and you might be one helluva mob moll some day.” He ruffled Hazel’s hair, leaving a static-charged mop of purple fuzz behind.
While Hazel fixed her hair, Max wondered, “Are you gonna let us stay up and watch All My Circuits, Uncle Bender?”
“Sure, whatever….Waitaminute! Your folks said you have to be asleep by nine!”
“Aww!” the kids chorused.
“Aww! I hate it when you get all whiny. Okay, you can stay up!”
“Yes!” Hazel cried out, raising her arms in victory.
“You’re the best, Unky Bender!”
“Just as long as you sit through World’s Most Violent Dismemberments with me first!”
Bender chuckled as he watched yet another human meet its maker in a bloody way. “That was the best one yet!” he cackled, “right kids?”
“Never….sleeping…again!” Hazel groaned.
“Oh no you don’t!” Bender cried out. “I’ve got a fine little lady by the name of Charlene coming over at nine and if you meatballs ain’t in bed by then I’m gonna have to make small talk with her. And Bender don’t do small talk!”
“Fine,” Max frowned, “but we won’t go unless you tell us a story!”
“Yeah, Unky Bender!” shouted Hazel. “Tell us a story.”
He rolled his eyes. “Do I look like a Teddy Ruxpin?” he patted his torso. “I better not. Those things were ruled a health hazard in ’05.” Both kids cuddled up to him, making Bender groan his discomfort aloud.
“You smell like a gin factory,” observed Hazel without malice.
“I WAS a gin factory,” responded Bender. “You want your story or what?”
Hazel gave him an obedient bob of her head, and so Bender began to tell them of their brave mother and hapless father. Of the time they had gone to the moon together, the time that their father had re-arranged the stars to spell out a message of love to their mother, the time he’d traded hands with the devil just to write her a song and the many, many times she’d pulled his butt out of the fire. It was the tapestry of their youth, woven together with humor and outlandish adventures that they had not been around to witness.
“…And that’s how you two little sausage balls came along,” Bender said. “Now lemme tell you about how a fabulously handsome and debonair robot stole the crown jewels of Robosnia…” He trailed off as Hazel’s snores filled the air. A look to his left confirmed that Max snoozed on.
Which was good enough a reason for him to snag some shut-eye of his own.
Four hours later, Bender had bid Charlene adieu and literally shoved the kids in bed for a punishment. When Fry and Leela came through the door, she immediately left to check the kids, leaving Fry to remark upon Bender’s problem.
“Hey Bender,” Fry said. “How did you lose your head?”
“Don’t fall asleep around those little hooligans of yours,” Bender growled.
Fry just laughed at Bender’s outrage. He finally had what he’d yearned for. And if that meant occasionally bringing his best friend in for some light repairs, it was totally worth it.