Zack Miller wanderedthrough the swap meet, casually looking at the stalls that surrounded him. Cominghere was his wife Linda’s idea.
With their children staying the weekend attheir Grandparents, the two of them had decided to go for a Sunday afternoondrive. Linda had spotted the signpointing to the outdoor sale and persuaded Zack that they should take alook. So parking their SUV in themakeshift car park the two started to explore the avenues of stalls that wereselling everything from the unwanted contents of people’s basements and attics,to the more professional looking stalls, which sold craft, art, as well asantiques and pop culture related collectables.
Inevitably the two had become separated and Zack found himself alonehalf looking at the stands as he went, as well as half keeping an eye out forhis wife who would no doubt, by the time he caught up with her, be strugglingwith all the items she had bought.Thenat a stall, which was dedicated to collectable toys, on a shelf among a numberof vintage Power Rangers, a familiar figure caught his eye. It was a toy robot made out of yellow plasticwhich stood about thirty centimeters tall. Its head was cubed in shape and hadtwo square red eyes made from reflective material. The body was reticular and on its chest weretwo doors, behind which there were two hidden ‘laser cannons’. The robot was battery operated and designedto walk forward then stop while the chest doors opened and the whole upper bodyrotated four times and laser blaster type sounds went off, before continuing onits way.Zackhad been given a robot like this for his ninth birthday. The toy didn’t belongto any film or TV franchise, but had seemingly been produced by a small Americantoymaker, trying to dabble in a potentially new market, inspired by the corny ScienceFiction movies of the 1950’s.
Zackmoved over to the stall and after nodding a greeting to the owner, he foundhimself staring transfixed at the robot. A strange feeling welled up inside ofhim; it was as though he was meeting an old friend after many years absence. Hethen reached out for the toy and carefully picked it up off the shelf, ensuringthat he didn’t knock any of the other toys that surrounded it. The robot feltmuch lighter and smaller in his hands than he remembered, but he put that downto the fact that he of course had grown up. He had had a similar experience last year when he had visited his oldHigh School, everything seemed much smaller – a trick played by the passage oftime.Zackstudied the robot carefully, and a smile crossed his face, as the toy brought backa flood of memories to him; the first time he saw the toy working in all itsglory; the Christmas Day he put a small Santa hat on it and insisted that itwas the center piece of the dining room table and how he used to hide his candyin the box the robot had come in, away from his sister.
There were the numerousoccasions he used the robot to scare the family cat, and of course the battleshe had with his friend Kenny, who lived three doors down, and owned a similarrobot, but in blue. Then there was that time when the robot stopped turning whenit walked and how, with his Dad, they had spent an afternoon taking it apart andputting it back together until eventually they managed to fix the broken mechanism.Somany happy memories attached to one simple toy.Yearslater, his Mom had confessed to him that it was a last minute gift, picked upat their local Walmart on a whim to bulk up his pile of presents.
Zack’seyes then drifted down to the small white price tag that hung around therobot’s neck.Fifteendollars.Itdidn’t seem that expensive for such an old toy, and he certainly could affordit.Instinctivelyhe started to move his hand towards his wallet, but then stopped himself.No,he shouldn’t, he couldn’t.Hewas an adult; he had a wife and two small children, he held down a responsiblejob, had a mortgage, was on the local residence committee, he was even tryingto gain membership to the local golf club.
He couldn’t waste money on a children’s toy for himself, which would, mostlikely, end up placed on the shelf in his home office where it would just takeup room and become a magnet for dust. In a week or so, he wouldn’t even noticeit was there and he was also certain that Linda would be less than impressedwith such a purchase.Andyet…Itwould be a nice thing to have.Butno, the time for letting go of childish things had long since passed, that hadhappened when he had left for college and his old toys, baseball cards andcomic book collection had been either given away or sold.Hethought about placing the robot back on the shelf and then moving on to thenext stall, but instead he found himself turning the toy over where something immediatelycaught his attention.Onthe back of the right leg in faded blue ink were the initials Z and M – lettersthat he himself had placed there on a rainy afternoon; and there was thefamiliar chip on the battery cover when the robot had decided to walk off of theend of the table in the dining room, landing on the tiled floor.Thisrobot, one of hundreds if not thousands that had been produced, was his old robot.Hesmiled to himself as, this time, he reached for his wallet without question.