One thing that truly brought me solace was my love for table tennis. There were a lot of people that played a lot better than me, people that had been professionally coached or had been playing from their toddler days. They were good. They were really, really good. Nonetheless, table tennis was something that made me feel better about myself. It didn’t require any genius, any physical strength nor any grades to play the game, so I just used to stroke away every evening in the hope that I may be able to beat Matt Doherty. Matt Doherty was the table bully. He was a spoiled rich kid who had a personal trainer from the age of 12. He used to come, smack us all around and make fun of us before climbing on top of the table and doing a disgusting buffoonish dance.
He hated me, particularly as if the rest of the world hating me wasn’t enough. He used to call me out for his first match and used to smash me 20-0 every time, to make a mockery out of me and to intimidate the rest of those waiting for their turns. I vowed to take my revenge from him, one way or another.
One day, on my way back home, I passed by a dark lab on campus. I peeped inside and saw three people working on what seemed to me as a mechanical object with grappling hooks for hands and horseshoes for feet. I saw my way inside the lab after crawling through a ledge and tapped the shoulder of one of the scientists. They told me that they had been working on a prototype that would climb mountains and helped distressed hikers and mountaineers. It was a great job for humanity. Was it of any use to me though? Not at all.
I sat down with the scientist, a semester junior to me, and briefed him on my current table tennis situation and how I wanted to rip Doherty to shreds. In an age of gesture-controlled cellphones, voice-activated washrooms and clap activated lights, it was more than easy to create a robot that would be able to study Doherty’s game plan, to understand his next move and to help me become the greatest table tennis player this world had ever seen.
Every day after class I would go to a nearby junkyard and scavenge spare parts for my new personal trainer. So far, I had found a monitor that I would use for its head. A few plastic pipes that I would use for arms, metal gloves for hands, and prosthetic legs for well, legs. It took me months and months to construct the robot, lovingly called Mr. Peanut. Why Mr. Peanut? Well, there’s no inspirational story behind that name; it’s just because I was craving peanuts when I was talking to the lab scientist, and that’s when I knew that my robot had to be called Mr. Peanut.
I had a friend build software that we installed into Mr. Peanut and would converse now and then. For a few weeks, his vocabulary was very limited. Simple phrases like “Hello,” or “How are you doing?” would be everything he could say. A few system updates and patches led to us starting our first training session. Mr. Peanut had watched enough YouTube videos to become a world-beater, but it was time for him to teach me.
We used to spend hours and hours, playing and talking. He would teach me about the advanced circuitry of computers. I would teach him about humans and emotional intelligence. It was a loving bond that we had generated in a short amount of time. He would take a bullet for me, and I would take a virus for him.
Together, we developed a drone that we would fly out to Matt Doherty’s house and spy on him. In our stealth mission, we would learn more about his plays, when he strokes and when he smashes, his trash talking and his intimidation, and we would learn everything with the help of our drone. We found a window in front of the place where Doherty would practice. Mr. Peanut would watch him while I would sleep. Even he had to admit that Doherty was a machine, but, he wasn’t unbeatable, he said.
While the drone buzzed around in the sky, it caught the eye of Matt who immediately took a picture of it. He found out the IP address and tracked it back to campus, where he found Mr. Peanut. Doherty was amazed to see a robot like him, and he immediately wanted it. He picked it up, put it in his car and left a note underneath my thigh.
Mr. Peanut had been kidnapped. I ran to Doherty’s house to get to the bottom of this. As I knocked on his door, I was met with a sly smile. He had grown accustomed to Mr. Peanut and wanted to keep him. I was ready to fight him but decided against my gut and agreed to a more civilized fashion of combat. We would play one 20 points set. Whoever won, got to keep Mr. Peanut.
It was an intense match from the get-go. He would win one point then so would I. Then him, then I. We would rally on for minutes and minutes. He had nothing to lose, and I had everything to lose.
It was 19-19. I played a quick shot, then another quick one, then a slow one. Doherty couldn’t keep up. Game-19. One shot away from getting my best friend back. I took a moment to breathe, to drink water and to reminisce about all the good times we had, how I birthed him, taught him everything he knows. How he taught me how to deal with Doherty. I stood up and served the ball, and he returned rather quickly. I slowed it down and gave it to him in such an angle that all he could do was loft the ball up high.
I closed my eyes. I thought about the face of my beloved robot and smashed the ball hard. When I opened my eyes, I was a winner. We had won. I had my life back.
I had Mr. Peanut back.