Pickle Panda Find Love in the Time of Robot Bees: Part 1, Ch. 4

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Part 1, Chapter 4

“See you tomorrow,” said Pickle, mocking Ramses’s deep baritone. “Who does he think he is? Telling me to ‘be cool’ and calling me ‘bro’? It’s maddening!”

“O. M. G. Shut. Up,” said Kelsi, pushing Pickle up into the back seat of her small SUV. “He didn’t call you ‘bro’, either. He’s-” Kelsi searched for the right word. “A gentleman.”

Pickle couldn’t believe it. He’d seen videos of some of other “intelligent” animals that had popped up around the world over the past nine or ten years- usually on America’s Funniest Home Videos calling an old lady “grandma” or on YouTube swearing up a storm of scatological profanity. Ramses was something completely different, though. He was a thinking, sensitive

“What!?” shouted Kelsi, interrupting his thoughts with a final push on his backside.

“I don’t like him,” he answered. “I hate it when you push me into the car like that. It’s humiliating.”

“You objected to the doggie ramp …” she said, letting the threat linger.

“Fine! Fine,” he said. “The ramp is worse.”

“Psh! Never satisfied. What’s your problem with Ramses, though, seriously? He was totally sweet helping that Meghan girl and he was really nice to you. It looked like you two were talking about something pretty interesting when I came out if the bathroom. I thought you liked him.”

“No,” he said, in another mocking tone. “You liked him.”

That was true, but Kelsi didn’t want to talk about that, yet- and she definitely didn’t want to talk about that with Pickle! Kelsi had never had a real boyfriend, and whether that was because she was a late bloomer in high school (excuse no. 2), intentionally kept people from getting close to her after the death of her mother (excuse no. 5), or was overly self-conscious about always having a highly conspicuous, hyper intelligent, and generally ill-tempered “service animal” around at all times (excuses no. 1, 3, 4, 11, and 17), was a subject for debate. Internal debate. Secret debate. Private debate. She’d mull the matter over later, she decided. At the moment, though, it would be far more fun to torture Pickle. “I think you like Meghan.”

“You like Meghan!”

“Oh, Pickle! You’re SOO smart! You’re the smartest panda in the whole world!” she said, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. “You so like Meghan.”

“This isn’t about me.”

“Oh my God!” shouted Kelsi, genuinely surprised. “You do like her!”


“That’s not a denial! You like Meghan!”

It was a nightmare.

“I think that’s cute!” said Kelsi, with genuine emotion.

It was worse than a nightmare.

“OK,” said Kelsi, soothingly. “I’ll stop. Do you want to tell me why you don’t like Ramses?”

“Are you serious? Can you really not see that he’s a-” Pickle stopped. He quickly considered his brief exchange with Ramses. Here was an intelligent, emotional being that could communicate thoughts and feelings. Here was someone else, removed from his kind, who just wanted to ‘get by’. Here was someone, Pickle realized, that he could really talk to. It would be wrong to “out” Ramses … at least, for now. “He’s- I guess, maybe …” Pickle stumbled for words, “I’m just protective.” (it was the truth, if not the whole truth)

“Awwwwwww,” began Kelsi. “You’re so cute today, Pickle!”

Pickle grumbled quietly in the back seat.

“OK, OK. We can talk about something else,” she said. “Oh, I know! How’s it feel to have homework for the first time?”

The assignment from the speech class! Pickle had almost completely forgotten about it. “I dunno. I don’t really want to do it.”

“Why not!? You were always complaining that teachers never talked to you and that you never got to talk or ask questions. Now we have a teacher who wants you to talk and ask questions, and you’ve got nothing to say?”

She had a point. There was more grumbling.

“You just like being grumpy.”

“It’s not that. It’s just- what do I write about?”

“You’re on your own there, buster,” she said, laughing. “Just don’t say something embarrassing.”

Pickle was stumped.

Professor Westby’s was the first homework assignment Pickle had ever been asked to deliver “on his own”, and it was frustratingly simple. Westby’s instructions read: Write a 500 word speech about yourself that does not describe you, physically. You will turn in one copy directly to me with no name on it, which I will count for a participation grade. The essays will be handed back to the class at random, and each student will read the speech in front of the class. At the end of the speech, we’ll see if we can guess who it’s about. This should be a fun way for all of us to get to know one another!

“I’m a panda,” said Pickle aloud, mulling it over.

“You’re not just a panda,” said Kelsi.

“I can talk.”

“You’re more than just a talking panda,” she said. “I think you are, anyway.”

Pickle thought about that, quietly, for the rest of the drive home. It seemed like a true enough thing.

Pickle was a more than a talking panda, maybe. Ramses was more than a smooth-talking gorilla in a pair of khaki cargo pants, certainly. Kelsi was more than … more than what? There was a lot to think about, indeed.


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