Gromet's PlazaMachine Stories

Sue & Ali

by 64Fordman

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© Copyright 2013 - 64Fordman - Used by permission

Storycodes: Machine/ff; collar; cages; conveyor; wash; process; storage; stuck; cons; X

Sue and Ali stood in the doorway and watched the car pull away and head down the street as their father, Stan, waved goodbye from the end of the driveway. The girls had become very attached to the five puppies that had been rescued and brought to the kennel their father ran, and now two had been adopted by a very nice family. Sue and Ali starred at each other with moistening eyes… MAKE A HOLE! Stan pushed past the girls and entered the reception area of the kennel as the two were snapped back to reality.

“I have to go, I told your Grandmother I would be there at eighteen thirty” their father barked as he grabbed an overnight bag from under the counter.

“It’s only four thirty, you still have like fourteen hours” said Ali sarcastically as she tossed her father his coat.

Stan tilted his head and looked at her over the top of his glasses, “You two should be all right for a day and a half, I’ll be back Thursday morning, love you” as Stan pulled the door closed behind him.

“Gone at last” the girls said in unison and began to lean against the counter, “And try not to screw everything up” as Stan pulled the door closed again.

“Like we're that ambitious” chuckled Ali, “let’s eat” as the girls climbed the stairs to the residence above the kennel.

Stan Rogers started his kennel business after retiring from the Navy after twenty years as a machinist. Stan loved machines and they don’t get any bigger than the Navy. Classified as a genius, Stan could build anything out of anything. He loved scouring through junk yards to find things he could make mechanical devices out of, and making devices to do everyday tasks was the next best thing to making things go fast or blow up.

The girls were back downstairs playing with the puppies, well they weren’t really puppies any more, they were six month old setter/lab mix and almost fully grown. The dogs were in a large indoor area in the back of the kennel covered with artificial turf that had access to an exterior fenced in dog run, and of course, some of the kennels operations were automated. For instance, the system was preparing to perform nightly cleaning and sanitizing on the play area as it was called, and was transporting appropriate size cages for the dogs on the overhead tracks and placing them on the floor. Sue and Ali began encouraging the dogs to enter the cages and as they did a servo closed the door. The girls walked around the half wall that separated the play area from a hallway… and waited.

“Sue, why is nothing happing?”

“I don’t know.”

There were five cages placed in a row, the first two and the fourth had a dog and the third and fifth were empty.

“It should bring the cages back to the housing area and bring them back when it’s done.”

Ali, at 18, looked to her 21 year old sister at times like this since Sue was here when their dad was building this place while Ali lived with their mom and finished school. “Maybe because the doors are open on the empty cages?”

“Good thinking squirt” said Sue as she walked back in and closed the two cage doors, but by the time she got back to Ali the doors had reopened.

“Why are there five cages anyway?” asked Ali. Sue let out a sigh and turned to the half wall on the other side of the hallway, reached over and grabbed the two dog collars off the desk.

“Dad forgot to reset the system for three dogs, it’s still sensing the RFID tags in these collars.” Ali thought for a second, “Can’t you just hit the manual override.”

“Uh, dad built this, not NASA, but I have an idea.”

“I know that look,” said Ali, “that’s the look you used to get when we would spend the summers at Uncle Ray and Aunt Tammy’s farm and Troy and RJ would pull out the rope.”

“As I recall young lady, you were a big instigator in those games.” Ali laughing, “I just liked seeing you get all excited, too bad RJ’s a cousin.”

“Shut uuup.” Ali still laughing, “Remember how many times Aunt Tammy walked into a room and yelled “Boys, untie your cousins.”

“And the barn” remembered Sue, “When Uncle Ray found us hanging upside down like two sides of beef.”

“Or when the boys took us fishing and tied us to the end of the dock with our feet in the water, and when a fish came up to nibble our toes they would catch it with the net,” Recalled Ali.

“Ha-ha and you were screaming like a girl every time you saw a fish.”

“I am a girl.”

After a few minutes of giggling Ali looked at Sue, “so what’s your idea.”

“Well,” Sue said, “we could be the dogs.”

“You mean let the machine that you don’t know how to tell there are only three dogs lock us in the cages?”

“First of all,” started Sue, “I’m not going to change the settings because;”

“Last time you tried dad said he would...”

“I know what he said” Sue cut her off, “and I’ve done it before.”

“You know,” said Ali, “I actually thought about it after that time we took turns locking each other in cages for the Facebook pics, what exactly will happen?”

“Not much really, the cages will be carried one by one back to the housing area and carried back here after the cleaning is finished, the thrill of the whole thing is these cages, as you know from before, can’t be opened from the inside, the whole thing will take like 45 minutes, and since there are no other dogs here right now there isn’t much else to do.”

“What’s plan B?”

“Get out the hot water hose and cleaning stuff and do it ourselves,” Sue replied.

“Can I be Roxy?”

The girls buckled the collars around each others necks and kicked off their sandals, leaving them both in short sleeve shirts and cut off jeans. As they entered the play area the yellow light on the overhead arm which had been glowing steadily began to flash. “Pick a cage” said Sue and Ali got down on hands and knees and backed into the middle cage, the door closed and the latches engaged with an audible click. “You O.K.?” Sue asked as Ali looked at her through bars.

“Get in your cage Bandit, you bad dog.” Sue crawled into the last cage and the door closed and latched, and the flashing yellow light changed to steady green.

The overhead arm went into action, moving over the first cage and telescoping down until the end of the arm connected with an attachment point on the top of the cage. The girls watched as the cage rose and was carried over their heads and out of view. As the second cage was being lifted Ali asked Sue if they would be placed in the wall units. Sue explained that was for overnight housing and their cages would just be on the floor till the cleaning was finished. The arm had returned and was over Ali’s cage, “Guess I’m next” she said as her cage was lifted, “see ya in a bit.”

The cages were just big enough for the dogs to stand in but not the girls, Sue waited curled up in her cage as the third dog was carried off. Finally the arm returned and as she watched it descend to her cage that feeling she loved so much was back. She did not understand it but she knew what caused it, times like this, where something was about to happen and there was nothing she could do to stop it. One of Sue’s favorite experiences popped into her mind.
She was at a girlfriend’s house to work on a school project and by circumstance was temporarily left alone with her friend’s older brother Craig. Craig was a senior, on the football team and totally hot. Craig came down to the basement where Sue was working at a wooden picnic table and horse play quickly began. Play escalated until the magic words were uttered; 'now you’re going to get it'.

Craig grabbed a roll of duct tape and Sue and dragged one of the benches away from the table. Sue soon found herself strapped to the bench with tape from her shoulders to her ankles and unable to move. That’s when Sue felt the familiar butterfly fluttering around in the pit of her stomach. Craig had grabbed a stool from a workbench along the wall and sat down next to Sue’s feet. By the time Craig had finished slowly removing Sue’s Keds and socks there were a hundred butterflies. The tickling only lasted a few minutes but was glorious. When her friend returned Sue was still taped to the bench, one of her socks was taped in her mouth with a sign that read ‘please tickle me’ taped to her stomach. Her friend didn’t tickle her but the time she spent waiting was the best, like being tied to the dock and waiting for a fish to swim toward your toes, you can’t stop it, all you can do is watch it happen. Sue didn’t feel any negative g-force as the cage lifted from the floor, but the butterflies did.

Sue watched through the bars as her cage traveled over the floor and through wall openings. Even with a single attachment point the ride was very smooth, with no swinging or rocking of the cage, but something was wrong, the carriage rolled past the housing area to the room next to it where their dad had been working the last few weeks.

As Sue entered the room she saw the other cages had been placed in a row on a raised surface a few feet apart, it extended some distance beyond the first cage and came to a large box with clear plastic sides and some machinery on top. Sue was lowered and gently placed at the end of the row. Ali was watching as her sister arrived and as the arm returned to its parking area she asked Sue what was going on.

“I’m trying to remember, I know dad told me something but I wasn’t really paying attention.”

A motor began quietly humming and the cages began slowly moving toward the machine.

“Now I remember, dad saw a dog washing machine on TV and said he could build a better one that washes the dog and the cage at the same time.”

“Why?” asked Ali.

“Because the one he saw was from Japan, you know how he is.”

“If the Japanese want to put their dogs in washing machines, that’s their business.”

“Not a washing machine, like a car wash for dogs.”

As the cages moved closer to the machine, the Plexiglas door slid up on tracks and the first cage entered the machine. When it was in position the conveyor stopped, the door slid down and sudsy water began splashing against the inside.

“What are we going to do” yelled Ali.

Sue was focusing more on her butterflies than her sister, “I don’t know, if it’s safe for the dogs we’ll be fine.”

“I’m not a dog.”

“As far as the system is concerned, you’re Roxy.”

While the girls were talking the water inside the machine had changed from soapy to clear and now the sound of the water pump stopped, the door slid up and the conveyor began to move the next cage into the machine while the first cage advanced into the second compartment for blow drying. The door closed and the cycle started again. Everything the machine did was in a slow, gentile fluid motion designed to keep the dogs calm, which Sue realized must be working since she had not heard anything from the dogs, they must be enjoying it.  

Sue was drifting into dream mode now, the butterflies were creating the proverbial hurricane in her abdomen and in her mind she was back on the bench with Craig easing her shoe off her foot, she always wished her friend had tickled her or left her for Craig to return, but this was going to be even better, this was a machine, it didn’t change it’s mind or leave things unfinished, it was going to perform it’s function with her as a helpless participant.

“Hey, have you got anything back there, because I’m next?” yelled Ali over the sound of the water.

“You’ll be getting a shower and clean clothes at the same time” she said to Ali as the door opened and the conveyor began moving her sister into the machine and Sue closer to the same fate, “feel free to scream like a girl.”

The door closed, there was the momentary pause, then the quite click of a solenoid, then screaming as warm soapy water began spraying from all directions, meanwhile, another dog was being dried with warm blowing air. The third dog moved into the washing compartment as the soaking wet Ali moved into the drying compartment. As the cycle started Sue looked through the bars as soapy water sheeted down the inside of the door, for the machine she was simply the next job. Sue’s butterflies were still at full flutter, she knew somewhere in the workings of that machine was a timer maintaining order, controlling each cycle, activating each movement, counting down the seconds remaining until she would be carried into the machine.

Silence, this is what Sue was waiting for, as the door opened Sue rapped her fingers around the bars of the cage and squeezed her eyes closed, this was the magic moment when that first fish began swimming toward you, when the first shoelace is untied, when you realize you have no control to stop whatever it is that’s about to happen. Sue kept her eyes closed as she slowly moved into the machine, the feeling and sound was intense enough, the door closing, that little pause that lasted an eternity, and then… click.

Sue exited the dog washer on a roller conveyor and slowly rolled along by gravity as the conveyor gently sloped toward the floor, rollers on the side of the conveyor kept the cage from falling off and its slow speed ensured it would not flip over. The cage rounded a corner and traveled a short distance down a hallway and came to a stop in the rear of the housing area, which was simply a long thick wall with various size square holes for cages to fit in, big on the bottom and small on the top.

Sue looked up at the wall and noticed there was only one hole open. Sue thought that was pretty fast for the other four cages to be carried to the play area, release the dogs and Ali and be put away; besides, she should be in front of the wall. As she was thinking, she heard a noise behind her, when she looked she saw a device mounted on a pole which was mounted on tracks on the floor and ceiling. The device, which looked like the end of a box, attached itself to the back of Sue’s cage while a wide metal tong slid underneath. The cage slowly rose vertically, then stopped and moved horizontally until it lined up with the open space and was pushed into the opening, when the cage was flush with the front of the wall, locking pins secured the cage in place.

“Sue, was that you that just got delivered?” Ali asked.


“You said we wouldn’t be put in the wall; please tell me we are not going to spend the entire night locked in these cages.”

As Sue opened her mouth to answer the main lighting snapped off leaving just the low intensity lighting along floors and doorways, “Well at least you got a shower.”

“I hate you.” Sue curled up on her side and closed her eyes as a smile formed on her lips.

It was a beautiful morning, bright sunshine and perfect temperature, Sue and Ali were feeding and watering the dogs as the cages were being put away by the system, “See, everything worked out just the way I said.”

“Nine hours later” Ali responded, “it was fun though.”

“I was hoping you would say that,” Sue smiled.

As Ali looked quizzically Sue continued, “I got a text from RJ, the boys will be watching the farm for two week next month while Uncle Ray and Aunt Tammy go on vacation.”

“Road trip,” Ali shouted.  


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