“Robot and T-Rex at the End of the World” by Albert Berg

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T-Rex and Robot are fishing in the bathtub. Robot doesn’t want to put the worm on his hook. He doesn’t like the way the guts pop out and get all over his fingers.

“I don’t want to do it,” Robot tells T-Rex.

“Then I guess you don’t want to catch fish,” T-Rex says.

This is not correct. Robot wants to catch fish. But he does not want to put the worm on the hook. He does not want to get his fingers dirty with worm guts.

T-Rex doesn’t do anything for thirty-seven seconds. Then he blows air out of his nose, and turns to Robot and takes the hook and puts a worm on it. He casts with the little fishing pole even though Robot could have done that, but Robot doesn’t say anything.

It is strange that T-Rex is fishing with Robot and not Ankylosaurus. T-Rex does not understand Robot. Robot knows this, because sometimes T-Rex says, “I don’t understand you.” Robot thinks T-Rex understands Ankylosaurus because, T-Rex never says, “I don’t understand you,” to Ankylosaurus. Robot thinks this is why T-Rex spends more time with Ankylosaurus than he does with him.

Robot sits on the edge of the bathtub and watches his bobber for seventeen minutes and eleven seconds.

“You know, sometimes I wish you’d just talk to me,” T-Rex says.

“What do you want me to say to you?” Robot says.

T-Rex blows air out of his nose again, but he doesn’t say anything so Robot keeps watching his bobber for another eleven minutes and thirty-eight seconds until T-Rex says, “I guess the fish just aren’t biting today.”

T-Rex and Robot get into the Batmobile and T-Rex drives them down the hall to the bedroom. The floor in the hall is tile and there are 24 whole tiles and 18 partial tiles.

Once they are in the bedroom T-Rex and Ankylosaurus play a video game on the book shelf. Robot goes to his Lego house with the red roof and the green walls and the blue door and plays a video game by himself. T-Rex and Ankylosaurus are playing a game with shooting and explosions, but Robot likes Minecraft better. Robot is building a redstone computer that can add numbers together.

He is almost finished with the computer when Mrs. Potatohead comes into Robot’s Lego house. Her left ear is missing because the dog chewed it up.

“Hey sweetie can I talk to you?”

“Yes,” Robot says.

“I mean, can we have a conversation?

“Yes,” Robot says. He wants to finish the redstone computer, but Mrs. Potatohead doesn’t like him to play games when she is talking, so he pauses Minecraft so she will know he is listening.

Mrs. Potatohead tells Robot that she and T-Rex aren’t going to be living together anymore.

It takes her a long time to tell it, because she keeps stopping in the middle of her sentences. Mrs. Potatohead has tears coming out of her eyes. Robot knows this means that she is sad.

Robot asks Mrs. Potatohead where T-Rex will live now, but Mrs. Potatohead doesn’t know. Robot asks if Ankylosaurs will go to live with T-Rex, but Mrs. Potatohead doesn’t know that either. She tries to give Robot a hug, but Robot does not like to be hugged, and he does not like T-Rex leaving, so Robot shuts down.

When Robot is shut down he can hear Mrs. Potatohead talking, but he can’t talk back or even move, and eventually Mrs. Potatohead leaves Robot alone.

Robot is shut down for two hours and three minutes. Then Ankylosaurus comes into Robot’s Lego house. He doesn’t say anything at all. He does not have tears coming out of his eyes, but his face is sad.

Robot asks him if he is going to live with T-Rex.

“We’ll probably have to go stay with him on weekends or whatever. Well, if he doesn’t move away anyway. That’s what happens in a divorce. It’s called custody.”

“I don’t want to stay with him on the weekends,” Robot says. “I don’t want him to leave. I don’t like custody.”

“I don’t think we get a choice.”

This means robot will not be able to live in his Lego house with the red roof and the green walls and the blue door.

“It’s gonna be okay,” says Ankylosaurus. “Lots of kids have divorced parents, right? It’s not the end of the world.”

It seems like the end of the world to Robot. After Ankylosaurus leaves, Robot lasers the top of his Lego house until the red roof explodes. Then he lasers the door apart. Then he lasers the walls into bricks. Now there are 39 green Lego bricks and 16 red Lego bricks, and one blue door on the floor. There is no more Lego house.

He lasers all the cars off of the car shelf. The cars are in order by color from red to violet, but when he is done lasering them they are in the floor and all the colors are jumbled up, and the Dinoco Blue Lightning McQueen is touching the yellow Hot Wheels rocket car.

Robot flies down and sits in the jumble of cars and Lego. His circuits are jumbled up too, just like the colors.

Then there is a knock at the door and T-Rex comes back and he comes over and sits next to Robot in the pile of Lego.

T-Rex picks up the pieces and starts putting the Lego house back together.

“I wanted to tell you,” he says. “I wanted to try to explain, but…I guess I’m still not sure how much you understand. Because I can never tell what you’re thinking. Your face is always the same, and you never say very much. But I guess maybe you understand more than I thought.”

Robot says, “Don’t leave.”

T-Rex finishes re-building Robot’s house. But the blue door is facing the wrong way.

T-Rex says, “I’m sorry. It’s not something I can change. I screwed up some stuff really bad. Sometimes I want to blame your mom. Sometimes I want to blame…you. But really I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. I let all of you down. Sometimes you break something and you think you can fix it but you can’t. I can’t fix this, not back to the way it was. But I’ll do my best to make what’s left work for you and your brother, okay? I know change is hard for you, but I also know you’re a tough kid. We’ll get through this. We’ll all get through this. Somehow.”

Then Robot and T-Rex play Minecraft together.

T-Rex isn’t very good at building. He makes a big house out of raw andesite with a wooden door. There are five hundred and ten blocks of raw andesite.

Then Robot fills the house with TNT.

And T-Rex blows it all up.





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albertAlbert Berg: Albert was born in the swamps of Florida and quickly developed a gripping writing style by wrestling with crocodiles. It is said that he hypnotized five gators in a row by the age of nine with his melodic prose and infinite imagination. Albert is a true menace in the arena because of a steadfast ability to remain true to his roots of thoughtful contemplation despite the hurricanes that pass all through his state. You never know what you will get from Albert, be it sentient paper products or religious squirrels, but you do know that behind the flash there will be a well thought out story that will make you reflect on your own life.  Albert is the author of The Mulch Pile and A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw.

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  1. A lesson in “less is more” from Albert Berg.

    A couple of weeks ago, I asked Twitter why people didn’t comment the stories they read here, and one person responded that they didn’t feel qualified to do so.

    I know exactly how they feel.

    This is simple, the prose is spare and functional. It is completely effective. Al even caps it with an allegory in the last couple of lines. It’s as good as anything else I’ve seen here. If this doesn’t end up in the top 5 of the Bear Pit, there’s something wrong in the world.

  2. I liked this a lot. It was an inventive way of using the prompt to tell a simple story about changing family dynamics and the pain that comes along.

    I mentioned this elsewhere, but this was also one of those times where knowing Al, and being on his Twitter feed, changed my brain before I had read the story. Al tweeted a bit about writing this before it was out and his worries, and so I knew going in that it was going to be about an autistic child and would be aiming for my feels. I can’t know for certain if I would have gotten it without reading those tweets, but I’m pretty damned sure I would have. I also think that moment of “getting it” would have been more profound for me had I gone in blind.

    This is just another footnote to the never-ending debate Al and I have between art as moments you can only experience once because they take place in one moment in time and your life is constantly slipping forward, and art as saying “Wooo” when a giant shark bites into a submarine.

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