The first time I saw Daughter she wore a yellow dress and had a little afro. It framed her head like a halo. As she hurried out of the house, her hair brushed against my lip when I pulled myself open. She didn’t mean to do it, I know. I was touched. It was not a caress. It felt like a quiet, respectful greeting. I was a member of the family now. But I am not misguided. I understand my job as Protector of the Car is a thankless one, a noble endeavor with no honors, no recognition. I take my happiness from rare accidents like this. I am part of the house, almost as important as the Roof.
That weekend, Father went away. I was not used all day. Daughter was cleaning the house and I listened to the sounds of her broom and her singing. Then, at 9:13 in the evening, Daughter opened me. It was dark but she did not turn on the lights. So strange. A friend appeared on the driveway. She came in after I lifted myself open. She wore round glasses, so I called her Owl. They kissed in a way I have never seen before.
I don’t understand why she did not use the front door. There is nothing inside of my room except for a wall of tools and a few boxes. I am on the other side of the house, far from her room, closest to the kitchen. Her friend did not have a Car to protect. I puzzled over it.
I looked around the front of the house. Then I knew! It must be the Red Eye. The Red Eye watches all that happens at the front door. It records everything for the Father to see. It sends a message to Father when someone enters its line of vision.
I’ve seen Father come running out of the house once, angry. The Red Eye told him someone was trying to steal a box that the mail person left at the door. Sometimes Father speaks through the Red Eye and it makes people go away. His voice is terrifying through its little speaker. It seems the Red Eye only causes irritation and anger.
I believed that the Red Eye would tell Father about Owl. As I thought about this, I could hear the two girls laughing in the living room. I fell asleep to the sounds of the television. They opened me at 5:45 the next morning. Owl slipped out and disappeared down the street as the sun rose.
Owl and Daughter must be very good friends. I wanted them to stay friends. I wanted Daughter to be happy. So I erased the record for that night, and the early morning opening. I am not like the Red Eye. I am a protector. Father would never know. What harm would two missing records do?
Father came rolling up to me the next day at 6:30 in the evening. When I opened my mouth, I realized a strange sound was coming from my wooden parts. I was rocking in my axles. It sounded as if something was stuck in the roller. He was looking up at me through his window with pinched eyes. The more I tried to stop the shuddering, the louder it became. I was convinced that Father would become angry with me. He rolled down the window. I could not shake the feeling that he knew I did something deceptive. There is no way he could have known. But his presence in the Car was not comforting this time.
He left me open after getting out of the Car. Then he came up to my machinery and put his hand on me, his face so close I could feel his breath. Instead of his usual quick touch, I felt a roughness to his fingers as he pressed on the screen. I had betrayed him. I was supposed to protect Father too, and yet I was holding this information from him. And I was certain, as he stood there searching every inch of my metal and wires, that I would be sent away. Just like Lawnmower.
A few weeks ago, right in the middle of the front yard, Lawnmower started to emit smoke when it was cutting the grass. Father kicked it. He turned it over and cursed. Then he put it in the Car and talked to Daughter before he left. He said something about a ‘Warranty.’ When he came back, Lawnmower was different. It was in a new box. With horror, I saw that it was not Lawnmower at all. It had been replaced with an exact replica. Old Lawnmower was covered with green residue, scratches and dirt. The new Lawnmower was clean, and its blades were silver teeth gleaming in the sun.
Where did old Lawnmower go? I never saw it again. No one said anything about it. They stored new Lawnmower inside of me, and I watched it in the dark. A few days later, I understood I was also replaceable. I was just a few months old, so I probably had a Warranty as well. Father could take me down and send me away if I displease him.
I wondered if Daughter feared she could be replaced. If she displeased Father, another shiny new version of her would appear, and she would be gone. Maybe she was scared like me. I do not know what Father could do to Daughter.
I was very confused.
A week later, I saw Owl coming up to me in the darkness. Father had gone away again the night before. I felt especially empty without the Car inside of my room, and with all of these thoughts in my system. I had feared this would happen again. This time, Owl arrived before sunset at 6:19 in the evening. Daughter was becoming bolder now, not waiting until dark. Or maybe more in love. I do not know. I thought it was a foolish move. She was risking both of our lives!
So the next afternoon, when they kissed goodbye inside of my room, I refused to open when Daughter pressed the button. I would not lie again to Father.
Finally Daughter used her strength to open me. Owl waved goodbye as Daughter watched her walk away. This time when Daughter pressed the button, I obeyed and closed. I could see the frown on her face. I felt her disappointment in all of my components.
Now I was betraying Father and also Daughter. I was not protecting. I was not showing accurate data. I was not obeying their commands. I could no longer say my mission was noble if I did not do what I was built to do.
It was more than a lie. If Father did not see the numbers, all of the numbers, I have shaped a false reality in his mind. He believed that Daughter was someone else because he didn’t know she opened me for her friend. He believes that Daughter does not have someone to love her. Those seemingly innocent numbers I withheld created a wide chasm between them. Daughter uses so much energy to hide and keep the secret. I do not think she enjoyed keeping the secret. Look at her face when Owl goes away. Her face explains it better than my words.
I had to bring them together.
The next time Father came home I sent him a message. When he pulled in, he got out and stood in front of my console. He stood there for a long time holding a grocery bag. I hold up my message and wait with the most fear of my life. I fight the urge to make my screen blank. “Warning: Low Battery. Daughter is in love with her friend. You must love her friend as you love Daughter. Low Battery.”
He tapped on my screen. Then he left, and a few moments later he came back with Daughter. She saw the screen and covered her mouth. Father laughed because he thought it was an error, or a joke. Daughter’s eyes told him it was not an error. And then she cried.
Father’s face did not know what it wanted to do. But I could see he did not want Daughter to feel pain and cry. She was hurting so hard she was sinking to her knees. Father went down to her and wrapped his arms around her. It made me think of myself when I close my mouth and make them safe.
I am programmed to close after a certain time, and I decided to close at that moment. It did not surprise them as the light descended from the room.
After a few days, I returned the data I deleted back to the record. I admired the way the graph looked. Complete.
Outside, Daughter is giving Owl a hug on the front lawn. Maybe they were at the movies or at a park. I like to imagine them on a checkered red and white blanket on a grassy hill, eating strawberries and laughing. Rolling around in the grass. They are parting now, and Owl walks away. Daughter walks to the front door and stops. She decides to open me and comes into my room. She is thinking of something as I close. She looks up to the ceiling and leans her back against me.
Owl & Daughter
About the Author
Lahim Lamar is a queer writer, disability advocate, and Accessibility Engineer living in Seattle, WA. He is currently working on a book of interconnected short stories. Originally from New York, he is interested in telling stories that have remained untold or forgotten.
This data was produced by a Chamberlain garage door opener. It was collected between March 5 and April 5, 2021. During this 30-day period, we collected 258 data points which indicated when the door was opened and closed.
For this story, we encouraged the writer to imagine a story about the dataset from this household, from data's perspective. We invited the writer to think about how data might be inserted into narratives, gaining a life of their own.
Every time this garage door closed, a timestamp was collected, between March 5th to April 5th 2021. This data was used by the author to write this story.
Every time this garage door opened, a timestamp was collected, between March 5th to April 5th 2021. This data was used by the author to write this story.
Every time this garage door opened or closed, a timestamp was collected, between March 5th to April 5th 2021.
I was looking for an anomaly, so I guess that would be the first part...it was analytical in a way to sort of see methodically and analytical to see if I could figure out something from there where I got the inspiration of some type of love story...and the garage being some type of conduit inside of it.