THROUGH THE SLATS of the sagging fence, the quiet white figure periodically appeared. Paying scant attention to the peanut butter sandwich in his hands, the boy took occasional obligatory nibbles as he watched. The exposed end of the banana which his mother had cut in half, already turning color, attracted ants toward the plate placed before him where he sat cross-legged on the lawn. He watched the white figure quietly go about its business, transferring large, heavy-looking bags from a pallet in the driveway into the structure adjacent to the garage. His mother kept an eye on him through the kitchen window. When he turned around to look at her, she waved at him and he waved back. Taking another little bite out of his sandwich, the boy returned his attention to the faceless figure next door.
The head was shaped like an upside-down teardrop, the bulk of the figure a dull uniform white. Smaller parts at the shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, knees, and ankles were dark. His mother called it a drone. The drone, she said, did not have a mind. "That's not a real man," she told him. "That's just someone else's machine."
The boy wished he had someone to play with. His mother said there used to be real people living all around. It used to be a neighborhood, she said. What exactly that meant, the boy did not quite understand. He was too young to remember.
He imagined riding on the back of the drone. He saw himself getting a shoulder ride. He could see himself standing on the shoulders of the drone, telling the drone what to do. Walking around the town, running through the woods.
When his mother came outside to take his plate, she saw that ants had taken over the half of a banana and the crust from the sandwich that the boy did not want.
"You can't leave your food like that for the ants to get," she said.
The boy's attention was fixed on the drone. "Mom, what is all that stuff he's moving?"
His mother frowned. "Potting soil," she said.
"What's that for?" he asked.
"It's for growing plants."
"What kind of plants?"
His mother paused. "Daisies," she said.
He watched while she brushed the ants off the plate and the banana. Peeling back the banana, she pulled away the discolored tip and gave him back the rest. "Don't waste food, sweetie," she said. "She if you can finish this."
The boy took a small, dutiful bite. "Can I have some juice?"
"I'm sorry, sweetie, we don't have any juice. I'll have to bring you out some water."
As his mother went into the house for the water, the boy wondered what it looked like inside the structure adjacent to the garage. He imagined a small drone his size. A quiet little boy with a blank white face. At first the small drone would be shy, but the boy would show the drone around the yard, and together they would be friends.
His mother returned with a glass of water. The boy took a sip and made a face. "It tastes bad," he said.
"I'm sorry," said his mother. "We don't have a new water filter yet."
Holding up the remainder of the banana, the boy said, "Can I be done?"
His mother sighed. "All right," she said. He handed it to her, and the rest of the water as well. She tossed it on a dry spot at the edge of the lawn. "Why don't you come inside and color?"
"Can I color outside?"
His mother looked next door. "All right," she said. "I'll bring out your coloring box. Then I have to get back to work."
The boy's mother kissed the top of his head. His hair was warm in the morning sun.
"I love you, sweetie."
"I love you too, Mom."
She looked back before going inside. "Don't get too close to the fence," she said.