She orders two entrées, followed by pickles with ice-cream.
He lets out an electronic sigh. “Again? I tell you, if I could taste I sure wouldn’t get that.”
It’s the year 3000, when human-automata relationships are no longer taboo, no longer the subject of whispers or long glances in public. Science has opened new avenues of reproduction, and life in general is fulfilling and blithe. Optimistic, even! Though with that said, not all relationships are perfect.
“These cravings will only grow,” she states as she adjusts her bustle. It’s an item that’s recently come back in style, though she’s wearing it wrong. “Over the next 30 weeks or so.”
“And the volume!” he continues. “It’s like you’re ordering for two.”
“Well in a way I am.”
“How so?” he asks.
In reply she only smiles. Glows, really.
“Well you aren’t eating for me. My digestion tank’s nearly full. And it’s just a small, supplemental power source, anyway.”
Again she doesn’t answer. So he intones something about her personality changing “about eight weeks ago,” then goes silent.
The dessert is a while coming. A pregnant pause ensues. He dips the last, oven-fresh bun into the remaining spaghetti–it’s easier for his servos to handle if lubricated–and down the hatch it goes. She looks at him, sticks out her belly, and mentions how it would be fun to paint the spare bedroom; blue or pink, or maybe a nice glossy shade of neonatal gray. But he just keeps ingesting. The conversation contracts further. She talks about names. He asks if she’s thinking of changing hers. She rolls her eyes. He’s bored, so he turns his eyes off. She shakes her head, then snaps her fingers in front of his motion sensors and endeavors to breech the subject more directly.
“Honey, I’m with chi–”
“I wish they’d used Prego,” her husband interrupts. “It breaks down much easier than this house-made sauce.”
“Sweetie,” she tries again, “I’m in the family wa–“
He knocks on the table, then looks up. After getting the waiter’s attention he asks for the bill. Then he turns back to his wife. “What was that?”
“Darling, I’m late.”
“The only thing late is that dessert.”
“Sweetie, I’m in the pudding club.”
“Pudding? I thought you ordered ice-cream?”
“Bat in the cave?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The rabbit died!”
His square, yellow eyes blink rapidly.
Scanning her temperature. She checks out.
Then: “Honey, you operating OK? Because you’ve sure been acting weird. Tonight especially.”
She stares back with her brown eyes–a deep, rich color that surrounds round, full pupils. Her face speaks to kindness, good breeding, and maternal love. She forms a gravid smile, and conceives that being as literal as possible is best. Just until they can get his subtlety circuits upgraded, anyway! So she takes one of his metal hands in hers and formulates.
And in the end, she settles on the most simple, natural delivery–no more dilatory talk! And she’s sure this will do it, the three words that will make him understand that their two-unit family is about to change forever.
“Adamaton,” Ruth states, “I’m pregn–”
“Hey!” Adamaton shouts, heading off his wife once more. “Have you gained weight?”
She flings the silverware.
Ting! Ting! Ting! And as it bounces off Adamaton’s thick duranium skull she storms out.
Later, as Ruth sleeps alone in the bed, she thinks back on why she said “yes” to her future husband’s proposal. Marrying a robot was the best way to escape the social complexities that had always caused her angst. It had never been easy before, but was it any better now? Adamaton listens about as well as any of Ruth’s past partners, meaning he’s as perceptive as a toaster. And he’s certainly no better than the partners of Ruth’s various friends. Which is all to say, to Ruth’s constant sense of irritation–and ironically, to her occasional deep sense of surprise–Adamaton is proof that humans and machines really aren’t much different at all.
Jeffrey has recently had a flash piece published by The New York Times (“Gratitude in Six Words” Contest), Kaleidoscope, and The Drabble.