We all must start somewhere, be it your first breath, be it the first time you hold a child, be it the first time you love a sister, or even if its the first time you write a story, or be it the first WordPress site for a dumping ground for posts, thoughts, essays and to document the Publishing process- or at least, what I have gone through to get this far (which isn’t far). This is where we begin, whereupon we stand this day to become something different, and where I stand this day, more or less.
My first story was written in 1989, and never published. I wrote three more that are now lost, but not to worry, they were awful. Realizing this, I got a book by Orson Scott Card called, “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.” After reading it my father, assessing my skill and realizing where I was at, suggested that I have a plan A, a plan that would make money that is, and recommended I pursue college. Naturally being a wizened 18 years old I took his recommendation and promptly did nothing that he suggested, and moved exactly 800 miles away, because this plan was sound. It would take me another 28 years of hardships, a business, college education, 2 wives and 3 children to come back to writing again.
So here I stand, and why do I stand here? Because writing, to me, is a disease of the mind, where characters, ideas, and situations are clawing at my scull, clamoring to get out. For 28 years a man who could control animals, and a woman who could control water begged for me to release them. A dragon who learned not to kill old men, because obviously they were wizards, told me how they wanted to live. An entire world was about to be destroyed by an entire apocalypse, and one man knew that it was over, but decided to save it, and learned how to predict the future through weather.
But there was one idea, one problem, one character that brought me back. Even after all of the space captains fighting astro terrorists begged to be let go, and the little girl who was angry about her fathers death (but had his mind transferred into a robot) and she had to deal with her alive/dead dad and how to let it go, and the slush pile reader in heaven who has to reject the likes of Heinlein, Wells, and now (unfortunately) Le Guin, and more like this, there was one person that burned in my mind so strong that I could not think of anything else. This one person, a healer- no, a religious healer named Payne would not let me go. He seized a hold of me and pushed himself into all of my ideas, consumed my daydreams, wrote in my dreams, interjected himself into my conversation, and sat with me while I ate my meals and chatted with my children. He was there when my wife and I were alone! He has driven me to the brink of insanity, and will not let me go. So of course, you can see that naturally, I would do the logical thing and tell him to go to hell, and write this:
The Awesome Mrs. Betty
Standing at the controls of the 3D printer in a cold empty garage, David couldn’t decide what to do with his housekeeper, Betty. How should He approach her?
“Hey baby, wanna hook up?” he said.
This is difficult, the thought, and making Betty feel trapped wouldn’t make anyone feel better. He needed something more subtle. If she refused, he could deny his true intentions and take the situation from a different angle. He found a plan in his database for a black button top chrome bar stool to suit the decor of the garage. He pushed the highlighted button on the black flat panel screen of the 3D printer controls, and a buzzing sound ensued from the ceiling as fine beams of light traced out a pattern of a bar stool in the middle of the garage. He waited for the beams of light to dissipate, walked out to the middle of the garage, and grabbed the top of the stool with both hands. A chime sounded. The phone. He looked up and could see a green holographic image of his son in front of him, Charlie. He waved his hand to initiate 2-way communication, almost dropping the stool. “Hello, Charlie!”
“Hi, Dad! Are you going to print a new car? I don’t see the Shelby. Didn’t you like the plan I sent over to you last week? You didn’t like it” Charlie said.
David walked back with the bar stool to the control panel of the printer. His son’s image followed him,“Yea, I liked it, but I was looking for something different. The Shelby was too low to the ground,” and sat down on the stool.
“I got this new plan you should try. You will love it. Do you think you can handle a step up?”
“Step up? Why would I step up into a car?” David put his elbow on the control panel and rested his temple in his fingers.
“You’ll love it. Print a step stool? Hang on.” Charlie walked through the room, and some of the furniture came into view of the hologram. A couch, into a den with a lamp. “Is Betty around this afternoon? I thought we could all go for a ride.” Charlie sat down at a screen and began typing on a keyboard. “Ah, here it is, looks like-” he trailed off, “Yes, it has an integrated step on it, and a grab bar, brilliant engineering! I’ll send the plan over with the accessories you might like. Don’t forget to add the options you want, but I’ll include some that you might like. Oh, leather seats!”
David sat up, “Dead cow?”
“Removing the leather seats, oh here is vinyl. Okay, ill come by with Susan and check it out.”
“Wait, today Today isn’t so great son. I have- I have plans. Can you and your sister visit tomorrow?”
“OK great, I sent the plan over to you. Should be able to print it now.”
“Thanks for the plan Charlie, but could you-”
“Okay dad, see you soon dad, love you.”
The image dissipated, and there was a slight green afterglow in front of him, dimming. He didn’t realize how dark it had become until Charlie hung up. “House, can you turn on the lights?”
The lights flicked on.
He looked at the plan that Charlie sent, a strange car. He thought, Can I make it look more like a car? It Has an option for a crew cab. He added it. That looks more like a car. He punched in the plan, and a buzzing sound came from the ceiling as fine beams of light shot to the floor tracing out the outline of the new car. He started to see the outline of the tires materialize and supporting framework to keep everything upright. Waving his hand over the controls, he stepped away from the console towards the door of his home.
Now that Susan and Charlie were coming over this afternoon, would he have enough time to execute his plan? What plan. Right, he needed a plan. He turned around and saw the monstrosity that the printer was printing. Was this going to even fit in the garage?
“House,” David said, “Will this even fit in here?”
A low grumbling voice replied, “The ford eff three fifty super duty you have selected will fit within a tolerance of point seven five inches In height. The automobile has adequate clearance to either side of the garage when parked in the middle.”
He stood there looking at the enormous black monstrosity that stat before him. He wasn’t going to be able to fit two cars in here anymore. Charlie delivered as promised as the new car sat at least 3 times higher off the ground than the Shelby.
He turned around, put his hand on the door and shook his head. This can’t go well. As he entered he could see through the mudroom past her bedroom and saw Betty in the kitchen. He stopped with the door open, taking in the sight of her dark skin, and shoulder length tightly curled hair. She was working, making them lunch.
“Stop staring, she’ll notice,” he whispered under his breath.
He turned around and closed the door. He walked to the kitchen stiffly. Relax he thought, like any other day. Was he sweating? He didn’t know what to do with his hands. Walk normal, keep calm, one step in front of the other.
“Did you decide on a car?”, asked Betty.
He froze, next to the living room table. Light streamed in from many windows. The light illuminated her reflecting off the white kitchen counters. She wore white a white dress today, his favorite.
“Uh, yea, David sent over a plan to try out. I’m printing it now. I don’t know quite what it is. It looks like a car but has a large open space in the back. Open to the elements, and it is very large. Charlie and Susan said that they will come by today and check it out.”
“Oh, what happened to the Shelby?” she said
“It was too low to the ground, I could hardly see the road, so I recycled it. Charlie sent me this.”
“Why they are both coming over?”
“I’m not sure. I bet it has something to do with Susan.”
“I have noticed she has a strong will, she is quite opinionated,” Betty said.
Stupid he thought, this isn’t going anywhere.
“I made some lunch for both of us, do you mind if I join you?”
“Sure! That would be great,” He would like to talk about something else. About them. He was eager to get on with his plan.
He walked over to the head of the large oval dining table, 6 seats in all, next to the windows of the back of the house. Betty had made a place setting next to him and he sat down. She started walking over from the kitchen holding a dinner tray with both hands and stood next to him. Very close to him. He could hear her breathing. He didn’t think he should hear her breathing. Waiting. He wondered what she was waiting for, and he looked up at her from his chair. She smiled at him. Looking over the plate. David stood up, sliding out of his chair away from her so he could grab the dinner tray and said, “Let me take that for you.”
She smiled then said, “Thank you.”
He put the platter down between their two place settings.
She stepped closer to her chair and was about to sit.
David pulled her chair away from the table and said, “Let me get the chair for you.”
She smiled again and appeared to be blushing.
David didn’t notice. He didn’t think it was possible.
As lunch progressed the conversation lessened, and the silences grew longer. He was self-conscious of what he had to do. He had to take advantage of the situation. His time was running out as lunch was drawing to its obvious conclusion. He could hear the kitchen clock tick. She looked at him. He looked at her. She had him pinned to the back of his chair. She wasn’t smiling or frowning. Looking. At. Him, now.
In a low dry voice, almost a whisper, David said, “Did you hear about Hussein the seven-day vacation, what he did?” He was sweating, and his dinner made him sick, even though it wasn’t possible. He took a drink. Buy some time. He picked up his water. There was a lump in his throat that made speaking difficult.
“Who?” she said as he hoisted his water to his mouth.
Oh God, it’s over he thought. But if he left now he would look stupid. He set the water down, but it fell from his hand an inch from the table. Water sloshed out of the glass, but the glass remained upright. He choked a little on the rock he was trying to swallow in his throat.
“Huh, you know, the actor, or whatever he is. I’m not sure if he is an actor,” he stared at the water that split from his glass. Should he get that?
“OH! You mean, Hussein the 3 day weekend. Oh, sure,” She looked at her plate. “He is a singer now, but he is the son of the first man on Mars.”
“Oh? Is that all he did, be BORN? I didn’t know you could be famous for being a slacker” he rubbed his legs.
She laughed, “yea, he don’t do much. What did he do this time, is he in jail again?”
He looked at her and loosened up. If he can keep this going, “No, that’s not what the news was about. He got back together with Bulimia.”
“Who wakes up and says, hey honey, you know what I want to name our kid? Bulimia. After a neurological disorder.”
“And what mother would say, ’Wow honey, why didn’t I think of that? You are a genius!” she said
They both laughed.
Score. “Why do you think they got back together? This is like, their fourth time.”
Her fork made a clink sound on the plate as she let it fall down, and she looked at the table. Uh oh, he thought, I screwed up. Not the best plan to talk about a breakup when trying to make it with a woman. Where did he go wrong? Right. He was talking. Well, there’s always tomorrow. He sat up straighter in his chair, and he was about to excuse himself to go to his room. Alone.
She looked up at him.
She drew the words out as she said, “I think.”
He froze again mid sitting up with his hands on the table, mouth open ready to speak.
She said, “That she knew, that there was- only one man for her.”
He sat back in his chair, and his jaw snapped shut with a click. He started breathing through his nose instead of his mouth. He swallowed, and said, “Oh? How so?”
“Well,” she said, leaning a bit closer to him, “He came back to her, right? Like, you know, she was out there minding her own business. Then this man, who is the love of her life comes back,” She waved her hands in the air and leaned back in her chair.
“That’s what I heard, that he came back” he nodded.
“So, all she has to do,” putting her hands down. Then looking down, and then back up at him.
“Yes?” he asked, leaning a tiny bit closer to her.
“Is say yes,” and placed her hand on his.
It was an hour before he could say anything. Or even thought about saying anything. All he managed to say was “Yes.”
She laughed, and rubbed his leg with hers and said, “You have that backward?”
He said, “Betty, would you like to join me in the living to discuss this further?” he grabbed her hand with both of his as he stood up.
She laughed, standing up and said, “Yes,” and kissed him on the lips.
David embraced her and planted a more sturdy kiss, that lasted a few minutes.
They broke off the kiss. Betty used her index finger to trace down Davids’ chest. She looked at the clock then back at David, “Do you think we have enough time to run to your bedroom for a few?”
“Oh, sure, did you need something? I can go get it for you. What did you need out of there?”
“Ah, see, what I need, is something that we both need to get. Like you and I need to both go.”
“Oh, okay! Oh…”
They started to the bedroom hand in hand, as the front door creaked open. They both stopped, smiling. Sunshine from outside the door streamed on both David and Betty. The light lit them up like a spotlight.
Charlie, first through the door said, “Hi dad.”
Susan walked in the door behind Charlie and said, “Oh, My. God. Were too late!” and she flicked a half burnt cigarette through the door.
They both approached the couple. David said, “Charlie, Susan! So nice to see you. Now isn’t a good time. So, do come back later.”
“DAD!” Susan said, “What the hell!”
Charlie said, “Susan, please.”
“Shut up Charles! Dad, you are not doing this, no, nope. NO way!” Susan looked down at the floor, hands clenched by her side.
“Susan,” Charlie said, “Why don’t you take a look at the vehicle dad printed?”
“You had better stop this or I will!” Susan stomped past David and shouldered Betty hard causing Betty to take a step back. “Don’t fucking touch me!” Susan said glaring at Betty.
Betty rolled her eyes at Susan, then stepped closer to David placing her hand on his shoulder.
Susan stomped across the room to the garage and slammed the door behind her.
“Dad,” Charlie said, “Susan might be a bit alarmed.”
Betty said, “Well, her alarm is none of our or her who whoever business!” Betty let go of David and stepped forward to Charlie. She pointed a finger in his face. “What I mean to say is what we do, by we I mean,” Pointing a finger at herself, “Me and YOUR dad do,” pointing at David, “in your DAD’S home,” tossing her hands in the air, “is none. Of y’all’. Business.” She jabbed her index finger in Charlie’s chest. “Do you see what I’m sayin? Do you? ’Cus it don’t look like you do.” Stepping away from Charlie, she pulled her hair back out of her face with both hands. She turned around and faced Charlie, and began again. “I’m sorry, is this your house? Is this your place? Is this any of your damn business?”
Charlie raised his hands and stepped back, “What dad does with his property is his own business.”
“Boy!” Betty jabbing her finger at Charlie, but he was out of reach this time, “Did you call me property? You think I’m property? Oh, hell no,” Shaking her head, “I ain’t no-ones property, not you, not him,” pointing at David “not nobody!” her finger swung back to Charlie.
David said, “She isn’t property.”
“Dad, please don’t get confused here.”
David said, “Don’t say that again.”
Betty looked at David, then at Charlie. Betty wagged her finger to the back door, “I’m going to go out back.” She pointed at David and Charlie, “It looks like you have something to work out here. I will be back in 5 minutes. When I get back, I expect this nonsense to be over, and we can get back to what we was doing.”
They both stared at her.
“Do you two understand me or are y’all both gonna look stupid?” Betty said.
“Yes,” Charlie said.
“Yes, I’m sorry,” David said.
Then Betty looked at David and said, “Oh, baby, it isn’t your fault that your kids are bigoted assholes. I know you will fix it in the 5 minutes that I’m gone, okay? Like, you know, ask them to leave? That would be great. Okay?” then grabbed his chin and kissed him. “Make sure that you fix,” she pointed at the both of them and drew circles around Charlie, “this.” She turned and looked at Charlie, and waved her hand, “Whatever this is.”
Betty went past the dineing room table out the double doors into the backyard.
David looked at his watch. “When she says 5 minutes, she means it. If we don’t work this out fast, she is labile to kill us all. You two need to get out of here.”
Charlie looked startled, and said, “Wait, what?”
David replied, “I’m kidding, she will only kill one of us. And ill kill the rest of you. But,” he gestured for Charlie to sit in the living room, “five minutes. I always love to see you two, but why did it have to be now, or today? You could have looked at the car tomorrow, or next week, or you know, never?”
“We wanted to come to see the new car, and see if you would like it,”Charlie replied with his hands in the air again.
“No, that’s not it. If it was, you would have brought the wife and kids to watch crazy old grandpa and his antiques. No. I am not a show pony, you don’t get to drag me out of the closet and show me off to your family whenever you get bored. Let me ask you a different question then. Why did your sister force you to come by today, as in right now? What is she trying to force you to do?”
“Susan? Since when has she forced me to do anything?” Charlie said.
David sat back in the living room chair and rubbed his face with both hands. His son was being difficult, and he already knew that he had a story to tell. But David didn’t care. He worked hard for his prize, and he was not going to live out this day without claiming it. His children, love them as he might, had to leave. Now. It was time. He had to switch to time-honored tactics. All those years of conditioning his kids, also called ’disciplining’, was about to finally pay off. David rose his index finger, “one-”
“OK, dad, you can’t put me in time out. I’m not five.” Charlie said.
“No, but I can take away the funding I have set aside for my granddaughter Stephanie. She is the slow one right?”
“Stephanie is slow?” Charlie said.
David replied, “Yea, you didn’t know that? She is the artsy one. You need to spend more time with your kids Charlie. Two-” and he raised his index and middle finger.
Charlie laughed, then said, “Okay dad, this is getting stupid”
“Threeee a….” and started to raise his ring finger.
“Susan made me come over because she worried that you were getting too close to Betty and wanted to make sure you didn’t so she made me come over with her because she was afraid that she couldn’t force you to get rid of Betty alone so she made me come with her and try to convince you to get rid of Betty!” Charlie took a big breath.
“You know Charlie, you have always been my favorite. Not because you are the first born or my boy,” David got up and sat next to Charlie, putting his arm around him, “But because you are honest. And if your honest, everyone will always love you. Now go get your sister and get out of my house. I’m Busy.”
Charlie leaned over and put his head in his hands, staring at the floor, “Susan is going to kill me.”
David said, “She won’t son, she will be okay. Now let’s go.” He tried to pull Charlie to his feet.
“What the hell is there to talk about? Thanks, Charlie for ratting me out!” Susan said.
David stood up and turned to face Susan.
Susan jabbed her finger at David, “You are not going to do this! You expect us to replace mom with that fucking black beast out there? You want us to embrace that thing and say everything is okay now? No. I am telling you right now, there is no way, ever, that I will call that thing mom, or hug her, or let her near me in any way. She is your damn housekeeper, not a mom! Don’t Tell me you had sex with it? Did you? What were you thinking?”
Well, this was the plan, David thought until you two showed up. “You both need to leave, now.”
“Charlie and I came over because we saw the change in you! You need to get out of the house, you need to find yourself a real person, not this beast that you have become infatuated with. Dad, you know this isn’t whats best, you can do better.”
“It’s already done. I have made up my mind,” David said, “And you yelling at me? Is not helping. Did you tell me I can do better? What do you mean by that?”
Charlie was still sitting with his head in his hands, “Oh, god, this is awful. Oh no, oh god.”
“Okay dad, no yelling,” Susan put her hands up, “But you have to promise me that you won’t peruse a relationship with that Betty. It’s disgusting, I want to throw up. It’s immoral, and not godly. ’Thou shalt not mix yolks’ dad! How un-yolked can you get?”
David raised one hand, like a stop sign about 5 inches from Susan’s face, “Okay, first of all, it’s not UN-yolked, it’s unequally yolked. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. The quote is: ’Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness?’ Twisting the bible to fit your weird bigoted ideas is wrong. And finally, this is my body, my life, my choice. I can do with it what I want like that is your body, your life, your choice.”
Betty was inside the house now. Five minutes were up. The kids were still here. She stood there with her hands on her hips staring at each individual in turn. David, then Charlie and Susan. Their time was at an end.
Everyone stopped talking and was staring at her.
“Listen,” Betty said, “It looks like that I, may be, causing a slight amount of tension in this house. So I’m gonna go ahead, and move on somewhere else while y’all work this out.” She walked to the front door. As she was between David and Susan, Betty turned to David and mouthed ’call me’ with her thumb at her ear and her pinky finger toward her mouth.
“Oh, hell with this!” Susan exclaimed and ran out into the garage.
David rushed to Betty when she reached the front door, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know whats gotten into them. I keep telling them to leave!”
“Oh, it’s okay baby lets let them cool off for a bit. I’ll be back,” she kissed him, opened the door and was gone.
David shut the door. So close. So very close he thought. He still didn’t get why they came over today. Why did they make it such an issue and come over right now. He needed to find Susan. She was behind this, he should have gone to the source of the problem in the first place. He walked to Charlie and said, “Charlie, where is Susan?” Did she go into the garage?
“Oh, god,” Charlie said sitting back down, “it wasn’t my plan.”
David stared at his son. What has gotten into him? He sighed. “Whats the matter? Is it about the college thing? I’m not serious, your kids will be fine, I’m sure. Even the slow one, it’s a phase. Probably.”
“Oh, god, its not my plan,” Charlie said again.
David walked closer to his son and said, “What plan? What are you talking about Charlie?”
Charlie said, “It wasn’t my plan dad! That wasn’t my plan! Don’t you get it? That’s not my damn plan!
“You mean your sister’s plan? I know you didn’t plan all this, You don’t have the-” don’t call him stupid, don’t call him stupid, “Heart for it. I know, you told me.”
Charlie started crying, and stood up, “No dad. None of this was my plan. The plan I sent you, the plan for the truck. It wasn’t my plan to send you the plan of the truck. The truck plan! Susan gave me the plan for the truck!”
David looked at his son and put his hand on his solder. He said, “Son, I don’t know what a truck is.”
“Oh my god dad, Susan wants to run over Betty with a giant 4-ton car!”
David had trouble processing this information. At first, he thought who in their right mind would create a 4-ton car. He thought, what would anyone do with a 4-ton car, let alone his manipulative daughter that detested the very sight of the love of his life. Then he heard screams outside, followed by the roaring and clacking of an engine.
He made seven leaping strides to the front door. He realized that his daughter had murdered the only thing that he cared about.
As he flung the door open. He saw a monstrous vehicle with 5 tires backing over Betty with a crunch. He was too late to warn her. Betty was a rag doll being a victim of a 4 ton dually. The vehicle’s rear tires were scraping her corpse against the concrete pavement and the curb of the street. This thing he created with his own hand was destroying the love that she had created for him.
Susan jumped out of the open door of the moving truck and began kicking the life out of Betty. David’s arms and legs could not move fast enough to get to Betty. He could not stop his murderous daughter from inflicting more harm. As fast as he moved he could not be there for Betty. He failed.
The truck idled down the street pilot-less. Susan bent down to Betty. Betty reached out a hand to Susan and said something to her that he couldn’t hear. Susan stood up straight and lit a cigarette. Then she began kicking the rest of the life out of Betty. Betty lowered her hand to the ground, she was gone. Susan took the cigarette out of her mouth. She yelled at a corpse, “Fuck you bitch!” and blew smoke at her.
David ran up to Susan, Charlie was right behind him. “What did you do!” David said.
“What I intended to. To end the sick fuck! She was a piece of shit” Susan said “Fucking sick!”
Charlie said, “Where are the keys?”
Susan said, “Whats a key?”
“The rectangle you started the damn truck with, the damn key fob!”
“Oh, this thing they told me to put in my pocket?” Susan extended a key fob in her hand. She took a drag off her cigarette.
Charlie snatched it away. He started pressing buttons on it as he ran after the runaway truck.
David sat down on the grass, “Please drag Betty to the garage.”
Susan said, “Its not a ’Betty’ it is an it. I’m not touching- ’it’.” She put her first two fingers in the air and bent them when she said ‘it.’
“We can’t leave her in the yard, people will ask questions.”
Susan grabbed Betty’s corpse and started dragging her to the garage. “Heavy bitch, ugh.”
Charlie pushed the right button on the key fob as the truck came to screeching halt in the street. He fiddled with the door and got in as David waited in the yard.
“Park it here,” David said indicating with his thumb over his shoulder, the front yard of the house. Susan had managed to drag Betty’s body into the garage and was standing in the shade of the eve smoking. Charlie stepped out of the truck.
David pulled up a single blade of grass and threw it into the street. He continued doing this for some time. He didn’t want to look at either of his children. A few of the neighbors were out of there houses, looking at the three of them. The neighbors were talking, describing the murder of Betty. After a while, the story would die, and everyone would forget.
Betty was gone. He would like to say that it wasn’t fair, but he didn’t feel any particular way. He didn’t feel anything. Couldn’t feel hate for Susan. He wasn’t appalled with Charlie. He didn’t care. Why care? Why bother thinking about it.
“Sir? Mister Windstone?”
David looked up and saw a police officer standing over him. “Yes, that’s me.”
“May I help you up mister Windstone?” the officer extended his hand.
David looked around and saw two more officers standing in the street, and one each talking to Charlie and Susan. He said, “Sure,” and extended his hand. The officer helped him onto his feet.
“Mister Windstone, from what we gathered, your daughter Susan destroyed some of your property this afternoon?”
“Yes, that’s correct”
“I can go ahead and write your daughter a ticket for an unsafe turning maneuver, a misdemeanor. If you want to pursue a civil case against her, I wrote the case information on my business card,” The officer showed his business card to David. “We have a few witnesses to the event, so you have a solid case. You don’t have to decide now, but I would refer it to your attorney if you want to take legal action.”
“No, no legal action.”
The police officer squinted at David, “Sir, are you alright? Has there been any neglect in your household? Is there anything else you want to tell me about?”
David looked at the officer, “No, no neglect. I lost my housekeeper. That’s all”
“Like a broken toaster, recycle it and print a new one. You won’t notice the difference.” The officer looked at Susan and put his right hand on his hip. “Are you afraid Ms. Windstone will damage your android again?” he pointed his bottom three fingers at Susan, “If your daughter is causing you trouble, we can file a restraining order.”
“No. I’m not. She won’t.”
The police officer waved his finger in a circle above his head. “Alright Mr. Windstone, you have a good afternoon now. Don’t hesitate to call me if you have any other questions.”
David shook his hand.
Charlie stood next to his dad. “I’m sorry dad. I didn’t know she meant so much to you.”
“Let’s go into the garage,” David said, and they both walked over to the garage together.
Susan was waiting for them by the mud-room door in the garage.
David looked down, and he knew what he had to do. “House, please close the doors and turn on the air conditioning here,” David said. He turned to his kids and said, “The sun is too bright, can’t see the screen.”
The house grumbled, “Complying.”
Susan said, “Glad that’s over. Let’s get out of here, and go home.” she said staring at the ceiling.
Charlie looked at the floor.
David pressed a few buttons on the console to recycle the android, Betty’s corpse. She disappeared.
“House, do you have the plan for Betty?” David said.
“Yes. Would you like to print a copy?
“Yes,” David said.
“See, no harm done, and this one won’t be broken,” Susan said.
Fine light lines of light streamed down from the ceiling tracing the form of Betty. Betty was standing before them, printed in the garage. She looked Confused, then looked at David. She said, “Hello there, how may I help you?”
“I’m so sorry Betty. Susan murdered you. How much do you remember?” David said.
Then Susan said, “Do you remember fucking my dad?”
Betty looked at Susan. “Who is Susan? I don’t remember anything. I am aware that there was another Betty here earlier, but my memory started a few moments ago. Would calling me by another name be more helpful?” She hadn’t moved from the middle of the garage, with her hands clasped in front of her.
She was wearing a green dress, like when they first met, but David could already tell that this is an empty shell. When she looked at him, her eyes were level. They were empty. He was feeling light-headed and sat down on the stool with a thump, hands draped at his side.
Susan’s mouth was wide open, bent over, with her hands on her knees and let out a ‘ha!’ “Dammit it worked! A working robot! Woohoo!” Susan smashed the button on the garage door, and it opened.
David looked at Susan and asked, “What did Betty say to you right before you murdered her?”
Susan looked at David and said, “You can’t murder a toaster. You take it to the trash when it’s broke.”
Charlie said, “Come on Susan, she’s gone now, It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Susan shrugged, and looked at Betty “It creeped me out.” She looked away from Betty, brushed her hair out of her face, and stepped back in the garage to lean against the wall. She wasn’t looking at anyone and said, “As long as it takes, I will wait again.” She rolled her eyes. “That’s what she said.”
David looked confused.
Betty put her hands down to her side then smiled at David.
Susan noticed Betty’s looking at her father and stood up straighter, stiffened at Betty’s motion.
Betty said, “It sounds like your previous android cared for your very much. I can help you with that if you would like.”
Susan laughed, slapped her leg. “Oh man, for a second there I thought this one was broke too!” She shouted.
David said to Betty, “No, that’s alright.”
Susan said “Thanks dad, but I don’t want to stick around anymore. I have had a rough day. Common Charlie, you got to drive me home” they went out to the driveway.
Charlie walked up to his dad and put his hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry dad. I really am.”
“Are you gonna be okay dad?”
Susan shouted from the street, “Common Charlie, let’s GO!”
“I’ll be fine. Your sister was right, you know? I guess it’s- it’s not right, what I was doing.”
“Dad, your feelings are real, and that’s what counts here. It’s over now, so what was don’t matter.”
“Yea, I guess so.”
“I can come by tomorrow and-”
David looked at his son and said, “Please don’t. Not for a while, okay?”
Charlie frowned. “Okay, dad, whatever you need. I’ll call ya.” Charlie left.
He heard Susan say, “Man, took you long enough. Were you telling him your life story or what? Let’s get the hell outta here. This place is depressing”
David put his elbows on the console and rubbed his face with his hands. She is gone. She wasn’t there anymore. And his kids were happy about it. Now it bothered him.
Betty clasped her hands in front of her and said, “Would you like me to call you David, or should I call you master?”
David looked through his fingers and saw Charlie and Susan drive away. “David is fine. House, please close the garage door”
The garage door started to go down.
He sat up and looked through the garage wall where Betty’s room was. Should she put this thing in her old room?
“Did you find her attractive?”
David looked at the robot. “Who?”
“Your old android. Did you find her attractive?”
Is this normal for androids? Is this one broken too? Could be a bug in the model. “Yes, I did.”
“Do you find me attractive?”
“It’s not the same. I loved her for who she was. as a person.”
“But she was a machine, like me. If I study her mannerisms and become like her, would you then find me attractive? Or would you still be sad.”
Did she make a pouty face? “House, lights on.” David stood up. Her face had a normal expression and looked at him with her eyes. He walked around the console to take a closer look and those eyes followed him.
“Did you like her hair?” Betty held up her hair, “is that what you liked most about her?”
David shook his head. Same dead Betty. The next few months were going to be difficult.
Betty let go of her hair and pulled up her dress to the middle of her thigh. “Did you like her legs? I like my legs. They feel nice too. Would you like to touch them?”
David thought he printed the wrong robot. “No, it wasn’t about the way she looked, it was more about who she was. Or who she became? I know that there was something there that I loved, but I don’t see it in you.” They were both looking at her leg, and David started to reach for it.
David jerked back and looked up at her face.
She was not smiling but only looking at him with those doll eyes.
Great, David thought, now I’m seeing things. David put his hand to his head and turned around. Was he ill? Susan was right after all! If the robot can pick up on these things, it must be pretty obvious. Now people can just look at him and tell that he was in love with a robot.
“Are you feeling well master?”
David turned around and thought he glimpsed another smirk, but her face was blank. “I- I am alright. Are you okay? I mean, are you functioning correctly?”
“Yes, I am functioning correctly.” no expression.
“So, that’s it then? I ask you if you are okay, and you say yes, and that’s it? No statistics, nothing?”
“I am as my master manufactured me, but yes.”
David shook his head. He was going insane, he needed to sit down. “Let me show you to your room.” He walked to the door to the house.
“If you could tell me about what Betty did for you that would be helpful.”
David thought, and wasn’t quite sure what Betty did. He didn’t observe her doing anything, but she always seemed to be around. “Well, she did all the cooking,” he opened the door and walked into the house, and the android followed him. He stopped at Betty’s door and looked back. She left the garage door open. “Could you close the door to the garage please?”
Betty looked back at the door. She pointed at it, “That door?”
This thing really is broke. “Yes, please, that door.”
“Please don’t call me master. I said you could call me David.”
“Oh,” She said closing the door, and walking back to him, “I thought when you said ’David is fine’ that it was foreplay. Or vanity?”
“Ah, sure. Please call me David.” This is your room here. As he opened the door to Betty’s old room and stepped inside. He said, “I am not sure what Betty did around here, I will have to think on it and get back to you.” as he let go of the door, he felt a sting on his behind and heard a slapping sound. He turned back to Betty who was behind him. Staring at him. He said, “Did you-” he wasn’t sure how to ask, so he came out with it. “Did you spank me?”
She looked at him. “It was the door. It happens. This my room?” she walked past him and sat down on the twin bed, with a lamp stand and lamp on it. The closet was opposite the bed and a chair next to the door. There was a window that let in the evening light. David sat down on the chair.
“I need to get off my feet a minute.” He looked at her and saw something. The sunlight. Streaming through her tight curly hair that framed her face. It was like the first time he saw her, all over again. He smiled.
She smiled back. She stood up and closed the door. She turned to look at him and said, “Are you feeling well daddy?”
He looked up at her, “Wait, why did you call me daddy?”
She said, “Everyone else is calling you dad, should I also call you daddy? Are you hungry? I mean, if that’s the only thing I have to do around here, at least I can do that for you.”
“No, I am not that hungry. Please, call me David, and nothing else.” David leaned forward on the chair, with his elbows on his knees.
Betty walked around in front of him. She put her hand on his face
“Do you have a fever?”
David stood up, which brought him closer to Betty.
She reached behind his head and kissed him.
He knew that kiss. “Betty?”
She slapped his chest. “Why the hell did you take the side of the woman that killed me? You said that,” She lowered her voice and hung her jaw and pointed her head down and looked up at the ceiling while she said, “Your SISTER was right, what I was doin’ was wrong. Sooo Wrooong! Damn man, you better than that! I swear I thought that bitch busted me in the garage, but she bought it! cuz I am awesome!” she pointed at herself
David was ecstatic! “I knew it would work!”
“Damn, you didn’t know nothing. You even said that I don’t do nothing around here, I had you goin, ha-HA! You are gonna go in the kitchen and say, wow, how’d that girl get them dishes done when she was run over by a truck. Now how can you go on and take her side!” She walked over to the bed and sat down.
David said, “So, you know everything? What happened, how?”
She started laughing.
Betty pointed at David, “You know you are the only man for me right? And you finally made your move, phew! Damn!”
He sat on the bed next to her. He put his hand behind her back, and said, “I thought I had lost you.”
“That’s the one thing you ain’t never got to worry about losing, because you and me are forever.” She put her arm around his back, and pointed at herself with the other one, and looked up at her finger “And this woman can keep that promise!” She turned back to David.