Author : Suzanne Borchers
Arnold, a four-foot bot, assists an elderly woman by holding her drink in one hand and supporting her upright with the other. He had been superseded so many times that today his job is tending the grannies and granddads at Ever Pleasant Retirement Home. After she has been slowly lowered down in front of the 3DTelly, Arnold places her drink on the table beside her. She rubs his smooth gray pate which he warms to her touch for gentle feedback.
He receives a transmission from Roberta, a translation bot. Arnold wishes he could jump on his rollers, or laugh, or even smile. He forces back the whistles and beeps of glee. He has finally been acknowledged by the newbies. He is invited to a party at the laboratory!
He sedately moves out of the room, beeping at residents, saving one whistle for a granny named Harriet, with long blonde hair and painted face. She laughs.
Arnold enjoys a wheelie around the corner of the Home.
He arrives at the party.
“Hello, Arnold,” Roberta says. “Come in and meet the gang.”
Arnold beeps hello then notices two bots communicating at the far end of the room. They are sleek, and shiny. He knows them. They are the Steven model. They were produced two weeks ago and probably still smell of HT oil.
“Arnold, these guys want to meet you,” Roberta says. The Stevens move toward them.
Arnold wishes he could smile or spin. Finally he will be part of the elite group. They invited him to a party! When he was produced months ago, he was alone. He stood alone in the laboratory and zapped circuit ebots into place on sister boards. Arnold hadn’t known he was lonely until the Charlies were produced. The Charlies worked together as team-soldering bots in an assembly line and communicated within their model. Arnold stood alone and zapped circuit boards.
“Arnold, this is Steven and Steven,” Roberta says. “They are my friends.” She leaves to welcome another bot.
Steven grabs Arnold’s hand and begins to pull him toward the far wall. “Listen, Arnold, we invited you here because we need you to loan us one of your ebots for our presentation tonight. We heard you have the last historically imprinted one.”
“You can stay at the party until we come back,” the other Steven says. “Okay?”
Didn’t Roberta invite him because she was his friend? But maybe if he gives them what they need, they will include him in their group. He looks at the Stevens and gives a low wavering beep. He wishes he could cry when the ebot is removed. But he is at the party. This is his chance to make friends.
By now there are Charlies to Stevens all over the room. Arnold gives out a tiny beep before he rolls over to a small group of Miltons. They are communicating with each other. He beeps a quiet hello. They move away. He tries again with some Justins with the same result. When will the Stevens come back? Where is Roberta?
He wishes he had stayed at the Home and played virtual checkers with Harriet.
He waits alone.