Author : Jason Frank
Reconsidering old things, as she was that week, Marlene unpacked the first robot she had built, the robot named Robot. She had not so much as thought of the robot in years and, seeing it again, was surprised to find it not so shoddy as she remembered. It powered up and passed its diagnostics. This was to be an uncertain week ending in even greater uncertainty and Marlene was comforted by the presence of the robot named Robot.
Monday found Marlene fixing a fussy unit for a wealthy collector. She did not want to jeopardize her focus by stepping away. Instead, she called out, “Robot, go to the deli and get me a ham sandwich.” Upon hearing its name, Robot turned on its heel to obey.
The small mechanical being negotiated the sandwich transaction successfully. Robot then placed it in the spare parts drawer that took up much of its lower belly. When Marlene received the greasy, smashed once-sandwich, she said, “Next time put it in a little paper bag and bring it home.”
Tuesday arrived later than it should have and Marlene’s schedule made it impossible for her to take the time to replenish her shop’s oil reserves. She called out, “Robot, get me a quart of oil from the hardware store.” Servos whizzed as the automaton went off on its errand.
Robot communicated to the clerk the type and quantity of oil it required. The little robot insisted that the clerk pour its order directly into a small paper bag it had brought along. The clerk complied with laughter. By the time Robot had returned home, half of the oil had leaked out through the paper bag. Marlene, smiling a bit, said, “Next time, put it in a can and bring it home.”
Wednesday was rainy. Marlene was tired from recent deadlines and flush with cash from the payment of several invoices that came, rather unusually, on time. Resting on her couch, she called out, “Robot, go to the optical and pick up my order.” Robot stomped out in its usual stompy way.
Robot sloshed into the optical and received the custom mirror for Marlene’s iluxtrascope. Robot then folded the mirror several times so that it would fit in the small can it produced from a storage compartment. Back home, Marlene said, “Next time, wrap it in protective coverings, lash it to a dolly, and bring it home.”
For all of Thursday, Marlene looked at old images and listened to old music. Her only commands to Robot were “Robot, perform monkey” and “Robot, headspin”.
When Friday finally rolled around, Marlene ran about her flat, alternating between frantic shiftings and long, drawn out contemplations of the appearances of things. She was hopelessly behind in her plans. She called out to Robot, “Go to the spaceport and fetch me Banyan.” Robot did as commanded.
Robot waited patiently at gate 78B2 holding a small sign that said “Banyan” on it. A man stopped before Robot and bent over. “Hey little guy, I didn’t expect to see you here. Remember me, Banyan?” Robot effortlessly wrapped the man in protective coverings and lashed him to a dolly. When Robot returned home, Marlene told it to shutdown. She gently pulled the wrappings away from Banyan’s face. He was smiling.
“Next time,” she said, “write better software.”
“This time,” Banyan said, “I’m going to do a lot of things better.”
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