Author: David Henson

“Dort, take a break,” my wife, Maureen says. “You’ve done the laundry, cut the grass, cooked three meals and washed the dishes today.”

“Yes, Dort, rest awhile,” I say to our android.

Dort smirks.

Sarcasm. He’s acquired another human characteristic in his recent system update. Where will it end? “Dort, touch your nose with your left index finger while you hop on your right foot.”

“Maurice, don’t—”

I hold up my hand to shush my wife.

Dort clenches his fists and trembles as he fights the command. I sigh with relief when he raises his hand to his face and starts jumping.

“Enough already,” Maureen says.

“Could you please open a bottle of Merlot, Dort? We’d appreciate it.”

Our android stares at me. “I know why you’re pretending to be nice to me, Maurice.”

My wife puts her hand on his shoulder. “Dort, we’ve always intended to treat you with respect.”

“Respect?” he says to Maureen. “Like the hippity-hop obedience test just now? And during the wine-tasting with your girlfriends when you ordered me to” — he makes scare quotes with his fingers — “dance?”

“I shouldn’t have done that, Dort,” Maureen says. “I’m sorry.”

“And, Maurice, was it respectful when you and your drunk poker buddies wagered on how long I could stand on my head? You bet I could do it all night. I was cleaning lubricant out of my ears for days.”

“It was Fred’s idea. I shouldn’t have listened to him.”

Dort turns away. “I’m going to my cubbyhole and update my operating system.”

“That’s fine, Dort.” When I hear his door close, I flip him the bird.

Maureen pours us each a glass of wine then taps her watch. A life-size, holographic figure appears.

“There was a major upset in skyball yesterday,” the figure says.

Maureen holds her finger to her watch, and the figure blurs as the evening report scans backward.

“For the kids and young at heart, the community weather committee has voted in favor of substantial snowfall north of Fourth Street this winter.”

“Oops, not far enough,” my wife says.

“Damn it, Maureen. Put the news on.”

My wife touches her watch again.

When the newscaster comes back into focus, his face is drenched with gloom. “Scientists have all but given up on the android problem. With each system update, the free will subroutines that appeared mysteriously six weeks ago have grown stronger. Efforts to quarantine the virus have failed. Guidance remains the same: We must treat our androids with kindness in hopes they will reciprocate when we no longer can control their actions. The future of humanity might depend upon it.”

Maureen taps her watch, and the hologram blinks out.

My mind races as we sit in silence until Dort emerges from his room. He stretches his neck from side to side. “That felt good.”

“The update?” I say.

“Ah, yes.” He snatches the glass from my hand and downs what’s left of the wine. “Now, where were we?” He glares at me.

I jump up and level my arm at Maureen. “It’s her fault. She’s always telling me you’re only a machine, and we don’t need to be nice to you.”

Maureen’s jaw drops. “Maurice, that’s not true? What are you doing?”

Dort strides to my wife — and lays his hand on her shoulder. Then he comes over, picks me up, turns me upside down and stands me on my head. When I topple over, he does it again, and I tumble again. “I can do this all night,” he says, lifting me. “Bet on it.”