Drudgery In Czech

Everyone asks how I met Archer, if I picked him out from the agency’s catalogue or if he was recommended to me by someone else and other such questions, when in truth I must confess that I had never met him before he showed up upon my doorstep. I had merely requested a valet from the agency, and they said one would be sent, and gave no further description other than he would be up to their impeccable standards.

He rang the bell at exactly the second upon the hour he was to arrive, and I found myself unexpectedly worried. Had the agency sent a robot? That would not do, not in the least. So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I opened the door. Imagine my relief, if you can, to find not a chrome-plated Johnnie, but instead, Archer.

“I was sent by the agency, sir,” he said. “I was given to understand that you required a valet. My name is Archer”

I nodded, awed. He shook my hand firmly, and glided into the room , setting about tidying up. I have tendency to leave things strewn about while in the midst of working–a hazard of the occupation, really–and Archer went to setting it right immediately, seeming to know where everything went originally after nothing more than a brief scan of the room.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” I said. “But…how did you know?”

“I beg your pardon. sir?”

“That I was your employer, and not…you know. Did the agency tell you?” I hadn’t mentioned it to them, but they have ways of finding things.

“You are referring to your appearance, sir?” Archer asked. I nodded. “No, the agency said nothing. But if you were not my employer, and this phantom gentleman had such a robot as yourself open the door for him, what need would he have of me?”

“And this doesn’t bother you?”

“No, sir,” Archer said. But I remained unconvinced.

“I feel I should explain my position. I am, as you may have guessed from the supplies, an artist. I have been fortunate enough to be a very financially successful artist, thought I am not a fool and realize that a great deal of that success comes from the novelty of being a ‘robot artist.’ The fact remains, however, that I am possessing of a great deal of money and a great deal of social obligations. Hence, your employ.”

“Very good, sir.”

“I don’t think you understand. I need help, Archer! The clothes alone!” I rubbed my rubber fingertips against my metallic forehead, the squeaks emphasizing my frustration. “I don’t know how to behave around people. I don’t know! Perhaps that old crank Tortleberry was right. Perhaps robots are not meant for social life.”

“If I may be so bold, sir.” Archer said. He stood very still and looked at me directly. “The word ‘robot’ comes from ‘robota,’ which means ‘drudgery’ in Czech and ‘work’ in Slovak. And while I have no doubts you work very hard upon your art, I do not believe it was the kind of labor the people of Slovakia had in mind. You are a gentleman of leisure, sir. I do not believe the title of ‘robot’ fits.”

“So this situation won’t be a problem for you. You’re not… embarrassed, or anything.” At that, Archer smiled. And I confess, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone smile before that. Not at me. It was so guileless, so warm. Nowhere near the mechanical grins I was used to from my buyers and other industry types.

“To be perfectly honest, sir, I am rather looking forward to the next Guild meeting. There’s a few Johnnie models that are going to be unspeakably jealous.”

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