BY CARL PERRIN
Copyright is held by the author.
WHEN I made my second million dollars, I decided to get a custom-made android companion. I was 63-years old and divorced. I had been working so much for the past few years that I didn’t have time for any real friends. I just wanted some companionship, and an electronic companionship would suit my lifestyle.
I went to Realistic Androids, Inc. and talked to Julie, a bubbly, 40-something blonde. I told her what I wanted. I found out that it was more complicated than I realized, but that’s true of everything, I guess.
“Do you want a male or female companion?”
I was going to say 40s, but instead, I said 30s.
Julie showed me some pictures to choose the type of face I wanted on my android. I took my time looking and finally chose a dark-haired, exotic-looking woman, like maybe she was Eurasian.
“And personality type, interests, level of education?” Julie asked. “That’s the thing about Realistic Androids custom android. You get to choose all those things ahead of time.” She glanced at my left hand.
I told her that I wanted someone who liked to talk and to listen, someone who liked good books and good movies. I wanted her to have the intellectual equivalent of the university graduate.”
I gulped when Julie told me the fee, but I told myself that I deserved it. I had been working so hard these last few years, and I was finally on my way.
She told me that it would take two or three weeks to assemble the physical android, but they would start right away on forming the personality. “That part of it won’t be in the physical body. She will have a personal cloud that she will be able to access to talk to you about books and the latest movies.”
“How natural will she look?”
“Would you believe that I am an android?”
Julie laughed and put her hand on my arm. “I’m sorry, Mr. Wilson. I couldn’t resist. But our androids look so realistic that most people take them for humans unless they look really closely.
“Have you thought about what you will name her?” she asked.
I nodded and said, “I’m going to call her Valerie.”
Three weeks later I went to pick up Valerie. I was overwhelmed with how beautiful she looked and how voluptuous. I decided not to go back to work but to take her to my apartment so we could get acquainted.
I was embarrassed when we walked into the apartment. The place was littered with pizza boxes and beer cans. The place hadn’t been vacuumed or dusted for at least a month, maybe two. Valerie looked around and said, “I could clean this up for you.”
“You don’t have to do that. I have a woman who comes in to clean when I remember to call her. I’ll give her a call tomorrow.”
We spent the afternoon talking about books and movies and music. I felt almost as though I had met my soul mate.
“One of my all-time favourite books is Raintree County by Ross Lockridge,” I said.
“Oh yes, the book was an immediate success and was made into a movie with Elizabeth Taylor.”
Of course Valerie didn’t know those things about Raintree County the way a person would know. She was like Siri or Alexa. She could access that information the way any chatbot would. The difference was: she could use the information to carry on a conversation. I was amazed.
I opened a beer while we talked and then ordered a pizza for dinner. While I ordered the pizza, Valerie started picking up the boxes and beer cans.
Rather than leave Valerie alone the next day, I took her to work with me. I introduced her to my partner, Tom Kramlich, telling him that she was my housekeeper. He really looked her over and then winked at me. Tom was the COO of the company. He kept things going day by day. I was president, but I mostly worked on developing and improving the product. I didn’t do any work that day. I just showed Valerie through the plant and explained how it all ran.
That afternoon as I went to the restroom, I ran into Tom. He poked me playfully on the shoulder and said, “You sly dog, Rich. That housekeeper of yours sure is hot,” holding up his finger to indicate quotation marks when he said, housekeeper.
I left work early and took Valerie to the Tip Top Tavern. We slid into a booth, and I ordered two draft beers. Of course Valerie didn’t drink, but the server put a beer in front of each of us. When I finished my beer, I just exchanged glasses with her. As I looked around the room, I saw one guy at the bar giving her the once over. I glared at him, and he looked away.
I lifted my full glass and she lifted the empty glass to clink it against mine.
“Here’s looking at you, kid,” I said.
“Casa Blanca,” she answered.
The next day was Friday. I got a call at work from my sister Winnie. For the past few years I had been having dinner with Winnie and her family every Friday. “I want to see that you get at least one decent meal a week,” she would say.
“I understand you have a new friend,” Winnie said.
“Wow, word really gets around.”
“You have no secrets in a small town like Hanaford,” she said. “Anyway, why don’t you bring your friend to dinner, let her meet the family.”
“I can bring her, but she won’t want anything to eat.”
“What? Is she a picky eater?”
‘No, she’s ah, she’s fasting.”
“Well, you can still bring her.”
When I introduced Valerie to Winnie and her husband, George, I thought he was going to stick his nose into her cleavage. He’s such a pig. I wonder how my sister can put up with him.
At dinner Winnie asked me how the business was going.
“It’s doing really well,” I said. We get into new markets every week. I’m making so much money that I’m going to set up a scholarship fund for Heckle and Jeckle here.”
Heckle and Jeckle were my nephews, sweet 14-year-old twins. Their real names were Harry and Jerry, but I called them Heckle and Jeckle to tease them.
“That’s so sweet! Thank you, Rich.” Winnie leaned over to kiss me.
For a few minutes there was no sound except for the clang of cutlery on the plates. Dinner was roast chicken with mashed potatoes and peas.
Valerie looked at my brother-in-law and asked, “What do you do, George?”
“I sell insurance, so I’m wondering, what do you have for life insurance?”
“Come on, George,” I said.
“This is not a time to be selling insurance,” Winnie added.
As we were driving home, Valerie said, “When the boys went upstairs, and you and Valerie were in the kitchen, George tried to kiss me and put his hand on my breast.”
“That son of a bitch!”
“I didn’t know whether it was all right for him to do that. I have so much to learn.”
The next day I got a call from my daughter Patty. Patty blamed me for the divorce, and we had drifted apart. I hadn’t spoken to her for months.
“Dad, you’re embarrassing the family again!” she said.
“What, what are you talking about?”
“You have a girl friend young enough to be my sister, and you take her to the Tip Top Inn where everyone can see you.”
“It isn’t what it looks like.”
“Oh? Well, what is it then?”
“Valerie isn’t a real person. I haven’t told anyone else, not even your Aunt Winnie. She’s a realistic android. I just wanted someone to keep me company.”
“Valerie? Is that her name?” Then she started laughing. I didn’t know what to say.
“You know what your problem is, Dad? You’re a workaholic. You’re too busy working to meet people and make real friends. If you hadn’t spent so much time on the job and a little more time with your family, Mom wouldn’t have divorced you.”
“I know, honey. I’m sorry.”
“You need to get a life, Dad. You’re 63 years old, and you’re a millionaire. You need to take some time for yourself.”
“I know you’re right, Patty.”
“I’ll tell you what. Next Saturday Bob and I are having a few people in, and I’d like you to be there.”
“That’s wonderful. Of course I’ll be there.”
“But don’t bring your girl friend.” She laughed and hung up.
It was so good to see Patty again and Bob. I always liked him. Patty took me around introducing me to people. The last person I met was a petite blonde named Simone. She looked very young, but the lines around her eyes said that she was probably in her 50s.
“Patty said that you have a manufacturing company. What do you manufacture?”
“A light-weight spare battery for electric cars. They extend the range of the cars. If the on-board battery runs out of juice, the space can kick in until the car gets to a charging station.”
“And what about you? What do you do?”
“I’m an oenophile,” she said, holding up a glass of amber wine.
“Yes,” she said, smiling. I noticed how white her teeth were.
“I’m an oenophile too,” I said, holding up my can of beer.
“What’s your favourite kind of wine?” she asked.
“It just happens that I have a bottle of Riesling in my refrigerator.”
“Out in the kitchen?”
“No, in my kitchen at home. I live only a few blocks from here.”
When we got to Simone’s apartment, she asked me what my favourite piece of music was.
“Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”
“Alexa, play Beethoven’s Ninth.”
In a moment the symphony opened with a flourish.
“I love the chorale movement in this.”
“Yes, it’s from Schiller’s ‘An Die Freude,’ ‘Ode to Joy.’”
Simone took the Riesling from the refrigerator and handed me a corkscrew. I opened the bottle and poured the wine into two glasses.
We clinked the glasses together, and Simone said, “To Joy.”
“To Joy,” I answered.
We took a sip of the wine, and then I kissed her.
“Patty said that you like movies.” Simone said. “Have you seen Friendly Enemies?”
“No, but I want to see it.”
“It’s playing at the Rialto.”
“Maybe we could see it together.”
“That would be lovely.”
Then I kissed her again.
As I walked back to my car, I wondered what I was going to do about Valerie.