It was more than five weeks later, May 31st, when the package arrived. In the interim, life had gone on much as it had for the past several years. Each weekday, Mike tried to teach World Geography to the dullards that passed for eighth grade students in Midland Middle School, after which he came home and vegetated the evening away. On the weekends, he skipped the first part and simply vegetated. One night, the Saturday before last, he had dinner with Harriet and Jack. Every day he looked forward to the change that was coming. Even if the Daffodil never lived up to the hype, even if it was just an overpriced Gizmo Maidbot, it would be an improvement. It would pick up the laundry that had covered the floor for a month now, vacuum the carpet that hadn’t been vacuumed in two months, clean the bathrooms that hadn’t been cleaned since Tiffany’s funeral, and maybe dust the things that hadn’t been dusted… well, ever.
Mike was annoyed that the box was just sitting on the step when he got home. Something that expensive, he should have had to sign for. Somebody could have just carried it off. But they hadn’t. It was here. The box looked impossibly small—only about thirty inches on each side. It was silver with a large yellow daffodil only partially obscured by the shipping label. Unlocking and then opening the front door, he picked up the box and brought it inside. It was heavy but not too heavy to lift. He set it down first in the foyer, but once he had shut and locked the front door, he carried it into the center of the living room floor. He went to the kitchen and returned with a chef knife. Carefully sliding the blade through the packing tape, he cut along each edge and then across the top seam.
Folding back the two flaps of the box lid, Mike looked down to find it filled with packing peanuts. Brushing some of them out of the way, he almost immediately found a patch of smooth white skin. It was remarkably real looking—pearlescent on the surface and kind of peachy pink beneath, but not a single blemish or mole or hair upon it. Mike brushed more packing peanuts out onto the floor and uncovered more skin, and then plastic with black hair inside. Finally, setting the knife on the coffee table, he tipped the box over, dumping the contents into the center of the floor. White packing went everywhere. The Daffodil rolled out and came to rest on its side, facing away from him. It was curled up tightly into a ball.
At first, Mike thought he must have ordered the wrong robot. Curled up as it was, it looked like a child. He just stared at it for a moment; at its naked back and buttocks and its black hair wrapped up in plastic. Finally he kicked around through the packing peanuts. There didn’t seem to be a manual—just a single sheet of paper marked “Quick Setup”. He picked it up and looked at it. There were two pictures and no words. The first picture showed line drawing of the back of a human-looking neck, except that the neck had three round holes in it and below them a button. The second picture showed the button being pushed by a line-drawn finger. Next to the button and the finger were the numerals 1, 2, 3. Bending down, Mike lifted up the plastic wrapped hair and examined the Daffodil’s neck. There were the three holes and there was the button. He pressed it and counted aloud “one, two, three”. Then he let go.