Mike Smith first noticed the bright blue sign on his sixth circuit around the indoor jogging track. It was Thursday and he came every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning to jog twenty-five laps. Twenty-five laps equaled two miles. The sign was in somebody’s yard. That’s why he noticed it. It wasn’t an advertisement like the ones on businesses you could see from the other side of the track. It was bright blue and it had yellow writing and some kind of picture. The seventh lap around, he tried to make out the three large words at the top. It looked like they said “stop the perverts.” The next lap, he looked again. Now he was sure that it said “stop the perverts,” but what did it say below that? He strained his eyes but after three more laps, he couldn’t make out the smaller words below.
He put it out of his mind and instead watched the people on the track with him as he ran. There were two girls in their late teens or early twenties who both looked too chubby to be jogging. Never the less, they lapped him about every fourth circuit. There were eight or ten people walking, mostly in pairs. But one little old man was walking quite fast, about half as fast as Mike was jogging, and he constantly leaned to the left. Mike was sure he was going to just fall right over sooner or later. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. Mike hit the finish line and immediately dropped his speed, walking over to get a towel and a bottle of water. Remembering the sign, he walked to the back wall of the running track and looked down over the neighborhood. There was the sign. He pressed his forehead against the hot glass and squinted. “Stop the perverts. Vote yes on 22.” Or was that thirty three?
Wiping his face and finishing his water, Mike walked back to the cubbyhole and picked up his texTee. “What is California proposition twenty-two?” The screen immediately came to life and began playing a news story. “Just let me read it.” The video dissolved into a page of text. “Blah blah blah. Supporters include blah blah blah. The proposition will amend the state constitution to define a person as a biological entity, preventing robots seeking redress for blah blah blah. Blah blah blah essentially an anti-robot marriage proposal. What? If this amendment is passed it will prohibit the state of California from acknowledging the marriages between humans and robots currently being performed in four states.
“Son of a bitch.”
Hopping down the stairs with much more energy than he usually had after jogging, Mike crossed the blistering parking lot and climbed into his Chevy, letting the cool air wash over him before he turned on the ignition. He counted it as a blessing that all cars now had auto-cooled interiors. He wouldn’t want to have to wait for the cool air. He pulled out of the parking lot and drove up the street, turning left into the neighboring block so that he could get a better look at the blue sign. But it took him several minutes to find the correct house. Finally he stopped in front of the one featuring the placard. “Stop the perverts. Vote yes on 22.” Beneath the words was a stick figure diagram, the kind used on street signs, of what looked like a man trying to have sex with a toaster. Mike thought about getting out of his car and ripping the sign out of the ground, but he saw the face of a little old lady looking out at him through the blinds.
“Assholes,” he said, and slammed his foot on the gas pedal. The car sped away, but failed to make the screeching tire noise that he was hoping for.
His house at 11 North Willow was a five minute drive from the track, which was not nearly enough time for Mike to calm down before he pulled into the driveway. Then on his way from the car to the front door, he tripped over the yardbot, which was busy pulling gnarled desert weeds from between the red brick stepping stones. Finally, the front door lock seemed to take forever to recognize him and allow him to enter the cool interior of the house.
“The world is going to hell,” he growled as he kicked off his track shoes. “Literally. It is literally as hot as hell outside.”
“Here you go, Mike.” Patience was suddenly beside him, with a towel in one hand and a tall glass of ice water in the other.
She looked as perfect as she had the day she came out of the box. Big blue eyes, a cute little button nose, and that slender, curvy body; all of which were just outside the possibilities of a real human form. She stood there with a smile not only on her lips but radiating from her eyes as well.
“What are you so happy about?” He took the towel and wiped the back of his neck and then took several long gulps from the water glass.
“I’m happy that you’re home. Why don’t you sit down and cool off for six and one half minutes, then you can take a nice cool shower.” Patience turned and glided down the hallway to the kitchen.