The waitress arrived with their meals and the two men for the most part, ceased their conversation as they ate. Mike was clearly enjoying his steak and pasta. When he reached for another breadstick, Patience grabbed the basket and moved it to the other side of the table.
“Another breadstick?” she asked Ryan.
“Thanks,” he replied, taking one.
Mike looked at her for a moment, an indecipherable expression on his face, but turned back to his meal.
“You don’t mind that Wanda and I don’t eat, do you Ryan?”
“No, but… Wow. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without hearing her talk.”
“Would you prefer her to be quiet and concise all the time?”
“Actually, no. She’s a chatterbox, but I’m kind of getting used to it.”
“Thank you, Ryan,” said Wanda, breaking her relatively long silence.
“We’ll meet you over at our house,” said Mike, when they had finished their meal. He punched in the payment on his phone. “I’ve got this one. You can get the next one.”
When they had made their individual journeys to the Smith residence, Mike led Ryan out onto the deck in the backyard, turning on the outdoor cooling system before sitting down. Patience, followed by Wanda, delivered a couple of cold drinks and then stepped back inside the house. Putting a finger over her lips as a signal for silence, she led the redhead robot upstairs and into Mike’s bedroom. With the press of a button, she opened the window a few inches and then sat down on the bed, indicating with a pat of the mattress that Wanda should join her. From this spot, they could easily hear the conversation going on below.
“All right,” said Mike. “Tell me a story.”
“Well, I met Mariah in ’25.”
“For God’s sake, don’t start at the beginning.”
“Where should I start?”
“Start in medias res, in the middle of the action.”
“I thought Wanda told me you were a Geography teacher.”
“Try to get a job as a Geography teacher,” said Mike. “You can’t do it. It’s a cushy job and once somebody gets it, they’re not going to give it up until they retire. You have to start out with a job they need to fill. I taught English for five years right out of college. Anyway, start again.”