Having gotten used to looking through the women’s clothing, Mike’s discomfort returned when he moved into the lingerie section, the two dresses draped over his arm. There were counters and counters of underwear and bras. If choosing the correct pair of jeans was difficult, then choosing the proper size and type of bra would be insurmountable. The Daffodil didn’t really seem like she needed one, at least not from a purely functional perspective, though some women liked to wear them anyway. Moving on to the panties, Mike found a dizzying array of sizes, types, and styles. Then he saw some tiny, skimpy, little things called Smart and Sexy thongs. He didn’t know about smart, but they were definitely sexy, little more than triangular pieces of lace with elastic bands. They came in bags of three—tiny little lace bags. Mike bought a set in blue.
At the checkout stand, Mike realized that he was hungry. He grabbed a Payday candy bar. The matronly looking Gizmo Servbot gave him his total: $148.17. He drove back home and raced inside with his purchases, but there was no hurry. The Daffodil hadn’t moved. It was only 5:01. Looking at the robot, Mike appreciated her sheer physical beauty like he hadn’t before. He pulled the two dresses out of the bag and held them up in front of her, one after the other. Though they had seemed incredibly tiny in the store, they now looked as though they would fit her and might even be a bit on the large side. Draping them over the arm of the couch, he took the Walmart bag to the kitchen and stuffed it into the recycler. This made him think about everything else that was lying around the house. He had company now, sort of, and he felt an urge to clean up.
Starting in the living room, Mike began cleaning. It didn’t take much, since he hardly used the room at all. He picked up the packing peanuts and dropped them into the recycler, folded up the Daffodil box and put it in the compactor, and then he moved on to the foyer. He swept the tiles and straitened the several pairs of shoes by the door. Then he moved on to the family room. This room, though fairly large, was crammed full of old furniture, including the recliner, sofa, two end tables and a coffee table, three bookcases, the entertainment center, and the piano. Most of the furniture and a good bit of the floor were covered with cast-off items as well. Books, obsolete but not quite completely replaced by the texTee were everywhere, as were small piles of junk mail, interlaced with an occasional bill, and stacks of dirty dishes. Mike got to work, picking things up and putting them away until the room looked about as good as it ever had.
He stopped to make himself a supper of a deviled ham sandwich, which he ate along with a diet Pepsi and a handful of potato chips. He stood in the dining room, chewing and looking through the passage at the shapely form of the Daffodil still standing naked where he had left her. When he finished eating, he started wiping down the kitchen counters. He had them nice and clean by the time eight o’clock rolled around and Gunsmoke came on. He went back to his recliner, which had long ago conformed to his shape. Just as the story was getting interesting, his phone rang. It was Harriet calling to see if he was all right. He assured her he was. When he closed the connection and put the phone back in his pocket, the vueTee went to a commercial. Mike turned around and then jumped in his seat. The Daffodil was standing behind him, looking at him from the arch between the family room and living room.
“The primary setup procedure is complete,” she said. “The secondary setup procedure requires approximately thirty-six hours. During this period, I your Daffodil, will be capable of other activities.”
“What did you do?” asked Mike. “In your primary setup, I mean?”
“There are one thousand sixty seven individual tasks accomplished during the primary setup procedure, the most important of which are the initialization of the BioSoft operating system, registration of the InfiNet connection, and charging of the Honda X88 fuel cell.”
“Well, that’s good. Oh. There are some clothes for you in the living room.” He pointed over her shoulder.
She turned around and walked into the living room. Mike followed. She picked up the two dresses and held them in front of her one after the other, smiling.
“I wasn’t sure what size you wore, um, Patience. That’s what I decided to name you by the way—Patience.”
“Patience,” she said slowly. “The capacity, habit, or fact of being patient. Patient: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; not hasty or impetuous; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity. That is a very good name. What should I call you?”
Though both Mr. Smith and Master flashed through his mind, he said “Mike”.
“You are named for the Archangel Michael, who is like unto God.”
“I think I must be named after my uncle Mike, who is like unto, um, my grandfather.”
“In answer to your unasked query, I will usually wear 3/4 or 5/6 U.S. miss sizes. Which dress would you like me to wear, Mike?”
“I think the blue one. It matches your underwear which is still in the bag there.”
“May I use the bathroom to wash up and get dressed, Mike?”
“Um, yes. You don’t need to say my name every time.”
“During the secondary setup procedure, I will be adjusting my diction and vocabulary so that I am better able to communicate with you, Mike.”
“Which way is the bathroom, Mike?”
Mike pointed. “There’s the little… I call it the privy… on the other side of the kitchen, or you can go upstairs, because this one doesn’t have a shower or anything.”
The Daffodil went through the kitchen, toward the privy. Mike turned off the vueTee, and then sat waiting for her to return. It was growing dark out and both end table lamps automatically clicked on. She didn’t keep him waiting long. When she returned, he marveled at how real, how human she looked. She was dressed, and the plastic over her hair was gone. Her hair was long and straight and black, and cut with bangs across her forehead. She stepped to the center of the room and twirled around, then bounced up and down twice on her tip-toes. This made her look really young.
“Shit. I forgot to buy you any shoes,” he said.
“That is all right,” she smiled. “I can choose and purchase my own wardrobe if you like.”
“Yes, that would be good. But you have a limited budget. I don’t have that much in the bank, and I spent all my payNEtime money on… well, on you.”
“I understand, Mike. I won’t spend any money until I am sure of our finances.”
“Our finances?” Mike remembered the orange-haired lady and how her Daffodil paid her bills for her. “Are you going to be my secretary too?”
“I will be anything and everything you want me to be,” she said. “It is after nine o’clock. Have you eaten dinner, Mike?”
“I had a sandwich.”
“Are you still hungry, Mike? Would you like dessert?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then may we sit a talk for a few minutes?” She made her way around the coffee table and sat down on the couch. “What time is your bedtime, Mike?”
“Um, I usually go to bed about eleven.”
“And what time do you usually get up, Mike?”
“I get up at six twenty.”
“That is not enough sleep, Mike. You should go to bed at 10:05.”
“I have a hard time getting to sleep that early. I have to take Sleepova anyway.”
“I will help you, Mike.” She smiled sweetly. “This is a very nice dress, Mike. Is this the type of dress you would like to see me wear often?”
“Sure. Um, I would like to see you in different clothes too. Isn’t that what most people want? You are kind of like a big Barbie doll.”
“Would you say you preferred me to dress demurely or provocatively or somewhere in the middle, Mike?”
“Provocatively… sexy but appropriate. I’m a middle school teacher. I don’t want you to get me arrested, or worse, fired… although one would probably lead to the other.”
“These are very nice underwear, Mike. Is this the type of underwear you would like to see me wear often?”
“Absolutely,” Mike said. “Whenever you wear underwear, they should be sexy. That’s why you’re here.”
“Sexual congress?” She looked at him wide-eyed, without the least hint of embarrassment. Well, she wouldn’t be embarrassed, would she? She was a robot. It was hard, looking at her, to think of her as anything but a real person.
“Yes, well, not just for that. I’m tired of being single. But…I’m fifty years old. It’s hard to find somebody at my age, and let’s be frank—I’m nobody’s idea of a catch. I guess with you I don’t have to be though, do I? And I don’t want another wife anyway. I want you to be my companion, you know, in all the ways that another person would be a companion. You can do that, right?”
“That is right,” said Patience. “I can be anything and everything you want me to be.”