After Mr. Schwimmer retired, the firm delegated me the task of representing his last client, a Mr. Simon Polk, who died five years ago.
“It’s really an easy case,” one of the partners, Mr. Colby, said. “You simply have to check on the robot. Make sure she’s taking care of it.”
She’s taking care of it alright. I learned that on my first visit. I sat with the robot in the study, and she served us both hot chocolate.
“Thank you,” I said when she offered me the cup and saucer.
“It’s cold, you miserable cow!” the robot spat, throwing the glass back at her. I was taken aback by how much it sounded like a man of a formidable age.
“It’s Uncle Simon,” she told me after I followed her back to the kitchen and helped her to rub out the stains in her dress.
“He loaded his consciousness into it just before he died,” she said as she stared ahead at nothing. “It was his dying wish to torment me for the rest of my days.”
I gave my report to the partners. “The robot’s taken care of, but who’s taking care of her?” I asked.
“That’s not our concern,” said Mr. Colby. “What has she to complain about? As long as she stays in that house, everything is hers.”
Everything but her life, I feared. I decided then and there that I would free her.
“That’s kind of you,” she said on my second visit as the robot worked in the basement, “but there’s nothing left for me to reap. I’m old. I’m dried up.”
“You’re not,” I said, and then I kissed her. She was stiff at first, but then I saw a flash in her eyes, and it was the confirmation I needed that I could bring her back to the land of the living.
We just needed to get rid of the robot.
“I tried pushing him down the stairs. Now he just walks with a cane.”
“Then we will try something more permanent,” I said. Leaving the property wasn’t an option. She would lose her inheritance. Even if I covered for her, the robot could call someone else from the firm. So then how would one kill a robot?
On my third visit, she invited me up to her bedroom in a part of the house too far for the crippled robot to walk…or eavesdrop on the bed rocking, the moans rising to the ceiling.
“Maybe we don’t have to kill him,” I suggested as I traced my finger around the edge of her mouth. The hint of a smile crept across her face, breaking the dry skin of her lips.
“What can we do then?”
“Reprogram him. If he was just a little nicer, he would be tolerable, right?”
She shook her head. “His workroom is in the basement, and I’m not allowed down there. Even if I was, I wouldn’t know how to do it.”
“You leave that to me. I won’t let you down.” I kissed her with an open mouth to moisten her dry lips. With each visit, I could see the light returning. There was only one thing left to do. So I quickly got dressed as she lay in bed reliving the only minutes of passion her life has ever known.
The robot met me at the bottom of the stairs.
“What do you think you’re doing with that no good washed-up dish rag of a niece of mine?” it said.
“Would it kill you to be nicer to her?”
“Kill me? Why, yes, in fact, it would kill me. Killed me is just what she did! And I would just as easily rise from my grave and haunt her two times over before I let her kill me and take everything I’ve worked so hard for!”
Nothing he could say would get me to change my mind.
When I reached home, I dialed an old college buddy, Robert, who had a degree in computer engineering, and told him of the woman I’d fallen in love with.
“Simon Polk, the inventor? You know she killed that old man, right?”
“If she did, she had good reason,” I defended. “Come to the house. You’ll see.”
On my fourth visit, I brought Robert and asked Uncle Simon to take us on a tour of his lab in the basement. I winked at Barabara, who waited at the top of the stairs. Once we reemerged she would be free to live her life in peace, without the constant barrage of insults.
Unfortunately, Uncle Simon kept his lab fortified, and already suspecting a relationship between myself and his niece, the robot was unwilling to share his blueprints.
“The man was mean as a skunk,” Robert said as we reevaluated our plan in the car. “Changing his wirings won’t change the man that’s inside him. He needs a conscience. He needs to feel human emotion. Human compassion.”
“And how do we do that?”
“Well, I doubt someone would be willing to give up their conscience,” he said defeated. “I’m sorry.”
But all I sensed was victory, because there was at least one person in that car willing to donate his conscience. For Barbara’s happiness, I would do anything.
On my fifth visit, I explained the change in plans to Barbara.
“But w-what will that do to you?” she asked.
“I can’t say. All that matters is that you’re treated like the queen you are.”
“No.” She grabbed my face and kissed me. She pulled me into her arms and held me tightly, refusing to let me go. “I couldn’t give a damn if Uncle Simon is nice to me or not. I can’t lose you.”
“But what about your inheritance?”
“Tell me you love me right now, and I’ll leave it all. I’ve lost 30 years of my life for that ungrateful fraction of a man, and you’re the first person I’ve met who’s shown me I can get something of that back. Tell me. Tell me it’s true. Tell me it’s possible?”
I pulled from her grasp just briefly to look into her eyes, and behind the tears, I saw something new: hope.
“Trust me,” I told her, “and I will give you everything you ever desired.”
We left that day. The money, the house, the cruel uncle, the uncaring firm. We left it all, and we never looked back.
© 2022 Nortina Simmons.
I thought to give poor Barbara a happier ending than she got in “Uncle Simon.” She deserves it, even if she did “kill” him.
Also, did you catch the easter egg from “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross“?