Mike Smith's life was crap, living all alone, years after his wife had died and his children had grown up and moved away. Then he saw the commercial for the Daffodil. Far more than other robots, the Daffodil could become anything and everything he wanted it to be. Mike's life is about to change ...
Mike’s life was crap. And every day he got up out of bed and thought about how it was crap. Today he climbed out of bed and made his way through the discarded clothing on the floor of the bedroom to the bathroom. His worn image looked out of the mirror at him. He picked up his cordless razor and turned it on before remembering that it was Saturday. He stuck out his tongue at his reflection. Slipping off his underwear, he tossed it at the hamper just outside the bathroom door. It landed on the floor. Turning on the shower, he stepped inside the glass-doored stall, and stood beneath the spray. He took a deep breath and then began soaping up and rinsing off. Pouring a handful of shampoo, he scrubbed his scalp, rinsed, and then turned off the water. He waited about two minutes-- partly to drip dry and partly because he didn’t want to face the day-- before he climbed out of the shower stall.
Once he was dry, he walked back into the bedroom, crossed to the dresser, and pulled out a clean pair of underwear. The underwear was so old that it looked more grey than the white that it had been, and the material had worn through enough that the elastic showed in the waistband. He slipped his left foot in the leg hole and then the right, getting his big toe caught for just a second. Pleased with himself that he had not lost his balance, he went back to the bathroom and combed his thinning and graying hair. It had been graying for a long time. It had only been thinning, at least noticeably for a few of years-- just since Tiffany had died. He brushed his teeth, and grinned at the man in the mirror. It wasn’t a friendly grin. Back in the bedroom, he slipped on cut-off jeans and a green t-shirt. Then he walked through the bedroom door, down the stairs, through the living room, and into the family room.
He touched the screen of the vueTee hanging just above the fireplace to turn it on, then passed through the archway and into the kitchen. Pouring a bowl of cereal, he sniffed the milk before adding it. It was still good. Grabbing a spoon, he headed for the worn recliner which faced the vueTee. The screen was on, but it wasn’t alive with movement and sound. It still had the browser up and it was still on the Daffodil site. Mike had followed the link the night before from the very slick commercial he had seen during the Tonight Show. On the left side of the screen was a large yellow daffodil and on the right were four large yellow buttons, arranged vertically. The first said Barone, the second Amonte, the third Nonne, and the fourth PWX.
Daffodil wasn’t the largest manufacturer of robots, but it certainly had the most cultural cache. Their commercials were by far the best. Everyone seemed to be talking about them. Mike could hum their jingle right now. The four buttons corresponded to the four basic robot units that Daffodil produced. Though there was some crossover between the four types based on the many options that were chosen, the Barone was usually an aid to adults—a robot maid, gardener, or grandparent. The Nonne was a babysitter type: a tutor, a nanny, or again, depending upon the options, a maid. The PWX was an industry grade robot designed for use by corporations and government organizations as a receptionist or a clerk. Finally the Amonte was a personal companion. It could be configured as an escort, a friend, or a lover. As the commercial said, it was “anything and everything you want it to be”.
Mike leaned back in the chair and pointed the remote at the vueTee. He moved the curser over the Amonte button and pressed. The body frame options screen came up, but there was a small window along the left side that said “narrow your selections”. You could narrow them by price. You could narrow them by race-ethnicity. Or you could narrow them by gender. Mike ignored that side of the screen and looked at the body build. If you were going to dream, you might as well dream unencumbered. Dials allowed one to set height, chest, waist, and hips. He had already filled in these features the previous night. After that, one flipped through a series of screens where prospective customers could change almost every aspect of their robot. The head controls gave one control over the shape and placement of eyes, nose, lips, and ears, but also let one choose the forehead shape and jaw line, the hair color and style, the type of chin, and the placement of freckles. Other controls set every detail from fingernails to nipples. Mike flipped through them. The last screen showed the price for his particular build: $2699.00. That would just about wipe out his payNEtime account.