Lucinda May: A Love Story




Pavelle Wesser




Her image rose unbidden from the ashes of his mind as the anger returned.  He grimaced into the bathroom mirror, exposing his biggest asset, his Pearly Whites, which he admired until the bitterness returned:


“Lucinda,” he gasped, “you’ve poisoned my soul.”


He sank on to the cold tile floor as the memories returned, starting with the day  he searched for Lucinda in the city’s only park, finally spying her with James, a co-worker, holding hands and necking.  He wanted to scream, but what good would it do?  Endings had been hard for Martin ever since the day he’d never had a chance to say goodbye to his mother.  He’d watched helplessly as the officials took her away.  He couldn’t bear to look at her hunched over form or the destitution in her face -- so pale, scared and utterly alone. He waved lamely to her on that final, involuntary ferry ride to Psychcity:


“Martin!”  She’d tried to tell him something, but her voice was swallowed by the roaring engines and churning black water.  He’d never seen her again.  Her image had haunted him ever since.


He thought of Lucinda’s ice-blue eyes and golden hair.  He’d deleted her picture from all of his appliances, but he could not get her out of his mind… unless… he arranged an appointment with the psychobot.   




“Listen to me,” he told the bot, raking snakelike fingers through his hair, “She poisoned me and broke my heart.”


The psychobot sighed.  “Fallacies, illusions and myths, Son…  No one has ever died from a broken heart, unless the wounds were secondary and self-inflicted.  Recovery from emotional pain, Martin, is what assists an individual on the path towards self-fulfillment.”


“No,” Martin slammed his fist onto the table-top, “I have been adversely affected. I demand a referral to the Forget-me-bot.”


The psychobot made a clicking sound: “Humans by nature look for ‘quick fixes’ that are unfortunately anything but.  In reality, these supply only a temporary reprieve from pain, which invariably returns with a vengeance.”


 “Then why was the Forget-me-bot created?”


The Psychobot’s beady eyes blinked in a detestable human-like fashion. 


“It is meant for the victims of wars and human injustices that result in post-traumatic-stress-disorder, or PTSD.  You do not fall into that category.”


“Well I demand a referral.”


“Fine, Martin.  But understand that your cowardice is corrosive, and will enact its own punishment.  Forgive the expression, but you are full of piss and vinegar.”


“I didn’t ask for your opinion.  I asked for a referral.”


“I know.” Yhe bot’s beady eyes narrowed. “And I just gave it to you.  Here is your appointment card, and may Lucinda be the death of you.”


The bot’s eyes receded into the wall before Martin could respond.     


Martin’s nerves were on edge the day he entered the Forget-me-bot’s office,  dressed in a suit and sporting a pair of shades to protect his  low-end synthetic eyes.   


“Sit,” a voice commanded.


Martin stared at the breathing white walls: “Where are you, Bot?” he asked.


“Up. And call me Hugo.” 


Martin stared at the ceiling where two blinking, black eyes stared back. 


“Hugo.” Martin repeated.


“Yes.  Remove the shades.  And shame on you.  Anyone of average income can afford UV repellent surgery.”


“My teeth are my biggest asset,” Martin said, “Do you wish to see them?”


“No.  Your teeth tell me nothing of your soul.”


Martin removed his shades and sat. 


“Please assist me by looking straight ahead,” Hugo’s voice echoed, “The walls’ breathing should soothe you. I need to locate the exact spot.”


Martin obeyed, wanting only to be rid of her.


“Tell me your feelings about her.”


“Oh, come on,” said Martin, “just obliterate the memory and release me.”


“I said tell me your feelings, Martin, so my sensors can make determinations.” 


“We existed in a state of euphoria together.”


“Oh how did I guess?” Hugo snickered.


“One day I caught her in the park with a co-worker and I… I…”


“Oh, yes, I can feel this,” Hugo’s beady eyes were blinking.


Martin sighed. “I’m crushed by the wasted emotional investment.”


“Yes.  The sensations you describe are red hot.  But let me ask you this.”


“Ask me nothing and proceed with the treatment.”


“Let me ask you this,” the bot repeated, “do you not believe these feelings will dissipate over time?”


“I haven’t got time.  I’m going insane.”


Careful, or I’ll have to refer you for involuntary procedures you will not enjoy.”


“I meant to say,” Martin shuddered, “that the trauma she has caused me will affect my future relationships in adverse ways.”


“Oh, so you plan to fall in love again?”


“Well, yeah.”


“And you would want to do that because…..?


“What could a bot possibly understand about human pleasure and pain?”


“How could I cure you, Martin, if I did not understand?”


“Look, I just want to forget.”


“You may regret this, Martin.”


“I didn’t come here for a lecture.”


“Fine.  I’ve located the spot.  Say no more.”  The bot’s beady eyes narrowed as a needle emerged from the ceiling, strategically poised above Martin’s cranium. The needle plunged down. 


Owwwwww,” Martin screamed.


“Quiet,” the bot retorted, “And I hate to say it but your skull is just as thick to penetrate as it was the last time.”  An eerie chuckle echoed through the room.


Martin strained against the metal clasps that encircled him.  He was Hugo’s captive as surely as he had been a prisoner of his love for Lucinda. 


“The needle at 0.5 centimeters buried within your cranium has done its damage.”


The paralysis was complete, and the metal clasps disappeared as Martin slid unconscious from the chair, drooling from the corners of his mouth.


“The price for human comfort,” Hugo continued, “can be as excruciating as a bed of nails, and yet it rises steadily, creating a vast market of wealth from human misery.”


The beady eyes closed and disappeared into the ceiling as the pulsing white walls exhaled and inhaled, guiding Martin in his dreams as he drooled onto the floor.





Martin awoke to the distant memory of bad dream, submerged in the recesses of his sluggish mind.  He sloshed to the edge of the bed.  A water bed? How juvenile!  He stepped out and walked across the pale hardwood floor, admiring its freshly-finished herring-bone pattern.  He made his way to the kitchen where a fresh pot of fresh coffee brewed and a glazed chocolate doughnut waited.  After breakfast, Martin headed into the bathroom, where he smiled into the mirror at his Pearly Whites.   


He was late to work and as he stood in the elevator, he was joined by a young woman who smiled engagingly at him. 


“I need to give you the latest records from our department.” She said, surprising him, as he had no idea who she was.  He couldn’t help but notice her svelte skirt and close-fitting pink blouse, however.


 “Uh…which department might that be?” he asked.


“You don’t remember?”  Her blue eyes widened.


“Is that bad?”  The elevator was starting to spin around him.


“No matter,” she said, “It’s Accounts Payable.”


The elevator opened and she whisked herself away across the pale green carpeting.  He steadied himself before exiting and stared after her, trying to place her in his mind.  He was unable to make a connection.  This was odd given that he found her so attractive.  Her image was going to bother him now.  He allowed several minutes to pass.


“Accounts payable.” He barked at his computer.


A woman’s face appeared  -- hers.  He felt the air close around him.


“My name is Lucinda. May I help you?” Her blue eyes blinked.


“Yes, I…this is Martin… from,” his mouth went dry. 


“I know who you are.”  Her eyes held secrets he would love to sink into.


“I was calling about the records,” Martin said slowly.

”I have them here,” she said “I’ll bring them to you.”


“Don’t rush, whenever you get the chance.” Martin clicked off and ran his fingers through his hair.  Why did she look through him as though she could read his soul?  It made him nervous, but also curious, enough so to ask her out on a date when she returned.  Her readiness surprised him. They met in the lobby after work. 


“How about Snafu?” he asked, alluding to a popular hangout.  She glanced at him, her heels clicking on the pavement beside him, and he realized she was already headed in that direction.  When they entered, she took his favorite seat in the second to last booth.   A strange feeling came over him, but as the waitbot asked for their drink order, his mind went blank.


“How long have you been working for the company?” he asked.


“Five years,” she smiled.


“Really? I’m there six.”


“I know.”


Uneasiness gnawed at him:  “How do you know?”  


“Why wouldn’t I?  You’re friends with my colleague, James.”


“Oh, yeah,” Martin smiled. “We come here for drinks sometimes.”


“I know.”


That feeling again – this time more insistent: “What…”


“Hey look, it’s O.K. if you don’t remember me.”


“But I feel like I should.”


She smiled, toying with her drink:


“I’ll walk home with you later.  My apartment’s only a few blocks from yours.”


“How did you know that?” he practically slammed his beer down.


“Because you just told me where you lived.  Don’t you remember?”


He stared at the twin pools of her blue eyes. He actually couldn’t remember telling her any such thing, but it was entirely possible that he had.


“Let’s go,” he stood from the table and swiped the base of his hand over the credit-bot, feeling suddenly tired.  As he walked beside her in the darkness, he felt revitalized.  When they reached his apartment, he turned to face her.


“This is awkward,” he said, “but I feel as if I’ve known you for a long time.”


“Me too,” She said quickly.


“I remodeled my apartment….hardwood floors and all that.  Do you want to see?”


“Sure,” she walked through the marble foyer and into the glass elevator with him, punching the 15th floor button. His eyes widened but she pressed a finger to his lips:


“You worry too much.” 


She was right, he realized. 


“You like it?” he asked, as they entered.


“How did it look before?” she asked, “Was there carpeting?”


“Uh, yeah.”


Mmmm… so soft on the feet.  Was it pink?”


“I think …”


“Such a vibrant color – my favorite.”  Lucinda said longingly.


“Well, remodeling these days is hardly a big deal,” said Martin, walking over to the wall console.  She grabbed his arm:


“Don’t change this, Marty. You made a decision to have these floors.”


He smiled at her, flashing his Pearly Whites:  “It doesn’t matter to me,” he said, punching a series of buttons into the wall console.  He looked pensive.  “Did you just call me Marty?”


“Well, it’s a logical nickname. Do you have a problem with it?”


“No, I don’t.” He waved a dismissive hand. “The hardwood herringbone pattern will be replaced by morning with soft, plush pink carpeting,” Martin announced. He smiled at her. “Would you like to see the bedroom now?”


“I’d love to.”


“I was going to change the waterbed but…”


“Oh, I’m so glad you didn’t.” She made her way towards it as if mesmerized. “Do you mind if I lay down on it.  I’m dying to relax.”


“No problem.  Can I join you?”


“Oh, that would be nice.”


He sloshed down beside her. “You know, I used to think that carpeting trapped dust and aggravated my allergies.”


“Nonsense, Marty: sheer foolishness. It’s your clothes. When you come in from outside, you need to remove them, right away.”


“Naturally,” he said, “I should have thought of that… my necktie.”


“I’ll help you.” She reached over, grabbed a hold of him.


“Marty,” she whispered, “I’ve missed you.”


“How? You barely know me.”


“I’ve watched you for so long...”  She yanked off his tie.


“Funny, I don’t remember you…” 


“I’m not insulted, Marty. I had my pride laminated years ago.”




In the morning, they awoke to the sound of military boots marching rhythmically.


“What is that?” Lucinda shook golden hair from her eyes.


Martin smiled. “I reprogrammed my alarm-bot.”


“Well it’s horrible,” she scowled. “How about waking up to a soft, sweet voice?”


“Sure, whatever you want,” Martin assured her.


She smiled at him.  He returned her smile, then sneezed.


“Bless you!” said Lucinda.


He sneezed again.


“Hay fever?”


“No, I’m sure it’s the new ultra-plush carpeting.”


“Oh my, it’s installed itself beautifully.”  She leaned over to admire the floor as the bed sheet fell from her naked shoulder.  She nudged him teasingly. “Don’t tell me the pretty pink color contributes to your allergies, too.” Her finger snaked out and tickled his nose.


“It’s not funny.” He turned his head away.


“Oh, Marty,” she sighed, “Let’s stop bickering and go eat breakfast.”


“Sounds good. I’m starving.”


They entered the kitchen and Lucinda gasped.


“What is it?” asked Martin.


She pointed. On the counter sat two glazed chocolate doughnuts.


“Well, it looks good to me,” Martin was confused.


“Martin, you should know that I’m a health freak.  My husband and I work out a minimum of eight hours a week.”


“Your husband? You’re married?” He gasped.


“No,” she looked momentarily flustered. “I meant to say ‘my ex-husband.  I used to be married until, uh, he underwent a sex-transformation procedure.”


“My God, was he….”


“There’s nothing to say, Martin. He … she …I… we’re through.  End of story.”


“Great.  Let’s celebrate with doughnuts?”


“Like I said, I’m a health nut, and you shouldn’t be indulging either.  Frankly, with your cholesterol…”


“How did you know about my cholesterol?”


“Well I can only imagine it must be God awful.”


“If you cared about my health, you’d reconsider your choice of pink carpeting.”


Lucinda stared at him with reproach. Tears welled in her eyes.


“Oh, Marty, when will you learn that pink has nothing to do with it?”


“Oh, Sweetie, I’m sorry. What would you prefer to eat for breakfast?”


She perked up: “A yogurt smoothie: strawberry.”


He flinched slightly: “Coming right up,” he smiled on the way to the kitchen console.  It was, after all, a small sacrifice to make for her.





He was late again to the office.  He walked past the securobot with his head down.  Ever since the guy who’d worked the next station over from him had disappeared, the bots made him nervous.  He’d never known much about Pete, except that they’d redone his workstation in ten minutes.  One day Martin leaned over the partition to address the young woman who’d replaced him. One look at her vacant expression and he instantly figured her for a bot.  An icy chill had crept up Martin’s spine and he’d slid back into his seat before the fear in his eyes could be detected. 


Martin went through his day in a daze.  James appeared at one point from Accounts Payable. 


“You look a little rough,” James noted.


“Long night.”


Wanna do happy hour after work?”


“Maybe tomorrow,” Martin offered.


“Don’t forget, cause I don’t like to be turned down.” James strode off, to Martin’s relief.  


Part of him wanted to contact Lucinda for an after work drink, but he didn’t want to appear too pushy.  So that evening, he trudged home alone from the subodrome and took the glass elevator up to his apartment. He opened the door and removed his shoes and socks.  The scent of perfume permeated his allergies.  He sneezed and walked to the bedroom, his feet itching as they touched the pink carpeting.  She was there, in the bed.




“Surprised?” she smiled.


“How did you get in?”


“You left the door open.”




“You look so sexy when you’re confused, Martin. Come here.”


Forgetting what he’d been about to say, Martin jumped into bed beside Lucinda.


Martin awoke the following morning to the soft, mellifluous voice of a woman singing.   He felt the soft, wet smooch of a kiss on his forehead and flinched.


“Good God, was that you?” He looked over at Lucinda, but she was still snoring.


He wiped his forehead and sloshed out of bed onto the plush pink carpeting that irritated his feet no end. He sneezed and rubbed his eyes as he plodded towards the bathroom, where pink toothpaste oozed itself onto his toothbrush.


“Pink.” He said out loud.


“Do you like it?”  He turned to face her.


“I… love it,” he said simply.  And in that moment he fully embodied every choice she’d ever made.  She walked to the sink and began brushing.  When she was done, she smiled at her reflection and Martin admired her teeth, which almost matched his own in their brilliance. And his teeth were, after all, his biggest asset.


“What are you looking at?” Lucinda turned.


“Your teeth,” he smiled. “They’re gorgeous.”


Her eyes clouded over: “They’re yours,” she whispered.


“What?” a chill traveled up his spine.


A glint entered her ice blue eyes. “I mean so are yours.” she smiled.  “You’re teeth are beautiful, Honey, and I love you.”


Martin swallowed as she approached him and wrapped her arms around his neck:


“Do you think we might have a few more minutes in bed together?”


 The bed gurgled beneath them as they moaned above it. And like a person drowning, Martin sank within the conviction of Lucinda’s love.


“I want to have children with you,” he whispered.


“You already have,” her eyes clouded over again.


“What?” Martin shrank from her, an alarm sounding within him.


The glint in Lucinda’s eyes returned. “I said we can have… children.”


“No…you said…”


“We could name our kids Jennie and Matt. I picked out my babies’ names years ago; it’s my nature to plan ahead.  When we program the sex selector, we should go for a girl first and then a boy. Girls are much more mature than boys, don’t you think? And… Marty, you’re pale… and sweating.  Has our workout been too rigorous for you?”


“I… you… those names.”


“Well, I’d be willing to consider any names you want, of course. How selfish of me not to consider your choices. Children’s names are so important.”


“Those names have a familiar ring….”


“Do you like Beatrice and Marvin?  Nice, old fashioned names. Or..”


“Stop! You’re babbling!” Martin snapped.


“Breakfast?” she offered.


“Yes, let’s.”


Martin got off the bed and padded across the plush carpeting. Had he looked, he would have noticed the red rash that was deepening and spreading across the length of his foot, but he was preoccupied with other thoughts.


At breakfast, Martin stared into Lucinda’s eyes.  He imagined falling through their frozen surface and being engulfed by icy water. 


“What’s wrong, Marty, “doesn’t your smoothie taste good?”


“Yeah, it’s just my foot is itching like crazy.”


“How about some pleasant breakfast talk?  Like tell me how many body parts have you’ve had replaced?”


“You call that cheerful breakfast talk? Why would you want to know, anyway?”


“I’m fashion conscious; I’m always changing my parts.”


“You’re only supposed to change them when they malfunction.”


“That’s not good enough for me. You like my newly-replaced lips?”


“They’re large and red.”


“The word is full, and yes, I went with a deeper hue.  With my plan I can change the shade every three months at minimal additional charge.”


“That’s great, Lucinda.”


“So tell me, why did you do your teeth?”


“They must have rotted or something. I don’t remember.”


“If that was so, you’d have gone with synthetic. The pearl is for effect.  You yourself told me they cost you a fortune, remember?”


He didn’t. He blinked. 


“You should do your eyes again, Martin. What are you, 157 now?”


“How did you know?”


“I’m good with age.”


“My eyes are Visospec.”


“You could upgrade.  The new Visospecs are in tinted shades that shift.”


“Then why don’t you do that?”


She stared at him: “I don’t have the cash right now.  I need my breasts redone.”


“You look fine.”


“Without constant maintenance, I’m like a house falling into disrepair.”


“And this obsession with beauty will cause you only despair, Lucinda.”


“Marty, is this how we’re going to bicker after we have children?”


“You stole my children!” His words surprised him. He didn’t know where they came from. And yet they upset her. A tear rolled down her cheek.


“Oh, Marty, you’ve lost…,” she started to say.


“What, Lucinda, my mind? Let’s go before we both also lose our jobs.”


 “I’ll leave first.” She stretched her long legs. “Barbie protocol prosthetic limbs,” she offered, as if to answer a question he’d never asked. “Surplus from the military warehouse.  ‘Slim but muscular; Sexy yet durable.’” She quoted, then cocked her head. “Sometimes I ask myself if the synthetic stuff can really hold up to nature’s own.”


“I often wonder the same thing myself, Lucinda.”


“I love you, Martin.”


Her blue eyes glinted like frozen shards of arctic ice.


“I love you, too, Lucinda.”  





The securobot blinked:  “You’re sweating, Martin.”


“I ran to work today.”


“Perhaps you are feverish, Martin.”


“No, I don’t think …”


“Or possibly, Martin, you have been feverishly engaging in certain activities.”


Martin flushed.


“I’ll be heading upstairs now,” He ran towards the elevator bank as the securobot’s laughter cackled in the background. His legs carried him quickly, legs he would never disclose to Lucinda were synthetic.  He didn’t want to appear vain, or admit to the torn cartilage and worn tendons of the declining years.


James tried to creep up on Lucinda, but she turned, fixing him with a stare: “Jealous?” 


“Aren’t you done with him yet?”


“I’m trying to assess the total.  He’s got a lot of parts he won’t admit to.”


“No one ever discloses everything.”


“True. Anyway, within the week, we’ll be ready.  How’s Jenny?  Did she get over her cold?”


“It was Matt who was sick.”


“Oh gosh, James, you’re right. You treat them as though they’re your own.”


“They’re really nobody’s, Lucy, we’ve used so many of their original parts for…”


“Let’s not go there, shall we,” she snapped.


“…the payments on the luxury sedan, the mortgage on the starter castle…”


“Stop!  Please!”


“We’re still fighting our financial battles, Lucy.  Every month is a stretch.”


“And now  Martin,” she sighed, “whom we’ve stripped him of his dignity so many times. He works so long to rebuild himself and then we come along and…”


“He’s our softest target, apart from the kids, Lucy.  What’s with your tears?”


She wiped her cheeks. “They’re frozen. Give me your coffee.”


She grabbed his cup from him and held it to her face to melt the tears.


“My eyes are malfunctioning.” she blinked.


“You can have his, soon.”


“They’re low-grade.  Besides, then who’s will you have? You’re almost 170.”


“I can borrow Matt’s or Jenny’s.”


“Are you sick? You’ve never returned what you’ve borrowed.”


“Do you care, Lucy? You’re in this for the profit, just like me.”


“You make me sound like some kind of whore.”


“How else would you classify yourself?”


“How dare you!  Perhaps I should refer to you as my pimp.”


James slapped her with impressive strength.  She cried out, lifting a hand to her cheek which stuck to the dry ice of her frozen tears:


“Get out of here!”


“No matter, Lucy.  I’ll see you home tonight.” James sneered.


“You forget I have a boyfriend.”


“By the time I’m done with him, he’ll be a mere carcass,” James sauntered out.  




Martin sloshed pleasantly in his bed until the dream took over. He was at sea on an old-fashioned ship when a band of pirates leapt on board, brandishing swords:


“Take what you want,” said Captain Martin, “but leave my men alone.”


 “It is your men we seek.” the chief pirate said.


“Pray tell, for what?” Martin asked.


“It is their essence we require.”


“But we’ve traveled so far to reach a better place,” Martin pleaded.


“The place you seek is unreachable, Captain Martin.  You cannot protect your men, and we are not the enemy,” the pirate smiled, exposing rotting teeth. He reached out filthy, blackened hands.


“You first! Relinquish your teeth!”


“No, my teeth are my biggest asset!” Martin covered his mouth in an effort to protect himself, or perhaps it was to stifle a scream so intense that it pierced the overhead storm clouds and catapulted golf-ball size hale into his skull over and over again until he finally understood…his mother’s words emanating from above the roaring waters of the channel as she was transported, never to return.


He woke up sweating to a melodious voice.  A wet kiss slurped on his forehead.


“Disgusting,” he said, wiping his head and sloshing to the edge of the bed.


His foot broke out in a blister before as it touched the carpeting. He limped to the bathroom, where a toothbrush with pink toothpaste awaited him. His mouth watered at the prospect of a glazed chocolate doughnut. Still, Lucinda would be proud if she knew he was sticking with the yogurt smoothies. 


Later, as he swung his suitjacket over his shoulder and walked out into the brisk morning air, he breathed deeply of the atmosphere.  If he got his lungs replaced he could feel this fresh all the time, but he needed all his money to purchase Lucinda’s engagement ring.  


He was seated at his desk when a gentle hand brushed his shoulder.


“Lucinda,” he smiled, turning.


“I love your Pearlies.” She cooed.  “Are you taking me home with you later?”


“Of course.  I missed you last night, sloshing around all by myself in the bed.”


“I’ll bet.”


“Like being lost at sea…”  His eyes became distant.


“A lonely feeling, I’m sure, but I’ll make it up to you.”


He squeezed her arm and she flinched, just a little, but enough to make him look:


“What’s that bluish mark on your arm?”


“Oh,” she laughed lightly, “my skin. That dermalogue procedure is brutal. ”


“Well maybe you should stop with all these treatments, Lucinda.”


“It’s just routine maintenance.  At 107, I couldn’t look like this without help.”


“You’re leaving yourself vulnerable to all kinds of side effects and I don’t like it.”


She sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Let’s talk about this tonight. I need to get back to the accounts.” She turned abruptly, her black skirt sashaying in the office breeze.


He was sure he’d glimpsed a haunted look on her face, something deep and dark lurking beneath the surface.  It couldn’t have anything to do with him, he reasoned.  The conviction that it did was plain irrational. 


James sauntered towards his desk.


“Ready for happy hour today, Man?”


“ I’d love to, but…”


“So let’s do it.”


James thumped him on the back with a beefy hand.  


“I… have an engagement.” Martin whispered, keeping his eyes averted.  James leaned over, casting a shadow on his desk.


“Do you mean a date, Martin?  Are you afraid to tell me you have a date?”


Martin felt himself reddening. “Something like that.”


“Something like that? It either is or it isn’t, Dude.”


“Yes, it is,” Martin mumbled.


“Well, whoever it is, Dude, hang on tight cause today’s relationships are volatile … and guys like you get caught up in the tide of lust and their vision blurs and … BAM!”


James slammed his large fist onto Martin’s desk.


“Ouch,” said Martin’s computer, “be gentle, please.”


Pow!” said James, more softly this time.  His hand made the shape of a pistol which he then pointed at Martin. “It gets you, Boy, and down you go.”





That night, Martin toyed with Lucinda’s hair as he sloshed by her side in the bed.


“Can’t we get together this weekend?” he asked.


“Oh, Martin, I have endless commitments. There’s too much going on.”


“Well how come we can’t be going on?”


“Maybe next weekend, Marty.  I just can’t this time.”


“I’ll miss you,” he said.  


The next morning passed much as the others had. He sloshed out of bed and no sooner had his feet touched the plush, pink carpeting than his strawberry-colored rash intensified.  He and Lucinda brushed their teeth with pink toothpaste, drank strawberry smoothies and staggered their departure times.


Later on, at work, Martin remembered their conversation over breakfast, which had been about parts again, as in how many he had had replaced. He didn’t particularly know or care since he only changed his parts when they wore out and he was so old that his memory was compromised and that was one part that could never fully be changed….  He felt pressure on his shoulder and jumped:




“You weren’t at the bar last night?”


“I told you I…”


“How many times can you forget me?”


James slapped him on the back and he gasped.


“Don’t feel so good, huh?” James’ eyes were cold.


“No, I, uh, think I’ll head home early today.”


James shrugged. “Be a wuss,” he said, “I don’t care.”


Martin breathed a sigh of relief as James left.


Back in Accounts Payable James slung a burly arm across Lucinda’s chair.


“This weekend,” he said with finality.


Lucinda turned to face him. There were hollows under her eyes.


“You’ve gone too far, James, and one day you’ll be sorry.”


He grabbed her arm, twisting it. She paled.


“No promises, no lies, no threats, Sweetheart. Have you forgotten?”


She gritted her teeth: “I’ll take the children…”


“Go on and call your last shot, Lucy.  Go find the children if you can.”


 “What have you done with them, James?” Her voice was hoarse.


He dropped her arm and walked away, leaving her question unanswered.   Her stomach tightened. She stood up.  She had to go check up on the kids.  James couldn’t… wouldn’t have done anything to them. They were so fragile.  She shuddered.  Nobody could be so insensitive, so inhumanly cruel…


That was it! The countless transformations had dehumanized James.  All those spare parts had added up to one unthinkable subtotal too ghastly to contemplate. Her chair toppled backwards and she ran from the office.  He must have left clues.  She would track them down. Tears spilled from her eyes, their sheer humanity reminding her she was still alive.  But were the children?





Martin awoke on Saturday and remembered: Today was the day!  He sloshed to the edge of the bed and swung his legs over, sensing the fire in his feet.  He glanced down and noted in horror that they were swollen like balloons about to burst. He fell to his knees and crawled to the bathroom, as a spreading rash that burned like the fires of Hell penetrated his flesh. Tears stung his eyes and ran down his cheeks.  He groaned, tasting their salt and relishing the fact that he was alive and in love.


After submerging his feet into a basin of cold water, the swelling decreased enough for him to get dressed and head out the door. He limped down the street in his bedroom slippers, the only footwear able to accommodate his feet.  Three more blocks and he’d hit the diamond district.  He reached under his old flannel shirt and scratched the rash that had now spread across his stomach.  The burning sensation intensified, but he ignored it.  Within minutes, he was in the Jewelry store:


“It can’t cost that much.  I’m telling you.  The last time I was here…”


The saleswoman’s lips curled as she took in his shabby appearance.   


 “And when might that have been?” she sneered.


He stared at her, his jaw slackening. 


“Well, I can’t recall,” he answered.


“Well, that’s a problem, Sir.” 


“But I wanted that one for her.” He insisted, pointing.


She smiled with a degree of practiced snobbism.


“Young man,” she said, “face it, you don’t have the cash flow.”


“Ah, Betsy?” he countered, reading from the nametag she wore.


“Ah, yes?”     


“Perhaps you have some kind of payment plan I could participate in.”


“No,” Betsy replied stiffly, “we phased that out a few years ago.”


“How strange,” mused Martin, tapping his filthy fingernails on the glass countertop.  He smiled at her.


“Let me see you smile again!” She didn’t seem quite so snotty this time.


Martin flashed her his personal best. 


“That’s fascinating,” said Betsy.


“What is?”


“Your teeth:  Are they Pearly Whites?”


“Yes, they’re my greatest asset.”


“Well, there’s your answer right there.”




“Hock your teeth.”


“You’re kidding?”


“Hey, if my husband had sacrificed for me, we might not have filed for …”


But Martin was already shuffling towards the door. 


“Hock shop, dentobot,” he muttered.


Three hours after hocking his precious Pearly Whites, Martin at last bought Lucinda’s ring.  Had he purchased a cheaper one, he could have afforded some rudimentary dental design, but she deserved the best.  Now he trotted off to find her.  She’d informed him that every Saturday she took a late-morning jog in the city’s last remaining park.  It was fortunate, perhaps, that people still needed a place for their pets to pee, for their children to play, for their aging parents to sit and smell the flowers.  Martin limped with increasing pain, Lucinda’s diamond ring buried within his jeans’ pocket. 


Luthinda,” he practiced, “Marry me.” 


He imagined her falling into his embrace as she accepted his offer of love.  He limped faster in his bedroom slippers, now tattered and dirty from the city streets. As he approached the park, he imagined growing old with Lucinda as they walked hand in hand down these quiet paths.  His reverie was cut short by a slap on his back that almost choked him. He turned. 


Jameth, what are you…”


 “Doing here? Is that what you were going ask?” James’ eyes looked crazed. 


Yeth, I wath going to athk that.”


“What’s wrong with you? Your face is all swollen.” James looked disgusted.  Then Martin smiled, and he looked positively horrified.


“Jesus Christ.  What happened to your Pearlies?”


“I hocked them to buy my girl a ring.”


“Oh, no,” James gasped.  He grabbed Martin by the shoulders and shook him.


“Your teeth were supposed to me mine, Idiot.  And where is she?”






 “I don’t know.  I’m looking for her altho.”


“OK, you take that path and I’ll take this one. If you find her, bring her!”


Martin nodded and took off.  James scared him. And that comment about his teeth confused him.  Ominous clouds shifted above as he shuffled on burning feet down the assigned path.  The park’s trees were barren of leaves, the grass was shriveled and brown.  Why the sterile landscape?   The breeze took on a biting chill as he spotted her, tears streaming down her face.  Her golden hair was a mess, her expression wild.  She wrung her hands as she walked, muttering distractedly, oblivious until she bumped into him.


“Martin!” she shrieked.


Luthinda!  Whath wrong?”


“What’s with your face, Martin?”


“I bought you a ring, Luthinda. I want uth to be together for alwayth.” He got down on swollen knees, ignoring the searing pain, and removed the small velvet jewelry case from his pocket.  He smiled up at her.  She put a hand to her mouth. 


“Oh, Martin…”


“I hocked my Pearly Whith for you, Luthinda.”


Her face contorted.  She shook her head, then grabbed his wrist:


“Martin, you have to come with me.”


She began to run as he staggered after her: “Luthinda, thtop. Your ring.”


Somehow, he managed to follow her as she ran from the park and into the red zone district, not far from where he’d hocked his teeth mere hours before.  Lucinda wound her way down narrow streets to the Chop Shop.  There, arms and legs dangled eerily.  These weren’t new devices, but old, worn and sold cheap.  This was where people traded their family members when luck ran short.  She tugged at his sleeve; her words reaching him behind a wall of cotton.


“Matt, Jenny,” she said, pointing to a corner where the limbs were suspended.  


He stared at her as she sobbed:


“He said we couldn’t afford the mortgage or the car payments, that we were getting old and that we’d need new parts.  But why make them suffer?” 


Luthinda, what are you telling me?”


“He was fueled by an obsession to control me,” she fell to her knees. 


“Get outta’ here, Lady,” the chop shop manager nudged her with a booted foot. “It ain’t good for business with you bawling like some damn baby.” 


She was beyond control, unable to stop.


“To see our children like this….” She raised her eyes. “Oh My God.” 


Martin’s bony fingers raked his greasy hair as the names spun through his head: Matt, Jenny, Jenny, Matt.  Faster and faster and faster, until from the madness, a memory emerged: vague, ephemeral: Two children eating doughnuts and giggling, their eyes sparkling with youth’s magic…a recollection from long ago… forever familiar...  He fell down beside Lucinda, his frail body racked with sobs.





The ambubots arrived, a disheveled James stumbling in their wake.


“They’re both crazy, and he stole my ring.”  He jabbed a finger towards Martin. The ambubots reached into Martin’s pockets, extracting the jewelry case.


“Where’d you get this?” They asked.  Martin offered no response.


“Let’s go.  We’re taking you to Psych City,” they dragged him up and he offered no resistance, finding it almost a relief that he’d finally be entering the belly of the beast.


“I got all the info. you need,” James was saying.


Later, as the ferry cut mercilessly through the black water, Martin wondered about  Lucinda.  He stared up at the nighttime sky and welcomed the flow of tears as he remembered his mother, yelling words forever lost to the channel’s roaring water.  Now those words came to him –  clear and simple:


“Save the children, Martin!  They don’t have to die!”


And he understood that he had failed, absolutely and completely. 


“May they rest in peace, Mother,” he finally responded, “as may you.”


The ride was getting choppier, and he doubled over as much as his shackles would allow and succumbed to seasickness.  The harsh wind spat the channel’s spray at him in bitter, pelting doses.  He lifted his face to meet his punishment.  There in the distance loomed Psych City, emerging from the water like some Neolithic monstrosity.   And for the first time in his life, Martin understood that he was truly powerless.  




Several weeks later, he spotted her at the breakfast hall.   He couldn’t recall what had transpired between them because his electroshock treatments had fried too many of his brain cells.  They had also singed all his hair off, so now when he went to run his fingers through its familiar greasy texture, they slid over the naked dome of his skull.  Bad hair day aside, relief flooded him at the sight of her.  He vaguely remembered that he had bought her a ring, though she didn’t appear to be wearing it.  He limped over:




“Martin,” she said softly, “what happened to your hair?”


“Why? Aren’t you getting the electroshocks too?”


“No, you’re in a whole different subsection.”


“Why are you thomwhere elth?”


“I’ll be leaving soon. My husband’s coming to get me.”


Martin felt a stab.  Memories tried to surface behind the thudding in his skull.


She grabbed his hands:


“Listen, Martin, you deserve to know the truth. You and I were married once.  You don’t remember because you underwent treatments to get over the pain.”


Martin was drooling slightly from the left corner of his lip.


“When I was with you, Martin, I was vain and shallow, and my looks were dependant on stealing your parts.” She touched his cheek, “I may never have loved you, Martin, but you have loved me many times, and each time has caused you pain.  You need to break the cycle, Martin. To what debased conditions are you willing to fall?”


“I have not won by attempting to forget.”  Martin’s said listlessly.


“We fought, Martin, over money, and, of course, there were the children…” 


Tears spilled from Martin’s eyes, burning his synthetic capillaries.


“I met James. He seemed so strong and secure. He kept himself that way by scamming people out of their parts, but I didn’t know.  He was a good father to our children, who I got custody of.  It was James who arranged to have you fall in love with me again and again.  And when the time came, we hijacked your parts. See my teeth.” 


She smiled and was, as always, perfect. “They’re yours, Martin; not the ones you just hocked, but the ones you bought the time before, or possibly the time before that.  Had you remembered me, you would have kept your distance and saved yourself more pain.  And so here I am, Martin, engaged in an endless cycle of destroying your life.”


Lucinda stood up, shook out her golden hair.


“Don’t ever forget me, Martin, and the next time you see me, run away.”


Martin blinked vacantly.  His tongue poked out to lick the dried blood on his parched lips.  And then, as if responding to a silent cue, his eyes came alive.  Lucinda turned and registered what Martin had already seen.  She paled and released his hands:




“Hello, Lucy.”  He tapped a polished shoe on the floor.


“We have an appointment to attend to, so excuse us, please.” He glared at Martin.


“And by the way, what happened to your hair?  Wasn’t it bad enough you lost your teeth?”


“Leave him alone,” said Lucinda.


James’ eyes narrowed: “I oughta’ slap you,” he hissed.


Martin swooned, his vision blurring.  He watched Lucinda and Lucinda being led away by James and James, their images refracting into a million fragments throughout the far-reaches of his mind until he fell to the floor in a crumpled heap.  The attendant came:


“This one requires a complete overhaul,” he announced into his walkie talkie.  He dragged Martin out of the dining hall by his feet.  As his head bumped along the cold, concrete surface. His lips moved:


“One day I hope you cry like I’m crying today, Luthinda.”


Her voice resounded in his head:


“Tears are mere salt, Martin. Feel them. Lick them. Relish their pain.”




“Come on,” James shoved Lucinda roughly into the consultation room.


“Sit,” a voice echoed from the ceiling, where narrow black eyes opened and closed ….  “A day in the life of Lucinda May…”…a laugh…


“I don’t need to be here, James.” There was an edge to her voice.


“You’re sentimentality marks a weakness, Lucy.”


“James, the psychobots at Psych City are too aggressive…”


He waved some papers in her face: 


“I have the court order here for Treatment Over Objection.”


His head snapped up to the ceiling:


“Begin!” he commanded.


Leather straps entwined themselves around Lucinda’s soft curves.  She gasped and her bosom heaved.


“You’re beautiful in your suffering,” James smiled savagely.


She would have screamed but a metal device clamped her jaw.   A long needle began its descent from the ceiling where the psychobot’s black eyes blinked on – off – on – off, unflinchingly, unfeelingly…  The needle poised itself with perfect precision stabbed her in the neck.  Her body sagged instantly.  James smiled darkly. He walked over and undid the restraints. Lucinda fell to the floor, drooling. 


“Now our work may begin,” he whispered.





She sat at the breakfast nook; a pineapple smoothie before her in a tall glass.


“It’s so yellow,” she remarked.


He placed a large hand over her small, delicate one.


“Yellow is your favorite color,” he said, staring into her eyes.


“Is it?”  Her blue eyes fastened on him adoringly.


“Oh, yes,” he said very seriously, as if addressing a small child, “it is.”


“We won’t be late, will we?” she seemed anxious.


“No, dear.  And good news:  We should complete your training today.”


“I’m so excited.  I always wanted a career…” Her blue eyes blinked.


“Of course you did,” he said soothingly, “and now you have one.”


She smiled, exposing perfect teeth: “And it’s thanks to you, Darling. I love you.”


“Of course you do,” he said evenly.  “By the way, I have a young man I’d like you to meet at work today.”


“You’re the only man I need,” she pouted.


“Well, we need him, Dear?  He’s just been fixed up with all new parts.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?”


“You’ll learn in time,” his voice took on a harshness. She looked hurt.


“Did I make you angry?”  Her forehead creased with worry. 


“No, you didn’t,” he said, “I just wish you wouldn’t question me.”


“You can go ahead and introduce me to him if you want.”


“Actually, I was hoping you might introduce yourself.”




Martin ran his fingers through his lustrous brown hair.  He stared into his computer screen, admiring his biggest asset, his state of the art, Visospec All-Stars that twinkled in prism-like fashion.


“Where’d you get those eyes?  They’re amazing!”


The voice came from behind him, and belonged to a woman.  Martin turned to face her, a sense of familiarity coming over him.


“I’m sorry. You are?” He asked, politely enough to mask how impressed he was by the snug fit of her yellow sweater and her short black skirt that exposed her long, slender legs.  She reached out a delicate hand, possibly synthetic. 


“I’d like to introduce myself,” she said.  “My name is Lucinda May; I’m from Accounts Payable.”



The End


© 2006 by Pavelle Wesser. I am the program manager for an adult education 'English as a Second Language' site in Connecticut, where I live with my husband and two children.  I have published poetry on the online anthology of Voicesnet.  I write in my spare time, usually poetry and light science fiction.  

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