Still Under Warranty
Henry poured the box of popcorn into two bowls. There was enough for the both of them so he didnít have to run to the convenience store to get more. He had thought of filling the glasses with champagne but then they werenít really celebrating. Water instead. Besides, he thought to himself, water was good.
"What are you doing in there?" she called from the living room. Beth wasnít an impatient person. She just worried about Henry sometimes.
"Iíll be right there!" said Henry returning the bottle of champagne to the fridge. Another time, maybe. He set the bowls on a tray along with the two glasses of water, then proceeded into the living room.
"You missed the previews." Beth shook her head as she took a glass of water in her hand then tapped the seat next to her. "Sit down, you keep working all the time youíre going to give yourself a heart attack."
"Iím still young," said Henry sitting beside her with his bowl of popcorn. "Hope you like the water."
Beth took a sip, shrugged and placed it back on the coffee table with the tray. "Canít really taste it, but itís good."
"Youíre good!" Henry blushed, took her hand and kissed it. He watched Beth blush as well, taking her arm away and setting it on her lap.
"Oh my!" laughed Beth looking at the end of her arm, realizing her hand wasnít there. "My hand, I believe youíre still holding onto it?"
Henry shook his head rapidly. "Oh my god!"
Beth patted his shoulder with her other hand. "There, there, donít worry, weíll just put it back on." She took back her hand and tried to attach it to the end of her arm. "Hmm, I think I might need help with this one."
Henry held her arm steady while Beth tried to attach her hand. "Here, let me try, just keep it steady." Henry took the hand and pressed it against the end of her arm. He heard a snap and the hand didnít move. "There we go."
"Excellent!" Beth held her hand in front of her face and smiled. "I must say Henry, you do know how to fix a girl right!" Her hand fell off. "Darn!"
Henry picked up the hand again. "Oh no, the movieís starting!" He sighed, but that wasnít important right now. He tried to snap the hand back on, turned it, but it wouldnít budge, kept slipping off. "We could glue it on?"
"We could but then the sensors wouldnít pick it up, so my fingers wouldnít move. I believe you need to snap it against the wrist so it makes that connection. Though Iím not good with machines. You think I would be, but Iím not." Beth giggled. "This is embarrassing."
"Oh, donít be embarrassed, weíve been together for almost a year."
"And a good year, itís been," she said wistfully.
"Hey, donít talk like that! You just watch the movie, Iíll go find the instructions." Henry stood up and put the hand on the coffee table.
"But youíll miss it!"
"Donít worry." Henry kissed her cheek, then returned to the kitchen. He put his hands on his hips. Now where were those instructions? He knew heíd put them in the kitchen because thatís where he kept all the instructions. They were always in the drawer next to the stove. He opened that drawer. Instructions for the stove, radio, TV....robot girlfriend. "Ah, here it is!" He flipped to the table of contents. "How to program...already did that. Eight hundred number." Henry was glad they had those. He walked to the living room and looked on Beth sadly as he saw her watching the movie and holding a pillow to her chest with one hand. She put her hand in the bowl of popcorn, ate some, then picked up the pillow that fell on the floor and clutched it against her chest. It wasnít fair! Henry shook his head. Well, at least he had that number. He picked up the cordless phone then went back into the kitchen. Henry dialed the number. It rang.
"Thank you for calling Manico Incorporated, all our lines are presently busy," said a voice, "please hold and your call will be answered in the order that it was received, thank you." Music. He had no idea from what decade but it was annoying.
He paced the room, walking along in tune to the music eventually. The music stopped.
"Thank you for calling Manico Incorporated, this is Barb, how may I help you?"
Thank you! Henry was ready to dance a jig, but he didnít know what that was, just knew it was some old expression. "Yes, Iím Henry Willingsworth and...I bought a robot girlfriend a year ago?"
"The RG 121 model?"
"Yes, yes, thatís me!"
"Okay, I just need your name."
Henry took the phone from his ear then stared into it. "I just told you my name," he hissed softly. He sighed and returned the phone to his ear. "Henry Willingsworth."
"And how do you spell that?"
"W-I-L-L-I-N-G-S-W-O-R-T-H." Henry helped himself to another glass of water.
"No! Henry Willingsworth! W-I." He heard some shuffling of papers on the other end. "Hello? Are you there?"
"Yes, yes, sorry about that, I just scrolled down too far. Here it is. Henry Willingsworth. You still live at 4 Centre Bricklane?"
"Just checking information sir."
"Whatís that have to do with my girlfriend? Her hand came off you know, I donít have time for all this stuff."
"I understand, sir, thereís no reason to get upset."
"Iím not getting upset!!"
"Henry is everything all right in there?" asked Beth from the living room.
"Everythingís fine, Beth, donít worry!"
"Itís Barb, sir."
"I know, I know, I was talking to my girlfriend."
"You have a girlfriend...and you have an RG 121??"
"Hey!" Henry slammed his glass down on the counter. "Now you see here!"
"I apologize, sir, none of my business."
"Itís not like that! Sheís my girlfriend."
"Um, um, so how may I, or we, help you?"
Henry leaned forward on the counter. "Well, my girlfriendís hand came off."
"The RG 121 attacked your girlfriend??"
"No! The RG 121 is my girlfriend!"
"Oh, well, thatís perfectly normal."
Henry bit his lip. Have to talk in their language, thought Henry to himself. "The RG 121's hand fell off."
"Oh, I see. Did you try putting it back on?"
No I thought Iíd call you to do it! "Yes, I tried to put the hand back on, but it wonít fasten on."
"Ah, I see." Some clicking at the other end. "Oops, sorry, I typed band. Let me just correct that. Okay, so the RG 121's hand fell off?"
"Yes, thatís correct."
"Were you doing anything...rough with it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Did you throw the robot around?"
"No! What kind of a guy do you think I am??"
"Sorry, we just have to check these things. Youíd be surprised at what kind of crazies purchase the product." A pause on the other end, more clicking. "Hey, did you say you live on 4 Centre Bricklane?"
"Yes, thatís where I live." He sighed. The movie was probably over by now.
"I have some good news then. It says here youíre still covered under the warranty and instead of us having to send you a replacement model you can go to our nearest warehouse facility. Itís on the outskirts, but a 30 minute drive away."
"But I donít want a replacement model."
"Well, they may have some spare parts for you. It is just the hand that fell off?"
"Yes, just the hand."
"Probably just needs a tune up then, so I wouldnít worry."
"Are they open now?"
Laughter on the other end. "Goodness no. They are open at 8 in the morning, if thatís any consolation?"
"Excellent, thank you."
"Thank you for calling Manico Incorporated. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"No, thatís everything."
"Have a good night then, sir."
Henry hung up, then raced to the living room and sat down by Beth.
"How did it go?" she whispered.
"We can get a replacement hand in the morning I believe." Henry put his arm around her.
The warehouse was a 30 minute drive, so Henry was happy about that. Beth was beside him, eating a cookie which really didnít go anywhere as far as Henry knew because she was a robot. Henry only noticed this now. He knew she was a robot when he purchased her, but seeing her hand in her lap, made him see her in a different light. Nevertheless, she was still beautiful and wonderful. He kissed her cheek.
"Oh my, what was that for? And youíre driving!" Beth smiled and lowered her head as her face reddened slightly. "I hate when you do that, itís embarrassing."
"Well, Iím not driving anymore, weíre here."
"Good, that wasnít long." Beth reached over with her right hand, the one that was still attached, and straightened his tie. "Thatís better."
Henry got out of the car and opened Bethís side before she could. He helped her out, closed her door, then locked the car. "Shall we?" He took her arm in his while she held on to her hand. "Try not to lose that, we need it."
"Oh donít worry." It was sunny out and Beth lifted her face to let the rays warm her. Of course, she couldnít really feel it, but it was nice to do.
Henry climbed the stairs then opened the door. After going down a long hallway, he noticed some people working on machines to his right. One guy wearing a helmet gave a nod then approached the two of them. "Iím Henry Willingsworth."
"Ah, yes, Mr. Willingsworth, Iím Dave Chambers." He shook Henryís hand. "Iím the manager, or a manager, I should say. I run the Bricklane division, so youíre in luck being pretty close by. Follow me." He pointed up. There were more stairs, and on top of the stairs were some offices with glass windows. "Thatís where we watch the employees. This is the...RG?"
They walked up the stairs.
"Yes, this is my girlfriend," replied Henry sighing. "Beth."
"Ah, youíve named her, good idea. Some donít name their RGís, not sure why. Youíd be surprised what kind of crazies buy the RGís. Come on in." They reached his office and he unlocked the door with a key. Chambers took off his helmet and threw it on one of the empty chairs. He sat where he was suppose to sit and motioned Henry to sit across from him. "Now then, I think I have your file somewhere here." He flipped it open.
Beth took Dave Chambersí helmet off the chair, set it on the floor, then moved it next to Henry and sat down. Henry patted her arm since she was seated on his right.
Chambers raised an eyebrow. "Anyway, Iím assuming your RGís hand fell off?"
"Yes, thatís what I told the lady."
Chambers laughed. "It says here, the RGís band fell off."
Henryís face grew red. "Those stupid phone people."
"Ah, donít worry about it, theyíre temps mostly, but we cipher through the mistakes pretty well. Well, I have good news and bad news, I guess Iíll start with the bad. The bad news is we canít really replace the RGís hand. From what it says here, you canít connect it back to her wrist. I mean you could glue it, but the sensors wouldnít pick anything up, so the fingers wouldnít move. Itíd be like you having a wooden hand." Chambers looked around. "Um, do you want some coffee or anything?"
Beth smiled. "Iíll take a coffee. I need to wash down my cookie." She laughed.
Chambers looked at Henry strangely.
"What? What!" said Henry defensively. "Girlfriendís eat, so why canít Robot Girlfriendís eat??"
Chambers shrugged. "Yeah, good point. Incidentally...you have been removing the waste container?"
Beth held up her hand (actually both). "Yes, sir. Iíve been doing that myself since Henry was uncomfortable with that."
Henry covered his face with his hand and shook his head.
"Sorry for the embarrassment, Mr. Willingsworth, we just have to cover everything. The hand thing couldíve been the cause of bloating, and in that case, weíd just have to do a scrub, then the hand would fit perfectly."
"Nope, all scrubbed," said Beth cheerfully. She looked over at Henry, kissed his cheek. "Sorry hun, didnít mean to embarrass you."
"Yeah," said Chambers not knowing what else to say. "Weíll pass on the coffee for now. Be less complicated that way."
Beth shrugged. "Okay."
"Yeah." Chambers scratched his head. "Um, anyway, Mr. Willingsworth, the good news is youíre still under warranty."
"So then I can just get a new hand?"
"Well, not exactly, Mr. Willingsworth. The parts under her wrist are probably worn out and thatís normal, though not normal within a year, which is why we have the warranty. Under the warranty youíre guaranteed a free replacement."
"But I donít want a replacement," said Henry, "I just want Beth."
"Well, you can still have Beth, it just wonít be...this Beth."
Beth frowned. "I am not a 'this Beth', you know. And stop talking about me as if Iím not in the room!"
Chambers rolled his eyes. "Well, if you want me to address you, um, Beth, then youíre a defective model."
"And youíre rude! How dare you talk to me that way? How would you like me to call your wife a defective model!"
"Yeah," said Chambers, "my wifeís been dead five years now."
"Then sheís a deceased model!"
"Yeah...so Mr. Willingsworth, what Iím saying is, if you keep, er, Beth here, sheís just going to break down more. Youíre better off with a replacement, plus itís free. Weíll even deliver it to you for free if youíd like."
Henry sighed. "Well, sir, I just canít do that." Henry stood up. "I like my model, and Iím keeping her. Come on, dear, we donít need this harassment."
Chambers shook his head. Another idiot.
Beth stood up, then grabbed her hand. "Iíll be taking my hand now."
"Have a good day then, sorry we couldnít be of help to you," said Dave Chambers.
Bethís tongue fell on the floor.
"Oops, would you look at that!" said Beth laughing. "My tongue fell!"
Henry looked at the ground, then at Chambers. "Itís free? Even delivery?"
"Yup, itís all covered under the warranty."
Henry poured two glasses of champagne and placed them on the tray. He grabbed the tray and went into the living room.
"The movieís about to start. What took you so long?"
Henry sighed, handing her a glass. "Just thinking of my old girlfriend, thatís all."
"Ah, yes, Beth," said Marianne.
"Sorry I keep talking about her sometimes."
"Thatís okay." Marianne patted the seat beside her. "Well better sit down, youíre going to make yourself all tired."
Henry sat down and raised his glass. "To a new future."
"Iíll drink to that." Marianne tapped his glass with hers then took a sip. "So whereís the popcorn?"
"Oh, I ran out. Iíll get some more tomorrow."
© 2006 by Arnold Emmanuel
Bio: "Currently I work part-time at a fast food restaurant, try to surprise my friends, and find time to write. I have published two stories in Aphelion: The End Place in the January 2006 issue, and Devlin and the Robot Assassin in the July 2005 issue.
E-mail: Arnold Emmanuel
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