Grandma’s Sex Robot William Hawkins
Grandma calls her sex robot Sony. We try to explain it’s just the company who makes it.
“Well,” she says, “he looks like a Sony. Doesn’t he?”
We tell her he doesn’t. We tell her ‘he’ looks like an automaton with silver skin and copper eyelashes, which is exactly what he is, one of many mass-produced for the pleasure of the lonely. We point to the round, brass orb at the fulcrum of his legs. Do you know, we ask Grandma, what happens when that round, brass orb opens? Do you know what’s inside?
“Of course,” Grandma says. “A dildo. So?”
So. So nothing. We just ask her not to name him Sony.
To which she replies, “Well, what else am I supposed to call him?”
We tell her she shouldn’t call him anything. We tell her it is unseemly, having it in her house. We point to the needlework on her walls, the antique picture frames on her shelves, the holographic displays of great and great-great-grandchildren. Then we point at the sex robot, naked save for the round, brass orb, stunning sculpted muscles in plastic relief, modeled, in fact, after Michelangelo’s David, though individual models are, of course, customizable.
Grandma, for instance, had the chest widened. Grandma is a sucker for a big chest.
“All sorts of people have these things,” Grandma says. “Why shouldn’t I?”
People have them, we tell her, they just have the decency to hide them. Their sex robots are in their closets, the corners of their basements. Their sex robots are tucked under their beds—all sex robots, of course, fold into the fetal position for easy storage. They only come out when no one is home, when no one can see them, when it’s safe to put on smooth jazz, to light candles. The candles don’t even have to be aromatic. All sex robots feature aromatic vents, discretely positioned under their armpits, with all sorts of customizable smells. Grandma’s, for instance, smells like roasted pecans. We tell her, you can have it, just keep it out of sight.
“Well,” Grandma says, “I’m just honest, I guess.”
No, we say, you’re insane. It’s too much, we tell her, too much. The sex robot is always with her. When we come to visit, it opens the door. When we call, she tells the sex robot what we’re saying to her. At Christmas, when we gather at Grandma’s house, the sex robot is there. When she is finished with her meal, it massages her calloused feet. We tell her to stop. We tell her there are children present. Not physically, maybe, but digitally, watching her through their screens debase herself with a set of wires.
“If you want to take him,” Grandma says, “you can. Just be careful when you’re stepping over my dead body. I want to look good for my funeral.”
We give up. The sex robot stays. It is with her for seven years. Then, one night, Grandma’s heart monitor fails. The sex robot alerts local paramedics. No one knew it had that feature. We didn’t know it could open the door for the EMTs, or call and alert us after. We didn’t know it would stay by the door, opening it for us once we returned to figure out what could be sold and what could be shared.
The sex robot continues as if Grandma is there. At night, it sleeps on the left side of her bed, until we have her bed removed; then it sleeps on the floor where the left side of the bed used to be. Early in the morning, it wakes and makes coffee, until the coffee machine is gone. It picks out a grapefruit from the refrigerator, until there is no more grapefruit, no more refrigerator. The worse is when it sits at the table, when it cuts the grapefruit into perfect wedges, when it raises them and places them gently where Grandma’s lips used to be. Until there is no more chair.
None of us has the heart to shut it down. But it is powered wirelessly; if we do nothing, it will go on endlessly. We say to each other, today we’ll shut it down. But day by day, as we remove every last trace of Grandma, the sex robot remains. Until at last, it is the only thing that remains. In an empty house, it continues its precise pantomime of their lives. We decide together enough is enough. We must shut it down. Tomorrow.
Except, when that tomorrow comes, the sex robot is not there. We look everywhere. We know they can fold themselves into more compact units. We told Grandma so many times. We look in every corner, every closet. We’re all worried, but we don’t admit it. We just keep looking.
Someone suggests looking for the sex robot at the mauseoleum. We laugh. We make fun. It doesn’t sound sincere when we do. Really, we were all thinking it. We were all picturing the robot, leaving the house at night, walking the streets, guiding itself to Grandma’s remains. We picture it there, looking to the brass plaque hiding her ashes.
But none of us admits to this, and none of us go to check to see if we’re right. We’re too afraid we might be wrong. Instead we go home. We perform our accustomed routines. We eat, we bathe, we climb into our beds. And from our closets, our basements, from under our beds, our sex robots unfold themselves and join us, programmed to hold us until we fall asleep.
Originally published in Tin House Online, February 19, 2016. Reprinted here by permission of the author.
Become a Patron! Check our our NEW Patron rewards!
Support Flash Fiction Online
Flash Fiction Online is a free online magazine that pays professional rates. So how do we make that happen? It’s due to the generosity of readers like you.
Here are some ways you can help:
Sign up to become a monthly donor and gain access to exclusive Patron rewards like manuscript critiques, insider submission statistics, the Editors’ Wishlist, free downloads of our current issue, and Ask Me Anything chats with the FFO staff. Read more…
Subscribe to FFO.
Never miss an issue! E-reader formats delivered to your inbox. Available from WeightlessBooks.com
Buy our issues & anthologies.
Consider a one-time gift that fits your budget.
Advertise with us.
Have a product, service, or website our readers might enjoy? Ad space available on the website and in our e-reader issues. Sponsored posts opportunities are also available. Learn more…
Spread the word.
Love one of our stories or articles? Share it with a friend!