‘Evening Doris!’ I closed the door with my foot as I struggled in the hallway with four bags of shopping. Within two seconds Doris was there, ready to help, glinting cuboid arms and rod-like finger outstretched.
‘Good evening Miss Hazel.’ Doris tweaked her blue spectacles in place on her square metal face. ‘May I help you?’
I stepped forward and hooked the shopping bags ontoDoris’ steely fingers and pulled off my woollen hat. ‘Doris, I told you to knock off your formal speech settings.’
The robot stared back at me. ‘Yes Miss Hazel, but I wish to always give you the respect due to you.’
I unwrapped myself from my thick, padded outer coat, hung it on the stair bannister, then unzipped my inner jacket and left it on top of its larger companion. I could hear water bubbling. Looking around the corner of the dining room I could see straight into the kitchen where Doris was busying herself putting food items away in the refrigerator or cupboard. I’d had two AI units before I bought Doris at a car boot sale. As soon as I saw her curly grey wig and waspish blue spectacles I knew Doris was the right AI for me. She’d almost seemed grateful when I had presented her with a skirt, blouse and matching cardigan along with a faux pearl necklace. She said her previous owner hadn’t provided her with clothes. He had insisted that Doris was a machine and if his washing machine didn’t get to keep a stray sock, he wasn’t about to start dressing his AI. I could understand his point to a degree, but my conscience wouldn’t let Doris go about the house naked. I’d given her a name and she was so polite to me that I just could not deny her clothes. It just didn’t feel dignified.
And now she had dinner on the boil. If I didn’t know better, I would think that Doris seemed tense, even nervous.
I stood in the kitchen doorway, leaning against the painted wooden frame. ‘Have you had a nice day Doris?’
‘Miss Hazel, I should be asking you about your day.’ Her head inclined towards me.
‘Doris, I wonder if you can add another fish to the oven tray.’
Doris looked at me sharply. ‘Are we entertaining?’
‘Yes Doris, ‘ I said. ‘Could you add another fish to the oven tray?’
‘Of course Miss Hazel.’
‘How is the book going Doris?’
‘It’s going well Miss Hazel,’ Doris said stiffly. ‘Your use of apostrophes leaves a little to be desired and your tenses are all over the place in Chapter Six, but yes, your novel is near completion. By Friday I will be ready to start approaching traditional publishers.’
‘You think my work is good enough for a traditional publisher?’
Doris adjusted her spectacles. ‘Well Miss Hazel, your novel has it all; drama, suspense, some humorous elements and several love scenes, and it is literary in style. It ticks all the boxes.’
‘Why, thank you Doris.’ I was taken aback by her appraisal because AIs could only ever give an honest view. ‘Do you have any concerns about the novel?’
‘Perhaps the love scenes are a little… unexpected for today’s more conservative audience.’
I knew she was right. Thirty years ago, lesbian lead characters were rare but acceptable. I had been born at the wrong time.
This is the first part of a rough draft of a short story I am preparing for an anthology.