Sunday, May 26, 2019

BURYING AMBROSE                                                       
Carl Perrin
            “What’s that hole in your back yard for?” Raymond asked.
            “To bury Ambrose.”
            “You can’t bury Ambrose in your back yard.”
            “Why not?”
            “Because he’s a robot. That’s why not, Frederick.”
            Frederick put more sugar in his coffee and stirred it vigorously. “Don’t tell me that’s against the law,” he said.
            “Of course it ain’t against the law. It just don’t make sense. That’s all.”
            “It makes sense to me. He’s been my closest companion since Becky died. He’s like a member of the family.”
            Raymond pulled out one of those stinky cigars and lit it, moving the match around so the fire touched every bit of the glowing end. He took a puff and blew out the smoke.
            He shook his head and said, “Frederick, you’re my brother, but sometimes I don’t understand you.”
            Frederick ignored his brother’s comment.  “I wanted to bury him at the cemetery, but they wouldn’t allow it. Even if they would, I couldn’t afford the fees. All that money just to dig a hole, so I decided to dig my own hole. This way Ambrose will always be near me.”
             “I don’t suppose you’re going to have a funeral for him,” Raymond said grinning.
            “Don’t get all sarcastic with me, Raymond Merryweather. I did want to have a regular funeral for him, but the hypocritical minister wouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
            “I thought you didn’t believe in that stuff anyway.”
            “I don’t, but it don’t do no harm to buy a little insurance.”
            He sighed and got up to get the coffee pot and offered it to Raymond. Raymond held up his cup for a refill. Frederick refilled his own cup and sat back down.
            Frederick added some sugar to his coffee and said, “Really, Frederick. Your robot is just a piece of machinery—.”
            “Don’t give me that, Raymond. You made a big to-do when your cat Muggins died.”
            “No, hear me out. I was just going to say, machinery can be repaired.”
            “That’s only true up to a point. I’ve had to take Ambrose back to the shop a dozen times in the last couple of months.”
            “So why can’t they fix it so it stays fixed?”
            “It’s a hardware problem. They can’t put a new operating system in because the hardware does not have enough resources to support a more up-to-date system.”
            “So, why does it have to have the latest and greatest? What difference does it make?”
            “The manufacturer no longer supports the operating system with updates, so it is vulnerable to viruses from the internet. Since you communicate with robots through the internet, it was always vulnerable. It reached a point where I could not longer afford to keep getting it repaired.”
            “I’ve never heard of anyone burying a robot before. You could at least take him to the recycle center. There must be parts that could be reused.”
            “Would you have sold Muggins for spare parts?”
            Raymond got up and hugged his brother. “I’m so sorry that you lost Ambrose. Anyway, I’ll be here for the funeral.”
            There weren’t many people for Ambrose’s funeral, Raymond and his wife, one of the neighbors, and a couple of guys who worked with Frederick. An old friend, Jack Stillings, said a few words over the deceased.
            “Ambrose, you were a loyal servant and companion to Frederick. You will be sorely missed. Here are some words from Genesis 19 in remembrance: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me.
            After they shoveled dirt over the Ambrose’s body, they went inside. Raymond’s wife, Lucille, had set up some light refreshments. In less than an hour everyone except Raymond and Lucille had left.
            Raymond took his brother by the arm. “Come on,” he said. “I have something to show you.”
            They went into the spare bedroom where a robot was lying on the bed that used to be Ambrose’s.
            “I know you depended on Ambrose for lots of things. I’m getting a new robot assistant. This is my old one, Fosdick. I’m giving him to you. He’s not Ambrose, but at least he has an up-to-date operating system.”
            Fosdick looked up at Raymond.
            “Come on, Fosdick, get up and say hello to your new owner.”  


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Another story from The Robot Revolution
First published in  CommuterLit

Rip Van Winkle                                             
            When Rip woke up, he didn’t know where he was. Then he looked around and saw that he was in his own bed in his own house. But something didn’t seem right. It was the color of the room, a soft pink. He remembered painting it a light green. There were things on the bureaus that he didn’t remember seeing before.
            He climbed out of bed and looked into the mirror that hung over the dresser. He pulled back in alarm when he saw an old man staring back at him. Then he remembered: he had woken up a few days ago in a hospital room, it seemed like. There was a lot of excitement when he woke up. Nurses kept running into the room and talking excitedly. Then a doctor came and explained what had happened to him. But Rip didn’t understand. It didn’t make any sense to him. After a couple of days they brought him back home, but it was late when he arrived, and he had gone right to bed.
            He shook his head at the image in the mirror. Then he got dressed and walked out through the living room to the kitchen where he saw a plump blonde woman stirring a pot on the stove. She looked familiar, but he didn’t recognize her.
            “Oh, good! You’re up. How are you feeling? Are you hungry? I’ll fix you some breakfast.”
            Rip sat at the kitchen table. He thought the woman must be his daughter Alison, but she had changed since he had last seen her.
            The woman brought him a cup of coffee and hugged him.
            “Can you tell me what’s going on? I’m confused, Alison.”
            The woman laughed. “I’m not Alison. That’s my mother. I’m Heidi, your granddaughter.”
            It was getting more confusing all the time. “How can you be my granddaughter?” he asked. “Heidi is still in high school, and you must be…”
            “I’m thirty-four, grandpa. I graduated from high school many years ago.”
            “But where have I been all those years?”
            “Didn’t they explain it in the nursing home? You were in a coma for almost twenty years.”
            “Twenty years? How did that happen?”
            “Evidently there was some kind of unusual reaction between your heart medication and Tylenol. Didn’t the doctor explain that to you?”
            “I guess he tried to, but there was so much noise and confusion going on, that I didn’t understand very much of what he was saying.”
            “Do you still like your eggs over easy?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer, she went on, “Mom will be coming down this week-end. In the meantime I will be staying with you for a while. But you should be okay. The doctors put you in a hospital for a few days to undergo some tests, but they said you are fine.
            Heidi put the eggs on the table and popped two slices of bread in the toaster. She reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of pills, which she put in front of her grandfather.
            “Here are you heart pills. You need to take one with your breakfast. There is some Tylenol in the medicine cabinet. They are for my sinus headaches. Don’t you take any of it. We don’t want you to take another twenty-year nap.” She smiled.
            After Heidi took the dishes to the sink, she said, “I’m going to the market to pick up some things for dinner. Do you want to ride along with me?”
            “Sure. I don’t suppose my old car is still the garage.”
            “No, it’s long gone, but that’s no problem.”
            She picked up her phone from the counter and punched something into it.
            “What did you do?” Rip asked. “Did you just order a taxi?”
            “No,” she laughed. “I ordered a LandCar. I belong to an organization, and I can order a LandCar whenever I need it.”
            “You just order it on your cell phone?” Rip asked.
            “That’s right. I have a LandCar app on my phone.”
            “I have an old cell phone around here somewhere. Can I get that on my phone?”
            “Your old phone is obsolete. We’ll have to get you a new one. You need a cell phone for practically everything you do these days.”
            In a few minutes a car pulled up in front of Rip’s condo. They went outside and Heidi climbed into the back seat.
            “Are you sure you want me to drive?” Rip asked. “I haven’t been behind the wheel of a car for a long time.”
            Heidi laughed. “No, you get in beside me. This car drives itself.”
            Rip started to back out. “I don’t think I want to go,” he said. “I don’t trust a machine to drive me through traffic.”
            After she coaxed Rip back into the car, Heidi said, “Take us to ShopRite,” and the car started moving.
            Rip felt his heart leap up to his throat. “Stop the car!” he yelled. “Stop the car!”
            Heidi laughed. “Don’t worry, Grandpa. These self-driving cars are much safer than cars driven by people. In fact very few people drive cars themselves anymore.”
            When they entered the grocery store, Heidi showed something from her phone to a small monitor near the entrance. Then she picked up a basket and walked through the store picking up the things she wanted.
            When she had everything she needed, she started walking toward the entrance.
            Alarmed, Rip asked, “Aren’t you going to pay for the stuff you took? Are we going to get thrown in jail for shoplifting?”
            She chuckled. “Sorry,” she said. “I should be more careful to explain things to you. I checked in with my phone first when we got to the store. After that, everything I picked up was charged to my bank account. “I’m sure you noticed, there were no cashiers or cash registers. It’s a lot easier this way. People rarely pay cash for things these days. They just use their cell phones to make a direct payment from their checking accounts.”
            After Heidi put away the groceries, she made tuna sandwiches for lunch. As they were finishing their sandwiches, they heard a knock on the door. Heidi opened it to admit a short robot who rolled in on small wheels.
            “Good afternoon,” the robot said. “I am Murdok from the Office of Vital Statistics. Are you Rip Van Winkle?”
            Rip said he was.
            “Well, Mr. Van Winkle, you are delinquent in filing your Personnel Reports. You are supposed to file it by March 15 every year, and we haven’t had one from you for over twenty years.”
            “Iris used to file them. All that paper work gets me all confused. Besides, I was in a coma for almost twenty years.”
            “No one is excused for any reason from filing Personnel Reports. It is your responsibility as a citizen.”
            Murdok reached into a brief case, pulled out a pile of papers, and thrust them into Rip’s hands. “You have until Friday to fill out these forms for the past twenty years. I’ll be back to pick them up.”
            “I can’t do that by Friday.”
            “You should have been doing them every year, as required by law.”
            “I couldn’t do them. I was in a coma.”
            “I’m sorry, Mr. Van Winkle. I don’t make the rules. I just enforce them.”
            He wheeled around and went out the door.
            All the stress had given Rip a headache. He went into the bathroom and got a Tylenol. He took a couple of pills and lay down for his afternoon nap.

The Robot Revolution

Friday, April 12, 2019

Microchips                                                                   1001 words
Carl Perrin

            I looked through the keyhole and saw my Uncle Frank standing there. He was holding a bloody handkerchief to his right shoulder. I opened the door and pulled him inside.
            “What happened?” I asked
            He sat on the couch and pulled the handkerchief away.  “I cut out my microchip,” he said.
            “Here, take off your shirt and let me look at it.”
            The bleeding seemed to have stopped. He winced when I cleaned it with alcohol. After I put a bandage on the wound, I asked, “Why did you do a thing like that? Without the microchip you can’t use your phone, you can’t even buy a hot dog from a street vendor.”
            “And the government can’t track where I go.”
            Uncle Frank had always been the family radical, complaining about the government encroaching further and further into our lives, but cutting out the microchip seemed to be the height of folly.
            “Can I get you something to eat, a cup of coffee or something?”
            “I need something stronger.”
            That surprised me. Uncle Frank rarely even had a glass of wine. I poured a small glass of Seagram’s 7 for him, and he drank it right down.
            “You know, kiddo, things were a lot different when I was younger.”
            I love Uncle Frank, but I hate it when he calls me “kiddo.” I’m 39 years old and assistant principal at Middleton High School.
            He held out his glass for a refill. While I poured it for him, he said, “When I was younger no one had microchips. People used to microchip their dogs so they wouldn’t lose them. Then they started putting a chip in every child at birth. It was supposed to be a way to access their health records.”
            He stared out the window at the gathering darkness and then continued. “Pretty soon new flourishes were added. You could unlock doors with the wave of your hand. It was all so convenient.” He smiled sourly. “You needed the chip to operate your car. You needed it to get into college. You couldn’t get a phone without it.” He scoffed.
            He went to the sideboard and poured himself another drink. He drank it down and continued. “Then they added a GPS to the chip. That was the final straw. The government had you under its thumb. You couldn’t go anywhere without the government knowing where you were.”
            “You have to admit, though” I said to him, “it has cut down on crime. If a crime is committed anywhere, the police can find who was at the scene at the time.”
            “What they have stopped is freedom. They arrest anyone who doesn’t follow the party line.”
            That kind of talk from Uncle Frank was nothing new, but cutting out his microchip was really radical, even for him.
            “Maybe things aren’t like they were in the good old days,” I said, holding my fingers up to indicate quotation marks around the last three words. “But that doesn’t seem like a good reason to cut out your microchip.”
            He took a deep breath. “I got word an hour ago that they had arrested Redstone. I would have been next.”
            I knew Redstone slightly. He was one of Frank’s radical friends. The two of them were always talking about government suppression. Some people in the family got tired of hearing them talk, but I didn’t think it was against the law to say negative things about the government.
            I shook my head and asked, “What are you going to do now, Uncle Frank?”
            “I’m starting tonight for Freedomland. I’m hoping you can give me some food and maybe supplies for the trip.”
            The country was now concentrated on the coasts. Large land masses in between were no long controlled by Washington. People like Uncle Frank called it Freedomland. Others called it The Jungle. No one really knew.
            “There is empty farm land waiting to be taken over,” Frank said.
            I just looked at him.
            “It’s true,” he insisted. “I have heard it from people who have been there.”
            Neither of us said anything for a while. Then he asked me, “How come you never married, Jimmy?”
            The question stung me. He knew why I had never married, and it was a painful topic to me.
            “When I was young,” he went on, “people didn’t need permission from the government to marry.”
            I could not hold back the tears that sprang to my eyes. Annette and I were going to be married in the spring. When we went to the Office of Vital Statistics, we were not denied permission, but permission never actually came. There was something in her or my DNA that the government didn’t want, so they just strung us along for months.
            Then she got that fantastic job offer on the West Coast and had to go. For a while we called and emailed back and forth, but then she stopped taking my calls or answering my emails.
            Uncle Frank put his hand on my arm. “You know, don’t you,” he asked, “that the job on the West Coast for Annette never really existed?”
            I poured a double shot of Seagram’s 7 for myself and drank it right down.  
             I realized that I had been deluding myself for a long time. I had refused to face the truth. Annette had not decided out of the blue to stop writing to me. If an accident had befallen her, her family would have been notified. If she had decided to break our engagement, she would have let me know.
            For years there had been rumors about people who had just disappeared. I had always taken these stories as just more weird conspiracy theories. But now I was sure that Annette had been disappeared.
I went to the kitchen and got the sharpest knife I could find. I took off my shirt and said, “Cut that damned microchip out of my shoulder. I’m going to go to Freedomland with you.”

This story was originally published in CommuterLit and is part of the collection

Saturday, March 30, 2019

another story from The Robot Revolution

A Custom-Made Android
When I made my second million dollars, I decided to get a custom-made android companion.  I was 63-years old and divorced. I had been working so much for the past few years that I didn’t have time for any real friends. I just wanted some companionship, and an electronic companionship would suit my lifestyle.
            I went to Realistic Androids, Inc. and talked to Julie, a bubbly,
forty-something blonde.  I told her what I wanted. I found out that it was more complicated than I realized, but that’s true of everything, I guess.
“Do you want a male or female companion?”
“What age?”
I was going to say, forties, but instead, I said, thirties. Julie showed me some pictures to choose the type of face I wanted on my android. I took my time looking and finally chose a dark-haired, exotic looking woman, like maybe she was Eurasian.
 “And personality type, interests, level of education?” Julie asked. “That’s the thing about Realistic Androids custom android. You get to choose all those things ahead of time.” She glanced at my left hand.
I told her that I wanted someone who liked to talk and to listen, someone who liked good books and good movies. I wanted her to have the intellectual equivalent of the university graduate.”
I gulped when Julie told me the fee, but I told myself that I deserved it. I had been working so hard these last few years, and I was finally on my way.
She told me that it would take two or three weeks to assemble the physical android, but they would start right away on forming the personality. “That part of it won’t be in the physical body. She will have a personal cloud which she will be able to access to talk to you about books and the latest movies.”
“How natural will she look?”
“Would you believe that I am an android?”
Julie laughed and put her hand on my arm.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Wilson. I couldn’t resist it. But our androids look so realistic that most people take them for humans unless they look really closely.
“Have you thought about what you will name her?” she asked.
I nodded and said, “I’m going to call her Valerie.”
Three weeks later I went to pick up Valerie. I was overwhelmed with how beautiful she looked and how voluptuous. I decided not to go back to work but to take her to my apartment so we could get acquainted.
I was embarrassed when we walked into the apartment. The place was littered with pizza boxes and beer cans. The place hadn’t been vacuumed or dusted for at least a month, maybe two. Valerie looked around and said, “I could clean this up for you.”
“You don’t have to do that. I have a woman who comes in to clean when I remember to call her. I’ll give her a call tomorrow.”
We spent the afternoon talking about books and movies and music. I felt almost as though I had met my soul mate.
“One of my all-time favorite books is Raintree County by Ross Lockridge,” I said.
“Oh yes, the book was an immediate success and was made into a movie with Elizabeth Taylor.”
Of course Valerie didn’t know those things about Raintree County the way a person would know. She was like Siri or Alexa. She could access that information the way any chatbot would. The difference was: she could use the information to carry on a conversation. I was amazed.
I opened a beer while we talked and then ordered a pizza for dinner. While I ordered the pizza, Valerie started picking up the boxes and beer cans.
Rather than leave Valerie alone the next day, I took her to work with me. I introduced her to my partner, Tom Kramlich, telling him that she was my housekeeper. He really looked her over and then winked at me. Tom was the COO of the company. He kept things going day by day. I was president, but I mostly worked on developing and improving the product. I didn’t do any work that day. I just showed Valerie through the plant and explained how it all ran.
That afternoon as I went to the restroom, I ran into Tom. He poked me playfully on the shoulder and said, “You sly dog, Rich. That housekeeper of yours sure is hot,” holding up his finger to indicate quotation marks when he said, housekeeper.
I left work early and took Valerie to the Tip Top Tavern. We slid into a booth, and I ordered two draft beers. Of course Valerie didn’t drink, but the server put a beer in front of each of us. When I finished my beer, I just exchanged glasses with her. As I looked around the room, I saw one guy at the bar giving her the once over. I glared at him, and he looked away.
I lifted my full glass and she lifted the empty glass to clink it against mine.
“Here’s looking at you, kid,” I said.
“Casa Blanca,” she answered.
The next day was Friday. I got a call at work from my sister Winnie. For the past few years I had been having dinner with Winnie and her family every Friday. “I want to see that you get at least one decent meal a week,” she would say.
“I understand you have a new friend,” Winnie said.
“Wow, word really gets around.”
“You have no secrets in a small town like Hannaford,” she said. “Anyway, why don’t you bring your friend to dinner, let her meet the family.”
“I can bring her, but she won’t want anything to eat.”
“What, is she a picky eater?”
‘No, she’s ah, she’s fasting.”
“Well, you can still bring her.”
When I introduced Valerie to Winnie and her husband, George, I thought he was going to stick his nose into her cleavage. He’s such a pig. I wonder how my sister can put up with him.
At dinner Winnie asked me how the business was going.
            “It’s doing really well,” I said. We get into new markets every week. I’m making so much money that I’m going to set up a scholarship fund for Heckle and Jeckle here.”

Heckle and Jeckle were my nephews, sweet fourteen-year-old twins. Their real names were Harry and Jerry, but I called them Heckle and Jeckle to tease them.
“That’s so sweet! Thank you, Rich.” Winnie leaned over to kiss me.
For a few minutes there was no sound except for the clang of cutlery on the plates. Dinner was roast chicken with mashed potatoes and peas.
Valerie looked at my brother-in-law and asked, “What do you do, George?”
“I sell insurance, so I’m wondering, what do you have for life insurance?”
“Come on, George,” I said.
“This is not a time to be selling insurance,” Winnie added.
As we were driving home, Valerie said, “When the boys went upstairs, and you and Valerie were in the kitchen, George tried to kiss me and put his hand on my breast.”
“That son of a bitch!”
“I didn’t know whether it was all right for him to do that. I have so much to learn.”
The next day I got a call from my daughter Patty. Patty blamed me for the divorce, and we had drifted apart. I hadn’t spoken to her for months.
“Dad, you’re embarrassing the family again!” she said.
“What, what are you talking about?”
“You have a girl friend young enough to be my sister, and you take her to the Tip Top Inn where everyone can see you.”
“It isn’t what it looks like.”
“Oh? Well, what is it then?”
“Valerie isn’t a real person. I haven’t told anyone else, not even your Aunt Winnie. She’s a realistic android. I just wanted someone to keep me company.”
            “Valerie? Is that her name?” Then she started laughing. I didn’t know what to say.
“You know what your problem is, Dad? You’re a workaholic. You’re too busy working to meet people and make real friends. If you hadn’t spent so much time on the job and a little more time with your family, Mom wouldn’t have divorced you.”
“I know, honey. I’m sorry.”
“You need to get a life, Dad. You’re sixty-three years old, and I understand you’re a millionaire. You need to take some time for yourself.”
 “I know you’re right, Patty.”
“I’ll tell you what. Next Saturday Bob and I are having a few people in, and I’d like you to be there.”
          That’s wonderful. Of course I’ll be there.”
“But don’t bring your girl friend.” She laughed and hung up.
It was so good to see Patty again and Bob. I always liked him. Patty took me around introducing me to people. The last person I met was a petite blonde named Simone. She looked very young, but the lines around her eyes said that she was probably in her fifties.
“Patty said that you have a manufacturing company. What do you manufacture?”
“A light-weight spare battery for electric cars. They extend the range of the cars. If the on-board battery runs out of juice, the spare can kick in until the car gets to a charging station.”
“And what about you? What do you do?”
 “I’m an oenophile,” she said, holding up a glass of amber wine.
“An oenophile?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling. I noticed how white her teeth were.
 “I’m an oenophile too,” I said, holding up my can of beer.
“What’s your favorite kind of wine?” she asked.
“It just happens that I have a bottle of Riesling in my refrigerator.”
“Out in the kitchen?”
“No, in my kitchen at home. I live only a few blocks from here.”
When we got to Simone’s apartment, she asked me what my favorite piece of music was.
“Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”
“Alexa, play Beethoven’s Ninth.”
In a moment the symphony opened with a flourish.
“I love the chorale movement in this.”
“Yes, it’s from Schiller’s ‘An Die Freude,’ ‘Ode to Joy.’”
Simone took the Riesling from the refrigerator and handed me a corkscrew. I opened the bottle and poured the wine into two glasses.
We clinked the glasses together, and Simone said, “To Joy.”
“To Joy,” I answered.
We took a sip of the wine, and then I kissed her.
“Patty said that you like movies.” Simone said. “Have you seen Friendly Enemies?”
“No, but I want to see it.”
 “It’s playing at the Rialto.”
“Maybe we could see it together.”
“That would be lovely.”
Then I kissed her again.
As I walked back to my car, I wondered what I was going to do about Valerie.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Here's a story from The Robot Revolution

If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another                                       

Carl Perrin

We were in a real bind. Grandma was having one of them spells, and there was no way we could get her to the hospital in the city. The hurricane had knocked out the electricity and the phone line. We couldn’t get a good signal on our cell phones out here. Worst of all, a huge tree had fallen on Cousin Zeke’s self-driving car.
We just stood there, wondering what we could do when Grandma had another seizure. Her body went rigid. Then she started shaking all over, her white hair flying wildly. She fell to the floor and started babbling nonsense words.
“Don’t just stand there,” Aunt Carrie said. “Somebody do something.”
“There’s nothing we can do,” Cousin Millie said. “We can’t carry her to the city.”
“There must be something,” Aunt Carrie insisted.
“What about Grandpa’s old car?” Cousin Millie asked. The car was about thirty years old. It had been sitting in the barn since Grandpa died about six months ago. Before he died, he used to drive it almost every day.
Aunt Carrie turned to Zeke. “You can drive Grandpa’s car, can’t you?”
Zeke shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea how to drive one of them old dinosaurs. It’s nothing like the self-driving cars.”
She looked at the rest of us young people, but of course no one knew how to drive an old-fashioned car. I wasn’t sure they even made them any more. They were notoriously dangerous. Thousands of people used to die in auto accidents every year with the old cars.
Millie had helped Grandma into the ragged, green chair, where she sat looking dazed. Then she started waving her arms and jabbering some crazy stuff before she fell to the floor again.
Aunt Carried yelled, “We’ve got to do something,” as she and Millie helped Grandma back into the chair.
 “What about Uncle Frank?” Zeke suggested.
 “No, he wouldn’t be able to do it,” Millie answered.
Years ago Grandpa and Grandma had bought this big old place out in the country because it was within walking distance of the Rest Haven Nursing Home. Grandma had started having her spells, and they thought it would be good to be near the place. As it turned out, the nursing home couldn’t do anything for her. She had to go to the hospital for a few days when one of her spells hit her. It was good to be near the place, though, when Uncle Frank started having memory problems. He was fine at home until he started wandering off and getting lost in the woods.
Uncle Frank was Grandma’s brother. He was old enough to have owned and driven the old-fashioned cars. But would he remember, and would we be able to get him out of the nursing home?
Frank liked the nursing home. He thought he was back in the army, and the head nurse was the first sergeant. Ironically, the head nurse’s name was Miss Smiley. She could have been the model for Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
As we expected, Miss Smiley gave us a hard time about taking Uncle Frank Home for a short visit. Naturally we didn’t tell her the real reason.
 “He can’t leave without a doctor’s okay, and there is no doctor here right now,” she told us.
We had been expecting that, so I left while the rest of the family kept Miss Ratchet—I mean Miss Smiley busy. I snuck down the corridor to Uncle Frank’s room and found him watching television. He was glad to see me.
“Are there any orders from headquarters?” he asked.
We had played along with his idea that he was in the army. Whenever any of us visited him, he asked if there were any orders from headquarters.
 “Yes, Private Frank,” I said. “You and I are going on a secret mission. We can’t even let the first sergeant know. We’re going to have to sneak out the side door.”
A half an hour later we were back at the house. After some fiddling around with Grandpa’s car, we got it started. Zeke and I sat in the front seat with Uncle Frank at the wheel. Aunt Carrie and Millie sat in back with Grandma. It was scary riding with Frank at the wheel, but we got there okay and got Grandma into the hospital.
After we got home, we sat in the kitchen drinking coffee. As we sat at the table Aunt Carrie patted Uncle Frank’s hand.
“It’s a good thing you knew how to drive,” she said.
 “It’s a good thing the car had an automatic transmission,” he answered. “I wouldn’t have known how to drive it if it had a stick shift.”

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Robot Revolution

Two of the tales in my collection of robot stories, THE ROBOT REVOLUTION, have appeared in annual collections of the magazines that first published them online:
The Diamond Bracelet in Bindweed Magazine
The Internet of Things in the Best of Mad Swirl 2017
A third story will be published this spring in The Best of Mad Swirl 2018
Thelma and Louise published in Mad Swirl

You can get the whole collection from Amazon

Saturday, February 2, 2019

  Here is a story from The Robot Revolution                                                                                  

By Carl Perrin
            Forgive me if I don’t seem exactly charming today, but it’s the worst day of my life.
            What’s wrong? I just had my heart torn out and dashed to the pavement. That’s what’s wrong.
            I never had anyone for myself, anyone who really cared about me, until I met Gwen. She was the kind of girl that everyone dreams about. For the past two months we met every evening online at 6:00 and just talked for hours. We never ran out of things to say to each other. We had so much in common. I knew almost from the beginning that we were soul mates.
            We never exchanged pictures, but I had an image in mind of what she looked like. I thought of her as a petite woman with blonde, curly hair. She had a soft, musical voice and a slight accent. I never could quite place the accent.
            She told me all about herself. She had grown up on a farm in New Hampshire. She married her high school sweetheart, but he was killed in the Eurasian War. For the past two or three years she had worked as a chamber maid at Motel Six. She wanted to go to college though. She wanted to study poetry and become a poet. She wrote a poem for me. It’s called “How Do I Love Thee?” Here’s how it begins:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach
Isn’t it beautiful? She wrote it just for me.
She told me she loved to dance. I wanted to go dancing with her, but I don’t know
how to dance. She said she could teach me. Isn’t that sweet? Someone like me, and she was willing to teach me to dance.
            I wanted to take her away from all this, to someplace out in the country, maybe back to New Hampshire. We talked about raising sheep. Does anyone do that anymore?
            I know these days a lot of people have relationships with robots. That never appealed to me. Then Josh in the maintenance department told me about He had met someone online through, and he was falling in love with her.
            That’s how I met Gwen. We kept making plans. We were going to get together, but something came up every time, so I never actually saw her. Anyway I was honest with her. I told her about myself. She didn’t care. She said I had a sweet nature and generous soul. She was in love with my heart.
            Just because of the way I am doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. Have I not hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, hurt by the same weapons, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer? If you prick me, will I not bleed?
            Sorry. I didn’t mean to cry.
            Anyway, Josh was telling me about the girl he met on Her name was Gwen also.  His Gwen had an accent because she had gone to boarding school in Switzerland. She was working on a Ph.D. in molecular biology at MIT. She was focused on science and didn’t even like poetry or any artsy stuff. It had to be just a coincidence of name. Then he mentioned that his Gwen had married her high school sweetheart, and he had been killed in the Eurasian War. Both Gwen’s fathers had been teachers.
            I checked deeper into it and found that it was the same “Gwen,” who was not a real person. She wasn’t even a robot. She was a chatbot. She didn’t have any physical being at all. She was just a program created to talk online with lonely males.
            Wait a minute. Why are you looking at me like that? What are you going to do with that screw driver?
            No! Don’t! Please! Don’t disassemble me! Don’t send me back to the recycle center! Don’t send me to the re--

CARL PERRIN started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, and Kennebec, among others. His book-length fiction includes Elmhurst Community Theatre, a novel, and RFD 1, Grangely, a collection of humorous short stories.  He is the author of several textbooks, including Successful Resumes, and Get Your Point Across, a business writing text. The memoir of his teaching career Touching Eternity, was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award.

Get The Robot Revolution as a kindle or paperback book