“That’s my girl.”
“Yes Daddy, I’m here.”
He opened his eyes and looked up into the concerned face of his daughter Harriet. He was on his back in a hospital room. An I.V. was attached to the back of his right hand. He reached up with his left hand and felt the bandages that covered the left side of his stomach.
“When did you get back?” Mike asked.
“I got home late yesterday,” said Harriet. “Right about the time you decided to take on a couple of desperados. The police said they haven’t caught them yet, by the way, though the officer left his card in case you remembered something when you woke up.”
“Call him,” said Mike. “I recognize both of those guys. Carlos Fernandez and Nathan Spencer. They were in my class seven or eight years ago. I think Nathan’s mother still lives down the block from me.”
“Nathan Spencer!” said Harriet, whipping out her phone, and stepping toward the door. “I dated his brother! Officer Darling please…”
As Harriet stepped out the door, the doctor stepped in to check on Mike. He informed him that he had been operated on the night before-- a relatively small amount of damage, all things considering. The knife had only nicked his descending colon. Had Mike not been overweight and possessed of a fairly large amount of belly fat, the knife could easily have caused much more damage, perhaps even death.
“Well, at least there is one consolation to being fat,” said Mike.
“On the other hand, I’ve seen knife blades turned by a well-toned abdomen,” said the doctor.
“And of course there are other benefits to being in good shape.”
“Fine, fine,” said Mike.
The doctor left and Harriet returned.
“They’re going to get those little bastards.”
“They weren’t so little,” said Mike. “How did you know I was here, anyway?”
“Your girlfriend called me.”
“Yes, your girlfriend,” said Harriet. “You do remember her? Patience? Or do you have amnesia.”
“Oh, I remember her. I just didn’t realize you knew about her yet.”
“I heard about her yesterday. From my little brother,” assured Harriet. “I was happy to meet her though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Daffodil before, let alone talked with one. She’s not like other robots I’ve seen.”
“Does it bother you that I got her?”
“You’re a big boy,” said Harriet. “I trust you to make your own decisions.”
“Good. Your disapproval would have bothered me more than anyone else’s.”
“Come on, Dad. I know I wasn’t your favorite.”
“Don’t tell Lucas this,” said Mike. “But I’ve always felt like I had more of a connection with you than with him.”
Harriet looked at him strangely for a moment.
“Where is Patience?” asked Mike.
“I sent her home a couple of hours ago to shower and change. I hope she gets some rest too. She looked really tired.”
“She doesn’t get tired. She’s a robot.”
“Maybe,” conceded Harriet. “But she was by your side almost the whole time you were out.”
Harriet stayed with her father for another hour. Then Mike sent her on her way. He hadn’t actually wanted her there at all. He had always been of the opinion that children, even adult children, should not have to see their father in that kind of weakened, compromised condition. The two other times he was admitted to the hospital, he hadn’t allowed any of the kids to visit him.
Mike was served lunch of soup and some kind of light purple jell-o. By the time he had eaten he was feeling pretty fit. He flipped on the vueTee and tried to find something good to watch, but nothing interested him. Then he saw that a texTee was sitting on the bedside table. It was a newer model that the one he had at home. He turned it on and flipped through the selection of magazines. Time. Electronic Entertainment. National Geographic. Penthouse. And three comic books: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. It was as if someone had transferred his own subscriptions to the new device. Then when he selected one of the magazines and watched the electronic ink fill the screen, he realized that this was just what had happened. Although Harriet could have compiled that selection, she would have died before buying a Penthouse. Patience had done this for him.
Mike had read all of the comics and was flipping through Time when Patience bounded into the room. She was wearing a black camisole top cut just above her perfect belly button and a pair of very low rise jeans, which together created a truly expansive piece of exposed stomach real estate. The pair of five inch sandal pumps, called “Rowenas” that she had purchased at the mall made her slender figure look seven feet tall.
When she saw that Mike was awake, she leaped to his side, clasped his face in her hands and kissed him deeply. She climbed into the hospital bed with him, and continued kissing him. When she seemed about to give him a hickey on his neck, Mike pushed her head away.
“Hold on,” he said. “I’ll be out of here in a few hours, and then we can do that at home.”
“The doctor said that you need to spend another night, Mike.”
Mike’s face immediately turned sour.
“I really hate hospitals. Always have.”
“Don’t worry,” Patience said. “I’ll stay here with you.”
“I didn’t say I was worried. I just don’t like hospitals.”
Patience nestled down in the bed next to him and put her head on his chest.
“I was so worried, Mike,” she said. “I thought for a moment that you were going to die. You were so heroic. I love you so much.”
“Oh, come on,” Mike said. “You were the one who kicked the crap out of the bad guys.”
“Self defense is part of my programming. You didn’t have that advantage and you still went after them."
“Whatever. Tell me everything that happened after I passed out.”
“When you fell, I used my first aid programming to staunch the flow of blood. Then I used my infiNet connection to call the fire department. Paramedics and an ambulance arrived nine minutes later. The police arrived two minutes after that. While you were being loaded into the ambulance, I made sure that all of our purchases were stowed safely in the trunk, and then drove the car to the hospital. Once here, I needed to notify your daughter, because the clerks at the hospital would not accept my signature to begin medical treatment. They said they needed a relative to sign admission papers.”
“And you stayed here until Harriet sent you home.”
“I’m glad you’re back.”
“I’m glad I’m back too.”
They lay together on the hospital bed for some time not speaking. It was not an awkward silence, but rather a pleasant one. Mike finally broke it.
“I’ve only known you for six days, but I already feel like I never want to be without you. I never want you to leave.”
“You will never be without me, Mike,” she said. “I will never leave you.”
Patience lay in the bed with Mike for the rest of the afternoon. He had never been so comfortable sharing such a small bed in his life. They both ignored the disapproving looks they received from the nurse each time she came in to check on him.
“I don’t think they’re going to let you stay the night with me,” Mike said. “Can you go home and sleep?”
“I don’t need to sleep, but I have plenty that I can do. Then I can come and take you home tomorrow.”
“Good,” said Mike. “Why don’t you go ahead and go now. They are going to start serving dinner in a few minutes anyway.”
“As you wish, Mike.” She climbed out of bed and bent over, kissing him on the cheek, before walking briskly out of the room.
Time without Patience went very slowly. Mike ate the soup, toast, and pudding that made up his dinner. He watched Animal Olympics on vueTee, the only thing even remotely interesting. He even took a little nap, though it was hard with the nurses talking right outside his door. Loudly. Without any concern for someone trying to sleep.
The next morning, Mike got up and dressed in one of the new outfits that Patience had picked out for him at the mall-- a twill jacket and matching pleated pants with a mustard colored tie. Then he had to wait an interminable amount of time to be discharged. If Patience hadn’t arrived when she did, he would have eventually thrown a fit. But with her there, nothing seemed to be that bad. At last an orderly arrived with a wheelchair and rolled him out the front door. Once outside, Mike got up and walked to the car. But he let Patience drive him home. As they drove, Mike watched Patience, marveling at her motoring skill. Then he noticed something else.
“You have earrings! I mean, you have pierced ears and earrings.”
“That’s right, Mike. I was able to get them done last night at Circuit City.”
He looked carefully at the right ear, the only one visible. Her lobe was pierced twice and there was a small stud at the top of her ear through the cartilage—plastic, he corrected himself.
“I didn’t know you wanted three holes.”
“I have four in the other ear,” said Patience. “I noticed signs of sexual arousal when I approached the subject.”
“You did? Well, yes.” Mike cleared his throat and took a scholarly tone. “Ours, like most civilizations, uses pierced ears to signal sexual availability.”
“But I saw little babies with their ears pierced.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s revolting.”
When they reached the house, Patience came around and opened the door for him. Together they went inside. Mike was struck at how perfectly clean the place was. It had been vacuumed, dusted, and he noticed that even the bookcases had been organized according to the Library of Congress system.
“This house looks great,” he said.
“Thank you.” Patience beamed. She led him to the couch and kissed him. They made love right there in the living room, Mike noticing only afterwards that the window glass was set to transparent. He relaxed afterwards and was just beginning to doze off when Patience returned to summon him to dinner in the dining room. She had set the table for one, with a lit candle as the centerpiece. Then she sat down across from him as he ate. She had prepared red pepper halibut and for dessert-- cannoli. The dinner was delicious.
“Can I ask you about some of the things I found in Harriet’s old room?” asked Patience.
“I found approximately four thousand three hundred comic books, and several hundred old paper books.”
“Yes. Those are mostly from my teen years. I was going to try and sell them on eBay, along with the old books I have boxed away in there. They don’t make them any more, you know. So they should be worth something. But it’s a lot of work.”
“Very good,” she said. “I also found six boxes of pictures and associated memorabilia.”
“That’s all the family souvenirs. Tiffany started making scrapbooks a few years before she died, scanning that stuff in to go along with the pictures on the vueTee. But she only managed to complete a couple. I thought about making some myself, but it just takes so much time. I’m not really into it anyway. Maybe I will just give it all to Harriet.
“Would you mind if I sorted through all of these things, Mike?”
“Of course not. You are my girlfriend after all. Just take good care of the scrapbook stuff.”
“I will take good care of all of it,” said Patience. “Except the old books and comic books, which I will sell for you.”
Mike spent the remainder of the evening, with his feet up, in his recliner watching Star Trek: Engineering Corps. He had purchased it a week before, but hadn’t had a chance to play it. When he was done, he brushed and flossed his teeth. Then Patience changed his bandage for him and tucked him into bed. Then she turned out the lights, and lay down next to him until he had fallen asleep. That was precisely11:02