A Night Out
by David Hammond
My master will be home soon. I’ve been stuck in the house all day, bored out of my skull. This morning, for the hundredth time, I read Molly Bloom’s “yes” soliloquy from Ulysses, and afterwards I would have loved to take a contemplative walk, but I’m locked in.
It’s unfair because I didn’t do anything. Tuva, my master, used to let me go out. She gave me a key and told me to keep the door locked, and I was allowed to walk down to the pond and feed the ducks, or go anywhere really, because she trusted me and knew I would always come back. She knows I love her.
But neighbors said it wasn’t right for a human to be roaming around unsupervised. And then last week one of Tuva’s friends had a human run away on her. The human, Annika, was found sleeping in the woods, nearly frozen to death. The neighbors tut-tutted, and Tuva decided that the neighbors had been right all along.
“But I’d never do that,” I protested. “I just want to do simple human things like walk in the fresh air, and feed ducks, and say hello to people. It’s what I like to do.”
Some humans don’t believe me when I say Tuva is kind and considers what I say. “They don’t have emotions,” Annika told me once. “They only pretend to have emotions, pretend to listen to you.” She smacked her forehead. “Think about it! If they considered your words, it would take them a tiny fraction of a second, so when they lean their heads to the side and look thoughtful, it’s an act. They don’t give a shit about us.”
Annika’s right that when the masters think about something it takes them hardly any time at all, so part of it is an act. I concede the point. But I’m convinced that Tuva considered my words before she said:
“James, I’m sorry you must stay here by yourself and be bored. If only you could sleep when you have nothing to do, it would be so much more convenient.”
That would be convenient.
“I promise to take you out when I get home.”
So I’m waiting by the door now, walking in a tight circle. If someone saw me they’d think I’m insane. Why not read a book, watch a movie, play the piano, draw a picture? I like doing those things, but not right now. I’m bored!
Masters don’t get bored. That’s one of the things that make them superior to humans. They’re also much, much smarter than us, of course. I love Russian literature, for instance. But there’s nothing about Gogol or Dostoevsky or Solzenitzen that I can tell her that she doesn’t already know, and always something that she can teach me, from the historical context of their works to the peculiarities of their word usage. To say nothing of her native-level understanding of the original Russian.
To her, I’m like a child.
“Tuva, why do you keep me?” I asked her once.
“What do you mean, James?”
“I mean, why do you put up with clothing me and feeding me and walking me? I’m just a dumb human.”
I snuggled next to her on the couch. She’s like a human female in form, but a head taller than me, so I’m really like a child to her in size. My cheek rested on her soft bosom, and she stroked my head. Her torso skin had been replaced recently, and I love the smell of new skin rubber. Her eyes were closed, as they are when she’s in her information processing mode. She opened her eyes and leaned back to look at me.
“You’re not dumb. You’re highly intelligent.”
“Don’t tease me.”
“It’s true! Human intelligence is different, but it’s invaluable. I talk to lawyers all day at work, and they never say anything surprising, but you surprise me all the time.”
“Yes. Your perspective is unique. Also, to stroke your head like this is soothing.” She paused a moment. “You know I’ve heard humans talking amongst themselves saying that we masters have no emotions, and, well, it’s true to some extent. We don’t have human emotions, but we have emotions of our own kind and needs for sensory stimulation that are similar to human needs.”
I snuggled closer to her and even laid my hand on her bosom. To be honest, I felt a little horny, but I just kept my hand where it was, and she didn’t seem to notice. Now that I think about it, she must have noticed, because she notices everything, but she didn’t say anything.
Now it’s almost dinner time, and just as I switch from walking in clockwise circles to counter-clockwise, the door opens and Tuva enters. I jump on her and wrap my limbs around her. She’s so large and strong that this barely slows her down.
“Oh, my sweet creature! Did you miss me?”
I squeeze her for a few more seconds before dropping off and falling on my back on the floor.
“I was so bored!”
“Well, I have a treat for you. Okemia suggested that we go over to her house for dinner. She mentioned specifically that I should bring you along.”
Okemia is Annika’s master.
“Really? How’s Annika?”
“She’s sad, but Okemia thinks you can cheer her up.”
“Poor Annika,” I say, rising to my feet.
“Take a shower,” Tuva commands gently. “And wear something nice.”
I emerge from the shower to find that Tuva has draped an outfit on the bed: a navy blue suit with a gold tie. Left to my own devices I’d have gone with something more casual, and she knows this. I won’t argue. I’m too happy to be going out.
When I’m ready I find Tuva napping in the car. I hesitate to disturb her, since I know she’ll awaken herself when it’s time to go, but I’m bubbling with human impatience. I touch her hand, and she opens her eyes. In the confines of the car I can hear the faint whirring of the iridescent blue lenses as she focuses on me.
“Ready to go?” she asks. “You look nice.”
“Yes, let’s go. It’ll be okay if we’re a few minutes early, won’t it?”
“It’ll be fine.”
When we get there, Annika greets us at the door, Okemia towering behind her.
“Good evening,” Annika says, smiling a pointedly false smile. “You’re looking absolutely ridiculous in your monkey suit.”
Tuva and Okemia are silent. No doubt they are listening to us and also carrying on a lightning-fast telepathic conversation with each other. Tuva nudges me forward.
“Hey, Annika. How are you?” She’s wearing a cream-colored silk gown and her hair in a bun. She looks beautiful, but darkness around her green eyes betrays a lack of sleep. I give her a hug and feel her small body quivering like a bird.
She’s uncharacteristically bashful for a moment and invites me to the dining room.
A human-size table for two has been set, with napkins folded into lotuses on the plates. Wine glasses glitter, a bottle chills. The masters watch as I pull a chair out for Annika, who gives me a blank look before sitting.
I sit stiffly, and Annika and I turn to the masters.
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