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Funny

Dave felt like a giddy kid trying out a new toy. And also like someone coming out of the dressing room to ask “does this fit?” At the same time, he felt like he had found the lost key to a locked room.

He wiped layers of dust off of his latest find. Geez, this was from eight years ago, when I first started out. No wonder it didn’t work, he thought. He lugged the contraption out of the storage closet and dumped it on the table. He held back a sneeze.

“HD-7, scan,” Dave said. 

“SCANNING,” answered the little robotic being on the table. His bright blue digital pupils expanded and cast a glow on the dusty contraption. The old machine looked like a coffee maker without the pot. Perhaps at one time it was. 

“DEMONSTRATION REQUIRED.”

Dave cast his eyes about the room and found where he left his neglected lunch. He had been nibbling here and there, but today was a day when progress came first and sustenance came second. He selected a tangerine that he hadn’t even touched and placed it on the machine in the space right where the “coffee pot” would have gone. Nothing happened for a moment. Dave furrowed his brow. 

“POWER NEEDED,” toned HD. 

“Oh, duh,” said Dave. He reached for the cord in the back and plugged the machine in. The screen on the contraption came to life, showing nothing but zeroes for a moment. Then a message that read “ANALYZING.” Dave imagined the sensor probing the tangerine’s surface. It emitted three beeps and then displayed the result: “Food quality at 93%. Safe for consumption.”

Dave peeled open the tangerine to check. The inside was ripe, but certainly not rotting yet. He showed the tangerine to HD.

“See? It works just fine a lot of the time! But sometimes it says something is perfectly fine, and I open it up only to find that it’s rotten inside! I thought...if people could just check their food before they eat, they’ll know if it’s spoiled. And no more food poisoning!” Dave threw up his hands. Then his face clouded over. “Oh yeah, now I remember why I built this thing. Three bouts of food poisoning during one semester of college. Did you know that avocados spoil, like, really fast, HD? I’ll never touch guacamole again. No sir.”

“ALL ORGANICS SPOIL EVENTUALLY.”

Dave’s eyebrows moved up an inch. “Oh, wow, HD. Thanks for the roundabout mention of my own mortality. Geez.”

“YOU ARE WELCOME. SHOULD I PERFORM A SECOND SCAN, DAVE?”

“Yes, HD. Scan.”

“SCANNING.”

“What did I do wrong this time?”

“SCAN COMPLETE. DEFICIENCY NOTED. HAVE YOU ATTEMPTED TAKING SAMPLES OF THE INTERIOR OF THE SPECIMENS?” 

HD-7 hobbled up to the machine on rickety wheels. Dave had pilfered the wheels from an old cart he had in the shop. He could see the cart out of the corner of his eye, leaning against the floor where the wheels were missing, and he made a mental note to find new wheels for HD and a cart. 

With an arm that might have at one time been a skewer used for roasting marshmallows over a fire, HD pointed to the surface where the tangerine rested. “SUGGESTED MODIFICATION: INSTALL NEEDLE FOR THE PURPOSE OF TAKING SAMPLES FROM THE INTERIOR OF SPECIMENS.”

Dave’s eyes brightened. “Of course! Wow, I should have known that. I was dumb in college.”

“MANY MALE HUMANS MAKE QUESTIONABLE CHOICES DURING COLLEGE YEARS. A MALE HUMAN’S MIND IS NOT FULLY DEVELOPED AT THIS STAGE.”

“Thanks, HD. That makes me feel a little better. I’m going to grab something else to scan.” Dave turned and made for the storage closet. He stopped in his tracks when he noticed his phone vibrating. He glanced at the name. “Oh no. Oh no oh no! I forgot!” He snatched up the phone and held it to his ear.

“Oh my gosh, Sophie! I’m so sorry! I got caught up in my work.”

“Oh, that’s ok. I thought you died. Nobody has ever stood me up on a first date before,” said Sophie, laughing. “You’re an inventor by the way, right? I thought that’s what it said on your profile.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

“Well I’ll just meet you at your work, then! And come see what was demanding your attention. Then we can just go together!”

“Uh...yeah. Sure.” Dave gave her the address and hung up. 

“Crap, HD. I have to clean up in here.” Dave scrambled around the room, organizing loose tools and putting away half-finished projects. He made sure to swipe the rest of his lunch into the trash. Then he attempted to smooth his hair with his fingers. 

“How do I look, HD?”

“YOU ARE 17.6% MORE DESIRABLE NOW THAT YOU HAVE COMPLETED MAINTENANCE. HOWEVER, A PORTION OF HAIR IS PROTRUDING FROM THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD.”

“Ah, that’s my cowlick. There’s nothing we can do about that,” said Dave, sighing.

He snapped up straight when he heard a knock at the door. Sophie was standing outside the glass, smiling and waving to him. She looked mostly like her profile. Her hair was different somehow, but Dave couldn’t place how. Maybe it had more red.  She wore a lively, flowing purple dress with yellow floral patterns. He let her in, and she was immediately drawn to HD. 

“Aww, he’s so cute! And little! Is this what you were working on?” she asked. 

“Uh, yeah,” answered Dave shyly. “I just got him finished today, so I was really excited to try him out. Sorry I lost track of time.”

“That’s alright! What do you call him?”

“HD-7.”

“Like...High Definition?” Sophie looked at him quizzically and laughed. 

“No,” said Dave, laughing. 

“Well, what does it stand for?”

“I haven’t really come up with a good name for him, so I call him HD. It stands for ‘Honest Dave.’” Dave gestured at the robot. “And he’s version 7, the first one that I got to work correctly.”

“‘Honest Dave?’ Do you lie a lot, Dave?”

“Only to myself,” Dave answered, chuckling. “Sometimes, when you’re working on something great that you think will solve some great conundrum, you convince yourself that it’s going to work out. Even if all the evidence points to failure. It’s hard to be honest with yourself when you’ve put a lot of time into something and desperately want it to work. So,” he said, patting the robot on the head, “I built Honest Dave.”

“Well, what exactly does he do?”

“Basically, he observes and points out things I might have missed. Sometimes I have him scan my work, and he tells me the truth when something I’ve built is flawed. And he tells me how I can go about fixing it.”

“That’s genius!” cried Sophie. She gazed at him in awe like he was some sort of celebrity. 

“You think so?” 

“ON DAVE’S MOST RECENT IQ TEST, DAVE SCORED A 128. HE IS QUITE INTELLIGENT BUT DOES NOT FIT THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR ‘GENIUS,’” added HD. 

Sophie smiled. “Well, he’s definitely honest. Let’s take him with us! It will be fun!”

“I don’t know…”

“Come on! He could fit in your pocket!” 

HD’s next comment about the depth of Dave’s jacket pocket was muffled as Sophie stuffed him in. “Ready!” she said. 

Dave drove them to a Red Lobster a few minutes away down the road. 

“Is this ok?” Dave asked when they pulled up. 

“Ooh, I love Red Lobster!” said Sophie, clapping her hands with excitement. 

Dave started to think that this one might actually work out. They were seated quickly, and Sophie encouraged Dave to let HD sit on the table. He was hesitant, but HD was quiet...until the waiter came to take their order. 

“I’ll have the shrimp scampi,” said Sophie. 

“Yes ma’am, and for your sides?”

“Umm, rice and...broccoli.”

HD chose that moment to interject. “BROCCOLI IS COMMONLY KNOWN TO CAUSE FLATULENCE.”

Dave’s stomach did a flip. He was mortified. The waiter looked like he was on the verge of trying to ease the situation by suggesting a different side. Sophie looked quite surprised, but then she just laughed it off. “He’s hilarious, Dave!”

“I’m...glad you think so,” said Dave, more than a little relieved. The waiter took his order and escaped back to the kitchen. 

Sophie smiled and tried to make conversation. “So, what do you do when you’re not working?” 

“Well, I like to watch movies-,”

“DAVE OFTEN WATCHES ROMANTIC MOVIES WHILE EATING A PINT OF ICE CREAM.”

Sophie made a face like a literal question mark. Dave blushed the color of the Red Lobster. 

“HD-,” started Dave. 

“DAVE IS VERY LONELY.”

“I AM DAVE’S BEST AND ONLY FRIEND.”

Dave stammered out a reply. “That’s...that’s not true.”

Sophie picked her jaw up off the floor and mercifully moved on to another subject. “So, what are your plans for the future? Do you plan to keep inventing?”

“Well, HD is definitely making me reconsider-,”

“DAVE HOPES TO MOVE OUT OF HIS MOTHER’S BASEMENT IN THE NEXT YEAR.”

Sophie’s buoyancy had receded somewhat. Still, she was trying. “Do you like kids?”

“I actually have a nephew that I take care of sometimes. So yeah, I love-,”

“ON WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11TH, DAVE STATED:” HD paused as he quickly loaded up the recording of Dave’s voice. “‘Children should be locked away in cages if they can’t behave. At least then they couldn’t destroy things. They are tiny wild savages.’”

“HD, please!” Dave raised his voice. People were staring. “Sophie, I’m sorry. He’s making this all up.”

“Dave, that was a recording of your voice.”

“You don’t understand. My nephew broke something I was working on.”

“Then do you like kids or not? I thought HD was totally honest. Honest Dave, right? So who is telling the lie?”

“Sophie, I promise-,”

“DAVE IS A PATHOLOGICAL LIAR.”

“Dave, I just don’t know if this is going to work out,” said Sophie, getting up from her chair. 

“THE FEMALE SOPHIE IS CORRECT. THIS RELATIONSHIP HAS A 6% CHANCE OF SUCCESS. AND DROPPING.”

Sophie looked back at Dave one more time and shook her head before leaving. 

“Thanks, HD,” said Dave, letting his head sink down into his hands. 

“YOU ARE WELCOME.”

January 15, 2021 18:20

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2 comments

Robert Smith
15:51 Jan 27, 2021

I enjoyed this story! The pacing and buildup were good. I liked how Sophie thought the honesty was a positive early on, and then it turned out less good. The story nicely shows the complexity of speaking the "Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

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Orenda .
18:35 Jan 15, 2021

it's fascinating to read stories back to back from two writers I've come to admire in such a short time – you and Ben. this is definitely a unique take on the prompt and hilarious how HD disrupts the relationship. Amazing! 😚

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