A loud crash jolted me awake. I was having a bad dream in which our five-year-old twin boys ran downstairs on Christmas morning only to have their excitement deflated like a punctured balloon when they discovered there wasn’t a single gift under the Christmas tree.
“Jordan, wake up,” I said, nudging my husband beside me who continued snoring. I tried again, shoving him this time, “Jordan, I heard a loud noise downstairs.”
“What? What time is it?” He said groggily, fumbling for his phone on the nightstand to check the time.
“I don’t care what time it is, we need to go see—”
“It’s 2:00 am. I’m sure it was just one of the cats knocking something off a counter again.” He grumbled as he rolled over, trying to go back to sleep.
“I heard a really loud crash. I can’t believe it didn’t wake you up. I think we should go down there.”
He reluctantly flung our buffalo plaid comforter off his chest and stomped across the room with me scrambling after him.
He carelessly descended the stairs like he was going to fetch a cup of joe on a lazy Saturday morning. On the other hand, I crept cautiously behind him, avoiding the creaky steps so as not to alert the burglar or murderer that was inevitably lurking on the first floor. Just as I was tip-toeing off the last step and contemplating what would be a more effective weapon, a golf umbrella from the coat rack in the foyer or a stapler from our home office, I heard Jordan yelling from the living room.
“Dammit! Get out of here, Oscar.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, realizing that we weren’t in imminent danger after all, and sauntered to the living room only to stop abruptly when I laid eyes on the chaotic scene before me. Our nine-foot-tall Christmas tree had completely toppled over as if we had been visited by a lumberjack instead of Santa Claus. Broken ornaments and pine needles were scattered all over the floor. Great, another reason for Jordan to complain about the fact that we bought a real tree this year, I thought. All of the wrapped presents that I’d painstakingly arranged under the tree were strewn throughout the room. Hmmm, that’s strange. Why are the gifts so spread out? The falling tree wouldn’t have caused that.
“C’mon now. I said get out of here. Bad dog, bad dog.” Jordan said, distracting me from my thoughts.
Our fourteen-year-old Basset Hound, Oscar, was drinking whatever water was left in the base that formerly held the tree in place. Jordan finally succeeded in shooing him and he hobbled away with his tail tucked between his arthritic legs.
“Honey, you don’t honestly think that Oscar did all of this, right?” I said.
“How else do you explain it?” He barked.
“I’m just saying, he’s old, he’s not very big, and he doesn’t get around that well anymore. So I don’t see how he possibly could have—”
“Well, it sure as hell wasn’t one of the cats. You saw him drinking the water out of the base. He probably nudged it over with his head. See? This is why I didn’t want to buy a real tree. Fake trees don’t need water or shed pine needles everywhere.”
“The boys are going to wake up in a few hours and run down here to open presents and see what Santa brought for them. So, for now, I think we need to stop arguing and get this messed cleaned up.”
Once the Christmas magic had been restored I drug myself back upstairs and collapsed into bed feeling like an overworked elf on Christmas Eve. I grabbed my phone off the nightstand to check the time before falling asleep. Ugh. 3:30 am. I noticed that I had received a few push notifications from our Roomba, also known as Jeeves, which was the endearing butler-like nickname we had given him.
Jeeves’ cleaning job was canceled.
That’s weird. I don’t remember canceling the Roomba.
Jeeves requires your attention
Clean Jeeves’ main brushes.
Whatever, I’ll fix it tomorrow. I was so tired my vision was blurring and I could barely keep my eyes open. I drifted off to sleep and dreamed of a lumberjack dressed like Santa Claus placing presents under our tree, then chopping the tree off of the base, slinging it onto his shoulder, and disappearing through our front door with it.
The next morning was accompanied by that special soundtrack that you only hear once per year — the pitter-patter of little feet running downstairs, squeals of delight as wrapping paper is ripped to shreds, and classic carols playing in the background. I cleaned up the mountain of crumpled wrapping paper while the boys played tug-of-war over their new toys. Jordan was eager to dispose of the Christmas tree despite my wishes to leave it up through New Year’s. I lost the debate so he carried it to the backyard and, much to my surprise, lit it on fire. Sheesh, that’s a little dramatic. We could’ve at least paid our respects by singing O Tannenbaum first.
Once I had cleared all of the clutter from the living room, I could see that the floor was blanketed with thousands of pine needles. This looks like a job for Jeeves, I thought with my hands on my hips. I retrieved Jeeves from his charging base and suddenly remembered his error message from the wee hours of the morning. His main brushes were clogged with strands of tinsel from the Christmas tree. When I removed his dust bin to empty it I discovered that it contained pine needles and ornament shards.
“Jeeves, what were you doing in the living room? You’re not supposed to be in there.” I said.
The virtual wall barrier devices we had used to keep Jeeves out of the living room, and away from the Christmas tree, during the holiday season were still in place. So, I plopped Jeeves down in the middle of the living room and powered him on. This time I used the virtual wall barriers to force him to stay in the living room until all of the pine needles were gone.
Jeeves successfully completed a job!
After inspecting his work and finding it to be satisfactory, I emptied Jeeves’ bin once again and returned him to the base so he could recharge in time for his regularly scheduled cleaning job that started at 11:00 pm every night.
Our dinner conversation that night was ripe with newfound motivation and resolutions for the new year. So, once the kids were in bed, I pulled my yoga mat out of a spare closet and unfurled it in the living room to hold my morning self accountable for restoring my yoga habit.
Jeeves requires your attention
Jeeves ended the job stuck.
I woke up early the next morning, slipped into my yoga outfit, and went downstairs ready to get my namaste on before the rest of the family woke up. Once again, I was greeted by a sight in the living room that stopped me in my tracks. Jeeves had gotten stuck on the corner of my yoga mat after he had smeared something all over it. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was cat feces. Our oldest, and most temperamental cat, Steve, had a bad habit of dropping a deuce on the floor outside of the litter box in the laundry room, another room that Jeeves was supposed to be blocked from entering.
“Ok, that’s it Jeeves. First the Christmas tree and now this? You’re supposed to clean up messes, not make more messes.” I said while I disabled his programmed daily schedule for the 11:00 pm cleaning job in the app on my phone. “There, you’ve been laid off until further notice.”
In the process of scrubbing Steve’s excrement off my mat, I lost my motivation to do the workout and opted for some Eggo waffles and coffee instead. When Jordan came downstairs I told him what had happened.
“If I didn’t know any better I’d swear that Jeeves was framing the pets. First, he made it look like Oscar knocked over the Christmas tree and then he smeared Steve’s poop all over my yoga mat. He almost got away with it too but he got stuck on the corner of the mat…”I trailed off when I realized that Jordan was standing in the kitchen frozen, holding a box of cereal in midair with an incredulous look on his face.
“You’re kidding me, right?” He said.
“Yeah…yeah, you’re right. That’s crazy, right?” I said.
That night I was awakened by a distant noise that I couldn’t quite make out so I crept out of the bedroom and paused at the top of the stairs. After a few minutes, I heard the noise again, still faint but I could make it out this time and it was coming from downstairs somewhere.
“Do do do doooo…please love Roomba.”
Love Roomba? Did I hear that right? No, it couldn’t be. He’s supposed to say, ‘please charge Roomba’ and besides, I thought I disabled his schedule, I thought with goosebumps spreading up my arms. I ran downstairs as quickly and silently as I could like you do when you have to lock a door after watching a scary movie. I grabbed Jeeves, thrust him onto the charging base, ran back upstairs, and jumped into bed with my heart racing. Ok, I’m not telling Jordan this time, or else he’ll really think I’m crazy.
Jeeves continued to emerge from the charging base every night at exactly 11:00 pm despite the disabled schedule in the app. Each night I would receive a push notification on my phone saying that Jeeves required my attention which I continued to ignore. His vendetta against the family pets went on to include spilling cat food, knocking over the kitchen trashcan which was clearly another setup for Oscar, and worst of all, bumping into a side table hard enough to send Bluey the beta fish crashing to the floor resulting in an untimely death.
The night after Bluey’s demise, I was woken once again by a loud ruckus in the middle of the night. I checked the time on my phone.
Jeeves requires your attention
Jeeves is stuck near a cliff.
Enough is enough, I thought. I stormed downstairs, with my phone still in hand, on a mission to put an end to Jeeves’ reign of terror. When I reached the foyer hallway I braced myself for whatever catastrophe I was going to stumble upon this time. After searching for quite some time and finding nothing I was about to give up and go back to bed. Wait, a cliff. Jeeves was stuck near a cliff. I flicked on the light at the top of the stairs that descend into the basement and spotted Jeeves, broken into pieces, at the bottom of the stairs. Just then, my phone beeped. It was one last push notification from Jeeves.
Jeeves requires your attention
Robots are companions too.
*No animals or robotic vacuums were harmed as a result of writing this fictional short story.