THE NEW PET • by Finale Doshi

There’s a difference between retired and senile, but my son seems to think that anyone who was born before corneal wifi can’t manage on their own.  Last week he wanted to show me how to operate a networked refrigerator. Nevermind that I designed the damn things for thirty years.

Today’s insult is a Ninu, a fluffy robotic kitten. He says it’s to keep me company. He means he’s too busy programming electronic toothbrushes to bother visiting me himself.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he asks.

“It,” I say. “It’s a thing, not a she.”

“Whatever you say, dad.”

The piezo-electric buzzer in its throat purrs whenever I scratch any of the eight-six tactile points on its skin.  I’ve found them all, I know.

***

My son bought me another Ninu today because the first one is broken. I think I might have done it on purpose after I discovered that camera and voice recorder in its head. Or maybe I just dropped it, or it got into a tussle with the vacuum-bot. They don’t always get along. Sometimes I forget things, but my fingers still remember the wires, know when the wires are wrong. I’m not that old, you know. I don’t need my son spying on me with an electronic pet — I can take care of myself. I have a right to privacy. Next thing you know he’ll be bringing me one of those dementia-bracelets that records the RFID tags of everything I touch. “Don’t forget to wash after you go,” the system will say. Can you imagine that? Version II is nice though, there’s something under the fancy fur that tightens and relaxes when I pet it.

***

A familiar man is sitting on the couch opposite me. He’s a nice man, just happened to come by after I’d slipped in the garden. I guess he was in the neighborhood.

He seems content not to say anything, so I don’t pay him much heed. I stroke Ninu, and she arches under my touch, purrs gently and turns over for a belly-rub. She’s a wonderful creature, a beautiful creature, a creature that always seems to understand me. She looks after me too: she has a special yowl for if I leave the kettle on, a different one if I’m about to leave the house without my keys. She doesn’t want me to get locked out, and when it’s raining, she reminds me to take an umbrella. “Isn’t she great?” I say with a smile, glancing up at the man on the couch.

“She is,” he says, returning the smile, but his eyes seem strangely sad.


Finale Doshi designs intelligent systems and robots.

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Every Day Fiction