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Sexbot Sunday Jigsaw Puzzle

The women lounged in Maria's white-carpeted dining room in tight jeans and bright t-shirts advertising places like Florida's Gator World and The Happiest Place in Vegas. Each one had been carefully selected for this gathering on business trips. Each woman stood before racks of clothing laughing to themselves, imagining which shirt would make their friends laugh, laughing alone, their feet sore in tight leather heels. Now, in the living room, they laughed and stretched, savoring the weekend freedom from suits and fitted blouses and another smiled as if to say Yes, that exact thing is divine. Maria passed around cups of dark red tea as the women watched the sexbots struggle with their puzzle. There was one for each woman, dressed in their own tight jeans and floppy t-shirts, since it seemed ridiculous to keep them in lace and velvet on their day off.
It was Coral's idea to bring the sexbots to tea, because, she said, she didn't want to leave hers unattended.
"What if the children came home early and played with it?" Coral worried.
What indeed, everyone agreed. Not that the thing would do anything to them, but it was the very idea. It was Barbara's idea to teach them the puzzle. The bots were smart, really. They came with basic programming and anything more complicated than that had to be downloaded. But they only had to show them how to fit the pieces together once and they slowly started going at it, silent, doll eyes wide and serious.
"They're almost cute like that," Barbara said, "They look like our daughters."
Which they did, except each one had a little red light on the back of their necks.
"Oh, Barbara, that's disgusting," Coral said.
"They're not that bad," Barbara said, "I think they're a lifesaver. By the time I'm home from work, check in with the board, get the kids, cook dinner, all I want to do is have a glass of wine and watch Antique Roadshow and go to bed. And here's Jacob, God love 'em, and he has needs."
She kissed the air, her wet, red lipstick a threat to the white carpet, the clean, clean napkins. The women laughed.
"Needs is right!" Sophie said, "It's like being poked with a stick. Now hold on honey, let me finish folding socks and then I'll totally be hot for you in my sweaty bra and work hair. I want to feel sexy if we're going to be sexy!"
"I think I have more sex now," Barbara said and stuffed a whole-chocolate-dipped strawberry in her mouth.
A bit of chocolate fell onto the carpet and a robot, the size and shape of a water bug, skittered out from under the hall tree and scooped it up. It disappeared under another piece of furniture with a sound like a tiny sigh.
"Oh come on!" Coral said.
"No, honestly," she said around the strawberry. "It doesn't bother me. Jerry can have some fun and I can have some fun when he's not home."
"It bothers me," Coral said, and Sophie glared at her. She wanted to know more about when Jerry wasn't home.
"Coral, will you help me in the kitchen for a moment," Maria said
She held an empty plate like a waitress on an old poster. She held it like it was the best and most important plate in the world. Her smile was like porcelain, carefully crafted for straight-backed, black-suited investors. Coral picked up the strawberry plate, now empty of strawberries, and followed her to the kitchen. The sexbots were passing a single piece around in a circle, turning it over carefully, pursing their lips. Barbara's bot tapped her tiny foot, once, twice, abandoned the piece on the corner of the table, gave it a tiny push toward the edge, as if it had displeased her. In the kitchen the teakettle tap-danced on the counter and tipped it's top like a hat. Maria gave it a flick and it settled back down.
"All right, tell me," Maria said.
"It's nothing," Coral said.
"Now, please."
"I am not having more sex. I'm having none."
"Oh Sweetie."
"He told me I would be sorry when we bought the thing, and I didn't believe him, but he's right. He barely speaks to me or the kids. He just," she gestured toward the living room, where the bots struggled with their puzzle.
"Oh, Sweetie. You have to be brave, make your own decisions and--"
She was cut off by a roar of laughter from the dining room. Maria's bot walked past the door, her hips swinging, the little light on her neck blinking red.
"Oh no!" Maria said, clamping a hand over a laugh, "Charlie's up and he doesn't know we're here."
But he must have heard the laughter, or the applause, because he appeared a few minutes later, red faced, and the bot returned to the table.
"We have company, dear," Maria said.
"I see that! Sorry ladies."
Maria tried to bring the conversation back to Coral again, but the moment was gone. The closeness evaporated and they talked about cereal and children and work.
"Ooop. Someone's calling," Coral pointed at the light on Barbara's bot.
"I'll get the car," Barbara sighed from the dining room, "or it'll just start walking down the road. Come on, bot."
"Maybe we should leave them behind after all."
"Sophie, look."
Sophie leaned over the kitchen island to see where Cora was pointing. Barbara's bot hadn't walked out the door yet. It was leaning over the folding table. The other bots stopped too, waiting. Barbara's bot put down the piece in her hand and picked up the impossible piece, the piece abandoned on the corner of the table. She swayed, but stayed and stayed and stayed. Barbara jingled her keys.
"Well," said Coral, "there's that now."
"Yes," Sophie sighed. "What do we do about that?"
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

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