Family Values

Sonia and Edward were in the middle of their customary Saturday morning breakfast at home with their six year old twins, little Vicky and Ed Jr., when Edward grew silent and a puzzled expression came over his face.

“Am I a robot?” he asked. Oh no, thought Sonia. He needs to be adjusted again. I can’t afford to keep doing this every month. Their golden retriever, Gryffon, who’d been sprawled contentedly beside the table, sensed something out of the normal order and looked up at her.

“Shush, Darling!” she whispered urgently through the side of her mouth. “Think of the children….” She could see the twins staring quizzically at him, then at each other, with their identical blue eyes.

“What does Daddy mean?” they asked in unison. Too late, Sonia groaned silently to herself. Now they were looking at her, their faces already mirroring Edward’s bewildered expression, as though it were a symptom of an instantly contagious disease. In another minute they would be asking the same question their father had. All three of them would have to be taken back to the dealer; too bad Robot Value Village was closed until Monday.

You get what you pay for, her father always said, and she had to admit that for once he was right. In building her family, she’d tried to stay within her limited means by saving on less expensive models, but lately it seemed they were more trouble than they were worth. Last time she’d been lucky, with Edward breaking down on a weekday evening, an hour after the children had been put to bed. She’d managed to get them off to school the next morning without them seeing him, then got him repaired and back in the house before they got home. Now she would have to deal with the whole family in crisis; her weekend was utterly ruined.

“How about you, Gryff?” Sonia said, turning to the family canine, who wagged his tale and panted excitedly in response. “Feeling in need of a tune-up?” She laughed inwardly at her joke, hahaha, because she knew that Gryffon, at least, was a real animal, and it comforted her to know she still had her sense of humor. She sighed wistfully and repeated her father’s admonition out loud. “You get what you pay for, right Gryff?”

Under Gryffon’s watchful eye, her top-of-the-line positronic brain cooling off a bit, Sonia calmly set about calculating whether replacing these inferior models altogether would be cheaper in the long run than periodic repairs. ‘How can it not know what it is?’ Gryff observed silently, quoting a line from a movie he once saw, longer ago than he cared to remember, a dog’s age.


Steven Levery  Steven Levery's website currently lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. Past writing has appeared in Spindrift and The Greensboro Review; more recent flash fiction can be found at Boston Literary Magazine and Word Riot. Photos, fiction, and random jottings appear semi-regularly at the author's blog, ninetyfirst place.