The Midwest |

Ron Eight

by John Jodzio

My first husband was an inventor named Ron Buck and my second husband was his invention, Ron Eight. In the beginning, some of my friends and family were worried I’d married a robot so quickly after Ron Buck died, but to me it was a no-brainer. I’d originally married Ron Buck for his money and now I’d married a younger version of Ron Buck so I’d continue to get money from his estate.

To be honest, I really didn’t notice many differences between the robot and the man. Ron Eight made the same good guacamole as Ron Buck, had the same deep voice and the same clefted chin. There were even some improvements. For one, Ron Eight didn’t snore. For another, his dick did not feel like warm Jello.

During the first few months, we socialized a lot. Everyone wanted to meet Ron Eight, to see if he was an upgrade over Ron Seven. He didn’t disappoint. Ron Eight was a stitch at all the dinner parties we attended. If the conversation ever died down, he’d unbutton his shirt and unscrew his breast plate and show everyone the tiny wires that ran through his body. He could speak over 200 languages and loved to split up restaurant checks. He also had a bit of storage space built into his thigh where I could stash my purse whenever I got tired of holding it.

In private, Ron Eight showed me things about himself he thought I’d enjoy, opened his panels and bragged about the speed of his processors, recited random facts from his mammoth data library. I wasn’t all that impressed by these kinds of things, but since I was trying to bankroll my new closet organizing business with his money, I ohh’d and ahh’d at everything he did.

Sadly, this honeymoon period didn’t last long. One night, before our contractually obligated weekly love making session, Ron Eight informed me he wanted a baby.

“I have a pre-programmed imperative to reproduce,” he said. “I’ve tried to be patient, but it’s getting harder and harder to fight.”

I didn’t remember anything about this in our prenup, but then Ron Eight beamed a copy of the contract up on the wall through his eye sockets and highlighted a paragraph with a clause regarding “other duties as assigned.” He explained to me that in this case “other duties as assigned” meant a baby.

“I’m too busy with my closet organizing business to have a baby,” I said.

This was a lie. Since I started my business I’d only done one consultation. It was for Leanne from my Zumba class. To be honest, we never even made it upstairs to check out her closets. All we did was sit in her living room, passing a bottle of Prosecco back and forth.

“All the guys in my dart league have children,” Ron told me. “I want one too.”

I was someone who liked to unwind by drinking strawberry margaritas at my kitchen table and then by drinking more margaritas sitting in my porch swing and occasionally mov ing out into my front yard and throwing empty margarita glasses at cars who drove too quickly down my street. I imagined a baby would crimp this well established nighttime routine, but I also knew I might throw more accurately at anyone speeding by my house if I had an actual baby inside to protect.

“Let me mull it over,” I told him.

The next day Ron Eight and I had our first big fight. It happened after I’d shown him the new business cards I’d ordered. They were mauve with silver script. I had ordered pink ones with the gold embossing a few days before.

“Jesus,” he said, “why do you need two different business cards for one bullshit business?”

Before he died, Ron Buck often said things like this to me. He told me I lacked focus, that I was reckless with his money. The last business I’d started, an oxygen bar, had gone belly up after two months and he’d never let me forget it. When he died I thought I’d escaped his critiques, but I was coming to realize he hadn’t only plugged the wonderful parts of his personality into Ron Eight, he’d included a lot of his pettiness and anger as well.

“At least I am not fucking my recharging pod,” I said.

I said this because a few days before I’d returned earlier than expected from the gym and caught Ron Eight running his fingers lightly over his recharging pod. He tried to play it off as a friendly caress, but if there’s anyone who knows the difference between a friendly caress and a erotic one, it’s me. While I couldn’t prove anything right then, I knew there was something weird going on between the two of them.

“Really?” Ron Eight said. “This again?”

I went over to the fireplace and I grabbed the fireplace poker from its caddy. I gripped it like a baseball bat, moved toward the recharging pod.

“Drop it,” Ron Eight said, sliding to block my path. “Don’t you even think what you’re thinking.”

Ron Eight was programmed to never able to hurt me or any other human. This meant I could nail him in the face with the fireplace poker and he would not retailiate. This meant I could kneecap him and make him crumple to the floor and he would stand up without complaint. This meant I could smack him in his kidneys in a way which would make a normal man piss blood for a month but would not faze him in the least.

“Calm down,” Ron said, but I did not calm down. I sidestepped him and whacked the side of his beloved recharging station, leaving a large dent in the metal.

Over the next few days I threw myself into my closet organizing business, desperately trying to prove Ron Eight wrong about me. I left stacks of my business cards at all the boutiques and salons in my neighborhood. I took out a small ad in the back of a local magazine. One morning after Zumba, Leanne and I drove around and hammered fliers to telephone poles.

To keep my closet organizing skills sharp while I built my client base, I practiced organizing my own closets. I usually did this on Thursday nights, when Ron Eight had his dart league. When he left I yanked my clothes from hangers, unfurled my belts, kicked over my shoe trees and dumped my drawers into a big pile on my bedroom floor. Sometimes I stripped naked and burrowed underneath this pile, covered myself in my clothes and shoes and belts and let the weight of all my belongings bear down on my body. My favorite part of these practice sessions was when I rose out of this pile of cotton and leather feeling energized and reborn.

One night Ron Eight came home from his dart league and found me sipping on a strawberry margarita on our porch. He gave me an extra long hug, his neck smelling like it always did, slightly of vanilla.

“I’m going to swing by the cryobank tomorrow,” he said.

Before Ron Buck died he’d stored some of his sperm at our local cyrobank. His sperm could be easily be slid into Ron Eight’s lifelike penis and instead of the fake goo that normally spurted out of Ron Eight, Ron Buck’s real goo would splurt out.

“I still need some time,” I said. “It’s a huge decision.”

“We’ll be married four months next week,” Ron Eight told me. “It’s time. We might all be dead tomorrow.” 

This was a bullshit argument Ron Eight often made, lecturing me on how tenuous our grasp on this earth actually was, how quickly our lives could be snuffed out. While it rang true for me, it rang hollow for him because unless he was smashed in a car crusher or fell off the deck of a cruise liner into the salty sea, he’d outlast me by 200 years.

“Fine already,” I told him. “Go get your spooge.”

The next morning, I skipped Zumba and threw all my clothes and shoes onto my bedroom floor so I could think. As I burrowed under this pile I heard the front door open, heard Ron Eight downstairs chatting with a woman. Soon there were some footsteps on the stairs. I made a peephole between a skirt and a pair of pumps and watched as he walked into our bedroom holding our neighbor Karla’s hand.

“Wow,” Karla said, pointing at the pile. “I see what you were talking about.”

“She does this all the time,” Ron Eight said. “Leaves a pile of her shit on the floor and then runs off to God knows where.”

“That’s insane,” Karla said. “She needs help.”

Before he died I’d always accused Ron Buck of having a thing for Karla. She was younger than me and always wore crop tops and probably didn’t have to use any of that expensive moisterizer to keep her spider veins under control.

A few months before Ron Buck had died I’d seen Karla standing outside our house with a pair of binoculars, staring inside our kitchen. When I confronted Ron Buck about this he told me I was being paranoid, that she was probably just birdwatching.

As Ron Eight and Karla talked, I was tempted to jump up out of the pile of clothes and grab the fireplace poker and yell “Surprise!” and wail on both their heads, but I stayed still. I watched as Ron pulled Karla’s shirt over her head, unclasped her bra. I held my breath as she unbuckled his belt and pulled off his pants. I didn’t move as they thrashed around on the bed, bucking and moaning.

“I thought this was going to make me sadder than I already was,” Karla said after they finished. “But it was just like it used to be. Maybe even better.”

“Let’s make a baby,” I told Ron Eight later that night when his battery charge was low.

“Wonderful,” he said.

While he ran to the kitchen to get the sperm I took my diaphragm out of my bedside table. Ron came back into the bedroom and dimmed the lights.

“We’re going to be great parents,” he said.

“Absolutely we are,” I told him.

I closed my eyes for most of the foreplay and the sex, but whenever I did open them I saw Ron rubbing his foot against his recharging pod.

“I’m so excited for this new chapter in our lives,” he said when we were finished.

Instead of answering him I got out of bed and dumped the contents of my diaphragm onto the carpet.

“What are you doing?” Ron asked.

I walked over to his recharging pod and climbed inside.

“Get out of there immediately,” Ron said. “My battery is at 2%.”

I closed my eyes while Ron banged on the door. I knew the anxious look he often got on his face when his battery got critically low, his face scrunching up like he was smelling bad cheese. I didn’t want to see it. Soon he ran downstairs to hook himself up to one of his emergency backup batteries. Unfortunately for him I’d destroyed all of them earlier that afternoon.

“Where are my backups?” he yelled. “What the fuck did you do with my backups?”

When he returned his left eye was twitching and his hands had curled into fists. His right leg buckled and he fell to his knees.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked, but I did not answer him.

I stayed inside the recharging pod until the light in his eyes slipped away. When it did I walked downstairs and mixed up a pitcher of a strawberry margaritas.