Chris Cottom lives in the north west of England, and is an escaped insurance writer. He’s won the Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize, the LoveReading Very Short Story People’s Choice Award, and competitions with On The Premises, Secret Attic, and Shooter Flash. He once lived next door to JRR Tolkien.
by Chris Cottom
Good morning, you’re through to RoboHub Technical Support. You’re speaking to Anil today. Can I start by taking the serial number?
It’ll be a nineteen-digit number tattooed on your husband’s left buttock.
No problem. What’s your zip code?
Thank you. And the first line of your address?
Wow! You’ve got an early H2. You must be one of our first customers! The H2 was an industry gamechanger: faded Levi 501s as standard, Carlos Santana moustache option, full set of Woody Allen one-liners. An absolute classic!
No, Mrs. Hoskins, it’s option one for sales, two for service, and three for accounts. An H2 doesn’t go missing.
I see… Don’t worry, even on full charge, he’s got a limited range.
Sorry, I meant limited geographic range.
Your H2 went next door?
Disappeared with your neighbor’s RoboWife W7?
Normally, we’d want to get him back to base to run some diagnostics. But, since he’s no longer on site, I need to transfer you to one of my colleagues. Are you okay if I pop you on hold while I explain the problem to them?
Thanks for holding, Mrs. Hoskins. You’re through to Carly in Spares and Upgrades. I understand your Robohub H2 has gone missing.
Yep, sounds like a technical problem we call Mid-Marriage Meltdown. Don’t worry, you’re fully covered under your warranty. I’ll get an H8 out to you for Friday. Lean or Hunk?
My mistake, Mrs. Hoskins. Wrong of me to make assumptions. Male, female, or gender neutral?
Thank you for confirming, Mrs. Hoskins. The H8 is low-plastic, guaranteed emission-free and comes pre-treated for dandruff, with two cardigans, paunch-control pants, and an alcohol limit of six beers on Fridays.
No need to be shy, Mrs. Hoskins.
Quite right to ask. User-controllable all the way from Every Night to Blue Moon. And, Mrs. Hoskins, the H8 has a series of optional DIY plug-ins, right up to Master Carpenter, and—
Your H2 built his own shed? Our marketing people would love a photo of that for our website.
Wow. Sounds like a palace fit for an H9.
Well, the H9 package is a subscription-only husband, but includes a singing voice to crowd-pulling Karaoke standard, scheduled prostate rebore, end-of-the-world holiday of a lifetime, and a send-off with two hymns and a five-minute eulogy by a professional actor.
Absolutely fine, Mrs. Hoskins, I’ll order you an H8. Now: tweeds and brogues, skinny jeans and cowboy boots, or lounge pants and sliders?
Thank you. And what about politics? We’ve just released our XR model—Climate Change Activist. Comes preloaded with one hundred slogans, a tube of glue, and a Get Out of Jail card.
No? How about a Bert Reynolds lookalike? Still very popular.
And what sort of temperament? Life and Soul of the Party or Moody Bastard?
Thank you. I’ll put you down for Tipsy Wallflower. What about money? Spendthrift or Stingy?
My apologies, Mrs. Hoskins. I should have explained. We no longer offer repairs on the H2. Not economic, I’m afraid. It’s all those transistors—
Yuh, it’s been chips with everything since the H4.
Well, normally we strip them down and recycle what we can. But the silicone’s invariably past it on these older models. Did I mention the H8 is guaranteed nose-hair free for life and comes with two sets of pyjamas, summer and winter? Except no summer ones on the Hunk, of course.
“Love your husband”? I’m sorry, I don’t recognise that expression. I’m only trained up to Repair or Replace. I need to transfer you to one of my colleagues. Are you okay if I pop you on hold while I explain the problem to them?
Hello Mrs. Hoskins, you’re through to Maureen in Relational Support. Just been reading your notes. Now, can I call you Sukie?
Sorry, Suzie it is. So, I understand you’ve lost your hubby, Sukie. I’m afraid the early models can get twitchy when they hit fifty.
You know: training for a triathlon, getting an earring, blasting out Van Halen on repeat.
That’s right, you have a good cry… Yeah, I know, you just want him home again.
I know, love. Lost one myself, my Walkabout Willy. You know it’s terminal when they potter around saying ‘Pom, Pom, Pom’ to themselves all the time.
That might well be the problem, love. Dangerous to disconnect them when they’re on a 24-hour charge. One poor woman found her RoboHub sticking his socks in the dishwasher, while her best china was crashing around the washing machine on fast spin. And she’d upgraded with an Alpha Male plug-in.
No I’m sorry, we can’t re-program him remotely, seeing as he’s only an H2.
Quite right, Sukie. My hands are tied, I’m afraid. What I’m going to do is escalate this to one of my colleagues. Quick word of advice—have a good think about what you really want. I’ll just pop you on hold while I explain the problem. You can have Vivaldi or Gloria Gaynor.
Hello, Mrs. Hoskins, you’re through to Pavel in Complaints and Restitution.
Well, thank you… Suzy. Now, Suzy, it looks like you’ve had a bit of a rough time recently with your H2.
But it does sound like he was at the end of his useful life even before he went next door. So what we’d like to do, Suzy, is ask you to test our new RoboHub H10.
No, it’s an absolutely free six-month trial.
Excellent, Suzy. Now, the H10 comes with the manners of a diplomat, the looks of a George Clooney, the stamina of a stallion, the wisdom of Sol…
Fine, I can switch that to a Ryan Gosling. Nice choice. Now: hipster beard, designer stubble or—and this is quite new—baby’s bum smooth?
That’s right. No messy washbasins. And that’s guaranteed, Suzy.
Me? I’m clean-shaven. My mum reckons they’ll ask me for ID when I start at uni.
Yeah, just doing this to save some money first.
No way! Which university?
A Masters! Smart lady, eh? I’ll tell Technical to program your H10 with an ode for every occasion.
No, because what I’m pre-authorized to do for you, Suzy, is drive your H10 up to you tomorrow, so I can set him up exactly the way you want him.
Absolutely. All part of the service. I should be with you late afternoon. Would that suit you?
Gosh, that’s extremely kind of you, Suzy, but, I’m actually vegan, so I wouldn’t want you to—
Sure, I love curry.
Massaman curry, absolutely my favourite.
Of course. Red or white?
Something fizzy? Good idea. We’ll toast your new H10.
Well, that’s really very kind of you, Suzy. Are you sure?
Yep, mustn’t drink and drive. Quite right.
Settled then, I’ll bring my toothbrush.
Don’t worry. If he turns up, just pop him in your trash can.
Copyright 2023 by Chris Cottom