“ ‘Only robots are that careful with their dough,’ I replied.
“ ‘Tell me about it.’ Emily lifted her low-cut blouse; a dogtag gleamed.
“My jaw dropped a mile and a half.
“ ‘My clients don’t know,’ Emily said. ‘Neither did my husband, until the wedding night. I got an earful then. But he has become accustomed to my face, even if it does melt a bit. We have a deal: I work, he loafs.’
“ ‘Some deal,’ I said.
“ ‘It’s paradise,’ Emily said. ‘Marriage means that everyone thinks of me as human. None of those robo-wages for me. I get the whole paycheck.’
“I sat back and thought. Maybe marriage wasn’t so bad. I’d rather serve three meals a day than three hundred. ‘How did you meet him?’ I asked.
“ ‘At the cop shop,’ Emily said. ‘He had arrested me for whoring without a license.’ And without a hope, I thought while surveying her figure. But I didn’t propose to meet my man that way.”
Andrea stood and stretched. “Truth is exhausting,” she said. But she resumed her story. “We went to bed early and yes, Emily snored, so I laid on my back and planned my life. I knew a pancake cook, Tim, who had lots of outer space between his ears and therefore was marriage material. A robot has to master the master, like the slaves in the plays of Plautus. But Tim and I had quarreled over tips. How could I repair the breach? I plugged my ears and nodded off.
“When I awoke, the sun was sulfurous and Emily was gone. I put on my best and only dress and hunted Tim.
“He was easy to track down,” Andrea said. “Six-foot-six, olive-skinned, mustachioed, with an easy grin and an easier lope. He was still at the last diner that I had worked for, Midnight Blyni – Russian for pancakes, he once told me. That was the only thing I ever learned from him.
“He was finishing the morning shift, scrubbing the ancient oven, when he saw me. ‘Look what the cat dragged in!’ he said. My dress was above the knees, so he forgot the quarrel.