Short Stories on Tall And True

AI Droid - A New Jack

A New Jack

  12+  Less than forty-eight hours after receiving her online order, Third Age Cybertronics delivered Jack to Daisy, a sprightly centenarian who purchased the Advanced Companion Droid to help her with household chores and carry her bags when travelling.

Jack was an autonomous AI droid designed for housework, shopping, and meal preparation and boasted a comprehensive medical and disaster database to cater for all emergencies, from Daisy tripping or having a heart attack at home to a tsunami or a plane crash in the Bermuda Triangle on their travels.

The droid also featured interactive conversation and entertainment capabilities and could carry several large suitcases. In short, Jack was the perfect old-style companion for Daisy, an independent woman who had never married or had children and had only shared her home with generations of her favourite breed of dog, the Jack Russell Terrier.

That's not to say Daisy was a loner. She had led a long and productive professional life and, while slowing down slightly after turning one hundred, thanks to the marvels of modern medicine, she still enjoyed her post-retirement travels and meeting new people.  

However, Daisy did not like having people in the house, only her Jack Russells. But dogs couldn't help with housework, shopping and cooking and got underfoot when travelling. So, after the last Jack Russell died, Daisy decided it was time for a new Jack.

"Hello, I'm Daisy," she introduced herself when the delivery drone departed. 

The droid blinked on activation and responded in a clipped, English butler-like tone. "Hello, Daisy. Should I commence cleaning, boil the kettle, or stream the latest virtual reality TV game show for you?" 

"No, thank you," Daisy chuckled. "I may be old, but I'm not an invalid. I'd like you to be my companion, not a servant, like my Jack Russells."

"My name is Jack," the droid replied with what sounded like a programmed hint of surprise. 

"Yes, I know," Daisy chuckled again, "I called you Jack because I have fond memories of my dogs and hope we'll make fond memories, too."

"My memory storage is virtually inexhaustible," the droid reassured Daisy, "and can be uploaded to cloud servers for additional security."

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Daisy said, chuckling again at the droid's seeming naivety. "Let's start with basic house rules, as I did with the Jack Russells. And then we can get to know each other."

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Jack listened as Daisy outlined her expectations for their daily routine. To be precise, Jack processed this information. Being a droid, Jack was multi-tasking, integrating with Daisy's household AI bots and placing a supermarket drone delivery order to restock the fridge and pantry.

But the droid was also distracted. The surprise in Jack's voice when Daisy revealed its "Jack Russell" connection had been genuine. Jack computed that these dogs had stolen Daisy's heart and registered this as a special relationship.

Could Jack build a similar relationship with Daisy? Jack hoped so. But why this should matter was beyond the droid's parameters.

© 2024 Robert Fairhead 

Thanks to Jean-Paul Jandrain from Pixabay for sharing the robot man/droid image.

A New Jack should have been my entry for the Australian Writers' Centre's January 2024 Furious Fiction challenge. The brief for the story was:

  • It had to take place on a character's FIRST DAY OF A NEW JOB
  • Include something being stolen
  • And the words TRIP, TRIANGLE and TSUNAMI (longer variations retaining the original spelling permitted).

But I was holidaying in Perth on the weekend of the challenge in January, and I couldn't find the time or space to polish the slightly futuristic draft I'd written about Jack's first day on the job as an Advanced Companion Droid for Daisy, the sprightly centenarian.

The Writers' Centre's publishing of the Furious Fiction Story Showcase at the end of January inspired me to revisit and finish the story. The polished and tweaked final version is similar to the draft except for:

  • The ending, which I hadn't written 
  • Something being stolen, which I'd overlooked
  • The story title - the draft was untitled.

I flirted with having Jack pocket something from Daisy's house, perhaps a ceramic Jack Russell. But the simplicity of Jack computing that the dogs had stolen Daisy's heart was perfect for the story and gave me its sweet ending.

As for the title, I was editing a penultimate printout of the story on my evening walk when the idea of A New Jack popped into my head. And like that shiver up the spine moment when I've written a final sentence, I knew I had the title for my story.

PS. Special thanks to Dean Koorey on Twitter for his suggestions after I shared A New Jack on Tall And True. The edits made it a much tighter and better short story!

PPS. January 2024 was only the second Furious Fiction I've missed since I first entered the challenge in April 2020. I was also in Perth the first time I missed Furious Fiction for a family wedding in October 2023. As with A New Jack, I finished and shared the story later in the month, back in Sydney, The Lonely Moon

Grammarly

Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.

Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.

Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.

He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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