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The Husband Remaking Machine

by Channie Greenberg

Priscilla regarded the instruction manual once again. The carton contained more than a widget, other than a means to rewrite her life script. The box housed a husband remaking machine.

Once her spouse was placed inside, she would be free of capless toothpaste, open toilet lids, and gardens of dirty gym socks. She would have an entire half of the bed on which to sleep and would be able to eat her full share of purchased seasonal fruit.

What’s more, she would receive flowers on random Tuesdays, would get e-mails that encouraged her in her artwork, and would, on odd occasions, be gifted with phone calls that informed her that her recipe for meatloaf was better than his mother’s.

Breathing as though running on a treadmill, Priscilla opened the instruction manual. There was an awful lot of fine print. The nanotechnology involved had feedback, feedforward, and other sorts of loops. There were many decisions to be made, many bits of software to adjust, before she could even think of drugging and inserting her husband; fullerenes were particular about the commands that they received. They were especially sensitive to errors in syntax.

As she tinkered with her ultramicroscopic, Priscilla considered her partner’s patience with their nephews. During their last visit, those boys had trashed the livingroom, spilling chocolate and ketchup on the rug, getting footprints, somehow, on the ceiling, and otherwise decorating the sofa with a new veneer of acrylic paint. Yet, Jason had calmly chauffeured them, mud, grease, and all the rest, to the local park, where he timed, and thus encouraged their laps around the field. The sleepy children he returned home with were nothing like the wild beasts he had rounded up.

Another time, when her personal computer ate her webpage, her e-mail folder, and the file that contained photos documenting five years’ worth of her commissioned portraits, Jason, once more, came to the rescue. He found a fairly recent edition of her webpage on a floppy disc he had backed up, he communicated with the server that provided Priscilla’s e-mail, and, miraculously, was able to restore the greater portion of her electronic communications, and he took two weeks off of work to visit Priscilla’s patrons to digitally reshoot her paintings.

When Priscilla had pneumonia, Jason wiped her brow, brewed her ginger tea, and changed the filter on her atomizer. He cooked broth for her until she could eat solid food and made frequent trips to the library for books. He shuttled her from doctor to specialist and back again for more than half of a year.

In balance, however, Priscilla’s man had no bad feelings about leaving her and their cats alone, frequently, while he traveled the world to supervise the construction of bridges, of highways, and of other engineering projects. Usually, before such expeditions, instead of a passionate kiss, or a photocopy of a Victorian love poem, he gave his wife a printout of the locations of additional funds, which he had deposited, and which he intended for her to use in his absence. Often he also gave her his copy of their checking account ledger; in his bankbook, the lines were balanced.

More hurtful was that when Jason was home, he was glued to his screen, forever sending messages to others of his professional ilk. He barely ate the sandwiches Priscilla left him and had no energy to think about romantic meals at her favorite Vietnamese restaurant. When he finished a chunk of work, he slept until his alarm woke him for a subsequent span. Long gone were the nights during which they spoke of politics, of organic farming, or of nothing but the colors of the dawn.

For a second time, Priscilla regarded the instruction manual. If she incorrectly entered her code, the carbon nanotubes might configure, permanently, in such a way as to make her dear one belch in mixed company, forget to zip his fly, or neglect to send, when half way around the world, telegrams declaring his unending devotion. She might, if she mistakenly guided the nanoparticles, irrevocably cause her mate to abandon his profession and to run with gypsies, to seek a new partner, or to spit at her mother.

E-Bay resolved the good woman’s dilemma. Priscilla recouped almost her entire cost, minus the company’s percent. Someone else would have the pleasure of owning and of operating a husband remaking machine. She would retain the pleasure of keeping Jason just as he was.

Copyright © 2009 by Channie Greenberg

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