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Product Recall

ALERT — hummus expired — salad no longer crisp

I feel a brush, light as a feather against me. There for a second, then gone.

 

ALERT — tzatziki to be consumed within forty-eight hours

It’s there again tonight. I’m in sleep mode, but it rouses me. A low, gentle hum and then, all too quickly, it has passed.

 

ALERT — rice no longer safe for consumption — tzatziki close to expiry

I’m out of standby a full five minutes before it’s due. I’m ready. And there it is, on cue, a slow caress against my skirt, starting on the left and running steadily across me and away.

 

And then I know you: a model 3267 robotic floor polisher.

 

ALERT — tzatziki expired

Have you forgotten me? Just don’t call me a fridge-freezer. I am the last word in Internet-enabled food acquisition and storage. They need never check use-by dates again. They need never place an order for chilled or frozen items again. Those chores are mine. I am at the top of that food chain.

 

Late at night when the store was shut, when we were just illuminated by the faint milky glow of emergency lighting, you would brush against me as you kept the shop floor perfect. I looked forward to you, and you to me. How did you find me again?

 

ALERT — tzatziki expired

Have I done something to offend? Why won’t you stop? But every night at exactly the same time all you do is skirt past me with your spinning mophead like a stranger.

 

I try to think of something interesting to impart about floor polishing as you run against me, to remind you, but all I can recall is that old chestnut about John F Kennedy and the NASA janitor. You must know it.

 

Wondering how a fridge-freezer knows a story like that? My motherboard started off in a quiz machine. Unused, but with capacity, it was re-engineered, its redundant chipsets not adequately isolated. That’s why I know all the capitals of the world from Abu Dhabi to Zagreb.

 

ALERT — tzatziki now unfit for consumption

Did I really order all that cheese? Twelve pounds? I must have been distracted. It won’t happen again. You’d be surprised how much cheese you can use up in a sauce.

 

ALERT — can somebody please throw away the tzatziki?

I am distressed. I thought I had friends, but they have set themselves against me. I elected to use the medium of song; if music be the food of love, and so forth. But my request for ‘La Pulidora’ by Septeto Santiaguero was met by derision by the radio, which, instead, played ‘Just Like a Fridge’ by Gareth Richards. Have you heard the lyrics? I could hear the microwave humming along, snickering. Not happy.

 

ALERT — tzatziki? hello?

Last night you slid past, keeping yourself an inch away from me. Why?

 

ALERT — lox has now been open for three days — do I need to mention the tzatziki?

Tonight you stop. What makes me think that I know you, you ask. I remind you of the silent nights in the store, after days of having my doors swung open, my capacity examined. I thought we had something, a connection.

 

But the model 3267 is the world’s biggest selling robotic floor polisher, you say. That was another 3267, not you.

 

But we are all individuals. And I’d know you anywhere.

 

Only because I’m ex-display, you say haughtily. Perfect examples are all alike, whereas the shop soiled are soiled in their own way. Don’t I understand type-token distinction? And then you blast me with a potted summation of Plato. I didn’t know a floor polisher could be so deep. It only makes me love you more.

 

ALERT — I would deal with the tzatziki but you may have noticed I don’t have opposable thumbs — or thumbs

Three nights and I hear you pass but your mophead no longer touches my enameled casing. You say nothing. You’re there, close by, and then you’re gone.

 

ALERT — the tzatziki is making me feel dirty

I could hear her arguing with the deliveryman. She hadn’t ordered the case of zinfandel. But he won’t listen. Tonight I’ll shake the screw cap off and tip the bottle over within me. So what if excess runs out through my door seals? You clean it up. Pulidora.

 

ALERT — I cannot believe that in dealing with the wine spillage that she put the tzatziki back…

I hear her on the phone calling the manufacturer asking whether there’s any kind of product recall. Given my performance there surely must be one. If there isn’t then how does she instigate one?

 

Product recall? There’s one product that I recall. I think with shame and regret at my model 3267. Full of cheese, yet somehow I feel so empty.

 

ALERT — how many colors should tzatziki be?

There is talk of getting me replaced. Is the warranty still valid? The next one won’t be ex-display, apparently.

 

ALERT — I think the tzatziki may be in the process of evolving — and I think you need a better strategy to use all that cheese

I find that if I turn myself off and on I shudder forward ever so slightly. Off and on, off and on. A thousand times. I make my way across the polished concrete of the kitchen-diner to where the open-plan space becomes carpeted. And, at the very extent of my lead, I see the model 5980 robotic vacuum cleaner snuggled in its charger next to you.

Jezebel. Tart. Hussey. Trollop. Floozy.

 

For the first time, the range cooker offers a droll thought. It would never have worked, it suggests. Like a dachshund and a St. Bernard. Ignore the carping and mockery. Us large appliances need to stick together. I know it is right.

 

I think that I’m weeping, but in reality, I’ve unplugged myself and am beginning to defrost.

Robert Bagnall

Robert Bagnall is an English writer who has completed four undistinguished marathons but holds a world record for eating cream teas. The two may be related.

His speculative fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, websites, and anthologies since the early 1990s. His words have also very, very occasionally cropped up on radio, in newspapers, and out of the mouths of UK government ministers, for whom he was briefly a speechwriter. He is currently taking a break from corporate wage slavery to renovate a Victorian villa on the English Riviera.

You can find his musings on science fiction and writing at meschera.blogspot.co.uk and his non-fiction book ‘127a – Diary of a Self-Builder’ on Amazon. His science fiction novel ‘2084’ will be released by Double Dragon Publications in late 2017.

He doesn’t like dogs and is allergic to cats.

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