Spare Parts Mart

Sandra Kellams © 2001

Not everyone was happy to be at the Spare Parts Mart. Lucy despised the place. It was sterile and cold. The aisles glared with plastic faces, masks of different genders and styles. Limbs hung like sweaters on racks. Some with encoded programs tried to entice her to try them on. Nimble digits flexed, index fingers signaled to her, come here. Male fists clenched and gripped, showing their strength. Lucy got chills as each aisle called her attention.

She examined her own hand. It was one of the last of her original parts. The wiring and circuits were out dated and worn. Simple movements were becoming great tasks of concentration.

Lucy was an ancient model. More complex and sophisticated robots were introduced each year, some even more quickly. In Lucy's days, designers worked hard to make the models human like, with simulated epidermis, hair, pores. These techniques were abandoned for more conventional models. Robots looked like robots, and most of Lucy's identity had been replaced with smart materials. She was beginning to look like a robot, more complex and sophisticated.

She had her original face plate, swore to never replace it. Her left hand was fine so far. Her torso and hips were new. Her new legs, although very flexible and capable of even the most unusual feats, made her cringe. They were sleek and shapely, cold and sterile, a robots legs.

On this particular day, Tany, Lucy's husband, motioned to her with a waving hand. She saw it's glare and winced. "Found them," he announced. "Over here."

She hesitated and made her way around a display of mannequins that were set up in the center of the Mart. They were hollowed torsos and limbs, stuck in stiff, awkward positions, surely the newest off the line. One of them had nothing that even resembled a face. Lucy wasn't sure why, but she didn't like that, didn't like that at all.

She was still staring at it when Tany grabbed her by the shoulder. "Over here," he said, turning her around. "Look, just what I was talking about." He grabbed a large box from the shelf, opened it and pulled out a hand. It sparkled. Each digit looked like an ice cycle. It was a pale, clear blue.

"I don't like it," she said. "It looks cold."

"This is the best out. How could you not like it?" He held the hand up. Light filtered through it. The wirings inside were a blur of perfection. "Look at that," he said. "It's beautiful."

Lucy looked at her old hand. Dainty wrinkles on the outer surface stretched and relaxed as she flexed it. Her fingernails, pink and delicate, had always been so useful for small tasks. She had a favorite polish. It was a pale shell color. She enjoyed time spent putting it on and taking it off.

"I want one like this," she said. She stretched out her fingers.

"They don't make them like that anymore. What's the difference? It's just a hand."

Lucy flung her head back and turned around.

"This one could crush steel." Tany argued. He was and older model. Unlike Lucy, the slightest twitch of a digit led him to the mart. He barely resembled the robot she'd made vows with.

"I don't want to crush steel," she said, and walked away. "You just don't get it."

Tany walked quickly to catch up to her. He was always trying to catch up with her. "Listen," he said. "Your hand isn't going to last much longer. You need a new one. You can paint fake nails onto it, if you want. You'll get used to it. Lucy stop!" he insisted.

She did. He took her bad hand. "Look," he said. "This little piggy is even missing a nail. It's going to fail you. What if it happens at the factory? You have to face it. If you want to function, you need to do this."

Lucy bought the new hand. She hated it. Six months later, she had to replace her right one. Three months later her memory began to fail.

The morning she painted nail polish on her eyelids, Tany decided it was time.

"Where are we going, Bany?"

"Tany." he corrected.



She didn't remember the Mart, or its inventory. She followed Tany, curious of his intent. "What are we here for?" she asked. The hollow mannequins caught her attention again. "Look at those," she said. "No faces."

"Just going to pick up a few things." Tany told her. He coaxed her to the mechanical pet section. "Pick out a pet," he said. "I'll be right back."

Tany left her and went to the aisle he'd been checking out over the last few weeks. Picking out a memory was no easy decision. He pulled out several choices he decided on during his last visit. He'd narrowed it down to three. They all had similar qualities, intelligence, a good self respect and honesty. One had programming abilities, another had mechanical knowledge and the last was a house wife. He ruled out the house wife. Lucy would need to work.

The memory disks were in tiny little boxes. Each had a picture of a nice-looking robot, performing certain tasks. Tany couldn't decide. He felt that Lucy should choose her own memory. Even though hers had already failed a great deal, he didn't know if she would except it. He would have to decide.

He'd almost decided on the programmer, when he noticed a disk he'd overlooked. It was a larger box, with two disks, two memories. The box read, Happily Married Working Couple.

x x x

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