by Kit Tunstall © 2001

"We need to return this."

The clerk eyed the late-thirtyish couple, then turned critical eyes to the boy standing beside them. "Is it defective?"

"No. My wife wants something newer."

She sighed. "I knew I should have gotten one of those smaller models, but Marge had one just like it."

"That's your problem, Cindy--you always do what your friends do."

The clerk interrupted before a full-scale domestic disturbance erupted. "Your name?"


Entering the name, the clerk frowned. "You have two years of your three year lease left."

Mr. Haggerman shrugged. "My wife wants a baby-bot."

"I'll have to deduct twenty percent of your refund since this is your second return."

Mr. Haggerman waved a hand. "That's fine." He squeezed Cindy's shoulder with a bearish hand. "As long as she's happy, I don't care if we're in here twice a week."

"Very well, sir. Shall I sign you up for the Satisfaction 110 club?"

"What's that?"

Removing a brochure from the rack nearby, the clerk flipped it open. "For a nominal insurance premium, you're guaranteed a full refund on any products you might return, for a full five years."

"What do you say, Cindy? You plan on trading often?"

She tilted her head, thinking for a moment. "Well, I do like the idea of being able to coordinate them with the furniture."

"We'll take it."

"Excellent." The clerk finished the paperwork, giving them a pro-rated refund, and their welcome packet for the Satisfaction 110 program. "As you know, the newer models are kept in the next department."

Mrs. Haggerman looked down at the adolescent boy. "What will happen to him?"

"It will be erased and reissued."

Feeling a moment of doubt, as she'd done with their last return, she asked, "He won't miss us?"

Mr. Haggerman laughed. "He doesn't have emotions, Cindy." He led her away.

Neither turned back. Had they, they would have seen a single teardrop escape from an eye that was never meant to cry.

x x x

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