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Mom-Bot Isn't Happy

Our mom-bot isn't happy.
"Bots can't be happy," says Nir. He's stupid, for all of him being eight.
"Can too," I tell him. "You laugh when you're happy and mom-bot can laugh."
Nir sticks his nose up, like he's trying to play a plane spotting game on his contact lenses, but he's not.
"Mom-bot," he says. "Laugh."
"Ho-ho-ho," says our mom-bot.
It's not a real laugh. It sounds like a Santa from the store, and I can tell Mom-bot isn't happy. It's mean to make someone laugh when they're not happy.
Nir is stupid.
I like our mom-bot. It's big and red, like a Coke logo, and it's got four legs so it doesn't fall over when we play in the yard. Sometimes it leaves tracks, small holes where the grass is all flat, like a real elephant, and I get to look for them. I like it when mom-bot plays with me. Nobody else does.
"Don't worry," I tell it. "Well make you better." And then I hug it. Mom-bot hugs back, and its arms are smooth and hard and cold.
"Dad," I say, "mom-bot isn't happy."
We're eating curly fries and soy-sticks, and the table is full of yellow crumbs. I mush them with my thumb. Dad keeps reading his contacts. The little, green dots keep scrolling in his eyes.
"Dad!" I say.
"Go play with it, it likes that," Dad says.
"It's probably a software glitch," says Mom. "I'll schedule an upgrade."
"Mom!" I almost shout, then remember that Mom hates shouting. "Mom," I say, all quiet, "I want to play with our mom-bot like it is."
Mom shrugs and unpauses her contacts. The letters keep blinking in her eyes and she looks like she isn't here.
"We'll get a new model soon anyway," she says.
I press my mouth shut with my hands. Mom is going to kill mom-bot.
I hug mom-bot's arm, tight, tight. It's dark, I should be sleeping, but I'm not. Tears burn my eyes and roll down onto mom-bot's carapace. "There, there, little one," mom-bot says, patting me on the back.
Mom-bot is going to go into the recycling. I have killed mom-bot.
Dawn is when the lights in Nir and my room go bright. They start dark, then red, like mom-bot's skin, then pink, and then you don't see them because everything is its own color. That's when it's time to get up and go eat breakfast. The window screens open and the Coke logo on the roof next door shines into our room. Mom-bot tells us to go downstairs. Nir goes, after mom-bot promises him a choco-Coke and a new game for his contacts, but I stay.
"Mom-bot," I say, "are you happy?"
"I am always happy with you," says Mom-bot.
I think about it.
"Aren't you happy with Nir?"
"With both of you," says Mom-bot, but it doesn't laugh.
That is bad. If Mom-bot doesn't laugh, Mom will kill it.
"You're right," says Dad at breakfast. "The bot's demeanor has changed lately."
"Might be a virus," says Mom. She chews on a cheese-bun that Mom-bot made, her fingers waving in the air, flicking data across her contacts, making her eyes flame.
"Big attack last week," she says. "Nothing about our model being affected, but they never tell you everything in the news."
"Better take it to the shop," says Dad. "It's getting old, anyhow."
They're going to kill our Mom-bot.
"Mom-bot," I say.
The door is locked. The window screens are down. Nir is away in the teach-room, Mom and Dad are working. We are alone, Mom-bot and I.
"Please be happy," I say.
"I am happy, loveling," Mom-bot says.
"Please be a little more happier," I say. My throat hurts and the words sound all chocked.
Mom-bot starts to sing.
"I'm a little teapot, nice and small--"
It is trying to make me happy. That is wrong. I cannot be happy when Mom-bot is going to the recycling.
"Mom-bot," I say. "Mom-bot."
It is wrong to make someone laugh when they're sad.
"Mom-bot," I say. "Please laugh."
"Ho-ho-ho," says Mom-bot.
It sounds wrong. I try to smile at Mom-bot.
"Are you happy, little one?"
My smile trembles.
"Yes," I lie.
"Then I am happy, too," says Mom-bot.
At dinner we both smile and say ho-ho-ho, and Mom-bot isn't sent to the recycling, but something inside of me is.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, March 12th, 2019
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