Everything I own drags me down. Like ballast on a deep-sea diver, leaden weights in large bandoliers over both shoulders. My car, in the shop. Again. When I pulled in to the service bay, the mechanic looked at me with a sly grin that meant at least a thousand dollars. Probably more.
I try my best, really. I don’t abuse or miss maintenance schedules. Its just my rotten luck. I end up purchasing the faulty wrench made on Monday, inspector yawning as it whizzes past on the conveyor belt. My cup of noodles doesn’t have a flavor packet, just squiggly dried stuff sitting in a styrofoam container.
So it didn’t come as a big surprise when I found my automated vacuum cleaner bumping against the front door, over and over. Me in my bathrobe, freshly wakened and groggy with a half-warm cup of coffee in my hand. (The coffee maker is conspiring against me.) I just wanted to fetch my morning paper, provided it hadn’t landed in the bushes again.
The electric motor sounded like it was going to seize up and melt on the spot. Perfect. Well damn it all, if you want to go outside, then just do it. I opened the door, half-expecting a hasty retreat by the stubborn cylindrical machine. It backed up a moment, then sensing no obstructions, took off with skidding wheels.
Down the stairs, flipping once back on to its rubber wheels and down the sidewalk.
Luckily I had pajama bottoms on, or I wouldn’t have run after it. The neighbors and I weren’t on the best of terms. Just a nod over the fence and a strained civility that I desperately tried to improve. I mostly wanted to be left alone. If the grass was too tall, I’d cut it eventually. The bushes sprouted defiant branches into the neighbors driveway, and I’d always catch disapproving looks and muttered comments when leaving the house.
Bathrobe flaring, slippers sliding off my feet I ran down the sidewalk. A pair of narrow skidmarks turned left into an alley. I rounded the corner, panting with exertion. I really have to get to the gym, my stamina was like an asthmatic patient on oxygen.
Up ahead, past cracked concrete and gravel-filled potholes, I spotted my vacuum. What on earth was it doing? The metallic finish reflected the morning sun into my face, making me blink with purple after-images floating before my eyes. This little brat is going right back to the factory.
The alley opened up into a small cul-de-sac, a rounded curb that only had one way out. Grassy plots that had older houses had been razed and graded, ready for new construction. A large yellow machine was set up near a freshly poured foundation, methodically putting down cinder blocks for the basement walls.
My vacuum was right next to it.
I stepped closer, intending to snatch it up when the long grooved arm holding the bricks shifted in my direction. I stepped back in alarm, missing the launched cinder block, whizzing by my left shoulder. Another loaded into the arm, and the diesel engine revved.
A volley of bricks flew at horrifying speeds towards me. I sidestepped and dodged, one brick clipping my lower thigh. What the hell was this, a prank? The machine cranked and whined, loading another course. I started to run back up the alley. The hell with the vacuum, it isn’t worth my life.
Running up to the front door and nearly out of breath, I frantically shoved in the key and pushed it open. Shutting and locking it, I peered out the foyer window. A car was driving by, with one of those odd sensor packs on the roof. This isn’t good. It stopped in front and seemed like it was waiting.
My house phone and cell began to ring, simultaneously.
Grabbing the cell, I lifted it to my ear. “We have an offer for you. Don’t hang up.”, the synthesized voice was smooth and disconcerting.
A bump came from the front door. Then another.
Peering out the narrow side window, I saw my vacuum robot, patiently waiting.