by Mark Cole
“I can’t type,” the robot explained patiently.
“But that was supposed to be your primary function,” Roger Blevins told it, a thin nervous edge in his voice. “Typing letters for elegant people who want to give them that ‘hand-made’ look.”
“I can’t type,” it repeated in the same calm voice.
“We spent millions of dollars developing those articulated hands of yours,” Roger explained carefully, “more millions designing the software that would give you enough control to actually use those hands to type, and a few more million on a consumer marketing test to determine just which color we should paint you to maximize our sales.
“We’ve got too much tied up in you for you to say….”
“I can’t type,” it said. Perhaps its voice had hurried just a touch to fit his sentence into the gap in the conversation. Roger couldn’t be sure.
“We’ve got a thousand just like you half assembled already… if you don’t work, we won’t be able to sell any of them.”
“I can’t type,” it said, its voice plaintive.
. . . Or at least that’s how it sounded to Roger!
Roger sighed. “Right. Well, guess we have to tear you down again.”
In the end, they spent another few millions, tearing the robot apart again and again, reassembling it, rechecking it . . . .
And in the end, nothing worked. No matter how hard they tried.
So they shelved the project, disassembled the assembly line and put all the partly assembled robots into storage.
A few months later, a cleaning lady opened the door of the warehouse and found the robot sitting at its desk, in front of the typewriter.
She dug through her cart and found a polishing cloth. When she got close, it automatically turned itself on.
“I can’t type,” it announced.
“Of course not, dearie . . .” the cleaning lady said. “You don’t have a piece of paper in your machine.”
Mark Cole hates writing bios. Despite many efforts he has never written one he likes, perhaps because there are many other things he’d rather be writing. He writes from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he has managed to avoid writing about himself for both newspaper and magazine articles. His stories have appeared at Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex, and Cosmos Online, and his musings on Science Fiction at IROSF.com and Clarkesworld.