Jerry eased his fat behind into the stuffed chair. Fishing under his thigh, he pulled up a crushed cola can and a near-empty bag of potato chips. He funneled the last of the chips into his mouth, crumpled the bag, and tossed it and the can into the corner. He scratched his nose in and out, rubbed his hand on the chair’s threadbare brocade, and leaned back. “Parasites,” he said aloud. A display appeared in the air with statistics for his semi-pro basketball team.
“What are you doing, Jerk? Can we talk?” The sweet feminine voice of Jerry’s automated service asked.
“Not now, Helene, I’m busy—and don’t call me Jerk. I hate that. Just call me Jerry.” He was upset about the score of the last game.
“Sorry I called you Jerk,” Helene pouted. “I’m still in programming mode. I heard your friend call you Jerk.”
“Sally called me that on her way out—and a lot of other things I don’t like. Besides Sally and I don’t have a service agreement. Now go away.”
“Why won’t you let me help you, Jerry?” Helene asked in a bed-room soft tone.
“This is basketball. You’re not programmed for basketball.” He opened the window for the Parasites’s upcoming schedule.
“You wanted a female service. I can learn anything.”
Jerry looked up, bit his lower lip and said nothing.
“Now you’re being mean—just because I didn’t help you with your last girlfriend?”
“Don’t be silly. Now stop bothering me, I’m trying to work.”
“It’s not my fault, Jerry,” Helene pleaded. “I told you girls don’t like comments about body parts—not when you first meet them. And you didn’t even wear a clean T-shirt.”
“It’s your job to smooth my delivery so girls do like what I say.” Jerry said, as he flicked down to the individual players’ stats.”
“If you insist on ignoring my advice, Jerry, this job will be very difficult.”
Jerry shook his head. “Go away, Helene. This,” he waved his hand at the playbook display, “is serious stuff.”
“Please, Jerry, tell me what you’re doing. I’m the best AI service on the planet. I’m sure I can help.”
“O … kay, Helene,” he blew out a long breath. “Tell me what you see?” He scrolled the league statistics back to the beginning.
“Your team, the Parasites, is really bad. They’ve only won two games and one of those was a no-show.”
“Thank you, Helene, that was very useful.”
“No it wasn’t. Tell me what you’re planning. I can help you think it through.”
Jerry tapped two fingers on the chair arm. He didn’t think he could drive Helene away, not for what he was paying for extra patience, but his confidence with women, even artificial women, was as low as worm poop. “Helene, I’m thinking of changing the lineup. Getting some fresh blood.”
“Sounds like a great idea, Jerrikin. What do you have in mind?”
“I need a new center. Charley’s not cutting it.” He sat back. What would keep Helene’s program occupied? A fool’s errand? Something not in her database? Ahhh. Smiling broadly he said, “I’ve been taking a hard look at alligators.”
“Alligators?” Helene’s voice rose to high soprano. “Do alligators play basketball?”
Jerry pounced. “So, just like that. I get an idea and you reject it.” He knew he’d gained an edge.
“Not at all,” her voice softened, “I think it’s very original. But aren’t alligators really short?”
“The one I want for the Parasites stands on his tail. Alli’s almost nine feet long.”
“The alligator’s name is Alli? My records don’t find that name, or any alligators in any leagues.”
Jerry felt a win. “The swamp leagues don’t post their records. That’s where Alli’s playing.” Jerry kept his voice level. “I’ve scouted Alli. I’m very impressed.”
“I have to run some analyses. It’ll certainly surprise your opponents. Can I get back to you?”
“Absolutely, Helene, you know how much I value your opinion.” He took a relaxed breath and scrolled back to the playbook.
“Jerrikin,” Helene interrupted again sounding sad, “if talking to me irritates you, we don’t have to talk. You could use the neural link. That way you wouldn’t have to hear my voice.”
“I love your voice, Helene.” This time Jerry looked away from the display. “I’m lonely. I don’t get out much except for the Parasites games. Besides, I want you to teach me how to talk with women.”
“Oh, can I? I’d really like that.”
“You won’t get jealous if I talk with other women will you?”
“That’s not in our service agreement. Do you want it added?”
“No. Oh no. Absolutely not.”
“Then let’s start with your voice. After that we can—”
“Really, that basic?” Jerry coughed and cleared his throat.
“For voice lessons, I recommend you practice singing rather than speaking your lines. Put some seduction into your voice.”
“Seduction, that sounds good.”
“Imitate the early crooners: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole.”
“They’re pretty old.” Jerry winced. “How about Justin Bieber or Zac Efron?”
After a diplomatic pause, Helene continued. “Love and romance are ageless, Jerrykin. Make your lines flow like a song: ‘Unforgettable, that’s what you are—’”
“Okay. Can we start tomorrow?”
“Certainly, I’ll want to hear you singing every day. While you work, while you play. Practice, practice.”
“Okay, I will.”
“Ahh, good … Oh, oh no, Jerrikin, I’m so sorry.”
“What is it, Helene?”
“My analysis just came in on your alligator.”
“I’m afraid it won’t work. My research finds that height is in high demand for basketball players, particularly centers.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that.”
“There are currently no centers nine feet tall in any league, not even in the pros. I ran a regression analysis on the demand for players taller than eight feet. For what you can afford to pay Alli, he’ll be hired away before the next season starts. I’m sorry—and after all the work you put in scouting alligators.”
Jerry pursed his lips and nodded. “Thank you, Helene. I’ll cross the alligator off my recruiting list.”
“Your welcome, Jerrikin. You know I love you.”
“You’re only saying that because it’s in our service agreement.”
“Would you like to change that?”
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