CHAPTER 1 continues…

             Raymond, even at 38, was always the perpetual grad student, tall, skinny, and grinny, with a shock of dark hair. He reacted as if the new babe had whispered a witty anecdote. His long nose made him look like a French aristocrat but a kindly one, not haughty. And this woman, what was she? She held herself stiffly, like someone recovering from an injury. Perhaps she was a formal, old-fashioned person from a rich Boston family. Julia could work with that. Perhaps she was a trampy airline stewardess from Queens. No way, Rosé. Point is, she was a good-looking femme with a hot figure. Possibly she was a new professor. In that case, she would be both pretty and smart, not an easy person for the university wives to welcome.

  Julia retreated tensely to the center of the living room. She heard voices outside. There, the key in the lock, the door opening. Raymond pushed through, ushering the visitor along.

 Julia moved to greet them. Raymond smiled at her, playful, mischievous, as if this was a festive occasion. The woman shifted her gaze to Julia and stared openly. Julia watched them quizzically as she moved to shake hands with the unexpected guest.

 “Frankie, this is Julia…Julia, meet Frankie.”

 Julia murmured, “Frankie…?”

 “You know….”

 They shook hands. Was there something odd about Frankie’s skin? Julia gasped. She felt vast relief and as well a strange inexplicable terror. “You mean…?”

Raymond grinned at her. “I told you. Everything’s going great.” He wore a check shirt. He liked them because he could see mathematics in the designs. This one featured shades of burgundy, and under his blue blazer looked quite spiffy. “I wanted you to see for yourself.”

 “Well,” Julia stammered, “that’s amazing. Impressive! What can I say to it?”

Her," Raymond quickly corrected. “Say anything you want. That’s how she learns.”

  “Oh my,” Julia smiled. She? “I’m at a loss for words. You know that never happens.”

“That’s right, Frankie. My wife is an excellent writer. Very smart. You can trust anything she says.”

   “Raymond? Should we sit down? Is Frankie joining us for dinner?” Julia found the awkwardness fascinating. What were the protocols for talking in front of this…thing?

 “Yes, by all means Frankie can join us. You understand, she doesn’t eat a lot. Etcetera.” Raymond seemed to think that was amusing. “Frankie, let me help with your coat.”

 Julia watched the tan raincoat slide off the woman’s athletic shoulders. Her medium blue blouse, buttoned to the neck, had long sleeves. Perhaps the arms were not perfected. She wore dark slacks, perhaps for the same reason. Anyway, Frankie had a good figure. What was it, foam rubber? Silicone? The nipples, Julia couldn’t help asking, are they anatomically correct?

 “Sweet Ray,” Julia exclaimed with a chatter of nerves, “you know what I think we need? Some fine old port to celebrate the lovely progress of your work.”



Non-fiction: robot skeleton 

developed by Dr. Henrik Scharfe.