Just as she’s in the middle of telling him about Steve’s promotion, the communicator abruptly falls out of contact.
When she connects again, the automatic voice-over tells her he’s busy. She pictures her father fallen slack-jawed on the thick pile carpet, clutching vainly towards the alarm button set into his chest. She calls the manager, heart thumping.
“It’s my father – I was just on the communicator, and it dropped out. I thought maybe – he’s not picking up. Could you go and check on him?”
The manager was back in less than a minute – not long enough, Judy thought, for him to walk down the long corridor that led to her father’s courtyard apartment.
“Can I talk to him then? Is there something wrong with the system?”
A long pause, a cough.
“Look, Ms Higgs, it’s difficult to know exactly how to put this but..he doesn’t seem to want to talk to you. I’ve asked him, I’ve told him it’s his daughter calling – and he just says ‘later’….is there anything we should be aware of? Have you two not been getting along recently?’
Judy’s hand trembled with indignation. ‘It’s her, isn’t it. Nurse Goldilocks. It’s not natural. She’s turned him against his own daughter! I’m going to come and see him, that’s what I’ll do, and I’ll take him away from that place and HER and everything, and I’ll look after him myself. That’s the way it used to be in the old days! Back when FAMILY mattered!”
She set the phone down, leant both hands on the kitchen bench, dizzy with emotion.
At the nursing home, Nurse Goldilocks and Albert Higgs gently counted the bubbles in the bath and stroked each other’s long locks, buttercup yellow and bone white.
“It’s time for your pills, darling. Now how would you like them?’
“The usual way,” he grinned, the deep lines from nose to jaw softer in the bathroom mist. With a mischievous expression, she leaned forward and kissed him, transferring three tiny tablets from her tongue to his in the flick of a baby pink tongue. He swallowed them, holding a heavy breast in either hand.
‘Maybe you should talk to her. She gets lonely. She loves you, you know.’
He sank chin deep into the warmth of the water, the aches that science hadn’t yet conquered drifting from him under the glow of her coffee coloured eyes. So deep, so sweet, you wondered where the wiring was. Back when he was young, they would both have been electrocuted. Robots had got a lot more sophisticated since then, thank god.
‘Maybe tomorrow. Tonight, I just want my little fairytale..”