by Daniel Lively
“Oh! Your rose looks so beautiful. I think it’s better than mine, even.”
Dr. Hsu’s voice brought me back to attention and I turned my optical receptors towards her, blinking several times in succession.
“It’s pink!” she added, clapping her hands excitedly. “I’m not even sure how that happened. I was sure this batch was all red.”
I looked from her to the small flower I was holding. I hadn’t been paying attention, but it was true. My rose bush was almost uniformly crimson like hers, but held gingerly between my fingers was a single pink blossom standing out starkly among its companions.
“Yes, Doctor Hsu,” I said. “Though in the vast majority of cases a rose bush produces single-colored blossoms, occasionally a genetic defect can cause the plant to produce an insufficient number of anthocyanins resulting in a loss of pigment. It is unfortunate that my crop is genetically inferior to yours. I should congratulate your excellent gardening.” My voice clicked and buzzed with its usually metallic cadence as I talked.
Dr. Hsu laughed, covering her mouth with the back of a soil-covered hand. “Genetically inferior? Different doesn’t always mean worse, Jonathan.”
I blinked again several times. “Perhaps not always, Doctor, but in this case the loss of color is a clear deficiency.”
“But it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed again, leaning over and gently took the pink blossom from me, careful as always to not damage it. Her blonde hair brushed against my face as she did so, and my receptors continued their rapid blinking. “It’s not ‘inferior,’ Jonathan. It’s unique. Like you!”
I thought about that for a moment. “I am unable to categorize the distinction, Dr. Hsu.”
“Kimberly, Jonathan,” she scolded me, shaking a reproving finger on the hand that wasn’t holding the pink rose. “We planted these roses together months ago and we take care of them every day. I don’t need to be ‘Doctor Hsu,’ anymore. Save the honorifics for my husband. He likes them.”
“Yes he does,” came a voice from behind us and we both turned, taking our hands away from the bushes.
“Greg!” the female Hsu cried, jumping up and running to him. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him quickly on the mouth.
He laughed and returned the kiss, holding his arms up defensively. “You’re filthy!” he said. He sounded angry, but the smile on his face and in his eyes betrayed him. “You’re lucky I’m not wearing white, or you’d be in trouble.”
“Oh, I’m scared,” Kimberly said. I was versed enough in their idioms to know she was being sarcastic. “You’re home early! What’s the occasion?”
He shrugged, stepping back from her embrace and walking over to where I was sitting on the rooftop bench. “Friday,” he said simply.
“Welcome home, Doctor Hsu.” I stood and proffered my hand as I had been instructed when greeting someone.
Rather than taking my hand, the Doctor patted me firmly on my metal shoulder. “Good to see you, Jonathan. Forgive me, but you’re just as dirty as Kim, and you know how I am about dirt. How are the roses?”
“Beautiful,” said Kimberly at the same time that I said, “Genetically inferior,” and both doctors laughed.
“Well it looks like it’s going to rain soon,” said Greg, glancing balefully at the sky. “Why don’t you both come inside and get cleaned up. You can tell me how things have been going this week, Jonathan.”
I nodded my head, and all three of my optical receptors clicked open and closed rapidly. “Yes, Doctor Hsu. Would you like me to prepare tea for you both?”
Kimberly smiled and looked sheepishly at her husband. “I taught him to make tea,” she said, blushing.
Greg looked between the two of us and smiled broadly. “I think I’d like that, Jonathan. Let’s get inside,” he said, and the three of us walked through the door into the house as the first tiny drops of water began to fall from the sky.
To be continued…