Zirconium
By: Jim Bates

Edna was having a good day. She had cleaned the apartment, paying special attention to Cecil's pride and joy, a seventy-two-inch large screen television set, which she meticulously dusted until it gleamed like a throbbing orb in the fluorescent light of the room.

She had prepared his favorite meal, a large vegetable pizza made with a rice flour crust and heaps of fresh purple onions, green and yellow peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and even a sliced pineapple tossed in for extra flavor. All the vegetables purchased on the black market, of course. In the year 2324 fresh vegetables and fruits were hard to come by and only grown by enterprising entrepreneurs with grow lights and greenhouses hidden in basements and sheds scattered throughout the land. She'd paid a premium price for them, but it was worth it. She was devoted to her master.

Edna was a droid. A humanoid droid to be exact and had been a maid in Cecil's family, the Rutherfordes, for going on six generations. Cecil's distant ancestor Brandon was responsible for her creation. He'd had her built from zirconium, one of the hardest and most durable metals known to man, and she'd been passed down through the family until she was now with Cecil, a man she adored.

She knew she shouldn't have feelings for him, but she did. He was kind to her and called her by her name instead of "Hey, you." He asked her to join him when he watched television while eating dinner. He even took her for his evening walks up and down the halls in the forty-story high-rise apartment building before he retired to bed.

In short, he treated her like a human being, and she adored him for it. This birthday party, his thirty-fifth, was only a small token of her appreciation for him. Thirty-five balloons were floating freely in the living room. She had a chocolate cake, his favorite, all ready for dessert. This was a surprise he wouldn't expect, and she couldn't wait.

She checked the clock on the wall. It read 5:50 pm and she was thinking, he should be home any minute, when the phone rang.

She picked up, "Hello. Rutherfordes' residence."

"Hello." The voice was female. And formal. "Is this Edna?"

Perplexed, Edna answered, "Yes. Yes, it is. This is Edna, Cecil's droid. What can I do for you?"

"Edna, this is Doctor Bettermore. I'm a surgeon at the hospital near Mr. Rutherfordes' office building. I'm afraid there's been an accident. Your master has fallen. He's severely injured."

"Oh, my goodness," Edna interjected. Her hand started shaking. What would she do something unimaginable happened and Mr. Rutherfordes was lost from her forever? Her life would be so empty! Get a grip, she admonished herself. She had to be there for him. That's what he needed now; someone he could depend on. She focused her thoughts and tried to be calm. "What happened?"

"I'm afraid when he was leaving work, he was hurrying down the back stairs and he tripped and fell. He sustained superficial cuts and scrapes, but he did break his hip. The bone is shattered and I'm afraid it will need to be replaced."

"Replaced?"

"Yes. And Cecil asked if you could help out."

"How so?" But she already knew the answer. She was made from zirconium, of course. A metal in rare supply these days.

"He'd like to see if your hip would work for the replacement."

Edna didn't have to think. "I'll be right there."

"Good. We'll send a shuttle to pick you up."

"I'll be ready."

An hour later Edna was meeting with Doctor Bettermore. She was a small woman with dark hair and piercing eyes and a no-nonsense matter. Edna liked her immediately and as she explained the procedure Edna started to relax.

"The surgery itself will take about six hours," the doctor said, showing Edna a diagram on her computer. "In essence, we'll remove Cecil's shattered hip and all the bone fragments and will replace it will your nice new one." She smiled. "Relatively speaking, of course."

Edna smiled indulgently. "Of course." Her hip was nearly one-hundred and fifty years old, but as far as zirconium was concerned it was like new, which was the important thing.

"The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow at seven in the morning, and we think it's best if we put you in Cecil's room for the night so we can begin the surgery right away in the morning. Is that okay with you?"

Edna smiled to herself, thinking, it's wonderful, but said, instead, "I understand."

She was then prepped for surgery and wheeled into Cecil's room. When he saw her, he smiled and reached for her hand, "Edna! I'm so happy to see you. The doctor told me you were going to donate your hip. Thank you so much."

Edna hadn't known what to expect, but this outpouring of enthusiasm surprised her. It made her feel…what? Good? Droids weren't supposed to have feelings. But she did. She cared a lot for Cecil.

"I'm glad, sir," she said. "I'm very happy to do what I can for you."

Cecil waved his hand like shooing away an irritating bug. "Edna, my dear, you're giving me your hip. Part of yourself. You don't have to call me 'sir' anymore.

Edna smiled at this unexpected gift. "Thank you so much." And it was supposed to be Cecil's birthday! She hesitated and then added, "Thank you, Cecil."

He smiled. "You're very welcome. Now, I should be thanking you. It's wonderful what you are doing. The doctor told me that with your hip I'll be able to walk again, just like before. We can even go for our walks together after dinner."

"Speaking of which," Edna said, not mentioning that, with her hip removed, she'd have a pronounced limp, "I had a wonderful meal all set for you for tonight. Happy birthday, by the way."

Cecil clapped his hands in joy. He had no friends. He worked as a data entry associate for a huge conglomerate in downtown. He went to work, came home, had dinner, and watched television, went for a walk with Edna, went to bed and did it all over again.

"Oh, Edna, that's wonderful," he said grinning. "I can't wait to get home to see everything."

"The doctor said it might take a week to recover."

"I know." Cecil was quiet for a moment, then asked, "Do you think you could stay here with me? I'd love that."

"I'd like it, too," Edna said. Should she have said 'she'd love to?' She didn't know. Maybe later. "I'll tell you what. I'll see if I can have some balloons sent up here for your birthday, how'd you like that?"

"I'd love it."

Edna made a call and balloons were sent up. Thirty-five of them. Even some cake. It was the best birthday Cecil ever had.

A year later, it was even better. Edna had thirty-six balloons waiting for him when he got home from work. They ate pizza together and then went for a walk together. But not in the apartment. Outside is where they went. It was Edna's idea.

"The fresh air is good for you," she'd told him at the beginning. Now they went every night. It was fun. For both of them. Even though Edna needed a cane to walk, she didn't mind. Just being with Cecil, almost like they were a couple, was good enough. It really was. For both of them.

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