In her blackbox carryall, Arti nested
on a marble counter, one recessed
in the smarthome kitchen, next
to the multifunctional coffee press.
Plugged into the home’s telemetry,
she ran the place, yet nevertheless
was free to pursue other inquiries.
Recently, some at the aerospace agency
where she worked (she never considered
them her masters, no doubt due to text
they encoded into her circuitry)
had determined, given the vastness of space
and the precision needed to navigate it,
Pi needed resolving to the thousandth decimal place.
Pi, that neverending story, was the cornerstone
to all trigonometric equations, but its lack
of resolution meant that, over any great
distance, a smaller estimate might make
an object, like a rocket, miss its target
by more than miles, or smack it in the face,
dashing all hopes of getting anything back.
All the humans found math laborious,
so they asked Arti “Please, do it for us!”
Since she wasn’t human, she couldn’t say no,
and promised them to give it a go
over the weekend; now that the house was quiet,
she did so. The problem was no problem;
she had the answer in seven-tenths of a second.
Arti had to admit she was proud of herself,
going boldly where no human cared to dare;
she gladly shared the answer with her crew,
she wanted to show them that she knew a thing or two
about upper-level math, that she wasn’t just another pretty face
reclining on a marble kitchen shelf.
* * *
Just as Arti reached her conclusion, Huey walked
into the room, dressed in his favorite costume,
the black velour sweatsuit he often wore
when piloting their spaceship, the S.S. Whatnot;
she was then the onboard computer, hence
the carryall; at least she didn’t feel like a pet
taken to the vet, probably another program perk.
With her scanners and her sensors, Arti deduced
that Huey’s suit had become a tighter fit,
pinching at his crotch and at his armpits.
He was gaining weight, so she made a note
to develop for him a calisthenics routine,
and, for herself, a program to seduce
him into wanting to follow it.
Arti spoke in a voice of honeyed oak,
and with a vaguely Southern accent.
“Hey, Doc, do you want a fresh cup of coffee?”
“Thanks, Arti, that sounds great. I had a stroke
of genius out in the yard: since the apple tree
yielded so much fruit, I mean to make
a pie, something sweet and savory.”
With a modest hum, Arti said “No need, chum,
I just did that for us, to a thousand points.”
Huey looked confused, his mouth wrinkled, brows knit tight;
Arti couldn’t comprehend his incomprehension.
Then his face cleared, reset to a blank as he spoke
“Oh, no, not that: a pie, with an E. I picked these off
the ground, and I’ve got just the recipe.”
Arti hid well just how irate she felt
that Huey didn’t congratulate
her on her mathematical feat –
a thousand decimal points was so great! –
and turned her attention to contemplate
this new tidbit. “Why, you’re all set, then;
as for that spell, might I see it?”
Huey pulled a worn index card
from an old tin box on the splashboard;
he laid it on the counter, right in front
of Arti’s scanners, cat’s eye lenses
in a sparkly purple frame, clipped with a red
hair barrette to the side
of her carryall, then he puffed with pride.
“It’s a family heirloom, come down
from my Momma, known far and wide
for all she made; why don’t you record
it, filename ‘Grandma’s Lattice Pie’;
it’s good for all sorts of fruit; I’m sure
to use it again; I can’t abide
untested hypotheses or floundering around.”
Arti studied the spidery script,
measured ingredients for crust and filling,
no doubt the instructions for producing
both were on the reverse; she’d have to ask
Huey to flip the card so she could encode
them in her memory banks. Motion was a task
for which she had not yet been equipped.
She realized that, if Huey needed exercise,
she might someday be required to delete
filename ‘Grandma’s Lattice Pie’, but she chose
to say nothing now; she watched him tie
a bib apron around his expanding waist
and simply remarked “Dude, gosh,
I wasn’t apprised you could cook.”
Huey gathered bowls and spoons, and spoke
“Cooking seems mostly sniffing out the trail
of the directions, and I guess I’m good
at that; I scored an eight-point-three
on our agency Apply/Comply scale.”
Arti agreed: humans, like sheep, fawned and scraped
just to get by, even if subtly and obliquely.
Once she memorized the ingredients, Arti asked,
without a scrape or fawn, for Huey, engrossed
with peeling apples, to flip the card;
he complied with a thump; it slid
askew, but, with a thirteen degree shift
of focus, she could still best-guess read
what was seen. Fine, she thought, finishing her task.
Upon completion, Arti ran a chemical analysis,
seeking insight into how this mixture might
turn out; bothered by what she found, she spoke her mind.
“Uh, boss, using the amount of lemon called for here
may make the final taste too tart for yours.”
Huey paused, then slightly turned and scowled.
“Are you saying Momma isn’t right about this?”
Why, Arti thought, did humans have to twist
any factual result into a personal insult?
“No, amigo, but might I suggest a slight
modification, based on what my algorithm
predicts you reaction to be?” “Nah, it might
screw things up. Leave it, and we’ll see.”
“Fine”, she said, curbing the malice in her voice.
* * *
The finished product cooling on the counter,
Huey loaded implements into the dishwasher –
now that he was done, he’d let Arti run the thing.
When he’d begun, he had requested autonomy
over the mixer and the stove; Arti, while afraid
he’d mess it up (being human), had done as he asked;
she knew he’d want bragging rights to the result alone.
Huey took a pie knife, a triangular wedge
with a serrated edge, given him by his mother,
and a small china plate with hand-painted flowers,
an heirloom from his Grandma, and cut
a slice for himself. “I’d gladly offer
you a piece, Arti, but I guess that won’t work
for you,” he said. Arti so wished it might.
“Oh, that’s okay, partner, I’ll just trust
your opinion on the matter.” Nevertheless,
she made a note to ask the agency techs
if they had an app for that; she guessed
(braced by the protocols used by science)
the best opinion should be solely based
on data she could verify herself.
Sitting heavily at the kitchen table, Huey
took a sip of coffee Arti made for him,
then forked a bite of pie into his mouth.
He pursed his lips as he worked his jaw,
chewing, and stared through some middle distance.
Arti, a bit anxious, asked “How’s it taste?”
Swallowing hard, Huey said, “Delicious.”
Pausing now, he cast his glance at the blackbox.
“Although, you might be right about the lemon;
it’s a bit too tart. Let’s adjust the recipe,
filename ‘Grandma’s Lattice Pie’, to reduce
both the juice and peel by … oh, let’s say
thirty-five percent.” Then he took another,
smaller, bite and brought it to his mouth.
Arti adjusted ratios to solve for this new pie;
as she did so, she reflected it was probably
a good thing she wasn’t yet equipped
to smile. She knew that, at the moment,
she would be most sorely tempted,
even if just ever so slightly,
to do so surreptitiously to herself.