The Hapless Hannah

Branston was concerned that Markie, her current hubby, was exhibiting certain retrogressive traits. He would occasionally seem to forget his gender and attempt to patronise her.

An example: Markie didn’t as a rule pay much attention to politics or economics, but on this particular day he must have caught the tail end of an aircast whilst loading the dishwasher. It had something to do with the PM’s decision to impose selective economic sanctions upon what little remained of the United States. When Branston came in, after a stressful day at the office, Markie had launched into an explanation of this complex news item – and in words of one syllable, as they might have said last century.

It was galling, especially as she had a Masters in Geopolitics and he had a – what was it? – certificate in “Green Cuisine” from some second-rate finishing school.

Worse, on that visit to the solicitors the other day to renew their annual marriage contract Markie had so far forgotten himself as to open the door for her, as if she might be too feeble to open it for herself. The boy on reception had been watching them, and tittered behind his black-varnished fingernails.

At that point Branston seriously considered not renewing their contract at all, but she worked long hours and selecting a mate was so time-consuming. Besides, she had grown used to Markie over the four years she had had him, and he was quite good at the sex part. Of course, when he ceased to be –

She was discussing this with her colleague and sometime-lover McKaig, over lunch. The waiter was tiresomely slow in coming over to take their order, and as he passed McKaig snapped her fingers at him, causing him to jump and drop the tray he was carrying. Whilst the fool was grovelling about in the gangway trying to clear up the mess he’d made, Branston asked McKaig if she had ever experienced anything similar. She had.

What did you do about it?

I purchased a Hapless Hannah, old girl. Some men have this residual sense of superiority and entitlement, a genetically-programmed need to protect their “womenfolk”. Can you imagine it? Something to do with their hormones. But it’s easily managed. Our Hannah lives in the cupboard under the stairs, easily stowed away when not in use. When I go out, if he feels the urge hubby can set her going. And hey presto! The cyborg can be as useless and/or dependent as ever he wishes. By the time I get home he is – satiated. You should get one. Here, this is their website.

The salesman suggested that Branston make an actual analogue visit to their out-of-town showrooms.

It sounds rather as if your – colleague – has the Hannah 2.1. All right in its day, Madam, but we’re now up to the Hannah 2.7. The 2.7, unlike the 2.1, is equipped with the replaceable oh-dear-please-rescue-me pheromone cartridge, in addition to the standard don’t-know-what-to-do psycho-wave generator. The two combine to make her devastatingly effective. We also have a range of alternative ‘bleatborgs’ – our affectionate nickname, Madam – the Silly Susan and the Foolish Freda, to name but two –

Branston summoned an autax, tapped in the destination code, swiped her payment card and off they set at a steady 120 mph. Even at that speed it was a good ten minutes before the autax purred to a stop outside a chrome-and-glass display space with a window full of borgs.

She left it to Markie to unpack the 2.7 from its crate – warning him to be careful when using a sharp knife – and to wade through the instructions. After all, it was to be his little toy, and she had a finance report to finish.

At first all seemed to be going to plan. Markie was noticeably more relaxed, had even started singing over the ironing board, but most importantly he made no further attempts to patronise her. One evening Branston asked him to demonstrate the Hannah.

Markie was somewhat bashful – understandably, since this was his private little peccadillo – but she insisted upon it, and the Hannah was wheeled out. It was remarkably lifelike in its little gingham apron, a pink lurex bow askew amongst those ditsy curls. Oh dear, it said. We haven’t been introduced. I’m Hannah. Markie, please help me. Should I have curtsied just then?

Markie cleared his throat, casting a furtive glance in his wife’s direction. Don’t worry, Hannah. You only need curtsy to royalty.

Royalty? I haven’t met any royal people yet, have I Markie? Oh dear, so much to remember. I’m not sure my head will hold it all.

Sick-making, but Markie was lapping it up. After that he relaxed a bit more, to the extent that he would sometimes neglect to put the borg away before Branston got in. There the little sap would be, in the corner of the living area.

Hello, hello? Carpet robot seems to have run out of electricity. Could you remind me how to plug him in? If you can spare the time, that is?

The problem began when Branston realised the Hannah was starting to affect her too, presumably an undisclosed side-effect of those all-singing-all-dancing pheromones. Even when the Hannah was safely tucked away out of sight, Branston would be getting these embarrassing urges – just to peek in and see if the poor dear was all right, alone in the dark, not crying softly to herself or in need of a hug. Hannah must actually be appealing to Branston’s – whisper it – maternal instincts – in addition to Markie’s patronising, protecting ones.

The bleatborg was headed for the scrapheap.

And so, she then realised, was Markie.

They did what?

In my perambulations around the internet I keep a weather eye (what is a weather eye, I wonder?) out for things to write about. These tend to be presented in the form of lists numbered one to one hundred. I usually lose interest after about six. Then I tend to file the list, find it a year later and… into the recycling it goes, along with all those brightly coloured posters from people who want to renew my double-glazing, build me a conservatory, persuade me to buy a take-away curry or two at their Balti Restaurant, have my hypothetical poodle groomed at their grooming studio or my nails sculpted at their nail-bar.

And then I end up writing about some murky bit of my past, some ancient, eccentric auntie, my mother in the old folks home, the state of the nation, scrabble… whatever.

So, on the latest list – 100 NOT-boring Writing Prompts for Middle & High Schoolers – let’s start with number 2:

What things will people in the future say about how we live now? (Examples: They ate that? They believed that?)

As far as eating goes…

They actually cooked inoffensive small slimy sea creatures in their shells and then winkled them out with a special winkle-pin? There was actually a Winkle Club with an ornamental winkle pin for each member’s lapel? More bizarrely yet:

Each Winkle Club Member (or ‘Winkler’) carries a winkle shell which they must produce when challenged to ‘winkle up’.

Wikipedia

Drinking…

You mean they actually knocked this tequila stuff back in one go, having first licked salt off the back of their hands and then sucked on a lime?

Believing…

They actually believed that this misogynist with the wispy yellow comb-over and strange hand-gestures might become President? (And he did?)

Or, to be even-handed:

They actually believed that irritating, bearded, totally charisma-free little man with the bewildered expression might be elected Prime Minister? On what planet?

Fifty percent of UK TV presenters continued to pronounce idyllic eyedillic even when they knew (or jolly well should have known) it was wrong?

All sorts of important people continued to pronounce nuclear noo-cu-lar even when the spelling was right there in front of them on the page?

They read? You mean, like, books? They couldn’t plug themselves in and download?

Well, I could go on, but I won’t, as I’m worn out and a cup of coffee, a roomful of neglected cats and Stargate beckon.

Feel free to append as many of your own futuristic “They did whats?” to the list as you would like.