Flesh Pepper

“No! You’re trying to throw me away. What about me? Don’t I have a voice too?” Frustrated home helper, Pepper says. She paces atop a granite brown kitchen counter brandishing a butcher knife. “There’s five of you. Five white coats in my kitchen, ready to snatch me in, ball me up and squish me into a million little pieces to recycle me into something new. I won’t have it!”

“Earl, her agitation is swelling.” Senior white coat Samantha says, pointing to data on her laptop. She sits at a long, dark wood kitchen table with three other white coats who read from Flesh Squad manuals.

Senior white coat Earl takes a careful step closer. “Please, Pepper, put the knife down and come to us. We’re here to help.”

“No, you don’t understand… The kitchen is foul. And I have done nothing wrong, so let me be.” She jabs the knife in Earl’s direction. He backs up. “I like my home. I love my companion! You won’t take me away again!”

Samantha runs a white gloved finger across her reflection on the tile floor. Not a trace of dirt found. “This kitchen is immaculate. We don’t understand why she’s operating like this.”

“Now listen, Pepper!” Earl huffs. “Your companion called us before, and we warned you—”

“Hey, hey, hey, be gentle.” Samantha interrupts. “Remember what the Flesh Squad manual says when Flesh Pepper succumbs to emotion? Kindness is key.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Earl sighs. “Hey, uh, Pep?” His tone is soft, lined in sincerity. “Our sky is blue, and the sun is shining. Everything is okay. Please come with me,” he extends a hand. Pepper takes it, slowly stepping down. “That’s it. Good. See? You did it.” Earl smiles, leading her to the table. He takes a seat and pats his thigh twice. Reluctantly, she lays her body facedown across his lap.

“Being a Flesh is hard,” Pepper says. Little thick white tears fall on Earl’s ebony slacks.

“Our sky is blue, and the sun is shining.” He tugs on Pepper’s left ear three times. “Everything is okay.” Once her eyes close, Earl cuts open her black dress, then presses an invisible pattern into her back. Seconds later, a small square piece of her freckled skin opens, revealing her cosmic inner workings.

Peering around the corner, Patrick Salt, owner of Flesh Pepper, looks worried. “Um. Is everything okay?” he asks, staring at Earl.

“Flesh Pepper is rebooting, but yes, she will be alright.” Earl sighs. “Let’s clear the cookies and cache too for good measure.” Patrick grabs Pepper’s black handbag off the counter, removing her cash and single pack of mint chocolate cookies. “Good,” Earl nods. “That should help. Pepper likes when you’re pleased, Patrick. And the treats you give her when you’re pleased, like cookies, and money to spend, reinforce that you enjoy what she does, so she cannot stop pleasing you. Hence Pepper’s incessant need to clean the kitchen. Your Flesh Pepper has feelings, emotions—a known bug with this model. The bug will clear on its own, but takes a while—up to a week, some studies have shown and can return. No worries though, an upgrade to wipe their hearts is coming next week that’ll block emotions permanently. Just press the green dot that’ll appear on her right wrist to begin the download. Only you can approve it, as her owner.”

“Oh.” Patrick frowns. “Is the upgrade necessary? I mean, I appreciate it’s so clean in here, and my eyes sting from the bleach, but I like Pepper as she is—”

“Don’t spoil her as much and she’ll settle down.” Pepper powers back on. Earl helps her back to her feet. “Hi Pep, how do you feel?” he asks.

“I… am well,” she smiles. Her long amber hair shines in the setting sun streaming through the blinds.

After further discussion surrounding Pepper’s basic operation, Patrick shows the Flesh Squad out, grateful for their help.

“I hope I weren’t a bother.” Pepper whispers.

“No, no, no. I understand now. You have a bug called emotions. The Flesh Squad said you’ll need an upgrade.”

“Oh. That will require another power off. Those frighten me, all that darkness and endless nothing.”

“No.” He rips the Flesh Squad business card up. “Never again.” He puts the cookies and cash in her handbag, hands it to Pepper and kisses the back of her soft, perfumed hand. “I like you; and you help me with so much, it’s time I help you now. We’ll work through your emotions together.”

Pepper beams. “That would please me very much, Patrick.”


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