by Robert Williams

Des was busy doing the dusting and hoovering one morning when he noticed something.

"I haven't changed my calendar!" he said to himself. So took down his 1984 'Keith Chegwin Checks Out Cheltenham' calendar and remembered what year it was.

"It's the year 2000!!!" he exclaimed. The novelty of the year 2000 had long since worn off.

"It's almost the 21st century!! And what am I doing? I'm still doing my own housework! That's so old-fashioned! What I need is..."

Des dashed off to meet the only man who could possibly provide Des with what he needed - Mike the Manic Mechanic. When he arrived at Mike's Manic Motors he found Mike in an old Escort reversing round his forecourt in a circle.

"Mike!!" exclaimed Des.

"Hi there Des!" exclaimed Mike.

"Why are you driving round backwards in circles??!!" exclaimed Des.

"It's Wayne's idea!" said Mike, bringing the car to a halt. "He thought it'd be an easy way to clock the mileage on this Escort XR3! Not that I condone those practices, of course." Mike got out of the car. "But you know what it's like, you can't just sell a Y-reg XR3 with 175,000 these days, you know what I'm saying?"

Des nodded in agreement, even though he knew nothing about the current market for Y-reg Escort XR3s.

"So anyway Des," said Mike. "What can I do for you? What's with the Jimmy Young pinny, by the way?"

"My Tony Blackburn one's in the wash," explained Des.

"Err..." said Mike.

"I was just doing the hoovering when I had this fantastic thought!" said Des. "I had to get here as quickly as possible."

"I understand!" said Mike. "You decided you really needed a 1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth with a mere 89,000 genuine miles on the clock and a fully reconditioned stereo system that can now pick up Classic FM?!"

"No," said Des. "I need a robot."

"Wasn't that a special edition Fiesta?" said Mike. "I'll see if I've got one on the forecourt."

"No, no, I want you to build me a robot," said Des. "To do the boring housework for me."

"Why don't you just employ a housekeeper?" said Mike.

"I tried that once before," said Des. "But that's so old-fashioned. It's the year 2000!! I used to think everyone would have their own robots by now! (Plus you don't have to pay them)."

"Shrewd move," said Mike. "I can see the market for robots is going to explode in the next few years!"

"I hope you mean the market explodes and not the robots," said Des.

"No, I hope the market doesn't explode either," said Mike. "The watermelons and cheap jeans will go all over the place!"

"Yes, well, will you build me a robot then?" said Des. "I'm sure you can do it! You've built us a rocket and supersonic cars before!"

"Des! For a mate! Course I will!" said Mike. "(For a small charge)."

Des and Mike thrashed out the specifications, and then Mike set to work in his workshop to build Des his very own robot.

Every morning for the next few weeks Des popped over to Mike's Manic Motors to see if his exciting futuristic new robot was finished. And every morning he got the same answer.

"Des, mate! It's almost complete! Come back tomorrow!"

Finally, one morning, Des received a different answer.

"Des! I'm just putting the finishing touches! It'll be ready in minutes!"

"Fabtastic!" exclaimed Des. "Can I see it yet?"

"No, no," said Mike. "Tell you what, I'll unveil it to you in Mrs Greasy's meeting in about an hour."

So Des went to Mrs Greasy's cafe for the normal meeting. He decided not to tell the others about the imminent unveiling, and so reluctantly had to keep ordering extra courses of Mrs G's revolting cookery as an excuse to keep everyone there until Mike turned up with his new robot.

An hour and a half later, and Des was feeling very dodgy. But still he wanted more.

"Come on Des!" exclaimed Mick. "I want to go and do my shopping!"

"No!" exclaimed Des, as he finished his twelfth course of mushy chips. "You can't go yet! Something exciting's going to happen very soon! (Oh hurry up, Mike!)"

"Do you want anything else, Des?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Oh yes, Mrs G," sighed Des. "Got pudding?"

"Des, you've really lost your marbles now," said Mick. "No one sane volunteers to eat Mrs Greasy's black pudding!"

After about two hours of waiting for Mike to turn up with his new robot, Des decided he couldn't wait any longer and had to visit the toilet.

While Des was spending quite some time in the smallest room, Mike finally walked into the cafe, pushing a large paper bag which was as large as himself.

"What's that?!" exclaimed Mick. "Is this the exciting thing Des was going on about?"

"It sure is!" said Mike. "Where is Des, by the way?"

"In the loo," said Mick. "He's going to be some time, I think."

"Oh come on Mike!" exclaimed Clive. "I can't wait! Unwrap it now! Let's see what it is!"

"Okay then," said Mike. He pulled off the wrapping to reveal a humanoid robot which bore a remarkable resemblance to Des, with similar facial features. It even had a wraparound hairstyle and 70s-style glasses.

"Ha! Ha!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "What is it??!!"

"It's RoboDes!!" exclaimed Mike. "Des wanted me to build him a robot to do his housework for him!"

"Oh I see, it's like that, is it?" said Mrs G. "Didn't want to employ me this time. I see."

"I thought it'd be rather fun to model it on Des himself!" said Mike.

"I think it's great!!" exclaimed Clive. "It looks just like him!!"

Just then Des walked in.

"Oh, that's better," he sighed. "Hello, Mike, is that my robot?"

Des didn't look overly impressed.

"Rather ugly, isn't it?" he said. "Looks like you modelled it on some sad old loser."

The others sniggered.

"It's not doing very much at the moment," said Des. "How do you switch it on?"

"You have to put the batteries in first," said Mike. So he did.

Suddenly RoboDes whirred into action. His eyes lit up and started moving around, and his arms started waving about all over the place.

"Oi, watch it!" exclaimed Clive.

"Sorry," said RoboDes in a monotone robotic synthesised voice (you don't say!).

"This is RoboDes," said Mike. "He is voice activated."

"Good morning," said RoboDes. "My name is RoboDes. What is your name?"

"My name is Mike," said Mike, ever on the ball.

"Hello Mike, how are you?" said RoboDes.

"I'm fine, thank you," said Mike. "Now Des, you try."

"Hello RoboDes...Mike, why is he called RoboDes?" said Des.

"Maybe I'll explain later," said Mike.

"Oh...anyway, hello RoboDes, my name is Des," said Des.

"Hello you sad loser," said RoboDes.

"Eh??!" said Des. "Is it supposed to say that?"

"Maybe a slight technical difficulty," said Mike. "RoboDes is very sophisticated. He is programmed to learn from experience, just like human beings. In fact I've tried to give him very human characteristics."

"Cor I'm hungry," said RoboDes. "What's for lunch?"

"Fish and microchips," said Mrs Greasy. "Cooked by me!"

"Sounds yummy," said RoboDes.

"He obviously hasn't had much experience of things yet," said Des. "So how do I get him to do the housework?"

"Like I said, he has to learn," said Mike. "All you have to do is show how to wash up, cook, clean, hoover etc, and then he will be able to do it too."

"I'll teach him to cook!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

"No! No!!" exclaimed Des. "There's no need for that!" Des did not fancy the prospect of every meal tasting as if it was cooked by Mrs Greasy.

"Now watch this," said Mike. "RoboDes, I'm going to empty the contents of this plate into the bin." Mike picked up the plate with Des's revolting black pudding, and to Des's relief emptied it into the bin.

"Oi Mike, that was Des's main course!" exclaimed Mrs G.

"Now RoboDes, empty the contents of this plate into the bin," said Mike.

The others watched amazed as RoboDes copied Mike's actions by emptying Mick's plate of cold chips into the bin, to Mick's relief.

"Oi RoboDes, that was Mick's main course!" exclaimed Mrs G.

"Well I'm impressed!" said Des, who was warming towards the robot. "So anyway, Mike, it's all very clever and sophisticated, but you said there'd be a small fee."

"It's yours for £5999.99," said Mike.

"WHAT??!!" exclaimed Des. "Six grand?!"

"Cutting edge technology doesn't come cheap!" said Mike. "Now do you want it or not?"

"Well all right then," said Des. He wrote a cheque to Mike for £6000. Mike then wrote a cheque to Des for the 1p change.

Des walked his new acquisition back to his house, and spent the afternoon showing RoboDes the rudiments of housework. They covered washing up, dusting, cleaning, hoovering, making the bed, cooking, opening the window, getting the chocolate biscuits out of the cupboard, pulling the chair out from under the table, switching the television on...For the next two weeks RoboDes did everything round the house, while Des lounged around doing nothing.

"This is a dream come true," said Des, lazing on the sofa one afternoon, while RoboDes dusted the cobwebs. "This is what the 21st century is about! More relaxing leisure time with all the household chores left to machines!"

Just then the doorbell rang.

"See who's at the door, RoboDes," said Des. "(Why is he called RoboDes? I'll have to ask Mike.)"

"Hi there Des, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere!" said Wayne, for it was him at the door.

"I am not Des, I am RoboDes," said RoboDes. "Do not insult me further."

"Oh sorry RoboDes, yer look so alike!!" said Wayne. "Can I come in?"

"I heard all that," said Des, as Wayne walked into the living room. "Do not insult me further!" he mimicked RoboDes. "He's got some lip, that robot, that's something else I need to have a word with Mike with. Anyway Wayne, what do you want?"

"Me ol' mate Dwayne's on his 'olidays, so 'e can't come down the Laughing Pig with me tonight! Wanna come, Des?"

"No thank you," said Des. Going down the pub with Wayne was slightly more daunting than eating one of Mrs Greasy's meat pies.

"I will," said RoboDes.

"What??!!" exclaimed Des.

"Good on yer, RoboDes!" exclaimed Wayne. "I'll see yer later!!"

That night, as RoboDes went off down the pub with Wayne, Des was forced to take the rubbish out himself, close the curtains himself, switch the light on himself and even change channels on the remote control himself.

Des was just about to go to bed when he heard some rowdy singing coming from outside. He opened the window and saw Wayne and RoboDes staggering down the street, arm in arm, singing "Oh my darrrling, oh my darrrling, oh my darrrrrling RoboDes!"

"Oh my god," sighed Des. "Only Wayne could manage to get a robot drunk."

For the next few nights RoboDes was found going down the pub with Wayne. During this time Des started noticing RoboDes's behaviour becoming more and more surly.

"RoboDes, about time too," said Des, as RoboDes walked into the kitchen one morning. "I've been sitting here for half an hour waiting for you to get up! Now get me my breakfast!"

"No," said RoboDes. He got himself a glass of orange juice, and walked out the kitchen.

"What's going on here?!" said Des. "Robots aren't supposed to be like this! And robots certainly aren't supposed to drink orange juice!"

Des followed RoboDes into the living room. RoboDes lay down on the sofa, switched the television on and sipped on his orange juice.

"Well?" said Des. "What about my breakfast?" RoboDes ignored him. "All right then, if you won't get my breakfast, then give the room a hoover! Or at least dust the sideboard!"

"No," said RoboDes. "I've had enough of all this. I've been here three weeks and for all that time you've ordered me about, do this RoboDes, do that RoboDes, all the grotty jobs, without a word of thanks or even a pay packet!"

"But you're a robot!!!!" exclaimed Des. "You're supposed to carry out instructions without question! And no one in their right mind pays robots!"

It was somewhat presumptive of Des to imply that he himself was in his right mind.

"Wayne keeps asking me to buy a round of drinks," said RoboDes. "But how can I if I haven't got any money?"

"That's another thing!" exclaimed Des. "I'm fed up with you spending every night down the Laughing Pig, getting drunk and waking up the neighbours when you come back!"

"I'll spend my nights doing what I want," said RoboDes.

"And ever since you've been started going down the pub you've been acting like this!" said Des. "What are you going to do about it?"

"I've decided I'm going on strike," said RoboDes.

"YOU WHAT??!!"

"And I think it's time you did some things for me," said RoboDes. "Get me the Radio Times, please. And it's rather stuffy in here, open the window, please."

To avoid further conflict, Des begrudgingly did as he was told. He decided to bring up the problem at the cafe meeting later that morning. This was now also regularly attended by RoboDes.

"Ever since Wayne's been taking RoboDes down the pub every night, he's been acting very oddly," said Des.

"Wayne's always acted oddly," said Clive.

"I know that, I mean RoboDes," said Des. "Wayne even thinks he's a real person."

"Wayne is a real person," said Clive.

"I mean RoboDes!!!!" exclaimed Des.

"RoboDes is fantastic!" exclaimed Wayne. "He's a great laugh down the pub! All the lads think he's cool!"

"That's right, he is!" said Mike. "He knows some great gags!"

"Man walks into a bar," said RoboDes. "Ouch!"

All the occupants of the cafe roared with laughter except for Des.

"Now what's your problem, Des?" said Mike. "You've got the only robot comedian!"

"I don't want a wisecracking robot!" said Des. "I might as well have bought Metal Mickey!"

"Eh? What?" said Mick, who hadn't really been paying attention to all this.

"And how he's gone on strike!" exclaimed Des. "He wants me to pay him! I think you programmed him with too many human characteristics!"

"I was only trying to make him seem more human," said Mike.

"For goodness sake, robots don't go on strike!" exclaimed Des.

"Ooooh, touchy!" said Clive.

"Well I could download some different software, make him less human and more robotic," said Mike. "But it'll cost you!"

"How much?" said Des.

"£1500 for the software, plus labour," said Mike.

"I didn't vote for them," said Des. "Oh I see what you mean! No, that's too much! I've already spent six grand on that thing! Isn't there anything else you can do?"

"Well all right then, I'll have a look," said Mike. He went round to RoboDes and opened his front control panel.

"Excuse me, Mike, what are you doing?" said RoboDes. "I'm trying to read the comic."

"Just taking your batteries out for a minute," said Mike. He did so, and RoboDes suddenly went down.

"Hey RoboDes, me ol' mate!" exclaimed Wayne. "He's fainted! RoboDes, it's Wayne, speak to me!"

Mike then took a torch out of one of his pockets, and shone it down RoboDes's mouth.

"Oh dear," said Mike. "Oh dear, oh dear. Tsk, tsk."

"What's wrong, Mike?" said Des.

"That's why he's playing up," said Mike. "Some of his internal bits have become rusted. It must be all that drinking."

"You mean RoboDes has actually been drinking down the pub?" said Mick.

"He was drinking orange juice this morning," said Des. "But I suspect he was downing something stronger than that last night."

"Yeah, he won our competition last night!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"He's gone to the top of the leader board," said Mike. "Twenty pints in a minute! No one's ever managed it before!"

"Well he is a robot," said Des."Oh yes, I forgot," said Mike. "As I was saying, his innards are going rusty. It'll all need replacing."

"How much?" said Des.

"£1500," said Mike. "But then he won't need any new software, he'll be back to how he was before."

"That was almost as bad," said Des. "I think I'll just get rid of him."

"Well break it to him gently," said Mike. "Don't hurt his feelings."

Mike put the batteries back in, and RoboDes came back to life.

"RoboDes, you're all right!" exclaimed Wayne.

"RoboDes, you're sacked!" exclaimed Des.

"Oh, I see," said RoboDes. "It's like that, is it?"

"Aaaaah," said Mrs Greasy, putting an arm round RoboDes. "There, there. Now look what you've done, Des. You've really upset poor RoboDes!"

"Never mind RoboDes," said Wayne, whose eyes were welling up. "Come and live with me!"

"No, no," said RoboDes, sadly. "If Des wants to get rid of me, then I suppose I'd better go."

RoboDes got up from the table and walked towards the door.

"Goodbye," said RoboDes. "See you around sometime."

"Goodbye RoboDes," said the others, all with tears in his eyes.

"Good riddance," said Des.

They watched as RoboDes moped off down the road.

"It's so sad," sniffed Mrs Greasy.

"Why did it 'ave to end this way," sighed Wayne.

"He'll probably top himself now," said Clive. "And it'll all be Des's fault."

"For goodness sake everyone, he's a robot!!!" exclaimed Des. "I suppose I'll have to go back to doing the housework myself."

"I wonder what will become of RoboDes," said Mick.

They heard nothing more of RoboDes - until six months later when he won the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, and became the MP with far more emotion than any other.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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