I Am Not a Robot
by John O'Donovan, 3.24am July 10th 2021

Iris liked to stay in the bath most of the day combing out her long golden hair and looking at herself in the full length mirror. Jerome brought her some hypoallergenic bath soaps with oil of seaweed to moisten her skin, and a soft, long handled brush to scrub her scales. She had never seen them so brilliant before with their iridescent colors scrubbed clean, and even as they may appear hard, they were sensitive to touch. As the sun began to set and the rays of shining light glanced and skewed along the bathroom wall, she knew it was time for Jerome to be coming home.

With her powerful arms and shoulders...a swimmer's upper body, she would put her webbed hands on the edge of the bathtub and swing herself out over the top like a gymnast on a balance beam. Her walker was there waiting and she fitted herself comfortably into the contraption. Jerome had it made special for her. “He's so considerate,” she was thinking as she headed for the kitchen, her swishy tail propelling her forward, “I'll make him some blueberry pancakes for supper,” even as that's all she ever made for him...because that's all he ever wanted.

Jerome worked downtown at the robot factory. He didn't like it much but when the zoo closed down and all the animals dispersed it was the only job the employment office could find that would suit him with his long legs and long neck. Sometimes he felt like a robot himself, doing the same boring, repetitive job every minute of every working day, until he found Iris. That changed everything.

It was late one summer evening when he was walking alone on the beach, lost in his own dreamworld. There had been a storm and debris was washed up and lying all around. Gulls were circling and squawking above his head but he didn't hear them. Then a different, unfamiliar sound, a cry for help coming from the rocks at the base of the cliff. “Some animal in distress,” he thought right away. He stretched his long neck out to get a better look.

Yes! Something there; all bloodied, battered, bruised cowering in a bed of seaweed. Half naked woman, half naked fish: “A Mermaid,” the words slipped from his lips. Their eyes met and Jerome felt a strange tingling sensation. Reflecting back on it later, he recognized, that was the moment he knew for certain he was not a robot.

“I need your help,” she squealed. “I'm weak and hungry and I think I've lost quite a lot of blood.”

Without even thinking about it, Jerome picked her up and placed her on his shoulders, “I'll take you to a safe place so you can recover and return to the sea.”

That was nine months ago. Iris recovered in a few weeks but she was reluctant to leave her new home. It was comfortable clean and warm, but more than that; it was safe. No sharks, no storms, no fishing nets. “Why should I leave, Jerome? I like it here.” Jerome didn't mind, in fact he rather liked it.

He liked it a lot.

Iris had the pancakes almost ready when she heard the lock turning on the entrance door, then the usual banging and bustling. “Hold on Darling, I'll come and help you.”

Carrying the bag of fish in one front hoof and his lunchbox in the other, it was always a challenge for Jerome to get through the front door, but he could hardly wait to see her. He knew it was a challenge for her too, and she was always so kind and patient. Not something one would expect when their lover was a giraffe.