The Tinsman Family By James Rumpel

Robbie's mother does not approve of his quirky new girlfriend, but his dad is impressed - and wants to help make her even better; by James Rumpel.

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Robbie Tinsman typed in the access code, signaled for his companion to follow, and burst through the front door.

"Mom, Dad," he shouted, "come here. I've got someone I'd like you to meet."

Mrs. Roberta Tinsman walked in from the kitchen. "Oh, Robbie, what a pleasant surp..." Roberta stopped at the sight of the beautiful young woman holding her son's hand. Robbie's female friend had long black hair, devoid of even the slightest wave or curl. Her tight-fitting outfit failed to conceal any of her alluring curves.

Robbie's Father, Charles, came in a few seconds later. He took one look at the woman's low-cut blouse, short skirt, and long legs before averting his eyes and looking down at his feet.

If someone were to create the stereotypical nerd, Charles Tinsman would be the prototype. He was in his late fifties. Thick lensed glasses adorned his round face. A credible attempt at a combover tried to disguise the fact that he was well on his way to baldness. The two best adjectives to describe his body type would be short and non-athletic. He was starting to develop a significant paunch that would have hung over his belt were not his pants pulled up so high.

Robbie, unphased by his parent's initial reactions, continued with the introduction. "Mom, Dad, this is Andrea. Andy, this is my mother, Roberta, and my father, Charles."

"I am pleased to meet you," said Andrea.

"Well, won't you come in and sit down," stuttered Charles. He motioned toward the living room.

Robbie and Andrea headed to the sofa. Roberta gave Charles a quick sideways glance before following and taking a seat on the loveseat. Charles sat down in his worn recliner.

"So, tell us about yourself, Andrea," said Charles. All the while making sure he focused his attention on Andrea's dark eyes and not her body.

"My name is Andrea. I am a beta mod..."

"Andy Dear, he wants to know about your education," interrupted Robbie.

"Oh, I am trained in rocket science."

"I'm sure you are," said Roberta, under her breath.

Charles looked at Roberta and gave a quick shake of his head. "Oh, that's very interesting. Where did you go to school?"

"I did not attend any..."

Again, Robbie, interrupted, "She is from the London Academy of Science."

"Yes, I am from the London Academy of Science." Andrea looked round the room, her head moving from side to side in small increments. "You have a very beautiful home."

"Thank you," said Roberta. After a brief pause, she smiled slyly and added, "What do you like about it?"

Andrea hesitated for a moment and then replied, "Its beauty."

After about fifteen minutes of awkward conversation, Robbie stood up. "Well, I think we have to be going now. Andrea and I have a few adjustments to make on a project we're working on." He ushered Andrea toward the door.

"I am pleased to have met you," said Andrea. "You have a beautiful home."

"It was nice to meet you, too," replied Charles. "Wasn't it nice to meet Robbie's friend, Roberta?"

"Oh, it was a blast. Robbie, don't forget you're coming here for lunch tomorrow. I look forward to us getting together, just the three of us."

"Of course, Mom." Robbie looked at his dad and shrugged before taking Andrea's hand and leaving.

The door had barely shut before Roberta glared at Charles. "I don't like it. I don't like it one bit."

Charles did not attempt to hide the grin on his face. "Whatsoever do you mean?"

"That girl. You saw it as quickly as I did."

"Saw what?"

"Quit being smart with me. You know as well as I do that that wasn't a normal girl. She is clearly an android and not a very convincing one at that."

"Oh, I thought she was very realistic."

"Any human could have spotted her in seconds."

"I think you're wrong about that. I make androids for a living, and you're around them all the time, so it makes sense that we can spot the signs, but I don't think anyone else would catch on very quickly."

"Either way," huffed Roberta, "We are going to talk with Robbie tomorrow and set him straight."

Charles let out a long sigh. "I can hardly wait."

"Okay," said Robbie, "I know there are some programming issues to work out, but you have to admit Andrea's pretty good. Once I get her to completely accept the life-history algorithm she'll be fine."

"I did notice you had to keep her from admitting her true nature a couple of times."

"Yeah, I don't think I integrated a strong enough protocol to make her accept the past I created for her. I already started fixing that last night."

"I don't care about any of that," injected Roberta. "I want to know why you're making an android girlfriend. Why aren't you out there meeting real women?"

"Oh, come on, Mom. Look at me. What woman is going to want to spend their life with me?" Robbie was a younger version of his father. He had the same physique, or lack thereof. The only differences being Robbie's not-so-flabby stomach, slightly thinner lenses, and the fact that he had a full head of hair... for now. "This way I have a beautiful companion to spend my life with. I don't want to be a lonely loser forever."

"Your father was a lonely loser and look how well things worked out for him."

"I did marry out of my league," added Charles. Roberta looked to be about fifteen years younger than him. She was fit and healthy. Her short, brunette hair framed her thin face, bringing out the color of her dark, almost black, eyes.

"All of us have had a wonderful life together," continued Roberta. "He may be nothing but a wimpy science nerd but he's made a great family."

"You can't just make me feel and think the way you want me to. I love Andrea and we're going to be together." Robbie stood and started walking toward the door. "You can't make me change my mind."

He left without saying goodbye, slamming the door on his way out.

Roberta turned to face Charles. "You have to fix this."

"I know."

Charles was working in his lab when Robbie and Andrea came in. "You wanted to see us, Dad? Your message said you might have found a way to get Mom to come around."

"I think I have." Charles grabbed a pea-sized object from his desk. "If I implant this program enhancement in Andrea it will solve all of her... non-human quirks. She'll seem just as human as you and I. She won't even know that she's an android."

Robbie shook his head, "I don't know. I mean... she's my creation. I wouldn't feel right about you finishing her programming."

Andrea stared at Robbie and Charles, expressionless and silent.

"You can keep programming her. This can just be a temporary fix so that your mother doesn't get all worked up about her."

"No, I don't want you messing with Andrea."

"Okay. Will you at least let me have a look at her interface to see if I can figure out why her head moves with that jerky motion?"

Robbie looked from his father to Andrea and then back again. "Okay, I suppose that can't hurt." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small remote control. He clicked a red button and Andrea slumped over. "I deactivated her. You can have a look, but I'm going to be the one to make any adjustments."

"Of course," said Charles. "Will you open up her access panel?"

While Robbie fiddled with a small opening at the back of Andrea's neck, Charles reached into his pocket and surreptitiously pulled out another remote control. When he pushed the red button, Robbie froze.

Charles moved Robbie's lifeless body away from Andrea. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out another implant.

So far so good, he thought. Once I'm done with these two, all that's left is reprogramming Roberta. I can do that tonight before dinner.


  1. Ohhhh! I love it! So unexpected! Very nuanced. I love how, I think, the mother does not know…nor the son…that they are androids. The length of the piece is just right! Somewhere between prose and poetry kind of. Each word counts.

  2. This was great! I guessed wrong about the ending - well done! Surprising, and entertaining, and likely not far off from reality.

  3. This was a wonderful story! Not only is James Rumpel prolific, but he’s smart, prescient and clever. June’s right: it’s exactly the right length and packs a punch. And as for the end, while I knew that something was coming – I surreptitiously scanned June’s comment before I read the story and read that Roberta was an artificial life form – the ending, wherein the son was revealed to be an android as well, came as a brilliant and tremendous surprise. One of my favorite FOTW stories, right up there with Doug Hawley’s “Smart Car.”

  4. Quite some fun foreshadowing in the family surname!
    I enjoy how the characters have masked identities which are gradually unmasked in circular layers.
    (I cannot help but wonder if Charles Tinsman, pater familias is an android as well… whether he knows it or not?)

  5. A very good story, but too good a look at a scary future for all of us that may be coming sooner than we think.