DonJuan 3000

A prickle of moisture appears on Lucy’s faint peachy moustache that she doesn’t wax because it is part of her, and all her parts are worth keeping.


prickle of moisture appears on Lucy’s faint peachy moustache that she doesn’t wax because it is part of her, and all her parts are worth keeping. The spotlight is blinding and the auditorium too warm, but the effect of two uncomfortable elements coalesces into a delicious sensation. “Is everyone ready to place an order with DonJuan 3000?” The loyal crowd roars.

Lucy Moss created DonJuan 3000 because of men like Frank Dundurn, although there were many Franks, spanning all gender representations, all countries.

Lucy only kept Frank around because he was decent at going down on her, but otherwise—nada. They met on FireFare, both swiping yes under the pretense of wanting dates, but really, everyone on FireFare is out to get laid. Actual relationship apps stopped updating back in the '20s when marriage rates plummeted to less than five percent of the population. Which was fine by Lucy—she’s into honest, upfront sluttery. She’s not beyond emotional connections, though. Depending on the person, she’ll make them their favourite meal and let them snuggle into the back of her neck until she feels stir-crazy, returning to her platonic friendships for the connections she doesn’t want with a sex partner.

She’s into honest, upfront sluttery. She’s not beyond emotional connections, though.

Frank was brash and ignorant, despite a long line of letters and degrees to his name. He never knew when his jokes tipped past the delicate balance between teasing and bullying, left a cloying residue like soap-scum. To be honest, Frank was a pig, so Lucy relegated him solely to the bedroom portion of her life. Last night, she’d told him their time together was fine but finished. Frank seemed shocked by the news, having assumed he always had the upper hand because he considered himself “a total catch,” which ought to give a decent assessment of Frank’s character more than his physique. So, he played it off like he was leaving her instead, backing out of the jamb like he was waiting for her to beg him to stay. Lucy waved emphatically with the sleeve of his plaid shirt, which Frank insisted she keep, his scent still trapped in the flannel. She chucked it in the trash as soon as she clicked the deadbolt into place. Frank must be the last guy still wearing plaid in 2050, some bastion to backcountry cabins and days where his assessment of Lucy’s beauty was to be the source of her self-worth. So in a way, Lucy had all the Franks to thank for her mounting success.

The auditorium spotlights flicker like a warning as Lucy blinks at her projected hologram screen. She theatrically recites the options to her audience as though picking out a cake. Now Lucy’s craving lemon sponge with treacle—a celebratory tiered masterpiece for the brilliance of this launch. She settles for pinching a roll in her middle for good luck, the band of fat that juts out from under her bra. The flesh gives way delightfully, filling Lucy with pleasure.

Where does all that confidence come from? Frank had asked once while she drank Prosecco from the open bottle, blatantly stark and silhouetted by the light of the open fridge. He’d said it as though he didn’t think Lucy had a right to it. She’d sucked the bottle dry of tangy bubbles and then told Frank to do the same to her, refusing to reciprocate. No complaint of a headache. No pretending to be asleep. Just, no. Still, she’d turned his question around in her mind long after he’d gone, staring up at the ceiling. Neither parent had carried her loftily around the living room and assured her of her intelligence destining her as the next female Prime Minister, or her body worthy of pinups and stardom. But Lucy still grew up knowing those things were true, even if no one had voiced them except her own mouth whispering the affirmations in the mirror.

Ping. Still deciding? The screen blinks its question like a heartbeat, the sound echoing around the auditorium, packed to capacity. Lucy remembers, suddenly, she is on stage, being watched. Giving a presentation.

DonJuan had always been envisioned to have a different kind of launch. Something nostalgic. So she watched videos of Steve Jobs presenting his Apple inventions way back when her parents were kids—an in-person celebration, with actual bums in chairs, cotton-embossed invitations sent months in advance. Of course, the event is still streaming to the rest of the world, but it’s a marketing ploy that is so early 2000s. So retro.

When she started the company in 2041, being in an auditorium with her 400 employees about to take DonJuan 3000 to market was a pipe dream. And if anyone would have asked where she saw herself in a decade, it certainly wasn’t running a technological marvel because Lucy doesn’t know a damn thing about computers, really, other than how to use one. I’m a human resources specialist, for fucks sake, she had cried at her best friend Amber while they downed a bottle of Syrah, drowning Lucy’s unemployment sorrows. Like many vocations, her training was going the way of the dodo, newly obsolete with scientific advancement. So, Lucy took her understanding of humanity and applied it to Amber’s knowledge of coding, and together, they developed one of the most successful female-led businesses in North America.

Lucy takes a sip of water and stares out at her beloved employees, the smattering of press and industry hopefuls. “Well, folks, let’s get loved, shall we?”

Cheers, whistles and hoots as Lucy clicks her order into DonJuan 3000.

It’s a simple concept really, one she and Amber dreamed up after that same bottle of Syrah. In the early conceptual days of the software, the pair studied how some people stayed in shit relationships, shit jobs, shit lives because they didn’t feel worthy of better. What if, Lucy slurred, lips stained burgundy, we made it so people could hear good things about themselves whenever they needed a boost? What if we could inject their self-esteem with a dose of joy? What would be possible in the world if everyone heard their own wonderfulness parroted back at them? They knew it wasn’t always that easy, and a little self-confidence wasn’t going to be the imagined bootstrapping that capitalists demanded of the poor, the marginalized, the newly Canadian. But still. It was something.

What if we could inject their self-esteem with a dose of joy? What would be possible in the world if everyone heard their own wonderfulness parroted back at them?

The order form pings again, making the audience cheer even harder.

“So, Amber,” Lucy says into her mic, smiling at their routine. She and Amber wrote out the lines last week, practising in their shared office. “Let’s say you’re feeling down. Someone swiped no. Or you had a bad day at work. Or your kids are being ungrateful.”

“Sounds familiar,” Amber quips, and predictably, the audience snickers at the banter.

“Well, that’s where DonJuan 3000 comes in. Charming little entity to tell you all the good things you need to hear, right when you need to hear them. The ultimate cheerleader.”

Amber slaps her knee like an old-timey comedy routine. “Where do I sign up?” She’s like those infomercials Grandma Elsie is always making Lucy watch on her rickety Blue-Ray machine, refusing to upgrade to the hologram.

“You sign up right here!” Lucy waves a hand at the hologram overhead. The silky font was developed by the Typecast department, a mix between utilitarian and script, the effect perfectly androgynous to appeal to all gender identities. The Graphics team chose the wispy background images based on endless biological studies. But the complex inner workings behind the concept, the mechanics of the order form itself is old-school. There’s something campy about it, like a plaid shirt was about to pop out from the screen and do jazz sleeves in the air.

“We’ll just upload all the necessary information on our fake client, Tina, and then we connect her social media accounts. Using some of the latest algorithms, proprietary to Femtron, we’ve created a system that tailors not only to your likes and dislikes, but to your personal self, your innermost hopes and dreams. DonJuan scans your online shopping preferences, your banking and search history, and develops positive, complimentary commentary, on demand. Now that DonJuan has all our information for Tina, our pretend person in need of love and support, let’s pick out what she would like to hear.”

Focus of compliment?

  • Physical attributes

  • Professional or personal accomplishments

  • Emotional characteristics

  • Random

    “I’d say Tina needs to hear how hot she is, don’t you, folks?” The crowd cheers as Lucy taps the Physical Attributes button.

    For how many days would you like this service?

    • One-time purchase

    • One week (discount of 1%)

    • One month (discount of 10%)

    • Unlimited (discount of 21.5%)

    “Tina likes to save money, so I say we pick unlimited. Am I right? She deserves to hear about how amazing she is every single day!” More cheers.

    Method for receipt of compliments?

    • Physical delivery (Flowers, chocolates, notes *extra fee for handwriting)

    • Voice recording (Ability to listen three times before automatic deletion. Great to play for friends and family as proof of adoration)

    • Humanoid 2.0 to present compliment at pre-determined location

    The crowd oohs as Lucy mocks, hovering her finger over the presented options. “That’s right folks. We’re using the Humanoid robotic experience we perfected just five years ago to personally deliver the highest quality compliments to our users. There are options for communication of a sexual nature or platonic, friendly or racy. Today, let’s go with a physical delivery, and since we have a show to put on here, have it arrive in four and a half minutes. Then just enter your payment info on the next page and voila.”

    The crowd erupts as Lucy stands to walk across the stage and hug Amber, a sign of their prosperous partnership of Femtron. They wave as cameras flash, squeezing each other close.

    Right on time, just as the clapping ebbs away, a sheepish teen from the Post department walks onto stage, holding out a lavish bouquet of snapdragons in a kaleidoscope of colours. The girl looks down at the flowers then back up at her boss, blinking repeatedly.

    “Delivery for a Tina Bouquet?” She whispers the words like a question, but Amber leans in so the teen’s voice catches her mic. Poor girl wasn’t warned of the press launch, bless her, just here for a summer job in the windowless Post section of the building. It’s not like her work is hard, since mail slowed to a dribble as far back as 2035 when the holograms came into use. “I was directed to bring these to the stage, but you’re Miss Moss. Not Tina.” The girl taps the card for effect.

    Lucy feigns surprise, hand to chest, sauntering over to collect the flowers. “Three cheers for Betty from Post, everyone! Now, let’s see here.” Lucy holds the note aloft to read. “Tina, I dream endlessly of your silky skin, your tight curls (in all the places) and the dance of freckles on your nose. And that birthmark shaped like Ontario on your thigh is my favourite way to tour the northern part of the province. I can’t believe you let me share your body. Whew!” Lucy fans the card across her face. “I don’t know about you, but that does it for me! And notice how the compliment is specifically geared towards Tina and her actual appearance?” An image of pretend-Tina is showcased on the hologram for the audience. “Her favourite flowers? Only DonJuan 3000 can do that. Best $1,475 Tina has ever spent. Because, folks, the compliment is based on true and real perception based on our studies. This algorithm examines your life and shows you how wonderful you are.”

    Tina, I dream endlessly of your silky skin, your tight curls (in all the places) and the dance of freckles on your nose. And that birthmark shaped like Ontario on your thigh is my favourite way to tour the northern part of the province.

    “Best of all,” says Amber, her voice a little too sales-pitch-esque, “You can send compliments to someone you care about, not just yourself. And for every purchase made, we give free compliments to those who really need them. That’s our give-back promise.”

    There is roaring excitement palpable in the room. Amber and Lucy link hands again and take a small bow.

    “Any questions from the press?”

    “Miss Moss?” A man stands, his stylus pushed in the air like a question he’s afraid to ask with the full force of his hand. “Steve here, from Tech Savvy magazine. Some in the industry have raised concerns that DonJuan 3000 makes human partners pointless. With the decline in relationships since Humanoids became so popular, do you worry you’ll eliminate the necessity of love? Of family?”

    Lucy smiles down at Steve. Poor, misguided Steve. He recognizes her, she’s certain of it, from two years ago—or was it three? FireFare linked them and they had a sweaty night on his futon, his skinny body pressed against her 36F breasts after their third round of satisfying sex. He’s five inches shorter than her, too, and spent the entire night (when he wasn’t grunting up against her body) fretting over their differences, the ways in which the world wouldn’t permit their pairing outside the bedroom. Disguised with odd humour and the nervous tick of cracking his neck after every comic turn, his desperation and depleted self-confidence permeated the thin sheets that he tugged across his skeletal chest. Lucy had shaken off the blankets once he made her come, gathered her belongings into her arms and strutted out into the hallway in full view like the goddess she is.

    “Steve, you said your name was?” He nods, eyes wide like a frightened animal. “That argument has been used since marriage rights were extended beyond heterosexual couples, wasn’t it? Back in the damn dark ages? I’m not against relationships or love. I’m against being with people who don’t deserve us because we have the confidence to know our own worth. I’m against settling in any part of our lives. I’m against those who were taught they are unlovable feeling that way their entire lives.” Steve nods but he doesn’t respond. “So, if I need a reminder of my strengths and decide to pay for that reminder, how is that different than say, buying a prepared meal at the market? I’m a woman who gets what she wants because I know my worth. I want others to know theirs.”

    There's no stopping her employees then as the cheers reach a crescendo of whoops. Steve jots notes on his tablet with his stylus and the room pulses with the bass of stomping feet. The last thing Lucy sees before being lifted onto nameless shoulders, jostled about like a sexy sack of potatoes while others cheer Femtron, Femtron!, is Steve reaching out to the hologram order form with a tear in his eye. Wait, not a tear. Hunger. Wanting. Tonight, she’ll make her first real order with DonJuan 3000. It will be addressed to Steve.

    About the author

    Kelly holds a Master’s and a PhD in Creative Writing. Her essays, poetry, and fiction have appeared in Chatelaine, Maclean’s, several anthologies and many literary magazines. Both of her memoirs, Girls Need Not Apply (2019) and Still, I Cannot Save You (2023) were instant national bestsellers.