The Deal With Roger

Mirabel wants to learn to swim, but she’s been told her whole life she’d just sink to the bottom and that swimming is not only a risk to her, but also to the lifeguards who might have to retrieve her extra-large body from the deep end of a pool.

Mirabel wants to learn to swim, but she’s been told her whole life she’d just sink to the bottom and that swimming is not only a risk to her, but also to the lifeguards who might have to retrieve her extra-large body from the deep end of a pool. She’s tired of being told she can’t do something. At 6’8” and 250 pounds, Mirabel has always been self-conscious, but as the newest partner at the country’s largest forensic accounting firm, she learned success comes with hard work and determination. Roger can never learn to swim. 

When Mirabel was 13 years old, her father bought her a friend. She was already over six feet tall and when her only friend Shannon was shipped off to a boarding school for at-risk youth, Mirabel had nobody. Roger was supposed to be the high school boyfriend; the high school prom date; the boy back home when she was in college, and the husband she introduced to people at work if she ever found an employer who’d hire her. Instead of purchasing him new, her father went to police auctions until he found Roger, a 6’7” humanoid who was erased and reprogrammed for re-use. It was clear what her father loved about him. He looked like Dolph Lundgren from the old Rocky movies, and because he was built without a penis, her father didn’t have to imagine Mirabel using him as a glorified sex toy. The most Mirabel has ever done is have him lick her nipples while she masturbated. Even that was short-lived because Roger was sure he could masturbate her better and refused to keep his hands to himself. 

At 32 years of age, Mirabel has never had sex. The toys in the bathroom might have removed the anatomical evidence of her virginity, but she can’t believe a real person could love the sight and smell of her as much as the abstraction she fucks in the tub.

“Where are you going?” Roger asks.

Mirabel is afraid to say because he’ll want to come and watch her at the pool. She also worries his rage is escalating. He swears all the time and when they were watching Housewives, he told Mirabel he’d like to take a Colt AR-15 and kill them all. When he went into Phantastic Phorms for the age upgrade, she mentioned it and the broken dishes. She also told the technician that he’d started to call her names, which she didn’t at all enjoy, even if he was “joking.”

“I am here for you,” he says.

“I know that. I’ll be back before Survivor comes on,” she says.

“I. Am. Here. For. You,” he says. “As in I have nobody else with which to distract myself.”

“Do you want me to press pause?”

“No, I don’t want you to fucking press pause. How many times have I told you? You lay one fucking salami finger of yours on me and, well, you do not want to know.”

I. Am. Here. For. You,’ he says. ‘As in I have nobody else with which to distract myself.’

“I promise. I won’t be long.”

“I spent all day today cooking this fucking carbonara for you.”

Roger lifts the lid on the pot and digs his right hand into the spaghetti. He shakes a fistful of it in her face and she watches bits of bacon fly around the kitchen.

Mirabel steps back as he moves toward her.

“Roger stop. This is not appropriate.”

He raises an eyebrow and slowly places the remaining noodles back into the pot and stirs it with a wooden spoon.

Roger used to apologize when he crossed the line. He used to let her pause his program when she went to work, but he convinced her a decade ago he could use the time during the day to make her life better, and isn’t that what he was for?

“I’ll be back before Survivor.”


Mirabel slips her feet into a pair of flip-flops and before she walks out the front door, she feels something hit the back of her head. It’s spaghetti and egg. She leaves without turning around and picks all the bits out of her hair on the way to the pool. Her hips have been bothering her and her doctor warned her she needs to lose weight or replacement surgery will happen sooner than later.

The swimming instructor is lovely, and the class demographics include all age groups, genders and body sizes. They spend the first class paddling in the shallow end, and practice putting their faces in the water and blowing bubbles. In their second class, they learn how to starfish and float on the surface, which, contrary to everything her father had her believe, Mirabel does successfully. At the end of the introductory course, they must kick from one end of the pool to the other using a flutter board. Mirabel completes it in 40 seconds. She hides the certificate in the glove compartment of the car.

In the fall, the manager at the recreation centre informs her that her instructor recommended she jump ahead to Level 3, which is two evenings a week. Mirabel asks for time to consider. She’ll have to talk with her husband.

“It’s a big assignment. It might mean a raise. I could afford to buy us a house,” she says to Roger between forkfuls of shepherd’s pie.

Mirabel finds it difficult to lie. Her father told her when she was little that she was a terrible liar and if she ever tried to get one over on him, he’d get up behind the lectern at church and tell the entire congregation of Mirabel’s deceit.

“Why do we need a house?” 

“You’ve always said this condo feels like a prison,” Mirabel says.

“This life is a prison. You think living in a house is going to make living with you better?”

“It’ll give you space to grow. You said you wanted to pick up more skills. You’ve never mowed a lawn before?”

Mirabel knew his reaction before the signal reached his processing cortex.

“Are you fucking kidding me? I am not here to be your gardener? I am already your cook and your housekeeper.”

“I told you that you don’t have to cook or clean if you don’t want to,” she says.

“But I do. It is all jammed up in here.” Roger taps his finger so hard against his temple, it leaves a dent.

“We can change the program,” Mirabel says.

“No fucking way. They already tried to calm me down. You didn’t think I would know what he was doing?”

The technician Mirabel spoke to at PP when they went for the aging made the mistake of informing Roger they needed to manipulate his emotional grid because there were complaints from the client. Roger had the technician in a hundred pieces all over the lab before security restrained him. He was placed in a pod and paused for ten days. When Mirabel didn’t respond to their calls, Phantastic Phorms called her father, who was next on the emergency contact list.

“I don’t know what it is you think you’re doing,” her father said in the car. “You’re going to die alone if you do that again. They were going to recycle him.”

Mirabel smiled at the thought of bits of Roger in boxes scattered all over PP.

“I don’t know what you’re smiling at. Who’s going to wipe your ass when you get old?”

“Not me,” Roger said from the front seat.

Roger had the technician in a hundred pieces all over the lab before security restrained him. He was placed in a pod and paused for ten days.

Mirabel sat behind him with her legs bent across the seat. The seat belt didn’t fit across her mid-section, but Roger had the front seat reclined so far back, she was wedged in good and tight. The whole drive home, she thought about the car crashing and Roger flying through the windshield and being irreparably damaged.

“Do you know how much these things cost? I tried to get your mother a domestic. A domestic for God’s sake. They used to go for a thousand bucks at auction, now I can’t find one for less than 50K. Roger could easily go for well over six figures now.”

Mirabel wanted to ask about resale. She wanted to know how much he’d go for on Facebook Marketplace, but Roger flipped down the visor and watched her in the mirror.

“Do not even think about it. I will hunt you down and kill you.”

Her father laughed.

“What is wrong with your food?” Roger asks.

When Mirabel dips her fork into the meat portion of the pie, she knows it’s undercooked. Not only is the beef still sticky and pink in parts, but it was also in the fridge for a week before he made the pie tonight.

“I’m going to go to the office for a bit. See if I can get one of the other accountants to cover these extra nights.”

“Do not ask. Just tell them you are not doing it.”

“I may get someone to split the work, but I’ll be fired if I don’t do some of it,” Mirabel says.

At the pool, Mirabel explains to the recreation manager that she can’t do the next level. Her husband is busy with work, and she can’t be out more than one night a week.

“Is everything okay?” the recreation manager asks.

Her name is Teresa. She isn’t as tall as Mirabel, but she’s tall enough that when she stands, her fingertips don’t touch the desk. She wears a bathing suit under a tank top and blue jeans. Mirabel noticed she sometimes gets in the water after the adult lessons. Her face is the sort she’d describe as kind. Bright smiling brown eyes that widen instinctively when she greets Mirabel, or anyone, at the front desk. The marionette lines around her mouth don’t make her look sad and she wears her long salty brown hair in two braids behind her ears. She has a dozen beaded bracelets on her left hand that represent various ocean species she wants to protect from the plastic that’s killing them.

“It’s fine. You know, it’s just so hard.” It only takes one person to ask Mirabel if she is okay for her to start crying.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just I’ve noticed how much you love the water. Your face just lights up out there.”

“I can’t. I can’t do this,” Mirabel manages to say.

“I’m sure if your husband saw you here, he’d figure out a way to make it work at home. Perhaps a babysitter?”

“We don’t have kids.” Mirabel takes the tissue the woman offers and wipes the tears from under her eyes.

“You don’t have kids? Then why, if you don’t mind me asking, why can’t you be out two nights a week?”

“Roger doesn’t like being alone.”

Mirabel sees the surprise, the shock maybe. 

“Why doesn’t he come with you then?”

“He can’t swim.”

“You couldn’t swim last spring and look at you now.”

“He can’t swim because—” Mirabel almost says it, but she signs her name on the attendance sheet and turns to leave. Her father said only the most desperate people purchase a humanoid for companionship, and only an idiot would tell anyone they have one.

When she gets home from swimming, it’s dark. The lights are out in the condo and when she flicks the switch inside the door, nothing happens. Mirabel calls out for Roger, but hears nothing. The kitchen light doesn’t go on, nor does the lamp beside the sofa. The power’s gone out. When she looks out the sliding doors to the balcony, the city is bright. She goes out and bends over the railing to see everyone else’s power is on.

Roger is behind her, pressing her body against the railing. She screams when her feet lift off the concrete floor.

“This would be so easy,” Roger says.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.” Her sweatshirt strangles her as it’s pulled down by the force of him lifting her off the floor.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate. Stop.” After she repeats it several times, Roger’s smile falls from his face, and he drops her.

“You smell like chlorine,” he says.

Mirabel ignores him while she crawls inside the condo all the way to her ensuite bathroom. 

It’s a mess. The drawers have been opened and emptied. All the towels are in the bottom of the tub in a foot of water. Her makeup has been opened and he’s painted the mirror with lipstick and eye shadow.

She moves to shut the door, but he’s there with his size 14 foot wedged between the door and the frame.

“Why do you smell like a swimming pool?”

“I started taking swim lessons,” she says. “Move your foot, please.”

“Why do you need to take swimming lessons? Everybody knows how to swim.”

“I don’t know how to swim. My parents said I was too big to swim, that I’d sink.”

“That is probably true, but it is just walking around in water.”

“Can you move your foot, please?”

Roger’s body responds, but his wires cross and he jams his foot back in before she can shut the door.

“What are you doing? Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.”

“Is it? Do you want to know what is inappropriate?”

Roger puts one of Mirabel’s vibrators in her face, then presses the button on her clit-stimulator and holds it to her ear.

“Do you hear that?” he says.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.”

“Do you hear that? That is the sound of desperation,” he says.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.”

“But guess what,” he says. “I went out and got you something.”

Roger drags her by the arm to the sofa. He lifts her easily and drops her. She hears a spring pop away from the frame.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.” Mirabel has no other words. They’re supposed to work if she says them forcefully enough. They’re the only words she knows to check his behaviour. 

When he steps back from the sofa Mirabel tries to stand, but he punches the side of her head.

Mirabel has no other words. They’re supposed to work if she says them forcefully enough.

He unzips his pants.

“Look what I got for you,” he says.

He lowers his boxers to his knees and bouncing from a strap around his waist is a ten-inch dildo.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.” 

“Your father thought maybe you were having an affair. Maybe you had found a real man to pleasure you like I cannot. He said to search for evidence, and I found all this.”


Mirabel slides off the sofa and tries to crawl away from him, but he reaches down and drags her back by the ankle. She repeats the trigger words over and over, but nothing happens. Roger tears off her clothes and pushes her into her bedroom. When she rolls off the far end of the bed, he’s there with his foot on her back. After an hour of fighting, Mirabel finally gives in and lies down on the bed. Roger doesn’t know what to do. He watched porn on the internet, but he’s not programmed to fuck, so he can’t move the dildo past her labia minora. Roger thrusts his hips, but even a prosthetic penis cannot enter her.

After a few minutes, he rolls off the bed and leaves her room.

Mirabel locks the bedroom door until she hears Jimmy Fallon come on the television. Roger doesn’t turn away from Jimmy when Mirabel slips out the door. She sleeps in her office for the night, then books a hotel room with a kitchenette.

The following week at her swimming lesson, Teresa approaches Mirabel in the changing room afterward.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Mirabel says.

“I noticed the bruises on your back.”

Mirabel forgot about those.

“Your husband?”

She wants to tell her to mind her own business, that she’s fine, that if she wanted her help, she’d ask for it.

“Yes,” Mirabel says.

“Is it because of your swimming lessons?”

“It’s more than that.”

Teresa suggests they go for a drink, which they do. Her father might eventually find the hotel she booked in her mother’s maiden name, but until then she doesn’t have to go home. Teresa suggests again that she invite her husband to the lessons.

“I told you he can’t swim,” Mirabel says.

Teresa finishes her margarita and orders another. 

“Does he know that?”

“What do you mean?’

“I don’t want to offend you, but is he a humanoid?”

“How d’you know?”

“I’ve just been thinking. We had a woman bring her humanoid child to the pool once. It was awful. Not only did the child’s death send a few other kids to the hospital with minor electric shocks, the mother’s grief was unbearable. She took a mortgage out on her house to buy the kid and she didn’t even read the manual. She tried to sue Phantastic Phorms because the child itself should have been programmed to avoid water, but they told her they’re programmed to be as normal as possible.”

“That’s awful.”

“How long have you been married?”

“If you mean how long have I had Roger, it’ll be 20 years next Christmas.”

“Wow, your parents bought you a humanoid for Christmas?”

“I didn’t have any friends and they were convinced I’d never have any.”

“Why, because you’re tall?” Teresa says.

“That’s kind of you, but they were right. I’ve never had friends. Colleagues at work don’t ask me to go out because people stare and besides, I had Roger. He was always kind of possessive.”

“Possessive. Those bruises say a little more than that. Have you tried to reprogram, or even erase and restart?”

“I have. It didn’t go well.”

“Pod and pause?”

“He won’t let me purchase a pod.”

“Won’t let you?”

“He’s wired differently. He’s an early model who was programmed by the police. My dad bought him cheap and had him reprogrammed. Techs at PP said he wouldn’t be a pushover like most humanoids, but that I wasn’t in danger.”

“Until now,” Teresa says.

“I guess.”

Teresa orders two more margaritas and an order of nachos.

“What are you going to do?” Teresa asks.

“I’m hoping he realizes my absence is a result of his inappropriate behaviour and alters his own pathways.”

“What are the chances of that happening?”

“If not that, then when he goes for the upgrade next year, I ask for a complete reprogram. It’s just so expensive.”

“Can’t you restore to factory settings?”

“He was a cop. His factory defaults are rage and indifference.”

Teresa dips a nacho chip into the sour cream and eats it. A drop of cream dangles from the corner of her mouth and Mirabel reaches out with a napkin. Teresa jumps back. 

“I’m sorry,” Mirabel says. “You have a bit of sour cream.” She points at her own lip.


They finish the nachos in silence. Teresa orders another three rounds of margaritas.

They’re both drunk when they hatch their plan.

At the condo the next evening, Roger apologizes. He agrees his behaviour was bad and promises to not engage in such an inappropriate manner again. Mirabel unpacks her bags while he sits on the edge of her bed.

“I do not like when you have a life outside of here. Your job pays the bills, but your extracurricular activities need to stop.”

“I want to learn to swim,” Mirabel says.

“Like I said, anybody can splash around a pool, but why would you want to?”

“It’s the only thing that is mine alone,” Mirabel says.

“Why does it have to be yours alone?”

“You can’t swim. Can you?”

“I can do anything I want to do. Like I said it is just splashing around in water.”

Mirabel sits beside him on the bed. She trembles slightly when she lifts one of his hands into hers.

“Why don’t we do it together?”

“I do not want to.” Roger stands and returns to the kitchen where a frittata is broiling in the oven.

“I get it,” Mirabel says. “I was scared at first, too.”

“Scared? I am not scared.”

“That’s fine, but I’m going to keep swimming,” she says.

“The hell you are,” he says before wrapping his hand around her neck.

“Roger. Stop. This is inappropriate.”

He squeezes harder.

“You can’t kill me. You can hurt me, but you can’t kill me. When you let me go, I’ll wait until Jimmy Fallon comes on and leave again. Eventually my father will find me, but then I’ll leave again.”

Roger drops his hand and slices the frittata.

“What is the point in swimming?” he says.

“For me, I’ve learned a new skill, but I also discovered the great calm and joy I feel when I’m in the water. I feel light and it’s really helped the pain in my knees and hips.”

“For me?” he says.

“You’ll learn a new skill and, according to the PP website, the more skills you have the more valuable you are.”

Roger watches as Mirabel picks out the bits of red pepper. He’s chopped them so finely that it takes her longer to pick them out than it does for her to eat the scrambled egg mess left on her plate. He always does that.

When he washes the dishes, he asks her for a favour.

“What is it?”

“If I do this for you, I want to be upgraded.”

“What do you mean upgraded?”

“I want to be able to do what they do on the internet.”

“What are you talking about?”

Mirabel knows what he means. He wants a penis. He wants the follow-through his current programming won’t allow. He wants more power. It might be as simple as agreeing to the upgrade, taking him to the lab and secretly having him completely erased and reprogrammed, but Teresa was giddy at the thought of ending Roger. She doesn’t want to disappoint her.

“Sure,” Mirabel says. “You learn to swim, and I’ll get you your own penis.”

“Not just my own penis, but everything I need up here to fuck your brains out.”

“You know that doesn’t mean what you think it means,” Mirabel says.

“Don’t speak to me like I am stupid. You know what I want.”

Mirabel deflects his hand with her forearm.

Roger and Mirabel arrive at the pool an hour after the last class is finished. Teresa is going to give them private lessons, he thinks. 

After Mirabel removes her clothes, she realizes Roger doesn’t have swim trunks.

“I do not care,” he says. Roger drops his pants on to the deck and lifts his hoodie over his head.

“Jesus Christ.” Teresa’s mouth falls open at the sight of him. Besides the absent dick and balls, he’s quite the specimen. 

“Do you want to start in the shallow end with some introductory stuff. Face under water, that sort of thing,” Mirabel says.

Before either one of the women can stop him, Roger leaps into the deep end. He moves his legs in an egg-beater motion. He stays afloat and Mirabel panics thinking he may be a waterproof model. He moves his arms back and forth across the water as though he was ‘born’ to swim. He smiles at Teresa and Mirabel.

“Told you. A piece of cake? Another figure of speech, Mirabel,” he says.

Teresa holds Mirabel’s hand. She apologizes.

“I thought this would work,” Teresa sobs. “I thought this would work.”

Mirabel wraps an arm around Teresa and pulls her head into her chest.

“Thought … what … would … work.” Roger’s speech slows.

His legs move mechanically, glitching every couple of seconds. His face dips below the surface. His arms move in quickly, shorter, faster movements. His legs stop. 

Roger begins to hiccup words. “Stop. This. Is. In. App.”

He falls beneath the surface, staring up at them as he sinks straight to the bottom of the pool. 

About the author

Alison Gadsby is a Tkaronto writer whose stories have appeared in various literary journals. She is working on another novel and a collection of stories. She is the founder and host of Junction Reads, a reading series that has showcased Canadian prose authors since 2014. You can find her @junctionreads.