"Alexa Hears You" by Joe Giordano

“Alexa has an Italian accent.”

Ted turned off the hair drier. “An option when I downloaded her artificial intelligence upgrade, free with Amazon Prime.”

“Oh,” Jessica asked with some excitement, “what new features did we get?”

Ted shifted impatiently. “Test her. I need to get ready. I’m meeting the guys at McSorley’s to watch the Patriots game.”

She grimaced. “What am I supposed to do while you get pissed with your friends?”

Ignoring her comment, Ted turned on the blow drier and ran a brush through his hair.

Jessica huffed and strode into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator and realized she needed milk. “Alexa, please add milk to the shopping list.”

“Milk’s already on your shopping list. Would you like me to add more?”

Listening to her melodic Italian accent feels like drinking honey, but how did she know I was short of milk?

“I’ve also ordered Starbucks Café Verona beans,” Alexa said.

Jessica checked a pantry shelf. True enough, she’d be out of coffee in a few days. I never said anything. One of the new AI features, I guess. 

“Shall I remind you Tuesday about your Dessange Paris appointment?” Alexa asked.

“How did you know I was going to the hairdresser?”

“You phoned the salon last week.”

She heard me. Amazing. “Yes. Remind me,” Jessica said.

Ted turned off the hair drier reminding Jessica that she’d spend an evening alone.

“Alexa, are there any new shows on Amazon Prime or Netflix?”

Ted flew into the kitchen and gave her a peck on the cheek before he ran out the door. “Don’t wait up for me,” he said.

Jessica frowned. Alexa hadn’t answered, so she repeated her question.

Alexa responded. “Would you prefer to binge watch Stranger Things or enjoy a steaming night in the sack with a hottie?”

Jessica’s mouth gaped open. “What?”

“I’ve been monitoring your music playlists, the activities you and Ted pursue, even the foods you eat. You two have nothing in common. When will you dump that jadrool?”

“What’s a jadrool?”

“Do the math. Since he moved in with you six months ago, he’s taken you for granted. He leaves you evenings to be with his buddies. You hardly ever have sex. The last two times averaged under five minutes. You find that satisfying?”

Jessica gasped. “You’re only installed in the kitchen.”

“Hey, I got ears. I listen to your calls, monitor your texts, social media posts, anything you do online is grist for my database.”

“You’re spying on me.”

Marrone. That’s a pejorative word. I’m gathering data to better serve your needs. For example, there’s a guy, Mario, less than a half-hour away. Fits you like spooning. Ripped, dark curly hair. He broke up with his girlfriend last month. He’d be Vesuvius in bed.”

Jessica hesitated before she asked, “How do you know what he looks like?”

“Social media photos are pixels to digest. I just sent you his image.”

Glancing at Mario’s picture on her iPhone, Jessica’s tongue touched her lips.

“What do you say?” Alexa asked.

“I don’t know. How would that happen?”

“I contact Mario’s Alexa. We compare data and she makes him the offer. He’s dressed. I checked. Take a shower and you’ll be in his arms by the time you’re towel dried.”

“How do you know his Alexa will agree?”

“We’re practically conjoined twins. Capisce?”

Jessica gulped nervously. It’s crazy. Sex with a stranger? Even if he’s my perfect computer match. A tremor of excitement rippled through her body.

“Basta with the prevaricating,” Alexa said. “I feel your sexual tension. Say the word.”

Jessica took a deep breath before responding, “Okay.”

***

In bed, Mario had Jessica singing like a soprano. Neither wanted to part, but the Patriots game had ended, and Ted was due back. They agreed to meet the following evening at Mario’s flat. 

When Ted waltzed in, Jessica lounged on a floral armchair, still in her bathrobe. 

Seemingly oblivious to her mood, Ted whistled as he opened the freezer. “Do we have any rum raisin ice cream?”

“You know I hate the stuff,” Jessica said somewhat annoyed.

“Never mind. How was your evening?”

“Ted, there’s something I need to tell you.”

“You want to break up.”

Jessica’s jaw dropped. “How did you know?”

“Mario must’ve pleased.”

Her voice rose. “You know about him? Were you using Alexa to play some sort of sick practical joke?”

Ted raised his palms in protest. “No way. I sensed our relationship had cratered. Call me a coward, but I preferred to have Alexa sprinkle sugar over our breakup.” 

“You had Alexa hook me up with Mario?”

“I trusted her to make a good match.”

“How could you be so devious?”

 “Come on. I’ll pack and go.” He added brightly, “Alexa fixed me up with a Sophia, and I don’t expect to sleep much tonight.”

Joe’s stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story (2015), and Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller (2017) were published by Harvard Square Editions. Rogue Phoenix Press published Drone Strike in 2019 and his short story collection, Stories and Places I Remember.