THE NEW EVE
Until the shoe shop burned down, no one suspected Adam Teargarden to be anything other than the dumpy, forty-five-year old owner, manager, and salesman in loco of Teargarden's Discount Shoe Shop on Anne Street in Dublin. Nothing about his short, soft body, or pastry-colored, vacant face suggested genius. His pale blue eyes emitted no spark of intelligence which, as far as Adam was concerned, perfectly suited the vast majority of empty-headed human beings whose paths crossed his.
For all Adam's genius, or perhaps because of it, he'd done poorly in school, so his father, smoking his life away in the back of The Teargarden Shoe Shop trying to manipulate the books to make ends meet, put Adam to work selling overpriced, poorly made, fake designer shoes, rejecting Adam's assertion that no-one wanted to pay exorbitant amounts of money for shoes that gave them bleeding blisters and cramping toes.
When emphysema finally killed the old man, Adam added 'discount' to the shop's name, filled it with factory seconds, lowered prices, held frequent sales, gave out cards that offered customers who bought ten pairs of shoes, an eleventh pair for one euro.
Business picked up, enabling Adam to purchase an immaculate, little two-bedroom bungalow on a private street in Mount Merrion, a suburb of Dublin. The bungalow's main attraction for Adam was its large, windowless basement. Here, he set up soldering stations, test equipment, shelves of computer components, and miles of wiring, all part of his plan to create Paradise.
The anticipation of Paradise was the only thing that kept him from going stark, raving bonkers during the day. He loathed every minute he had to spend in his shoe shop, considering the selling of shoes added nothing to the advancement of mankind and served no useful purpose other than to fund the materials for his enterprise. He served his customers from behind a wall of detachment, viewing most of them as brain-dead, if not completely deranged.
"Is it all right to wear black shoes with a green dress?"
"It's up to you."
"I read that square toes were better for your feet than pointed ones."
"Whichever you like."
"I think these are a little tight across the instep."
"It's you're feet in there, not mine."
He loathed feet, especially women customer's feet. A woman's foot should be dainty; slender, narrow little things, with high instep, perfectly aligned toes, and smooth heels. Instead - probably from wearing the very overpriced, poorly made, fake designer shoes his father sold them, stupid cows - women's toes came bunched up against one another, the nails distorted, the foot itself barely recognizable with bunions, corns, and lumps of hardened, yellow skin.
For Adam, the notion of touching this mutant flesh gave him the shudders, and he wore white gloves to slide shoes on and off during a fitting.
His women customers additionally got on his nerves him by not only expecting him to ease their hideous appendages in and out of completely asinine footwear, but to also make up their endlessly waffling minds for them.
"I think the blue ones, don't you? The red are a bit flashy."
"Do you want to try on the blue ones - again?"
"I can get away with a five and a half, since these are open at the toes, though I normally wear six?"
"I couldn't advise you on that."
Personally speaking, the sight of her cigar-shaped big-toe with its yellow, thickened nail thrusting out of the front of the bone-colored dress-shoe turned his stomach. She'd have been better off in a pair of hobnailed boots.
He could tell a lot about a women by the kind of shoe she wore. Dressy high heels fancied herself, expected to be taken expensive places - no fish and chips and a pint in a pub for her - toes invariably warped from tottering around on razor-thin stilettos. Sandal types dragged their feet, slouched about in jeans or scruffy shorts, slapped on crimson nail polish thinking it gave them a come-hither look, but all it did was hide the line of dirt under the nails. Ms. Flat Pump's personality generally matched her footwear, and were worn to minimize the appearance of overgrown bunions.
Women and their feet were the major reason Adam never married and provided him with the inspiration for his life's work - applying his genius to create the new Eve.
Every day, on the dot of half-past five, Adam escorted the last of his customers out the shop door, locked up, tidied away the detritus of the day's onslaught, turned out the lights and caught the bus that would take him home to his cool, private laboratory where his ticket to Paradise was being forged..
It had taken twenty years to create Eve, twenty years of deprivation and fatigue, defeat and despair he'd ever get her right, trying out this component and that one, this energy source and that one, staying up all night soldering complex circuitry, installing chips and memory banks, playing around with high-speed bus lines, constantly having to upgrade her memory, testing, programming, reprogramming, testing again.
Twenty years of working himself into trembling exhaustion, groping through the day in dark-eyed weariness, driven mad by his blithering customers; yapping women with their racketing children, impatient to get home, throw a TV dinner in the microwave, and hunker down in the basement. Hours of instruction, talking himself hoarse, step by step, building into Eve a huge log of information, precise, sequential, logical, bearing the instructions she needed to cook, clean, launder, and make him the center of her existence, all without question or complaint because, unlike God's mistake with the first Eve, Adam withheld from the new Eve the power of speech.
Well, of course, he made her beautiful. Why not? While it was true, he was a brilliant, self-taught, robotics engineer, he was also a man, with all a man's secret desires.
Eve's peachy skin cost vast amounts of money, time, nerves, hours of patient experiment to get the perfect velvety covering for her firm, rounded limbs. He pored over every inch of it, smoothing, stretching, positioning until it was absolutely flawless.
He gave Eve Marilyn Monroe's build, using as template the photograph of Marilyn standing over the grate, her white dress billowing around her; firm, size thirty-eight breasts, nipples like tiny rosebuds, a waist he could span with his hands, compact, rounded buttocks, long, slender legs.
He spent hours designing her face, making drawing after drawing to get just the right placement of cheekbones, the wide, slightly tilted, sparkling, violet eyes with their long, curved eyelashes - a bit blank in expression but, he reasoned, you couldn't have everything - the straight little nose, the flaxen, shining hair curling softly about her shoulders, and the pouty Marilyn Monroe mouth; sweetly shaped, full lips, behind which lurked a pliant, moist tongue, designed for purposes other than the ingestion of food.
Twenty years during which he lost weight, suffered from insomnia, developed ulcers, during which at least once a week, he decided Paradise wasn't worth it. He severed all social contacts so that acquaintances believed he'd died and the few relatives he had said he'd gone queer in the head and left him alone.
And then, one day, all the hours of calculation and re-calculation, all the meticulous instructions, the detailed programming, the complex circuitry, the tweaking of this and that ended and the new Eve stepped forth, fully formed, batting long lashes, gliding about smoothly on cue, unhesitatingly performing every task for which she'd been programmed - and transforming Adam's life.
She kept his bungalow neat, shining, orderly, greeted him at the door on his return each evening, took his coat, led him into the living-room, sat him down on the sofa. Slippers. Newspaper. Martini. Telly on. Within a half hour, time enough to shake off the day's irritations and finish the martini, she led him to the dining area, seating him at an elegant table, with glowing candles and classical music playing softly in the background, and serving him entrée, main dish, salad, dessert, coffee, all marvelous to look at and tantalizing to the palate. No conversation, no fussing at him if it was all right, was he sure he liked it, she could always cook him something else? Just smooth, precise, faultless, silent service.
When he indicated he was done, Eve led him back to the living-room, settled him on the sofa again, put the telly back on, and went off to clear the table and wash the dishes.
Replete and content, Adam watched telly, dozed, or read the paper, until Eve returned to sit in the arm chair, eyes on him, alert for further cues.
Early on, he took her to bed and used the vagina he'd given her, moist and pliant like her tongue, to satisfy himself but, after a time, feeling this method brutish and unnervingly intimate, he switched to having Eve kneel at his feet and wrap her warm, wet tongue around him, grateful he didn't have to concern himself with giving her pleasure and satisfaction.
As idyllic month passed idyllic month, he asked Eve turn off the television early, so he could do something he'd never done before - talk about himself.
He told her about his day, expressing his endless frustration with the shoe shop, like the idiot woman who sent him on a search of the back storage area for a pair of size four in the backless, white dress shoes she'd removed from his display. When he told her he absolutely had no size four in that particular shoe, she triumphantly waved the display shoe, saying it was, in fact, a size four and all she wanted was the other one. Then mother and thirteen-year old daughter stormed in, engaging in a running row about style, color, comfort, suitability.
"So, when Mama says, quite correctly, those shoes aren't suitable for school, little snot nose comes back with everyone's wearing them, so then, of course, spineless Mama tries to get me involved, they aren't suitable for school, are they, Mr. Teargarden? I wasn't born yesterday. I said what I always say in those situations - Do you wish me to show you something else? Little missy butts in, I'm thirteen years old. I can wear what I like. You're not old enough for a heel that high. Isn't that right, Mr. Teargarden? Do you wish me to show you something else? Of course, the sulky little brat left with the shoes she wanted in the first place. People like that shouldn't be allowed to breed."
To his surprise, in the telling, Adam discovered he had hopes and disappointments, dreams and private terrors, things about the world that drove him crazy. Eve listened quietly, never interrupting, never suggesting he was being silly or unreasonable, never expressing horror over his urge to take some of his customers into his back room and throttle them, never scolding him that he should be grateful to make such a decent living when so many couldn't. She never fidgeted, or offered advice, or looked bored. Occasionally, something whirred inside her, relays clicked, as if she was sorting through his words to see if they contained a cue. Mostly, she just sat there, her lovely eyes on him, listening intently.
Emptied of words, he had her to turn out all the lights and fetch a candle from the dining table.
With the bungalow in darkness, except for the softly, flickering candle, curtains drawn, the classical music replaced by easy listening, he had her lie on the sofa with him, legs extended, presenting him with those parts of her upon which he'd lavished the full breadth of his brilliance - her feet.
They were exquisite; skin like whipped butter, each toe perfectly aligned with its neighbour, narrow, high arches, silken heels. Adam programmed her to go barefoot so as not to risk damage to such perfection and allow unfettered view of his masterpieces.
With her feet in his lap, Adam spent a long time exploring them, turning each lovely foot over in his hands, stroking each perfectly formed digit, smoothing his fingers around the narrow insteps, caressing the silky heels. Where other men wanted the whole woman exposed to their rapacious gaze, Adam was completely enraptured by the sight of Eve's gorgeous, little toes.
She was able to open his pants with her gorgeous, little toes, maneuver him out, and stroke and tickle him with her supple digits, rubbing him between silken soles, using the toes of one foot to gently insert him between the big toe and slender neighbour of the other foot, engulfing him in waves of delicious sensation, causing him to groan no and stop, but these were not commands he'd taught Eve to recognize, so she ignored him and continued to stroke, tickle, and rub, bringing him to a slow, deliberate, intense, heart-pounding, breath-stopping release.
It often took him twenty minutes to recover. Adam filled a basin with warm, scented water and tenderly bathed the beautiful appendages that had given him such pleasure, cleaning them of his ecstatic emission, gently washing them, patting them dry with the softest of towels, scattering a tiny, dusting of baby talcum powder over them.
Then, off to sleep. While he brushed his teeth, splashed water over his face and used the toilet, Eve turned back his bed, laid out his clothes for the morning, seated herself in the chair by his pillow. Nothing left to do but detach the small Powerpak he'd installed in the back of her head concealed by her silken hair, plug it into the outlet to recharge, and fall into deep and dreamless slumber.
In the morning, Powerpak restored, Eve swiftly and silently prepared and served a breakfast of tea, cornflakes, bacon, eggs and toast. She then stood by the door while Adam programmed her for the day's chores and menu and headed off to the shoe shop, humming to himself because only he knew his infallible genius had produced the perfect woman; stunning, silent, sufficient unto herself, giving all and asking nothing.
He kept her well hidden. He'd programmed her to never go outside. He invited no one to his bungalow, snubbed inquisitive neighbours, plastered signs on all the doors; NO SALESMEN, NO CHARITIES, CALL AFTER SEVEN ONLY, HOUSE FULLY ALARMED.
In the bliss of home life, Adam put on weight. His ulcers quieted and he became gentler with his customers, sympathetic to the wretchedness of their chaotic lives. He pitied men their whining, complaining, mortal wives and snivelling, demanding, mortal progeny when he had Paradise.
There was the occasion he came home to find Eve lying in the middle of the living-room floor in a tangle of limbs, her violet eyes staring fixedly at the ceiling. All the wallpaper had been ripped off the walls, the furniture, including the TV, thrown about, the lighting fixtures smashed. Adam couldn't for the life of him imagine what programming glitch could have prompted her to go into such a frenzy.
He spent two months carefully taking Eve through her sequence of instructions, reprogramming her one byte at a time, concealing her in a cupboard while the living-room was being re-wallpapered, the furniture repaired and new lighting fixtures installed, explaining to the puzzled workmen the bungalow had been broken into and vandalized.Eve returned to her usual, compliant, efficient self and, as months of happiness passed, Adam took the incident to be an aberration caused by the profound complexity of her design.
Then, he found her sitting under the kitchen table, holding aloft a casserole containing the most fragrant, appetizing beef stroganoff Adam had ever tasted, except he hadn't programmed her to make beef stroganoff. She'd drawn spiraling patterns on the walls in ketchup, made waves on the floor in oil, formed squares and triangles with vegetables, and left the pale, perfect circles of a meticulously sliced onion hanging from the light switch, the refrigerator door handle, the overhead lighting.
Gritting his teeth, he put her main drives through intensive defragging and cleanup, patiently reprogramming her again, tested the Powerpak to make sure it was charging properly at night.
The rigor of the work cost him sleep. His ulcers kicked up. He had difficulty concentrating at the shop because of the nagging worry of what he might find when he got home.
Never in a million years could he have foreseen she'd tear a tablecloth into strips to tie bows through her hair, or greet him at the door stark naked, or get into his clothes, snarling herself so badly in one of his neckties, he had to use scissors to cut her loose.
She became imaginative with her feet, teasing him with light touches, gently massaging his testicles, smoothing her heel up and down his scrotum, reducing him to a helpless gibber, stretching things out until he begged for release, then stretching them out even more until he heard himself howling like a desperate wolf, no longer human, unable to stop himself, any more than he could stop her.
He knew her programming was getting away from him. He knew he should run through her entire sequence of instructions to find the errors, but the thought of the hours of mind-draining effort it would take left him sagging.
He still had an immaculate home, beautifully served, delicious meals, a strikingly lovely, silent mate, and the kind of sex life most men would kill for.
He made the odd small sortie to regain control. When she served him chicken parmesan instead of the roast pork he'd instructed her that morning to prepare, he scolded. "Eve, I checked your instructions. I asked you to prepare roast pork, baked potatoes, apple sauce, and sprouts."
She batted those long eyelashes at him, whipped the chicken parmesan into the kitchen, dumped it into the sink and, in spite of his commands no and stop, set about preparing the roast pork. He got nothing to eat until eight that night and was much too upset to enjoy the meal.
When he tried to relax with The Eastenders, instead of taking her place in the armchair to await her next cut, Eve shattered him by sliding onto the couch next to him and pressing her feet into his lap.
He leapt up with a yowl, tumbling her to the floor, where she lay a full fifteen minutes, before getting up, gliding down the hall into the bedroom and slamming the door after her.
When he shambled to bed, he discovered her sitting, blank-eyed, in the chair by his pillow, having snapped out the Powerpak and plugged it into the outlet herself.
Rocked by this new show of independence, Adam tottered back to the living-room where he dozed on the couch in front of the flickering TV, waking with a start to find her seated in the armchair, Powerpak restored, gazing at him.
He became distracted at work, bringing black shoes to a customer who'd asked for brown, confusing prices, offering a man a pair of pink ballet pumps. He no longer tidied up at the end of the day, so that the shop became a litter of shoes, boxes, tissue paper, lumps of gum stuck to the chairs. Cigarette butts piled in his doorway.
He found Eve walking around outside, being ogled by the lout next door. He hustled her into the house and went into a prancing tirade. How dare she disobey him? How dare she go outside? Where was his dinner? Why wasn't the house clean? If she ever disobeyed him again, he'd shut off her Powerpak. Actually, that seemed the logical thing to do.
Until he remembered, if he shut off her Powerpak, he'd have to do his own cleaning and laundry. No more being waited on hand and foot, no more tantalizing meals, no more unburdening himself in the evening, no more lovely feet to console him after a days' ugliness. His whole life had gone into making Eve. He'd given up everything for her. He was supposed to just shut her off?
He stopped giving her instructions in the morning. There seemed little point, since Eve did whatever she wanted, regardless, and he avoided touching her feet after the occasion she brought him to his usual state of quivering jelly, then hiked up her skirt and slammed herself onto him, thrusting and twisted until he erupted inside her with a frantic scream.
The shoe shop fell into chaos with customers cheating him left and right, slipping shoes into their pockets, tipping shoeboxes onto the floor. Children ran around yelling, women fought over footwear, rolling on the floor, pulling out at each other's hair. His books no longer balanced. He staggered home at the end of the day, weak and dizzy.
He arrived one morning to find the shop a crumpled heap of charred timbers, black smoke oozing from the remains, dripping firemen standing around, shaking their heads. The insurance company declared the place a total loss and told him not to expect a penny in compensation until the cause of the fire had been established. It looked suspicious to them.
With nowhere to go and nothing to do, Adam crawled home, where his dazzling Eve met him at the door, clearly puzzled about what to do with this early return.
"Go and sit down," he told her. He couldn't stand her hovering over him but, as she walked away, he felt all the blood drain out of his head. His lips turned blubbery with fright. The room began to pitch, sending him reeling into the wall. On her feet, encasing his incomparable works of art, appeared a pair of hideous, shiny black shoes aglitter with mirror bits.
He pointed a quaking finger, "Where did you get those? Didn't I tell you never to wear shoes?"
Shoes? Oh, my God. Shoes. In the bedroom closet, he found the rest, a cascade of black, brown, putty-colored high-heels, green, blue, white flats, even tiny white and pink baby sneakers. He recognized them all and sank to the floor with a moan.
Eve glided in, picked him up and carried him to the living-room, laying him on the sofa. He didn't move for hours, while she served him frothy omelets, velvety desserts, faultless martinis, rubbed him with her flexible feet. Nothing galvanized him.
She picked him up and carried him to the bedroom, undressed him, put him into bed, took off her own clothes and slid in beside him.
Adam's heart went thumpa, thumpa, thumpa. He sweated. He tried to scream, but his throat wouldn't open. Eve eased nearer. Adam's heart beat out a frantic tattoo; thumpathumpathumpa. "Go away." he croaked. "You've ruined my life. I can't live with you. I can't live without you. Go away or I'll shut off your Powerpak."
Eve began to vibrate, and she slid her hand between his thighs, stroking, tickling.
He groaned. "All right. I won't shut off your Powerpak. It wouldn't do any good anyway, would it?"
He wailed, "I've been cast out off Paradise. What sin did I commit?"
Something inside Eve went click. Clicka, clicka, tocka, tocka, chugga, chugga, clack. A great sigh blew from those Marilyn Monroe lips. "It's good," she whispered, rolling on top of him, easing him inside her, gently clamping those taut, perfectly rounded hips around him. "It's good, and so, now, you can rest."