The Perfect Woman Robert Sheckley
Mr. Morcheck awoke with a sour taste in his mouth and a laugh ringing
in his ears. It was George Owen-Clark's laugh, the last thing he
remembered from the Triad-Morgan party. And what a party it had
been! All Earth had been celebrating the turn of the century. The year
Three Thousand! Peace and prosperity to all, and happy life....
"How happy is your life?" Owen-Clark had asked, grinning slyly, more
than a little drunk. "I mean, how is life with your sweet wife?"
That had been unpleasant. Everyone knew that Owen-Clark was a
Primitivist, but what right had he to rub people's noses in it? Just
because he had married a Primitive Woman....
"I love my wife," Morcheck had said stoutly. "And she's a hell of a lot
nicer and more responsive than that bundle of neuroses you call your
But of course, you can't get under the thick hide of a Primitivist.
Primitivists love the faults in their women as much as their virtues--
more, perhaps. Owen-Clark had grinned ever more slyly, and said,
"You know, Morcheck old man, I think your wife needs a checkup.
Have you her noticed her reflexes lately?"
Insufferable idiot! Mr. Morcheck eased himself out of bed, blinking at
the bright morning sun which hid behind his curtains. Myra's reflexes--
the hell of it was, there was a gem of truth in what Owen-Clark had
said. Of late, Myra had seemed rather out of sorts.
"Myra!" Morcheck called. "Is my coffee ready?" There was a pause.
Then her voice floated brightly upstairs "In a minute!"
Morcheck slid into a. pair of slacks, still blinking sleepily. Thank Stat
the next three days were celebration-points. He'd need all of them just
to get over last night's party.
Downstairs, Myra was bustling around, pouring coffee, folding
napkins, pulling out his chair for him. He sat down, and she kissed him
on his bald spot. He liked being kissed on his bald spot.
"How's my little wife this morning?" he asked.
"Wonderful, darling," she said after a little pause. "I made Seffiners for
you this morning. You like Seffiners."
Morcheck bit into one, done to a turn, and sipped his coffee.
"How do you feel this morning?" he asked her.
Myra buttered a piece of toast for him, then said, "Wonderful, darling.
You know, it was a perfectly wonderful party last night. I loved every
moment of it."
"I got a little bit veery," Morcheck said with a wry grin.
"I love you when you're veery," Myra said. "You talk like an angel--
like a very clever angel, I mean. I could listen to you forever." She
buttered another piece of toast for him.
Mr. Morcheck beamed on her like a benignant sun, then frowned. He
put down his Seffiner and scratched his cheek. "You know," he said, "I
had a little ruck-in with Owen-Clark. He was talking about Primitive
Myra buttered a fifth piece of toast for him without answering, adding
it to the growing pile. She started to reach for a sixth, but he touched
her hand lightly. She bent forward and kissed him on the nose.
"Primitive Women!" she scoffed. "Those neurotic creatures! Aren't
you happier with me, dear? I may be Modern--but no Primitive
Woman could love you the way I do--and I adore you!"
What she said was true. Man had never, in all recorded history, been
able to live happily with unreconstructed Primitive Woman. The
egoistic, spoiled creatures demanded a lifetime of care and attention. It
was notorious that Owen-Clark's wife made him dry the dishes. And
the fool put up with it! Primitive Women were forever asking for
money with which to buy clothes and trinkets, demanding breakfast in
bed, dashing off to bridge games, talking for hours on the telephone,
and Stat knows what else. They tried to take over men's jobs.
Ultimately, they proved their equality.
Some idiots like Owen-Clark insisted on their excellence.
Under his wife's enveloping love, Mr. Morcheck felt his hangover seep
slowly away. Myra wasn't eating. He knew that she had eaten earlier,
so that she could give her full attention to feeding him. It was little
things like that that made all the difference.
"He said your reaction time had slowed down."
"He did?" Myra asked, after a pause. "Those Primitives think they
It was the right answer, but it had taken too long. Morcheck asked his
wife a few more questions, observing her reaction time by the second
hand on the kitchen clock. She was slowing up!
"Did the mail come?" he asked her quickly. "Did anyone call? Will I
be late for work?"
After three seconds she opened her mouth, then closed it again.
Something was terribly wrong.
"I love you," she said simply.
Mr. Morcheck felt his heart pound against his ribs. He loved her!
Madly, passionately! But that disgusting Owen-Clark bad been right.
She needed a checkup. Myra seemed to sense his thought. She rallied
perceptibly, and said, "All I want is your happiness, dear. I think I'm
sick. ...Will you have me cured? Will you take me back after I'm
cured--and not let them change me--I wouldn't want to be changed!"
Her bright head sank on her arms. She cried--noiselessly, so as not to
"It'll just be a checkup, darling," Morcheck said, trying to hold back his
own tears. But he knew--as well as she knew--that she was really sick.
It was so unfair, he thought. Primitive Woman, with her coarse mental
fiber, was almost immune to such ailments. But delicate Modern
Woman, with all her finely balanced sensibilities, was all too prone. So
monstrously unfair! Because Modern Woman contained all the finest,
dearest qualities of femininity.
Myra rallied again. She raised herself to her feet with an effort. She
was very beautiful. Her sickness had put a high color in her cheeks, and
the morning sun highlighted her hair.
"My darling," she said. "Won't you let me stay a little longer? I may
recover by myself." But her eyes were fast becoming unfocused.
"Darling . . ." She caught herself quickly, holding on to an edge of the
table. "When you have a new wife--try to remember how much I loved
you." She sat down, her face blank.
"I'll get the car," Morcheck murmured, and hurried away. Any longer
and he would have broken down himself.
Walking to the garage he felt numb, tired, broken. Myra--gone! And
modern science, for all its great achievements, unable to help.
He reached the garage and said, "All right, back out." Smoothly his car
backed out and stopped beside him.
"Anything wrong, boss?" his car asked. "You look worried. Still got a
"No--it's Myra. She's sick."
The car was silent for a moment. Then it said softly, "I'm very sorry,
Mr. Morcheck. I wish there was something I could do."
"Thank you," Morcheck said, glad to have a friend at this hour. "I'm
afraid there's nothing anyone can do."
The car backed to the door and Morcheck helped Myra inside. Gently
the car started.
It maintained a delicate silence on the way back to the factory.