Big Three-Cycled Washer: Papa Hemingway Dons The Apron

Sitting down to write seemed a cowardly thing to do when there was so much hell all around me. Everywhere I looked disorder and the raw grit of existence. I would have liked to walk away, deep into the dark and silent woods, but that too would be shirking from duty and what is right.

I would start with the mounting laundry pile that will mock me no more. Into the basket, missed by drunken tosses, to the machine, it was simple and I knew it. No whites; all darks. Decisions:  hot/warm/cold wash? hot/warm/cold rinse? The agony of cycles. What was the use of “delicate”? Who ever chose that pansy setting? Oh. Women. One thing I knew for sure, hot wash, hot rinse, and your darks would bleed like splayed corpses on a battlefield. Cold is best. Always cold wash and rinse, heavy cycle. The true and only way.

On a steady path now, the work begun in earnest. To the deep wide sinks for honest water and soap. Suds white and full of promise before the plunge of greasy plates, glasses, forks and sharp knives to watch out for below that innocent froth. Never spoons. Who uses spoons? Women. I have spoons in my drawer and always will for when they are needed, which is seldom. Need is too strong a word.

It is fine work to scrub a plate, rinse it, place it in order in the rack. Clean is good. Dirty is not bad, for it means you are living, consuming, barging through a life. But glasses hanging upside down on a rack spotless are a bright invitation to drink deep again.

I am ready now for larger challenges that earlier seemed too much. From its dark closet I free the vacuum cleaner, uncoil its slithery cord, plug it to power. Switch flick and it has begun almost without me, but I am never slow to action.

Living room, hall, bedroom. I roll through them not with a false pride or sickening bravado, but steadily and with a man’s unstudied care and sense of duty. Every speck and crumb devoured under my vigilance. Without whining or simpering in martyrdom like a woman, I see this job to the end. My pride is silent and modest, but enough to get me through what is next.

Mop and pail, more suds and effort, these are all good. The kitchen floor changes beneath my manly treatment, from brownish to white-ish, from splotched to true and plain. I do this too with a male’s precision. Anything she can do, I can do better.

A remembrance suddenly sears through my efforts, something I struggle with in the recalling. Move the soggy, limp clothing to the dryer. Choices again. Hot? Warm? Fluff? (Fluff. It’s impossible to live without tripping over the foolery of women everywhere.) Heavy? Perma-press? Who believes in perma-press? My God, fluff and perma-press together? A useless coward’s choice.  

I will not dust today. Perhaps another when I feel stronger and can face the eternal task of the damned. Dust once, dust daily. The weak fall prey continually to this degrading enemy. But for me, today, no. I have won enough battles this day. Later, another day, the dust and also that which I have not named, the last inexorable contest: the bathroom.

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