A small cereal bowl and a spoon huddled in the dark corner of the sink. “We don’t mean any harm,” they said.

“Likely story.” I whipped out my dishrag, ready to pounce with soap and three minutes, but my phone rang. My boss needed an email, and he couldn’t wait. I plunked down at my office desk and typed out the details.

When I returned to the kitchen, the bowl and spoon had colluded and brought in a large plate crusted with pie remains. I sighed. “I should’ve known better.”

“Yeah,” the pie plate said. “Yeah, that’s right! We’re growing! And I’m gonna need a soak, so you can’t clean me right away! What’re you gonna do about that, huh? Huh?”

“Shut up.” The cereal bowl nudged the pie plate and turned back to me. “He didn’t mean anything by it. He’s new. Stupid. You can go back to work; we won’t bother you.”

I glared at them. The pie plate had touched on a truth I dared not speak out loud. “I’m coming for you on my lunch break, you hear? Don’t get comfortable.”

“Yeah, you better run,” the pie plate said.

More emails and meetings ensued, and an angry customer who needed a talk down from me, the representative. Lunch slunk past like a circling wolf, and I had no time to chase it off. I dreaded trekking back to the kitchen, but I needed a clean cup just to drink some water. Had I drunk water yet today? Ugh. I tiptoed in.

Chaos. Destruction. The dishes had bred like rabbits, overflowing the sink with a scrambled egg pan, a smoothie-coated blender, some particularly hostile-looking forks, and more cups than any one person could have used in a day’s time. No clean cups.

They all spun towards me in one eerie motion, rattling and clanging, the butter knives sticking upright in unnecessary obscene gestures. A full-on infestation. The pie plate, its voice echoing underneath everything else, said, “Watcha gonna do now? Huh? Huh?”

“Yeah,” the scrambled egg pan drawled. “You fixing for a fight?”

I swallowed. I slipped out my phone, typed, “Epic cleaning playlist,” and pushed the volume all the way up.  

Music blasted from my phone, and the dishes all cringed. “What is this?” the scrambled egg pan said.

“I know this song,” the cereal bowl, the oldest of the dishes, quivered, from underneath the nest of procrastination. “It’s—it’s—”

I grabbed a plate off the top of the teetering pile. “It’s Disney, bitch!” And not even caring, not even rinsing because soon they’d leap to cling to me and try to drag me down, I slated it into the dishwasher.

“No!” the plate said. “I’m not even dirty, I just jumped in to join the party—”

I grabbed the next one, bolstered by the upbeat tune, and the next and the next, shaking off the utensils that glommed on to my arm. The scrambled egg pan growled a warning, but I didn’t touch him yet. Not when I had momentum on my side. I snatched the cereal bowl that had started this whole destructive spiral and fit it in between a pair of clamoring mugs, and then I turned to the scrambled egg pan.

“Now, see here,” it said. “No need to get all fussy. Just a friendly party, is all we wanted. Just to stay in the sink and hang out, is that so bad? You could walk away, and just sit on the couch right now—”

I flicked on the hot water and drizzled soap on it. The pan bubbled and frothed, but the egg scabs refused to budge. The upbeat song strengthened my drive. I scrubbed, and scrubbed, and the other dishes, held back by the dishwasher prongs, screeched in unison. Their hive mind had a queen and I’d found it.

It glistened and sparkled in the last bits of sun spilling over the sink. “Well, hello,” the clean pan said. “I’m so glad to be back. I don’t like being controlled.”

I sighed in relief and started the dishwasher. The screaming from within didn’t deter me, but then something clinked in the sink.

The same spoon from that morning huddled in the corner. “I don’t mean any harm,” it said, trembling.

I grabbed it and washed it by hand. “No more,” I said. “No mercy.”

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