“I’m not doing the dishes. It’s not my turn!” Sean’s voice was louder than he intended, but he was serious.
“Dad said you were supposed to help me,” I argued, my voice escalating as loud as his.
My brother and I were having the same repetitious argument that occurred like clockwork every Sunday after our family dinner. It was winter and because he wasn’t helping dad out in the fields or in the barn, Sean’s job was to help my sister and me with the dishes.
There was a little singsong, “I don’t have to help, na na na na boo boo.” Sean and I both looked at our little sister, Jeannie, in disgust. Because she helped Mom set the table, she was exempt from this distasteful chore.
Mom made lasagna. Of course, it was the best lasagna in the world, but it also left the messiest dishes to clean. I was always the washer while my other siblings cleaned the table, dried, and put away.
“If we had a new dishwasher, we wouldn’t have to worry about it,” I yelled loud enough so my parents could hear me. Dad was watching a Brown’s football game and Mom had settled down with a book.
“We have three dishwashers that work perfectly well without costing a thing,” my dad yelled back.
Sean and I rolled our eyes at each other. Jeannie again chimed in, “I don’t have to help, na na na na boo boo.”
Sean chased her out of the kitchen, and her squeals brought an unwanted reaction from my dad who was missing a touchdown. “Dang it, I told you kids to clean the kitchen, now be quiet and do it.”
He meant business, so we worked quietly for a short time. That was until Sean threw an unscraped plate into the sink, the red tomato sauce rising in rivulets in the dishwater.
“Sean, scrape the dishes better!” To punctuate the order, I elbowed him in the side.
“Don’t hit me!”
“Then do it right!”
“I did do it right, you just don’t like the way I did it. You think you’re Mom and can boss everyone around.”
The argument proceeded to get louder and louder and escalated to flipping dishtowels and throwing soapsuds. It was totally out of hand.
My dad walked into the kitchen, his face red and angry. Sean and I both stood at attention at the definite look of displeasure in Dad’s expression and knew that we were about to be toast. He had definitely had enough.
“I told both of you to be quiet and do those dishes. There is no reason why a fifteen-minute job should take an hour of yelling and screaming and fighting. I…”
Off came one of his smelly socks. “Have had….”
Off came another sock, “ENOUGH!”
To our utter horror, Dad stuffed one of his icky sweaty socks in my mouth and the other in my brother’s. “Now, you will keep those in there until every one of those dishes are done.”
We both nodded our heads and did the dishes in record time with unusual solidarity and efficient teamwork, despite the gagging, hacking, and tears streaming down our faces.
This is a true story. My dad really did do this. I have to admit, it was borderline brilliant (and extremely disgusting).