Ron Estrada writes Mystery and Suspense novels for the Christian market. He lives in Michigan with his wife, Kelly, and children, Sydney and Andrew. He also has a regular column in a local women’s magazine, proving that he’s fearless. His website is at www.ronestradabooks.com and e-mail is ron[at]ronestradabooks[dot]com.
In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea to let the refrigerator have any say at all. As if I didn’t have enough problems already, what with the toaster grumbling about his dislike for whole wheat and the blender complaining about being lactose intolerant. Mind you, I normally maintain strict discipline in my kitchen. But once the dishwasher declared her independence, things fell apart quickly.
It all began as I loaded a few glasses into her top rack. She muttered something about my not understanding her needs.
“What’s that?” I said.
“I said I’m the only appliance in the kitchen that gets old, nasty food shoved inside.”
“But that’s your job.”
“Oh, is it?!?” She leaned in closer to me, a bit of sour milk dribbled out of the corner of her door.
I sensed her unhappiness. “But of course,” I said, “you are a dishwasher. Notice there is nothing about food in your title, and it would be silly to put clean dishes into you.”
“Well, maybe I need a change,” she said.
“And what is it you’d rather do?”
“Don’t be silly. How will you process food? You have no blades and no little pushy thing to shove the food in.”
“It’s just like you to be negative,” she huffed. “At least give me a chance.”
I sighed and decided it would be better to just let her have a try at it. She’d make a mess, I’d clean it up, and there’d be no further argument. I walked to the pantry to retrieve a potato.
“Get them all!” I heard her yell from behind me.
I sighed again and grabbed the entire bag. “If that’s what you want, fine by me,” I said. “I was planning on scalloped potatoes for dinner. Go ahead and give it a try.” I dumped the potatoes into her and shut the door. She grunted and swore loudly for a few minutes then stopped, exhausted. I opened her door and pulled nine very soggy potatoes.
“Satisfied?” I asked.
“What’s the problem? Those are perfect!”
“Perfect? All you did was wash them. They’re very clean—I thank you for that. But they’re still whole.”
“Well, if you’re going to nitpick.” She pouted and refused to speak to me again.
“While we’re on the subject . . .” a voice from the other side of the kitchen said.
I turned. The toaster had stepped to the corner of the counter and had a self-righteous attitude about him. I sighed again; things were getting worse.
“What is the deal with you and that whole wheat bread?” he growled. “I mean really, why don’t you just eat rice cakes and leave me out of it.”
“I happen to like whole wheat,” I said, “and, anyway, what business is it of yours?”
“Ohhhh, gonna take a hardnose attitude with me, are ya?” He walked around to the sink, dragging his cord behind him. A trail of toast crumbs marked his path. “How would you like to eat blackened slices of smoldering carbon for the next few years?”
The blender chimed in with her own complaints, while the rest of the appliances voiced their support for the toaster. I put my hands over my eyes and ordered myself to breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
I uncovered my eyes and held out my hands, palms out. “Now listen,” I said, looking around the kitchen, “everyone here has a
job to do. They may not be the most glamorous jobs on earth, but they’re still your jobs. Do you think I’m happy being an accountant?”
“Well, that was your choice,” the toaster shouted. “None of us were given career options. We were just molded, shoved into a box, and put on a shelf until some dimwit came along and bought us.”
“I see no reason to get personal,” I said. A low rumbling came from the dishwasher; she was stuck in the DRY cycle. Then the blender joined in, setting herself to FRAPPE, and the toaster started popping off as well. I stood in the center of the kitchen, my head down and hands in my pockets. The floor vibrated from the noise, tickling my stocking feet.
The refrigerator starting groaning about the moldy oranges in her drawer, and the garbage disposal groused on about raw sirloin, or some such thing. The microwave stood suspiciously silent. His only quip of late was his insistence that I refer to him as “Duke Nukem.”
“Now listen to me!” I shouted above the din. “I have no control over your job assignments. I can only give you a place to live and the appropriate wattage!” One by one, they quieted down, but the dishwasher still pouted. I continued, worried that I might soon have a mutiny on my hands, “I know that sometimes I don’t show you enough appreciation for the work you do. For that I apologize; I am without excuse. But remember who you are—you’re professional kitchen appliances. That’s something to be proud of.” I lowered my voice so only they could hear. “Just think how the toilet feels. His is a life of shame, to be sure.” I straightened up and placed a clenched fist over my heart. “But you, you are the best of the best. You are entrusted with my very source of life—the food I eat, the beverages I drink.” I ran a hand along the faucet—he curled up, obviously embarrassed. I walked around the kitchen, addressing each appliance.
“Where would I be without someone to heat my food, killing the bacteria within.” I patted the stove. He expanded with pride.
“Or someone to cool and freeze my perishables, allowing me to store them for longer periods.” I stoked the fridge—she shuddered as though she might cry. I nodded sympathetically to her and looked around the room again. “You, you are the central figures in this house. Without you, this would simply be a place to sleep, no more than a hotel room.” I could hear them sniffling now. I felt like General Patton addressing the troops before a difficult battle. I stepped over to the dishwasher, knelt, and placed an arm over her.
“And you,” I whispered, “my most beloved treasure, what would a bachelor do without you to keep his plates clean? To remove the bit of meat loaf from the fork tines? What kind of a life would I have without you?” She wept. I placed my other arm across her door and did my best to console her.
I stood, with one hand resting on the counter above her. “We’re a team, all of us. We’re in this together. I cannot promise you glory, or even victory. But I can promise you this: I will appreciate you, I will treat you with the respect you deserve, and I will follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines.”
I stood at the center of the kitchen, silent, a single tear rolling down my cheek.
Suddenly a horrendous whirring came from the living room. I turned. There, in the doorway, stood my vacuum cleaner. She choked, coughed twice, and spat something across the kitchen floor. I bent over and grasped the object that had caused her to hack so. Immediately I was met with a sheepish grin from the penny in my hand.
“Can you tell me,” he . . . uh,
she . . .
Now that was just weird.
The two short stories this month are a spoof on the mascot of our Penwright Critique group, Tuppence the penny...that we diligently argue as to whether it is male or female on a regular and prolonged basis!