My wife poked her head around the door of my basement office and imparted another last minute instruction. "And remember, the dark colors go in a separate load."
I peered over the curled edge of my newspaper and shot her a totally confident look. "Of course, Dear. No problem." A quick flick and the newspaper once more cocooned me in my impenetrable shelter of oblivion, though part of me was aware of receding footsteps and the closing of the front door.
"Where are those box scores" I mumbled while fighting through the newspaper car ads. The house was quiet, my robe and coffee warm. All was well. Today I was going to finish writing that tricky third chapter. This new arrangement of her working while I wrote and took care of the house had real potential.
My stomach alarm rang and I strode out of my office, mind keenly focused on hunting down some lunch. Turning the corner, I stubbed my toe on the overflowing clothes hamper. "Damn!" My throat tightened with guilt, instantly overshadowing the pain in my toe. I checked my watch. Good, I still had time to get it done before the wife got home. The guilt subsided.
I set up several clothesbaskets and the sorting began. "Who cares. Underwear. Careful. Who cares. Who cares. Careful. Underwear"…
I had, in my extreme wisdom, come up with a more simplified way of sorting laundry than the convoluted method explained to me by my wife. Clothing really fell into three classes. Things that would get me into trouble if they were ruined - the wife's sweaters, and embroidered shirts. Things that should get a good wash in hot water - underwear and socks. And things that I didn't care about — her gardening jeans, my work clothes, old shirts and the occasional tee-shirt/rag. (How something was determined to be a shirt or a rag depended solely on who was asked - if me, it was my favorite shirt - if her, it was a rag.)
I decided to do the "Who cares" group first. It was the largest load and would take the longest to dry. Forcing the last pair of jeans into the tub, I wondered if the washer lid would close and was rewarded by a satisfying click after only three hard pushes. Reaching for the dial (there's no remote control for a washer) I was confronted by many choices: cold wash, cold rinse, cold wash, warm rinse, warm wash, cold rinse, etc. Then there was normal wash, delicate wash, knit, permanent press, again etc. The choices seemed infinite but I inhaled deeply and got a grip. I could do this. I was a sentient being with a modicum of intelligence. I could decide what was best. I was in control.
I closed my eyes and spun the dial. The sound of rushing water bolstered my confidence. I stepped back, hands on hips, elated by my success. It was then my eyes were drawn to the shelf above the washer. Soap! I forgot to put in soap!
There were seventeen different types of laundry soap on the shelf. A quick scan of several boxes convinced me there was really no difference between these products. Wondering why she had them all, I poured a sprinkle from each box into the washer.
In the time it took to root through the refrigerator for lunch, I heard the running water stop and the washer begin to chug. I nodded knowingly - this wasn't so hard.
After a pickle-hardboiled-egg-mustard-mayo-sandwich-with-coffee lunch, I was back at my keyboard refereeing the clash between creativity and correct literary structure.
I re-read my last sentence, took a sip of cold coffee and realized the house was silent. The soothing chug-chug lullaby of the washing machine had ceased. Damn! Why didn't they put a buzzer on those things to let you know they were finished.
Stepping into the laundry room, my sock-covered foot sank into a puddle of soapy water. Stunned, I stared at the water-covered floor. Machine malfunction? The telltale soap foam covering the washer did the math for me.
Water pouring into an already jammed-full washing machine must go somewhere. The clothing will not absorb all the water. One plus one equals a mess.-
Standing in cold, soapy water feeling stupid was upsetting, so I armored myself before doing battle with this hydra. Several minutes later I was ready for combat dressed in a tee shirt, jeans and chest-high fishing waders. Overkill, possibly, but they were the closest thing I could find to boots. I considered the laundry before beginning the mop and bucket work. The dryer was bigger and would certainly hold all the wash, so I shouldn't encounter the same problem. I loaded and started the dryer. Its mind-numbing sound made the mopping easier.
An hour later the floor was sparkling clean and almost dry. A harsh buzzer wrenched me away from proudly gazing at the dazzling floor. The dryer had finished. I glanced at my watch — this was going to be close. Reaching in, I felt still-moist clothing! Another malfunction or - wait, she had said something about the lint trap. I pulled out the trap and a large hedge of blue lint exploded from the machine. Sneezing, I yanked off enough blue fuzz to make a small doormat.
I checked my watch and sighed. I'd never get the rest finished. Time for drastic action. Piling everything into leaf trash bags, I headed for the local laundry. This went well. There were washers and dryers aplenty. Starting the rest of the wash in several machines, I distributed the wet clothes among twelve dryers so they would finish more rapidly. Now all I had to do was wait - and try not to draw the attention of the strange man in the corner who seemed to want a hug.
It was done. I made it back to the house with fifteen minutes to spare. It only cost me twenty bucks and an unfinished third chapter. I settled down into my chair hoping to get some writing accomplished but it was not to be. I heard the front door open and my wife's cheery hello.
"Down here!" I answered. Rising from my chair I gave my keyboard a wistful look and headed to my office door. She walked slowly down the stairs, staring at the laundry folded neatly and stacked in baskets, her face filled with wonder.
"You remembered the laundry!"
I shrugged as if it was no big thing. Then she noticed the floor.
"And you washed the floor, too!"
Again I shrugged. "I had the time."
She beamed a wide smile. "You are a domestic god!"
"Yes, I am," I replied, standing a little straighter.
Turning, she headed back up the stairs pausing only to ask over her shoulder, "What did you make for dinner?"
"Dinner?"