The Case of the Disappearing Dishes - a short story

The Case of the Disappearing Dishes

This may or may not have been inspired by recent events…

She had a mystery on her hands, and desperately needed help. But the police thought she’d cracked under the strain and, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the private eyes had been deemed non-essential. It was ridiculous if you asked her. But no one had. Who cared what a solitary housewife thought?

No, it was up to her to crack the case. The case of the disappearing dishes.

Every night, she loaded up the dishwasher. Everything was accounted for. It was full and ready for a thorough sanitization. After being used by three kids and two adults, they desperately needed a hot bath. Actually, so did she. Unfortunately, the baby was waking again.

She did the tally every morning. Every dish as accounted for. Even the play cup her toddler had snuck in.

She started to put the dishes away, but the husband started calling for her, asking where his socks were (bottom shelf, yellow bin), and he couldn’t find them without her. The dishes would have to wait.

It was always a chore to get everyone dressed, though she now wondered why she bothered. Her husband was working from home and the kids were being educated at home. No one left the house. Ever. She, though, was close to running and screaming out the door.

Breakfast required a pan that never got cold, seven plates, nine forks, and five glasses. They always ate later than they should have, but that’s what happened when everyone was missing a sock, a shirt, or their underwear, which meant online classes for the eight-year-old were about to start and the baby was crying again while the toddler wanted to play kitchen for the sixth time that morning. So, into the sink the dishes went. As well as bits of egg and some dried on cereal.

By mid-morning, the baby was napping and things had calmed down. For the moment, at least. She wandered back into the kitchen, under the guise of needing a glass of water. No one ever seemed to want to be in there with her, so it was something of a sanctuary. The dishwasher was slightly open, so she pulled down the door and reached in to put away a handful of forks.

“Mo-om!”

Well, at least four forks were put away. Now to see what the eight-year-old needed. Hopefully not the multiplication table. The eights always gave her problems.

Lunch involved sandwiches slapped together, and the husband joking that bologna sandwiches could use a bit of mustard. She knew he was trying to lighten the mood; everyone had been cooped up for too long and living on the edge was now normal. But she still wanted to throw her bologna at his face. Especially when everyone but the baby left her to clear five plates, two bowls, four forks, three spoons, and six cups.

“Mommy! Play!”

Well, the dishes could wait in the sink. The toddler needed playing with before the baby needed another changing.

“Yes! I’m done!” And off went the eight-year-old, scrambling over the toddler’s toys to dive for the tablet lying all by its lonesome on the coffee table, just waiting for little hands to stab its screen.

She and the husband switched places: her to go into the bedroom to change the baby’s diaper and him out of the bedroom and into the kitchen for a snack.

Nap time was a welcome distraction. The toddler went down after demanding a book. The baby went down after some songs and soft cooing. The eight-year-old, well, she wished the eight-year-old would still take naps, but eight was a little too old for that. Anyways, that child had technology in hand and no interest in putting it down. She’d have to work on that. One day. When everyone wasn’t cooped up all day every day anymore. She never thought she’d embrace screen time with such open arms before. Would it be too early to shove devices into the hands of the toddler and baby?

It wasn’t always an idle question. Now she ruminated on it while she wandered back into the kitchen, pushing up her sleeves, determined to unload the dishwasher at last.

She was met by the sight of two plates, a glass, a fork, and a knife on the counter. There were a few crumbs, but they definitely could have gone into the sink instead of spread out across two counter tops. She shook her head. She knew what her husband had been up to while she’d been putting the younger kids down for naps.

She opened up the dishwasher and pulled out three bowls. They were safely tucked in the cabinet before the baby started crying. She sighed and closed the dishwasher again.

The eight-year-old demanded chocolate milk and cookies for a snack. She negotiated three cookies and two apple slices with a glass of regular milk. The toddler thought milk and cookies were a good idea, too. The baby, well, the baby just wanted to nurse.

Fifteen minutes and two grouchy kids later, the baby was finally happy to do some tummy time with the eight-year-old while she prepared milk, cookies, and apples.

Except she couldn’t find any plates. She slammed around in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets and checking and re-checking the dish washer. She was frantic. She knew they had plates, and plenty of them. Where had they gone?

Whistling alerted her to her husband’s approach. She turned and came face to face with a happy father and baby. Her heart softened a bit, but she was still frantic. Where were the dishes? Had they up and walked off? Had they gotten tired of constantly being in use by messy eaters? Had she not sanitized them enough with hot enough water? Well, if she was ready to rebel and run screaming from the house, maybe the dishes were as well.

“Snack time?”

She barely spared him a glare before turning back and opening another cabinet.

“Hey, this plate doesn’t look too bad. I can reuse this. Then you’ll have one less dish to put in the dishwasher tonight.”

She whirled around. What? Of all the… She wasn’t the only one capable of loading a dishwasher here.

She caught sight of the sink overflowing with dishes.

Ohhh…

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