Out of nowhere, sometime in May, our dishwasher stopped washing the dishes. Mom called a repairman, and when he looked the machine over, he said that what we’d been told was a fairly new dishwasher (when we moved in two years ago), was actually on its last legs. But, he could replace a few bits and pieces and give us another year of use, if we wanted. Mom wasn’t sure what to do. Should we buy a whole new dishwasher, or squeeze out another year with this one? The decision was made when he told her that the fee for the diagnosis of the dishwasher would be put towards the cost of repair, if we did the repair. Otherwise we’d be out that money, plus all of the costs that would come with a new dishwasher.
What Mom didn’t tell me, because she didn’t know, was that it would end up taking three or four weeks before the new parts even arrived, and only then would we be able to make an appointment to have the repairman back to fix the dishwasher.
I’d forgotten all about drying racks, and how water pools on plates and bowls when they dry right side up on the counter. I’d forgotten how much I hate washing dishes, and how leaning over the sink makes my back feel like it’s being stabbed with cleavers. And I’d forgotten how much panic I can feel about a strange man coming into the apartment.
I don’t actually remember the repairman’s first visit. I don’t know if I slept through it, or if I was away from home when he came. I just know that I would have done anything to avoid it.
We finally heard back from the repair company that the missing parts had been located and the repairman would be coming to fix the dishwasher “sometime after one o’clock in the afternoon.” When we got the call that he would definitely be there by 2:30 PM, I thought that was pretty good, as these things go. But he didn’t arrive until 5:30 PM, and by then my anxiety had transformed into a strong belief that the world was ending, and I just had to sit there and wait for it to happen.
There was drama about where he would park his van, and while Mom went out to move our car so that he could use our parking spot, I corralled the girls into my room and closed the door. And then the sky went dark and the rains came, and then the thunder. I wish I were being melodramatic here, but no. It felt like the apocalypse to me, and to the girls too, well, mostly Cricket. I couldn’t hear the dishwasher repair guy’s arrival over Cricket’s barking.
I picked the girls up one at a time and put them on my bed, hoping that would calm them down somewhat. And calm me too. But Cricket stood on my legs and then paced across the bed. Her eyes were shiny and she couldn’t breathe without rasping. When Butterfly ran down her doggy steps to guard the door of my room, Cricket jumped off the bed to follow her, and then they scratched at the door together, and restarted their barking duet.
I attempted to intervene five or six more times before I gave up on trying to calm them down. The fact is, I was in no real position to calm anyone. My brain felt like it was stuck in a Panini press; I was sick to my stomach, and dizzy and frightened; and I couldn’t talk myself out of my fear. All I could do was to make myself feel guilty for being such a baby and for leaving Mom to manage on her own. Guilt, I can do.
At some point, Mom slipped chicken treats under my door to quiet the girls down and, while Butterfly actually rested in front of the door for a few minutes to wait for more treats to appear, Cricket could not calm down.
Then the power went out, not from the storm, but because the dishwasher guy was testing out the fuse box to see which fuses went with which appliances. Mom had tried to warn me, but couldn’t make herself heard over the barking, and couldn’t risk opening my door lest Cricket run out and chew on the repair man.
After the power came back on, there was a big crack of thunder, and a rush of rain outside the window, and Cricket stood on the rug next to my bed, stared into my eyes, and peed. This was not like her at all, at least the peeing part anyway.
When I peered out the window to check on the rain, I saw that the repair man was leaving the parking lot, and I gratefully let the girls out of my room. They checked the rest of the apartment for leftover signs of repair man and once they were satisfied that he was really gone, it was time for more treats, and pee removal spray for my rug, and a trip outside to walk, very quickly, in the rain.
We had survived. And the dishwasher worked again. And a crazed maniac had not killed my mother while I hid in my bedroom. But, I was still shaky, and so was Cricket. I didn’t feel relieved as much as exhausted by the whole ordeal. I worry that pretty soon something else is going to break and we’ll have to go through the whole drama again, and maybe Mom won’t be available to take care of it.
I don’t know what I’ll do in that case. Maybe Butterfly could talk to the repairman for me?