September 15, 2015
Posted By: Shaunescy
By SHANE BORROWMAN
The dishwasher died this summer. This was not a surprise. At first, only the heat-related features of the thing went down (Hot Start and Heated Dry, in particular). Then they started working again…but water leaked all over the kitchen floor. Nothing new. When we first bought the place, the dishwasher leaked (and clearly had leaked for some time, given the water damage I found hidden under a layer of linoleum). I’d pulled the dishwasher out and tightened this piece and that until the leak went away.
One shirt was torn beyond use during those repairs, but we went three years without a leak. Which left me feeling pretty manly, in a sad and stereotypical sort of way.
If I could fix a leaking dishwasher once, I reasoned, I could do it again. So I unscrewed the bulky appliance from the underside of the kitchen’s island, pulled it out, started a wash cycle, and lay flat on the floor (flashlight in hand) to identify the problem.
The problem, I discovered, was grammatical: It was plural, not singular. Water leaked from every possible connection (and several spots that, I’m pretty sure, couldn’t possibly leak, not according to the laws of physics as I know them). I poked a screwdriver under the dishwasher, tightened a couple things for no reason, and turned the wash cycle off.
On my knees, I leaned my weight against the dead Kenmore and pushed, sliding it, not too gently, back into place. I didn’t even bother to reattach it to the countertop.
Grabbing my screwdriver and flashlight, I glanced down…and saw three almost invisible red lines on the linoleum. The flashback that hit me came in two waves, almost strong enough to bring tears to my eyes (which would have been hard to explain, had my wife suddenly walked into the kitchen to find me kneeling and crying in front of a broken dishwasher). I was crying about Sam.
When we first moved into our home, Sam (only six at the time) and I would sit on opposite sides of the kitchen and bounce a blue racquetball back and forth. I think it may have originally been in the dog’s toy box, but we appropriated it for our own purposes. At one point, Sam invented some sort of game that involved throwing with one hand and catching with the other. I was not good at that game, so Sam scored all of the points. When she recorded the points, she’d make marks on notebook paper, using a red Sharpie.
She beat me 3-0 the last time we played, and the Sharpie bled through onto the linoleum. We didn’t realize that until the game was over. Sam lifted the paper and shook it above her head, taunting me…and we both panicked when we saw the solid red lines on the floor, right in front of the dishwasher. I knew I could just yell for Beth and drop a dime on the kid, ratting her out and saving myself. But I couldn’t really do that.
Instead, Sam and I scrubbed. We tried a whole range of cleaners, from regular water through bathroom cleanser that advertises itself to contain scrubbing bubbles.
Nothing. The solid Sharpie lines mocked us.
That floor’s been mopped at least once a week for more than four years, and somewhere along the line, the ink faded (along with my memories of losing that Sam-invented game). Until I pushed that dishwasher back into its space, and the past came rushing back to me…of our game and of Sam’s first dance.
When Sam was even younger—maybe three—we got into the habit of watching Napoleon Dynamite. It was the music, more than anything, that got Sam’s attention, especially “Forever Young,” which plays as the high school kids all dance at the prom. Sam loved to dance. When the movie reached this point, I would kneel on our living room floor and take her tiny hands in mine.
We didn’t really dance, exactly, since even walking was new to her, and I have terrible knees. So we’d just sort of sway from side to side while Alphaville played and Napoleon and his crew did their thing. No spins, no dips. Just Sam’s tiny hand in mine.
All of that, memories of our nameless ball game and of our unplanned dances in that Nevada living room, hit me simultaneously as I knelt on the kitchen floor, angry at my dishwasher and imagining all the dishes I’d wash over the next few months, at least until I can’t take it anymore and buy a new—cheap—machine, one likely to be installed, badly, by the almost-crying guy who couldn’t fix the original dishwasher.
Same guy who lost a ball-bouncing game 3-0.
Shane Borrowman is a native of Anaconda, father of twins, and professor of English at The University of Montana Western. He has published on a wide range of topics, including the development of boxing in Renaissance England, medieval Arabic philosophy, and American zombie films. He is editor or co-editor of four writing textbooks and six collections of original scholarship. Visit http://www.shaneborrowman.com , home of Shane's blog, Kairotic Palaver