The Dishwasher

Matthew Amster-Burton
Apr 18 · 3 min read

When our aging dishwasher heaved a creaky sigh and dribbled a pool of dirty water onto the kitchen floor, I called Mom over to the computer to watch a commercial.

“Look,” I said. “We should get rid of that old thing and buy the Silent Partner.”

“Jason, all dishwashers are the same. We’ll get whatever’s on sale,” said Mom. But she put down her mop to watch.

“You don’t have to rinse the dishes before you put them into the Silent Partner,” I said. “They even put a whole cake on the top rack. And look, it’s gone. It has a computer that can sense how dirty the load is and adjust the cleaning cycle accordingly.”

“Hmm,” said Mom.

A man in a blue jumpsuit came the next day to haul away the old dishwasher and install the Silent Partner. “Got one of these at home,” said the man between whirrs of his electric drill. “Works just like they say. Look, it’s lined with solid Isolex-16. Best soundproofing material known to man.” He put in the last screw and winked at me. “You enjoy it, son. Lifetime warranty, but I don’t think it’ll give you any trouble.”

“Whatcha doin’, Jason?” It was my little brother, Ethan, tapping me on the shoulder. He kept tapping until I turned around. “Is that the new dishwasher?”

“Sure is,” I said. “Hey, Mom, can we load the dishwasher?”

“I’m liking this already,” said Mom.

Ethan and I transferred the dirty dishes from the sink into the Silent Partner. Then we peered into the refrigerator. I found some leftover spaghetti and meatballs. “Perfect!” said Ethan. We put the leftovers into a bowl and set it on the top rack of the dishwasher.

I closed the door and felt it latch silently. I reached for the Start button, but Ethan whined, “Jay-jay, I wanted to press it!”

“Fine,” I sighed. Ethan pressed the button. A subtle green light came on, but there was no other sign that anything had happened.

“What do we do now?” asked Ethan. “Will you play Chutes and Ladders with me? PLEASE?”

“I don’t know how long it takes to run,” I said. “On the video it looks like it happens instantly.” We sat on the kitchen floor staring at the dishwasher for five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. After twenty minutes, the green light clicked off. Ethan and I fought over who would get to open the door. I won.

Inside, we found no sign of spaghetti and meatballs or anything other than sparkling clean dishes. “You empty it,” said Ethan. “It’s your job.”

“Hmm, let’s try something else,” I said, opening the fridge. I found three chicken thighs in a plastic container. One of Dad’s failed curry experiments, from the looks of it. No one would miss them. I placed the open container on the top rack of the Silent Partner and closed the door. “This time I get to start it,” I said.

“You’re going to break it,” said Ethan. “Will you play Chutes and Ladders with me while it runs?”

“Sure.” When I pressed the button, I could feel a deep vibration beneath my fingertip, but there was no sound at all, only the glowing green light.

Ethan unfolded the game board and we played on the kitchen floor. When he had almost reached the 100th square, he landed on that awesomely long chute that dropped him back at square 2. “You cheated!” he cried, kicking the board.

“Look, it’s done,” I said, fending off his tantrum. I let Ethan open the door. We searched in vain for any signs of leftover chicken. I ran my fingers along the sides and bottom of the compartment, but all I felt was smooth, warm Isolex-16.

Wait, dishwashers drain into the sink’s garbage disposal, right? Maybe the chicken bones had ended up there. I peered inside and saw nothing. I flipped the garbage disposal switch, prepared to hear a screech, and thought about how I’d explain to Mom that the new dishwasher was great but I’d destroyed the garbage disposal. But all we heard was a contented whirr. Nothing.

“This is boring,” said Ethan. “Want to play Candyland?”

Later, Mom came into my room. “How’s the new dishwasher?” she asked.

“Great.”

“Thanks for recommending it, Jason.” She kissed the top of my head. “You’re a big help. Say, have you seen your brother around?”

“I’m sure he’s around here somewhere,” I replied. We called his name a couple of times, but we didn’t hear anything. No sound at all.

(2011)

Matthew Amster-Burton

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Yeah, I'd eat that.