One night, after a large Sunday-night roast beef dinner, the kitchen sink was filled to the brim with the greasy pots and pans. We had all stuffed ourselves on roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots and lima beans, and my favourite thing ever, Yorkshire pudding. Mum sat at the kitchen table leisurely enjoying an after-dinner cigarette when I walked in from the dining room.
“I’ll pay you if you wash all those dishes,” Mum proposed.
I was very interested. “Really? How much?”
“I’ll give you nine dollars.”
Nine dollars! My mind pictured nine one dollar bills. It seemed like a lot of money.
“Okay!” I said enthusiastically, and I spun around to the sink to begin my daunting task. Mum left the kitchen for the comfort of the living room.
Before long, I had plowed through most of the plates and cutlery, and was obsessed with scrubbing the dickens out of the large roasting pan. Using one of poppy’s steel wool scrubbing pads, I ground away until my knuckles and arms ached. Not only did I have the roaster clean, but it was almost brand new in spots where I had scrubbed off the broiled grease of a dozen previous dinners.
I heard Dad’s or Poppy’s voice behind me somewhere, saying what a good job I was doing and to come to the living room and leave the dishes alone. I just said no, and that I was going to finish them.
I worked my ass off at that sink for at least a half hour or more. The dishes were all clean and dried or sitting in the rack, the water was grey and grotty with foot bits and slimy crud, and my hands were pale and puckered. I was tired and a little sore, but proud of myself, and looking forward to my reward.
Mum came into the kitchen and was genuinely amazed with my progress. I asked her for the nine dollars. She burst out laughing, and said “Oh no! I was only joking!” I was truly disappointed to realize that there would be no money for my efforts. Mum’s laugh might have been tinged with a little sympathy for my naivety, as if it had never occurred to her that I would take her promise seriously. It was a serious disappointment to me though. Perhaps I didn’t trust her quite as much after that. It was the first time that I knew what it felt like to be ripped off.