August 2012


Senior Slant:
Who Done It?

by Hilda Maston


 
A loud crash brought everyone into the kitchen.

“What’s going on?” Mom asked.

“Hilda broke a stack of dinner plates because she didn’t want to wash them,” said my devious younger sister, Mary.

Looking back, I think it was Thanksgiving when my whole family and my cousins’ family met at our little house for dinner. All my cousins took off as soon as they finished their pumpkin pie, leaving me with all the dishes. I managed to catch my sister, Mary, as she turned to leave the kitchen.

“Oh, no — you’re not leaving; I need help with all these dishes. If you don’t help me, I’m going to tell Mom and Dad who brought you home from the community dance. You know that they don’t want you to have anything to do with that boy!”

She came back to the table with a big dishpan which she set on the oilcloth table cover.

Into the pan I grated some soap from a large bar of Fels Naptha soap (which smelled like something you would repair the street with). Then I took the big teakettle from the wood stove and poured hot water over the grated soap. The remaining heated water would be used to rinse the dishes.

Everything was ready — time to go to work. All this was necessary because our little house didn’t have a sink or running water.

No grown-ups in my family did dishes if there were any kids around. So the youngsters had to fight it out.

“I’ll wash, you dry,” I said to Mary, who had a scowl on her face.

She grabbed a dishtowel and stood ready to dry the dishes.

I had to walk across the kitchen to get the silverware. I had just turned my back when I heard a loud crash.

A large stack of plates was scattered in broken pieces across the kitchen floor.

That was the crash that brought all the grown-ups into the kitchen.

“She did it!” my sister insisted. “She pushed them off the table so that she wouldn’t have to wash them.”

My mother looked at me and said, “I’ll deal with you later.”

She then walked back into the living room.

I kept washing and rinsing dishes and Mary dried them. She was dancing around the kitchen chuckling to herself, celebrating her victory over her older sister.

Fifty years later, we still haven’t settled the question of who broke the dishes.

Did Mary break the dishes while I had my back turned? I couldn’t believe that my little sister could be so smart and so mean, but I know that I didn’t do it, and we were the only ones in the kitchen with the dishes.

For years in the family I was known as the girl who broke dishes so she wouldn’t have to wash them. That’s not true.

Who would believe that story? Only my grown-up little sister.

But what none of them knew was that the stack of plates that crashed to the floor was clean. If I were going to break dishes, I surely wouldn’t wash them first.

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