It was Saturday.
My husband had taken the children out on their paper round.
Monday to Friday, I work in an office, assessing risk, writing reports and meeting targets instead of being creative. All week, the housework piles up. Recently, it had been piling up for a month. On that Saturday, I needed to get a grip.
One day, I thought, if I ever finish my novel, I might get rich and famous. Then I can write all day and hire staff to do the boring stuff.
I only needed to write twenty thousand more words and I’d be finished. Then…who knew what the future might hold.
But on that Saturday, the novel had to wait.
The house was quiet but I mustn’t get side-tracked. There were chores to be done before I could write.
I went to the laundry bin. It was empty. How wonderful, the children were playing hide and seek with their dirty clothes again. Well, mostly seek. Not much effort had gone into the hiding things, they were scattered across their bedroom floors.
My fingers itched. If I just typed a few words it couldn’t hurt. Putting down the laundry, I opened up the laptop and started to write.
At the edge of my hearing, came a tiny chuckle and my vision was obscured by sparkling lights. I blinked.
‘Naughty, naughty,’ said the laptop and slammed itself shut, nearly severing my fingers. Imagining things is what I’m good at. But this was a little too much.
Shaking a little, I put the laptop aside and went back to the housework. I needed to find all the dirty crockery and glasses hidden around the childrens’ beds and desks. As I approached their rooms, I heard a clatter and some giggling. How very odd.
I entered my daughter’s room and saw the plates running away by themselves, rolling under the desk to hide in discarded homework and snigger. This was not normal, even for our house. It took me half an hour to round them up and force them, struggling, into the dishwasher. I wondered if I should ask for a day’s leave.
Not for the first time, I wondered how one small family could be so chaotic. Housework is such a depressing exercise. The place would look lovely when I finished…for all of five minutes.
I reached for the vacuum cleaner but it turned its back on me. I could hear it mumbling.
‘What’s wrong?’ I said before I could stop myself.
‘You haven’t bothered with me for a month,’ muttered the vacuum cleaner, ‘you prefer that rotten old laptop.’
I couldn’t really deny this. I patted the vacuum but he wouldn’t make friends.
‘I’m sick of eating spiders,’ he said, ‘I want to work for a PROPER housewife.’
‘Well, all you’ve got is me,’ I said and bumped him up the stairs, ignoring his complaints.
I managed to finish my chores before the family got home. I had perhaps an hour of peace to write in. But the laptop wouldn’t open. Every time I tried, it snarled and snapped at me.
‘Whatever is going on?’ I said aloud.
I heard another chuckle. It was coming from inside the airing cupboard. I waited outside for a second and then wrenched the door open.
Inside was a laundry fairy, balanced on top of the piles and piles of clean clothes which had been accumulating for weeks while I wrote my novel. It was a precarious perch because the whole family, instead of putting their clothes away without being asked, just rummaged from time to time.
‘Serves you right,’ said the laundry fairy. She was hefty (for an elf) and muscly. A clothes peg and odd sock were tattooed on each bicep. ‘You haven’t been doing your chores,’ she sneered, ’it’s no fun losing your socks when you’re such a terrible housewife anyway. So I put a spell on everything.’
‘Well, you can pack it in!’ I said. I am not a big woman, but I am bigger than a laundry fairy. I wrestled her off the clean clothes and bundled her up with the dirty ones. I’m telling you, those wings look flimsy but they’re sharp as razors. I took the whole squirming bundle to the washing machine.
‘Yum yum,’ said the washing machine, ‘I thought you’d never feed me!’
‘And you can shut up too, you gluttonous pig, I fed you three times on Wednesday!’ I snapped.
I shoved everything inside, put in extra stain remover and turned it on.
All the household goods stopped chuckling and the sparkling lights went out. I could just make out the furious face of the laundry fairy as she rotated inside the machine, covered in soap suds. She was shaking her fist but I didn’t care. I stuck my tongue out.
When the family came home they found me locked in the spare room typing. I had only managed to write twenty words of my novel and was having a little cry. But at least the laptop had returned to normal.
My husband said, ‘did you know you’ve washed the reds with the blues and now everything is purple? And how many times have I told you not to put an underwired bra in the machine? Now there’s a funny knocking noise coming from inside even though the cycle has finished. It sounds almost,’ he said, with a chuckle, ‘as if someone small and angry is trapped inside.’
I glared at him and then glanced out of the window. In our overgrown garden, something small and green was creeping up on the shed with a wand in its hand.
‘Haven’t you got stuff to do outside?’ I asked, getting up to peg the laundry fairy on the line until she was sorry.
‘Oh I don’t know if I can be bothered,’ my husband answered, ‘maybe the garden elves will do it for me.’
‘I wouldn’t take the risk if I were you,’ I said, ‘I really wouldn’t.’
Words and photograph copyright 2017 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission
If you want to know about Laundry Fairies – read this!
And this is my excuse for being a terrible housewife