When Brothers Dish It Out
February 2016

“When Brothers Dish It Out,” New Era, February 2016, 34–35

When Brothers Dish It Out

Will Marriott lives in Utah, USA.

Mom was going to love me for this.

doing dishes

Illustration by Adam Howling

“Hey, Trace, where did Mom go tonight?” I called out as I walked through the dirty kitchen. It looked like a tornado had blown through—dirty dishes were all over the place.

“I don’t know. She and Dad went to a dinner party with some friends,” replied the youngest of my 11 brothers and sisters as he watched a basketball game.

“So, is this food up for grabs?” I asked, hoping to find something in the pots and pans.

Wesley, number 10 of the 11, came bounding down the old, battered stairs, and as he ran to see the latest basketball score, he said, “Mom made it for us and left for the party. She said she’ll be back late and to not make too much of a mess.”

“Too late for that,” I mumbled. “Man. Good thing it’s not my night to clean up.”

The Christmas season was in full swing, and having our whole family in town made for a heavy amount of stress that seemed to wind up in Mom’s shoulder muscles. That’s when the idea came to me. It had been a while since I’d done anything but dirty the house—so why not surprise Mom and make it less dirty for a change?

After having a bite to eat, I tried for a miracle. “Wes, Trace, what do you think about cleaning this place up for Mom?”

“You can do what you want. I’m watching the game,” Trace said. He sounded bugged by the mere thought of trading dishes for the game.

“I knew it was pointless to ask you two,” I grumbled, feeling annoyed. The giant mound of dirty dishes was daunting, but someone had to do the job.

Usually when Mom asks me to clean the kitchen I whine for at least five minutes before grudgingly carrying out her wish. I typically react to her pleas for help with pride and selfishness. So this time, at first I started cleaning because I was looking for her praise. But soon I felt a joy that I can’t explain in doing the work without being asked.

As I began to slosh dishes around in the sink and squeeze the pineapple-scented dish soap into the steaming water, something unexpected began to happen.

Slowly, as if trying to hide the fact that he was even thinking of helping, Wesley wandered in and said, “I’ll dry if you wash.” Not wanting to scare him off, I nodded without looking at him.

“OK,” I said, “but the element of surprise is everything, so let’s move fast.”

Two minutes later, Trace walked sheepishly into the kitchen and said, “I’ll wipe the counters and sweep, but that’s it. And if I miss anything cool in the game, I’m going to be mad.”

“No prob,” I answered. “The faster we go, the faster we’ll be done. If Mom could only see us now, I think she’d have a heart attack.”

“Yeah,” they both said in unison.

“I was just thinking. What if we did the math?” Wes said. “There are 365 days in a year, times 13 of us, and then add three meals a day. I can’t even work those numbers. I’m just glad I’m not Mom.”

“It’s 14,235,” declared Trace triumphantly.

“Oh, and then times it by each utensil and cup on the table. I’m beginning to feel depressed. I don’t even know how Mom handles us all.”

“Hurry, here they come!” Trace yelled just as we caught sight of the car’s headlights. “Quick, hide!” I ran to my position at the top of the stairs, just out of eyesight, listening intently for Mom’s response to the sparkling countertops. As I waited, I sat thinking about what had just happened. We’d sacrificed half an hour that would have been wasted in front of the TV. How simple it was to give so little and have it mean so much.

The hum of the car’s motor cut out. The car doors opened and thumped shut. As the kitchen door swung open with a burst of icy winter air, we heard these rewarding words, “Oh! Heavenly angels have been at work!”