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A Dreaded Job

This Week’s Writing Prompt

by Amanda Benson

This morning before I even slid out of bed, I took a mental inventory of the tasks awaiting my attention. Most were innocuous household chores like planning this week’s dinner menu and grocery list, loading the dishwasher, and bathing the dog.

However, as I walked into my closet, I locked eyes with a longstanding foe: Mount Laundry. How could I forget? I glared at the overflowing hamper of dirties, socks mocking me as they dangled over the edge. More insulting than that, though, were the two brimming baskets of clean clothes from the last time I did laundry. They never stood a chance of making it into drawers and onto hangers.

I’ve always had a distaste for laundry—not so much the washing and drying, or sorting whites and colors. But the folding and putting away? I can’t stand it. From my earliest memories of doing laundry, I’ve always avoided these last two steps.

Now, I chuckle as I walk into my son’s room and see his own basket of clean clothes sitting there day after day, falling into wrinkled oblivion. My daughter? She knocks it all out in one afternoon, gleefully folding her T-shirts Marie Kondo-style. She certainly didn’t inherit that from me!

What about you? What was your most dreaded chore when you were a child or young adult or even today? Write about it using the prompts below as memory triggers.

        • Describe the chore in detail.
        • Why did you dislike doing this? What made it so terrible?
        • How often did you have to take care of this chore?
        • Did you try to get out of doing this chore? How so?
        • Was this a job you shared with a sibling?
        • Is this something you still hate doing?

Share your response in the comments section below.

All posts in response to our writing prompts in October will be entered into a drawing. The winner will have the opportunity to submit a guest post to be published in the next Writing Your Life monthly newsletter:  either a feature article of 500 words or less on a topic to be determined or the weekly writing prompt.

1 Comment

  • Sue Zimmerman
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 7:53 pm


    Suppertime. What a production! And every night the same long process. I have things to do; too many things to do. There’s the biology report. I don’t have a clue of how to read Hester Prynne’s character. Can’t we get going on the dishes and finish quickly for once!

    And, so it goes, the traditional nightly ritual of the family meal around the supper table. It’s a long process, and it means everyone has a job in the production. Mom starts about 5 pm by gathering 2 available kids to peel enough potatoes for nine people. Under her direction they also cut the summer sausage and cheese, fry the potatoes, select and prepare the vegetable, and slice the raw carrots and celery into sticks. By 5:30, Mom says, “Clear the table.” And the day’s collection of books, school supplies, jackets, and important kid-stuff disappear from the tabletop. Two more kids are employed to wipe down the table, set it, prepare the bowls and platters, select the canned fruit for dessert from the cellar, set the chairs in place, and pour the milk.

    Finally, it’s 6 pm and time to eat. Mom issues commands, “Did someone wash up the little ones? Yes, Paul needs a bib. Turn the TV off and come in here. NOW! Help Jane and Paul into their chairs.” The weary and hungry crew file into assigned seats around the crowded kitchen table. I sit at Mom’s left, because at that corner my left arm doesn’t bump into anyone and I can help refill empty bowls, retrieve washrags for spilled milk, and help four-year old Jane eat.

    Mom and her two helpers fill the table. Grace is said, and the clock-wise passing of steam-filled bowls and platters proceed around the table. Mom and I fill the little ones’ plates plus our own. The process is efficient. Everyone takes some of everything. It’s a rule and I resolve to never eat fried potatoes again in my life once I leave home. At 15, I’m weary of speaking up; though everyone knows I hate potatoes. My feelings aren’t even considered. Dad would reason potatoes are good for me, cheap, and easy to grow. He LOVES potatoes, so how can he be rational about my dislike? Besides to him, children don’t have the option of liking or disliking food served to them. “Eat what’s set before you and be grateful you have that!” Mom’s attitude revolves around role-modeling. “Sue, if you don’t take the food served, every one of your brothers and sisters will do the same. You’re the oldest, you need to set a good example.” Did I ask to be the oldest?

    No one starts to eat until all bowls and platters are passed and plates have been filled. We eat quickly because we are hungry, because the food is wholesome and good, and because rule number two is in motion: second-helpings are available after your plate has been cleaned and as long as there is food left. I eye the canned plums; then I spy those darn fried potatoes resting on my plate. Can I offer them up as a sacrifice during Lent?

    Usually I like the after-meal time at the table. We relax while munching on the last of the carrot and celery sticks, relating the stories of our day. Mom has a leisurely cup of coffee, before she marches us through the after-supper regimen. Dad’s work stories reveal what we already know; Dad is proud of his career as a truck driver. Tonight, though, I want to hurry through this family time. Do I have stories from my day to share? I don’t know. I know I have too much homework that needs to be done. I know I am anxious about the novel I’m reading, and I want to do well in English class. I want to hurry-up the last hour of suppertime work. I want to get on with MY life.
    I leave the table early to start the dishwashing. My brother, Steve, reminds me it’s his turn to wash. I hate it when he washes. He’s slow and uses cold water to rinse the dishes. How often do we have to tell him to use hot water, because it’s more sanitary and because the water wipes off the dishes more quickly for the dryer? Steve, my amiable one-year younger brother is usually my confidant, but tonight he doesn’t tune into my attitude. He’s in a good mood, teasing me, “Maybe the dishes will take longer tonight, and you won’t get to your English assignment. I hear everyone hates that Scarlet Letter novel anyway.” I am not enjoying his humor. He starts with the cold rinse water. “Steve,” I say, trying to be patient, “Fill the sink with the dishes first, so they can soak while you fill the rinse sink with HOT water.” My tone is obviously not pleasant as he retorts; “I’m the dishwasher tonight, so I get to decide how to do it.” That’s true. Though there’s a routine, the dishwasher leads the operation and controls the flow of the process. And here’s Steve wanting to discuss his day. I have a one-track mind; get this operation finished. “Steve, I’m waiting for more dishes to dry. Hurry up!” “Hold your britches, Sue. You can’t start your homework yet anyway. Jane and Paul are still playing.” “No! Let me wash, you’re so slow. Do you always have to be so slow!” He mocks me, “You’ll just have to wait. It’s my turn to wash, and I’ll go as fast or slow as I want.” “MOM!!!” “You two figure it out. I shouldn’t have to supervise my two oldest, it’s enough for me to help Mike and Mark do good jobs on clearing, sweeping, and taking out the garbage. Ann’s getting the little ones ready for bed. She has the longest job tonight; as Paul wants 3 books read to him.” I’m fuming. No one sees my point. I have all this homework to do. I don’t mind the work. I mind the obstacles in my way, and tonight Steve is an obstacle to my success in my favorite class. “Let’s get on with it, Steve,” I pointedly respond. We work silently for a few more minutes, while I take in the long counter of dirty dishes he has not yet touched. I plead, “Steve, can we speed it up?”

    Grinning, he wipes his hands on my towel. “Where are you going?” I demand. “Nature calls,” he quips, walking slowly away. Of course, tonight of all nights I get stuck with the slowest of the slow. Why is he doing this to me? I fume and wait. Mom works quietly around me, wiping down counters and putting away the few dishes I’ve managed to wrestle from Steve’s hold. What’s taking him so long? I’ll show him! I pick up the washcloth and begin to wash dishes. He will just have to wipe, I reason. I have a full tray of waiting dishes for him when he returns. “You can’t do that,” he says. “I am doing it. So, get the towel and dry,” I answer without meeting his eye. With towel in hand, Steve says, “Oh, Sue, lighten up,” and he pushes me gently. I know it’s a teasing “let’s-be-friends” shove, but my anger and impatience are on the edge, so I don’t respond. Steve misinterprets my lack of a response. He’s ready to play. He takes the towel, quickly winds it up and snaps the towel across my behind. I’m incensed, not because it hurts, which it does not, but because my closest brother does not understand my feelings.

    In an instant, I turn on him. With a wet soapy left hand, I righteously slap him across the face. Steve quickly responds. He grabs me by my blouse collar and lifts me off the floor against the counter. His face is in mine and his right fist is cocked. In a very controlled voice, without any emotion, he spits out, “If you weren’t a girl and my sister, I’d deck you.” The moment he lets go of me I fall apart. I run to the bathroom, openly sobbing. I not only marvel at Steve’s restraint, but also wonder what possessed me to alienate the most easy-going of my brothers, when what I needed most at that moment was a friend, or at least an ally?

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