What AM I?
Color is important, the dishcloth knows that, and it is proud of its rich hues—deep coppery red, navy blue, olive green—on a nubby, creamy background. Those colors are why the dishcloth doesn’t serve as a dishcloth. Instead, it’s been neatly folded in the drawer of the dining room cabinet, corner to corner with a dozen or so similar cloths—some patterned, some just one rich color.
Sometimes a cloth will get frayed, or a little grubby looking. Then they disappear. The dishcloth doesn’t really dwell on what that means.
It has noticed, though, that there are new additions to the drawer this week—real cloth napkins,–some navy blue, some a rich golden tan, and some bright, primary-colored checks.
But still. Twice this week, the dishcloth has appeared on the table, and then made the expected trip to the chuggers—the washing machine, with its wild, soapy wetness, the pummeling exhilaration of the hot-breathed dryer.
Today, though, the Person is caught by the colors of a dishtowel as she comes upstairs with the laundry, including the dishcloth, neatly folded. She puts the basket on the floor, picks up the dishcloth, and puts it next to the towel…the one that has coffee designs on it, in rich, true colors—the tans, the reds, the olive greens.
Apparently, she likes their synergy. She leaves the dishcloth on the kitchen counter and goes away.
This day, the dishcloth plunges into soapy water and scrubs grit off cooking pots. It’s wrung out, and it’s hung neatly over the porcelain cliff that divides one sink from the other.
It’s kind of a shock.
Then the washer happens again, and then the dish cloth is put into a different drawer, the one with the cloths and towels used for their actual purpose: to clean dirty dishes.
Now the dishcloth lives in an uncertain world. “Is THIS what I am?” it ponders. “Or—am I THIS?”
Its neighbors in the kitchen drawer sit folded and silent. The life he fears is one they know. They remember a time, maybe, when they sat, pristine, on a shelf in a store, a piece of hard paper, an ID tag, kind of, firmly clipped to one corner. Maybe a person lifted them once in a while. Maybe they came unfolded a bit.
Later expert hands would smooth and soothe them, fold them back in perfect piles. Proud. New.
Until one day quick hands threw them into a plastic basket, marched them to a checkout counter.
They traveled home jumbled in a bag, and then their lives of service—hot water, harsh soap, frequent spins in the chuggers,—began.
It is a challenging life, to be sure, and so, of course, the cloths change—from those prissy, colorful, sharp-corned squares, to these softened WORKERS. Some of them are stained. Some are even fraying.
They sit, folded, accepting. They note the newcomer and feel its agitation.
“Be one of us,” they think.
And the dishcloth leans toward that sense of community.
But then, it is washed and folded and put in the dinner napkin drawer, moved, for a time at least, back to a more refined, rarified life. More dabbing, less scrubbing.
“What AM I?” mourns the dishcloth.
“Can I be BOTH?”
For long years, the only time Green Legs the bench moved was when the woman cleaned behind it. And that, to be truthful, didn’t happen every week…a little cleaning-rearranging was a welcome adventure. Most days, though, it squatted in the entryway, shoe and boot cubbies beneath it.
The door would open, cold air would assault Green Legs, and then a person would sit down right on top of it, and wiggle off shoes or boots.
Green Legs was tough and strong, and the sitting was not an issue.
And that was life.
And then…a month ago happened.
Green Legs and all of its compatriots—shoe cubby, shelf, coats, closet doors, EVERYTHING, was pulled out of the entryway.
New people bustled, with hammer and jabbers. Walls came down. Pounding happened.
New walls went up.
The doors disappeared. When they returned, many days later, their woody glow was gone. They were pale, now, shiny white, and silent.
But the doors, altered as they were, were wrestled back into their places. The shelf, too, was returned to the entryway.
But the shoe cubby disappeared, out the door that lets in the cold.
And Green Legs sat in the family room, with two abandoned paintings. And wondered.
Then one day, the young person dragged a box in through the front door—a long, heavy, flattish box. It was just about its own width and length, and Green Legs knew. It just knew.
“My replacement is in that box,” it realized, and its legs, already chilly from being parked near the big back window in the TV room, grew even colder.
And this happened: the man and the boy manhandled Green Legs outside, into the gaping maw of the back of the man’s vehicle. They shoved in mirrors and a small, sad table that used to be the Most Important Furniture Thing in the powder room, and some building supplies in a box, some light fixtures, and the old paintings, and they bumped and jostled over to a storefront.
And they opened the gaping maw’s door, and they dragged all of the things, Green Legs last, into the store.
New hands grappled all the refugees, and they were dragged into a stuffy back room, where they were washed and evaluated. They were separated, all of them, and then Green Legs was carried out to where rows and rows of furniture rested, waiting. There were chairs and couches there, and a bench or too.
Frankly, thought Green Legs, some of the upholstered pieces had an unfortunate, musty SMELL. But the store was warm, and Green Legs rested, too.
And then: new people, man and woman, huggy, giggly.
“What if,” she said to him, “I painted it WHITE?”
And Green Legs rode in a car again, to a different house. She the Woman rubbed it with gritty paper, rubbed it all over, and wiped it down.
And then she covered every inch of it with sticky liquid, brushing and daubing.
The liquid dried, making it feel a little tight, but after a day or two, it wasn’t so bad.
And then She the Person carried it upstairs, up two flights, into the bedroom, and she put it at the end of the bed. The footboard was metal, and the bench snuggled as close as it could.
She put a soft throw over Green Legs, who realized that it needed a new name.
He the Person hugged Her, and said, “That looks great.”
“Thank you,” thought Green Legs. “And you may call me, ‘Master Bedroom Bench.’”
Beauty is Found in the Oddest of Places
They traveled in tandem, but in separate packing, so it wasn’t until they arrived and were unpacked that the saw each other.
The bigger one was a picture of a lake.
The smaller one was a poster for a book fair.
Their frames matched, although the sizes were just slightly different: Bookie was broader; Lake was taller.
The people peeled the protective plastic off, ooh-ahhed.
She said, “They’re bigger than I imagined they would be, but that’s GOOD.”
And the man said, “I LIKE them.”
And they stacked them in a dining room corner behind a chair, where the pictures could not fall and break their glass. There was a heat vent right there, and it was a warm and comfortable place to rest.
The prints, though, knew they were meant to be on display, and they agreed the chair area was a temporary squat. They were destined for a Wall.
Prints, especially framed prints, are well aware of their own prestige.
Days passed, and then one morning the People drank hot drinks and ate piles of steaming food at the table in front of the pictures, and when they had cleared things away, they lifted the pictures from where they nestled.
They carried them into a small, warm room. The scent of fresh paint wafted.
He had a tape measure and a level and a pencil. She held the pictures up against the wall; he measured and muttered, and then Bookie and Lake were lowered to lean against the wall while pounding happened.
Lake had a whole swath of wall to himself. Bookie hung a little higher, four or five inches away; underneath Bookie, a shelf floated.
“I wonder what they’ll put on the shelf?” thought Bookie.
“I wonder what this room IS,” thought Lake.
One of the people came in and admired the prints, and then closed the door firmly.
“Is that,” muttered Bookie, “a COMMODE?”
“Bookie,” said Lake, “they put us in a BATHroom.”
Oh, well. There are few jobs that are less than honorable, although some are certainly messier than others. And Bookie and Lake realized, as days passed and they hung proudly, that beauty can be found in the lowliest of places.