The washing machine at our new home went "Ka-wump!" the first time I used it. It was the most modern amenity we had at the camp that we planned to call home for a while, and I wasn't quite ready to lose it.
I could handle the treks to the outhouse and the fact that we didn't have running water in our little A-frame cabin. It didn't even bother me that I had to walk 200 meters to the lodge to do any cooking.
But I was hoping that with all those sacrifices, at least I could have clean clothes. The prospect was looking grim.
It wasn't just that the machine made funny noises; it also danced. And if no one watched its little routine, it would jiggle and jostle so much it would unhook itself from the hose connection, spill water all over the floor, and leave a soaking heap of sudsy clothes inside.
My husband and I learned to time our laundry escapades to coincide with meals, so we'd be nearby when the spin cycle began. The camp kitchen was adjacent to the porch where the washer and dryer stood, and we'd hear the familiar "Ka-wump!" as soon as it started. We'd run out to the porch and supervise the action, bracing a foot against the base of the machine until the cycle was finished. If it spun without supervision, we'd find a familiar mess when we returned.
Being relatively naive about the workings of major home appliances, I figured the washer was just a little overused. It was, after all, at a camp, and it surely had worked its way through some large loads of dirty clothes in its time.
But its time had been short, I was assured. The washing machine was brand new the previous summer. It was a top-of-the-line heavy-duty model, and it simply shouldn't have these kinds of problems.
A friend of ours offered us some small rubber squares to wedge underneath the corners, thinking the machine just needed some extra cushioning during the spin cycle. It worked twice, and then the washer leaped off the rubber pads and danced around the porch again.
On the day of its last performance, we had company. I'd put some clothes in the machine, and my friend and I chatted amiably until the spin cycle began. Then I rushed out to the porch, braced my feet against the machine, and held it down with both hands.
My friend followed me to the porch and shouted over the machine that the clothes must be off balance. His daughters stood beside him, laughing and clapping their hands to the noise.
I hollered back, my voice shaking with the vibrations of the machine, and told him that didn't seem to be the problem, but thanks for the advice. Since our conversation was clearly overshadowed by the din, he went home.
That's when the concert began.
Ka-wump! Ka-wump! Ka-bam bam bam!
Ka-wump! Ka-wump! Ka-bing bing bing!
Kadakadakadakada wump wump wump!
Kadakadakadakada wump bam bing!
Ka-wump bing! Ka-bing wump,
Ka-wump wump THUD!
The washing machine stopped. I let go of it when it began its drum solo and stood back, amazed. It had perfect rhythm, and as it sidled to and fro on the porch, it seemed to have taken on a life of its own.
But just as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped, and I knew this time was different.
I called a repairman.
Gordon fixed it in less time than it took to wash a load of clothes, but he said it was good we called him when we did. Someone hadn't taken out the pins that keep the washing machine intact during transportation, and they'd worn holes right through the steel in the bottom of the machine.
"I've never seen anything like it," he said, shaking his head and wiping his brow. He took the pins out, gave us some new legs, and made sure the machine was level. Then he left.
My clothes are in the washer right now. But I'm far away, feeding the fire and trying to keep warm in our little cabin down the road. Each time I hear a thumping noise, I glance out the window toward the lodge, where the washing machine churns away on the porch. And I begin tapping my toes.