There I was- the mothball sweater, filthy pants, frizzy hair, bare feet- my back to an ancient and dilapidated French house of mold and rot, my nemesis before me: the washing machine.
Last time we met, the unilingual unit that Satan must have left as he fled from my coming presence, held my laundry hostage- locked and blinking, ERROR 2.
Today, I thought I was so smart hooking up the hose to the water tank that stood up the hill and selecting a cotton setting that it was with confidence the door was shut. Then something I couldn't understand appeared which forced me to hike 1 kilometer back to the house to translate it (door open, close door) and try again. Oh, but that wasn't all. Happily, it locked my clothes in and with complete horror I realized no water was gushing in to free my clothes of two weeks (or more in some cases) of sweat and dirt. Disconnecting the hose and turning on the hose valve resulted in black sludge spewing all over my hand. Ferocious was I as I hiked up the hill and climbed onto the water tank only to see... absolutely nothing. The tank was empty except for the remnants where the bit of sludge had rushed out to meet me at the bottom of the hill. Undeterred, Luna (the small dog with growing dreadlocks) and I set out to follow the pipe to it's source hundreds of meters across the mountain of crumbling terraces. There was nothing clogging the filter, and no beaming water pump for me to fiddle with to fill the water tank. There was nothing I could do.
Part III (or a continuation of the prologue)
I'll admit, I let out the most horribly girlish scream I've heard in a long time. So awful was it that I almost didn't hear it at all (the last time this happened I'm told I screamed as my horse-for-the-semester-in-Tanzania "Rafiki" careened down an airstrip at full gallop).
The electricity pierced out of the locking mechanism attached to the washing machine's circuit board and I leapt off the log shaken and furious.
So I did what any independent and tenacious young woman would do after a day full of this: I called my dad. Unfortunately, I was still shaken from being shocked and feeding the cats when I called so he had to try and make out what I was saying amongst my panting, opening the van, shooing the cats, pouring the food, and crinkling the bag.
"Dad, I was trying to manually disengage the- Hey! Get. Out. Of. There! Freia! And then it shocked me and- no, I didn't have shoes on, but I was on a log- well, the machine is outside and is attached to (crinkle, crinkle) get out of there Achilles! Well, I don't know what it's attached to, and it shut down and my laundry is stuck inside and it's getting dark and I have to feed the rabbits and now it's unresponsive and, do you think it's dead? I don't know what to do!...I am looking at the circuit board. You said the circuit board! Well if you meant the fuse box- I don't think there is one. There's just these wires in a pile...oh here they go, I'll follow them. No, I don't have shoes on and the house is far away. I pulled apart the circuit board on the washing machine. Well, hold on, I'll follow all these extension cords until I find an outlet... there's a tan box in the field, it looks like a fuse box! Oh dad, all I wanted was clean clothes today."
Sadly, this is not far from how the conversation progressed. I triumphantly, hesitantly unplugged the fourth and final extension cord at the fuse box, a hundred yards away from the washing machine.
Epilogue (the part where I tell you what I've done since then)
I've accomplished something in life: I cooked rice without the fire alarm going off and the security company calling. A real win in my book, truly. How many women get to stand in front of the alarm code box with headgear for ear protection, timing the 1:06 between each wail of the siren while your mother pours through her file cabinet to find the security code to make the noise stop? Not too many are as handicapped at rice-cooking, or should I saw were handicapped! Not only did it not go off (and not just because this "house" doesn't appear to have one) but I didn't burn the rice while making mashed potatoes.
After all of the washing machine theatrics, I came in to find my fire (the first one I successfully made by the way!) from the morning had nearly gone out, and Ian had returned from his hike up the 4000 Marches in Vallerague, watching yet another movie. "Why don't you go outside and get some potatoes for dinner?" He might as well have said, "make me a sandwich, woman." I told him no, thank you. "No?" He questioned from the floor, as if I were defying his kingly orders. "No." But in an effort for peace, I did make mashed potatoes and coaxed the fire back to life.
My third and final feat of the day: Convincing my Nook to download all of the books I've bought and suddenly feel giddy and delighted because of it (plus, I also have the house to myself!) The best thing in the world is in my imminent future: to climb into my sleeping bag with my Nook and begin reading Alexander McCall Smith's series: "Morality for Beautiful Girls (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency)," a fictional tale about Botswana's only female private investigator. Or, I could begin "Whatever You Do, Don't Run", an autobiographical compilation of an Australian tour guide in Africa. Or there's "The Brothers Karamazov", by Dostoyevsky or "One Thousand Gifts", by Ann Voskamp or...