Washing Up

by Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen

On Sundays,
my mum and dad said,
‘Right, we’ve cooked the dinner,
you two can wash it up,’
and then they went off to the front room.

So then we began.
First there was the row about who
was to wash and who was to dry.
My brother said, ‘You’re too slow at washing,
I have to hang about waiting for you,’
so I said,
‘You always wash, it’s not fair.’

‘Hard cheese,’ he says,
‘I’m doing it.’
So that was that.

‘Whoever dries has to stack the dishes,’
he says,
so that’s me stacking the dishes
while he’s getting the water ready.

quite often we used to have mustard
with our Sunday dinner
and we didn’t have it out of a tube,
one of us used to make it with the powder
in an eggcup
and there was nearly always
some left over.

my brother
he’d be washing up by now
and he’s standing there at the sink
his hands in the water,
I’m drying up,
And suddenly he goes,
‘Quick, quick quick
come over here
quick, you’ll miss it
quick, you’ll miss it.’
‘What?’ I say, ‘What?’
‘Quick, quick. In here,
in the water.’
I say,
‘What? What?’
‘Give us your hand,’ he says
and he grabs my hand
then my finger,
‘What?’ I say,
‘That,’ he says,
and he pulls my finger under the water
and stuffs it into the eggcup
with left-over blobs of old mustard
stuck to the bottom.
It’s all slimey
‘Oh Horrible.’

I was an idiot to have believed him.

So I go on drying up.

I feel a little speck of water on my neck.
I look up at the ceiling.
Where’d that come from?

I look at my brother
he’s grinning all over his big face.

‘Oy, cut that out,’
He grins again
sticks his finger under the water
in the bowl and
‘Oy, that got me right on my face.’
‘Did it? did it? did it?’
He’s well pleased.

So now it’s my turn
I’ve got the drying up cloth, haven’t I?
And I’ve been practising for ages
on the kitchen door handle.
Now he’s got his back to me
washing up
out goes the cloth, like a whip, it goes
right on the –
‘Ow – that hurt. I didn’t hurt you.’
Now it’s me grinning.

So he goes,
‘All right, let’s call it quits.’
‘OK,’ I say, ‘one-all. Fairy squarey.’

So, I go on drying up.
What I don’t know it that
he’s got the Fairy Liquid bottle under the
boop boop boop boop boop boop
it’s filling up
with dirty soapy water
and next thing it’s out of the water
and he’s gone sqeeeesh
and squirted it right in my face.

‘Got you in the mush,’ he goes.

‘Right, that it,’ I say,
‘I’ve had enough.’
And I go upstairs and get
this old bicycle cape I’ve got,
one of those capes you can wear when you ride a bicycle in the rain.

So I come down in that
and I say,
‘OK I’m ready for anything you’ve got now.
You can’t get me now, can you?’

So next thing he’s got the little
washing-up brush
and it’s got little bits of meat fat
and squashed peas stuck in it
and he’s come up to me
and he’s in, up, under the cape with it
working it round and round
under my jumper, and under my chin.

So that makes me really wild
and I make a grab for anything that’ll
hold water; dip it in the sink
and fling it at him.

What I don’t know is that
while I went upstairs to get the cape
he’s got a secret weapon ready.

It’s his bicycle pump,
He’s loaded it with the dirty washing-up water
By sucking it all in.
He picks it up,
and it’s squirt again.
All over my hair.

Suddenly the door opens.
‘Have you finished the ...?’
It’s Mum AND Dad.

‘Just look at this.
Look at the pair of them.’

And there’s water all over the floor
all over the table
and all we’ve washed up is
two plates and the mustard pot.

My dad says,
‘You can’t be trusted to do anything you’re asked,
can you.’

He always says that.

Mind you, the floor was pretty clean
After we had mopped it all up.

Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here

Last updated March 07, 2023