The Dishwashing Women

Selected for the Pushcart Prize series, 2024

At first there was one of them, and then two, and like a child that isn’t planned but also isn’t an accident, there was a third. They lived in a small kitchen inside a big kitchen. They imagined their place as some kind of pantry—only rather than a cupboard with shelves, it was an entire room, with a door and a window (that quickly steamed up when there was a lot of cooking in the big kitchen, which was often the case) and even a tall wooden cupboard in the corner where they kept canned foods, chipped plates, colorful scarves, woven straw hats, and a million other unnamed things. Adoma, the newest addition to the kitchen staff, did not want to believe it was the room assigned as the maids’ quarters. It was a tiny room compared to all the other rooms in the house. But the maids made a home of it, and when she would look around, Adoma was indeed surprised by their possessions—a stained velvet curtain that hung on the wall, a side table with a lampshade that had no bulb in it, old newspapers to wrap smoked fish in or fold in two as a hand fan when the heat was unbearable, a basket filled to the brim with aprons. So much of it secondhand treasures, and so many times their hands did the digging and salvaging from what would soon be discarded as worthless.

People on couch
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