Five-year old Paul and six-year-old Richard are playing in the backyard when Richard gets a wild hair up his butt to go fishing at the local pond. They gather a couple of poles and a bucket and wander off down the dirt path to the pond.
A short time later they return with a bucket of fish. Filled with excitement, Paul rushes inside the house.
“Daddy! Daddy! Look what I caught!”
After getting a stern lecture from his dad about going to the pond without an adult, Paul’s dad praises him and tells him to take the fish out to the garage so he can clean them.
Paul returns to the garage, a smile on his face.
“So, what’d your dad say?” Richard asks.
“He said they have to get cleaned.”
“Do you know how to clean a fish?”
Paul shrugs. “I guess in the washing machine.”
Paul drags the footstool in front of the washer, climbs up and dumps the bucket of fish in the washing machine. Paul is climbing on the dryer to get to the detergent just as his mom rounds the corner of the garage, laundry basket in hand.
“What are you doing up there?” she asks Paul. “Get down before you break your neck.”
Paul and Richard watch as Paul’s mom dumps the whole load of whites into the washing machine. Underwear, socks, towels and napkins flutter down on top of the fish. Across the way, Richard grins, the crease on his face getting bigger with every article falling into the machine. Paul’s mom puts the detergent in and closes the lid , placing the basket on top.
“What’s the matter with you?” she asks her son. “Close your mouth. Are you trying to catch flies?” She walks across the garage, her high heals clicking across the concrete. She turns and says, “You two want some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a grape soda?”
The boys nod and for a few minutes, they are left alone. Paul scurries over to the washing machine and using the step stool, lifts the lid and peeks inside. Sure enough, there are the fish, swishing back and forth, their heads peeking out from beneath the socks and suds.
“I wonder why you have to clean the fish first?” Paul says. “We don’t eat the outsides.”
Richard laughs and sits down on a metal fold up chair. Paul closes the lid, grabs a bag of marbles from the metal shelf and sits down on the floor in front of his friend.
“You wanna play?” he asks.
Richard’s eyes twinkle with laughter. “Sure.”
They are deep into a game of “Ringer” when Paul’s dad walks into the garage.
“Hey, kids. You want to learn how to clean a fish?” He pulls down a black box from the top shelf and opens it. Out came a long, thin knife.
Paul stands, a confused look on his face. “But, Daddy, we already cleaned the fish.”
“What do you mean you cleaned them. Where are they?”
Paul points to the washing machine. “Mommy’s washing them with the socks.”
A horrified look crosses his father’s face. Richard rolls on the floor, clutching his side in laughter.
Paul’s father opens the lid of the washer and grimaces. “Oh, son, what have you done?”
“What? You said you needed to clean the fish. I was only trying to help.”