Rubbing my eyes, head full of cold and hangover from too many medicinally aimed shots of whisky the night before, I staggered down to the kitchen. Opening the cupboard to find I had used both of my breakfast bowls I went to the dishwasher to grab a clean one for a restorative dose of Coco Pops. As I did so, I remembered I’d used the last of the milk in yesterday’s fix. Damn, dry Coco Pops – again. I reached in and saw my cleaned whisky glass on the top-shelf of the dishwasher, shiny on the outside, but full of a grey and opaque liquid on the inside. I picked it up. It shouldn’t have been there but all too often was; a talisman of my single-bloke laziness I suppose. Then again, I’m sure everyone must inadvertently stack a glass in the dishwasher right-ways-up every now and then. Maybe. I peered into the upright glass and asked myself how on the grungy water could ever clean anything, let alone leave my plates so sparkly. It could only be magic.
I raised the vessel of putrid liquid. It whiffed of something clinical. I swirled it a little and it left a milky crust on the side of the glass. I felt that with my blocked-up nose, the throbbing of my head, the taste of sewage in my mouth and my blocked-up nose, to taste it could only improve my situation.
I took a sip. Hmm, it didn’t taste too bad, considering. I took another. OK, it was a bit sandy, but was warming and tangy like that box of miniature liqueurs I found that my parents had brought back with them from Majorca in the 70s. I gulped down the last swig in one and though I choked a little when a slither of old potato peel caught at the back of my throat, it had been very refreshing. My nose had even started to clear.
Then there was a flash in my head.
The next thing I knew, I woke up with a start. I was in bed and could hear a long zip, zipping. I knew that sound; someone had broken in to steal the bat from my cricket bag. I called out and was surprised when a woman’s voice said:
‘Good morning, mister.‘I didn’t mean to wake you; not after all your exertions last night.’
I lifted my head and saw a stunningly beautiful girl, hair all akimbo, sitting on the end of the bed, zipping a long boot up and over her knee. I pulled the covers up to my chin. I had no idea who she was, or why I was in bed, or even whose bed it was.
‘Who are you?’ I ventured.
‘Well you might ask,’ smiled the beauty. You insisted on calling me Fiesty Fifi at Blotto’s last night, after I told you my name was Fiona. You made me laugh so much. And your dance moves, they were so bloody … erotic.’
I winced. ‘What? I aspire to dad-dancing and I’ve not set foot in a nightclub, let alone grotty Blotto’s for years. Where the hell am I?’
‘My bedroom,’ said Flirty Gerty or whatever her name was. ‘You mustn’t think I always bring men back, particularly those old enough to be my father, but you were very persuasive.’ She lifted a leg and zipped up the other boot.
I averted my eyes to avoid seeing up her skirt. ‘Old enough to be your…’ I didn’t finish the sentence. I might only be 29, but suddenly I didn’t want to know how old she was.
‘Shhsh, now. Go back to sleep. You’ve earned it, Mister Amazeballs,’ she said. ‘I thought you were joking when you said that’s what all the girls call you.’ She winked at me.
‘Amazeb…?’ I fell back on the bed as she blew me a kiss, telling me she that as it was Saturday, she was off shopping up town.
‘But its Friday,’ I said.
‘Whatever.’ She pouted to check her face in the mirror. ‘But you’d best be gone by 9am when Fitz gets back.’
‘Fitz?’ I asked.
‘Fitz. My boyfriend. He’s on nights at the docks. And you’d better make the bed before you go, he can be a bit crotchety.’
I fled from her flat before she’d even finished spraying her décolletage with air-stealing perfume. What was all that about? How the hell did I end up in some bimbo’s boudoire? I couldn’t believe I’d been in a nightclub, let alone had a one-night stand – if that was what I’d just had. And she said it was Saturday. Last thing I remember it was Thursday morning and I was getting my Coco …’
I bought Saturday’s paper on the walk home. When I got in there were three messages on the answerphone from work, asking why I hadn’t come in last two days. Sod them. When I got in I saw the empty glass on the kitchen worktop. I picked it up, and wondered…
As soon as the dishwasher had finished its cycle, I grabbed the upright glass. It had the same delicious taste as last time, though it did make me wince a little…
Then there was a flash.
I was relieved, if perhaps a little disappointed, to wake and find myself in my own bed and on my own this time. It couldn’t have been the dishwasher liquid after all. I rubbed my eyes as I went into the kitchen to make my morning coffee. What a mess. There was food everywhere; even more than usual, like the aftermath of a Home Economics class at the monkey house. Jars lay opened, cartons spilled, ketchup had been squirted on the walls, mango chutney stuck to every surface, and pickled onions lay squashed everywhere, while the floor was covered with hundreds and thousands of, well… hundreds and thousands. Amid the cooking carnage, propped up on the kitchen table, was a painting. I’m no artist, but I could see it was a portrait of a face, a face I knew well. Really life like. Fuck me: it was though Richard Stilgoe was actually in the room. I examined the brushwork: It was exquisite. I licked a slither of Richard’s beard from the canvas. It was as I thought; three parts banana Nesquik to one part Cadbury’s Smash. The whole artwork seemed to have been produced from the contents of my kitchen, but who had broken in to do it? I phoned the BBC, who weren’t interested in buying the picture, though the National Portrait Gallery paid me enough to restock the kitchen.
I spent the rest of the morning tidying up and scrubbing the ceiling. I stuck an empty glass in the dishwasher to prepare a refreshing lunchtime beverage, having ignored the latest call from work. I planned an afternoon nap, as I was feeling rather tired all of a sudden, with a gentle Sunday evening ahead watching the Antiques Roadshow.
I took a sip.
Then there was a flash.
I must have nodded off for a few seconds. I woke with a start and having got up to make a sandwich, found the kitchen in chaos all over again. I couldn’t believe it, but instead of a portrait, the culprit had baked the most spectacular cake. I’d seen enough of Bake Off to recognise a sachertorte with elements of punshkrapfen and a stunning central Battenberg block when I met one. The phone rang. It was work. “Where the hell was I?” When I argued that it was Sunday they insisted it was Tuesday and that as I’d already used up all my annual leave, I was in breach of contract.
‘Tuesday?’ I said. ‘Look, I’m just eating cake before settling down to Call the Midwife.’ Bloody idiots. They told me to put the TV on, if I doubted them. I hate to say it, but they were right. It wasn’t Songs of Praise at all, but Tipping bloody Point.
I needed a drink, so I loaded the dishwasher with another upward facing glass. While it whirred and whooshed as it performed its cycle and produced my cocktail, I had a think and worked out that perhaps I was suffering from some form of dishwasher fuelled amnesia. I decided against drinking the grey gunge after all and go in to work next day.
I woke normally next morning, still coughing with my cold, and went to work only to find that in my absence I’d been sacked. Thoroughly pissed off, I came home, ran the washer and drank a fresh glass of the magic elixir. I needed one. I woke on the sofa two days later, lying on an illuminated scroll which confirmed that the day before I’d been awarded the freedom of Newbury for apparently saving a group of ramblers who’d been ambushed by a flock of angry swans along the tow path of the Kennet & Avon canal.
On Saturday night I invited my mates over. I knew they’d drink anything, so I loaded the dishwasher with glasses, told them I’d invented ‘dishwasher daiquiris’. We all had two pints each. When we woke up two days later, it seemed that not only had we won a national 5-a-side football competition on the Sunday, we had beaten the Eggheads on BBC2 Monday evening.
After a couple of weeks of heavy dishwasher drinking, and with my skin starting to turn to slurry and my hands starting to get the shakes, I gave the daiquiris a miss for a few days. But then the weekend is the weekend, and my promise to limit myself to just half a glass on Friday night, but in my misery developed into a one-man-dishwasher bender.
I woke up 8 days later to find £1,000 by my bed. Turned out I’d won Come Dine with Me. Watching the show on TV from my sickbed was a strange experience: who was this confident, showboating twat, with a hint of devilment and superior cooking skills, throwing a salver of twenty−pound notes in the air? He certainly looked like me, but I couldn’t recognize myself and had no idea where I’d got that Alan Titchmarsh costume.
Over the next few weeks I won “Rear of the Year”, became the new Milk Tray man and brought the first bottle back to UK shores on Beaujolais Nouveau Day. I came runner-up in Strictly, gave my combinatorial interpretation of the Kronecker coefficients and was adjudged winner of the Turner Prize for my piece, “Turd on a Tea Tray”. I’d licked my own elbow, watched Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace without falling asleep, and taken my revenge for all of us on the person who’d first thought it was a good idea to put Gregg Wallace on TV.
But I couldn’t remember any of it.
I was faced with a dilemma: I’d proven that on the drink I could achieve great things, succeed in life, maybe earn great wealth and be the man I could never otherwise be. On the other hand, I just wasn’t being me. I was lying to myself, losing half of my conscious life to the drink and feared that the long-term effects on my health from those dishwasher dregs, probably meant there would be no long-term, period. Faced with this decision, there was only one way to go. I loaded the dishwasher with pint glasses and turned the dial to ‘Max’. ‘Sod it’ I thought, I was twice the man I was when I was on the sauce.
I sat to listen to the 90-minute performance of the machine. It had never been on this setting in the 8 years I’d been living in the flat. It gave a blissful 35 minutes of chugging, sloshing and pishing before it made a groan, a noise like a splitting oak, and the crashing sound of a dozen glasses smashing before it finally let out a modest, but worryingly significant, ‘pumph’. The machine fell silent, apart from the cascading of water, and as the yellow lights on the display faded, a single red one glared over the word ‘истощенный’.
I bolted upright and twiddled dials, unplugged and re-plugged the thing, pulled open the soap drawers and slammed them again – all to no avail. I choked and was hit by a hot plume of steam as I slowly opened the door and peered in. Through the cascade of water dripping from the top, I could see my pint glasses reduced to a thousand shards. The spinning blade had not only come away from its bearing, but had pretty much destroyed itself in gouging much of the metal off the side of the machine. Knowing the machine to be an ex-Soviet Bloc Yakovlev Yak-100, I ran to get my Russian dictionary. I looked up истощенный. To my horror it translated to ‘knackered’.
In desperation, I dissolved a dishwater tablet in a mug of boiling water, and drank that, but it just didn’t hit the spot. I rang the Samaritans and they put me through to the 24-hour emergency dishwasher line…
‘Nah,’ said the repairman as he looked the dishwasher up down and scratched the back of his head.
‘Nah?’ I repeated.
‘Nah,’ he said. ‘It’s fucked’. He took a huge slurp of the tea I was beginning to wish I hadn’t bothered making him. ‘Yer drain impeller has blown and taken the macerator out with it. The float ball has seized and yer lower spray arm is as bent as a pooftah’s wrist.’
‘But you can fix it?’
‘Yakovlev? Yak-100?’ He sniffed. ‘No chance. Can’t get the parts.’
‘But it’s under warranty,’ I said, wading through a draw of paperwork left for me by my landlord. ‘Here.’
He examined it.
‘There you go,’ he said, holding up the document and tapping a line of text with a stubby finger, ‘истекает в феврале девятнадцать емьдесят два год’
I looked at him.
‘Expires February 1972. Ha, if only you had called me 50 years ago’.
‘Ha,’ I said.
My landlord reluctantly replaced the Yakovlev Yak-199 with a Kodak Dazzlecroc 101, purchased from bankruptcy stock, for a song. It couldn’t even smear the gravy on my dishes, let alone clean them. And it certainly couldn’t take me to oblivion and back with delicious, if slimy cocktails.
I eventually found a job, as a ‘mixologist’ at a high-end Newbury cocktail bar. I’m known to the hip-and-happening residents of the town and all of the West Berks NHS staff for my Yak Bombs, but they’re just not the same as my Dishwasher daiquiris, no matter what brand of dishwasher tablet I use. A year on, my skin is still grey, if shiny and lemon-fresh, and to keep the cravings of my addiction under some form of control, I have been prescribed Rinse-Aid, impregnated with methadone. I find this shameful. Looking back, I’m sure I’d have finished soon myself off if I’d have carried on consuming so many Finish All-in-One dishwasher tablets. These days I’m a leading light in the campaign to introduce a government safety limit of 5 tablets per week for males, 3 for females, so heed my warning, and stick, like me, to Mr Muscle: just a couple of sharp squirts at the back of my throat makes me feel powerful like the titular super hero while it kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. What’s more, I’ve not had a single cold since.