It is 1955. The chunky triangular metal control knob of the electric washing machine is of grey ribbed metal. It has three positions: on, spin, off. The machine, Thor, is statuesque with the graceful presence reminiscent of a First World War tank.
The man of the house bought Thor as a present for his wife. Initially, she was touched, even pleased, at the recognition that she might need help in the performance of her apparently invisible role of steering the ship, their home, alone, without captain’s papers. She ignores the fact that this new technology continues her servitude, now augmented and disguised, by novelty. A shackle by another name is still a shackle.
She thinks that Thor is an odd name for a washing machine but suspects it was named by a man who imagined that violence, thunder, lightning, storms, strength, fertility and the protection of mankind embodied in a god who wields a massive hammer signifies the ability to wash clothes – presumably by pummelling the shit out of them.
It’s not long before she discovers that Thor has a fault. It takes her longer to work out a way around this. Turning the triangular control knob invariably delivers a small, but alarming, electric shock to her hand. She decides to switch Thor off at the wall, turn the knob on and then turn the current back on. This works but there’s always a lot to do looking after the lodgers, cleaning their rooms, cooking their meals and washing their clothes so she often forgets to switch the current off at the wall when the washing cycle is complete. She curses herself for her stupidity in not remembering what to do to avoid the shocks that, with time, worsen. She eventually curses herself for putting up with this madness.
After a particularly bad shock she raises the issue with her husband and asks what he can do about it – can the machine be returned and replaced by another perfect Thor?
He equivocates. She is angry. They argue.
He confesses, Thor fell off the back of a lorry; I got it for a song.
A song? What sort of bloody song? Shake, Rattle and Roll?
Squirming, he asks, Surely it can’t be as bad as you’re making out?
Because I’m a weak and pathetic woman?
Of course not.
Why would I make a fuss if it isn’t dangerous?
You may have more sensitive nerves than normal.
You want to try it for yourself?
He stands holding the chunky triangular control knob, Feels okay to me.
She switches on the current at the wall socket. He screams, Turn it off!
Got abnormally sensitive nerves, have you?
He spasms. Grips his chest with his spare hand. My heart, he gasps and collapses. She turns off the current.
At the call box, on the corner, she hesitates before dialling 999. What do I really want? she wonders.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.