After Midnight by Meike Ziervogel

‘James won’t be able to load the dishwasher probably. Not like Clara. And then what? Then I will have to reload it tonight after the Salon. In the middle of the night. When I’m totally exhausted.’

It’s Saturday. Peirene and I are preparing our 28th salon. I’m making the potato salad. She is supposed to tidy the kitchen. But for the last ten minutes she’s done nothing except stand in front of the dishwasher. She has opened it, closed it, opened it again. She has shaken her head. Now she is pulling out the bottom tray.

‘I’ve explained to him what to do,’ she mumbles as if talking to herself. ‘When most of the guests have gone, he has to collect all the plates, rinse them and then stack the machine. Only plates, no glasses. Like this, ‘ she bends down and demonstrates with the palm of her hand how many plates can fit into the dishwasher if they are stacked in a certain order.

‘I’m sure he will do it just right,’ I say. ‘I wish you would stop being nervous and just get on with your own task.’ I take the first pot of potatoes from the fire and drain the water.

‘I know men,’ with heavy steps she walks over to the table and sits down. ‘They are not into details. He will stack it any odd way and only fit five plates. While it is absolutely vital to fit at least 30.’ She lets her head hang low, hair in front of her face. ‘He won’t succeed. And he can’t succeed.’ She sighs. ‘At his home they prefer to do the washing up by hand.’

Abruptly she lifts her head: ‘I will never find myself in this situation again. Never. Do you hear me? Next time we interview for a new assistant, I will ask them how often they have loaded dishwashers during their lifetime. One hundred is the minimum requirement.’


It is midnight by the time the last guest leaves. I lock the door, turn off the lights and want to head upstairs. Suddenly Peirene holds me back. ‘You have to come into the kitchen and see this.’

I shake my head. I’m tired. I want to go to bed.

‘No, you have to come. ‘ She takes me by the wrist and pulls me inside the kitchen. She turns the light back on and opens the dishwasher. A perfectly, beautifully stacked machine appears in front of me.

‘Wow!’ I exclaim. ‘That is Clara standard.’

‘It certainly is.’ The Nymph nods happily. ‘I guess the young man has potential to become a high class publisher’s assistant.’

By Meike Ziervogel

Image by Rachel Kramer, creative commons.

This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 28 February 2016.

Category: The Pain & Passion of a Small Publisher


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