Title: The Other Half of the Punishment
This story is part of the Glimpses of Ben Series.
Ben rose quietly and leaned over to slip on his slippers. Oh his rear was still a bit sore. He ran a hand over the pulsing area and looked out the window. It was still dark out. Good, he hoped that meant his grandparents were still sleeping. His hands pulled his door open and he slipped quietly into the hall. He yawned and stretched all the way to the kitchen. Standing in the darkened kitchen he had to make a choice. Should he light the lantern by the sink and get in trouble for using lantern oil and a match or should he wait for the sun? He rested his head on the counter and looked out the window. Waiting for the sun would mean Grandmere would be awake. Lighting the lantern would mean he might have this chore done before she came to make breakfast.
He'd be in her way if he waited he reasoned. So he pulled his stool over to the counter, pulled up the glass chimney and struck a match from the match holder to light the lamp. When the wick was set right, he carefully lowered the glass and slid the lamp back on the counter.
He looked at the cold water where his white shirt lay in a lumpy bubble. Ben was fascinated with the shirt. He pushed on it and it bubbled up at him. He put both of his small hands on it and pushed the shirt to the bottom of the sink. He let go and the shirt rose to the surface again with a nice bubble displayed. Ben lifted the shirt out of the cold and filmy water and examined the shirt carefully before laying it back in the water. He put his chin on the counter and watched the shirt rise in the water again with another bubble holding part of it out of the water. The boy was fascinated. He let the water out of the sink. With his chin resting on the counter top, he watched until the last drop of water settled out of the sink. He bit his lip and scrunched his eyes.
Ben watched his shirt as it just laid there, no bubbles. He turned his head sideways on the counter so his ear could hear the water in the drain below. He stood up and looked at the water pump on the side of the counter. Plugging the sink, he tried to work the pump. One push up of the handle took all his strength; the downward stroke was hard too. On the second up and down stroke Ben found himself standing on tiptoe to reach the upper part of the stroke. Without thinking about it twice, the boy hauled himself up on the counter to work the pump handle. He sat cross-legged, his sore little rear planted firmly near the pump. The upward strokes were accomplished by pushing up with both hands and extending his hands over is his head, the downward strokes had him pulling down using the entire weight of his torso. Five strokes of water later, he was exhausted. He looked down in the sink and decided he had enough water.
He climbed down off the counter onto his stool. His eyes searched for his grandmother's laundry soap. He sprinkled some in the clean water and began to work his shirt in his hands like he had seen his grandmother do with wet clothing. The water was cold and soon his little hands were red and numb. Ben kept at it until he figured his shirt was clean. He pulled the drain and laid the shirt directly under the pump. He tried to work the pump again but his little arms shook when he tried it. He just wasn't big enough.
Ben plopped down on his stool and put his chin on his hands. There had to be a way he could do this without quite so much work he reasoned. He wanted it done before anyone was up too. Ben sighed as he thought about his Granpa spanking him in the bathroom the night before. He was responsible for the dirt on those clothes. He'd better figure out how to get it off. He sat up suddenly and grinned. He knew just how he could do this. He grabbed the pile of dirty clothes on the floor and stood up. With a quick snatch he grabbed the laundry soap and turned to walk down the hallway. He stopped outside his grandparent's door and listened. Silence.
Opening the bathroom door quietly Ben went in and closed it as softly as he could behind him. He stood still for a moment then walked over to the tub. With a big smile he reached for the plug and realized he'd have to climb in to put it in place. He shucked off his pajamas and slippers and stood naked next to the tub with the plug in his hand. With a deep sigh he began throwing his clothes into the tub. He poured a generous amount of soap on the clothes and climbed in over the side. With sure little fingers he put the plug in place and turned on the water. He knew he couldn't use really hot water so he adjusted it the best he could to warm. As the water filled the tub, he sloshed to his muddied clothing and began working the mud out with his hands. He let the water fill the tub partially and continued his work. Soon his mouth was open as he huffed and puffed away beating the clothing with his little hands.
It wasn't long before he noticed the water in the tub was really muddy looking so he pulled the plug. He stood and watched the dark water swirl out of the tub. Satisfied that he had soaked the clothes enough, he started up the faucet again held each piece under the water as he tried to work the remaining stains of mud out. His jeans came clean quickly and looked good to his boy's eye. His underwear if not white at least wasn't mud colored. When he got to his white shirt again, he noted that it looked pretty good except for one spot, one really bad spot. With the water running he tried to put more soap on that spot and scrub it some more. He had no success. He let it soak a minute while he tried to wring the water out of his other things and lay them along the tubs edge. When he turned back to his white shirt, he remembered reading about how the pioneers would lay their white sheets out over bushes so the sun could bleach them. Ben gave up on the shirt and rinsed it.
The little boy took a look at himself and saw that he was covered in soap and grime. He sighed and ran some more water to rinse himself off. When he finally climbed out of the tub, he grabbed his pajama's, which were wet and pulled them on along with his slippers. He wrapped his wet clothing in a towel and picked up his wet bundle and opened the bathroom door. He still didn't hear anyone stirring in the house.
Quickly he moved down the hall and to the cabin door. He opened it and stepped out onto the porch. The sun was casting it's early purple and pink shadows over the horizon as Ben carefully set each piece of wet clothing on the porch railing to dry. He placed his shirt over the back of his Granpere's rocking chair where he knew the early morning sun would do its work. Satisfied that he had done his punishment he crept back into the cabin and snuck down to his room. He was shivery and climbed up into his warm bed. In a matter of minutes he was fast asleep.
Almost an hour later, Martha woke slowly thinking she had heard noises in the hallway. She lay and listened and heard nothing. Finally with a yawn and a stretch she climbed out of bed and grabbed her robe. She went right out to the kitchen where she started the cook stove up for heating her cooking water. She was sleepy and didn't notice that the pile of clothing that should be by the kitchen sink was gone. Filling a pot with water, she put it on the stove and ambled back down the hall. She opened the bathroom door and saw her laundry soap on the floor. Picking it up, she looked at it and shook her head. Nothing in the bathroom was out of place, so she didn't give it a second thought. She brushed her hair and washed her face then returned to the kitchen.
George Fraser rose, pulled on his jeans and boots along with a warm sweater and headed out to his morning before breakfast chores. He passed Martha working in the kitchen and gave her a big smile. He opened the cabin door and stepped out on the porch. He stretched and yawned and then stood quite still. Ben's wet clothing flapped in the morning breeze on the railing. He sighed and turned back into the cabin.
"Martha, did you do that boy's wash for him?"
"Course not." Martha said with a questioning look on her face.
"Then you better come see this." George said with a grin.
She walked out and stood with shinning eyes as she looked at Ben's handiwork. "When did he do it?"
George walked over to the jeans. "Couldn't have been too long ago, these are still dripping."
"Well I never expected this."
"He's a good boy Martha."
She smiled and turned back into the cabin where she moved with quick authority to Ben's room. With a quick turn of the doorknob she entered his room. Ben was way down in the covers, burrowed in tight. But his hair was still damp from his work and his check's were flushed. Martha put her hand on his forehead and frowned when she found him warm and clammy to the touch. She smiled and brushed his hair with her hand.
Ben woke as his grandmother stroked his hair. She gave him a big smile. "Feeling a little chilled are you?"
"Yes, Mam." Ben said realizing he was very cold even though he was under his thickest comforter.
"Well, you just stay there and get warm honey. I'll bring your breakfast in to you a bit. Ben gave her a questioning look as he burrowed deeper into his covers.<><>
Martha walked to the door, "You wouldn't know about any laundry genies hereabouts would you?"
Ben now knew what she was talking about and sighed. More trouble he thought.
Martha left the room with a laugh knowing the boy would spend the time until she brought him breakfast wondering if he was in more trouble. Punishment and Ben was always interesting she thought. Were there any banana left she wondered as she went to make his oatmeal.