The dishwasher had been broken for weeks. Unable to switch over from one cycle to the next, it required constant babysitting and manual intervention. A gear was broken. Me? I was broke. The dishes still came out only half washed, bits of food and undissolved oil smears taunting my bull-headed efforts. The grim reality of hand washing the dishes clanged to the fore. Vexed at all the precious time this would take in my chocka-block schedule as a freelance writer (she writes, tea spurting out of her nose), I headed to the shops to buy a dish-washing brush. At least that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

Our universe has this great little knack of throwing you an advancement on insight, just when you think your problems couldn’t be any more tedious.

The cleaning supplies aisle had several options for the job. A dowdy, plastic brush that looked more like the toothbrush of Goliath, some replaceable sponge options and a coiled wire brush that had clearly never been held by the ergonomics department at Housework Are Us. It was around handled wooden brush to the far right that caught my eye. The label said it would decompose once discarded. That’s thoughtful, I mused as I picked it up off the shelf. It felt warm in my palm. Sturdy and kind. Despite being thrice as expensive as the plastic options, I bought it figuring it was still kinder to my budget than fixing the dishwasher.

Back home, I filled the kettle and set about scratching food scraps into the compost bin. The wooden brush lay by the sink staring at me, probing me into action. A gut twinge made me reach for the eucalyptus essential oil, flicking a few drops in with the steaming water and dishwashing soap.

I began with the least offensive items, a mug. Tannin stains lined the inner wall like the rings of a tree. With every turn of the wrist, the round-headed, brush burrowed further downward, thinking deeply, against the sides of the mug. My partner cherished his Earl Grey tea, while those pesky remnant stains irked at me. As the rings faded, the memories of our morning chats and cheeky banter with rusks became richly embedded in my memory.

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