The meeting was called by the youngest member of the family, and stern faced we all gathered to face the matter at hand.
“I want to start off by saying,” the youngest remarked, staring at me, “that this is your fault.”
It was a bit early for recriminations to begin, there is usually a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before the mud starts to truly fly.
“I don’t think we need to apportion any blame,” said my wife, at which point I shot her an appreciative glance.
“Yet.” She continued. I looked at my hands.
“The situation is critical.” The eldest, until now silent decided to chip in. Usually she can be relied upon to fight the good fight. Not today.
“Stocks are really low.” She said.
“I’m sorry, stocks?” I said. Feeling slightly confused.
“Socks.” She shouted. “Socks are getting really low. There is hardly any clean underwear anywhere. There are about three socks in my drawer, and none of them match. One is a sports sock, one is a hiking sock, and one is a sock that doesn’t even belong to me.”
“You could wear the sports sock and the hiking sock together…” I began to suggest. I was fixed with a withering glare.
“What I want to know is, how has this happened.” The youngest, my original accuser was back at the crease, aiming to hit a six. Or failing that, a four, so long as it really made the fielder run.
“It’s the weather!” I said, in a desperate attempt to defend myself. “The wretched weather, it’s been hopeless. And then whenever I do manage to get clothes on the line, the birds use them as a latrine.”
“Oh and that’s why none of us have got any clean underwear? Get real.”
While her sister had been viciously attacking me, the eldest had quietly made her way to my top drawer.
“Look at this!” She yelled. “Loads of pants! He’s got loads of pants in here. There’s literally… loads.”
“This is why he shouldn’t be allowed to do the laundry.” Announced the youngest. Because he prioritises his own underwear, so that he’s always got boxer shorts, but we have nothing.”
“I don’t, it’s just…” I said, my voice beginning to trail away as I realised I couldn’t explain this anomaly. Perhaps, I thought, my best defense was to go on the attack. “The reason I have plenty of clean underwear” I announced, “is that I put it directly in the wash every day. I don’t leave it on my bedroom floor and then gather it up in a great big load and expect it to be washed immediately.”
“We all do that.” The youngest hissed. “We all do that, because we know that if we don’t, then we won’t have any underwear. And despite that, despite us playing by the rules, we’re still in the same position.”
“It’s not a question of rules…” I began, but even I knew it was feeble. My attack had been neutralised, my excuses have come to nothing. “I’ll get a wash done this morning. I will wash all the underwear that’s in the basket.”
The family meeting broke up, my wife went to work, and I retreated to the bathroom, where I looked into the mouth of the laundry basket. I pressed a corner of the lid, and it spat a sock at me.
As I stood there the door opened, a girl put some more clothes into the basket. “These need washing too.” She said. Outside a bird squawked. “Bring on the latrine!” And I heard the pitter patter of raindrops begin to hit the window.