If you missed parts 1 and 2, start here
Pressed against the clear round door of the front-loader, Misty mouse rotated slowly as the water level rose. Behind her, folds of laundry shaped a shadowy smile.
Maxy Mouse ran to the middle of the floor. Jumping up and down, he pointed to the door of the machine.
Something squeaked. Bessie leaped onto a stool.
In front of the washing machine, a mouse was jerking up and down, having some kind of fit. Perhaps it would die.
She grabbed an unopened box from the shelf behind her and threw.
It missed. The mouse ran up the machine and sat on top, as if taunting her. She reached for a broom. With both hands, she brought it down – then clutched at the shelf behind her as her stool wobbled. Once steady again, she searched in vain for flattened fur.
The machine had stopped filling; her blow had caught the off-switch.
She couldn’t suppress another shriek when the mouse reappeared over the machine’s top. It was taunting her!
Angry now, she raised the broom for another blow, but the creature leapt aside and her broom hit another button. The door of the front-loader popped open, spewing out water and soggy laundry.
The pile of wet washing on the floor moved.
Bessie’s eyes closed as she screamed, so she didn’t see Misty emerge from the pile and run to the mouse-hole, where Max joined her. Together, they shoved in desperation at the table blocking the hole until it shifted, and the pair disappeared into the wall.
The machines waited.
Bessie heard scrabbling behind the wall and told herself the mouse had gone. ‘An washin don’ move by hisself. That washin just moved cos the water were drainin out of it.’
The sound of her own voice reassured her.
‘Better get them wet things sorted, afore they get to smelling.’
She stepped off the stool, using the broom still clutched in her fist to steady herself. She wasn’t accustomed to silence in the laundry. She started to sing the hymn about those in peril, but her voice sounded eerie, wobbling in the stillness.
She re-set the steam press. It spat at her before subsiding to a grumble as the fresh water heated.
She pressed a button to drain the top-loader. While it pumped, she scooped wet washing from the floor back into the front-loader, which coughed when she turned it on. Soon it was chuntering resentfully as it filled and turned.
She mocked her own nervousness. Amos would be back as soon as he’d found another connector for the water hose, but she couldn’t wait all day for that lazy good-for-nothing. The front-loader would take the rest of the washing in two batches. She raised the lid of the top-loader.
The wet sheets inside were heavy and resisted her tug. She stretched to reach the last bedsheet at the bottom.
Max returned to retrieve his uneaten cheese; he had found fresh breadcrumbs in the pantry that would go well with it. But the cheese was nowhere in sight.
Machines were grinding and grumbling; Bessie had them working again. Had she tidied up his cheese?
He found her reaching into the big top-loading washing machine with one foot off the ground. The other was on tiptoe.
It left the floor.
The machine rumbled. Both feet flew up, out of sight.
The lid crashed.
A hollow belch echoed off the walls of the basement.