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A Dishwasher and a Barbarian

Reality takes a fanciful turn when an artist discovers his art has come to life!

By MatthewKuszaPublished 5 months ago 7 min read
A Dishwasher and a Barbarian
Photo by hao qin on Unsplash

George had a robust, whimsical imagination, which was fortuitous since most of his life revolved around an endless routine of wash, rinse, dry, and repeat.

He was a dishwasher.

George worked at a restaurant called Rodeo Ribs for a quick-tempered, penny-pinching man named Mr. Witherson, who flew into a rage any time the supply of clean dishes ran low.

"George! What the devil are you doing down there? Plates! I need plates!"

Gee, Mr. Witherson, maybe, I don't know, spend some money to get more plates so we don't constantly run out, the overworked dishwasher hollered silently to himself.

"On it, Mr. Witherson! Plates coming right up, Sir!"

George knew his current job, the latest in a long line of menial gigs, would only last for a while. He invariably quit or found himself fired within the first month or two.

Why am I still working here? I'm drenched down to my underwear every night, constantly smell like an old sponge, and the waterlogged skin on my hands is practically rotting off, George thought.

Despite being intelligent, college proved disastrous for George. When a class disinterested him, he simply didn't do the work. He dropped out after one semester. But he wasn't completely devoid of ambition. George had two passions: art and role-playing.

George had tried every gaming system and actively participated in several role-playing groups. When not playing, he endlessly sketched the fantasy characters he played.

Recently, a friend had initiated George into the world of live-action-roleplaying. LARPing, as most called it, made George feel authentic and alive. All his current time and attention went into detailing every aspect of his chosen role.

George imagined his LARPing alter-ego, a courageous barbarian named Jockular, taunting his adversaries gleefully with horrific puns. George took pride in inventing Jockular's name, confident its pronunciation cleverly suggested the character's ubiquitous laughter and prodigious sense of humor. At the same time, George felt its spelling emphasized the barbarian's athletic prowess.

"George! Where are those plates?!"

George paused to envision the barbarian issuing a sassy retort, liquefying Mr. Witherson's bowels with threats to destroy the restauranter's beloved crockery.

"Blast it all! Now, I'm out of plates! George!"

Sighing, George scrabbled upstairs, shouldering a rack of clean dishes upstairs, asking himself, as ever, why anyone would put a restaurant dish sink in the basement.

"Here, Mr. Witherson," George said.

"That's it? This won't last five minutes! More, George! I need more!"

George sputtered, eyes wide, face red, before fleeing the hectic kitchen. He skidded to a halt at the top of the wet stairs.

I really need some non-slip shoes, or I'm going to kill myself, George thought.

He clutched the banister and rushed back to the pile of dirty dishes waiting for him.

Scrapping food into the slop sink, George returned to daydreaming about the upcoming weekend. His LARPing group had volunteered to host this month's regional adventure.

George thought happily about having two whole days of LARPing. He couldn't wait to show off the new armor he'd constructed. If he could deliver the jokes and taunts he'd been rehearsing, he felt sure he'd have a good chance of winning MVP.

Look at all these dishes! Jockulur would never spend hours scrubbing like some kitchen wench, George fumed.

"Hey, George. Do you have those plates yet? Mr. Witherson's legit going to have a coronary," a waitress called down.

"For crying out loud, tell him I'm coming!"

Shouldering a fresh load of plates, George sped up the stairs, two at a time, until one foot failed to connect with the last step.

Plates shattered everywhere as George landed with a sickening pop on the basement floor.

"George?! Are you ok?" the waitress clamored down.


"What was that noise? Did I hear plates breaking?!" Mr. Witherson asked.

Wracked with pain, George ignored the shouting upstairs.

"Your forehead's bleeding!" the waitress said.

"Is it?"

George swiped at his face. His hand came away slick with blood.

"Damn! Not good, not good! I fell! Those...those stairs... they're dangerous!"

Scrambling up, George's right foot erupted in pain. He crumbled to the floor and threw up.

"Somebody, help! George's hurt bad!" the waitress shouted.

After examining the twisted ankle himself, Mr. Witherson begrudgingly allowed a busboy to drive George to the emergency room. An x-ray confirmed his ankle was broken. George left sulking with a cast and a bottle of prescription painkillers.

At home, George collapsed on his couch as the throbbing pain grew. Reading the instructions on the prescription container, he tossed it on the cluttered coffee table in disgust.

"Ugh. The next pill isn't due for hours."

Rummaging about, George located a pencil and his sketch pad. Gingerly propping his foot up, he began to draw, hoping to ignore his mounting discomfort.

"Thank God I didn't break my hand. I'd die without being able to draw," he said.

His charcoal pencil danced across the paper, and a figure quickly emerged.

A burly man clad in furs and scaly, green armor, wearing an elk-antlered helm atop a mane of unruly red hair, glared up from the page. George smiled, admiring the sketch of his beloved character blithely, brandishing a bloodied, double-bladed battle-axe until George remembered the upcoming LARPing event.

George frowned. "Now, the whole weekend's ruined!"

Disgusted, George threw his sketchbook across the room. It hit with a plop, skidding with a rasping sound until stopping on the floor just inside the adjoining kitchen. Still angry, he hurled his pencil, wrenching his ankle anew.

"Ugh! I hate my life!" he screamed.

Feeling stupid, George closed his eyes, laid back, and tried to calm down. But the sound of his pencil rolling across the linoleum persisted annoyingly, and George heard something else: the crackle of rustling paper. He listened quietly, trying to identify the source before a loud crash from the kitchen startled him.

"What the…?" George said sitting up sharply.

"Dragon's Piss!" George heard someone whisper loudly.

Alarmed, George jumped to his feet. His ankle protested with a sharp pain, but George barely noticed. Arming himself with a pillow, he hobbled toward the kitchen until fright seized him. He froze, unable to turn the corner.

With awful images churning in his mind, George willed himself forward.

Oh, God! Oh God! I don't want to look!

Mustering strength from somewhere, he peeped into the kitchen and immediately wished he hadn't. He wanted to run, but again, his body refused to move.

With its back to George, an unnaturally large beast stooped in front of the open refrigerator, picking up shards of glass from a jelly jar shattered on the floor.

After initially mistaking the figure for an animal, George realized that a fur-garbed man had somehow infiltrated his apartment. Regaining control of his body, George stepped backward, placing all his weight on his bad ankle.


George's squeal surprised himself and the intruder.

The man spun around.

"Whit ur ye daeing oan yer feet? Ye're suppose t' be resting!"

George skittered backward, bumped against the wall, and slid to the floor.

The man standing before him was exactly how he imagined Jockulur. The fur, the long hair, the antlered helm, and even the green, dragon-scale breastplate were all there as if Jockulur had climbed straight out of George's drawing.

The towering brute let out a long, suffering exhale.

"Noo, I wis gunna mek ye summat, a healing potion o'sorts. Daes me evr so much good when I feel battered and bruised from battle. Trust me! It'll work wonders fo' ye. Ye'll be oan yer feet in nae time."

The stranger folded his arms and laughed while George gawked. Then the colossal man lunged forward, plucked George up from the floor, schlepping the astonished young man back into the living room.

George, contemplating eminent death, screamed.

"Quit yer bellyaching, Lad."

After carefully depositing George on the couch, the giant stuffed a pillow gently under George's ankle and, finding a nearby blanket, clumsily tucked it about George.

"Thir! Snug as a bugbear."

Motioning George to stay put, the behemoth strode back toward the kitchen, chortling to himself before abruptly picking something up.

"Oh. Ye dropped 'is."

The man held out George's sketchpad and pencil.

"Here's yer quill an' parchment. Zonks! 'At quill looks magical. Gi's me the willies jus' touching it. Mind ye, I urn't afraid. Seem t' remember hearing o' things such as 'is. Is it a quill o' eternal ink?"

George lay motionless, eyes like saucers. He was in shock.

Receiving no response, George's new and unexpected caretaker patted the young man reassuringly on the shoulder.

"Ye've cared fo' me many a time, Georgie. Ma turn t' return th' favor. I daen't expect ye t' thank me, though. It's an old shaman's recipe, ma Mum taught me, tastes o' pig shit."

The man snorted and guffawed as he returned to the kitchen.

Coming to his senses with the giant out of view, George dared to quietly flip his sketch pad to the page he had been working on.

George found the page blank. Only the smudge from an eraser indicated the page had ever been used, but the sketch was gone. Perplexed, George sat, listening to the stranger carry on in the next room.

"Balderdash! Georgie, ye lack sum o' th' necessary ingredients. No' t' worry! A'll forage fo' them. It shiuldn't be hard t' find some goat snot. O' course, noo 'at I think aboot it; Mum did say I cuid always use ma own."

"Jockulur?" George whispered.

The barbarian leaned his head into the room.

"Oh! Georgie! When ye're feeling better, mibbe ye'd draw me sum trolls or goblins t' practice ma fighting moves wi'. Whit dae ye think?"

George fainted dead away.

Jockular smiled affectionally.

"Ah, lad's plum tuckered oot."

Author's Note

I apologize to readers who struggled to decipher my attempt to spell certain words Jockular, the barbarian, spoke. He insisted on my writing his dialogue to resemble this quirky amalgam of British, Celtic, and Medieval accents. I protested, explaining I wasn't a linguist. But he loved the idea so much I couldn't tell him no.

Short StoryHumorFantasy

About the Creator


Star Wars Fan! Dungeons & Dragons Geek! Love history! Probably born a hundred years too late, I relish anything from 19th and early 20th century. View world through lens of Tolkein's mythology. Pretty simple, I write about what I love.

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Comments (2)

  • Andrea Corwin 5 months ago

    This was so much fun and your descriptions of the work in the restaurant were so vivid! 👏😄😄

  • Shirley Belk5 months ago

    I loved this!!! So entertaining and creative :)

MatthewKuszaWritten by MatthewKusza

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