Yellow roses in garden

Who breaks in and does the washing up? Strange stories and Easter

I got home tired. My temp job was uncomfortably far from where I lived, and I hated the travel. I was in my early twenties having moved away from home a few months previously; meanwhile, I was living on my own, trying to land myself a permanent job, and manage the sky-high rent I was paying.

And you have to understand, the rent really was sky-high for a single person. Because the original plan was that I’d share the property with my best friend. Except, her efforts to land a job had been met with even less success than mine. So it didn’t happen. Later, once the minimum time was up on the tenancy, I moved into something more affordable. (Also met two fabulous friends in the process, so not complaining there.)

So yes, I got home tired. I put the light on. I put my stuff down. I went through to the living room. I came back into the kitchen. And then… I noticed something had moved. I can’t remember what exactly what it was, but a cold feeling came over me as I realised someone had been in the house. What had they done? What had they taken? What if they’d taken the landlord’s stuff?

Then I noticed all the dirty washing up was now clean and stacked neatly on the draining board.

Whoever broke in had done the washing up.

Who breaks in and does the washing up?

Recently, I was helping a friend rehearse a monologue which retold Mary Magdalene’s perspective of Easter morning. As my friend went over her lines, it really hit me how strange Mary Magdalene’s story was. Who steals a body and leaves the grave clothes?

When Mary went to tell Peter and John, we think her story would have sounded strange because the body was gone. And that’s partly it. But what makes it really weird, what makes it a story you couldn’t make up, is not just that there was no body. It’s that the grave clothes were left behind. Placed exactly where the body had been lain.

In that kind of situation you have to ask, “What if this isn’t the horror story I thought it was? What if something else is happening? Something I hadn’t imagined?”

And of course, it was something new that Easter morning.

Now I know that not all unpleasant surprises get overturned by eucatastrophe. (JRR Tolkien coined this word; it’s kind of the opposite of catastrophe; it’s when a sudden turnaround of events happens and someone thereby avoids a very plausible doom.) But it is not an exaggeration to say that this one eucatastrophe on Easter day was enough, is enough, will be enough, to overturn the suffering and pain of the whole world.

And this story is strange. Mysterious, baffling, brain-bending. And it doesn’t magically stop suffering or make it easy, and yet… and yet it is good.

As for myself that evening, when I saw the washing up had been done, I began to suspect that maybe it wasn’t a burglar who’d been in the house. Then, as soon as I clicked that it just might have been my best friend, my eyes darted to the calendar on the wall. Sure enough, she’d doodled a little smiley face sticking its tongue at me, with the word “Gotcha!” underneath.

And the strange thing was, it was then, only then, that I noticed the vase of yellow roses she’d left on the side. (Because, according to an episode of The New Adventures of Superman I’d seen years previously, yellow is symbolic of friendship.) The flowers were opposite the door I’d used to enter the house, but previously I hadn’t seen them. Or the bar of chocolate next to them. Or the bottle of red wine. Or the note.

Yes, it was a good day.

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