Conundrum Press

McBrearty’s First Story Keeps Giving

May 11th, 2015  |  Published in Blog, Robert Garner McBrearty

Robert Garner McBrearty’s “The Dishwasher,” his first published short story, continues to garner accolades decades after its initial appearance in the Mississippi Review in 1982.

This time, it’s in the form of a theatrical performance.

Cape Elizabeth High School’s theater troupe won in their division at the Maine Drama Festival for their performance of “The Dishwasher,” which was adapted as a one-act play by Richard Mullen, now the school’s theater director, and Aynne Ames, director of Cold Comfort Theater.



Cape Elizabeth went on to represent the state regionally at the non-competitive New England Drama Festival at the end of April. The performers receive commendation from the New England Drama Council, where they attended workshops and watched performances from troupes representing five states.

“Unfortunately I haven’t seen it, but I hope to one day!” McBrearty said in an email. “That story has actually gotten quite a bit of circulation over the years.”

“The Dishwasher” won the Pushcart Prize in 1983 and was reprinted for the award. It was reprinted in McBrearty’s 2011 collection of stories “Let the Birds Drink in Peace,” and Mississippi Review republished it in its 30-year anthology in 2012.

It’s also included in The Burg, a 2012 book about the Hamburg Inn in Iowa City, where McBrearty first found the inspiration for the story.

“The inspiration for the story when I was working there as a dishwasher while attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop,” he said. “I wrote it one night after work, finished it around dawn, and fell asleep slumped over my kitchen table.”

An excerpt is used in creative writing textbook, “Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft” by Janet Burroway, and a team of blind actors read it at the Illinois chapter of the National Federation of the Blind conference, McBrearty said.

“It makes me happy to see it get a second and third and fourth life,” he added. “First published in 1982, I’m glad to know it’s still being read.”

McBrearty said he, Mullen and Ames have been discussing converting more of his short fiction into productions for the stage.

Read “The Dishwasher” for free here:


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