Monday, March 30, 2015

His Life of Education Seems to Hurt Me Some

You know in the original True Grit, when Kim Darby as Mattie Ross tells John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, "I will not bandy words with a drunkard"...Sure you do! Doesn't everybody know that classic Academy Award winner well enough to quote it line by line? If you don't, shame on you! You might as well be unable to retrieve any miniscule Seinfeld factoid from your memory.

Well, ol' Mattie Ross had a point there. I do not ride to school with a drunkard every day, but I ride with a reasonable facsimile: a 17-year-old know-it-all without even the common decency to ride shotgun beside me. It is next to impossible to engage in a meaningful conversation with somebody so disinterested sitting behind your head. We are on the verge of creating, unintentionally, a new "Who's On First?" routine.

"What was that? I heard something fall when I went around the curve."

"Nothing. Just the bag of trash."

"I want that cleaned out of here by tomorrow when we go by Aunt Sis's house. She already thinks this car is a rolling trash heap."

"I will. It's only been in here one day."

"WHAT? That bag of trash has been here for weeks."

"Noooo. Only since yesterday."

"You mean it's not full?"

"No. It's empty."

"Wait. Why would I hear it fall over if it was empty?"

"It didn't fall over. It fell off the seat."

"An empty trash bag can't fall off the seat and make a noise. It's a Walmart sack."

"I'm not talking about the trash bag."

"Yes you are! That's what you told me fell off."

"No. I said it was the bag of trash."

"I know!"

"Um. I'm going to throw it away today. I didn't yesterday, because there wasn't room in the trash bag."

"What are you talking about?"

"The bag of trash."


"No. They are not the same thing."

"So let me get this straight...the bag of trash fell off the seat and is empty, but the trash bag is too full."

"YES! Why can't you understand that?"

"It is useless trying to talk to you! You are definitely your father's son. You don't make a bit of sense."

"I told you yesterday, my bag of trash was empty! When you took me by Dairy Queen. I ate all my food. The paper bag is empty, just the wrappers are left. It won't fit in the trash bag, which is full. So I'm waiting to take it in the house when my hands aren't full. Why is that so hard to understand?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because I think a bag of trash and a trash bag are the same thing. Silly me."

"Uh huh."

When I think back on all the crap I learn from The Pony, it's a wonder I can think at all.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Blow. It Must Stem From Having That Job on Their Mind All the Time.

What is it with guys and the bread sack?

Seriously. A bread sack is not a balloon. Yet every time I reach for the bread after Hick has had his way with the loaf, that bag is bloated like a paper lunch sack in the hands of a 13-year-old boy with the intent of causing a heart attack amongst the elderly faculty.

My dad used to do the same thing. "Air is a good insulator," he explained. Well then. I suppose construction workers are planning to stuff those poofy loaves in between the studs before putting on the drywall. Fashion designers can weave them together to make puffy coats that hold in body heat better than Gore-Tex. So if you knock over a wine display while waiting in the liquor store for your friends to buy a chocolate babka, you will have something to soak up the mess.

Fishermen could use them as floats for their nets. Kids can swing them at each other's heads without risk of injury, like carb-filled boxing gloves. Let's fill containers with them at the ends of highway guard rails to cushion cars in collisions. Use them in football helmets to cut down on concussions. Strap them to babies' butts as they're learning to walk.


Stop filling up the bread sacks with air. You are inviting the enemy in to destroy the inhabitant. Can you not simply squeeze out the atmosphere before twirling that plastic wrapper and twist-tying it like a rodeo cowboy hog-tying a steer?

What is it with you guys and the bread sack?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

You'll Never See His Picture On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

Yesterday, on that ill-fated trip to transfer the title of Mom's car, I endured several thumps from Even Steven. Among the affronts were:

*the stoppage of traffic, and one-lane passage, for pot-hole filling on the way to the license office

*the need for an unbroughten death certificate

*which necessitated a fruitless trip to the library on the bad advice of the DMV clerk

*a trip back home for the certificate

*a truck that pulled into the parking space right next to T-Hoe as I walked out of the DMV, parking at an angle with his back tire over the line, giving me about two feet of space, which is not enough to open T-Hoe's door completely, so that I had to shoehorn myself into the driver's seat, almost leaving my left foot out because I could barely wedge my shoe in through the crack

*a minimum wage worker at Captain D's who responded to the request of "lots of butter, a knife, tarter sauce, and ketchup" with four packets of butter, a knife, no tarter sauce, and 14 packets of ketchup

*the sudden appearance of an often-stopping mail truck just after committing to the road less traveled

*a fellow lottery-lover/chicken eater who cut in front of T-Hoe to usurp my rightful parking place at the gas station chicken store

*a mailman who had shoved my writing magazine into the far depths of EmBee to soak up yesterday's rain

*a tractor blading the potholed dirt of our gravel road. Slowly.

As I stopped at various destinations on our bill-paying Friday excursion, I sent a few texts to my sister the ex-mayor's wife to keep her updated on our progress while she was safely ensconced back at her immaculate-drivewayed, cleaning-manned house with her grandbaby. She showed about as much empathy as The Pony. Maybe a little more. "You should just go straight home and lock the doors."

I told her: "We're on the way to Captain D's. I hope The Pony doesn't get a hook."

As we sat at the Captain D's drive-thru waiting for The Pony's lunch, we saw movement across the drainage ditch, at the McDonald's parking lot. It was the Hamburglar, dancing around, waving at cars, cape flapping in the wind, wide-brimmed hat flopping to and fro.

"Pony! Get me a picture to send Sis!"

"My phone won't take one that far away."

"Zoom in. Here. I'll put the window down."

"That won't help." He snapped the picture through the tinted back passenger window. "It only goes halfway down."

"Here. I put the front window down. Lean over and shoot through there."

"I can't even hold the phone still like this. There."

"No! You have to get him when he's facing us. You can't even tell he's the Hamburglar from the side! You can't see his striped shirt. HEY! HAMBURGLAR! OVER HERE!"

"Don't. Besides, I already took a picture."

"Like he can see you in the car. You can't have a good picture through the window."

"It looks the same through the window or without."

"Yeah, right. Then how come it looks different to my eyes when I look through a tinted window than when I put it down?"

"I don't know."

"Send me your best picture. Then you're going to send it to Sis. But not yet. Wait until I send her a text."

Then I typed in, slowly, with one finger, as is my style, a text for Sis:
"Oh, no. I think the McDonald's is being robbed! Picture to follow, from The Pony."

He sent it. Sis sent back a message:
"I don't get it."

Of course I had to wait until I was at the traffic light by the local junior college to respond, since we were 10 cars back, and had to sit through two red lights: "That was the Hamburglar. Just joking about my very bad day."

She replied: "Oh. I enlarged the picture, and I still couldn't see a robbery."

So I told her: "I should have known. The Pony is a joke-choker."

Then I looked at the picture. There really is a Hamburglar there, right in the middle.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Unfortunately True Adventure of Me and My Sister the Ex-Mayor's Wife

I had today off because an eight-hour work day is somehow equivalent to nine hours of after-school time during the evenings of conference week.

Huh. There is no such thing as a day off in Val's world. Hick is buying my mom's car, because he has a fondness for one-owner vehicles driven only to town and back by little old ladies. So he decided I should meet Sis and start the paperwork so he can take possession. That Trailblazer has been sitting in the garage since Mom had her health issues last November. The garage which Sis has both door openers for, and the car for which she has both sets of keys.

Let the record show that the garage also has a keypad, and while I THINK I remember the number, I am not agile enough to dash out from under the closing door once I have opened it and need to hit the button for closure. No Indiana Jones am I. The Pony? Let's be real. He has an Indiana Jones fedora, but he wouldn't know a garage-door-closing button if it bit him on his rump. So we haven't seen the car lately, and assume it's there, even though Sis's daughter at first said she wanted it. That's what we were waiting on.

Sis and the ex-mayor gave us a price they looked up on Kelley, which was $1300 to $2400 less than what Hick looked up. Funny how that works out. Anyhoo...Sis said we need to do something with the car, and her little gal is no longer interested, so we agreed on a price that was what Hick said in the beginning, since dealers use the NADA and not Kelley. We're not out to cheat our thick-blooded relatives like they're some watery-veined car dealers. The price is the price in our eyes, no matter who is buying it.

Hick stopped by the license office near work to see what paperwork I would need. He declared I only needed three items: the title, the TOD paper, and my mom's title application. I questioned him numerous times, but that was the story he was sticking to. So off we went this morning to meet Sis and her grandbaby. The Pony was tasked with sitting in Sis's car so neither he nor the baby had to go in the license office.

As luck would have it (or Even Steven playing a prank) there was ZERO wait. We didn't even need a number. The License Gal looked over our documents. Had us both sign the title, and had me print Hick's name on it. Then she looked at Sis and said, "So you're GIFTING her with your share?"

Sis laughed. "Well, I guess I am, but it depends on how she acts. If she's nice to me, yes. But I could easily change my mind." The phone rang. License Gal picked up. Sis went on. "Of course, SHE HASN'T PAID ME YET, so maybe I shouldn't sign!"

Oh, dear. I leaned my head down behind that little half-wall thingy on the counter for the workers to hide behind while they make faces and stick out their tongues and otherwise ridicule us customers. I couldn't even hiss, because I didn't want License Gal or her counterpartner to hear. I mouthed viciously, "SHUT UP! THEY WILL CHARGE ME TAX IF THEY KNOW I AM BUYING YOUR SHARE!" Which is not what my mother wanted, or she would never have forked over ten dollars for that Transfer On Death title.

Sis straightened up. "Well, it's only a DOLLAR, but still..." She will not be taking home an Oscar any time soon.

I am guessing that License Gal was too absorbed in her phone call, because she asked again if Sis was gifting me with her half, and Sis said yes. Then I said I wanted a TOD on the new license, and LG said, "Oh, do you want to put your sister's name on there?"

"No. I am going to put my two boys' names on there."

Then it happened. "I just need the death certificate."

"Oh. I didn't bring one. They were right there on the counter beside my purse, but my husband checked with another license office about what we would need, and he didn't mention the death certificate."

About this time, Sis rolled her eyes and huffed. "And you SAID it would only take you ten minutes to get here, but it took you fifteen."

"Hey! I can't help that. We sent you a text by the mushroom factory. There is roadwork going on, and traffic was down to one lane."

"Oh, I wondered what they were doing." License Gal was downright chatty with no customers pawing at the turf.

"Yes. And now I have to go back through it twice to go home and get a death certificate."

"The library can give out copies of those. It's right over--"

"I KNOW where the library is. But I never knew they could give out death certificates. The county health center does, but I've never heard of the library doing it. What do you want to do, Sis? I hate for you to have to wait until I get it."

"Oh, she can go ahead and sign. Her part will be done. You'll just have to come back with the death certificate to apply for a new title."

And against my better judgment, I drove around the block to the library, where a little old lady looked at me like I had two heads, and said, "How could we do that? Can you access them on the computer? I wouldn't think so, because then people could do bad things!"

Yeah. Just as I thought. I drove home and got the death certificate and went back to the eighth circle of Not-Heaven license office, where I had to take a number. I waited. And waited. Then there was a hubbub, as both the workers hollered, "Ma'am! Do you have number 15?"

"No. I have number 12." I held it up.

"But we're serving number 15." Let the record show that I was the only person waiting.

"That's the first number you called since I came in and took 12 off the rack."

"Oh, well...come on over. People steal them, and put them back, and we never know what they're going to do with the numbers."

So I got the OTHER worker this time, and she didn't act at all like she knew what she was doing, as opposed to the Einstein who told me to get a death certificate at the library. I paid $11.00, and THINK I got the process taken care of. But I don't remember Sis signing a separate paper that Hick said she would need to do to relinquish her share. Hick, who told me by omission that I did not need the death certificate.

I have a feeling Hick is going to end up in the slammer for grand theft auto if he ever gets stopped driving Mom's car.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lady Chattel-ly's Sister

In cleaning out Mom’s safe, my sister the ex-mayor’s wife and I found an old legal paper labeled “CHATTEL MORTGAGE, With Power of Sale.” It was for One 1960 Alstates Skyrocket 50’ House Trailer, Serial #XXXXX. Come on. You didn’t think I’d give the actual serial number, did you? That thing might still be out there somewhere. Yes, that was my childhood home, though not the first, because I am told we used to rent a house up by the elementary school.

Anyhoo, this deal was between my dad and his mom and dad, for $60 per month, due on the 28th, including 6% interest. In the event that there was a default in payment, whole or part, the entire amount became immediately due and payable, and his parents would take possession of our home. Talk about tough love, baby! This document was stamped and filed by the recorder of deeds.

So we got to looking at it, and Sis said, “I missed the first night in our trailer. I was at the hospital being born.”

“Ahem. I was 18 months old then. HELLO! I don’t think I spent the night there alone, because I’m pretty sure Dad would have taken Mom to the hospital and waited for your grand entrance.”

Sheesh! It ain’t all about you, you know!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Much Room Could It Take Up, Really?

Genius the absentminded professor is home for a couple of days. Barely.

I knew he was driving in from college yesterday. He's been on a trip with the solar car team since last Thursday. After a one-day turnaround, he said he'd be here Tuesday evening, maybe 4:00 or 5:00. Since I had conferences at school, I told him he'd be on his own until I got home around 8:00. I asked if he would drop by and pick up The Pony, since he would be passing within 50 yards of my school building as he buzzed down the two-lane highway with my new used $600 color laser printer than he got me for $40.

That was too much to ask, of course. So to stop the gale force wind of his heavy sigh from coming through the phone and bursting my eardrum, I told him to forget it. The Pony was okay with hanging out in the math lab, computing and texting, until I could leave. Besides, he was getting a Chinese carryout supper with the faculty. Which took the sting out of his first conference night where his grandma didn't pick him up after school and whisk him away to her house for high-speed internet and buttered noodles.

So there I sat Tuesday morning, not even halfway through my 12-hour day, verbally jousting with freshmen to elicit a quality product from the education assembly line, when my phone rang. Not my cell phone. Like smokin' in the boys' room, that's against the rules. The school line. I assumed it would be the office, requesting this one or that one to grace them with his presence. But no. As I picked up the receiver, I saw Genius's name appear in the caller area.



"Yeah...are you all right?"

"Um. Yeah. I'm okay. I can't get in the house. I don't have a key. I took it off my keyring because I didn't have room, and I thought about it as I was driving back from Michigan, but then I still forgot to put it back on before I started home."

" can look in the secret hiding place. We still have one door that goes with that key, even though we changed the other locks. I guess that key is still there. I sure didn't remove it. You'll have to crawl. Maybe through cat poop. You remember, don't you? When you were little, I had to send you to get it."

"I know where it should be. I think. But not which side of the corner."

"You'll just have to look. If you don't want to crawl, I guess you could push in that lattice, and we'll repair it later. The only other thing is to drive back over here to get my key. Or to your aunt's house. She will have our key on Grandma's keyring. But that's only a couple miles from here."

"I didn't really want to drive all the way back there. I'll see if I can find the key."

Thirty minutes later, there was Genius knock knock knocking at Val's classroom door. I talked to him a few moments. He said he might go visit a couple of teachers while he was there. I told him to make sure he checked in with the office. He went out the door and turned back to grab it just before it locked him out. He looked across the room at me and ducked his head.

"I forgot. The key." He opened up my cabinet and removed it from my keyring.

I hope the solar car team sticks a spare up under the fender in a magnetic box.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Don't Even Trust Him To Light a Candle With a Wooden Match

I'm not sure what's up with The Pony. He might be trying to grow up, or he might have an ulterior motive concerning his paramour (if left unsupervised, and if either of them ever gets a driver's license).

On Sunday, when I asked what he wanted for lunch, he chose pasta. Sometimes he has it with only butter. Sometimes he has it with red sauce. He's not picky. Just some Barilla elbow macaroni out of the box. It's not like I make it from scratch.

The Pony went looking to see if, indeed, we had any pasta, or if he was about to be poor Mother Hubbard's dog. Yes. He found some penne. And a jar of pizza sauce. So pasta it was! But here's the interesting thing: The Pony stayed in the kitchen during the preparation.

"I think I need to learn how to cook for myself. For when I go to college."

"Well, you're going to have a meal ticket for the first year. I don't really think they'll want you anywhere around a stove."

"But Genius said his dorm had a kitchen, and you could check out a spatula and skillet and stuff."

"Yes. But I don't think that's a good idea for you."

"I want to learn. So maybe this summer I can cook for myself."

"Okay. Here we go. I put a squeeze of this minced garlic in the water, because you like garlic. And I put a squeeze of it in your sauce. Because you like garlic. You don't like meat. So I put a little dab of butter in your sauce to give it some fat. And I usually put in a packet of Splenda. And grind in some black pepper. Don't turn it up too high, or it will splatter all over the stove. There. Your water is boiling. Let's put in some pasta. It will expand. Stir it around, but don't hold your hand over the steam. It will burn you. You can turn down the burner from high so it doesn't boil over. If it does, blow across the top until it stops, or lift the pan by the handle so it's off the heat for a second. Not too low, though, if you turn it down. It still has to boil. Watch your time so you don't overcook it. I put a dab of butter in that water, too, and some salt. Okay. Turn off the burners. Now when you go to pour out the pasta into the strainer, do not splash. Take it slow. Never set the dry pan back on the hot burner. It will be too hard to clean. Shake the strainer around to get the water out of your noodles. Pour them in the bowl. Pour the sauce over it. For you, that's it."

"Thank you so much for making this for me. I think I can remember how to do it for myself."

"Now...go take the laundry out of the washer and put it in the dryer."

Might as well teach him all about living on his own while I have the chance.