Monday, November 24, 2014


Genius is not with us this Thanksgiving holiday. He is currently Jack-Torrancing his way through the week, having been selected as caretaker of 1400 beds at College as one of the two RAs on duty during the break. I’m not good with details. I believe Genius has to mind four buildings. My knowledge of the specifics makes me look like an expert in irony.

I asked Genius if he had enough food to last the week. It’s not like he has the larder of The Overlook Hotel to feed on. He survives on the meal ticket that comes with his RAship. He said that College was giving him $130 for the week. According to Genius, the math wizard, that’s five dollars per meal, three meals per day, except the last day, when he only gets to eat twice. However…being quite the entrepreneur, taking after Val and her proposed handbasket factory pipe dream, Genius declared that he only needs to eat one meal per day, and is planning on scamming the extra cash for his electronic ventures.

“Make sure you go to a buffet! Then you can eat your fill.”

“Oh, I’m not wasting my money by eating out. There is one other guy on the hall, and we have decided to go halves on groceries, and cook every night. I’m going shopping later. I have my Schnuck’s card!”

Genius also said his old roommate, who transferred to a different college this fall, was coming to visit. “Well, let’s hope he didn’t regenerate an appendix.” Yeah. Genius spent the week before break that year taking his roomie to the hospital with appendicitis.

I’m hoping his caretaking duty is less than eventful.

“Mom. All I have to do is make sure nobody burns the place down.”

I guess he's qualified. I hope he doesn't have any residents like a certain blogmaster. You know. The kind who might use pencils for kindling to start a roaring fire in the microwave.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night Stays These Couriers From Beating Your Package

Funny how the Post Office works, don't you think? Not funny ha-ha. Funny peculiar. Take my Post Office. Please!

Okay. That wasn't fair. I have TWO Post Offices. There's the Dead-Mouse-Smelling Post Office, where the workers are fairly competent, except when they want to bust my hump by asking for ID when I bring in the orange card left in my box to pick up my package, which is clearly addressed to me. Never mind that they will hand out my packages all willy-nilly to various and sundry persons who walk in and say, "I think we have a package, but I don't have the card." Uh huh. It's true.

Sixteen-year-old Pony, with his scraggly almost-Amish beard (not that there's anything wrong with that) can commandeer my package forthwith, no ID necessary. Same for my mom. "Um. I think my daughter has a package here. She got a card, but I don't have it. She forgot it at home, and didn't have time to go back. She doesn't like me to drive all the way out there. They live way past the prison, and the roads are not very good. She said I might have to sign something. I'm her mother, and I'm retired. My daughter works, so she has trouble getting here before you close. She's a teacher, and she has to stay after school for a faculty meeting, and so her son can practice for his Scholar Bowl team. Oh! You have it already! Thank you. I will tell my daughter how nice you were."

Yeah. The DMSPO is fairly efficient, if you don't mind the line of people which usually includes a grabby old man who sticks his hand in your buttcrack and acts like it was an accident.

Last week I had to go to the Main Post Office. It's a hub. Everything goes through there for shipping out and shipping in. This is where I had trouble with my box of just-published books that disappeared into thin air between the publisher and my mailbox. And where the counter guy overcharged me for a flat rate box that was supposed to cost $5.95, but loosened my purse strings to the tune of $8.40. And like Baby and her name in the opening scenes of Dirty Dancing, it didn't occur to me to mind. It's also where I went looking for Genius's package (heh, heh, Genius's package) and the counter guy gave me the run-around and then went in the back and dashed across the doorway like a duck in a Nintendo Duck Hunt game. So instead of the Main Post Office, I think of this one as the We're Dumb And We Don't Care Post Office.

So...I took a box in there around 4:15 p.m. to mail to Genius. No more of that flat rate crap. Hick found me a DISH box from when we got our internet gewgaws, and I stuffed the stuff inside, which was mainly a bunch of wires with odd connectors, a video light, and a microphone, and taped up that carton ten ways to Sunday. I hate when people lift flaps and peer into my package. As with my last mailing experience at the DMSPO, I had the address written in my block printing with black ink on a white note card. Here's where the two Post Offices diverge.

The counter lady at the DMSPO looked at my note card address like I had picked it up off the men's room floor, stuffed it in my butt for transport, sneezed onto my palms, withdrew it, and waved it under her nose. Her nose, which curled up in disgust. "Just lay it on the counter." She typed up an address sticker and slapped it on that package.

The dumbledorf at the WDAWDCPO was the same guy who overcharged me on the flat rate, and questioned the address on my card, because he didn't know that the Post Office people read from the bottom up: City, Street, Box or Suite, Name. Dumbledorf took my note card. I was expecting to get it back. It's the one I keep in my desk at school with Genius's current dorm address. But no. Dumbledorf grabbed that note card and secured it to the top of my package with several lines of 4-inch-wide clear tape.

It's like those two Post Offices have no common regulations. Like they are the left Twix factory that cascades chocolate onto the cookie bar, and the right Twix factory that flows chocolate onto the cookie bar. If these two Post Offices were walking down the street, snacking, paying no attention to their surroundings, they would be sure to collide, with one screaming, "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" and the other bellowing, "You got chocolate in my peanut butter!"

Forget everything above. What I originally set out to tell you was that while Dumbledorf was fumbling around with my package, his co-worker, Lackadaisical, was trying to help an irate customer whose wedding gifts had been lost in the mail.

"No. You don't understand. My mail is being delivered to the wrong place."

"Yes. Our carrier has been putting mail for Apt. 11 in the box for Apt. 1. He just doesn't look far enough at the address."

"Well, I want my packages."

"We don't have your packages."

"Where are they then?"

"I suppose your neighbor had them."

"I want you to get them back. You gave them to the wrong person."

"We can't get them back."

A dude walked out of the back room. "A guy just called here complaining that he got the wrong mail."

"That must be mine. I want my packages."

"He didn't bring them in. We can't do anything about that."

"But YOU lost it!"

"We'll talk to the carrier about making sure to deliver the mail to the right address."

"Sir, you would not be so uncaring if these were YOUR wedding gifts."

"All you can do is ask your neighbor."

"That shouldn't be MY problem."

"We can't do anything about it."

Then my Dumbledorf lost interest in their conversation, and almost asked me if I wanted fries with my package, but instead offered me stamps. Which I DID need, and had planned on buying anyway, but then he tried to switch me from the flags to Christmas stamps, so I gave in.

I'm sure the county collector will enjoy my season's greetings conveyed by Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Vignette Starring the Future Victorian

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic tonight, my friends. Won't you come along for the ride on Val's trip to yesteryear?

C'mon! It'll be fun. We might stop for ice cream. Those of you who don't call "SHOTGUN!" soon enough can take turns picking the radio station. If anybody gets too tired from standing on the hump in the back-seat floor, he can stretch out up there on that flat area under the back windshield. No bobbing dog-heads in Val's car. The front-seat passengers will be protected by Val flinging out her arm upon sudden stops. But you back-seaters are on your own. And no touching each other or staring or sticking out tongues or clicking the little silver ashtray lids on the armrests.

Whew! Here we go. Tonight we're dropping in on third-grade Val, an earnest little gal, a teacher-pleaser. Val is sitting in the back desk of the row by the windows. Her desk it the one-piece metal flip-top kind, with a wooden lid, and the wooden chair attached that swivels wonderfully when one is bored. It has a built-in metal pencil tray if you lift the lid just slightly. That pencil tray will come in handy when the class moves to the new building mid-year. The new building Val can see out the window, where she doesn't know there will be a fantastic big communal sink like a half-circle shower, activated by tiny feet on a circle of hose-looking stuff, with soap dispensers that put out powdery pink soap, which can be held under the sprinkling water and packed into soap balls that will rest just right on that in-desk metal pencil tray, laying in wait for somebody, perhaps a teacher, to inspect the desk, think, "Oh! Candy!" and pop one into her mouth. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. This scenario is not yet even a blip on Val's radar.

There sits our Val. At the back of the row because she can be trusted. Not a rabble-rouser. She can be used as a divider in the great separation effort against talkers and ne'er-do-wells. She pays attention. She's always prepared. Even today. Even though she has just returned to school after an unfortunate event. Her left arm bears the knuckle-to-armpit cast of a victim of a greenstick fracture of the ulna, suffered in a roller-skating accident on her next-door grandpa's sidewalk. Val has her cast plopped on the desk. No pretty pink cast like modern kids. No envelope-shaped canvas sling with adjustable straps. Val has what might be compared to a white tea towel, folded each morning by her mom, into a big triangle with the pointy ends tied behind her neck, as her sling. Yet she is not concerned with her arm. The social studies lesson is in session!

Social studies is not Val's favorite subject. But she is, after all, a teacher-pleaser. So she's ready to jump in with an answer. Her right arm can still raise, by cracky! But this is a question Val does not know. "Who was the 13th President of the United States?" A crease forms between Val's eyebrows, causing her silvery-pink-framed cat's eye glasses to slip a tiny bit down her nose. The teacher looks sadly around the room. No hands are waving. She tries another tactic. "I'll give you his first name: Millard."

Val wracks her brain. Digs deep. She knows she knows this. She knows she's heard that name. At home. At her grandpa's house, or at his cabin on the St. Francis River. What was it? Millard...Millard...Val's good right arm shoots into the air. She wiggles her hand, just in case the teacher hasn't noticed.

"Yes, Val? Do you know? Our thirteenth President was Millard...Millard..."

Val tucks her foot up under her butt to sit a bit higher in her chair, and announces proudly,


I see that many of you have fallen asleep on the ride home. My daddy will carry you from the car to your bed. Nighty night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Another Emily Litella Moment For Val Thevictorian

Oh, dear. Val had another one of those moments yesterday.

I was perusing the headlines, trying to keep my head afloat in the world of current events. Perhaps find something to bring up in my classes, share with my teenage masses, topics that go along with our subject matter. Like the Philae probe landing on comet 67P, or the Mt. Kilauea eruption that recently ignited homes, or those fifty Nicaraguans trying to push a beached whale back into the ocean. Maybe I could even find a wacky headline for Joe H.'s weekly contest.

There it was! Something for my pupils AND for Joe H.

"Dunking Your Head in Olive Oil Could Cut Heart Attack Risk in Six Weeks"

Well! You can't beat that with a stick! Two uses for one news story. So I meant to click on it and read it, but my eyes were torn away by some intriguing tale on down the page. But it was in the back of my mind. Dunking your head in olive oil, you say! I imagined a bald man dipping his head in oil, like when George Costanza was up to some hanky-panky with The Old Man's Jamaican housekeeper. What about the hair? How was that supposed to work if you weren't bald? Did you massage the oil into your scalp? Wouldn't shampoo negate the positive benefits? Because I would never go to bed with my hair slathered in olive oil. And I surely wouldn't go off to work with oily hair, in case I did the dipping in the morning. This was becoming a problem. I want to lower my heart attack risk in six weeks just as much as a bald man! I couldn't really concentrate on my other stories, so I scrolled back up the page to my provocative headline.

Oops! My headline wasn't quite the same as I remembered it. Never mind.

"Dunking Your Bread in Olive Oil Could Cut Heart Attack Risk in Six Weeks."

These glasses are really much worse than I thought.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Post From Val That You Can Read In 8 Seconds if You Don't Count the Title

The Pony is kicking up his heels with joy.

Last night, he learned that his story, Areo-Atlantis, was accepted for inclusion in the upcoming anthology Building Red: The Colonization of Mars. The expected publication date is Spring 2015.

The Pony would like to thank Val's blog buddy Donna for listing the opportunity, and also blog buddy Sioux for reminding Val of this prospect tailor-made for his writing style.

It takes a blogosphere to nourish a budding 16-year-old writer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Whosiwhatsits on First

Some work days run smoothly. I barely arrive and log on to the fifty-eleven sites I need to use for filling the thirsty vessels entrusted to me with knowledge, and the day is done. Fini. Time flies when you're busy with your filling station.

Occasionally, it's a matter of one step forward and five steps back. Nothing goes according to plan.

Textbooks are abandoned and must be reunited with the abandoner
Students forget they were potty-trained thirteen years ago, and must go RIGHT NOW
One needs the nurse
Two need in-school suspension work for tomorrow
Three forgot their make-up work
Four remembered to bring it
Five need a pencil
Six announcements blare over the intercom
Seven calls (heh, heh, who am I kidding, only seven, that'll be the day) come in from the office
A stack of homebound work from September arrives via an office worker
A new kid shows up and sits down without so much as flashing a copy of her schedule
An old kid moves away, and the office needs the grade on the checkout sheet
A tech school kid insists on wearing half a pair of safety glasses until I insist he doesn't
A hoodie is put on the floor, and the kid in front of it scoots his chair and rips off the cuff
A fart rings out like the shot heard round the world
And, well, some days, you really earn your salary, as our superintendent once told me, kind of like my principal at a different school told me not to stress, because you just can't make chicken salad out just can't make chicken salad without the main ingredient.

So it should come as no surprise that on a day such as this, TODAY, Mrs. Thevictorian had a bit of an Abbott and Costello moment with a fellow faculty member.




Hi. Did Miss Whosiwhatsits get her IBM t-shirt? would I know?

Can you ask her?

That's going to be kind of difficult. She's on the other side of this concrete-block wall.

Nuh uh.

Yuh huh.

Isn't she in your room?

Why would she be in MY room? She had her OWN room. On the other side of that concrete-block wall.

But...Miss Sec told me she was in your room this hour.

Nope. I'm looking. But she definitely is not in HERE. Do you need the number for her room?

Oh! I don't mean the TEACHER Miss Whosiwhatsits. I mean the STUDENT Miss Whosiwhatsits.

OHHHHH. She's right here. Hey! Firstname Whosiwhatsits! Did you get your IBC t-shirt?

Um. Yeahhh. I got it.


Well, whatever that t-shirt was, she says she got it.

Okay. That's all I needed.

I guess we're even. You mixed me up with her name, and I mixed up your club.

Yep. We're even. Bye now.

Hey! Firstname Whosiwhatsits! Does Mrs. Phone-y call you MISS in her class?

I don't even have her class.

Oh. Because I was confusing Miss Whosiwhatsits, the before-marriage name of Mrs. Whatchamacallit, with you. And I wondered if she calls you MISS WHOSIWHATSITS in class.

Yeah. I don't even have Mrs. Phone-y's class. I'm just in her club.

Duly noted.

Some days, I really earn my chicken not-salad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Pacifying Val Thevictorian

Saturday morning, before the incoming snow, as I wasted time before making my grocery shopping list to get out early and avoid the crowd...I sat down at my laptop, Shiba, overlooking the front yard by way of the living room picture window. I was leisurely browsing the internet like I didn't have a care in the world, instead of preparing to do battle with hard-core storm-shoppers over bread and milk

When out on the porch
There arose such a clamor
I peeped through the mini-blinds
To see who dared to yammer.

It was Ann, our not-terribly-bright black german shepherd. She stormed down off that porch like a regular guard dog, and tore across the front acreage like she meant business. I was a bit discombobulated. She never gets all aggressive like that. Usually just stands right under the window and barks her fool head off. But this time, she was a bitch on a mission.

I didn't see anything that might trigger her usual hair-trigger all-for-naught woofing. No marauding dogs, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, escaped horses, alleged meter-readers, or shadows. I kept my eyes on Ann. She barreled across the driveway to that section of yard that runs along the gravel road.


Ann charged right up to them, never breaking stride, and they flagged their cottony tails at her and bounded up the gravel road. Darn that dog. What a pretty picture those deer would have made. They were big by Val standards. Their flipped-up tails were about ten inches tall. Not that women are good judges of that sort of thing, of course. Not an antler in the bunch, all were does. I suppose they were having their morning coffee klatch in our yard, since the hunters were thirsting for blood in the woods.

That's just like Ann, to defend our homestead against the quartet of deer, who of course are much more dangerous than chicken-eating neighbor-dogs or strangers who make themselves at home on our range while we're away at work. She's also an ace at defending us from imaginary intruders between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m., from her loyal post just under our bedroom window.

I don't know why Ann can't be more like my sweet, sweet Juno. Who would have herded those whitetails into a pretty parade formation for my viewing pleasure, having fortified herself with free-range chicken eggs and a heaping handful of cat kibble the previous evening.