Saturday, July 4, 2015

On the Anniversary of Our Nation's Freedom, An Old Val's Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of Alcohol

July 4th, a time for patriotic celebrations across this great land!

Or, here at Thevictorians...a time for grilling. No big party. No red, white, and blue foods or drinks. Just a couple of steaks on the bargain gas grill that Hick picked up at the auction, and a six-pack of Michelob Ultra. FOR HICK! Not that he's going to drink the whole thing. He imbibes in moderation. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Best to let the story unfold slowly. Make room for your Rip Van Winkle beard.

Thursday I dashed into the gas station chicken store for a 44 oz. Diet Coke. I don't have one every day. But this one I think I deserved, what with dealing long-distance with my sister the ex-mayor's wife over our impending sale of Mom's house, a process which required four days to get her signature over the airwaves. I decided to throw in some slaw from the chicken kitchen, because we were having shrimp for supper. Yes. The gas station chicken store sells slaw.

I swear, that new chicken girl must have been planting the cabbage and waiting for it to grow. How long does it take to scoop a pint of slaw? So there I stood, hoping nobody currently working would associate me with that demented Madam who ran in there last summer and took pictures of the establishment without making a purchase. I couldn't help but eavesdrop on the conversation between the two clerks and the current customer.

That customer looked very familiar. A small, extremely-tanned, shoulder-length white-haired lady. I knew I'd seen her somewhere around town.

"I could not believe it! She was ringing me up, and when she got to my beer, she said, 'I'll need to see your ID.' I said, 'Are you kidding me?' And she said, 'No. I'll have to see your ID, or I can't sell it to you.' I told her I was obviously old enough to buy alcohol, but she said, 'That's our policy. I can't sell it to you without seeing your ID.'"

"Ha, ha. Did she know you work at Walmart?"

"She does now. Because I told her, 'Listen, honey, I am the one who trains the trainees. You have to learn right, but you have to use common sense.'"

"I guess maybe that's Walmart's policy for the holiday weekend."

"It's our policy all the time. I'm supposed to follow it, too. But when somebody is obviously in their forties or fifties, I don't even bother. I just punch in a date for their DOB that I know will be old enough. There's no need to slow things down and make them mad."

"The Dollar Store cards EVERYONE! For tobacco. They don't care how old you look."

"Well, I'm going to have a talk with the checkers when I go back to work."

So, I took that all in. It did seem ridiculous to tell her she couldn't get her beer without her ID, when she works there and everything. But maybe the new girl was afraid of losing her job, in case it was a secret shopper or something.

Today The Pony and I headed off to Walmart to pick up a few things before he leaves tomorrow for an engineering camp. I asked Hick if he needed anything. Nope. Except, as we were going out the door, he said, "Bring me some beer. A six pack. Michelob Ultra."

Normally, I am not in the habit of buying Hick's beer. For one thing, he rarely drinks it. Every now and then with pizza. Maybe once every couple of months. And he has a cash allowance for that. No need for me to dip into my household budget. But the main reason he and I understand that I don't buy his beer is because...I'm a small-town celebrity. Everybody knows my name, and it ain't Norm. Backroads is full of tongue-waggers who would like nothing more than to dwell on how Mrs. Thevictorian up at the schoolhouse likes her Michelob Ultra. I might as well be Widow Jones not keeping her window shades all pulled completely down, or be caught exhaling Shirley Thompson's breath.

The Pony heaved a sigh. I hollered over my shoulder, "Really? You want ME to push your beer through Walmart in my cart?" Hick got all snotty and told me to forget it, but of course I could not. Seriously. He had already been to town for several hours this morning. Could he not buy his own beer? He knew we were grilling. I implored The Pony, "Can you grab it for me?"

"Um. No. I'm pretty sure that's not allowed. I am not 21."

"You're not BUYING it! Only bringing it to the cart."

"I don't think I can."

"C'mon. It's all the way on the BACK WALL. I was only going as far as...the produce section. We don't have much on our list."

"I'd rather not. Somebody will stop me."

"Okay. I'll go all the way back there and get it, and put it in my cart, and push it, the ONLY item in my cart, back up to the produce section while you're over in the pharmacy getting toothpaste."

"Okay. I can meet you on the soda aisle with the toothpaste and the paper plates and the Lysol. Then you'll have more in your cart."


So off we went. I waited and waited on the soda aisle. I had to keep moving, because no matter where I waited, I was in somebody's way. I thought I saw people frowning disapprovingly. I can imagine their blog posts today: 'And there was this woman in the way with only a six-pack of Michelob Ultra in her cart. I don't know what she was waiting for there on the soda aisle.'

We got to the front and I gave The Pony his two dollars for gaming. He has given up the car game lately in favor of one with a fake gun that you shoot at the screen. Playing the car game hasn't made him a driver, so I figure playing the gun game won't make him a shooter. I got in my regular line. It was a new checker I hadn't seen.

OH NO! What if she was the new checker? I had Michelob Ultra in my cart! I looked around to see if there was a sign that said this cashier could not ring up alcohol. Nope. Still. She might be that stickler! All I brought in was my debit card. No ID. Oh, dear. I put the Michelob Ultra on the conveyor. For all to see as they walked by. I figured if Checker wanted my ID, I'd tell her I was a good 30 years past the age of imbibement, and ask for a manager. Or I could holler over to The Pony, "HEY! Go get my purse out of the car!" I could imagine him squinting, and holding his hands palm-up, and mouthing 'WHAT?' as I made a spectacle of myself. I wanted to set that Michelob Ultra down on the floor and leave it. But then I'd have to face a sober Hick.

How do I get myself into these situations?

The girl rang up my items. She made small talk. When she punched in the Michelob Ultra, I heard her register make an odd beep. I held my breath. Tried not to look guilty. Stopped short of humming. Because something like "What do you do with a drunken sailor?" would probably have vibrated from my between my lips.

WHEW! Checker tapped in something and continued. That was a close call.

I can't wait to see who throws this in my face months from now. In the parking lot, as I was putting my/Hick's Michelob Ultra in T-Hoe's rear, I heard, "HEY! VAL! Did you buy enough for me?" It was my cousin, the one who's buying Mom's house. And earlier today, my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel called me to chat, and informed me that she had been ten cars behind me the other day when I turned onto the county road.

Forget that the hills have eyes. Backroads had binoculars.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Sordid Tale From Little Val's Childhood

Let's travel back in time, shall we, to the days when Val was Little Val, attending school in an old brick building with creaky wooden floors, transoms above the doors, hissing radiators, cloakrooms, slate blackboards, heavy one-piece brown metal desks with built-in metal chairs that swiveled, and wooden desktops that raised for storing books and Big Chief tablets, with a grooved tray for fat wooden pencils.

When the highlight of the school day was running at breakneck speed over the crumbly asphalt playground surrounded by a granite chunk fence with mortar chipping away, capped by curved concrete, with a thick metal pipe skewered through the pillars, worn smooth by so many kid butts. Like this fence, though the original Little Val fence is long gone.

When nobody cared if we played red rover, slammed each other on the teeter-totter, swung so high on those black rubber swing seats that the chains went slack, picked up Maple tree whirligigs off the ground to stuff in our mouths and make screeching sounds, or lined up for captains' pick for kickball.

Back then, Little Val was what one might call smart as a whip, sharp as a tack, bright as a button. She was fraught with success. Her mind was to academic 'A's like Midas's finger to gold. Little Val was not shy about volunteering answers. It irked her, in fact, when the teacher would pointedly overlook her frantically-waving arm and choose another child to enlighten the class. But Little Val was brought up well. She did not show her displeasure, but only waved more frantically the next time. Because surely, it must have been a lack of attention by the teacher. A mere oversight.

So Little Val did not hold back that day her third-grade teacher, Mrs. Elvins, in her cat's-eye glasses, asked who could tell the class the name of the 13th President of the United States. It did not matter that Little Val, in her own cat's-eye glasses, had been absent the day before, due to an unfortunate orthopedic injury resulting from an evening of cautious roller-skating around her next-door grandpa's sidewalk, where the outside bump of the chimney proved that Little Val was not so accomplished at changing direction on wheels. A slow-motion fall from her strap-on, adjustable-length, metal roller skates that inflicted a greenstick fracture upon Little Val's left forearm, and garnered her a hard white cast from thumb to mid-humerus, held at an upright angle by a cloth sling that looked very much like her mother's dish towel.

Mrs. Elvins whipped the class into a frenzy. Somebody must remember the 13th President of the United States! Somebody...somebody... She even gave a little clue: "I know you remember! His name was Millard...Millard..." One by one, classmates were called upon, voicing reasonable answers, though incorrect. Little Val was on her knees in her chair, right arm flagging back-and-forth, to show Mrs. Elvins that indeed, SOMEBODY did know the name of the 13th President of the United States! Mrs. Elvins looked and looked. No more hands waved. Except that of Little Val.

"Oh, I'll bet Little Val can tell us the 13th President of the United States, can't you, Little Val?" Little Val nodded, still on her knees, still waving her good arm. "Tell everyone, then, Little Val! The 13th President of the United States was Millard..."


It sounded so right as it leapt from Little Val's lips. So right. Yet so wrong. Mrs. Elvins was speechless. The rest of the class hee-hawed and whooped and hollered, a couple of the rowdier boys even falling from their seats.

And that, by blog friends, was the moment Little Val realized that people found her hilarious.

Thanks to blog buddy Joe H for the inspiration.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Bank Needs a Triage System

Don't be that guy. At least don't come to Backroads and be that guy. That guy who pulls into the bank's drive-thru lane, but not all the way up to the canister-sucker, and sits there, holding the spot, preventing others from using it.

Don't be that guy. The one who tempts me to pull in behind him, because the other drive-thru lane has a line. Don't come down here to my little bank with only three drive-thru lanes, and one of them always closed. Don't. Just don't. Especially on a day when I'm in a hurry.

Don't be that guy who finally finishes balancing his checkbook for the very first time since he started working, his retirement having gone into effect July 1st. That guy who is counting out his money, which he should have done in his counting house, while the queen was eating bread and honey, and the maid was hanging out the clothes, about to be de-nosed by a blackbird. That guy who succumbs to narcolepsy, grows a long white beard, and answers to Rip Van Winkle through the vacuum-tube speaker.


My transaction took ONE MINUTE. Uh huh. All I had to do was deposit a check. I did not tarry to play a game of tic tac toe (best 13 out of 25, apparently) like that guy ahead of me, what with putting something in the canister, sending it in, taking something out, putting something back, sending it in again, etc.

Don't be that guy.

Don't be that guy if Val is close enough to get ahold of you!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Game of Hick and Mouse

Hick is no lover of mice. He has a not-quite phobia of them.

On the occasion when we would get a cute little big-eared field mouse in the house during the first cold snap, Genius was our go-to guy. He'd set the trap, the old-fashioned kind with that snappy bar, after many a sore-fingered trial, and dispose of the critter when trapping was successful. Genius, in fact, was so tender-hearted that he told me, upon one such disposal, "It wasn't quite dead yet, Mom, and I couldn't stand to kill it, so I threw it out on the front porch so the animals could get it." Yeah. I raised a real charmer.

Years ago, when Genius was an infant, and The Pony was a surprise waiting to happen, Hick and his older boys went to the BARn to clean up some junk and work on the Coca Cola loft. According to the boys, Hick grabbed their coveralls off a nail and started putting his on. He reached his hand into the pockets, and started dancing around, making a commotion, and stripped out of those coveralls forthwith.

"You should have seen him, Val," said the oldest, about 14 at the time. "He screamed like a little girl and started flapping his hands! His pockets were full of baby mice, pink, without any hair on them. He made us clean out the pockets and stomp on them."

I guess this experience stuck with Hick. We came home one evening to find him burning the yard. Yeah. Not the best plan for a house covered with cedar siding, surrounded by a wraparound wooden porch. From the look of the char, that fire had been within three feet of the porch. At that moment, the wind had shifted, and it was creeping out into the field part of the yard. The dogs and cats were laying along the burning edge.

"Get those animals away from the fire! What are they doing?"

"They're not hurtin' nothin'. A lawn grows back healthier after a burn. The conservation department does it all the time up in the state park. Watch."

Every few minutes, one of the pets pounced. They were waiting for mice to run from the fire. Hick did not seem to mind. It might have been his plan all along.

Relations weren't always so fractious between Hick and the rodents. He tells a story of his lowest moment. He had just been divorced, and was renting a ratty trailer in a park just off the highway. His mobile home overlooked the park's sewage lagoon. It was almost Christmas. He had lost his partial plate, and was depressed because he was getting ready for his factory's Christmas dinner celebration. "There I was, all alone, with only the thought of that prime rib to cheer me up, and I knew I wouldn't be able to chew it because my teeth were gone. They'd been missing for two weeks. I couldn't afford new teeth. Besides, the dinner was in a couple of hours. I sat there on the toilet with my head in my hands, feeling sorry for myself. I heard something, and looked up. There was a little hole along the baseboard. A mouse hole. And something was stuck in it. I got down and reached in, and it was my partial plate! I washed it off under the faucet, and left for the dinner. That was one of my best Christmases ever."

I guess the game of Hick and mouse is give and take.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Caution. Mature Readership Advised. Hope You're Not Eating. You Have Been Warned.

Three dead mice. Three dead mice.
See how they lay. See how they lay.
They all surprised Thevictorian Val.
Who only saw one, our nearsighted old gal.
But was tipped off forthwith by The Pony, her pal.
To THREE dead mice.

I stepped out on the porch tonight to call The Pony and Hick away from Hick's Folly The Sword Shack in progress. I almost stepped on a dead mouse. "Well. Ain't THAT a kick in the head?. Almost. For that little mousie. I guess the cats have left me another gift."

My sweet, sweet Juno, such a lady, would never disturb a present left for her human mom. No sirree, Bob! Despite Hick's aspersions cast her way, Juno is a good egg. Though according to Hick, she has eaten many a good egg. Daily. So this tiny deceased rodent was smack dab in front of my front door. It's not quite a horse's head in the bed, but it is a bit disconcerting. Let the record show that this is not the first dead mouse I have found at the door.

I proceeded down to the end of the porch and started tossing old bread to the chickens. I hope they like Nutty Oat. We have eleven chicks that are perhaps 1/4 grown up. They are quite cute, a variety of colors, some brave and some sticking close to their hatcher. Of course the dogs ran over from Hick's Folly The Sword Shack for their share. Let the record show that they were not full from eating purloined eggs, and they did not even stop to sniff at the rodent appetizer. Perhaps they are going vegan.

Hick and The Pony took off their hardhats and tool belts, loosened their steel-toed boots, and made their way to the house. Not really. Hick only had his hard head, and he couldn't take that off. The Pony was in Adidas slides, no steel toes for him. One of these days OSHA is going to shut down Hick's Construction Company Inc. The Pony trotted over ahead of Hick and his Gator.

"Oh, yeah. The mice."

"It's a mouse."


"Wait! I see the other one under the window!"

"Actually, there are three. There's one down by Genius's room."

"OH! Get me some pictures!"

These are the mice. I'll keep the photos small this time. No need to show a lack of respect for death. Because I could not photograph death, The Pony kindly photographed it for me.

This is the one directly in front of the door. Looks like he had the poop scared out of him, but that was just a gift from one of the chickens that Juno couldn't chase off the porch fast enough.

A bonus mouse was in front of Genius's bedroom window. The flies have befriended this one, and are treating his body like an amusement park a giant buffet.

This one, chilling under the living room window, is quite possibly a baby mole. I didn't turn him over to see his snout, but in an enlargement of this picture, his feet look especially mole-like.

Yes, I could have done without this rodent trifecta today. Thank goodness my men cleared the porch of them...

Who are we kidding? Those mice are still out there on the porch. It would NEVER occur to Hick or The Pony to move them. They just step over them. Or take pictures if I command. Kick them off the porch? Get the broom? Scoop them up with a blue plastic snow shovel that was last used to whack the aggressive banty rooster flying through the air with his talons aimed at Hick's stomach? Nope. They just step over such obstacles until told (more than once) to get rid of them.

Excuse me. I've got some orders to give.

These are the mice
who scared our Val
who called to The Pony
who loves the swords
that will hang in the Folly that Hick built.

Monday, June 29, 2015

It Takes a Village Idiot to Raise a Shack

Hick has not completely finished his Little Barbershop of Horrors. I know that comes as a shock to you, but around here it is the norm. The standard of construction. Par for the course. The status quo. Hick never finishes one building before he starts another.

The latest project is a combined effort between Hick and The Pony. That means Hick is doing the building, but the building is for The Pony. Hick thought it up all by himself, because he was running out of things to build. He still has an old schoolhouse in mind for down by the creek. But that would be down by the creek. Which means he would not be out front getting attention from anybody with a four-wheeler who drives by.

The new building is what The Pony and I call The Sword Shack. It will be a place for The Pony to keep his swords and knives and daggers and knights and Roman and Greek memorabilia. So sayeth Hick, because he does not like The Pony's room to be cluttered with so many collectibles. Nobody out-collects Hick.

Here is the beginning of The Sword Shack:

That's just the floor. The base for the floor. It rests in a place of honor next to the Little Barbershop of Horrors, just this side of the small sinkhole. Notice that turkey on the left? That's not a statue. Not some plastic target for a bow-hunter. That's Hick's turkey. Not the original Tom, the one he was caught lifting up and chanting, "Who's a big fat turkey? Huh? Who's a big fat turkey? HIM'S a big fat turkey!" Not Tom II, the one that "loved" a pretty white paramour to death within 10 minutes of Hick leaving them alone together. No, this is the current turkey, simply called Turkey, the one The Pony and I wattle-blocked one day when we came up the driveway a half-hour earlier, scaring a gray wild hen back into the woods. Much to the dismay of the fanned-out, strutting Turkey. This is the one that follows Hick around like a dog, and talks back to him when he makes turkey noises.

The Sword Shack currently looks like this:

It has two walls so far, and a bunch of boards to be used later, and a frame for the door. The Pony is outside as I type, knocking more boards loose from skids Hick brought home from work at some point. You know, those heavy-duty pallets that forklifts stick their forks under and haul around the plant. I'm not sure how old they are, but Hick's workplace used to let guys bid on scrap lumber. Nothing goes to waste when Hick is around. Except maybe the runny part of the soup.

I think The Pony may be able to pick up some spending money for college if he offers tours of his fine facility to patrons of my proposed handbasket factory.

All I know for sure is that this little project has been keeping Hick out of my poorly-coiffed, chemically-treated hair this summer. And it gets The Pony off the couch.

That's a good thing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

One of These Days, the World Is Gonna Recognize Val's Brand

Val has been busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Not a woman. A woman practices butt-kicking all day long. Has perfected it, really. And is a multitasker. Nope. Val has been busier than a one-legged MAN in a butt-kicking contest. In fact, she has been a two-armed woman kicking her own butt in a writing-submitting contest. Or something like that.

In the past 30 days, I have sent off 7 submissions. Okay. So they're only to contests. Nothing that's going to gain me fame and fortune. But it's a start. A priming of Val's creative-juices pump. Funny how hard it is to write humor when your heart is breaking. I really haven't been all that into dancing with the one what brung me since February. But I'm making an effort. I've climbed back on the horse. I'm back in the saddle. Trying to round up Old Bossy and get back on the trail, rejoin the drive.

Perhaps one of these days, you will sink your teeth into a juicy, succulent story, and think: "This is so delicious, it must have been part of Val's herd."