Monday, September 29, 2014

Somewhere, Between High Rollers and Pot Heads, Lies Val Thevictorian

A frown to the left of me, a toker to the right...here you are stuck in the middle with Val.

Walk with me, won't you, into the Casey's General Store on Sunday afternoon? Yes. Soak in the ambiance of Backroads. A crisp sunny day, blue sky, temps in the low 80s, folks out doing what Backroadsians do on Sunday afternoons. Which means a treat of lottery tickets for Val, after a hard day of grocery shopping.

I walked in with four winning scratcher tickets, totaling $25, to cash in for more tickets. That's the way you win, you know. Amass some winners, then play off your winnings until they're gone, then wait several months before trying again. When you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not. Somebody oughta write a song about that.

So there's one line with only one register open, because the other clerk is kneeling behind the counter making a money drop. You'd think they'd wait for a lull and not expose the floor safe to every ne'er-do-well in Backroads, but times have changed since I did a stint behind a Casey's counter.

The lady in front of me stepped up and asked for two rolls of quarters. She wasn't buying anything. Just wanted quarters. Let the record show that she was perfectly willing to part with a twenty-dollar bill to get her two rolls of quarters. But, as the clerk explained, the employees are not allowed to give out change like that on Sundays. Neither are they allowed to pay off big lottery tickets, either. Not that I've ever taken one in there, of course. But they usually ask me how much mine are worth before taking them. As long as you're just taking your profit in tickets, it's not a problem. It's those pesky banks that keep banker's hours that make Casey's so stingy with their coins and bills on Sunday.

Now what does a lady need two rolls of quarters for on Sunday? That's 80 quarters. Nobody does that much laundry. And casinos take bills. What was she going to do, stuff them in a sock like Sean Penn did with cans of soda in the original Bad Boys movie, and whack a bully across the face? Or twist them in a towel like a bar of soap like Matthew Modine did in Full Metal Jacket, to whack a clumsy screw-up in his sleep for getting the whole platoon punished? I think not. She got all frowny-faced when she found out no quarter rolls were coming her way.

Then it was my turn. But the other clerk jumped up from behind that counter like a jack-in-the-box, and asked if she could help anybody. So the dude behind me stepped over and said, "I only want to buy some Zig Zag papers if you have them." Well of course they had them. They're a convenience store, aren't they? It would have been mighty inconvenient if Dude couldn't get his rolling papers. To complicate matters, the clerk told Dude that they had both red and white Zig Zags. Not something a toker like Dude wants to hear, because then he has to make a decision. When all he wanted was to step up to the counter and get his rolling papers and get the not-heaven out so he could roll his...ahem...cigarettes...like a cowboy ridin' the range.

Dude didn't know the difference in red and white Zig Zags. He said he'd take the cheapest pack, but alas, they were both $1.68 as discovered by the clerk when she practice-rang them up. Then she told him the red ones were smaller. I never did hear what Dude decided to use for his tobaccy of the wacky type, because I had to pick my tickets. Quite successfully, I might add, because when I got home, I scratched off a $40 winner.

Just a slice of life from Backroads on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The One Where The Pony Picks Up Two Chicks

Last evening, just before The Pony left with Hick on the way to the auction on the way to his walk-a-thon, I heard the front door open. I briefly toyed with the assumption that a burglar such as the Unmarked Meter-Reading Bandit had breached our airtight security perimeter, also known as The Broken Doorbell Unturned Deadbolt System. I could picture him and his red ponytail wreaking havoc upstairs with that Mayhem Allstate Insurance dude and the Maytag man who sits under the counter licking dishes. Then I heard it:

CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP!

Footsteps pounded down the basement steps. The Pony rushed into my office, flipping on the light with his elbow. "Look! Look what Dad and I found when we collected eggs! They were just born. One of them was still wet on the head from pecking out of the egg. The mom won't accept them. She tried to peck them. She already had one chick yesterday. I guess she only wanted one kid."

He held a chick in each palm. One yellow, one black. They continued to CHEEP up a storm. Maybe that gets their lungs going. The yellow one pecked at The Pony's thumb.

"How are you going to take care of them? They'll freeze to death tonight. It's going to be in the 40s or 50s. They need to be up under the hen."

"I know. Dad's going to put them in his barbershop. He ran a light bulb in there to keep them warm, and we'll put them in a tub on some hay."

"Do they have food and water?"

"Uh huh. But the food is too big, so tomorrow morning Dad is getting some regular chick feed."

"Some of them drowned in the water dish one time. Will they fall in?"

"No. It's one of those little waterers, with a dish at the bottom that the water comes out in. Shallow."

"I hope it works. They'll die anyway without the hen."

"I know. Aren't they cute?"

The Pony was practically beaming. I'm surprised he didn't hand out cigars. He really enjoys the critters.

This morning, Hick texted The Pony that he checked on the chicks, and "They were pretty rough."

"I don't know what he meant, but he didn't say they were dead."

The Pony and I went off to do the shopping, and Hick's oldest son came out with his kids to ride four-wheelers and see the chicks. According to Hick, the chicks were still and cold. Sonny picked them up and blew on them and held them in his hands, and they opened their eyes and started CHEEPing. So the men did what all men would do, and put those two chicks in a tub in the sun to warm up, and went off riding ATVs. When they came back, the chicks were deceased.

"Well, they probably got overheated in that tub in the sun. It was 84 degrees! They couldn't even get a breeze down in there. They can't regulate their heat. You gave them heat stroke."

"We might of."

"Poor things. They didn't stand a chance. Have you told The Pony yet?"

"No. Hey! Pony! The chicks died."

"Which ones?"

"The newest ones."

"BOTH of them?"

"Yeah. We thawed them out, then we cooked them. We tried."

"Aww."


RIP, little Ivory and Ebony. We didn't even have time to name you. Sorry that the food you had overnight was bigger than your beak, and that hay and a lightbulb don't hold in your body heat like the wings of a hen. We did the best we knew how. Maybe your chicken mom knew something was amiss.

Mother Nature is a harsh taskmistress.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just Past Summertime, and the Givin' is Easy...

The Pony is off to a fundraiser for NHS tonight. Okay. Technically, he is off to the auction with Hick, his ride to the fundraiser, which starts at 9:00. He's not thrilled about going to the auction, though he has done if voluntarily as many times as he can count on one hoof. However...non-drivers can't be choosers, only beggars of rides.

This particular fundraiser is a walk for Alzheimer's Disease. The Pony had a sign-up sheet for people to pledge per-mile amounts, or donate flat sums. He has had this form since the last club meeting day, which was three weeks ago. The Pony is not exactly a go-donation-getter. He didn't even ask ME or Hick if we would like to donate. In fact, I bought magazines from another kid in his class because The Pony never asked me about that fundraiser, either. I told The Pony that Hick and I would donate $20 for Alzheimer's. He doesn't even have to walk for three hours.

The Pony may not be one to wear out his shoes gathering donations, but he is generous to a fault. I told him that his grandma would probably donate, and his aunt, and his cousin, if he only asked. He said, "I'm going to donate $25 myself. I can afford it." He can. Money doesn't mean much to The Pony. He has a stash of saved allowance and birthday money and science fair winnings and Voice of Democracy Speech Contest first and seconds.

Yesterday we took my mom along for the ride on bill-paying Friday. She looked forward to it all week. She wanted a Rally's combo for supper, which she got for $1.99, making sure I used a coupon. Mom even sprung for The Pony's combo, and handed me $5.00 for frozen custard.

As Mom was trying to force-feed me Rally's fries, even though I declined because I had a frozen custard, and The Pony strapped on the feedbag to devour his cheeseburger...The Pony had a flashback to his upcoming fundraiser responsibility.

"Oh, Grandma? We're having a walk for Alzheimer's tomorrow night if you'd like to donate."

Mom put the fries in T-Hoe's cup holder. She commenced to digging in her purse. "Well, I have a twenty--"

My ears swiveled and my brain let out a noise that only I could hear. That noise a submarine makes just before it dives. My mom was going to donate $20 to The Pony's fundraiser!?!

"--but I'm not giving twenty dollars. Here. I'll donate three dollars."

That's my mom!

I was tempted to ask her why she hated the old and addled, but I think that might have hurt her feelings. Three dollars! This is the woman who even donated $5.00 for the Extraordinary Dance.

Back home, I shook my head. "Pony. I'm kind of shocked that Grandma is donating three dollars to your Alzheimer's walk."

He grinned. "I know. But that's okay. I'm giving twenty-five."

Maybe he should have asked her before the burgers and custard.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Val Sees Things as They Are, and Asks "WTF?"



Last week The Pony and I were a little late coming home from work, due to his Scholar Bowl practice. We stopped for the mail as usual, then turned onto our gravel road. Just a few hundred feet into our wooded enclave, we came upon a red car following a white truck. I know the red car belongs out here, and that our neighbor has a white truck. But it’s not like him to drive so slowly.

We putted along behind the car behind the truck. First turn-off, nobody turned. Second turn-off, ours, everybody turned. Past the barn that’s almost in the road. Past the horse-and-pony field, past our land, past our BARn. “Huh. At least we’re going to be rid of them soon,” I told The Pony. And then it happened. That slow white truck turned down OUR driveway.

“What in the world! That guy is going down OUR driveway!”

The slow white truck pulled into the offshoot of the driveway beside the garage, where The Pony’s little Ford Ranger sits, and where Hick parks the Gator when he’s using it during the day. Then that slow white truck backed up, and sat facing us, half on the concrete slab behind the garage, half on the driveway. Which completely blocked my access to the garage.

The guy saw us coming, and pulled up the driveway a little bit, barely off the concrete, so I still couldn’t make my wide turn to get in. I stopped beside him.

“I’m just here to read your meter.”

Well, I’ll be ding dang donged! That was the guy I saw walking across my front porch when I was home on a weekday. He still had that reddish ponytail, but he looked like he’d lost about 50 pounds. He was has either been eating Atkins, or riding the meth pony.

Ponytail pulled his truck forward, partly on the grass, to let me get by to the garage. I reunited with my sweet, sweet Juno, gave her some cat kibble, and went into the house. I thought nothing more about Ponytail until I saw him go up the driveway in his white truck with the little orange light thing unlit on the top of the cab. I was so lost in my new thought that I forgot to notice which way he went when he left our house.

What kind of company reads meters at 5:15 p.m.? Isn’t the work day over by then? Last time he intruded upon the porch was at 10:30 in the morning. Hick saw him one day, too, in the morning hours. Ponytail did not stop at any other house on the way to ours. Did he continue up the gravel road, or go back the way he had come? I’m really starting to get suspicious of this ponytailed guy who drops in and says he is reading our meter. I looked on Ameren Missouri’s site, and could not find any information on vendors who might read meters for them. What in tarnation is going on here? Seems like a grand conspiracy. What kind of thieves dress up like meter readers and make multiple trips at various times to scope out a future robbery site?

I prefer my meter readers to be more high-profile, in trucks with discernible insignia that match the company I write my check to, and sporting picture ID badges while meeting a strict dress and grooming code.

Some people say I ask for too much. I say I ask for too little.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why Does Nobody Seem to Listen to Val?

It's that time again! No, not time to set the clocks back, or put out Halloween decorations, or slide my world-famous Chex Mix in and out of the oven (NOW WITH TWO ELEMENTS!). Nope. It's time for the ol' flu shot.

This year I did not take advantage of the school flu shot clinic for faculty. It doesn't cost us anything because of our insurance. CeilingReds sends in a shooter, and we all cry a little bit then live happily ever after. Most of us. A couple hold onto their bitterness for a few days. We are not required to get the shot. We do it for our own good. The flu goes through a school faster than Lou Grant goes through Veal Prince Orloff, and faster than Hick goes through a vat of vegetable beef soup (not counting the liquid).

No, I didn't want my insurance charged the day before I actually got the flu shot, like the procedure was last year. Just in case I decided not to go through with it, then had trouble getting one elsewhere because insurance said I already got one. I'm onto their tricks.

I was not sure if I should get the flu shot like normal, because of this darn Xarelto blood-thinner coursing through my veins. So I made an appointment a few weeks back to see my doctor, and thought I might as well ask him about it, and get the shot there.

That was the plan. In reality, I told the nurse why I was there, and mentioned the flu shot dilemma, and she said, "Oh. I'll go get your shot and be right back."

People never really listen to the nuances when Val speaks. Like the part about NOT WANTING THE SHOT UNTIL I ASKED THE DOCTOR IF IT WAS SAFE.

So in she comes with that syringe, and I put my hand over my arm and said, "Hang on there! I want to know if this is safe for someone on Xarelto." And the needle-wielder said, "Oh, I'm sure it is. I just gave it to someone on Coumadin." Which is a blood-thinner that works in an entirely different way. I really put my foot down and my hand up, so she waylaid the doc in the hall of that inner sanctum, and he brushed by and said, "Oh, sure it's okay." Which made me glad I had secretly stopped taking it two nights before, just in case.

Stabber stuck me, explaining how she gives the shots to tall the staff, because they request it, really, what with her not throwing the needle like a dart, but shoving it in slowly and pushing the vaccine at a leisurely pace. Then she withdrew that needle, fiddled with a purple dinosaur bandaid that didn't want to open, then slapped in on my arm as an afterthought. I had the wherewithal to reach over and apply pressure to the stab wound for a good five minutes while she took my temperature and asked about my meds, continuing the cart-before-the-horse process.

Good thing I did the ol' self-arm-press. My shot was around 11:15, and by 2:00 I had a sore arm with a knot the size of a plum just below the injection site. I kept an eye on it, lest it grow to the size of a Mackinaw peach, a fresh cantaloupe, and a ripe watermelon. It stayed about the same. After I slept on it all night, the knot disappeared, and the soreness went away after a day.

And the moral is: Val is a big hypochondriatic baby when it comes to fluids injected into her muscles where thin blood that can't stop itself courses through veins and arteries.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If She Keeps This Up, She's Gonna Put My Proposed Handbasket Factory Out of Business Before It Even Opens

When I took my mom back home yesterday, she had three messages from my sister. Long story short (I heard that CLUNK as you all fell over backwards in shock), Mom took a potty break and headed back to town with Sis.

Sis babysits for her daughter's little girl, who is not even a year old yet. She needed to run an errand, and wanted Mom to sit in the car with the baby. Seems like nobody wants to let Mom out of the car lately. The reason for the errand perhaps reveals that people used to raise their kids right. Not many handbasket factories back in my day, not even proposed ones.

Sis drives from her town to Backroads to buy her meat. It's not like she goes to Timbuktu. The distance is around 10 miles one way. Sis does not want to get her meat from Walmart, where they shoot it up with water to charge more. Nor does she like to shop at the only remaining grocery chain, where I have had to return expired merchandise on more than one occasion. Not even my mom would serve up some old cheese and past-date mayonnaise. But mainly that's because she doesn't eat cheese, and uses Miracle Whip.

Anyhoo, Sis comes to Save A Lot for meat. Not the one where Mom gets her slaw. The one in my town. They have a deal where you can get a bargain on selected items in the meat department. They're 5 for $19.99. Now you have to know what you're doing, because if you only buy one or two of those items, you're not saving, because, for example, the family pack of hamburger is cheaper by the pound. But if you actually have five items you want, and can't use the big packs, it's a deal.

Sis got home and looked at her receipt. The clerk had not charged her the $19.99! She felt bad. She didn't want to drag the baby back over there (that's a figure of speech, she didn't drag the baby the first time, either) just to go in and give the clerk the $19.99. So she called Mom, everybody's go-to gal for sitting in the car. Sudoku, baby...Mom can entertain herself.

"They're a small store, you know, and I hate for them to be $20.00 short. I want to take them the money."

I guess Sis doesn't realize that Save A Lot is a national chain. Still, the people are very nice, and they have the best meat department around here. Sis has come a long way from when she sent Mom to buy her list of stuff from the Dollar Store, because she didn't want to be seen going in there. That's back when her husband was still mayor. I guess she had a reputation to protect. People may not have confidence in a mayor who's a pauper, I guess.

Their mission was accomplished, and nobody broke an arm patting herself on the back.

My momma didn't raise no gyppers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Think I Kind of Went Up One Dollar

FYI, people, I was almost the TWELVE-DOLLAR DAUGHTER today. Almost.

I can't really blame Mom for getting my hopes up. I dropped by her house to kill an hour and a half before my doctor's appointment this morning. She made me wait a good long time on the porch after I rang the doorbell. When she came to the door, I said, "Can I share a Watchtower with you?" I think that went right over her head. Let the record show that I did not take my shoes off when I entered, but I did say that I'd like to sit in the living room.

Mom was still in her jammies. She really didn't have much of an excuse for making me stand there resting my hand on the brick, very near a harvestman, I noticed almost too late. "I couldn't see who was out here. I thought, 'Now who could that be this time of morning?'" Like I hadn't just talked to her at 6:00 about going to the doctor. I told her she could ride along, even though we're paying the bills on Friday after school. The only stipulation was that I would not allow her to go inside.

"I don't want you around all those sick people."

"I could wait downstairs, over by radiology. That's an open area. I'll take my Sudoku books you got me for Christmas. I'm almost done with another one."

"That might not be a good idea. What if they notice that you are not signing up for a test. They'll think I dumped you there for elder care. They'll get on the speaker: 'Whose elder is this? Who left this lady in radiology? Please come get her now.' That's not going to go over well."

"I'll just sit in the car. I love to people-watch."

"I'll leave you the keys. I don't want you to get overheated, even though it's only 49 degrees right now. Besides, you might run out of oxygen. If you get light-headed, open your door for some fresh air."

"Oh, I might step out and stretch my legs. I might walk around to sit in The Pony's seat."

"Whatever. I know how much you like my Sirius XM country station. The radio will go off after 10 minutes. Then you have to turn the key forward and back."

"Okay. I'll be fine."

Mom put on her going-to-town-but-not-getting-out clothes. Her ensemble did NOT include the gray sweatpants with the hole in the knee. She dug around in her purse, and showed me two fives and two ones. "I have this much money with me. That will be enough, won't it? I really want to give you some money for that triple antibiotic ointment you gave me for my face. So you can get some more for your house."

"We have another tube of it, Mom. I don't need your money."

Off we went. I left Mom in T-Hoe with her Sudoku. I had to park in the last row. When I came out ninety minutes later, I had gotten past the first two rows when I saw Mom emerge from The Pony's door and start toward me.

"What's wrong? Why are you out?"

"I just came to get your purse and carry it for you."

That's my mom! She sprung for six dollars worth of frozen custard. Funny how she tucked that other five and one back into her purse, after flashing them at me before we left the house.

Maybe I should have let her go in the doctor's office with me. Or maybe she should have brought me that free frozen custard last time she was out with my sister. Not that I hold a grudge or anything.