Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And His Hands Were Not Even Idle!

When we got home Monday evening, I smelled it while petting my sweet, sweet Juno. An industrial cleanser type of odor. The kind that could melt one’s nose hairs, if one HAD nose hairs. It got stronger as I went up the steps to the porch, and rounded the corner toward the kitchen door. Oh, yeah. When I opened it and stepped inside, the stench was overwhelming.

It was like an industrial size drum (as opposed to a household size drum) of Pine Sol  burned in a train derailment. Charred chemicals. Like a truckload of those pine tree car air fresheners were smoldering in my kitchen.

Further investigation revealed that industrious Hick had also cleaned the oven. By using the INCINERATE setting for self-cleaning. AND he had also used oven cleaner on the ring thingies for my stove burners. Which did not take it well. The shine was gone. They were gray and pockmarked. The kitchen floor itself was curiously gritty and dull.

I thanked Hick for his cleaning service. But I also inquired as to the increased friction of my feet on the kitchen floor, and the loss of sheen on my formerly-silver stove burner rings. Hick cheerily responded that perhaps he needed to finish-mop the floor with plain water. And that he had not expected the burner rings to react that way to oven cleaner.

But that’s not the real issue hear. Walkng on a gritty floor, and looking like a poor hillbilly with corroded burner rings to Genius’s college friend are not too much of a hardship for Val. It’s Hick’s other antics that caused the hardship.

Tuesday morning, just as I sat back in the La-Z-Boy, I heard a CLANG. So much for my morning chair-nap. Made even more evident at 6:00 a.m., when I heard CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! That accompanied the CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! that I heard from the kitchen. And explained the TOCK! TOCK! TOCK! that assaulted my senses in the master bathroom when I went in to get dressed. I must have tuned it out as I got ready for the shower earlier. Val is sometimes groggy at 4:50 a.m., you know. But now it all made sense.


Without Val’s supervision, something finds work for Hick’s not-even-idle hands! He always winds the cuckoo clock, the one he bought from my grandma’s estate shortly after she passed away. That is accomplished by pulling its chains.

But now he had wound the clock on the mantel that belonged to his own grandma and grandpa, obtained from his oldest brother’s stuff after he died. I always thought it didn’t work, but I suppose Hick spirited it away another day he was off, and had it fixed.

And he wound the clock in the master bathroom that my grandma had given him while she was still alive.

Now Val must contend with a cacophony of ticking cuckoo chimes. All at a time slightly off the hour, and never synchronized with any other clock. But her kitchen floor is clean! And her stove burner ring thingies don't have burnt food on them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Do You Think It's a Bad Omen?

When The Pony and I walked out to the garage Monday morning, The Pony stopped short. Not in the manner of Frank Costanza stopping short. That is just wrong. And not condoned by Val Thevictorian. No, The Pony stopped short of going in the garage door he had just opened.

“Did you see that?”

“No. What?”

“That tree.”

“Oh. The part that’s dead and breaking off. From the winds a couple weeks ago?”

“No. The OTHER tree.”

“I don’t see what you’re talking about.”

“Move over here. Look. Those birds.”

“Those are vultures! Turkey buzzards!”

“I know.”

“Do you think this is a bad omen? Your dad is home all week…Get me a picture!”

“I’ll send him a text. ‘Vultures in front yard. Hope all the critters are okay.’”

“Maybe they see those deer bones the dogs have been chewing.”

“Yeah. But they’re probably waiting to eat the chicks.”

As we started up the driveway, after backing out of the garage, I stopped T-Hoe.

“Pony. Get me another picture.”

“I just got you one.”

“Yeah. But look.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

He's Really Trying To Help Out, You Know

Genius called on Sunday. He never calls unless he needs something. But this time, he called because he thought I needed something.

"Hey. If you haven't bought a pumpkin pie yet, I can make one Wednesday night and bring it. We are having our house Thanksgiving on Wednesday. And we have all those pumpkins that grew in the back yard. So I can make the pie."

"Okay. But I just got back from doing the shopping, and I bought two pumpkin pies. One sugar-free, and one regular. But you can bring it if you like."

"I might."

Let the record show that normally, I make a chocolate pie and an Oreo cake for Thanksgiving desserts. Mom always made the pumpkin pie. This year, I can't make everything. I'm trying. But I can't. Let's not forget that I work until 1:00 on Wednesday. The current menu includes: turkey, ham, hash brown potato casserole, stuffing (Stove Top, because that's what my boys like, and that's what Mom made for them), green bean bundles wrapped with bacon, regular green beans with bacon and potatoes, deviled eggs, Hidden Valley Ranch dip with vegetables, rolls, fresh baked bread, chocolate pie, pumpkin pie, and seven-layer salad. I was not planning on the seven-layer salad until Hick mentioned how much he likes it, so now I'm off to buy three layers on Tuesday evening.

Genius is bringing a friend. He wants to eat at 5:00, so that will give me more time to get everything ready. Noon would have been pushing it, what with one oven and no time to prepare much ahead until Wednesday after 2:00 when I get home. Hick is not so thrilled with waiting until 5:00, but let's face it, we never got to dig in at Mom's until after 2:00, even though we planned on 1:00.

Genius is also planning to see the new Mockingjay movie with a high school friend. Thursday night. I know, right? "I hope I can fit Thanksgiving dinner into your time slot, what with serving it up at the stroke of five o'clock, and having you finished in time to see your movie."

"Oh, come on. I told you we're going to the movie that night."

"Seven o'clock is night."

"That's EVENING! We will be going later."

"Well, it takes time to get there."

"Yeah. But it will be late. Then I'll come home and spend the night, I guess."

"Well, we'll have to clean out your room. Dad threw a bunch of coats on your bed when he put in the piano."

"All right."

I would have let Genius bring the pie, if only I had known before 1:00 on Sunday. You'd think he might have notified me sooner, knowing my shopping routine. Still, I'm not sure I want to eat a pie made of back yard pumpkins. There are perfectly good cans of processed pumpkin products for that. I'm sure Genius is capable of following a recipe. We'll see what happens.

One thing is for certain. All of my preparations will be only a memory twenty minutes after the grand meal is served. Then I will have almost as many hours cleaning up and washing the dishes. By hand. Genius wanted to use the real plates and glasses.

I hope he enjoys his movie.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ponies Here and Ponies There

Hick had a light-bulb moment this morning. A scathingly brilliant idea. And when The Pony and I returned from our shopping trip, this is what we found:

My current favorite is the one in the middle. The big mama pony with the little baby pony. Just because.

This is proof that Val Thevictorian has at least ONE friend. Her best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel, who has kept her in ponies for the past 8 years. Well done, Mabel. In only six short months, I shall be dusting these ponies daily, what with having all that RETIREMENT free time on my hands.

This is the piano from my mom's house. Not to be confused with the one in the basement from my grandma's house, rescued from my former elementary school auditorium. On the wall is a picture of baby Genius, a December infant, who, in keeping with his then-unknown personal style, arrived exactly on his due date. No so The Pony, who was scheduled to be a Leap Year delivery, yet showed up around Valentine's Day. Let the record show that The Pony took this photo, and seems to have cut the head off Genius.

Little Genius could not wait for the arrival of Baby Pony. Until he actually got here. Then it was like, "Meh. He doesn't do anything." However, he soon found joy in blaming cracked curio-cabinet doors and chipped earthenware crocks on unwitnessed acts of newly-ambulatory Baby Pony. And, when they were old enough to receive identical toys from my step-grandpa, to know without a doubt that the recently-broken one belonged to Baby Pony.

Let the record further show that, as with most infants, Baby Pony's first word was Dada, second word was Mama, and, curiously enough, his third word was Back. We were at a loss. "What's that? What's he saying? What is THAT supposed to mean?" Uh huh. Everybody was intrigued. The third word of Little Genius had been the name of his eldest brother, Hick's boy, who was 14 at the time. But we had no relative with the name of Back.

After several weeks of investigation, Val Thevictorian cracked the case. She was sitting in the living room, not getting much of anything done except, perhaps, watching Emeril season his TV dishes with a satisfying, "BAM!" as Little Genius and Baby Pony played on the carpeted floor. It happened in an instant. Little Genius ran by Baby Pony and snatched a toy from his hands. Not-yet-crawling Baby Pony made a sad face.


Said Baby Pony, a moment before distracted Val commanded Little Genius, "Give it back."

I guess you could say Genius taught The Pony to talk.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

All's Well That Ends With a Package on Top of the Mailbox

So...what was in that mystery package from yesterday's story?

It was THIS!

Five contributor copies of this, The Pony's first publication, in the anthology Building Red: Mission Mars!

Let the record show that The Pony has been waiting on this package since October 13th, the release date. There was some kind of snafu in the shipping, and after waiting three weeks, The Pony contacted his editor, who acknowledged that the folks responsible for shipping had something suddenly come up. Another two weeks, went by. No package.

I didn't want to butt in. It's The Pony's journey, not mine. But I suggested that he might want to check again. You never know. They might have been shipped, but our post office lost them. Like they did TWO BOXES of books I had ordered a year or two ago. Which were never found, having disappeared into the Missouri Triangle, somewhere between St. Louis and Backroads. If you see a guy whistling and delivering mail on a Sunday, we might just have discovered their whereabouts.

The Pony did not want to be a pest. But there's this local reporter who interviewed him for articles on his ACT perfect score, and his National Merit Scholar Semifinalist status, who told him to send her an email when he got his contributor copies, because she wanted to do a story on his published-authorness. In fact, she sat one chair over from him at the school board meeting Tuesday night, where scholarly accomplishments were recognized. The Pony turned and said, "I still don't have my copies. I'll be sure to let you know when they come in." She must think he's stringing her along.

Anyhoo...Friday morning The Pony sent the email about his still-missing contributor copies, and by mid-morning had a response that the mailers reported that all copies had been sent out. Then we pulled up to the mailbox at 4:00, and there they were, sitting right up high on the roof of Mailbox Row. Where anybody could have taken them!!! Or rain could have soaked them!!!

Not sure if you can tell from his anonymous picture, but The Pony is grinning from ear to ear. I had to take another picture showing his face, even though his forelock was a mess, so he could send it off to HIS PEOPLE.

"I don't care what they think of my looks. I just want them to see my book."

The Pony cannot change his (uncaring) spots.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Those Dead-Mouse Smellers Make Newman Look Like the President of Mensa

It is no secret that Val has problems with her mail delivery. Though she suspects her correspondence and parcels have been taken out of her mailbox by ne'er-do-wells on occasion, Occam's Razor says her mailman is a jackhole.

I'm not referring to Tuesday, when our mail held more water than a Bounty paper towel, and was hosting a guest from our neighbor's mailbox next door. Nor Wednesday, when The Pony opened EmBee to find the contents of Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. Not even Thursday, when every item disgorged by EmBee had a wet spot and mud on it. Nope. I'm talking about today. When we drove up to Mailbox Row and saw THIS:

Yuh huh. That's right. Our mail, sitting ON TOP of the mailbox condo. Not an orange card saying it was too big to fit in EmBee. Not a special key to one of the FOUR package boxes five feet away.

What's up with THAT? Good thing there was no rain between the time he left that parcel, and the time we arrived at EmBee. Because the contents would have been ruined. More on the mystery package tomorrow. My business today is with the USPS.

I have half a mind (you don't need to act so impressed) to go down to the dead-mouse-smelling post office tomorrow and show them the picture of this handiwork. The dude may as well have put a sign on that package that said, "Take me!" A parcel ain't safe on a rural road traveled by Backroadsers.

I doubt that I will get any satisfaction from complaining. Other than the intrinsic satisfaction I ALWAYS get from complaining. In fact, I fear that Genius is suffering from my complaining. He cannot get his mail delivered to his college rental house. All was well until a couple of months ago. The fellows and he had been receiving their mail like clockwork. But shortly before Genius left on his California trip, his mail lady got all testy (heh, heh, I said TESTY!) with the lads.

Some construction was being done on the road of their cul-de-sac, and Mail Lady told them they needed to move their mailbox. They explained that they could not. That the road crew made it impossible. And that they already have to reach it over a 3-foot trench, so there's nowhere for it to go. Genius says Mail Lady simply does not want to get out of her vehicle. Anyhoo, after two weeks of no mail, and the bills coming due, he went to the post office to complain. And the clerk said, "Oh, there's whole pile of your mail here behind the counter. Do you want it? Do you know why she isn't delivering it?"

I think the USPS has many tentacles. That there's a kind of underground "permanent record" system, like Elaine's patient file, where all medical staff could see that she was "difficult." And since Genius has Thevictorian name, and gets some of his mail here, the USPS is being contrary with him because they are out to get Val. Yeah. That's a little far-fetched. More than likely they are simply simpletons on a power trip.

The Pony asked me if I was going to complain about the wet muddy mail. I told him no.

"Because we won't really know what the substance is that made the wetness on Thursday. But it could be worse than Tuesday's rain."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crosswalkavoiditis: The Slow-Speed Race For the Cure

There seems to be a new illness sweeping through the greater Backroads area. I'm not sure of its scientific moniker, but word on the street is that this affliction goes by the name of crosswalkavoiditis.

The sufferers of crosswalkavoiditis don't seem to suffer at all. No vomiting, no chills, no weakness. Just a spate of impaired judgment. In public. Patient zero has been traced to Lowe's.

That's right. Lowe's. In fact, the majority of people who come down with a bad case of crosswalkavoiditis catch it at Lowe's. The retailer can't be blamed. As many people have it going INTO the store as those who have it coming OUT.

Once a week, The Pony and I have a standing appointment in bill-paying town. As part of our route, we cross through the parking lot of Lowe's. Don't think this is like the people who cut through the parking lot of the drive-thru liquor store to avoid that red light. Nope. Val drives down a side street, makes right turn (not altogether voluntarily, but the alternative is to plow through a chain-link gate into the lumber stacks of Lowe's), then a left, to cruise across the front drive of Lowe's. At the other end, there's a STOP painted on the blacktop. Then the lot gives way to another side street.

EVERY time I pilot T-Hoe across the front drive of Lowe's, people step out in front of me. Let the record show that no fewer than FOUR crosswalks are painted in bright yellow spanning the entry area to the store and the parking spaces. Yet no human has EVER walked across a crosswalk while Val waited patiently for their trek. NO!

These folks can be strolling along, talking on a cell phone, chatting with a companion, doing absolutely nothing except concentrating on getting from here to there...when they suddenly dart out in front of Val like a squirrel nibbling a nut on the edge of the road darts in front of a speeding semi. It's like they can't help themselves. One moment they're doing their thing, appearing normal as all get-out, on their way to pick up a ceiling fan, or returning home with a bucket of paint to touch up the laundry room, when they lose their ever-lovin' minds. They look right at me. Our eyes meet through the lightly-tinted glass of T-Hoe's windows. AND THEY STEP OUT IN FRONT OF T-HOE'S BUMPER.

Let the record show that this initial dart is the fastest they move. Once their feet are in the roadway proper, those infected with crosswalkavoiditis seem to lose the will to move. They amble like zoned-out zombies. Never in a straight line. That's the fastest way between two points, you know. But people with crosswalkavoiditis coursing through their bodies can't fathom such a concept. They angulate. Meander from the lumber-loading dock to the main entrance area, all while shuffling at an arthritic grandpa's pace along the two lanes marked off for vehicular traffic.

It has gotten to the point where I tell The Pony, "Watch this one. Wait for it. We're almost to him...SEE! What in the not-heaven is WRONG with people? He saw me. He looked at the crosswalk. AND HE WALKED RIGHT OUT IN FRONT OF ME! Now we have to follow him until he decides what aisle the left his car in. Great. Two more. Look at them, in that concrete-block-and-yard-timber corral, by the riding mowers. Get ready...almost...I TOLD YOU! Look at them! It's like they were waiting for me to make their move!"

Something must be done about this infuriating illness. A telethon, a door-to-door collection, Marlo Thomas hosting a two-hour infomercial and sending out return address labels for the cause...anything.

Perhaps Lowe's should paint their crosswalks wider. The folks at Walmart seem to be immune. Or the drivers more menacing.