Saturday, August 30, 2014

Maybe I'll Have a New Sideline When My Proposed Handbasket Factory Opens For Business

Val has never been one to advocate the leashing of children.

Sure, she jumped on the bandwagon to promote public service bumper stickers such as "Don't Argue With Your Wife...Just Dicker!" and "Love Your Kids? Belt 'em!" back when jumping on bandwagons wasn't cool. But the practice of Soap-On-a-Rope-ing youngsters never really got Val riled up for or against. Until now.

This afternoon in Save A Lot, as I pushed my cart on its predesignated course, a little boy kept trying to throw himself under the wheels. Okay. Not that he was so coordinated. I would have needed to give him a little help, and I'm pretty sure that's frowned upon, even here in Missouri. But the next person he darts in front of may not be as tenderhearted and sugary sweet as Rainbows-and-Kittens Val.

There I was, ready to round the end cap at the jelly/peanut butter/condiment/pickle/olive aisle, when that wiry dynamo dressed in an orange t-shirt and navy blue track pants with a white stripe darted past, scooting his feet. He was like a weird, forward, speeded-up moonwalker. My cart caught his eye. Figuratively, not literally, but only because I have quick reflexes. Dasher momentarily stopped in his gliding tracks, like a deer in the headlights, and made eyes like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, but without slapping his dad's aftershave on his cheeks. That could be because I gave him the Teacher Eye. The look that let him know he was not nearly as cute and precious as he thought he was. He scampered on, house left.

It's not like the kid didn't know better. He was six or seven years old. Not at a stage where it would be easy to take candy from him. Or where he was just fractious because he was missing his nap. I don't profess to be a model parent. But my own kids never acted like this in a store. Sure, Genius was mighty cute hiding inside the round clothes rack at Walmart. But he wasn't running willy-nilly. He walked purposefully at that age when seeking out an associate to inquire about new hard drives or modems. Don't think I never had to leave my cart in the store and forget about shopping to haul a melting-down child to the car. I did. One time. That's all it took. And it was not The Pony. Kids will get away with what you let them.

I'll be darned if Dasher didn't reappear one aisle later, at the back of the store, approaching from the opposite side, and did the same thing. How he got all the way around the store and changed direction to double back is beyooooond me. It's not like he was fetching a forgotten item from his mom's list. I assume he had a mom. Because at the end of the pasta aisle, I saw him standing on the foot of a cart as a woman pushed him past the hot dog and cold cut cooler.

After I loaded my box of groceries in the back of T-Hoe, I looked in BOTH of my working mirrors to make sure I would not run over anything sneaky like that concrete-surrounded light pole at Office Max. Dasher dashed by my door and ran to the back of a small silver SUV parked directly across from me. Startlingly enough, it was NOT the same one that almost T-boned me on the road yesterday.

This silver SUV was full of folks. It was like a hillbilly clown car. I can say that, you know, being a hillbilly myself. It looked to me like the twenty-or-so people in the back seat threw up their hands as if to say, "NO MORE!" when Dasher tried to climb in. I waited and waited for his mom to walk by, but she did not. That's how far removed she was from controlling him. He could have been flattened crossing the parking lot.

I'm not saying people should put a metal choke collar on their offspring's neck, and give a yank every now and then. No. That would be inhumane. But sometimes, a tasteful padded harness with a nylon leash might just make life safer for their unruly underage progeny.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Up Next...Another Episode of Bill-Paying Friday, Starring Val Thevictorian and Her Mom

Friday, Friday, FRIDAY!

I told Mom I'd meet her by the park, and swoop her up to ride along for bill-paying this afternoon. She was game. My mom was born game! She had nothing else to do. She got out early yesterday to lay in a supply of slaw for the three-day weekend. Can't go risking a slaw shortage over the holiday.

Murphy was my copilot today. Murphy. Of the law fame. I stopped off at the credit union to put in the monthly allotment for The Pony's college fund. A friend and classmate of Genius was working. He grabbed my receipt as it printed out on a printer so old it had those little hole things along the edge for a tractor thingy to feed it through. Being a bit like Genius, and of the same no-patience, instant gratification, cutting-edge-technology world...Clerky grabbed the top of that receipt to hurry it along. Except that receipt was for the customer at the other window, and mine was still attached and printing. I had a smear on the bottom line that I could not read, and a shark-teeth-smile chunk out of the bottom edge.

"WHAT? You ruined my receipt!"

"Oh, c'mon. You know you're just going to throw it away."

"Um. You were in my class for a whole year. You know how I operate. That's a big deal to me."

"Yeah. I should have known you're going to save it. Sorry."

I was pulling his leg a bit. But not by much. I guess I'll get over it. I picked up Mom at the park and headed for the bank. Just the ATM. I did my Genius-depositing yesterday, because I knew there would be long lines today. As there were. The Pony and I had a bit of an adventure on the way to get Mom. The car in front of us slammed on the brakes to make a left turn across two lanes of traffic. As The Pony said, "The driver in the car he cut in front of...was like you. Yelling. And he gave the finger, too." Let the record show that Val does not give the finger.

The Pony wanted Rally's for supper. He's spending the night with his grandma. So after making a payment at the savings and loan, we grabbed his food and headed to the real purpose of our trip: THE FROZEN CUSTARD STAND. Mom insisted on a toddler cone. She says it's just right. As if she's Goldilocks. I opted for a concrete made with chocolate custard and chocolate chips. It was breathtaking.

When Mom rides in the passenger seat, she throws a monkey wrench into my routine. My purse has to move to the back floor by The Pony, and my giant yellow bubba cup of ice water must balance precariously over the hole of a regular-size cupholder between the seats. I use the other cupholder to harbor my concrete. However, when I first get it, I set it on the top of the console to let it melt down a little, so I don't get the sticky stuff above the rim on my fingers when I pick it up. Mom can hardly contain herself. No concrete shall ride unattended while SHE'S my copilot! Never mind that it has not once tipped over when I am by myself and have no helping mom-hand.

So...we were pulling out, making a left as the flow of traffic allowed, and Mom was slurping her toddler vanilla with her right hand, and holding onto my concrete with her left. As I gassed T-Hoe to Frogger my way along the road until my next left, my bubba cup tipped to-and-fro like a badly beaten Bobo doll. Mom gave that auditory inhale that is her trademark in panic situations. I grabbed the bubba cup with my right hand to steady it, turning T-Hoe's wheel with my left like I had a 1950s suicide knob.

"I'm sorry, Mom, but you're going to need to sprout a third arm before I can bring you on a trip like this again."

"Oh, don't get me tickled!"

That's kind of her trademark, too.

We took a shortcut through the Lowe's parking lot, where a family of five pointedly avoided the crosswalk to jaywalk diagonally from parking lot to door. It was all I could do to avoid them, what with driving on the wrong side of the road to maneuver around a red minivan parked facing the wrong way in my traffic lane. I wended my way out of that rat-maze to a residential street, and was promptly tailgated by a diesel pickup towing a race car trailer.

"I'm kind of glad that truck just turned. I was afraid it was that race driver who runs over people who anger him. Hey! Pony! Tell Grandma about our town experience, where that guy used inappropriate hand gestures."

"A car cut in front of two others to get to Domino's. That guy was yelling just like Mom does."

"Oh, I can't wait until YOU start driving! You'll have plenty to say. Or else people will be saying them about YOU!"

"No they won't, Pony. I'm sure you'll be a very safe driver." Said Mom. As if she knows. Never having seen him almost take out the side of the BARn in a go-cart.

By now we were on a straight stretch of road from one outer road to another. It's about a half mile, across an overpass, nary a view-obstructor in sight. Two pickups were parked on the shoulder as we turned, with two guys chest-to-chest having a discussion. All at once, the wiry guy pointed three fingers right in the face of the stocky guy. I think they were having a disagreement, because the wiry guy spun around and stalked back to his pickup. Mom said I should have pulled over to watch.

"What? This is not a barbershop parking lot." Mom was in the middle of asking me if Hick would be going to get another haircut tomorrow morning when it happened.

Halfway to the next turn, as I was driving along at the speed limit, on my own side of the road, minding my T-Hoe business, a little silver SUV shot out like a heat-seeking missile from the side road on the left. SHOT OUT! And almost T-BONED my T-HOE! The front right bumper of that ballistic missile came within inches of my driver door. Thank goodness I swerved to the right shoulder. But you know what the kicker was?

THAT MANIAC HAD THE NERVE TO HONK AT ME!

Seriously. Since when does the car about to smash into your side honk at YOU? I was lawfully proceeding from Point A to Point B, nary a curve, nary a road sign to block the view. I have no idea what that maniac was thinking. That I had a stop sign, maybe? Don't know. But Maniac sat for a moment sideways in the oncoming lane, then pulled out and followed me at a considerable distance.

"Did you see that? What in the world? I can't believe that! Good thing my concrete was unharmed. Did you see that, Pony?"

"Yeessss. I'm surprised you didn't go on about it like you always do."

"WHAT? I was NOT in the wrong!"

"I know. I never said you were in the wrong. But sometimes I think you go too far complaining about things. And you didn't hardly say anything about THAT, compared to what you say about nothing."

"Yeah. Well. That Maniac is crazy. Must have been texting. Look how far back. I can hardly see the driver. Yeah. Must be a girl texting. Or else an old lady with really scraggly bleached hair, in which case she must be demented, and most likely dehydrated as well."

When the Maniac caught up at a stop sign, I could see a little better. And when the Maniac decided, after sitting four cars back at the light, to suddenly veer into the right turn outlet, I deduced that the Maniac was a middle-aged drunk.

Whew! A crash would not bode well for Val Thevictorian. Her thin blood would have flowed like water from a wide-open fireplug spigot.

Does anybody have a thread-puller? Life's Rich Tapestry has a flaw that needs to be unraveled.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Judge, Jury, Executioner, Executive Food-Warmer, Social Secretary, Loan Officer, Psychologist, Psychic, Laundress, Chauffeur...and Now Chief of Security

Master of the house
Doling out the farm
Ready with a fist-shake
That implies alarm

Yesterday morning, Hick stalked to the front door before leaving for work. Normally, he stomps past me in the La-Z-Boy trying to grab six winks, throws open the laundry room door to feed the dogs on the back porch, tromps through the kitchen to grab his sausage-egg-muffin out of the microwave with two handles, and tells me "Bye" as soon as I've dialed the phone to talk to my mom.

I thought he was going to holler down to The Pony. Sometimes he does that. He's kind of fond of the little guy. But no. He grabbed the doorknob and rattled it. Made a big show. "Yesterday when I came home, this door was unlocked!"

Let the record show that Val and The Pony do not use the front door. We're kitchen door people. Hick is the one who uses the front door. He comes in from work through the kitchen, gets underfoot for a minute, then goes outside to tend his animals, and perhaps work a bit on his Little Barbershop of Horrors. Then he comes in either through the front or the kitchen with a handful of eggs, which he proceeds to rinse in my sink, a behavior which I have forbidden for nigh on four years now. It is not unusual for Hick to return to the wild after eating his supper that has been lovingly heated in the oven or warmed in the microwave by his faithful wife Val. Many's the time The Pony and I have heard the front door open and slam while we are watching our evening programs.

Oh, the outrage! That front door was left unlocked ALL DAY! Never mind that sometimes when I ascend from my dark basement lair in the wee hours, I see the knob is unlocked, and turn it to secure the homestead. I have mentioned this lapse in security to Hick before, but he swears it is fine, because he turns the deadbolt.

Intermittently, it would seem.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Than Packages Are Damaged Here

Monday I had to rush a package to Genius. Seems in his flurry of packing during the one day he had between the end of his summer job, and leaving for college for his RA training...he forgot the charger cable to his Surface. How he got by without it for these two weeks is a mystery to me. A mystery which I probably do not want to solve.

He had sent me a text Sunday night. Not so much Sunday night as 12:06 Monday morning. A request for The Pony to check Genius's room for that cable plugged in by the bed, or laying nearby. Sounds simple, unless you know Genius and his stable of electronic gewgaws. I went to look, because, well, it was after 1:00 a.m. when I saw the text. Of course I couldn't find it. I don't even know what a Surface is.

The Pony found that item toot sweet. I stuffed it in my school bag, just in case Genius decided to play the emergency card. Which he did. Texted me again saying he really needed that cable. So I told him I'd put it in the mail after school. Genius the experienced eBay seller told me to put it in a padded fixed rate priority mail envelope. Uh huh.

I rushed to the post office (not the dead-mouse-smelling post office in Backroads proper, because I didn't have time nor gas money nor desire to go there) while The Pony was examining blood spatter at his new after-school club for science, technology, engineering, and math. Okay. It was not so much BLOOD spatter as CORN SYRUP AND RED FOOD DYE spatter.

No one was in the lesser post office when I got there. I milled around looking at the packaging that took up one wall. I was not finding what my Genius sent me for. There was one employee working. I'm going to call him Slow Mike. No offense to the slow. Or to Mikes.

"I'm looking for a fixed rate priority mail envelope with padding." I saw where his eyes looked. There were none in that whole shelf deal.

"I don't see any."

"Oh." I went back to browsing, looking for something that might substitute. There was a little box that would hold the charger. It might rattle around inside, because I was NOT going to buy a roll of bubble wrap at the post office. You'd think Slow Mike could have offered me some of those shredded envelopes and magazine particles missing from the mail I get in a plastic bag with a sticker that says it arrived that way.

But Slow Mike was not interested in me. The customer. A man came in looking lost. He wandered around the packaging, too, and grabbed something not fixed rate, and went to the end of the counter to stuff an object inside. He was from the Slow family, too, from the looks of his endeavors.

"My son said to mail it in a padded envelope. Is there anything else that could work?"

"If you let me get rid of this guy, I'll look in the back. I thought we had some." Let the record show that the new guy who had wandered in did not take offense to being "gotten rid of" at all. Slow Mike took at least five minutes to send a registered letter for him. Then he disappeared into the back. Then he sprinted across the door to the other side of the back. Then he asked somebody something back there. Then he came out with an envelope. "Found one." He put it on the counter.

Oh, dear. It was white, as thin as a working girl's slip, with a lining of half-bubble wrap. I put the charger in there, and it clunked on the counter. This envelope was like a 9.5 x 11 manilla. Except white and dainty. I had no choice. I sealed the top. Slow Mike was fiddling with some electronic data entry.

"Here. I have the address on this note card. If you have some clear tape, you can just stick it on the envelope." Let the record show that Val has excellent printing penmanship, and is often told that she should be a draftsman. Or draft horse. One of those two. Slow Mike was not pickin' up what Val was layin' down. As in, he was not picking up that note card to affix it to the envelope. He looked really confused. Even for a slow guy. He pushed a little sticker at me. Like you might get at a convention, that says, "Hello. My Name is ___________." Only it just said "To:" and "From:"

"Do you want me to copy this address onto that sticker?"

"Yeah. That would be easier." In the meantime, Slow Mike took my address note card and started typing in data. "That will be $5.80." I paid him. He even gave me the correct change. Then he held out the note card. "Which address is right? There are two."

Paula Deen in my front yard eating a lobster tail! How can a postal worker not understand how addresses work in a post office? I have taken the civil service test for mail carrier. Piece of cake. You have to put addresses in order. And the first thing that little exam preparation book tells you is that you read the address from the bottom up. General to specific.

"There are not two addresses. See? The envelope will go to this city. Then to this street. Then to this dorm. Then to my son. It all belongs there." Slow Mike grunted. I stifled down my disgruntledness. I got that card back from him as soon as he was done entering what was probably the wrong info in the system. I moved over to copy down the address on the convention sticker. The guy from the other end of the counter moved over for service.

"I want to send this to India."

"Um. Just a minute. I'm not sure how to do that." Slow Mike got on the microphone and called for a lady from the back. She came out. Apparently Slow Junior had not packed his item correctly after all this time. The lady, let's call her Smarty, squeezed Slow Junior's package. NOT LIKE THAT! This is not a pr0n flick. No boom chicka wow wow.

"This is a cell phone."

"Uh huh. I sold it to a guy in India. He already put the money in my PayPal account. Now I need to send it to him."

"This is a cell phone. It has a lithium battery."

"I don't know if it has a lithium battery. Let me call my son."

"All cell phones have lithium batteries. We can't ship them by air."

"Then how will it get to India?"

"I don't think we can send it there by ground." Maybe she shouldn't be called Smarty.

"I'll take the battery out. Let me call my son and see how."

It was like watching a tennis match. Not at the championship level. Slow Mike's head must have been hurting. "Are you done with that?" He reached for my label. Then he kind of stood there, watching the Great India Phone Caper unfold. I had to get back to school to pick up The Pony.

I wanted to back out, keeping my eye on Slow Mike. But I didn't. I'm on blood thinners you know. So I couldn't risk a collision with another patron. I really hope Slow Mike put that sticker on the right package.

I don't want Genius's Surface cable flying to India.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ain't THAT a Fine Stringer o' Fish?

Perhaps I've mentioned once or twice that Hick likes to hit the auction circuit a couple of times a week. He always finds some treasure or other. Hick is not one to come home empty-handed from the hunt. No Auction Meat? No problem. He can find other stuff to buy.

Like this:

Ain't they purty?

I suppose they could be called Wood Bass. This is one of the few gewgaw knickknack gimcrack whatnots he has hauled home that I actually kind of cotton to. He got them for five dollars. That's less than two dollars a fish!

According to Hick, a stringer alone would be five or six dollars itself at Walmart. Like he shops.

You might notice that Hick posed with his catch-of-the-night in front of his future Little Barbershop of Horrors. That's not his name for it. That's blog buddy Sioux's name for it. Which is frighteningly appropriate. I don't know how Hick made his hand look like it has five fingers and a thumb. It's just one of his freaky skills, I guess. And you might notice that he does not manscape his forearm. Which is all we'll say about that.

When asked what he plans to do with his catch, Hick replied, "Hang 'em in my barbershop!"

Of course. Everybody knows that's what you do with a stringer of wooden fish. Hang it in your homemade barbershop.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Routine Rituals and Good Luck Charms

You know how athletes are superstitious when they're on a winning streak, and wear the same socks or underwear without washing them? Or maybe that's just how they smell. But anyhoo...Val knows how they feel. Not stinky, of course. But she's pickin' up what they're layin' down. You don't want to change anything when a particular facet of your life is going well. Not that athletes know what a facet is. Are you kidding? They don't even know what a faucet is! Have you smelled some of those guys? But seriously...

The first full week of school just about put a nail in Val's coffin. It was all I could do to drag myself through the day. Not to mention the week. I think it's my medicine. The one I'm supposed to be on until May. We'll see about that. On Monday, I was so achy in the knees that I could hardly walk. My stomach hurt. I was nauseous, weak, exhausted, and in tears on the way to school and on the way home. That is not Val's style. Believe it or not, I really do like my job. Sure, maybe you could see why I might cry about coming home to Hick's shenanigans...but that's totally not me. I had to lie down for a half hour to regain my strength before I could go about my household duties.

So I did what any sensible person who dodged death by pulmonary embolisms would do, and quit taking my blood-thinner. Not forever. I stopped for three days. The doctors tell you that, you know. To stop if you're going to the dentist, or having surgery. "Oh, no. It won't hurt you. You'll be fine!" Yeah. So I stopped for three days. And I was fine. And I could walk normally, and my head was clear, and I was no more tired than a normal work day after a summer off. It was glorious. But Friday I went back on that thinner. Saturday and Sunday were miserable again, joints aching, unable to sleep without turning often, neck pain, unsteadiness. And this morning, this MONDAY morning...I felt kind of okay.

I don't know what's going on here. I'm planning to see my regular doctor so he can check with my lung doctor to see if there's a lower dose, or if I can simply switch to aspirin as promised, way back on my hospital bed, after three months on the blood-thinner.

Since today was kind of okay, I am trying to be a thin-blooded athlete and not vary my routine from yesterday. Maybe I can keep feeling all right for a while. I'll admit, I stopped short of walking through Walmart for forty-five minutes like I did yesterday. But I'm trying to eat the same things, spend the same amount of time sitting at the computer, sitting in the recliner, standing in the kitchen, etc. I also stopped short at counting the number of black olive slices I put on my super nachos. That would just be silly. I don't know how many I had on there last night.

Now I must prepare to fast-forward through my recording of the Cardinals game, eat a few Twizzler bites, fall asleep in the basement recliner from 10:10 until 1:00, and sleep in my bed from 1:15 until 4:50.

Stand back. I'm on a roll. But I'm not smelly yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Ol' Bait and Switch

Hick has been building a hay shed. He decided that he does not want to load his hay bales in the Gator at the BARn, and drive them over to the goat pen for the goats and minipony. While it's no big deal in summer, fall, or spring, I can imagine this task to be unpleasant in the winter.

Hick had some scrap lumber that he picked up from work a while back, and more from here and there that he used to set Genius to pulling nails from. Genius, though reluctant, was a much better Hick's Apprentice than The Pony. He also had some roofing tin left over from some project that he coerced his oldest son to climb up on the roof and attach. Hick is now putting the finishing touches on his structure, having bought $140 worth of plywood and screws on Friday. Which is not to say that his creation looks like a finished product.

Today I said something to Hick about his hay shed.

"Oh. It's not a hay shed anymore. I'm going to make it my barber shop. I'll put my barber chair in there, and a bunch of my auction stuff."

So basically, he's been building himself a playhouse. Never mind that Hick is not a barber. He has an old-timey chair that he got about 15 years ago. He has clippers, which he used on his sons before they got wise to what they looked like after a shearing. And he has a knack for talking. He's always said that one day he wants to open a barber shop. He even went so far, when quizzed by me on why places like that must have proprietors with a license, as to suggest enrolling in the beauty school just up the road a piece. So he could get a barber's license alongside 18-year-old girls learning to cut hair.

I think this shed is more of a project like his one-room schoolhouse he built down by the creek. He's not really teaching school out of it. Then again, I can't be sure Hick is not planning to put that barber shop on a trailer and haul it around to give impromptu haircuts, picking up stakes just ahead of inspectors from the State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners. I suppose my first clue might be when he brings home a barber pole.

Maybe he's going to pull that little shop of Hick-horrors to town, onto the parking lot of his regular barber shop, and siphon off a little business until Johnny comes out and kicks his butt. And while we're revisiting Johnny's, let me share a disappointing fact. I found out at the faculty lunch table last week that there really IS a waiting period of two hours at Johnny's on a Saturday morning! Found it out from another dude who, like Hick, has barely enough hair to cut.

So there you have it. Hick hoodwinked me into believing he was building a hay shed, spent money I did not give him, and emerged from the ordeal with a sweet little barber shop.

I don't know what the goats and minipony will have to say about this.