Sunday, July 27, 2014

You've Got To Pinch a Penny or Two, Girls, You've Got To Pinch a Penny or Two

Well. I guess this just goes to show that you never really know anyone as well as you think you do. Take my mom, for instance. No. I am not stealing that old Henny Youngman joke. I would not want anyone to actually take my mom. Though if I did, I would say "please," because she raised me to be polite like that.

This morning I called her to check in before she went to church. We only chatted a few minutes, because, as she was the first to say, she didn't know anything. We commiserated on how we could manage the Cardinals better than their current manager, and how he better not mess things up in today's game like he did on Friday. Then we hung up.

At 9:45, the time Mom normally leaves for church, my phone rang.

"Did you give me the papers this week? I was going to put them in my neighbor's mailbox, but I don't remember reading them, and I can't find them. I cleaned up a stack of papers yesterday, so I could have misplaced them. But I don't think The Pony ever brought them to me." Of course she meant her weekly hand-me-down tabloids, The National Enquirer and The Globe.

"I'm sure he did. I had them laid out. Remember how I told you that Camilla called Kate in a drunken stupor and told her to watch out, because Charles had Diana killed, and now he was trying to have herself killed, and to be aware because William would probably want to have Kate killed, too? There were some good stories last week."

"Oh. I know you said that, but I didn't read it. That's okay. I'm on my way to church. I have to go to the bank first thing tomorrow morning and get checks without your name on them. I can't use my other checks. Friday was the last day."

"I know how much you distrust me, and won't write a check with my name on it. I assure you, your money is safe with me." I was just needling her a bit. Her bank was bought out, and they sent her new checks, but they included my name and my sister the ex-mayor's wife's name on the checks because we are on Mom's account. Little things like this really bother Mom. Can you imagine? You'd think the custodian had been moving her classroom furniture around or something.

"I was just telling you that in case you try to call me tomorrow morning and I'm not home. I might go to Aldi's after church, because the regular preacher is still gone on vacation, and we might get out early. But I might come straight home to watch the game. That bothers me about the checks, because now I can't write one to donate at church today."

"Mom. I pretty sure they'll take cash."

"Oh! I don't feel right about putting in cash."

"Mom. I don't think anybody is going to steal your cash out of the collection plate."

"No, I'm not worried about them taking it. But I want a record that I donated."

"So let me get this straight. You won't leave cash, because you wouldn't get credit for donating. So to avoid that, you are simply not going to donate?"


"That seems kind of...I don't know...odd. That you want to make sure people know you donated, that this fact is really important to you, yet you are purposefully not donating. So not only will you not get credit, but you are not actually donating. I don't understand that reasoning."

"Well, that's just how I am."

"Okay. You'd better get going. I'll see if we still have the papers around here." Let the record show that I found the tabloids in my school bag, a must when spending two days working during the summer to make up snow day hours.

Huh. If mom was Fagin in the musical Oliver!, she would sing her own little song. Rather than, "You've got to pick a pocket or two, boys, you've got to pick a pocket or two," my mom would sing, "You've got to pinch a penny or two, girls, you've got to pinch a penny or two." The choreography would be Mom twirling around between the pews, passing that collection plate right across to the next parishioner without putting in even a farthing.

Yes. Mom has her own dirty little secret. Make that HAD.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sittin' In the Tahoe, Explainin' It's a Drag (Queen)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Time marches on! Even in Backroads.

Imagine my surprise when I clicked on my hometown online newspaper Friday morning, and saw that Backroads is getting its first gay bar. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Okay, the first thing I thought was, "Why does this paper sell so many ads that it takes a coon's age to load a page? Why must this paper make it so hard for people who don't pay an arm and a leg for a print subscription to read their paper?" But I think that every day when I read the paper. For free. From the comfort of my laptop, without waiting all day and watching out the window for it to be deposited in a special box beside the mailbox, because nobody can mess with federal property used by the U.S Postal Service.

The next thing I did was read about school drug testing. And then about a dude who left his naked toddler wandering on the state lettered highway, then refused to pick him up from the police station because, "I have warrants." And then about a scam warning because of people calling and saying they're a relative in a foreign country and need money to get home. But right after that, I clicked on the new gay bar.

Seems like it opened last weekend, with a big shindig that included four drag queens from the city, and over a hundred customers who had a great time. It's not in Backroads proper, but near a lake development. The guy who runs it says he's going to add a restaurant on the side. He thinks there's enough clientele to keep him afloat, and he says that anybody is welcome, not just gays. I think with his location, he might pull in a bunch of the lake crowd. Think about it. They can drive their golf carts and four-wheelers across the road, and not have to go anywhere for a night out and risk a DWI. Not that driving a golf cart under the influence is good. But you know what I'm getting at. If that location is not exactly where I think it is, he may go under. Nobody wants to drive to the middle of nowhere to have a few brews. Apparently they're only having one drag queen this weekend, with a cover charge of five dollars. Seriously. You can't even go to the movies for that.

I told my mom about it on our bill-paying trip. Her paper doesn't get there until the afternoon. Sucks to pay an arm and a leg and have to wait for your paper. Anyhoo...I told her I didn't see people across the county beating a path to its door just for that kind of show. And do you know what she said?

"Oh. You don't think Hick would go to check it out?"

"Um. No."

"Just to see what it's like?"

"No. Let's remember his buddy will not even wear a purple shirt because purple is a girl's color. I don't see Hick going to a gay bar to watch a drag show."

Apparently my mom does not know Hick as well as she thinks she does. Now if it was a strip club that just opened, or a Hooters, he'd be there with bells on.

She must think they serve Jacques Bonet Extra Dry California Champagne from 1970.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Val Has a Dirty Little Secret

There has been a situation developing over the past two or three weeks. A situation which I am reluctant to discuss. Something to be swept under the rug. Locked in the attic. Shoved between the mattress and box springs. But you know Val! She of the loose lips, who could have single-handedly sunk the Titanic with nary an iceberg in sight, just a couple of flippant comments to the wrong parties, and BINGO, the Titanic takes a nosedive into Davy Jones's locker. And I'm not talking about The Monkee who Marcia Brady got to sing at her dance.

Here's the deal. There's a dirty little secret in Backroads, and that dirty little secret is my sweet, sweet Juno. She has grown unkempt. She's the Pigpen of the Thevictorian fleabags. Where she used to be silky and shiny, she is now dull and matted. Full of burs. She has truly let herself go. If she was a person, she would be that gal you try to help by leaving Secret in her locker, dropping a sample bottle of Scope in her purse, or telling about this fabulous new shampoo you have just tried, called Prell. You don't want to hurt her feelings, but an intervention must be held.

The Pony and I have both tried brushing Juno with the metal-pronged dog brush. She stands mostly still for me, but sits down for The Pony so he can't get to her feathery haunches. Her tail, which used to brush back-and-forth like a silky black broom, is now coated with dust, and tangled. The Pony and I have picked burs until the cows come home. But the next morning, Juno is full of them again.

I told Hick that I want to shave Juno, or trim her to a very short length for the summer. He said I can't do that. That Juno's fur is how she keeps herself cool. Today I asked him again. Like maybe we can take her to a groomer at the start of next summer, and get her a haircut. Until then, my idea is a good No-More-Tears kind of dog shampoo. I fear that Hick is correct when he says she will simply run through the burs again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Indeed, that seems to be the pattern.

Either Ann the black german shepherd is lazier than Juno, or she has fur that repels the burs. Her only issue is that tan undercoat that gets full of dust, but it is easily brushed out with the dog comb. Funny thing. Lately Ann has been sleek and silky and shiny, while Juno is drab and dull. I think perhaps somebody else is eating Juno's daily egg ration.

Anyhoo...Wednesday evening, I sent The Pony in to get my kitchen shears. I stood on the sidewalk and petted Juno up on the side porch. When the scissors arrived, I hacked many, many wads of bur-matted fur off of various locations on her body. Quite a lot, really. She was mainly compliant, though I did have to say "bad dog" a couple of times when she tried to run off to her house.

While I was snipping snarls of fur-burs, The Pony took it upon himself to clean out the dog brush for the umpteenth time. The easiest way, you know, is to whack it on the side of the porch, or some other sturdy object. The Pony discovered this on his own and showed me, because I used to pull out those tufts of fur with my hands, much like you would clean a human hair brush. So there I am, snipping away, and The Pony, standing up on the side porch, starts whacking that dog brush on the shelf that holds the roaster pan full of cat kibble. Which meant that all of the fur wads he knocked loose were blown by the wind right into my face. I brought that news to his attention.

"Hey! The wind is blowing that dog fur right into my face!"

"I know."

Well. I'd had enough! I gave my kitchen scissors to The Pony and told him to take them inside. At least that got rid of him while I gave Juno a reward for being mostly a good sport while I hacked at her fur-burs. Oh, don't think I was rough on Juno. According to Hick, he and his Number One son took a break from putting up the sides of a hay shed to remove burs from Juno. WITH A POCKET KNIFE!

"Yeah, we tried to get some off of her. He had a pocket knife, so one of us would hold her while the other sawed until the fur came off."

That man is just barbaric.

So...Thursday morning I was rushing around getting ready to go serve my second day of snow-make-up hours at school, and I went to microwave the two mini sausage biscuits that I have with my medicine. I took the kitchen scissors out of the silverware drawer and snipped the corner off the package. The I snipped down the length of the package to vent it while they warmed.

At that moment I remembered that the last time I used those kitchen scissors was for CUTTING FUR-BURS OFF MY SWEET, SWEET JUNO!

"ACK! I've cut open my food with dog scissors! I have dog germs! Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!" Lucy Van Pelt has nothing on Val.

"Hey! Pony! Did you put my kitchen scissors right back in the drawer after I used them to cut Juno's fur?"

"Uh huh."

"They needed to be washed! Why didn't you put them by the sink?"

"You didn't tell me to. So I put them back."

My mom loved that story. She almost needed an inhaler to catch her breath. I don't find it quite so funny. And my tail is nowhere near wagging.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More From the Files of Unqualified People Shipping

For a few years we've had a peace. A calm between storms. A ceasefire with Unqualified People Shipping. Oh, sure, we still have our Hatfield and McCoy feud with FedEx. But the biscuit-tossing dog lady had spoiled us with her prompt and polite UPS deliveries. Until yesterday.

I was expecting a package from Amazon. Two-day shipping is free with Prime, you know. It's supposed to arrive by 8:00 p.m. on the second day. I had received emails saying my package had shipped, and would be here on Wednesday.

When The Pony and I came home from school, we found a post office orange card in EmBee. We thought Genius might have ordered something. Because my email said my package with two items was arriving by UPS. It was a phone cover dealybobber for Hick, and a book for me. When we got to the house, there was no package. No big deal. They usually come around 4:00-6:00, and it was only 2:30. Still plenty of time.

At 5:30, I got an email that said my package could not be delivered, and I should call for alternate instructions. I called the number given, which was automated, and a recording told me that the package was undeliverable because nobody was home, and it had been handed over to the post office for delivery. When I checked tracking, I saw that the USPS was the plan for delivery all along. UPS contracts some jobs out with them. Thus, the card. A bit of fudging on my undeliverable explanations there, but at least I was going to pick it up the next day.

But wait! That was only the phone cover thingy.

At 7:55, I got a call from the local UPS store. "My driver could not find your address. Is it 1313 Mockingbird Lane?"

"Yes. That's my address. Same as always for the past 17 years."

"Well, he found Mockingbird Lane, but he could not find your house. Which one is it?"

"Um. The one with 1313 Mockingbird Lane on a sign three feet off the road."

"He's new. I'm going to give him a call, and if he's still in the neighborhood, he'll be by with your package in about five minutes."

You know, I believed him. I hollered up to Hick, who even put a pair of shorts on over his post-swimming, after-shower tighty-whities. As you might have surmised by now, the package was not forthcoming. This morning I called the local UPS, whose number I got off my caller ID. The gal sounded a bit surprised that I was calling about an undelivered package, and that I had the tracking number.

"Let me go upstairs so I can look that up."

"I got a call last night that the driver could not find my house. That he found the street, but not my address. That is kind of funny, because my house is less that a half-mile up that street. There is only one other house before it, and I have my address hanging from a sign about three feet off the street, right by the driveway that leads to the house."

"Hm. Can you see the house?"

"Yes. It's right down the driveway by the sign with the address hanging on it. First house on the right."

"Oh, yes it is. I will contact the driver. He's new."

"This package in only a book. Nobody has to be home. Just leave it on the porch. It will be fine."

"I'll make a note of that."

"Well, it's one thing if you can't find the street, but don't tell me you found the street and can't find my house, because that is impossible."

"I'll let him know."

She must have been looking up Google Earth, because she acted like she could clearly see my house arrangement. SOMEBODY is trying to pull a fast one and make an excuse for not getting my package to me in two days. SOMEBODY must be really slow on his route, and thought people would fall for his pitiful excuse.


When The Pony and I got home this afternoon, there was a package on our front porch. The Pony picked it up. He was chortling. "Hey! Somebody drew a picture on our package!"

Yes. I think I got the last laugh. The dispatcher made my point, cartoony and clear. I almost forgive the Unqualified People Shipping for wasting my Amazon Prime money.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Sign Said "Professional Building," But Something Reminded Me of Brownsville Station

Monday I had a follow-up appointment with my pulmonary specialist. I really like him. He's outgoing and personable and seems like he knows what he's doing. The good news is that even though my Backroads hospital sent him a CAT scan of questionable quality, he saw no blood clots in my lungs. The bad news is that now he's changed his tune, and wants to keep me on this blood-thinner until May. I said I didn't want to be on it that long, and he said, "Well, you want to live, don't you?" I think he was being a bit overly dramatic, but he's the doctor. AND he said he's two years older than me, so he gets to boss me around.

The most remarkable thing about that appointment was not what the doctor had to say, but the atmosphere in the waiting room. First of all, I could have climbed Mount Everest faster than the trip from the parking garage to the pulmonary suite. AND we were locked out when we finally arrived at the end of the Professional Building earth, with no chairs in sight, just a disjointed hallway. I take that back. A bunch of mismatched chairs WERE in sight, in the dark, through the glass of the waiting room. Inside we could see a light on the receptionist behind her window, so busy ignoring us. Finally a different lady came out and turned on the lights and unlocked the door. Let the record show that we arrived at 9:45. The first appointment was at 10:00. I was supposed to get there early to fill out paperwork.

Anyhoo, I signed in and got my clipboard, and Hick and I sat on opposite sides of a corner from each other. Hick busied himself reading a flyer on how your body reacts once you quit smoking. It had a dramatic picture of a black lung. Other people trickled in, including a husband/wife combo who both had an appointment at the same time. I think they were the 10:00, because they were called back just before me, even though I arrived earlier.

While we were waiting, the Combo got up and changed seats, sitting a mere chair away from Hick, and a bit across from me. Hick was playing with his new phone. I sent him a text. "That guy stinks." Of course Hick didn't read it until later, after the HimCombo told the HerCombo he was going to the bathroom, and was gone ten minutes. Judging from his smell before he left, I think I know what he was doing. And it has nothing to do with a toilet. If people in real life had thought bubbles like people in cartoons, here's what was floating above the head of the HimCombo:

How you doin' out there? Did y'ever seem to have one of those days
Where it just seems like everybody's gettin' on your case
From your doctor all the way down to your best wife
Well, y'know, I used to have 'em just about all the time
But I found a way to get out of 'em, let me tell you about it

Sittin' in the waiting room, thinkin' it's a drag
Listenin' to the receptionist rap just ain't my bag
The clock passed 10:30, you know that's my cue
I'm gonna sneak a butt down the hall in the loo

Smokin' in the pulmonary specialist's men's room
Smokin' in the pulmonary specialist's men's room
Now, doctor, don't you fill me up with your rules
Cause everybody knows that smokin' with bad lungs ain't cool

Maybe it's just me, but I expect patients in a pulmonary specialist's waiting room to be smoke-free. Because if you have to see a lung doctor, that means your lungs are not up-to-snuff for smoking. Is that too much to ask? I also expect patients in a podiatrist's waiting room to have at least one foot, patients in an optometrist's waiting room to an eye, and patients in a gynecologist's waiting room to have hooters and a cooter. Oops! Sorry to be so crass as to use the typical Backroads medical terminology for those parts. Ahem. I meant patients in a gynecologist's waiting room should have breastesses and a 'gina.

I really don't think that's too much to ask. Said Val, Queen of the Universe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oh, the Places You'll Go and the Stories You'll Hear

Welcome back to this week's tour of the infirmary. Today we take Val's mom to get eight stitches removed from her face. A simple feat, you might think. But you are forgetting that we're talking about Val and her mom, out on the town, together again.

Mom hopped into T-Hoe with a bouffant to rival early Dolly Parton. "I didn't put any medicine on my face today. I figured I could do that after I get home." I could not even see Mom's incision. She had that hair all teased up with a silver metal rattail comb so it made a protective layer over her cut like a cone of cotton candy.

"That's probably not good for it. Those hairs are getting stuck in the stitches."

"That's all right. Those stitches are coming out."

In the waiting room, a pharmaceutical rep had the nerve to sit in the chair right next to Mom. Mom had already turned her body toward me, and the rep had turned away from Mom as well, to type into her drug-selling device. Mom fiddled with her hair on that side, twisting it and forming a barrier.

"I swear! Let it alone! What if you had this? THIS? This Frankenstein scar on your throat like me? That looks like my head is about to fall off. If you had that, you would part your hair in the middle, and tie both sides together down under your chin, like a beard."

"No I wouldn't. I would wear a scarf."

"It's ninety-five degrees out there! Deal with it like I do. A scar's a scar. It's part of you. People get used to it. Own your scar. If it was that big a deal, you should have asked for a plastic surgeon."

"Well, you have to understand, this is major surgery for me. It's the first time I ever had stitches. Except for the time I had that operation on my breast." She whispered that last word.

"Oh, and I suppose that didn't bother you at all. That you flaunted it. 'Look! Look! I have stitches! See my stitches?' Yeah. I'll bet you plopped it right out there for all to see."

"Yes I did." Mom sometimes gets a bit horsey when I take things too far.

She was called in, and I followed. She said I could. But when I instructed her to say, "Oh, you come in with me," when called, she refused. "You can come in if you want. But I'm not going to say that." Hmpf! I guess I DID go too far.

I had told Mom that the doctor would probably not take out the stitches himself. That he has people to do that for him. She said she would demand that he do it himself. That demand flew out the window when he popped his head in and told his nurse to do it for him. She was a tiny little thing with silky black hair (not unlike that of my sweet, sweet Juno--I wonder if this gal likes raw eggs) wearing fuschia sweatpants and a black knit shirt. So much for scrubs around the office.

"What ARE you?" Mom asked. Perhaps a bit politically incorrectly. The little gal had an accent.

"What do you mean?"

"Are you a student? A nurse? A nurse practitioner? Why do you do these things? Have you done them before or are you just learning?"

"I'm a nurse. I've done it before. Yesterday I had the BEST-LOOKING man! I had to clean out his ear. Still. I can look, can't I? I'm married, but I can look."

"Oh, when my late husband was in the hospital for heart surgery, there was a doctor who came to talk to me that was so good-looking that I didn't hear a word he said."

Fuschia told Mom to climb up on the table and lay on her side. She picked up the scissors the doctor had given her, and a pair of long tweezers. There was some debate about whether Mom had six stitches or eight. Mom proclaimed eight, but Fuschia said six. She was having a devil of a time getting ahold of those stitches.

"They are in so deep. Your skin has grown over them."

"What if you can't get them out?"

"Oh, I'll get them out!" Fuschia went off for better scissors, and returned with a pair that had curvy ends. "This should do it." By the time she was done, eight stitches lay on the exam table beside Mom. "I'm sorry, honey. I know that hurt. It's bleeding a little bit because they were grown in. Let me put some gauze over that for now."

Mom was a bit nervous, being back on her blood-thinner. It didn't help when Fuschia wiped with the gauze, and Mom saw it come away red. Fuschia put some alcohol on more gauze, and laid it on the side of Mom's head.

"Just lay there for a minute. You think THIS is bad? Let me tell you about the time I had stitches. All of my male relatives are ministers or preachers. I decided that I wanted to be a preacher, too. So I climbed up on the dresser, and was giving a sermon. I was walking back and forth, preaching." Fuschia walked her fingers along the edge of the supply table, back and forth, prancing, stomping. "I got to the end, and my foot slipped off the corner like THIS! And both feet flew off and I landed RIGHT ON THE CORNER! Do you know where I had to get stitches? RIGHT HERE!" Fuschia pointed to the area where her right leg joined the rest of her body. "Image a doctor taking stitches out, with his head right there! I was only twelve years old."

After we left the office, Mom said, "I really like her. She tells it like it is."

"No wonder. You two are just alike! You never know when to stop. Some things just don't need to be said."

Of course I had to tell that story to The Pony on the way home. His response?

"Ay yi yi!" With a palm to his forehead.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cat On a Hot Wood Porch

How have I enjoyed my summer? Let me count the ways. Um. I can't even get to "Number one..." Oh, wait! That's right. I haven't enjoyed my summer. Except for the being alive part, that is. I guess the glass of summer really is half-full.

Here's what a summer should be:

Yeah. You might think that some skunk ran up on the boards Hick had left over after patching the soon-to-be-walked planks around by the kitchen, and laid down and died about a week ago, and is now bloated and ready to explode. But you would be wrong.

You might think an errant child invaded the grounds while we were away, and left his stuffed animal as a calling card. But you would be wrong.

You might think an obese capuchin monkey escaped from a lonely old woman who bought it on the black market to make a monkid out of it and feed it french fries and dress it in frilly frocks. But you would be wrong.

That is our extremely obese cat, Stockings, snoozing as he does for about 23 hours and 45 minutes each day. He was kind of on his back, with his feet balancing his rotund body to keep it from rocking back and forth in the breeze like a barrel bobbing over Niagara Falls.

THAT is what a proper summer should look like. Summertime...and the snoozin' is breezy.