Monday, December 31, 2012

Dream a Little Dream for Me, Mister Z

I have been entertained by some wild and crazy dreams this week.

I blame the generic Z-pack I'm taking for my sinus infection. That's got to be it. I have been taking a pill around 8:00 p.m. They're all gone now, but the package says the antibiotic can keep working for up to ten days. So I figure I've got several more thrill rides from the Sandman in my subconscious future.

We'll only concentrate on the main dream that has stuck with me. Not the one from early this morning in which Hick took me to a casino that was a converted library. Seriously. Everybody had to be quiet, the games had no sound, and I was gambling on a microfiche machine. I did not win.

My standout dream was about my grandma, my dad's mother, who passed away two years ago. In this dream, I went to her house to pick up The Pony, who had spent the night. Grandma was puttering around in her muu-muu, happy as a clam. Her dream house, like her real house, was wall-to-wall books. Floor to ceiling. Every room. My mom had dropped in, and I followed her to the library. How I knew it was the library, with EVERY room being full of books, I don't know. But in my dream world I knew it was the library.

As mom walked by a set of four black-leather-bound hardbacks with no titles showing, a small black leather pouch popped out and onto the floor. Kind of like when a young Corey Feldman accidentally spilled a jar of paintbrush water on Gizmo in Gremlins, and balls of fur began popping out of his back. Gizmo's back. Not Corey's.

"Hey, what's that?" I called to dream Mom.

"How should I know?" she replied brusquely over her shoulder. So totally unlike her. I picked up the item. It had a zipper on one side. I opened it to find a rolled up note, like a tiny scroll with no wooden top and bottom thingies. And do you know what the scroll said? No, it was not like in A Christmas Story when Ralphie decoded the secret message to find out it was all one big commercial: Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.

The very special dream scroll said: Wizards must maintain proper weight.

Ahem. It's okay, Grandma. I realize I'm not svelte. Of course, when I called my mom to relate this dream to her, I made sure to say, "No offense, Mom. But I'm sure the scroll was directed at you. It popped out right after you walked by, you know." Mom did not take offense.

From there, the dream led me back to Grandma, in the kitchen. She pulled a neither new nor old penny from the folds of her muu-muu, and handed it to me. It was bent in the middle, vertically, but not too much. I could tell that this was her prized possession, and that she was never without it. "See it there?" dream Grandma asked. "That's Walter. He buys all our tickets."

It was the profile of a man on the back of the penny where the Lincoln Memorial belonged. And in the upper right corner of that round penny was a set of numbers. They changed like when you tilt one of those faceted things that shows a different picture depending on the angle. I pointed it out to Grandma, who had no idea those numbers changed.

Now I need to find out who Walter is. And what kind of tickets he was buying. My mom says she only knows of one Walter, who was in a rock club with Grandma.

Maybe I don't want to know more.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Gift for the Nag. I.

It's been almost a week now. And I've tried not to gloat. But I cannot hold it in any longer. HEY! I am NOT talking about my fudge-fed gut. I am talking about the gift I received from Hick. He certainly knows the way to this woman's heart.

I would rate this gift right up there at #3 of Hick's all-time Valcentric gifts. That's pretty high, since he seems compelled to spoil me with treats for Christmas, my birthday, and Mother's Day. Whether I deserve them or not. He's generous like that. Plus, he knows that Val without presents is like a kitchen table bereft of a towering bowl of soup. He knows which side his bread is buttered on, as well as who butters it, who drives to town to buy his bread and butter, and who tells him as she's serving it: "All that bread and butter is not really good for you." Hick is wise beyond his appearance.

"What was it?" you ask? The #3 Hick-to-Val gift of all time? Here's a clue: my gift was not wrapped. That's because it was kind of impossible to wrap. Oh, the parts could have been wrapped individually. But what kind of gift would THAT have been? Not a very good one, I assure you. It was a package deal, without a package! I'm sure Steven Wright could make a joke out of that.

My gift was not under the tree. I had other gifts, of course. Let's not forget Hick's affinity for bread and butter. But this was one that took me by surprise. Like that time my mom and dad bought Hick a used chainsaw, and put the package in their basement. After all the wrapping and bows were cleared away and people were oohing and ahhing over their gifts, with Hick trying to be a brave little chainsawless soldier, they told him to check the basement. He came up those steps carrying that box, looking like a toddler on Christmas morning. When in reality he was a grown man on Christmas day.

Let's just say that I did not have to go down to the basement. My gift was revealed on Christmas Eve, as I buckled up my seatbelt, preparing to ride shotgun in the Tahoe over the creeks and through the woods, as to my sister's house we went. Being Hick, he could not hold the secret one second longer. Could not allow me to discover it for myself.

"Can you see the road?"

"The driveway? Yes. Hey. I can see farther than ten feet! Do you have the lights on bright?"

"Nope." That was a smug nope. Hick was practically polishing his fingernails on his chest pocket, exhaling on them, polishing them some more, then holding them out to admire. "I put in new headlights for you. AND I got rid of that milky white fog inside the light cover."

"This is GREAT! I can see where I'm going! Without using the brights! Now I can drive at night. Without risking death by running into a cow that I can't see until too late."

"Anything else?"

" that you mention it, I can see through the windshield. Is the defogger not blowing yet? Because it's not all fogged up. I don't even think my finger would leave a mark if I tried it." Which I did. No mark.

"I cleaned your windshield, too!"

"With that bottle of stuff I got last month?"

"Uh huh. Inside AND out!"

"This is, like, the best present ever! After my office chair. I really like my office chair."

"See? I know what to get you. Even though you never tell me anything good that I can understand and get for you."

"Thank you! This is great!"

That Hick. Sometimes it takes a while for him to get the hint. But he played this one just right.

That office chair, Hick's #1 gift of all time, was a stroke of genius. I had not even asked for it. He went all the way to Office Max and picked it out and put it together and kept it in the BARn until after I went to bed in the wee hours of Christmas morning, when he snuck it into my office and put it in place of my old uncomfortable squeaky chair.

Gift #2 was another Christmas effort. Hick had a little help from my sister for that one. He scored us two tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Fabulous Fox. I KNOW! The perfect gift for Val. Sis was getting tickets for her husband, as big a fan as Val, and called Hick to see if he wanted in on the action. Anybody who was following the event at the time might recall that it was not easy to get these tickets. Hick had to ask me for cash, because he had to pay off Sis for the use of her credit card. Thankfully, she did not charge a commission. She could not get us seats together, but at least Hick and I had a pair, and she and my brother-in-law the former mayor had a pair.

Yes, it was a joyous gift-receiving holiday for Val Thevictorian. And to ward off the Even Steven curse, I will round out this proclamation by enumerating the three all-time worst gifts from Hick to Val.

#1...The Pink $3.00 Change Purse/Two Boxes of Sno*Caps Combo. A Mother's Day gift hardly befitting the mother of two sons and the stepmother of two more from the tender age of five to adulthood.

#2...The Disappearing Red Devil Hand-Held Mini-Vac. Presented to Val from Hick on December 25th, 1994, as she sat rocking Baby Genius, born December 12th, 1994, whisked away after gift-opening ceremonies, never to be seen again, revealed to reside in Hick's workshop two years later. The Red Devil. Not Baby Genius.

#3...There is no number three. Hick's good deeds outweigh the bad. They just aren't as funny to write about.

So there you have it. A tale of Val's prized tangible riches that she was showered with this holiday season. Even though I'm a giver, I was happy to receive.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Backroads Intermittent Gazette: Weekend Edition

Backroads Sheriff's Department Investigates Creekside Shenanigans

Sheriff Deput E. Dawg has formed a task force to investigate the mysterious appearance of a large frosted donut in the waters of Backroads Creek. Sheriff Dawg wants the citizens to know that, "I will not rest until I find out who has been dunking their donut in Backroads Creek. I take it as a personal affront that a criminal element has invaded our tidy community, and taken it upon themselves to thumb their noses at authority. The fact that a donut was chosen as the implement of shenaniganning does not set well with me. What's next, a pig parked in my reserved space? The perpetrators shall be brought to justice." The next meeting of the task force is set for 10:00 a.m. Monday in the back room of Top o' the Hole to You.


Woman's Head Explodes, No Casualties Reported

A resident of Backroads had the unpleasant experience of cranial combustion last weekend, when her head exploded with pain upon biting into a cheeseburger topped with hot caramelized onions. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the sensation as that of molten iron being poured into a mold formed by her upper left bicuspid and the nerve that serves it. "In retrospect," she declared, "the caramelized onions were, perhaps, not the best choice of toppings." Service in the restaurant was restored after a two-hour respite in which emergency personnel treated three customers for dangerous levels of decibel exposure. When reached for comment, all three victims responded, "WHAT?"


Backroads Couple Narrowly Avoids Arrest for Foal Endangerment

A Backroads boy reported his parents for what he termed cruel and unusual punishment last Saturday. The young fellow, who goes by the name of "The Pony" stated that his father is, "...pretty much not guilty because he never knows what's going on." The issue that brought matters to a head was the state of the lad's footwear. "Mom always lets me wear my Adidas slides when I'm not going in a store to be her beast of burden," he said. "But Saturday, I was only going to get into my grandma's car, and she made me go back and put on shoes AND socks before leaving the house. I already had on pants instead of shorts. I think she was trying to smother me. If the temperature outside hadn't been thirteen degrees with the wind chill, I might have spontaneously combusted like that onion lady's head." The Division of Equine Well-Being has cleared the family of all charges. This time.


Local Man Lost in Maze, Rescued by Good Samaritan

A local man found himself out of his element last weekend when he narrowly avoided freezing to death in a maze of plywood dividers at River City Casino. The kindhearted gent had driven his wife around the end of a virtual Tierra del Fuego of Keep Out/Men Working/Construction Zone barriers in order to access the second level of the new parking garage. "Here you go, Honey. Nobody is even here yet. We can park right next to the door." The ancient lovebirds hopped out of their large sport-utility vehicle and entered the building. A bank of elevators greeted them. One quick push, and a door opened as if by magic. They rode down to the ground floor of the parking garage, only to be directed outside, into a channel of wooden walls, around the side of the building, through a door, down a hallway, outside across another construction area, in a service door, and down a carpeted hallway to the casino lobby.

Knowing that there would be no host around with a tank of oxygen after the return trip, Upright Q. Citizen told his missus to wait at the entrance. He selflessly hiked the trail of veers back to the vehicle, hampered by what seemed to the little woman like a twenty-minute fuge during which he rattled around the makeshift enclosure like a rat bereft of nasal cheese sensors. Mr. Citizens admits to a brief period of disorientation, during which he miraculously dialed a random number on his cell phone. The number turned out to belong to an internet acquaintance of Mrs. Citizen, who lives a mere five minutes away, on a barge down in the river. She skillfully directed Mr. Citizen to the parking garage, second level, an event which she refers to as a Happy accident, being a firm believer in no coincidences.


Area Couple Featured in New Reality Show

Mark your calendar. You don't want to miss next week's premiere of Little World, Big People. The new reality show features longtime Backroads residents Pa and Ma Cauldron. In the first episode, follow Pa and Ma on an outing to a "den of thieves," as Pa terms it. Watch Pa forget that he received a restaurant coupon in honor of his birthday that week, and upon remembrance, get in line for a second half-pound cheeseburger. Let's hope he doesn't order caramelized onions on it! Tune in and find out, Friday evening at 9:00.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hookers Hick Has Known

And now, by popular demand, to stifle the clamoring of the lone reader who wanted to hear the REST of the story...I present: Hookers Hick Has Known.

Okay. Hick has not really known any hookers. THAT I KNOW OF. But he sometimes professes to be an authority on subjects that he thinks others are not well-versed in. I could see him as Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, telling his wife's boss that he's re-wiring the house. "Two-twenty, two-twenty-one, whatever it takes." Except that Hick DOES know a lot about electricity. On other subjects, he merely fancies that he is knowledgeable. Women, for instance.

I once overheard Hick telling The Pony, at the tender age of six, about the quality of women in the various countries where he's traveled. And where he hasn't.

"There are some pretty girls in Sweden."

"Pretty girls? Like here?"

 "There are pretty girls in Norway, too. But in England, they're not so pretty. England is like here, and some are pretty, and some are not. Now, Germany has some pretty girls..."

But that's not the hooker story. Merely a character sketch of Hick and his self-appointed authority. The hooker story began with an innocent evening of America's Most Wanted. Hick was on the case, eager to solve a crime rather than assist the boys and me in dyeing Easter eggs. We finished up and joined him in front of the TV. He filled us in on what we had missed.

A serial killer had left a trail of victims across the southwest. Their pictures flashed across the screen. Not gory pictures. Candid shots. Driver's license photos. Senior pictures. They were all young women, with long, dark hair, parted in the middle. I glanced at them and exclaimed, "They all look alike!" Meaning that the killer had a certain type that he liked to murder. The narrator mentioned that most of the victims were prostitutes. Again, the killer had a type. Just like Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs had a type, his being full-figured gals with enough skin to make himself a woman-suit.

Hick snorted at my proclamation that all of the victims looked alike. "Of course they looked alike! They all had the same profession. Streetwalker." Along with being rooted in Mayberry in 1960 and using a Sheriff Andy Taylor euphemism for prostitutes, woefully misguided Hick seemed to think that working girls had a uniform. Like the white pants of a union painter, the ladies of the evening had their long, dark hair parted in the middle.

Genius tried to explain that there were blond and redheaded prostitutes, too, with a variety of coiffures. Where my fifteen-year-old learned so much about prostitutes, I did not know. It was obviously not from his father.

Hick grew downright surly upon our questioning of his call-girl knowledge. "Fine. Make fun all you want. But the next time you want to earn forty dollars, have somebody else drive you to town to mow Grandma's lawn."

"Or," I said, "grow your hair long, part it in the middle, and stand on the street corner."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Valrus and the Carpenter

Let's see...who am I in a mood to plagiarize tonight? Could it Carroll? Yes! That's the ticket. Lewis Carroll it is!

Did I ever tell you about the time Linda O'Connell made me kill dead hookers?

A while back, I consulted the inimitable Linda about a submission for one of the Not Your Mother's Book titles. It was a cute little piece concerning Hick's obsession with hair styles, haircuts, and what he claimed was the indisputable fact that all prostitutes have dark hair parted in the middle. Hick reached this conclusion after watching a show about a serial killer in Arizona.

Linda is hereafter referred to as The Carpenter. That's because she is adept at constructing submissions, and not one to shy away from hammering them or cutting them until they can stand on their own. The Carpenter. Not to be confused with A Carpenter's Dream, which is flat as a board and easy to nail. Got it?


The Valrus and the Carpenter
Were talking close at hand;
They read like anything, you see,
E-mails across the land:
"If this were only edited..."
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven pens
Would slash for half a year,
Do you suppose," the Valrus said,
"That they could make it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And chugged another beer.
"O Linda, help me submit this!"
The Valrus did beseech.
"A pleasant tale of hooker hair,
A killer, and his niche.
My husband has some weird ideas;
Help me? You're a peach!"

So Linda read Val's piece again,
For she had made this bed.
Killers? Hookers? What the hell…
And shook her heavy head--
Meaning to say she did not wish
To be down this path led.

"The time has come," the Valrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of hoes--and snips--and killing facts--
Of comedy--and zings--
And why my tale is funny--NOT
And whether my prose sings."

"You cut a bit," sage Linda cried,
"Let's have a little chat;
Nobody wants to read about
Dead working girls like that."
"No hoes, you say?" a-sputtered Val,
There goes my tagline, RAT!"

"All right. I thank you for your help.
You are so very nice."
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Let's cut that worthless slice;
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Valrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
To bring my readers out so far,
Then cut it to the quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"You've piled it on too thick!"

"I weep for me," the Valrus said:
"I'm deeply traumatized."
With sobs and tears she snorted out;
"I'll do it--'cause you're wise."
She slashed her tainted darlings then
Amidst dramatic sighs.

"O Val," typed out the Carpenter,
"This ain't the only one!
All of your stories need some cuts!"
But answer there came none--
For Val was plotting on and on…
Lest Linda think she won.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Why Val Can Never Seem to Send in Those Submissions She's Been Meaning to Write

Such grand plans I had for today.


A package for The Pony awaited us at the dead-mouse-smelling post office, which had come in Monday afternoon, but was not available until today.

I broke my bifocals Christmas Eve. Contrary to popular opinion, it was NOT due to wearing a lampshade on my head at my sister's annual party. But close. While waiting for Hick to turn around the Tahoe so I did not have to walk the tightrope of the driveway curb to avoid the ditch, as I had done upon arrival, I stood in the teen-degree wind chill. Waiting. My bifocals jauntily perched upon my head. Chilling. I climbed into my personal cab, buckled my seatbelt, leaned forward to watch Hick narrowly miss the yard and a resident tree...and heard a crunch on top of my head. A piece fell onto my ample bosom. The oval thingy that keeps the metal from digging into the side of my nose.

First of all, I refuse to take responsibility. I was in the PASSENGER seat, by cracky! It is not adjusted to my liking. I feel like a trucker on a hoisted-up bucket seat. I set my driver's seat lower. But the passenger seat must accommodate the legs and feet of Genius riding rear shotgun. Which puts my noggin perilously close to the ceiling. I groped myself until I had the missing link. I put it in my shirt pocket for safekeeping. Hick found it later with his foot, on the tile floor of the bathroom. Who knew he had such princess-and-the-pea manhooves? Not I. The good news is that the optometrist's office was fairly bereft of patients this morning, and my ocular issue was remedied forthwith.

Oh, and that painful tooth/sinus issue of mine? Still not resolved. The confounded Convenient Care was not open Friday afternoon. Nor Monday. Nor today. I tried their main facility twenty miles south, and it was open, but with only a receptionist. Since I did not especially want a clerical worker diagnosing me, she recommended that I go next door, to the doctor used by Genius and The Pony. NOT a pediatrician, I assure you. But an osteopath. That's a long story for...never. Let's just say that my own doctor takes off the week after Christmas, and his office is in a hospital-adjacent clinic, and the parking lot is far away and crowded, and they frown upon work-ins. So I went to my kids' doc. To while away two hours and twenty minutes, but emerge triumphant with a Z-pack prescription thirteen miles away. Somewhat convenient, because I had to go there anyway to pick up a Nasonex prescription for Genius.

Perhaps I neglected to mention that we received three inches of snow last night. Which turned to a glaze of ice as it landed on the salted roadways. So the going was slow and treacherous. The Pony and I left home at 10:15 this morning, after I had called around to determine where I could haul my sinus cavities for inspection. We returned at 4:00. At which time I heated up a delicious smorgasbord of Christmas day leftovers for my lupper.

Hick is on his own tonight. Poor dear. Who had to work. But most certainly did not have grand plans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pillow Luminescence

Said Ms Val to the readers of her blog
Do you see that I see?
Way up near the top of my blog?
A pillow, a pillow, glowing in the night,
While a Pony beams with delight.

While a Pony beams with delight.

I had no idea this gift would please The Pony so much. It's a square, white, silky pillow that lights up when you squeeze it, and goes through several color changes. The neon green is the prettiest, but purple is good, too. It is officially called a BrightLight Pillow.

Upon unwrapping this item, and taking it out of the box, before any batteries were even installed, The Pony shouted with pride, "I'm taking THIS gift to Grandma's!" That's a yearly thing. Each boy takes along a present which especially pleased him.

The Pony has always been a tactile fellow. Squeezing and poking and touching and stroking. He petted that pretty pillow all the way to and from his grandma's house. He also received a Bug Out Bob thingie whose eyeballs pop out when you squeeze it, and a stress cupcake.

Despite his penchant for feeling objects, The Pony is not half the manipulator as his brother, Genius.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Death Bewilders Her

I arose at the stroke of 6:00 a.m. to begin final preparations for our Christmas celebration. We will meet at my sister's house tonight, so I had several items to wrap up before slipping into the doldrums of Christmas Eve. Heh, heh! Get it? I had several items to WRAP UP! Because it's Christmas, you know. And people wrap PRESENTS! I crack myself up sometimes.

Seriously. I DO have some presents to wrap up as well. And by "some," I mean ALL OF THEM. I have let time get away from me this year, what with tending five batches of my World Famous Chex Mix, traipsing about eastern Missouri, going to book signings willy-nilly, and throwing away an entire day with a casino outing. Hey! All work and no gambling makes Val a dull gal. I've been typing that all afternoon. Seeing as how we're going to be snowed in here at the Overlook Hotel tomorrow.

Now where was I? Oh, yes. My early morning plans included baking my third Oreo cake in less than twenty-four hours, whipping up some vegetable dip, boiling eggs and potatoes for my traditional Christmas potato salad, and washing some clothes so my boys don't have to attend family gatherings in a barrel held up by suspenders. Separate barrels, of course. These brothers don't have that much of a bond.

I put on the eggs and potatoes. Unplugged my cell phone from the kitchen counter area where it had been charging all night, so it didn't get splattered with cake mix. Dumped a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix in a tub of sour cream from Save A Lot, and VOILA! The dip was done, man! One item checked off my list.

Next up was the cake. The first thing I had done when I got up was to cut a package of Oreos in half. Part of them to ring around the bottom of the cake, and the other part to chop for the batter. Leaving five halves to stand on edge on top, of course, and the crumbs to sprinkle over the top. Because I'm not Paula Deen, I opened a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, triple fudge, to be exact, and poured it into my big mixing bowl. I added all the ingredients, jammed the beaters into my mixer, and commenced to beating. Ahem! I said, commenced to beating. Er...turned on the mixer. What's this? My mixer was dead. Dead, dead, dead. Dead as a doornail! Not a doorknob. That's what Genius tries to say. But he is wrong. In fact, he also declares that something is coming down the PIPE! Sometimes I wonder if my baby was switched in the hospital while I was swilling THE BEST GRAPE JUICE EVER after six months of no-sugar-allowed gestational diabetes.

Let's see...we were talking about my dear, departed mixer. All the gunk was about to start congealing. I moved past the stove to the other end of the counter. Tried another outlet. Nope. The mixer, like Generalissimo Francisco Franco, was still dead. I grabbed the whisk I had rinsed after ranch dipping, and started whipping. Here is where you might want to make a note-to-self: beating is much less taxing than whipping. I worked up a sweat. Grew as winded as a smoker at mile 20 of the Boston Marathon. My right arm grew two sizes today. I am a human fiddler crab. That giant arm DID come in handy for stirring the Chex every fifteen minutes for two hours.

I managed to get everything done this morning, with only a thirty-minute delay from my schedule. Good thing. I had to pick up a package at the dead-mouse-smelling post office. And get my 44 oz. Diet Coke, of course. I wanted it for my three-hour lunch break, to rekindle my energy before starting on the present-wrapping. While in town, my mom called on my cell phone. I heard an odd thumping noise while I talked, but assumed it was something with her land line. Since I was parked in front of the DMSPO at the time, I was not worried that I might have driven over something or someone. Imagine my surprise when I hung up to see a message that I needed to connect my phone to its charger.

My phone had been on the charger all night! One little phone call should not have depleted it. By the time I got home, I had forgotten all about Phony. I had a 44 oz. Diet Coke, and three hours of free time! In passing, I mentioned to Hick that my mixer had expired. Just in case he needed an idea for a last-minute gift. Even though my mom had told me she had a perfectly good mixer still in the box. Because you can never have too many mixers, you know. For those holidays when you need to bake three Oreo cakes in less than twenty-four hours.

Hick treated me like he was the slot machine attendant at River City. Looked askance. "How do you KNOW your mixer is dead?" Like I was obviously making it all up to score a new mixer for Christmas. He grabbed it from where I'd left it plugged in. Pushed the button. Nothing. Dead as a doorNAIL. Hick is knobber, too. I explained that it did not work in either outlet.

"Well, I'll go see if the breaker is tripped. Maybe you did something when you plugged it in. It's made to trip if there's a problem." Off he went to the master bathroom walk-in closet, to the main panel, installed by he, himself, and him when we built the house. He came back and turned on the mixer. It whirred to life. Resuscitated. By the man who runs electric for a living, in a county with lax codes, able to work without benefit of membership in the international brotherhood. The man who had installed the electricity to begin with. Electricity that can't take a jabbing in its outlet without shutting down.

That explained the wasting away of my cell phone. It had been plugged into that wall all night. I've really got to be more careful about how I jam the prongs into the socket. It's not a slot card scanner, you know.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's Not the Riches You Measure, But How You Measure Riches

We got trouble, my friends, right there. I say trouble, right there in River City. Trouble with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "C" and that stands for card!

Upon arrival, Hick and I hightailed it to the customer service desk at the casino. We had to get a player's card, you see. We ain't about to throw away our hard-earned cash without being tracked. No sirree, Bob! Oh, how I long for the olden days at Harrah's. They gave you one of those little telephone-cord stretchy thingies for your player's card. That made it harder for you to forget your card in a machine, that little tether that came in assorted colors. It was fun to swing that card around on it, too. And you know what? They'd give you another one if you said you lost yours! For free!

River City hands you a naked card. No tether. How low-rent is THAT? I'm sure they're doing it to save the environment. Less petroleum products needed to manufacture those plastic card-leashes. That's gotta be it. River City. Saving the planet one stretchy tether at a time.

I snatched my card and elbowed my way through the crowd to a three-reel quarter machine. None of that fancy video garbage for me. Val gambles old-style. She'd feed that machine tokens if River City hadn't gone green and stopped mining minerals and concentrated on de-foresting the landscape for tickets instead. Trees. A renewable resource. tokens means no plastic cups to jangle them in. Another million barrels of petroleum saved. By Val alone. With the help of River City.

Technically, there was no crowd. It was 9:00 on a Saturday morning. Which is not to say there was a lack of drinking and smoking. I sat a spell at two different slots. Then it happened. MY CARD WOULD NOT BE RECOGNIZED! It was like the Taiwan of slot cards. Every time I put it in, the machine told me, "Reinsert player card." So I did. And it told me again. So I did. And it told me again...This was fast becoming the most unproductive money-losing trip ever.

I tried five different machines. Same result. I rubbed the card on my shirt. I inserted it fast. In inserted it slow. No dice. If that one-armed moneysucker had a hand, and that hand had fingers, I know which one he would have been flipping me. I smelled a conspiracy. Oops! That was just smoke from the cooler the casino boss had sent to sit next to me wherever I played, chimneying it up like the gaming floor was one big smokeless ashtray. I was sure each slot machine that would not let me play was a winner. Never mind that I could have played without my card. I wanted my losses tracked, by cracky!

I stumbled upon Hick, happy as a pig in a BARn being held against his will until sausage could be made of him. He said his card did the same thing, but he just put it in slowly and it was accepted. Yeah. That's what HE said. A casino worker came by. I told him I was having a problem with my card. Well. Since I must be the liar lady Penelope from SNL as portrayed by Kristen Wiig, he told me to insert the card while he was watching. C'mon. You can't tell me the security people weren't guffawing as I went from machine to machine, like Tom Chaney in True Grit trying to catch a ride to Ma's riding double on somebody else's horse.

The message window said, "Reinsert player card." Nyah, nyah, aging little man in a red vest patrolling quarter slots in River City. Don't make me into that hypochondriac who had "I TOLD you I was sick!" engraved on her tombstone. He told me to try again. Like that thought had never occurred to me. Finally, he took my card and WIPED HIS THUMB ACROSS THE MAGNETIC STRIP. "Now try it." Of course the darn thing worked. That one time. Thumbkin was gone faster than the Road Runner from an ACME catastrophe. When I tried to insert my card in a slot I actually wanted to play, I again got the reinsert message. Apparently, River City hires folks with magical thumbs. My thumb is no Digit Copperfield. If I had written a song about my trials, it would have been called Six Steps Back and One Step Forward. When I found a machine that would take my card, I glommed onto it like a wad of Bubblicious onto the unkempt tresses of a toddler just risen from her naptime cot.

Val was not a monetary winner. But she emerged from River City much the richer.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Driving in a Tahoe Down by the River

I am confident that you have all been refreshing the page every five minutes to read about Val's trip to the casino today. Right? RIGHT? Oh. I forgot. I am confident. No need to ask that question.

Hick and I ditched The Pony early this morning, and left Genius home in bed. Don't even ask if we left the two of them home together. Their symbiotic relationship is not one of mutualism (where both benefit), nor even of commensalism (where one benefits, and the other is neither helped nor harmed). No. It is closer to parasitism (one benefits, and the other is harmed). That now concludes today's biology lesson on ecological relationships.

We sped off to River City with Hick behind the wheel. After a discussion of what's wrong with society today, I turned my attention to reading the National Enquirer. Did you know a dude on death row says he videotaped OJ Simpson murdering his ex-wife? Me neither! All these years, this dude from Ohio has kept this secret. He was a house painter OJ hired to spy on his ex, but he was really going to blackmail the ex if he caught men going into her house. A real double-dipper, that dude. So in the midst of videotaping OJ murdering Ron Goldman, which he didn't capture very well because it was out of focus, Dude hid the video because he didn't want to be implicated in the crime! And he hightailed it back to Ohio. Where he became a murderer himself! Told the Enquirer that the tape is still right where he hid it in 1994! And even though he's been on death row for quite some time, he's just now coming forward, because he didn't want OJ to put out a hit on him. Even though he was already on death row. What a break in that case that's already been settled. Twice.

I know Seinfeld was just fiction. And that the act of those hipster doofuses yakking it up instead of helping a fat man being robbed is not what the Good Samaritan Law is all about. But I'm pretty sure that videotaping two murders, and being proud to hold that tape as evidence, would be frowned upon in the state of California.

But enough of the Enquirer, and back to ME! I had to read to keep my eyes off Hick's driving. It is my opinion that he should go the speed limit, in the right lane, without cruise control, allowing mergers space. That is not Hick's style. I'm pretty sure his style is called Drive in the Middle of Six Lanes Between Two Tractor-Trailer Trucks Without Breaking Cruise Control Set at 70. Because I'm a giver, I read out loud to Hick. He was most interest in the stories about the American Picker with Crohn's disease, and the Pawn Stars chick with tattoos and a secret porn past. He wanted to see the pictures, but I told him to keep his eyes on the road. Then when we got home, I handed off that Enquirer to my mom, forgetting about Hick's wish to view the pic. Oops! My bad. It's because I'm such a giver, you see.

Now where was I? Oh, yeah. The casino trip. We didn't win. BUT...we can each be reimbursed for up to $500 in losses, because this was our first time there. Actually, we have been there twice, right after they opened. But since they had no record of us, we are new gamblers. And will get mailings with offers for our loss reimbursement, which we have to go into the casino to redeem. It's better than nothing, I suppose. Though I doubt it's as good as Harrah's used to treat us, what with monthly mailings containing $25 slot vouchers, and $15 restaurant coupons.

There's a little more to the story, which I may or may not tell, as the mood strikes, or I am bereft of other ideas. Bottom line, a good time was had by all, and poor, downtrodden Hick was thanked profusely for the selfless offer of his Saturday, if not for his highway sweaving skills.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Snowman Knows What You Did This Winter

Snowman knows that you did not decorate the standard-issue teacher's door. That you hitched your decorating wagon to the star door across the hall. The one to the storage room, which is not flung open against a concrete-block alcove-wall umpteen times a day. Thus permitting you to have free rein for your fluffy 3-D design. An advantage akin to a NASCAR driver bringing a Formula 1 car to a stock car race.

Snowman knows that your project was assembled outside the designated time parameters, both before and after 5th hour. Snowman knows, because two students did not show up for Mrs. Thevictorian's class. Requiring her to notify the warden's office of a possible alien abduction. Only to discover that they were merely truant, working overtime for no pay.

Snowman knows that more indentured servants were recruited from other class periods. A workforce toiling for your benefit, to obtain pizza for your class, with nothing to show for their effort. Had other teachers known that this behavior would be tolerated, they could have kidnapped their own armies of children, with a promise of a really cool mine train roller coaster ride, to construct their entries, hurriedly and secretly, before before being rescued by Indiana Jones.

Enjoy your hollow victory. But remember...Snowman knows what you did this winter.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Backroads Intermittent Gazette


History will be made tonight, as Pony Thevictorian participates in a Christmas concert with his high school band. Yes, The Pony will be stamping his hoof to keep time, pulling the slide of his tromboned, and filling the gym with Yuletide cheer. He will be decked out in a proper rig of pleated black pants, crisp white shirt, and patterned gray vest with a shiny back. Let's hope The Pony can harness his fractious nature and pull steadily with his bandmates as they deliver their tuneful load.



A silky black Borador has been observed standing on all four feet this week. This canine, who comes to the name of JUNO, has lengthy bouts of three-leggedness. Not only has she been standing on all fours, but was seen taking weight off her good back foot, and resting it solely on the former bad paw. At last report, Juno was snuggling in a lovefest with her human mom, smelling sweetly of cedar from the bedding in her kitchen-door, back-porch house that she shares with a female canine roommate, bits of cedar decorating her flowing ebony fur.



Mrs. Val Thevictorian, of 1313 Mockingbird Lane, a home she purchased at a monster discount, will be trying her hand at petty larceny on Saturday. Her getaway driver and accomplice, Hick Thevictorian, proposed the crime. Val will be carefully scrutinizing prospective victims. Among her criteria: one-armed, loud, located in high traffic areas, looking loaded with quarters, reside in River City.

In times gone by, Val discovered that her life of crime did not pay. If she makes a killing, you will read about it here first. In the Backroads Intermittent Gazette.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Dismal Chore Competition

Pardon me. I must change the terminology when discussing yesterday's subject. I don't want to be tracked like an inept bank robber dropping his driver's license at the scene. I must fly by night. Remain under the radar. Operate in stealth mode. Go undetected.

When we last convened, I, and other practitioners of the Socratic method, were in the midst of festooning our portals with holiday themes. There were, among us, a plethora of flimflam artists. Those who placed their toes across the starting line before the starter's gun went off. Daring him to call a false start. Or disqualify. Those pumpkin-eaters were duly noted by the head judge.

Val's ingress-adorning plan was prepared in her assigned work abode, by her fifth hour students, in advance. Construction was completed yesterday. And the whole kit 'n' caboodle affixed to the entryway today. Fifth hour. Strapped to the portal proper.

Some young scholars had the gall to ask if they might miss my class in order to stay with their fifth-hour instructors and work on their doors. Poppycock! One does not arm one's enemies. Nor one's competitors. A solid round of nays was issued from my lips. The same lips that attempted to call the traitors in the venue where they were chillin', only to receive no response. So Val did what any disgruntled entrant would do. Called the secretary of the Minister of Dismal Chores, and requested the presence of the skippers. The lair of the clandestine chore compers was left bereft of Val's attempted title-swindlers.

I knew the fix was in when the judge and jury strolled by at the beginning of seventh hour. I had half-way propped open the beauteous barrier so the the proboscis of the rotund blizzard-male did not accordion in on itself after striking the wall of the recessed entrance. They paused a mere three seconds, nodded, and moved on. I ran out, shouting down the corridor, "I'm closing it now. So you can get the full effect." They looked at my like I was something odiferous clinging to the bottoms of their shoes.

The winner was announced at the end of seventh hour. Howls of protest floated up to the drop ceiling. It seems that the Grand Wiener had not only coerced the pupils of her other periods into laboring for free, and to help the opposition...but had also used a hatch not indigenous to her assigned abode. One across the concourse, that was not required to open and close hourly. Because the design was a replica of my own, but in three dimensions, and a regular, rule-abiding mounting would have rendered it flattened.

I instructed the complainers to file a formal complaint. Even though a reversal would result in me taking prize pizza out of my own Pony's mouth.

What's fair is fair.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Competition Most Foul

It is not my intention to start a kerfluffle...but RULES are RULES!

We are having a Christmas door contest at work. Rules say we were allowed to start on Monday, but that nothing is to be put on the door until Wednesday during 5th hour. Of course some scofflaws are hard at it, trying to gain an advantage.

My class took their final on Monday. Then they sketched some plans for the door. I chose the design I thought was cutest and most doable in that amount of time. Today, about a third of the class worked on the door, without working on the door. They got some paper off the big rolls. Trimmed it up to door size. Stretched it out on the floor. Built a snowman. Stuck a carrot nose on him. Affixed snowflakes made by each class member to the paper. They're unique, you know. Each snowflake is different. We rolled up our door design like a giant blue burrito, and stuffed it on the library cart that holds the TV I never use. Voila! Instant door decoration on Wednesday when it's time for hanging.

By 6th hour, word got back that THREE teachers at the other end of the hall, and ONE on the far end of mine, already have portions of their design taped to their doors. Ref whistle, please! Foul! Illegal motion! Gonna have to penalize you. Except I don't dare use the word penalize in front of the students. They giggle, you know. Because they are not such a wordsmith as I.

I am confident justice will prevail. I'm not goin' down without a fight. They shall rue the day they tried to cheat in a contest entered by Val.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'll be Back After the Paint Dries and the Watched Pot Boils

Val's internet is slow tonight, my friends. Slow. Like a line inching its way forward in a bakery to buy the last chocolate babka. Slow. Like an old lady tottering along, fiercely defending her marble rye from a scofflaw on the streets of New York.

Not slow in a good way. Like rocking on your front porch reading the home-town paper while waiting for the fireworks display to start.

SLOW! Like the old man in the car in front of you on two-lane winding blacktop, when you really wish you had stopped by the bathroom before leaving work. Like an eight-year-old telling you the plot of a Disney sitcom word-for-word while you are fourth in line at the DMV.

Not slow in a relaxing way. Like drifting down a clear, two-foot-deep creek on a lazy July afternoon, resting on a three-dollar yellow air mattress from the Dollar Store.

SLOW!!! Like a recalcitrant child dawdling over his lone household chore of taking out the trash and putting in a tall kitchen trash bag.

I just don't have the patience for this tonight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Can One Be Afoot if One Has No Feet?

Something is afoot in Backroads. I don't know what it is. Or if it even has feet. But it would behoove that something to knock it off. To cease and desist with the shenanigans.

Last Saturday morning, The Pony and I headed out to the garage at 7:55 on our way to town for his academic tournament. Genius was sleeping in, as was Hick the sicko. I had awoken Hick to tell him we were leaving. He mumbled, coughed, and pulled the quilt back over his head. Because he has the breather, you see, to keep him ventilated.

The Pony rounded the corner of the house first, and trotted down the four steps to the garage. He pulled open the green metal door with the half glass, and said softly, "That's weird. Dad's garage door is up." Which got my attention, because all manner of critters come in if the garage door is up. Possums and skunks and our dogs and other dogs and chickens and mice and baby moles and frogs. Most of them want to eat the dry cat food out of the roaster pan. The frogs, I suspect, just take a wrong turn on the way to the fish pond.

"Your dad must have left it open last night when he got home from the auction."

The Pony busied himself with scooping some cat food into the empty pan. "But Mom. The LIGHT is o---." At that moment, the overhead garage light went off. It comes on when the door goes up, then goes off after a minute or two. Which would mean that the garage door had just gone up as we were leaving the kitchen for the garage. With nobody there. With Hick's garage door opener on the sun visor of his car, and the wall-mounted control a doorbell button five feet high, right beside the walk-in door.

"Huh. Maybe your dad got up and fed the cats while I was in the shower."

"Mom! The light would have been off by now. And there was no food in the pan."

We drove off to town. After closing that creepy garage door. When I got home, I grilled Hick and Genius. At separate times, of course, due to their different get-up times. Hick swore that he had not been outside. He suggested that the garage mouse the cats refuse to kill was responsible. That it ran up the wall and pushed on that doorbell button with its tiny hand-like mouse feet. A feat that would have necessitated the Garage Nest Mousester to hang perpendicular and pound that doorbell with a tiny mouse sledgehammer.

Genius related that when he arrived home Friday night, Hick's garage door was up. But since Hick was asleep, and he'd been so sick, he was probably incoherent from cough medicine, so Genius did not bother him. Neither did he close the garage door. Which still did not explain the light on Saturday morning. Genius said the light is activated by a motion sensor. So maybe a cat or mouse ran in front of it. Which would mean they had to be up on the metal garage door tracks, because we don't set off the light when we walk around in the garage.

I called my mom to kill some time while waiting for The Pony to get done with his tournament so we could start our Book House excursion. We dissected the facts. The dogs had gone crazy barking when I got out of the shower. Something must have been out there. Maybe thieves were cruising around with a clicker, trying garage doors at random, making plans to come back when nobody was home. Some people have garages with doors that enter right into their kitchen, doors they don't lock. My mom used to be a big Murder She Wrote fan. In the middle of telling her about the garage door mystery, I got a creepy feeling in my chest. What if a person had walked in the garage door by the porch, pushed the button to open Hick's garage door, heard us coming, and jumped in Hick's Pacifica to hide? What if there had been a creeper laying down in Hick's car while The Pony and I dithered about the mystery? With only a thin layer of metal separating us? EEEEEEEE!

Last night, Genius and Hick were both out on the town. The Pony and I were watching Redneck Island. At 8:50, we heard footsteps above. They continued in the area of the boys' bathroom, and Genius's room. The Pony tried to deny it. But every now and then, he'd say, "I heard THAT! I think I'll wait until Dad gets home from the auction to go up and have my shower." I went into my office around 9:30. By 10:15, he was tired of waiting. He started up. Midway, he stopped. "Did you hear that one? It was in Genius's room. Now I hear feet walking through the kitchen!" He ran back down the steps and into my office. "It must be Dad." We waited. No more footfalls above. Nobody home.

The Pony went back to watch TV. I called Genius, who had been at a friend's house since afternoon. "Where are you? When are you coming home?"

"I'm still here watching a movie. I'll be home before midnight."

"Well, something has been looking for you for the last hour and a half. Just so you know. Your brother is afraid to go upstairs."

Something is afoot in Backroads.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Banning

Do you keep your books? I don't mean to be forward, asking such a personal question. It's really none of my business if you're a hoarder, or one of those people who has a compulsion to dust and vacuum before the cleaning lady comes over.

The reason for my inquiry is nosiness. Pure and simple. Like when a kid goes next door to play pool in the neighbor's concrete shed out back, and tires of reading ancient TV Guides between turns, and asks her friend what is in the olive green locker standing in front of the north window, a locker which her friend refers to as a chifforobe, but which appears to have something to do with her father's one weekend a month and two weeks a year absence with the National Guard. The locker which objects to having its door yanked open, and bashes the friend in the knee, causing it to spurt blood so badly that when the friend hollers for her momma, the kid lays down the TV Guide open to the Dick Van Dyke show on an old and quietly slips out the door for home, returning hours later to observe the knotty stitches in her friend's knee.

My teaching buddy says her husband does not allow her to keep books. That as soon as she is through with them, they are donated to St. Vincent de Paul. The lone exception is her collection of John Grisham books. I, on the other hand, hang onto my books. I read them again and again. Sometimes, I end up with two of the same title. The high cost of hoarding, I suppose. The books I can bear to part with linger. Not intentionally. I pack them up in boxes and set them by the basement door. Where Hick finds them, and fills a perfectly good bookshelf where I had harvested them to make room for new acquisitions. One step forward until Hick steps back.

My books are in primo condition. I sometimes fancy myself taking up the eBay hobby, or becoming an Amazon seller, and passing them off as new. Shh...nobody has to know that they have been read one time. I don't drop crumbs in them, sneeze green boogers onto their pages, use a slice of braunschweiger as a bookmark, or leave them face-down, gasping for their literary breath, for lengthy periods of time. Val's used books are the new new books.

Hey! Did you know that not all people treat a book with such tender loving care? I found that out the hard way. When people loan me a book, I treat it as my own. Gently. Respectfully. I am the perfect book date. I would never paw at Booksie like an animal. I caress her. Make her comfortable. Adjust her jacket, lest she catch a chill. Should we take a walk down a medieval street, I would be careful to walk next to the road. No garbage or chamber pot effluence is going to land on my sweet Booksie. I make it a point to have her back home on time. Intact.

But some people are deviants! One colleague took my own sweet Booksie and sullied her to the point of non-recognition. Broke her spine. Gave her pages incurable scoliosis. Bent her wrap behind her back until she was permanently exposed. Returned her to me in much the same manner as Pinto returned the mayor's drunk daughter, though stopping short of parking sweet Booksie on my front lawn in a shopping cart. And then acted like nothing untoward happened!

Some people should be banned from books. Seriously.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Good Enough for Val

This might just be my last tale of what I fondly remember as The Book House Experience.

It HAS been seven days now. Good ol' Ben Franklin said, "Fish and visitors stink after three days." To which I say, Ben really needed a better class of visitor, or to quit taking them out kite-flying all the live-long day. Or to feed them some stinky fish to set them on their way.

I would never do that. Feed people stinky fish. In fact, I took special care to choose items for the canned food drive at The Book House last Saturday. And by special care, I mean that I reached into my pantry on the way out the door, and grabbed something that I thought folks might enjoy.

C'mon. You all remember grade school, when you asked your mom for a can of food for the food drive, and she told you to pick one out, and you thoughtfully seized a can of creamed corn. Because you darn sure didn't want to have to eat that creamed corn yourself. That goes for peas and beets, too. It made me feel so GOOD to help people. To allow them to feast on my creamed corn. I was sure the children who were my age would have thanked me profusely if they knew I was behind the yearly influx of creamed corn.

As I grabbed the makings of an eclectic smorgasbord off my shelves, I wondered how my donation would be perceived from a Seinfeld perspective. I knew darn good and well not to donate muffin stumps. Rebecca DeMornay made her feelings on that foodstuff quite clear. But this collection was no muffin stump. It was a meal in itself. There was something from every canned-food group. A can of white-meat chicken, some Chunky Sirloin Burger soup, hot dog chili sauce, tomato sauce, black olives, Combos Buffalo Blue Cheese Pretzels, and a box of instant hot chocolate packets. Mmm. Though some might not serve all these taste treats together, and prefer, in fact, to mix and match with other donations.

If it was in Val's pantry, it has to be good. No way was I going to give delicacies like baby corns in a jar, hearts of palm, huitlacoche, paddlefish caviar, or pickled pigs' feet. No sirree, Bob! Nobody really likes that stuff. Except maybe that weirdo Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods on The Travel Channel. He gets paid to like it. He's always waxing orgasmic over a gelatinous cartilaginous pig's knuckle stew, or rooster testicle soup.

I only regret that I could not part with sardines in mustard sauce. I love that stuff.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fortune and Hick's Eyes

My continuing series on The Book House visit would not be complete without an account of Hick's take on the facility.

The Pony and I only thought he had gone to sit in the car and wait for us. Au contraire. Hick had dumped his bag o' books and returned. He headed upstairs to see if he could find anything old, I suppose. He likes to pick up flea market and auction items that he can use to furnish his creekside cabin.

Hick declared that the railing on the stairs would be in high demand. "People buy those things to put in their houses!" Well. That's certainly deep thinking. I suppose what he meant to express was that it looked like an old piece of history, and antique collectors might clamor for it. Don't worry. I did not let him bring any tools along. So clandestine dismantling while I was clucking at a hen party downstairs was out of the question.

Hick also fancied the clawfoot tub in the bathroom. I think he was just taking himself on an unauthorized tour, not marking his territory. He has a fascination with clawfoot tubs. Notices them in farmers' fields, acting as watering troughs for cattle. Never mind that there is not enough room in his cabin for a clawfoot tub. Or that it doesn't even have a bathroom. Just an outhouse. I shudder to think that Hick is planning to pick up a pair so we can while away our golden years laying side-by-side in bubble-bath-filled clawfeet, watching the sunset. Because there is no sunset down in the woods by the creek. We would have to be in the front yard. A site not conducive to clawfeet courtin'.

Being a safety committee facilitator at work, traveling to safety conventions on the company dime, quoting OSHA bylaws willy-nilly...Hick had a thing or two to say about The Book House decor. "I'm surprised the Fire Marshall hasn't shut them down! That's an accident waiting to happen. All those books crammed in so you can hardly walk. If you're in the basement and a fire breaks out, you're dead." Said the man whose BARn looks much the same way downstairs, yet not nearly so neat, without noticeable walkways, and metal rather than paper as the clutter of choice.

Apparently Hick has also been named a zoning commissioner. "I can't believe that house is sitting in that area. I'm sure they were grandfathered in."

Hick is the kind of person who would tear down paradise to put up a parking lot if it meant he could scavenge paradise for old stuff to put in his cabin.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Denizen of the Deep?

The Pony ventured to the basement of The Book House to look for bargains. But mainly just to see the basement. To see if there was any ghostly vibe down there. He's one for watching ghost-hunting shows. Even that fakey one on The Travel Channel where the dude berates the spirits. The one I refuse to watch.

He took a few pictures with his camera. One came out totally blurred, though he swore he held his phone just as steady as he did with the other three pictures. Here's two that he found interesting.

Okay. So The Pony lacks focus. But the part of the picture he likes is the streak that comes down in front of that light. And the glare between two lights in the next picture.

The Pony enjoyed himself immensely. He burned through Ender's Game, which Sioux bought for him, between 7:00 Sunday evening, and noon on Monday. He said it was the BEST BOOK EVER, and asked for the rest of the series for Christmas. Tuesday he started one of the science fiction books he bought, finished it tonight, and asked for another. Of course I gave in. He will just have to cry on Christmas morning when there is nothing under the tree for him besides that series.

Yeah. Well. That's probably not going to happen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

All They Needed was the Merv Griffin Show Furniture

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog post, or as some may refer to it dwelling upon the body of the dead horse Val beat while trying to pound it into the ground. Sorry if that's too graphic for you. I have never you acceptable. At least I did not use that as my title.

The book-signing gals at The Book House on Saturday might as well have been hosting their own talk show. I envisioned Sioux as the host, because she was on the end, and had a hand in everything. Donna was relegated to co-host status because she sat beside the host. But she also doubled as sidekick, what with her snappy repartee. Beth the Bandleader was actually getting down to business, signing books as intended. Plus she was the most hip, as a bandleader should be. Not that I'm calling Sioux and Donna hipster doofuses.

Sioux welcomed Val with a crateful of fudge. That's why the green room was bereft of snacks. In addition, Sioux bestowed upon her first guest a Palahniuk. Talk about swag. This is the talk show to appear on. Sioux obviously didn't trust the cameraman to record the event for posterity. So she whipped out her own camera and stole a little piece of Val's soul. She was careful, though, to catch Val in a good light. One that did not expose her entire face. Nor break the camera.

Lynn, the producer/stage manager, the Gelman to Sioux's Regis, had her hands full. Keeping Sioux from darting offstage willy-nilly to purchase books for her guests was a full-time job. Which probably didn't pay much, because the host was throwing money away left and right on literature and fudge makings.

Donna the sidekick was content to bide her time. She may have looked sweet, sitting at the left hand of Sioux, but she had a little vinegar in her. Donna revealed herself like a Stealth Bomber on a nighttime training mission over a UFO convention in Roswell, New Mexico. Showing her true colors when Hick was welcomed to the stage. Donna smiled angelically as Val introduced Hick. "We've read all about you," she deadpanned. Sweetly. With a knowing smile. A smile not deciphered by Hick.

Guest comedian Linda O'Connell popped in. She had been scheduled as the warm-up act, but ran late due to her cookie addiction. Linda was kind enough to nomenclate Val with a new alias. Or two. The Hooker for short. And Streetwalker for long. Val was hoping that Linda might use the diminutive for that last one, and simply call her St.....alker. But that was not to be. Linda was kind enough to take time out from writing that new gift book bestseller, 101 Baby Names that Nobody Every Suggested, to appear on the show. People entering The Book House might have been surprised as Linda opened the door and shouted down the porch steps, "Hey! Hick!" just before snapping a picture. And been doubly surprised when a man responded, thus admitting to being a hick. They might have assumed it was some crazy thespian act to entertain them while waiting in line. Kind of like the train robbers at Silver Dollar City.

Tammy apparently got bumped from the show, due to Val bringing The Pony along for exposure. She was cordial to Val in the entryway as Val made it her exitway. Tammy is one smart cookie. Shh...don't let Linda hear that cookie part. As Val tried to trick her with a seemingly innocent inquiry as to whether Tammy's purse held blue pens, the light of realization dawned in Tammy's eyes. She snatched that purse away from Val's reach like the dogwalker snatched his leashed canine just before a sleeping Clark Griswold plowed over him with the Family Truckster. The purloining of pens was narrowly avoided.

Beth graciously struck up the band, the credits began to roll, and the show personnel chatted in a tightknit group about how best to rectify this episode's low ratings during sweeps week.

Monday, December 10, 2012

There's a Fungus Among Us

We now take a brief respite from the book-signing shenanigans in order to illustrate the burden that The Pony must bear in being the beloved son of Val Thevictorian.

On the way home to Backroads, Hick's thoughts turned to feeding stations along the route. He was pushing Red Robin with all the gusto of a tow-headed two-year-old pushing one of those dadburned popcorn-popper contraptions. The Pony agreed that he would consume something from that establishment. Hick declared that he knew just where one was located, having seen it on his trip to the eye specialist for some minor surgery a couple months ago.

Hick sweaved and he swove, maneuvering my Tahoe through surging Saturday-evening traffic like George Costanza saving a record-high Frogger machine from a power outage. Shooting out onto a four-lane one-way thoroughfare, Hick commanded us to look for the Red Robin sign. Darkness was falling. Neon lights glowed. I spied a Surf and Turf where Hick imagined a Red Robin. Then we both saw it. Red Robin on the left. Three lanes over. Receding in our rear-view mirrors.

"Hey, there's an ophthalmologist surgery center."

"I know. That's where I went for my eye surgery."

"It's right across from the Red Robin."

"Yeah. I knew it was here somewhere."

"Huh. I guess you couldn't see it clearly. BECAUSE YOU'D JUST HAD EYE SURGERY!"

There was no going back. Hick rejected Plan B proposed by Val, which was the Festus Imo's. He instead offered Plan C. "...some Chinese place where CiCi's used to be." The Pony and I were on board. We filed in and grabbed plates. The Pony opted for his standby, Sweet and Sour Chicken. He placed his napkin across his khaki-shorted lap like a well-bred little country beast, so as not to drip sticky sauce onto his clothing. He is the antithesis of the bespotted Genius, he whom the Tide Pen inventor envisioned as his target market.

Somewhere in the feeding frenzy, I opted to try a fried frog's leg. I had not grabbed it the first go round. The more I thought of that pan of frogs' legs, the more I knew I must take the bait. When else am I going to come across frogs' legs that are so easy for the taking? Of course, nobody can put a single frog's leg on a plate at a Chinese buffet. So I slapped on a few slices of peppered beef. Some more tasty mushrooms in garlicky spicy brown sauce that I'd sampled on the first plate.

By the time I sat back down, The Pony beside me had finished his meal of S & S Chicken and two sugary biscuits. He fiddled and faddled. He'd forgotten to bring in a phone for gaming, or a book to pass the time. He stirred his Sprite in excess. Hick told him to cool it. The Pony heaved a sigh. He looked at my plate.

"Hey, try a bite of this frog's leg. C'mon. You can tell everybody that not only did you go to a haunted bookstore, you ate a frog's leg."

"No. I'm not eating that."

"C'mon. You'll be sorry."

"No I won't. I'm not eating it."

"Huh. Neither am I right now. That is HOT!" I had taken a bite, and hot grease shot out. Luckily it only burned my side-lip, rather than dripping to stain my shirt.

"See? Aren't you glad I didn't try it and make a mess?" The Pony took the napkin off his lap and put it on the table.

I forked a bit of peppered beef into my mouth, and went to stab a mushroom. It refused to be stabbed, and skittered out from under my tines like a tiddly-wink leaping out from under the edge of the shooter, LANDING ON THE PONY'S LEFT THIGH ON THE POCKET OF HIS KHAKI CARGO SHORTS.

"Really, Mom? Really?"

I cleaned him up the best I could before he had to walk out. Did you know that a bit of Diet Coke dripped from a straw and scratched in with a fingernail can lift a greasy stain as good as a Tide Pen? It's true.

And frogs' legs taste like chicken.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Bare Bones on The Book House

Val's horizons were widened yesterday, much like her rump over the course of the past several decades. The Book House trip by the family Thevictorian was a rousing success.

Hick scoped out the place like a future real estate investment for when he wins the PowerBall. He hiked down to the bargain basement and found five books for himself. That they were all children's books was not a source of embarrassment for Hick. After all, he's the guy who moved my belongings from our old house, and filled the living room bookshelf with "the books that were most colorful." Hick indeed judges a book by its cover. What's between the bindings makes no nevermind to him. It's not like he's actually going to READ those books. He wanted them for his creekside cabin. I will have to post some pictures of its interior one of these days. As thanks to Hick for taking me to such a foreign destination as a bookstore. He told me what a bargain he got, and related that he didn't have a book younger than 1935. Which is surprising, since I saw Goodnight Moon, and Google tells me that a first edition is 1947. Let's hope The Book House is not trafficking in counterfeit Goodnight Moons.

The Pony found four science fiction books, and Sioux bought him Ender's Game. He is thrilled with his take. We had planned on them being Christmas presents, since he cannot name anything he wants, and will face the fate of Old Mother Hubbard's dog when he looks under the tree Christmas morn if he doesn't formulate a wish list soon. I relented and told him that he can pick one book to read now, along with Ender's Game, and I will wrap the others. He'll forget the titles by then, and they will be a surprise.

I feared that The Book House would give me a fit of claustrophobia. The pictures on the website definitely do it justice. A manatee-like woman such as myself does not seek out narrow hallways and cramped quarters. I get antsy in Walmart when people squeeze past my cart. However, I felt at ease in the presence of the booksigners extraordinaire. I did not venture up the stairs, nor down into the basement. I could have given the weather forecast for today based solely on the protestations of my knee joints. Dave Murray ain't got nothin' on Val when it comes to falling barometric pressure. More on the House itself tomorrow. Or the next day.

The signers were Beth M. Wood, Donna Volkenannt, and Sioux Roslawski. I grabbed a couple of books, which were going like hotcakes, according to the proprietor of The Book House, and stepped up for my signatures.

I was remiss in chatting with Beth. She had real people standing around her, awaiting her John Hancock. I did not want to horn in on their experience, so I moved on down the line to Donna.

I must say, that Donna is quite a mannered lady, no tobacco-chawin' or inappropriate scratching for that one. At least in public on this day at The Book House. I let it slip that I am anonymous, and that she could sign my book to Val or to my real name. With that, Sioux's ears perked up like those of an overnight guard Doberman on a lumber yard parking lot upon hearing footsteps crunching on gravel.

My first impression of Sioux was that her head certainly LOOKED like it would fit in a faculty restroom sink without any ill effects. My second impression was that Sioux was peering at me like a woman trying to commit my features to memory, in order to create an accurate likeness for the construction of a voodoo doll later in the evening.

Sioux introduced Lynn Obermoeller, who was quite friendly and gracious to me, though I suspect her real purpose was to keep Sioux under surveillance for the good of all patrons of The Book House that evening.

T'Mara Goodsell materialized out of thin air, which was a bit unsettling. Since she's done time in the trenches of public school educational facilities, I look upon this skill as a superpower, and not something to be controlled by placing a box of TicTacs in her pocket to announce her future sidling.

Taking seven point two minutes out of her writing, submitting, crafting, picture-taking, and beach-dreaming schedule, Linda O'Connell strolled in to wreak havoc. Just one more service she offers. She was quite generous in giving me a new alias.

We'll get down to more nitty gritty tomorrow.
Even Val has a length limit.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Riding in Cars With Poise

I am readying myself at this writing for my outing to the signing.

An image of The Book House has been obtained, thanks to Google Street View. Hick has been doped up to that fine line between coughing up his left lung and driving under the medfluence. The Pony is back from his smart tournament. I've painted up my lips and rolled and curled my tinted hair. Wait a minute! That's Ruby, pre- taking her love to town. I haven't done that. But I am, you know, contemplating going out somewhere.

Now for the issue of how to pass the time during the drive. I am not a good passenger. I'm sure that comes as a shock to those of you who've read my scathing reviews of OPD. Other People's Driving. Hick, in his weakened state, would be no match for my side-seat driving commands. So I must distract myself from his sweaving, and leave that business to a man and his GPS.

The Pony will be of no help. He's low-maintenance. A book, a Kindle, a laptop, a phone game...any or all will be his focus. I daresay we could drive from Backroads to Hawaii in a tricked-out Duck (the amphibious vehicle, not the fowl), and The Pony would not bother to raise his head for an appearance off the starboard bow of a mission of mermaids.

I could use the time to read one of the many books that are stacked and waiting in various Pisa-towering piles, turning slowly to dust as I breeze past them every day. But the removal of a single book might Jenga the stack. I could nap. But then I wouldn't know if Hick succumbed to his lung-sparing elixir and started sleep-driving like Clark Griswold piloting the Family Truckster. I could take my special little notebook, three of which the boys and Hick gave me for Mother's Day, and only one of which I now retain possession, and jot down notes for hilarious and riveting blog posts. Or at least for blog posts. But then I would have to find some way to hide it upon my person while out of the Tahoe and inside The Book House. Because if Hick is inside the car without me, he will be all up in that.

One boundary that Hick does not understand is privacy. Never mind that he would not read a national bestseller if I wrote one. If I left a notebook carelessly in his line of sight, he would examine that journal with a fine-toothed comb. In Hick's mind, I am some dastardly dame who might as well change her name to Harriet Plotter. A schemer, I am, intent on overthrowing Hick's oligarchy, composed of he, himself, and him. Sending out feelers for an eventual abscondence with a Fabio-coiffed viscount of indeterminate nationality. Or a tubby, bespectacled French model that I met on the internet. Bonjour.

So...I will most likely stare straight ahead, fingernails gouging my palms, while I endure the death-defying drive at the hands of Hick. Chauffeur Extraordinaire.

Did I mention that I am stoked for this foray into civilization? And re-thinking that 44 oz. Diet Coke that I picked up at 9:00 a.m.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Removable Feast

I must sing the praises of Hick.

Stop that! I must. Putting your fingers in your ears is not going to stop me. I'm a born warbler. I can sing like a canary in a coal mine. Which is a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps, in this being a limited engagement.

You might be thinking that I'm belting out my appreciation for Hick acting as the chauffeur of my Chevy limousine to the grand book-signing extravaganza on Saturday. But I'm not. Oh, I sincerely extend props to Hick for being such a sit-down guy, he of the driver's seat, looking left, looking right, occasionally looking where he's going. But there's another arena where Hick cannot hide his beacon under an air-tight bushel. And that is family safety.

Sunday night, The Pony and I heard Hick stomping around in the kitchen overhead. Hick doesn't regard it as stomping. He thinks he is walking. Which he is. Like a man with no feet at the end of his ankles. Stomping around on stumps with no fat-pad cushions at the heels and balls of his feet. Even though he has them.

"Hey! Don't eat the pepper cheese!"

This was an odd command. First of all, we had just consumed a tasty supper of beans and ham and corn muffins an hour earlier. Perhaps a meal that was not sticking to Hick's ribs, but was at least lingering in his large intestine. I have almost thrown in the towel in the contest of assigning a method to Hick's madness. I decided that he was making lunch for work on Monday. Yeah. That must be why he was into the cheese right after a sumptuous repast.

Secondly, Hick need not tell The Pony and me not to eat the pepper cheese. Because we don't eat the pepper cheese. Ever. It's spicy, you know. And has those red and green flecks of pepper where nothing but holes or more cheese should be. He might as well tell Superman not to eat the kryptonite.

Thirdly, it's not like Hick to warn us away from something he wants to save all for himself. That's because he's quite adept at eating things others would like to save for themselves. So he figures if he lets people eat his stuff, he has free rein to consume anything he runs across, no matter whether it was a special item reserved for a gala affair, or a birthday treat, or items already promised to my mom.

"All right. We won't eat the pepper cheese. Why do you say that?"

"It has MOLD on it!" Hick acted like this was a personal affront. How dare that cheese allow nature to take its course! That cheese conspired against him. Who woulda thunk that a package of cheese left on the top shelf of the refrigerator for a month, having the hands of Hick and Genius paw it willy-nilly with questionable hygiene, would sprout hyphae? Not Hick. He wouldn't know a hypha if it twined itself around his butt and colonized it for the planet Mold.

This is where the going gets tough. Would a normal person not throw away moldy cheese? Did Hick worry that The Pony and I would claw through the tall kitchen wastebasket and find that pepper cheese that we never eat, and say, "Hey! Hot furry green wastebasket cheese! Let's have some!" Or did he think the proper procedure upon discovery of moldy cheese is to put it right back in the refrigerator where you found it?

Yes. Hick's heart is in the right place. It's his cheese that needs to be moved.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

This Much I Learned for Sure

This has been a hectic week around the Thevictoraian household. No time for proper posts enlightening the masses with measured doses of down-home wisdom. Nor for venting about people who don't drive as well as I do, who don't use proper grammar and spelling (as karma would have it, I first typed those two words as grammer and spellling), and who dare to inconvenience me by not doing their minimum-wage jobs to my satisfaction. Yes. It's a time-consuming task that Val normally does so YOU don't have to. And chalk up another service: ending sentences with prepositions. C'mon. You know you want to.

In lieu of a proper post, I bring you three things I learned this week.


A husband is never so loved as when you are depending on him to drive you to a book-signing event on Saturday. I say loved, which is an emotion not always manifested in physical measures such as hugging and kissing and breathing the same air as your paramour when he is harboring bacteria in his sinuses, more bacteria in his ears, and a fever beneath his skin.


Just because a school cafeteria lists broccoli and salad on the day's menu does not mean they are actually serving two sides, one being broccoli, and one being salad. A fact which turns teenagers and faculty alike into younger, taller, vegetarian Clara Pellers. The answer to their demand of, "Where's the broccoli?" was met with the explanation that the broccoli was in the salad. Indeed, each person found one floret in their lettuce-and-cheese compartment.


A fifty-three-year-old woman in Florida was arrested for riding a manatee. The maximum fine for which is $500 and six months in jail. She was arrested at the Sears department store where she works, and claimed that she did not know there was a law against touching a manatee, because she had just recently moved to Florida. Which made my bullcrap detector go off. Sure. Like there's really a Sears department store still open.

But seriously. You can't tell me Aquatic Annie Oakley thought manatee-riding was to Floridians as four-wheel-riding is to Missourians. It's not like she just patted the thing on its snout. She rode on its back. At fifty-three years old. If you saw the pictures, you might be hard-pressed to say which was the woman, and which was the manatee. She's no anorexic model, our Aquatic Annie Oakley.

Even my students were astounded. We have been studying man's impact on the environment, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and how manatees are an umbrella species. That by protecting them, you are also protecting many other species. They were shocked. Shocked! That somebody would ride a manatee. Granted, these same kids might have shot one and made jerky out of it. But they KNOW better than to ride one.


I feel so empowered with my newfound knowledge. If the doorbell rings, it's probably not going to be Publisher's Clearing House with my giant check, enough balloons to make my house a real-life star of the movie UP, and cameras to capture my reaction.

It's more likely to be MENSA.