Sunday, June 30, 2013

Friday in the Park With Mom

Okay, I didn't really spend Friday in the park with Mom. I picked her up at the park. Don't be hatin' because I didn't go all the way to her house. She wanted to meet. That's because she only had a quarter-tank of gas, and planned to get more. Never mind that her gas station of choice is a mile from her house, and the park is five. I deferred to her wishes.

Hick and the boys had their own thing going on, and I had promised Mom that she could ride with me to a neighboring town to pay my house payment. No, I don't trade eggs and goats. It's a check. But if I mail it, I don't get a receipt, and I don't get cancelled checks. Besides, we had plans for lunch. You never turn Mom down when she suggests lunch, because SHE PAYS.

We decided on Arby's, because that's where I wanted to go. Those commercials for the chicken salad sandwich drive me crazy. I don't think we've been there since last summer. So Mom was all for it. Of course, lunch with Mom is never just lunch. As I turned off T-Hoe in the parking lot, Mom's phone rang.

Mom is barely one step ahead of Seinfeld in the dated phone department. She does not have a giant shoe-box size cordless, but she does have a tiny one-piece cellular. It looks like something that came out of a plastic-bubble-filled quarter toy machine at the entrance of a supermarket. It's not even a flip phone. Just a minute lozenge with numbers that virtually need a GameBoy stylus to dial. Progress is not Mom's friend.

Anybody care to guess Mom's ring tone? That's right. It's the sound of a harvest-gold, kitchen-wall-mounted, land-line, rotary-dial phone. No need to fix what ain't broke. Besides, a phone is supposed to ring like that. That's how you know it's a phone, not some kind of alarm going off in your purse that you can ignore. As you might have guessed, being pretty smart cookies and shrewd blogreaders...Mom has phone issues.

To begin with, that ring must have been set to the same decibels as a jet engine upon takeoff. Mom is not hard of hearing. But we both may be now. It rang and rang and rang while Mom fumbled around in her purse. Seriously. How many places are there to look for a phone in your purse? "Oh! I'm sure it's your sister. She's going to get onto me for not answering. I put it right here. I can't find it! See? She's letting it ring a long time. She knows I'm looking for it. Now where is that phone?"

I should have just started up T-Hoe again to combat the upper 80s, but I was certain we'd be out of there and into the restaurant within seconds. Not so. Mom eventually snagged that charm-bracelet-sized phone and had a conversation with Sis, then handed the phone to me so Sis could ask why Mom was not home, because she said she'd be home in the afternoon, and it was AFTER NOON and she wasn't there. It was 12:30. I got rid of Sis, then asked Mom how she could lose that phone in her purse EVERY SINGLE TIME she put it RIGHT WHERE SHE KNEW to get it. "You've had the same purse and the same phone for ten years. How can you not know where you put the phone? She really did not have a satisfactory answer, but since we were both dehydrating and starting to blister like overcooked hot dogs on a charcoal grill, I let it slide.

Inside, Mom needed help ordering. Not because she can't read the menu, but because she's indecisive, and likes to make small talk with the workers. As she debated the merits of curly fries or waffle fries, I pushed her to the waffles. "The curly fries are spicy, Mom." That's what Genius says, anyway. Of course the counter girl had to add her two cents. "I don't think they're spicy." Yeah. She doesn't have the palate of a septuagenarian. Then she asked for a name. Mom looked at me. Hey, she was the one paying. I twisted her arm until she identified herself. Okay. I wouldn't do that. Septuagenarians have brittle bones. But I refused to give my name. I'm weird that way.

I'll warn you right now that Mom filled her soda cup with Mountain Dew. She's been off soda for about a month, because my sister suggested it. Took away Mom's daily Diet Coke pleasure, though she made her own at home in a Bubba cup rather than scamming free ones at Voice of the Village. Mom even whispered it to me over the table. "I have Mountain Dew in my cup!" Yes, she of the blood like pure Rocky Mountain spring water, same as The Pony, who gets all jacked up on that elixir.

I offered Mom some onion rings, because they were SO good, and not something she would have at home. She insisted that I try some waffle fries, which made me feel bad because they were TERRIBLE, all mushy and not tasty, and I had recommended them to her. She didn't seem to mind. Just ate my onion rings and informed me that she was used to watching TV while she ate. Huh! That Mountain Dew sure did loosen her tongue.

"Well, now you have me instead of TV, and I only have four channels: Hick, Genius, The Pony, and Big Brother." That, or the Mountain Dew, gave her the giggles. She carried on like a giddy school girl all through lunch. She especially liked the Hick channel, with the episode where Hick was a quarter short for the public toilet. As we left, Mom filled her cup with more Mountain Dew. It's a wonder I did not get a call to bail her out of the county jail after we parted ways.

Later in the afternoon, I tried to call and check in with her at home. Sis was going out to pick up Chex Mix that she strongarms Mom into making for her. But Mom didn't answer. I was a little concerned that she had not made it home. She was low on gas, you know. So I made a mental note to keep checking. About 45 minutes later, Mom called me back. "I took that Check Mix over to your sister's house. She said she was busy, and that would be easier for her. I saw on my answering machine that you called."

"Yes. I was getting worried. But I sure didn't want to call you on your cell phone."

"Oh! I had it on!" Mom started with the giggles again.

"That's what I was afraid of. I couldn't stand the though of you digging and digging for it, muttering, 'She's going to know I'm looking for it in this purse.'"

We're going to the movies tomorrow. Maybe I'll offer to keep her phone for her.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

And Now, a Word From Our Protagonist

Hick strolled out of the bedroom yesterday morning in his tighty-whities, and plopped down on the living room long couch to rub lotion on his feet. He's not some dermatologically-obsessed metrosexual, nor a captive I keep in a well, urging to rub the lotion on his skin, lest he get the hose again. No, he's not even trying to pave the way for an athlete's-foot-free world. It's prescription foot medicine for aching feet. But that's not the story.

"You know how you're always writing about my antics? I never get to read them. You just ask me to sign off on them."

"I handed you a copy and said you could read it! And you said, 'Naw, that's okay' and shoved it back at me!"

"All right. I admit that you gave me a copy. But here's one for you. Even Genius saw where this one was going:

Remember when I went out east? We were in Boston, and I had to go to the bathroom. I went in, and couldn't get into a stall until I put a quarter in. I yanked out a handful of change and finally found a quarter. When I got through the door, that toilet was nasty. I took some toilet paper and cleaned it up. I threw the toilet paper in the toilet and flushed it. Then I turned around and dropped my pants to go to the bathroom. I had just sat down when the door opened. It wouldn't close without another quarter. I didn't have another quarter! I couldn't get up. I hollered for one of the guys on the trip with me. 'Bob! Put in a quarter!' He had one, or I would have been sitting there exposed while I took a dump."

"That's a really good story."

"Yeah. You oughta use that one."

Vanity, thy name is Hick.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Needler Sticks It to Me

Apparently, my household ban on Auction Meat did not extend to Auction Grills. Here is Hick's latest auction acquisition.

Do not speak to me of proper lighting, photo composition, focal point, or damaged retinas. I shall whip out my smarter-than-me phone, cypher over it for ten minutes, succumb to vertigo looking for the pic-snapping button, and inflict these images on you as I please, by cracky!

So what if I captured a comet at the moment it landed on my back porch deck? I ain't braggin'. Never mind the Terminator 2 metal cop style doors on this bargain of a gas grill. Sixty-dollar purchasers can't be choosers, you know. They'll take their $350 value and worry about the non-functional flaws later.

Perhaps you're wondering about that attachment in the lower left, under the grill proper. No, it's not a bonus Auction Meat attachment. Nor is it a raccoon tail to flap behind the grill as you wheel it from one location to another to avoid sun, wind, and rain. Nor some tasty road kill garnered by all that wheeling. Nope. It's a cat. Not a good cat, mind you. A mailbox cat. The one that had the giant hole in her chest that warranted a vet visit. She's still basically wild, but will slink up to the breezeway edge every now and then so I'll scratch her misshapen ears while she waits to be let into the garage to consume mass quantities of dry food while turning up her nose at the occasional mouse. Cats are odd ducks.

Like Renee Zellweger as Ruby Thewes despises a floggin' rooster on Nicole Kidman's front porch in Cold Mountain, I despise a gas grill. I stop short of popping its head off and puttin' it in a pot, though. I am not a fan of gas. Though those around me might argue the point. I don't want a gas furnace, a gas fireplace, gas lanterns, a gas generator that kicks on as soon as the power goes off, and especially, I don't want gas canisters, aka bombs-waiting-to-explode, cooling their round metal heels on my breezeway, baking in solar energy from sunrise to sunset, with a two-hour break at noon.

That said...have you seen my new gas grill?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

There's a Hole in My Beagle

There's a hole in my beagle, dear readers, dear readers!
There's a hole in my beagle, dear readers, a hole!

Yeah. Tank the beagle has a hole in his left haunch. The Pony saw it when he let the goats out Tuesday morning. "Hey, Mom! I think Tank got in a fight. He has a bite out of his side."

Let's not delve into the concept of karma too deeply. Tank is the dog who sank his teeth into our sweet, long-haired, yellow-duct-taped-board-horned Nellie. Sank them right into her side, and held on like a vicious snapping turtle waiting for thunder, while she trotted across the yard trying to escape. All over a piece of bread that he was too lazy to grab before that docile white goat, formerly owned by a little old lady as a backyard pet. He wasn't even attempting to get the bread, just venting his rage on Nellie's hirsute flank. I don't think he broke the skin, just chewed a mouthful of hair for about 50 feet until she jostled him loose.

It's our own fault, I suppose, for allowing Tank to maintain possession of his babymakers. He has little dog syndrome, too. But he's pretty much too lazy to go looking for a fight. If it's not a bigger dog eating scraps to be snarled at, or a timid goat, he's all bark. So I was a bit surprised to hear that he had tangled with a critter. He doesn't chase after wayward yard dogs, or the horses across the road floating around under their summer blankets. Only barks, mostly from the safety of the porch. He's too lazy to roam far abroad. He used to run rabbits through the woods down by the creek every morning, but he's slowed down since his adolescent days.

I went to look at the wound. It was bigger than a quarter, but smaller than a half-dollar. Round. Right on that muscly side-hip area. It was, perhaps, a half-inch deep. He licked it intermittently. You know dog saliva. It's a miracle salve for what ails you. I told Hick about the crater that evening. And it hit me. "Do you think somebody shot him?" It's happened to our neighbor. Not the man. The man's dog.

Hick took a look. "No. It's a bite, not a shot. Something got ahold of him."

We're keeping an eye on the wound. It doesn't ooze. Looks like it's healing. Tank doesn't limp. We once took a mailbox cat to the vet because it was bitten on the chest, and the bite kept stretching open. A half-dollar size hole showed the transparent connective tissue holding in the muscles.  We spent nigh on $100 for an exam and antibiotic ointment, only to have the vet say on the way out, "Cats get these injuries all the time. It looks terrible, but they heal right up on their own."

The patient is being monitored. He has voiced no complaints, and seems content to convalesce on the porch while waiting for leftovers to be tossed his way, or the FedEx driver to invade his space.

Something is afoot in the hinterlands, and that something has teeth.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Needs of a Former Public Servant Are Not Served Gladly

I strongly dislike the DMV with the white-hot heat of the flaming digestive tracts of 10,000 monkeys eating 10,000 ghost chiles for 10,000 days.

Hear that? It's the relieved sigh of the USPS, upon disappearing from Val's radar momentarily.

The Pony passed his written driving test and earned his learner's permit today. He did that in a satellite station of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Which of course employs state workers. Who were actually polite this go-round, not like the battleaxe who banished me to the outer hallway before I even presented the birth certificate and social security number of Genius when he took his written test three years ago.

Even though nobody was talking to either of the two counter women, I was told to wait behind a portable sign until they were ready. I was already waiting behind the sign. Because the sign said, "Wait here until called." Not that it talked, of course. That was written on it. In English. Bet they'll get in trouble for that before long, and have to list every conceivable language and dialect to be fair and nonpartisan. I had with me a birth certificate, social security card, and a piece of mail with The Pony's name and address. The three items the official website listed as required to obtain a learner's permit. When the uniformed lady was good and ready, she called me. I handed her the paperwork and told her why we were there.

"I don't need that. Just the birth certificate." She popped up from her chair, grabbed a spherical camera off her monitor, held it in The Pony's face, and said, "I'm going to take your picture. Go to terminal number two and take your test. You can wait in the hall, Ma'am."

It wasn't long before The Pony came out. "We need that thing."

"What do you mean? Do I need to come in? What thing?"

"Just come in." He meant the birth certificate. The uniformed lady had typed his name wrong. Seriously. How hard is it to copy PONY off a birth certificate? This was a new lady dealing with the error, in the same seat as the old lady. She voided that printout and made a new one.

"You'll need to take this to the license office to get his official permit." I expected that. Off we went. With the birth certificate, social security card, and mail showing The Pony's name and address. Just like listed on their official website. The license office was back in Backroads. Right behind the dead-mouse-smelling post office. We were number 45. They were serving 39. We were lucky to get the last two seats. It's a small office. And everyone brings the wife and kids with them.

There was no sign of the witchy witch who took my driver's license photo from not-heaven, the one that I will have until 2019. Three workers were working. The first spent twenty minutes with an old lady and man at the entry window. The second was raking in money hand over fist for automobile licenses. The third was busy denying a woman the pleasure of paying money for a license on a trailer because she didn't have a title. That woman called her husband, they could reach no solution, and she left, unsatisfied. Really, DMV? You think people come in to buy a license for a trailer that you wouldn't even know they had, and they're trying to pull something over on you?

Finally, our number was called. I gave Wenchy Wench #2 the birth certificate, the social security card, and the One Story magazine that The Pony has a subscription to. The information that was listed as necessary on the official Missouri Department of Revenue website. WW2 shoved back the magazine. "I can't take that. That's junk mail." Yeah. Because 15-year-old kids get utility bills and check stubs and mortgage statements and property tax receipts. And scamming adults just happen to have the kid's birth certificate showing that adult as the parent, trying to scam a $3.50 learner's permit out of the DMV/DOR.

"He's 15. He does not get bills. There is nothing else he receives in the mail."

"Well, we can't take junk mail. We can take your information if he lives with you." I sent The Pony out to get my other purse. Just in case I had saved the information that it took me three trips to collect when I was unfortunately shot for my own license. Because I never got a notice of renewal for my six-year-old license. Aha! I had the check stub. You remember...because the utility bill wasn't good enough, because it's in Hick's name.

"Here's my check stub."

"I can't take that."

"You took it when I came for my license four months ago."

"It's more than 60 days old. I can't take it." Oh, of course not. Because nobody ceases to work for an employer within a 60-day period, I suppose. But after that 60 days, we're all unemployed. Trying to pull the wool over the DMV's eyes, living in a different place. Hopping from house to house, job to job, every two months.

"And you can't take this electric bill because it's in his dad's name, not mine."

"That's right. His dad would have to bring him in."

"He can't miss work for that. I'll go home and get a newer check stub." Remember, none of this junk mail nonsense was listed on their official website. No list of what mail is suitable for a 15-year-old kid. Oh, and their list said they would take a voter registration card. Even though poll workers can't ask for it when you vote. And mine had the year 1991 on it, even though it was mailed last year. So we went back home. Through the 92-degree heat, wasting gas, stomping our big-footed carbon SUV footprint upon the land, increasing the fictional global warming, just to make a minimum-wage worker's private license office low-bidder boss happy.

Something is wrong with the hoops I've been jumping through.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dr. DeMille, I'm Ready For My Checkup

Today was high noon in the office of good and evil. I could not put off my doctor's visit any longer. I had already stalled once, right at the end of the school year. If I was any more off-putting, Doc might become suspicious. Think I was seeing a convenient care nurse practitioner. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

This was a regular appointment, nothing special, nothing wrong. I gave my blood to the lab two weeks ago. At that time, they made a big deal of gathering too much information, and encouraged me to divulge my email so I could "check on lab results online" and not have to call the office. I never call the office. I wait for a postcard in the mail so my rural mail carrier will know how healthy I am and ascertain whether he can take me in hand-to-hand combat.

Of course the temperature outside was in the mid-nineties by the time I pulled onto the blacktop parking lot. I said a nearly tearful goodbye to T-Hoe's arctic AC, and dragged myself across the shimmering expanse to the tall professional building that I hoped was a mirage. Nope. At least I had an elevator to myself, and only had to deal with one surly old man with a cane and jeans rolled up near the knee, him sputtering through his white beard as I dared stand outside the men's room when he wanted to exit. Perhaps that needs some clarification. My medical facility is not filled with mountain men/swamp people/dynasty ducks/wild hoggers, or any other backwoods reality stars. He was the only disgruntled person I encountered. And, I don't stand outside men's rooms. It was in an 'L' where I was trying to enter the women's room, and he yanked his door open and wanted to plow me over, cane and all. I suppose he thinks women should be in the kitchen, stewin' up a possum, not seeking well-patient care in a doctors' building.

The first window-woman did not bust my chops today. I went to sign in on the clipboard, after receiving such chastisement two weeks ago for going directly to the window. But no. Today she wanted me to step right up to the window. She asked for not one whit of identification. Neither insurance card, no driver's license, no address or phone number. Just took my name, and told me to go wait somewhere else. Which I did. For 45 minutes. That's a good interval for this office.

When the wacky loudmouth nurse called me back, she got into a detailed discussion with a little girl in the waiting room. "Is that your doll? She's cute. Can you change her clothes and everything? No? Then what fun is she? What? Her eyeballs pop out? Different eyes? Different hair? That's too much! In my day, we just changed their clothes!" After standing awkwardly in the entryway to the inner sanctum for five minutes listening to doll specs, I was summarily whisked around the corner to the scales. Lucky for me, Wacky Loudmouth Nurse likes to talk about herself. I distracted her with doll talk, and inserted, "Aw, this weight thing isn't really necessary. It's the same as last time." It worked!

WLMN quizzed me on my close associates. I'm surprised she didn't want birthdates and social security numbers. She typed that stuff into my file. Verified my meds. Asked me about the book I was reading, just before stuffing a thermometer under my tongue. Which meant that SHE could talk about books she likes to read. Then she pumped up the sphygmomanometer, and asked me to reach my other arm across my ample chestal area, to hold the velcro flap that was ripping loose one synthetic hook-and-eye at a time, as if that would not affect my blood pressure. At the same time, she told me that she had to pay $10 for a library card at the Backroads library. Now THAT'S a blood-pressure raiser. It was only $5 last time I got one. After a tale of her childhood Bookmobile escapades, WLMN left me to stew in my normal temperature and pressure while awaiting the main act.

But no. There was another opener vying for my attention. A medical student! Not just any medical student, by cracky! A second-week medical student! I tried to act normal. No need to scare her into another profession. Though I could have come up with some really creative answers to her questions. I am almost as well-versed in ER trivia as I am in The Show About Nothing. To further show that I meant her no harm, I asked her to look into my right ear. As you might guess, she found nothing. In making small talk, I announced that I had been unable to access my lab results through the patient portal, and that I held her fully responsible. I guess she knew that I was joking.

Doc came in and sat on the exam table and asked for more info. I told him he was part of the vast conspiracy to harvest my personal information, without even any promised lab results to show for it. He disagreed. Declared that my results had been put in the "wrong bin" which made me think of trash. He was in a jovial mood, perhaps to show off for the pretty young med student, in case his two plaques for Medals of Commendation from the U.S. Army, and the certificate of certification in geriatric medicine in 2003 had not worked their magic.

Doc declared that my labs were excellent. I wouldn't know, still not having seen them. He wrote an order for my meds. Listened to my heart, perhaps just checking to see if I had one. Told me to breathe, like I needed his permission for that. Then he sat down again, said I looked great, glowing almost, and asked what was going on, anything exciting? I declared that the heat was killing me, meaning it as an explanation for the "glowing" part, what with my flushed face, and Doc said, "Well, I don't know what you expect ME to do about the heat!" He's a real joker. I should have told him I'd soon be shopping at Aldi's due to cranking my home thermostat lower. "So what else? I knew it was time for you to come in. It's summer. What are you doing with all your time?" Obviously, he could see that it was NOT exercising.

"I like to write, and I'm going to be published in a book coming out in September."

Doc was duly impressed. "Will I get a free autographed copy? That's big time. Bring me a book." Those doctors. Always looking for freebies. Spoiled by the pharmaceutical industry. I explained that it was only in an anthology, and Doc and the medical student still feigned excitement. "Not just anybody can do that! Bring me a book!"

I'm kind of getting worried about Doc's financial situation.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Universe and Its Minions Conspire

I thought my rural mail carrier and I were on good terms. After all, I had buried the hatchet after he cost me two tubes of Clearasil Vanishing Cream by laying them ON TOP of the wooden mailbox holder at our unsupervised mailbox row on the blacktop county road.

R. Carry had redeemed himself by giving up my package when I ran up to his car, wherein he sat in the passenger seat shoving mail into gaping mailbox maws between bouts of driving abnormally. That saved me a day and a trip to a neighboring town. So it was with joy that I nodded to him this morning when I encountered him on the way to town, and gave him the two-fingered steering-wheel salute. We are best buds, no?

Yeah. NO!

Here is what The Pony found in EmBee, our green metal pipe mailbox, today.

The cover was clinging by a thread. I don't know what that bar code is, stuck to the top edge in the photo. The inside page was all crumply. I would show you the horrendous condition of the back cover...except there's no back cover. It is completely gone. Probably being made into a voodoo implement with which to torture me in the future.

Seriously. This is serious. How am I expected to hone my craft with a professional magazine in this condition? Do you know how hard it's going to be to stack this issue on the end table under my plier lamp so I can read it when I find time?

I have not had this much trouble with a magazine since my second year of teaching, in Sheldon, Missouri, where I lived in an upstairs apartment with a threadbare rug in an old railroad hotel, where I slept in a bedroom that was once a back porch, hanging off the building proper at a 15-degree angle. The bedroom, of course. I was not hanging off the building. I could have been dislodged by the atmospheric wake of the train that regularly sped by on the track twenty feet from my dwelling.

Yes, that little no-horse miniature-pony town had its own post office. I walked there every morning on my way to work, to pick up mail from my post office box. Times were tough back then, and my mom had given me a People magazine subscription for Christmas. It was my only pleasure, next to the three channels I could receive on my tiny TV with rabbit ears. People arrived every Monday. I carried it to school, and read it on my 1st-hour plan time. What's that? Planning? Surely you jest. I taught elementary PE. I could plan those lessons in my head in a coma. Yes, People arrived every Monday. In the beginning.

As time went by, People showed up on Tuesday. And then...and then...People slouched in on Wednesday, rumpled, with cookie crumbs in its crevices!

I don't mean to point the finger at our hair-trigger-temper, ten-point-veteran's bonus civil servants...but I suspect that an insider somewhere in my People's chain of command was having his way with my glossy companion. I say "he" because a she would have shaken out the crumbs, most likely into her mouth.

The USPS conspires against me.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Classic Adventure Tale

If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the laundry room. That's my motto.

Genius returned from his ten-day vacation--I mean volunteer technology work--at Missouri Boys State last night. Funny how he went straight to bed and slept for 14.5 hours. That sleeping must have been hard work, because later in the afternoon he had to take a two-hour nap. Thank goodness I was able to nag him into revealing his dirty laundry between snoozefests.

Normally, I do laundry in the morning. Like between 6:30 a.m. and noon. Especially on days like these when the temperature climbs into the nineties. Had he only cracked open that festering suitcase last night, to release the King-Tut's-tomb-like miasma, I would have been able to tackle Mount Short T-Shirt Sock Brief in the cool hours of dawn. But no.

It's not that I am so altruistic that I wish to save the earth from harm, and refuse to add to the drain on power sources during peak hours. It's not even that I am too cheap to launder during peak hours. No. I have my reasons. And they all point to maximum comfort for Val.

My laundry room is off the kitchen, on the main floor. A wooden louvered door separates the rooms. The ceiling of the laundry room is lacking insulation. That's because there's a flap of ceiling that houses a pull-down ladder for attic access. You  know. In case we need to get up there and set mousetraps so mice don't poop in our bathroom ceiling light/exhaust fan.

That little lack of insulation makes my laundry room the 10th Circle of Not-Heaven.

I could not begin my ascent of Mount Short T-Shirt Sock Brief until 11:00. No danger of frostbite on this peak. No sherpas, either. I was on the verge of losing consciousness upon disturbing the ragtag pile of supplies that needed transfer from the cloth cairn against the north wall to their cleansing bath on the south wall. Like a factory worker in a horseradish processing plant, I needed a gas mask. It did not help that two damp towels had been entwined in the moldy milieu, marinating, for 24 hours. Or that our power went out at 5:02 last evening, and the temperature rivaled that of an equatorial rain forest.

The goal was to complete three-fourths of the journey before a snowstorm blew in to obscure the peak. Or at least before a thunderstorm blew in to cut off the 3:00-a.m.-restored flow of electricity. I must declare the first leg of the climb a success. By 2:30, Mount Short Sock Brief had been conquered, and base camp was established. The uppermost peak, El T-Shirt-a-tan, will have my flag driven into it tomorrow.

I might even write a book about my adventure: Into Foul Air. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

She Got Up Off the Pot

You know how when it gets really hot, like mid-90s, with high humidity, and you can hardly breathe when you step outside? Yeah. We're having one of those days here in Backroads.

It's enough to make one want to drive the Tahoe around back to the basement door to carry in one's 44 oz. Diet Coke. Enough to make one rip off her shirt upon entering her 74-degree home, to dissipate heat while putting away purchases while home alone. Enough to make one tarry on the toilet, leaning one's bare back against the cool lid, willing the meager wisps of conditioned air emanating from the floor vent to evaporate the rivulets of sweat earned by carrying in Save A Lot necessities. Enough to make one weigh the benefits of whiling away more minutes so disposed, or expending the effort to descend into one's dark COOL basement lair to read The UK Daily Mail on one's desktop.

Not that I would do any of those things, of course. But I DO have an aversion to the heat. I blame my absent thyroid. But it could just as well be my well-insulated epidermis. Folks living the Native life above the Arctic Circle might just as well twist me like a bloated washcloth and squeeze oil from my pores for dipping their meat. Though I would hope they stopped short of flaying me for muktuk.

Last night I could not fall asleep. After 90 minutes of tossing and turning, okay, 90 minutes of lazily laying in one position sweating, I got up and cranked down the thermostat to a chilly 73 degrees. You wouldn't believe what a difference a degree makes.

Well. I was just about to finish with the sentence: At least I have my power and my air conditioning. But at that moment my power went out, and now I have neither. Thank goodness my upstairs laptop had a full charge.

Hick and The Pony, forsaking me for the auction, returned with information that power lines are down on our gravel road due to inappropriate limbage. I'm off to contact Ameren MO about the issue. Hick, in a moment of logical judgement, decided not to drive over the power lines, and has just started the generator. It won't run the air conditioning, but it gives me TV and a computer.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lettuce Bray

I must voice my disapproval! Loudly! I know that comes as a surprise to those of you who know my true cream-filled spongy nature. How it interrupts the tranquility of my favorite pastime of singing lullabies to baskets full of sleeping kittens.

My ire has been roused by the lazy layabout teenage employees of Dairy Queen. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I ordered a Grilled Chicken Salad, and found, upon unbagging it back at home, that they had given me a CRISPY Chicken Salad. I let it go. Because those kittens really needed their rest.

Today I gave those lazy layabout teenage employees of Dairy Queen a second chance. The equivalent of turning the other cheek. But I DID check the salad before I pulled away from the drive-thru. Grilled chicken smiled back at me. All was well. Or so I thought.

I am a bit persnickety about my salad. Again, another surprise, huh? I remove that shredded purple lettuce stuff, because my palate does not approve. Then I scatter the cheese, tomatoes, bacon bits, and shredded carrots evenly. It goes without saying that I hack the grilled chicken into smaller pieces. I am symmetric kind of gal. If I see wilted lettuce, I weed it out. And because I have forked a big hunk of lettuce in the past, I kind of sift through the bowl to see if one needs to be downsized.

This is what I found in the bottom of my Dairy Queen Grilled Chicken Salad today!

This is more than a little too big chunk of lettuce. It is a leviathan. A behemoth. It is a veritable ICEBERG of lettuce! Ninety percent of it is below the surface. That gargantuan gob filled the entire bottom of the bowl. Of course I had to do the undone job of the lettuce-shredder and minimize it. I know Dairy Queen can't be buying their salads pre-made. That would not necessitate a fifteen minute wait at the drive-thru window. It's not like they're grilling the chicken and curing the bacon while I wait. Something has to be taking that long. And surely there's no job title for a salad-compiler in a refrigerated sweatshop like Giant Lettuce Chunk Inserter.

I might as well make my own salad at home. It would be less strenuous.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Attention is in the Retail

My mom is the Queen of Expired Foods. Somehow, that gene skipped a generation and mutated. The Pony is the Prince of Damaged Goods.

Every week The Pony goes shopping with me. He doesn't have a choice. As I push the cart up and down the Walmart acreage, I send The Pony on missions for forgotten or far-flung items. He is quick and efficient and non-complaining. However...

Items chosen by The Pony have serious packaging flaws. I don't know how he does it. One would think that perhaps The Pony picks through the shelves for the least desirable unit, in order to end his weekly sentence in grocery shopping prison. That would be assuming that The Pony puts effort into anything other than computer game play and science fiction writing.

I have taken to inspecting objects The Pony brings before allowing him to place them in the cart. I always regret my lack of diligence when it comes time to put away the items at home. The Pony is an equal-food-group slacker. It doesn't even have to be food. Shampoo with a leaky top, Puffs With Aloe sporting a crunched corner, Tide trailing out of the box, National Enquirer with ripped cover or uneven center staples, spaghetti noodles box with an open flap, dented can of Cream of Chicken, flapping label white albacore tuna, bread loaf misshapen with a V in the side, Oreos cracked in half...The Pony has selected them all over perfectly sound specimens. It's like a sixth sense with him.

The Pony is a picky eater. He is not one for vegetables other than a baked potato, or carrots in a roast. He will, however, consume fruit such as strawberries, grapes, apples, bananas, and canned pineapple chunks. I sent him to grab a couple of pineapple cans off the shelf. We buy the kind in natural juices, so Hick can also indulge. The cans showed no dents or label rippage, so I put them in the cart. Imagine my surprise two days later when I went to open one and read, Pineapple Chunks in Heavy Syrup. I called The Pony to the kitchen.

"When your dad comes in, make sure you tell him not to eat the pineapple because it will kill him." Okay, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but I didn't want The Pony to forget. He hears Hick come in the front door, and I sometimes do not. It's a long way from my dark basement lair.

"I'll tell him."

"Why did you get the kind in heavy syrup?"

"It's all they had."

"I don't think so. I'm sure there were other brands. If you had told me, I could have gotten them at Save A Lot. Even though their cans aren't flip-top, and I have to give myself carpal tunnel with the can opener."

"I'll eat this kind. Next time we'll get some for Dad."

Later in the evening, I saw that The Pony had left about half of his chunks in the white coffee cup with a Christmas bear on it that he prefers for eating his pineapple. "Didn't your want your pineapple?"

"Not really. It's too sweet."

Sometimes, I want to pop him on the forehead with the heel of my hand, like that frowny little toddler girl does to her mom in the V8 commercial.

When The Pony sees how successful my proposed handbasket factory is, he might want to go into business with his grandma. Ye Olde Expired Food Shoppe and Beat to Crap Merchandise.

Maybe Hick can hook them up with some auction meat.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Doctor Deal-Good

My mom has tipped me off to the future of medical care in Backroads. She ran into her doctor in Aldi's.

Aldi's is Mom's Save A Lot. She lives closer to Aldi's than I do. At least once a week she makes a trip over there to shop for staples, and products they carry, like chicken in a box, that she really likes. There are bargains to be had that let her thumb her nose at Walmart.

Let's also establish that Mom's doctor is my doctor. He's a good guy who will bend over backwards to put you at ease, and push tests ahead so you don't spend needless weeks worrying about results. At the same time, he's a realist. He does not sugar-coat possible outcomes. I even caught him with a tear in his eye when he discussed my impending thyroid surgery a couple of years back. He plays poker every week with my mom's Czechoslovakian neighbor. Doc has a big fancy doctor house. Not that I've been there. But at an appointment shortly after one of Backroads's famous ice storms, he talked about his built-in generator that starts when the power goes off. His wife used to work in the office with him as a nurse practitioner, but then decided to stay home and devote more time to the kids. So, in my mind, they're living the idyllic doctor-family lifestyle.

Mom said this is not the first time she's seen him in Aldi's recently. Is this what it's come to, people? Doctors have to buy their groceries at Aldi's? Have to count pennies? Have to use their pampered surgeon hands to bag their own store-brand canned peas? Doc is not a house-call, horse-and-carriage, country doctor who takes a basket of eggs in exchange for lancing a boil. He works in one of the two main hospitals in the area, in a doctors' clinic, fourth floor, and has surgical privileges. He's no Dr. Dave Malucci character who earned his medical degree in Grenada. He's a former Army doctor. I've seen his diploma and awards hanging on the exam room walls.

Mom says she hates to run into Doc at Aldi's. Not because she's worried that he might catch her putting snack cakes into her cart. But because she hasn't fixed herself up. You know how septuagenarians are about prepping for a doctor's visit. She had not rolled her hair, and was wearing jeans and an old-lady t-shirt. She said Doc was wearing his hat. It's what Genius would call a "Newsboys" hat. Mom said, "I don't know if he's trying not to be recognized, or if he just likes that hat. He always has it on when I see him out. His wife did not look very good. You know, she used to really keep herself up when she worked in his office. I ran into them in the aisle, and he spoke to me, and later they got in line behind me at the checkout, and he said, 'I wonder if we can predict how much we'll spend?' I told him, 'I think I've got less than $20 worth here.' But he never told me his amount."

Yes, some people might find it disturbing that their doctor shops at Aldi's. Like it's akin to living in a van down by the river. Like doctoring is now a thankless job that does not pay one enough to shop at Walmart like normal people. To me, that's not the most shocking part.

What kind of man does the grocery shopping with his wife? That does not happen much here in Backroads. Like skinning and butchering the animals taken in an Inuit hunt, grocery shopping here in Backroads is women's work.

Surely Doc could find something better to do on his day off.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Really Wish He Had Gas

Hey! Did you know that Lowe's does not carry giant springs? And that they will tell you over the phone, "Sure, we have one of those. Come on in and we'll show you." Hick is so easy to fool. I never trust what a retailer tells me over the phone. Sure they want you to come in. Once you're there, and find out they never heard of a giant spring, you're likely to buy something else so your 20-mile trip was not in vain.

Of course, I may be a bigger fool that Hick. Maybe he didn't really rush off to Lowe's after supper last night. Maybe he went to a class in nonstick-skillet-scratching at the technical school.

Today, Hick sent me on a mission to procure his giant spring. Here it is, in all its glory, on the floor mat of T-Hoe.

Lest you think that doesn't look like such a very big spring, allow me to direct your attention to the severed sections placed end-to-end by the garage door store technician.

That rusted-out industrial-strength Slinky is fatter than my forearm, and at least 18 inches long. I'm sure you will be surprised to find out that the garage door business did not have one in stock, either. But I outsmarted them! I didn't bother to call first. Heh, heh. Just walked in with The Pony carrying those two parts of the whole. The workers looked a bit frightened. They might have suspected a pipe bomb. Or some drill cores to be used as noggin-thumpers. As you might imagine, their days are filled with folks wandering in to spend thousands of dollars on fancy garage doors. Not to scavenge Frankenstein appendages for antiquated car-house portals.

Hick had assured me that the girl running the place was sharp as a whip. I think he might have mixed a metaphor there. He knows her dad, and said she should know right away what we needed. Well. The only girl I saw was on the phone with a customer. A dude walked out to greet us.

My first stab of apprehension came when he asked if our garage door had one spring, or two. What? How am I supposed to know that? I'm inside the vehicle when the door is opening and closing. We carried in two pieces, but it should have been one spring. We have two doors. And this was off one of them. I could not answer his riddle. Dude was a bit flustered. "I don't have gas! If I don't have one of these, I'll have to get gas. It will take a while. Let me check."

Dude set about measuring our spring. He took a metal thingy and hooked it in a crack and counted the rings. Then he asked that girl if they had any of the plastic things. She replied that they had ordered boxes full of them. Maybe he should look in the kitchen. Huh. Dude came back with a plastic ruler. He measured again. He went to call somebody and ask if he was measuring correctly. Then he said he would check the storeroom. Then he said he did not have any of these springs. And that he was out of gas! He needed gas! He would not have a spring for us until tomorrow. Could we wait?

I'm sure Dude did not mean wait there overnight. They had a little solarium with a child's play table and patio chairs with footstools. But I'm certain he meant could we come back the next day, and would our garage be able to wait for its spring. Like, was there anybody trapped inside that needed to be extracted within the next 24 hours. I asked about what time we could pick up our new spring tomorrow. You know. In the ballpark, not a time such as 9:38 a.m. And do you know what Dude said?

"I'll have to get gas!"

He wanted our phone number. I told him we might not be home. Just give me a general time. Like, perhaps, "After noon?" Dude said yes. After noon. I told him we might even call before we left home. You know. In case he had trouble getting gas.

I am secretly hoping that "getting gas" is a euphemism for consulting somebody with a lot of experience in making garage door springs.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Forks. They're All the Rage.

Pardon me while I take a moment from brushing the silky pink mane of my unicorn, while playing "Greensleeves" on an antique harp with my toes.

I am so mad that the top of my head is about to shoot into the stratosphere.

I'm like a cartoon quitting-time whistle. The pressure must be released. Each day, Hick finds a way to get under my skin. I'm sure he's taking valuable time away from poking venomous snakes with sticks, taunting bulls with red capes, and lobbing stones at hornets' nests. He would be much safer sticking to those pursuits.

Hick arrives home any time within a 90-minute window. It is hard to guess the time to have his supper ready. We rarely sit down to eat, what with Genius being gone most evenings, The Pony ready at a regular dinner time, me not having lunch until 2:00 and not ready for another meal, and Hick popping in at his convenience. Tonight I served Hick some baked fish, a grilled pepper-jack on Nutty Oat bread, some slaw (yes, my mother's favorite side dish), and a bowl of strawberries. Actually, I did not physically serve him. Which was the problem.

Hick got home before I had started his meal. In addition, he declared that he would be making a trip to Lowe's as soon as he was finished eating. So I popped the fish in the oven, slathered some I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on the bread, heated up the non-stick skillet, washed and beheaded the strawberries, and set out the slaw and pepper jack. I noticed that my skillet had a few new scratches. I've only had this one since Christmas. Like Lucky Ned Pepper told Rooster Cogburn about Mattie Ross when they left her at the camp with Tom Chaney, "She was in wonderful health when I last saw her." That was the night I cooked up some mushrooms and onions. Now my skillet had more grooves than the rumble strip on an interstate highway shoulder.

I called to Hick that his food was ready. Silly me. I should have plated it for him. I usually don't, because he sometimes wanders in to eat after goating and chickening all evening. This time, I was standing right there to see what transpired. Hick ignored the plate I had set out for him. He grabbed a different one. Then he whipped a fork out of the drawer, and before I realized what was happening, he jabbed it under the grilled cheese in the non-stick pan. A FORK! ON MY NON-STICK PAN! Oh, the Teflonity! Not only did he scrape it under the sandwich, but the sandwich started to bow in the middle. Who scoops a grilled cheese out of non-stick pan with a fork? That's some crazy behavior right there! The spatula was conveniently resting on the plate I had set out for him. No wonder he ignored it.

Okay, so it's a metal spatula. I know how to use it. I prefer my old blue plastic spatula, but I broke it over Tank the beagle during a 3:00 a.m. bout of barking. I didn't break it over the beagle. That would be not right, and bring PETA down on me. I don't believe in whacking animals unless they first pierce flesh. Hick has whacked our shepherd Ann with a dead chicken, which dissuaded her from killing, though he probably should have done it with the first corpse, not the fourth. I told him that idea of tying a dead chicken around her neck would only make her think, "Ooh! A chicken necklace! I need another one of these."

Let's see, where was I...Tank was baying at the neighbor's dog in the early morning hours, and, can you believe it, he would not stop when I told him, "SHUT UP!" and poked my finger in his face. Must be because he still has his baby-makers, because I can't imagine any other dog refusing to stop barking when faced with such a logical request. So...I had taken my favorite spatula out there, because I didn't have a rolled-up newspaper, print is dead, haven't you heard? When Tank had the audacity to snarl at me for getting in his face, like I was challenging him by looking straight into his eyes and waggling my finger, can you imagine that, then I slammed that spatula on the porch boards to get his attention and show my displeasure with his behavior. Funny how that didn't really stop his barking, but broke my favorite spatula! You'd think if they could send a man to the moon, they could make a plastic spatula able to withstand contact with Wolmanized lumber.

I know I did not scratch my own non-stick skillet with my metal spatula. I have a feeling a man who would scoop a grilled cheese with a fork would also scoop mushrooms-and-onions with a fork. He might as well have asked Freddy Krueger or Edward Scissorhands to grab a fistful and toss them onto his plate. Of course Hick denied any wrongdoing in the case of the gouged non-stick skillet. Short of nailing up a game camera on my kitchen cabinets to catch him in the act, I am powerless to prosecute him for the crime.

Writing is the BEST medicine. Forget that laughter crap. I'm feeling much better. That vein in my temple has quit throbbing.

I'm off to peruse the innernets to see if the local junior college has an evening class in spatula-wielding.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Crack, Crack, Cracking At My Cellar Door

Did you ever feel like your house threw a party, and didn't invite you? That's what The Pony and I have been going through all month. It has intensified while Genius is away at Missouri Boys State, where he was asked to donate ten days as part of the technology staff.

We have always had the phantom footsteps. Ha ha! The people on those ghost-hunting trips who hear footsteps and get all freaked out are just comical. We live with that 12/7/365. That's normal around the house that Hick built.

Here's a new one. The Pony says he hears noises from my office. Not the noises I have heard, like an empty soda can falling off the counter. Nor noises I have heard upstairs in the past, like stacks of magazines falling off the back of the couch onto carpet. No, the new manifestation observed by The Pony is the cracking open of a can of soda. That's how he describes it. It's only when he's downstairs alone, and I am upstairs. We both know there's no soda-openin' going on in my office. That space is reserved for my 44 oz. Diet Coke.

A few nights ago, The Pony went upstairs for his shower, then bed. No sooner had he gone up, after five minutes of solitude in my recliner in front of the big-screen TV, than I heard the distinctive sound of a soda opening in my office. It has happened once more since then. Or maybe it's a beer. But it's the sound of a can top flipping open.

The Pony also has another new sound. A light switch. I asked him, "What do you mean, a light switch?"

"Duh! A LIGHT SWITCH! Like this!" He trotted across the tile floor to the light switch between the end of the piano we inherited from my grandma and the door to Hick's workshop. He flipped that switch on, then off. It didn't click. They're the silent kind. It thumped. I've never heard that one myself. But The Pony says it happens a couple of times a night, while I'm in my office. In addition, he says he sees a white figure in the doorway of my dark office that he pretends is me. That's the right direction for where I hear my falling can noises.

The Pony has been closing his bedroom door at night. I attributed it to him growing up and wanting more privacy, or not wanting to hear Genius's TV or music late into the night. Genius is a night owl like me, while The Pony generally retires before 10:00. Even though Genius keeps his door closed since being chastised for opening his windows while the air conditioning runs, the sound comes through.

Last week, I woke up in my recliner around 3:00 a.m. I went upstairs, turned off the basement lights, and went to the front living room window to turn off my laptop that powers my internet. The only lights we leave on at night are the ones under the kitchen cabinets. They provide a dim, twilight kind of ambiance that keeps you from whacking your shin on the coffee table. As I turned to go back through the living room, I saw a white shape outside The Pony's bedroom door. It appeared to be standing. It was like an upright manatee. Kind of a long blob. When I looked directly at it, it was gone. I did not tell The Pony.

One day later, that boy was full of questions on the way to town. "Hey, Mom. What kind of things have you seen besides that headless man? And the sounds. What all have we heard? Didn't you hear magazines falling? Have you ever SEEN anything upstairs?"

I told him about the white blob. He rides behind me in T-Hoe. Weird, I know. But that's what he likes. So I couldn't see him nod at the revelation. But I felt it. "That's why I close my door at night. I kept seeing something out there. Was it looking in, or looking out? Because I feel like it's watching me."

"It seemed to be standing. Not looking in OR out. Standing guard, maybe. Like it was looking toward me in the living room. Only there were no eyes. It was just a perception on my part."

"Okay, then. It must be Grandpa looking out for me."

I haven't seen it again. But you'd think there was a rave going on in Genius's room right above our TV-watching area in the basement. He's been gone since Wednesday morning, and by 4:00 or 5:00 in the evening, we start hearing people walking in his room. It's more frequent after 10:30.

I don't know what's going on. But I'm getting used to it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Would Have Been Less Busy Chewing Down Trees, Piling Them Into a Dam, and Slapping Mud Over Them With My Big Flat Tail

Excuse me. This will be brief. I need to get some ointment for my nose. It has been rubbed raw by the grindstone this week.

I have frittered away my time with 14 blog posts, a photo submission for a final edit, two contest entries, and one anthology one work-in-progress that I'd hoped would be done by now, which still needs refining. AND I sorted through a pile of papers on my kitchen counter! It's a wonder I'm not laid up in the hospital like a celebrity, suffering from exhaustion. Or dehydration. You know. Those euphemisms for being off your rocker. We all know that Val could not claim dehydration, what with her daily dose of 44 oz. Diet Coke.

I had planned on polishing that WIP tonight, but I promised The Pony I would look over a story he wants to submit to One Teen Story. He's gone to the auction with Hick right now, though I don't think it's so much a case of father-son bonding as it is a desire to see a schoolmate who was going to the auction with HIS father.

Now time is slipping away, and I have missed Redneck Island, and will have to DVR it later. You'd think I'd have MORE time during my summer vacation.

Friday, June 14, 2013

At Medi-Wait, You're Not Always Next in Line

Val has a new bee in her bonnet. An energetic, adolescent, venom-stuffed stinger-wielder that is buzzing to get out.

There I was, minding my own business, my Ps and Qs, my manners, adorned by my lovely, lace-trimmed, pastel-hued, ultra-feminine bonnet, waiting for my turn at the pharmacy. You might recall how my pharmacy recently changed hands. How it went from not quite a mom & pop establishment, perhaps more of an extended family business, to one of ten bazillion links in the largest pharmacy chain ever to dole out drugs to the masses. I'll call it Medi-Wait Pharmacy.

The poor put-upon workers were allowed to keep their jobs, but required to toil for the overlord and toe the line to the nth degree. They had to reorganize the front of the shop, placing aisles as close together as a the walkway between the seats of a school bus. Aisles that separate customers as they enter, like pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in a coin-sorter, to funnel them to the counter like cattle on the way to slaughter. The PICK UP sign hangs over the left side of the counter, and the DROP OFF sign hangs over the right. In between signs are a couple of registers used for additional pickups.

The PICK UP clerks were all taken. Two had customers with lengthy explanations and snafus. The third was picking up medicine as fast as it was plopped on the inner-sanctum counter by the pharmacists, and calling for customers who had been waiting in-store for their meds. I was at the front end of the aisle, next in line.

I browsed for last-minute purchases as they intended. On my left was a bevy of beauty products labeled as airline size. Not for me. I am flying nowhere, except possibly into a rage in the near future, though currently unbeknownst to myself. On my right, various toothpicks, flosses, and dental probes. No thank you. Not an impulse purchase item for moi.

A man came in and stood behind me. I was the line, you see. The line waiting to pick up medicine. A couple of women came in, saw the situation, and declared, "Uh, yeah. That's not happening." They whooshed right back out the self-opening sliding doors. The man remained, second in line, kept in place by my buttocks, which closed off the aisle like a cork in a champagne bottle. Thank goodness that heavy-sighing, toe-tapping, dagger-staring dude did not have a saber on his sash. Probably because he was bereft of a sash. And only because it was being dry-cleaned.

I waited, if not patiently, at least captively. There was nowhere else to go. I listened to one guy trying to pick up meds who wanted to have the $60 mouthwash taken out of his order, because the woman he was picking it up for has mouth sores. Believe me, that's not a picture I wanted in my head. I was not trying to eavesdrop. It's a tiny store. The other man being serviced was hacking and coughing about it being a new prescription, and he could leave and get it later if need be, as long as it would be good around the 25th, when he usually came in to get his other refills. The utility clerk had pawned drugs off on two store-waiters, and turned to see if any other bags had been placed for disbursement by the pharmacists. Seeing none, she turned to call the next customer. Who we all know was Val Thevictorian. Next in line.

That guy behind me turned tail and ran back up the aisle, dashed around the end cap by the door, and scurried up the next cattle chute to arrive in front of the utility clerk's register. Hacker had just turned to leave. His clerk saw my mouth drop open. She turned to look at Rude Dude and rolled her eyes. "Did you see that?" Of course I did. Even Utility Clerk was nodding her head at me and about to put Rude Dude in his place. However, the EyeRoller motioned me to her prime counter real estate. "I'll help you. That right there is something that almost started a fight in here yesterday."

Yeah. I was about to unbonnet my bee.

Rude Dude was obviously a long-time sufferer of Little Man Syndrome. He was an indignant, snappish, entitled-acting fellow. The type who views the world as his public servant. He must have been somewhere in the middle of his 30th decade of life. This is what happens when children are raised to think they're the center of the universe, and rewarded with ribbons and trophies and certificates simply for being.

And this is one curmudgeon who begrudges them the oxygen they waste later in life.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Those Things Oughta Be Registered

Country living is fraught with danger. Forget the idyllic, peaceful setting, Greensleeves playing on a lute in the background, goats grazing on the front lawn, chickens scratching in the side yard, dogs lounging on the porch, cats draped boneless off the edge of the doghouse roof...cue the Psycho stabby music! Mother Nature will claw your eyes out if you're not ever-vigilant.

The Pony has the duty of checking on the animals during the day. We have a black hen that hatched one chick. Nothing went wrong. She was only sitting on one egg. It was not even her egg. Hens are like that. They're opportunists when they get all broody. I asked The Pony if he was sure it was not her egg. "Well, considering that she sat on the same spot for two weeks, and there was never an egg under her, I'd say she took this one from another hen."

Here they are in their little apartment, where they sleep. Even the baby looks wary of the momma's talons.

This poor hen is like Miss Prissy. Not in looks. In yearning. She had one other chick last summer, but it disappeared. It was not the one who perched on the edge of the water tub and drowned. This one vanished. Since we don't have chicken wire (what do you think we are, farmers or something?), the chicks weave in and out of the dog pen fence that makes up their open-doored pen. I'm sure something ate it.

This is the patio, outside the boudoir, where the little couple can get some sun, see and hear the other fowl all around them, and feel safe from predators or caregivers. Those feet were made for gougin'.

Now Miss Prissy is all overprotective of this one chick. Hick put them up in a little pen that used to be a rabbit hutch, until the chick is big enough to have the common sense to not wander off from its mother. They have to have fresh food and water each day. Hick cautioned The Pony, "Be careful when you reach into that hen's cage. She'll get you. I had to knock her back three times before I could give her food."

The Pony agreed. "I KNOW! I have to hold her back with a stick so I can get the water. She'll peck you!" He must have thought it was a form of torture when I sent him to take a picture while checking on their water at noon. All things considered, he did a decent job of snapping some photos without losing an arm.

You know how some babies play in their food? Fowl babies poop in their food.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Lesson in Higher Learning

OK, time for some tough love. Those of you who slouched in looking for Living in a People-Watching Paradise II might as well sell your used textbook back to the bookstore. This class has been canceled, due to lack of interest. Don't go crying to the registrar for your refund. You fail to show up and snooze, you lose.

Oh, I'm sure there are several wiseacres among you irresponsible whippersnappers. Those who will say, "But Professor Val, we showed up and waited 15 minutes, then we left because you weren't here." That is NOT in the university bylaws. I was simply having difficulties with technology. My lesson was prepared. I thought I had published the syllabus. It certainly showed so from my side. But when I checked an hour later, there was no syllabus to be seen. Last semester's coursework was still displayed. And I was left with a list of six drafts, all the same, all unpublishable. A more-conspiracy-theory-oriented faculty member might even suspect that the Department of We Stick Our Collective Noses in Your Personal Business had infiltrated our faculty database.

Others may say that you slipped your assignment under the door of my office. Sure you did. The only one I received on time was from Mr. Chatterbox. Kudos, Mr. Chatterbox. You will get your credit. Since I am grading this class on the curve, you get the 'A'. Well done, sir.

To those of you who were grabbing a brew over at Delta House, Dean Wormer will be in contact. Giving your love a cherry with no stone, a chicken with no bone, and a story with no end is no way to go through life. And neither is fat, drunk, and stupid, according to Dean Wormer. Not that we had that talk personally, of course. Oh, and he would like me to inform you that whoever brought Mrs. Wormer home in a shopping cart and parked her on the front lawn will be subject to double-secret probation.

Any of you wishing to make amends and get back on track with your education may sign up for my new course in animal husbandry. It's enrolling now. A Thursday evening course that will include a lab on the first night. You might want to head over to the bookstore for your lab equipment. A pair of falconer's gloves is recommended. I think you can get them used.

I suggest you get a good night's sleep and show up tomorrow in your thinking cap. Be sure to thread the cable through your bicycle's frame when you lock it, or you're going to be riding a front tire back to the dorm.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Living In a People-Watcher's Paradise

I am not a people-watcher. That gene skipped right over me. I think I got the smartA$$ gene instead. That's what Hick thinks, anyway. Not so much the lack of people-watch-itude, but the bonus of the other. My mom LOVES to people-watch. Ever since I was a kid, she has declared her love of this pastime. I think she used to park on Main Street when I was a kid, just to watch the world go by. It was either that, or watch the Not-Heaven's Angels when they parked their hogs outside the laundromat and took off their clothes to wash them. They were not a leather crowd.

Today I went to give some blood at the doctor's office lab. I could have recorded this visit and made a good bit of 44 oz. Diet Coke money selling the DVD. Here. I'll let you live vicariously through me. Because that's the kind of gal I am.

My doctor dwells on the fourth floor of a doctor's building that is attached to a hospital. Parking is sometimes in short supply, but I got a decent spot at 8:15 a.m. Coming from the other side of the circular drive was a chubby little boy and his obviously-genetically-related mother. They were a bit ahead of me, and went in first. I was kind of lollygagging, having not been there since last November, looking around at how they'd finished off their new ER wing, and pondering the big Blood Drive Today sign over the main entrance. I was hoping my blood would reach its intended destination.

There are two elevators. Without thinking, I knew Li'l Chubby and his not-so-li'l mom got on the left one. Imagine my surprise when I heard, "Here you go!" Li'l Chubby was holding that door open with his pudgy doughboy arm. He was the cutest thing, about five years old, with a bit of light-brown stubble on his buzzcut head. What a chivalrous little guy! I wondered if he knew that dude who let me go ahead of him in the gas station chicken line.

I stepped in and announced, "Thank you. I'm going to the fourth floor." Li'l Chubby controlled the panel.

"Oh, so are we," said his mother. Li'l Chubby did a little kid tap dance, without sound, in sandals. He must have been headed for a checkup, not a sick call. The doors opened and we walked toward the reception desk. "Oops! We're on the wrong floor." I think she saw a sign that had been set up about Suite D and Suite E. Whatever that was. "Come on. We can take the stairs down one floor. Do you want to take the stairs?" Li'l Chubby was all for it. No sooner had they passed through the stairwell door than an announcement came out of the ceiling:

"All doors will now close without warning. Repeating, doors will close for a test of the fire system."

Poor Li'l Chubby! I was worried that they would get trapped in the stairwell. Very few people use those stairs. The doors are always closed, though they're marked for use in case of fire. A smocked lady came up to the door by the reception office, and had to punch in a number code to get it open. Funny how they were testing the fire system, but let the elevators keep running.

So many people to watch, so lengthy a blog post! I'll expose more medical building denizens tomorrow...but in case you're wondering, I never saw Li'l Chubby again! I'm sure he was fine. He looked like a kid who would whistle in the dark, and tap dance in a locked stairwell. He would probably hold the door open for the firefighter who rescued him.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Val Thevictorian and the Mystery of the Big Honkin' Truck

Another mystery to solve. Because The Unexplained so often intrudes on Val's everyday life.

Today we tackle the Mystery of the Big Honkin' Truck. Thankfully, it did not ram into the front of my home and obliterate my internet connection. No, we're talking about a literal Big Honkin' Truck.

The Pony and I were on our way to town. The reason does not matter, though it might rhyme with poorty-poor pounce buy-it broke. Just at the city limits, a large semi truck crested the hill. That does not mean it was half a truck. As my mom would say, "It was a tractor trailer truck." The driver honked his semi truck horn. Those things ain't dainty. No new-born kitten mewling there. More like a gosh-darn foghorn. I was a bit surprised. I was on my side of the road. Completely. The lines were just painted last week. It's easy to stay on your half. Trucker was on his half, too. It was not a matter of him being behind the wheel of an out-of-control eleventy-ton rolling missile. I looked in my side mirror after he passed. His brake lights were on. So much for the no brakes scenario.

My thoughts jumped to other reasons a driver might honk. There was no livestock on the roadway. Not even a dead armadillo. The latest one is in the middle of town now, across from the funeral home, just before you get to the license office where they made me look like a roasted-pumpkin-headed Sta Puft Marshmallow woman, which is just before the curve that takes you to the dead-mouse-smelling post office.

I did not see Trucker waving. Not that I have close trucker friends who regularly drive the blacktop county roads of Missouri. Don't go jumping to conclusions. He was not a personal friend, nor business associate. I did not have a sign on T-Hoe prompting, "Honk if you love Diet Coke." Perhaps there was a police cruiser speed-trapping just over the crest of that hill, mere feet inside the city limits. I made sure to drop from 45 to 30 as I passed the sign. No police.

"Maybe we have a cat on top of our car!" Several times I've made it to the end of our driveway, only to have our orange tabby scamper down the windshield, over the hood and off the bumper into the grass. The Pony's answer was to pound the car ceiling with both palms. While I was rolling at 30 mph.

"No. No cats."

There were no wrecks. No pulled-over scofflaws receiving their just dessert tickets. The traffic signals were working. No overturned hogs or dishwashing liquid or beer flowing down the thoroughfare. No cars or humans dangling from the overpass. No UFOs hovering over the metropolis. I was at a loss.

After accomplishing our town mission, The Pony and I headed for home. We came up that blind hill at the edge of the city limits, just like Trucker. AND I KNEW THE REASON FOR THE HONKIN' OF THE BIG TRUCK.

You can't see over the hill crest. It's kind of like you're launching yourself into space. As soon as you go over the roller-coaster summit of no return, a street branches off both sides of the road. Trucker was honkin' to warn any pulling-out vehicles that he was about to pulverize them. Though how it would have helped them I don't know. Unless they were still contemplating pulling out onto the main road.

I'm a freakin' genius when big honkin' trucks are the mystery.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chivalry Lives!

Are you sitting down? This news might discombobulate those with equilibrium issues. I don't want to be responsible for any broken hips. Grab onto something sturdy.

A man in the gas station chicken store let me go ahead of him in line!

Here! Get a whiff of these smelling salts. That's right. A man let me go ahead of him in the check-out line. The store was full to overflowing. Sunday brings in a lot of chicken traffic. I know better that to try to score some tasty gas-station chicken on a Sunday at noon. I had only dashed in for my 44 oz. Diet Coke. The chicken line meandered back toward the soda fountain. Thank goodness they were only blocking the Pepsi machine. I fountained out my 44 ounces, and had to turn and go up the candy aisle to get back to the front.

I hate it when people do that. They get all out of order for paying. That's as bad as when people come in the door and think they can butt in to pay for their gas. I knew my place. Two ladies had to finish, and an older dude was after them. He just happened to be in the actual line, while I was all cattywompus due to the chicken waiters. I turned my body toward him. Not in some inappropriate come-hither presentation, but to show that I did not expect to pay next. That I was waiting to step up after he did. Animals have not cornered the market on body language.

Older Dude grimaced at me when it was his turn. I did not step up. "Go ahead, I'm after you."

"Is that all you got?" Spoken with a gruffness befitting his shaved bald head with a twelve-o'clock shadow. He eyed my magnificent Diet Coke specimen with suspicion. To see if I had any lottery tickets lurking behind the foam blue-and-white cup.

"This is it."

"Go ahead."

"Thank you. I even have correct change!" I forked over the cash and headed for the door. Val is an efficiency expert when it comes to her 44 oz. Diet Coke.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Nerds of a Feather Ride Together

Genius had big plans today. Or a several little plans that added up.

Yesterday he spent the day enrolling at his college. He's taking 19 hours. Which is kind of ambitious at a college known for churning out engineers. Hick sat through various indoctrination meetings with the other parents while Genius took math placement tests. He qualified to go right into Calculus II, but chose to take Calculus I to make sure he had a good foundation. Then there's that 19 hours to consider, also.

Hick said that campus police informed the parents that the most stolen items on campus are books. Are you kidding me? BOOKS? When I was in college, the most stolen items were bicycles (if you only ran your locking cable through the front tire), cold Godfather's pizza from the dorm mini-fridge, and clandestine stashes of alcohol. Because really, who's going to the RA or campus police to complain that your illegal beverage was spirited away? So...I suppose this bodes well for the nerd college, that sticky fingers snatch books.

Genius headed off to his girlfriend's house to meet up and attend a graduation party. From there, they planned to spend the evening at Shakespeare in the Park. Forest Park, to be precise. For us, that means it's in THE CITY. The parents of his friend home from Harvard invited him.

"Are you riding with his parents?"

"So far. Just his dad and sister and him and us are going. So we'll all fit in their car. But Harvard Dude sent out a mass text inviting people. So we might have to take the van. If it's full, I'll drive."

"Why would you do that? Why do you always have to drive?"

"Because otherwise it would be rude. To insist on riding with them."

"What do you mean? You are the only two going besides his family! You were in on the ground floor. You should have your ride already locked up!"

"Mom. It doesn't work that way."

"I don't know why I'm worried about it. Do you really think there's going to be so many kids wanting to go to Shakespeare in the Park? Come's Shakespeare!"

"Don't you know the kind of people I hang out with?"

Duly noted. They might have 'em a convoy, headed through the night.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Objects on Retinas Are Not As They Appear

How fitting, upon climbing out of T-Hoe on the optometrist's parking lot, that The Pony looked across the divided highway and read from the side of a ministerial alliance thrift shop: "Greater Backroads Area Rapist Association." I believe his appointment was a bit overdue.

This is the boy who thought a piece of blanket in the road was a puppy. I did not sense anything amiss. After all, his very own mother mistook a sewer vent pipe for a Grecian urn/Ming vase. And a spot of bird doodoo on the windshield for an insect hitching a 30-mile ride. Nothing to see here. With much squinting on both our parts, we deduced that we were looking at a building advertising the Baptist Association. Whew!

The Pony has new glasses on order. We can't just put new lenses in his old frames, because, well, he sees the rapist association WITH his glasses. Amazing how the new glasses will arrive in 7-10 days. The precise amount of time it takes a personal check to clear. Funny, that.

I took The Pony on a wild goose chase to get some fish for lunch. He was wearing those wrap-around black glasses to protect the enormous windows to his soul. I had offered to lead him to water and try to make him drink--no, I had offered to lead him to T-Hoe so he didn't have to risk burning out his retinas in direct sunlight. He declined, preferring the Frankenstein walk to use his arms, both with previously broken elbows, as buffers. We drove along the outer road in a populated area. The Pony squealed, "Look! Deer!" Of course I thought he must be seeing lawn ornaments. Imagine my surprise when I glanced out my side window and saw a white flagging tail bounding across a lawn. Town deer! Who woulda thunk The Pony would notice? The more time wore on, the more it seemed that the dilation actually sharpened his vision.

We had some errands to run before and after the appointment, one of them being to drop a package from Genius into a UPS drop-off box. He told us exactly where to find it. I pulled in beside it, and wondered when UPS had changed their Big Brown colors to purple, orange, and white. Um...that would be NEVER. Because the box Genius had steered us to was a FedEx box. Not recommended for filling with a package bearing a UPS shipping label.

The Pony searched for another location, using my phone. We looked. Craned our necks. Didn't see the other UPS boxes. The Pony swore that there was one in downtown Backroads, on the parking lot of the old license office location, which we passed every morning and evening. Huh. I didn't remember seeing it. So I figured The Pony might be confused. We called my mom to ask about the streets. She hung up and got out her phone book, then called us back. We still didn't see them, until she found out that the social security office was directly next door to the UPS box. Then I spotted it. Brown, no less. Even with his dilated eyes, The Pony jumped out and read that it was, indeed, active, with pick-up at 3:00 p.m.

On the way home, through Backroads downtown to get my 44 oz. Diet Coke, we passed the old license office building. There was a UPS drop-off box, all drive-uppy and waiting, where we could have unloaded that package.

For some reason, I had doubted The Pony's perception.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Rat Races to Town for Caffeine

Some days, the universe tries to deny my 44 oz. Diet Coke. Not even in a subtle manner. Today, I had to contend with...

1-The Forgotten Cup. That's right. I walked out of the house and into the garage and started up the driveway without my refill cup! Lucky for my that I am a virtual Boy Scout when it comes to preparedness. I had an extra cup stashed between the back seats. Can't be paying full price for a new styrofoam cup. Not with the price of gas used to get me to and from town.

2-The Road Stripers. Seriously. When is the last time I encountered MoDOT road crews laying down the center yellow stripes on my blacktop county roads? Let me see...I think it would be...NEVER! So there's a lead truck with a sign commanding me to keep right, which is kind of hard when there is no shoulder, and the striper metal pole spraying thingy comes way over into my lane. So I had to hang half a tire off the edge and come to a stop until the sprayer and its two school-bus yellow dump trucks that followed it like security guards passed by.

3-The Duped and the Darter. People not from here can't figure out the traffic lanes in town. That's because they were designed by some young whippersnapper who had always been awarded awards for showing up more than fifty percent of the time, and breathing in and out on his own. The Duped chugged through the just-turned-green light at the speed of an arthritic tortoise with commitment issues. The Duped finally pulled into the left turn lane at the next light. Instead of surging ahead in my rightful space, I had to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing into The Darter, who came off the exit ramp to my right, shot across two lanes into mine, then slammed on his brakes. In the middle of the road. I don't blame the bad drivers. I blame the intersection designer. We survived for years with only one four-way stop. Now the three lights and disappearing lanes are a bit much. I hate progress. And you kids get off my lawn! (Did you see me brandishing my cane?)

4. The Scoff-Parker. At the gas station chicken/44 oz. Diet Coke store, a nincompoop was parked in a non-parking spot. Six pull-in spaces, clearly marked, and this doofus pulled in by the front of the building and blocked gas pumps and the main path to the door. It took me an extra fifteen seconds to walk around that nincompoopmobile.

5. The Neverending Dairy Queen Line. The boys wanted me to bring home lunch. I was 8th in line at the DQ drive-thru. AND the old lady in front of me kept backing up. What's up with that? We were on level ground. Yet she slowly came back and back and back. I was afraid I would have to honk at her. She was not very attentive. If I didn't know better, I would say she was leaned over texting, backing without a clue. Or maybe she was just lifting a cheek to fart.

6. The Funeral Procession That Blocked the Stoplight. Yeah. Must have been a local celebrity. I've never seen such a line of cars. The police car sat right in the middle of the intersection, stopping traffic in all four directions. I wasn't even out on the road yet from DQ. Traffic was that backed up.

At least there was nothing wrong with my precious elixir. Just the extra time needed to procure it and haul it safely home. My nerves can't take much more of this summer vacation stress.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Refuse to Believe It's Just My Imagination

It is time to convene a meeting of Mystery Inc., Encyclopedia Brown, Hercule Poirot, Jessica Fletcher, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Frank and Joe Hardy, and Detective Droopy.

Not only do I have pizza makers trying to scam my address, but I stumbled upon a crime in the making this afternoon. In my mind, anyway.

The Pony and I rounded our last curve on Daffodil Lane, our blacktop county road. We crested the hill just before our turnoff, and almost plowed into a stopped SUV. It was right where my sweet dog Juno had disappeared last week. There is no reason to stop in the middle of the road. The car crept forward. Stopped. Proceeded down the hill. Kind of indecisive-like, with the driver looking at me in his side mirror. I presumed he was thinking of stealing some mail from the house with a little half-circle drive that keeps its mailbox several feet off the blacktop. "You watch," I told The Pony. "That car is going to stop at our mailboxes."

It did! At the bottom of the hill, that SUV pulled in front of our mailbox row and stopped. We stopped behind it. Because we were actually going to pick up the mail from our very own mailbox, which gets delivered within an hour of when we arrived. "Do you want to get out now and walk up? Or wait until that car moves?" The Pony preferred to wait. That SUV sat there. The driver stared at me in the mirror. He whipped his ride sharp left, into our gravel road, and maneuvered it so he was going back up the blacktop hill. Yet still sideways on our gravel entrance. The Pony got out and pranced up to our mailbox.

SUV Driver called to him. "Does this gravel road go to 8906 Daffodil Lane?"

The Pony looked at him like he was crazy. "Um. I don't think so. The blacktop road is Daffodil Lane."

SUV Driver waved a white envelope through the window. "Do you know where 8906 Daffodil Lane is? I'm looking for it."

The Pony shook his head. "That's not Daffodil Lane. This is." He hoofed it back to T-Hoe and jumped in. SUV Driver started back from whence he had come. At least until we were out of sight. For all I know, he parked a few feet up the road and came back to raid fifteen mailboxes. I'm suspicious that way. Especially since our dear metal mailbox, EmBee, was raided for those two mail-order tubes of Clearasil a few months ago. And since we've had mail stolen two other times, though all we lost were bills and my back-to-school letter. There was even an article in the paper about a roving band of mailbox thieves in our area who had been grabbing outgoing mail, marking utility company names off the checks, writing in their own names, and getting them cashed! Which is just a whole lotta wrong going on right there.

Val trusts no one. The world conspires against her.

But seriously. What kind of person drives around with an envelope, looking for a mailbox to put it in? A person up to no good, I say. If you're going all the way to the mailbox, then go right to the door and tell the people what your letter says. If you got their mail by mistake, drop it in the mailbox at the dead-mouse-smelling post office. No need to waste gas driving the rural roads you are not familiar with. I would have given him the benefit of the doubt and suspected a process server, but a process server is not going to hang around a row of mailboxes with no house in sight.

The rottenness in Backroads is expanding exponentially.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's On a Need-to-Know Basis, and He Doesn't Need to Know

Conspiracy alert! Domino's Pizza wants your address!

You may see nothing wrong with this if you routinely order pizza to be delivered to your door. That door has to have an address for the pizza to find you. However, if you only use Domino's to pick up your own pizza to carry home, they should not be asking this question. Unless they are idiots. Or perverts.

Backroads got a brand spankin' new Domino's last year. They do not deliver way out here in the hinterlands where our rural palace is located. We have never once asked for delivery. Any time we call, it is from my cell phone. It's the same number all the time. I know they see it. They repeat my name about fifty percent of the time, even though I've only given them my number. No big deal. You might recall that this is the place where the dude asked me, after taking my order for a half cheese, half sausage-and-mushroom pizza, " don't want cheese on the other half?" Yeah. And it's also the place with the front wall made of glass, where we pulled up and observed one of the workers riding a big push broom like a stick horse. Strangely enough, none of us have been sickened by their product. So we continue to patronize their establishment.

The last time I called, I got the half-cheese weirdo. His voice is distinctive. Kind of pervy. Kind of breathless. Kind of like that breather/inappropriate-question obscene caller I gained one time after buying a table and chairs at a second-hand furniture store. There was apparently more than one kind of second-handing going on at the place, if you know what I mean. Anyway, the Pizza Perv sounded kind of spaced out. I was sure he would ask me to hold, but he didn't. He kept talking slowly, and took my order. He asked if it was delivery or carry out. Carry out. He asked my phone number. BR 549. Yeah, that's not really my number. I got it from Junior Samples on Hee Haw. Then Pizza Perv asked my address. I was so throw off guard that I almost gave it to him.

"Address? You don't need my address."

"Oh. Uh. The manager...wants us to--"

"I am not giving you my address. Why would you want that?"

"Um. Uh. For coupons, I think. Yeah. For coupons."

"I already get coupons in the mail. I live in Backroads. That's as much as you're getting."

"All right. That will be $8.63. It will be ready in 15 or 20 minutes."


Seriously! Why would they need my address? Either he was too stupid to remember that it was carry out, which I am sure showed on his little monitor like every other single transaction we ever had with them, or he was up to something fishy. No way am I rolling out the red carpet for daytime burglars.

Doesn't the government have a big enough file of information on Val, without Domino's trying to horn in on their act?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Outsmarted By an Outsmarter

I SO hate to be bested in a battle of wits by whippersnapper minimum wage workers who toil only to keep themselves in tattoos, cell phones, thongs, and makeup. I'm a curmudgeon like that.

The Pony wanted to go to the movies today, to see After Earth. The commercials looked interesting enough. I invited my mom, and off we went to the 1:45 showing. It's cheaper, you know. The first show of the day. Four dollars a ticket. Props to the kid selling them, who told me I didn't have to renew my AMC movie card just yet, even though they email me every week doomcrying that it's about to expire. We saved $30 dollars with it over the year, so I guess it's worth the $12 price.

We got there at 1:15 because we're early birds who like to claim our special seats at the back of the theater. Lucky for us, only a grandpa and a little boy were already inside. They were on the opposite side of the theater, about halfway down. No threat to us. My mom is kind of feisty sometimes. She said, "I'm going to sit in these two seats behind our row, so nobody will use them." A $9.00 daughter does not correct her mother.

The Pony wanted to get his popcorn right away. He usually has it eaten before the movie starts. However...I told him no. That at the fortune I would be paying, I was NOT buying stale popcorn. There was only one other movie showing so early, which had started at 1:15. When we entered the building, there was no fresh popcorn smell. That means they were using leftovers from last night. Don't act like they wouldn't do such a thing. You know they do.

The Pony had brought in a book to read by the dim light of the wall sconces. Mom and I chatted while listening to the First Look and other pre-movie propaganda. You notice I don't say watched. We only had sound. They do this all the time at this four-plex. I expect more from my minimum wage projectionists. We let it go. We've done that before, and the actual movie started with no picture. I think it was some Robin Hood thingy a couple years ago. Anyway, we listened, and watched people. I was determined not to buy the popcorn until we smelled something fresh.

The grandpa grew irritated with the sound only. He took his grandson and stomped out to give them what for. Mom said, "I should run over there and take their seats." She's a real imp. I reared my $9.00 daughter head and forbade that behavior. Four rowdies barged in. They glared at us, then stalked down to the very middle and scooted across mid-row. But not before the last one kicked the opposite door closed, and yanked the one on our side, too. What's up with that? They pay ushers to do that crap. These weren't teenagers, but a woman, man, and two kids. Surprise, surprise. I looked down to see the lady with her phone out texting madly, and the dude and one kid with their feet up on the chairs in front of them. The lack of a picture did not seem to matter.

With the doors closed, I could not smell popcorn. I got up to open ours. I stood behind my seat to talk some more with Mom. A worker came in to look at the dark screen. Because obviously, an old grandpa complaining that there was no picture was just trying to prank her. The Pony kept sighing. I went out to check on the popcorn freshness. No way. There was a line, and that girl had STILL not started popping, even though she was down to the bottom of the glass popper cabinet, metal showing. I returned to report. We waited some more. Mom went to check. "There's a big line now, but she is just scooping along those crumbs." When previews started at five minutes before movie time, Mom and I went out for snacks. Heh, heh. No line. The popper was just spitting out the first fresh kernels.

A man and boy were buying tickets, so I cut through the candy display to beat them to the counter. After all, FRESH popcorn was raining down into the bottom of the glass popcorn shower thingy. Then Mom had to jinx, it. "I hope she doesn't scoop that stale stuff out of the corners." A less-valuable daughter might have told her mother to bite her tongue. I did not. I flashed my AMC Stubs movie card to show that I was a high roller. I ordered the sodas. Then the popcorn.

That crazy counter girl went and stirred the kernels all together! Fresh and not. Middle and corners. I refused to let her have the upper hand. I vowed that no matter whether we wanted them or not, I was going to demand refills as we left.

I will bide more time when we return.

As for After Earth...meh. Not a masterpiece. Kind of wooden dialogue. Will Smith got paid for sitting on his butt the entire movie. The sciency part was not plausible. Even The Pony mouthed asides all the way through. "Really? They never visited Earth because it's too dangerous with all animals programmed to kill humans, yet they have the exact antivenom in the first aid kit for the one thing that poisons him?"

They lost me at the slug that STUNG young Jaden.Science teachers do not suffer bad science fiction gladly.