Saturday, November 30, 2013

Guess Who's Back in Town

Guess who just got back today
That shredded stuff that had been away
Hasn't changed much, not at all I say
But man, she still thinks that stuff tastes great

We were askin' if it was around
What was wrong, where it could be found
I read that it had all been taken down
Driving all the old moms crazy

The slaw is back in town
The slaw is back in town
The slaw is back in town
The slaw is back in town

You know my mom she used to eat a lot
Every day she'd be consumin', scarfin' what she'd got
Man I tell you she would drool, hope it could be bought
I mean she was dreaming

Friday noon she'd be dressed to kill
Holey sweatpants, what a thrill
Showin' off, waitin' for the bill
What, Arby's got no slaw, they'd better get some

That shelf in Walmart's deli restocked her favorite slaw
I ran real quick to grab some, to feed her gaping maw
Been so long, oughta be a law
Five Dollar Daughter isn't dumb


So I picked up some slaw at Walmart and called my mom. "I'm coming out to your house, and I've got two surprises for you. No. I can't tell. Then they wouldn't be surprises!" I could sense that Mom was excited. Maybe because she said 'Woo!'

When I arrived, Mom came out to the driveway. She had a bag of old cornflakes and a turkey carcass to give me. Yeah. Never let it be said that Mom does not reciprocate in the surprise department. The cornflakes were for the chickens, and the turkey carcass for Juno.

"Hand it to me through the window."

"Don't you want me to put it in the back? When I get out my surprises?"

"No! I don't want garbage riding next to my groceries. I want it in the front seat with me."

"All right. Here. I hope you don't get mad...but would my surprise be...slaw?"

"Thanks for ruining your own surprise. Yes. It's slaw. One of your surprises. The other one is really a surprise."

"Ooh! I'm going to get it. Open up the back."

"It's under the edge of my coat. Right in the middle."

"Ooh! Would it be...this orange slice bag?"

"Yes. It's a whole bag of fruit slice candy. All colors. I picked the one with the most red. And it's fresh. Squeeze it."

"Ooh! I love this. But where's my slaw?"

"Right there, Mom. Under the coat. The bag of candy was sitting on top of it."

"Here it is! Mmm...I LOVE slaw! Thank you. I was sitting here waiting (let the record show that it takes 8 minutes to get from Walmart to Mom's house), and I thought, 'Now what could she be bringing me?' And I remembered that Country Mart ran a big ad that they were getting in a shipment of slaw! So I thought maybe you'd found some for me. I can't wait. I'll have some for lunch." Mom cradled that tub of slaw like an infant.

"They only had the small container. It's good until December 20."

"Oh, it won't last that long. Let me pay you. I want to give you something. I'll go in and get my purse."

"That's okay. I just stopped by for a minute. I've got to get these groceries home. You don't owe me. You gave me cornflakes and a turkey carcass."

"Okay. But I'll make it up to you. Thank you. Mmm..."

Mom wiped at the corners of her mouth with a tissue she'd been carrying. I suppose she was drooling. I don't know why she had the tissue. Maybe she was anticipating the slaw. Or just had some sinus drainage.

Too bad I didn't have Hick's quilt to lend her.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Even Juno's Nose Has Better Manners

Oh, dear. Our beloved Hick has committed yet another Thanksgiving faux pas. I know! Who ever would have suspected that might happen?

Yesterday, after dinner, we were all hanging out in my mom's family room. Mom had magnanimously cranked her thermostat to a sweltering 73 degrees for this grand occasion. Hick flopped down in Mom's recliner and, when she inquired as to whether he was comfortable (!), stated, "Well, it's a little cool in here." Let the record show that the rotating vertical space heater cylindrical gadget was already pointed at Hick, courtesy of the Genius. Mom gave him her blue plaid fleece throw so the delicate hothouse flower would not perish on her watch.

There we were, sprawled about, watching a marathon of Alaska: The Last Frontier on The Discovery Channel, when Hick started the pre-sneeze, "Ahh...ahh...ahh...CHOO!" At the final CHOO part, he ducked his nose and mouth into Mom's blue plaid fleece throw. Your horror cannot surpass my own.

"What are you doing? That's Mom's blanket! She covers up with that every night while she watches TV!"

"I didn't hurt it. I was trying to get my mouth down in my shirt collar. But my hands were all tied up here by this blanket. I didn't hurt nothin'."

"Now Mom can't sleep until she washes her blanket! Hasn't she done enough for us today?"

"Oh, you're making a big deal. It's fine."

Really? The rest of us shot our eyes, with Uncle-Leo-Magic-Marker-worthy eyebrows arched. Really? Nobody wants to cover up with Hick's used snot. To add insult to the inflicted injury, Hick folded up that blue plaid fleece throw and laid it on the back of the couch. So Mom couldn't even tell which end was infested with Hick's nose cooties.

She later reported that as soon as we left, she picked it up with thumb and forefinger, and dropped it by her basement door, so she would remember to take it down and wash it before wrapping up in it again. My sister the ex-mayor's wife saw her grab it, and shouted, "You're not going to use that without washing it, are you?"

No. Thank goodness, Mom knows proper Hick Cootie Disinfecting Protocol.

But we won't end it there. On the way home, I sensed a noxious odor spreading throughout T-Hoe's interior. Hick looked in the rearview mirror. "PONY!"

The Pony looked up from his laptop. Sighed. "Seriously?"

"Stop it. I drive numerous hours with The Pony, and I can report that only about once per month does he have a little gaseous release issue. Whereas you, on the other hand, have one at least every other time I ride with you. That's 50% of the time! Compared to 3% of the time. You know you did it. Stop leaning over. You'd better not do that again. Stop laughing!"

Today I picked up Mom to go for a ride with me on my bill-paying run. The Pony opted to stay at her house and soak up high-speed internet. I filled her in on Hick's on-the-way-home antics. She acknowledged that she used to think I exaggerated a bit about Hick. And even though she got a laugh out of the Horse-Donkey Incident, she was starting to see that maybe my tales were more fact than fiction. As we started down her hill, Mom sneezed.

"Great! Now I'm going to have to wash my car before I can drive it again. Don't try to tell me it's nothing." That set Mom to laughing. A lot. So much that I felt the need to add a warning: "And furthermore, I'll have you know that The Pony is not with us. So if I smell anything, you don't have a scapegoat!"

I can't believe Mom didn't offer me any money this trip. Oh, she reached for her purse when I went to a drive-thru for a Pony lunch treat. And she DID fork over a Christmas Club check. So I guess I didn't lose my status as the Five-Dollar Daughter.

Somehow, I feel much richer.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The First Annual Thevictorian Thanksgiving BARn-Field Horse-Donkey

Whoa, Nelly! You're not thinking we ATE it, are you? The First Annual Thevictorian Thanksgiving BARn-Field Horse-Donkey? No! What do you take us for, The French? We ate turkey like any normal old-fashioned American family on Thanksgiving.

It all started when Hick got up this morning and prepared himself for a trip to town to assist my mom with some heavy lifting. He stepped out on the back porch to feed the dogs, who were raising a racket on the front porch. "There's a horse or a donkey in front of the BARn."

That's kind of an odd way to put it, even for Hick. Our neighbors across the gravel road have two horses, and the ones next to them have a horse and a pony. I figured one escaped. I don't know where Hick got off insinuating that we had a donkey wandering around our acreage. It's not like anybody out here has set up a live nativity scene. That's in town. Of course I had to interrogate the witness.

"How do you know it's not the neighbor's horse? One of them is standing with its neck over their fence, looking this way."

"Because it's not a horse."

"I thought you said it was a horse or a donkey."

"No. I said it was a horse-donkey."

"How can you tell it's not the neighbor's horse?"

Sigh. "I KNOW what a horse looks like, Val. It's a horse-donkey."

"What do you mean, a horse-donkey?"

"A horse-donkey. Somebody must have bought one, and it got loose." Always the perpetual auctionophile, our Hick, assuming that horse-donkeys are traded willy-nilly at the auctions of Backroads.

"What in the world is a horse-donkey?"

"The horse gets with a donkey, or a donkey gets with a horse. You can tell by looking at it."

"Wait a minute! Do you mean a MULE?"

"Yeah. A horse-donkey."

I felt like George Costanza listening to Frank ask Susan's parents about the love life of the rooster, chicken, and hen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Can You See Me Now?

I might have mentioned that I went to the optometrist a couple of weeks ago. Or so I thought. Turns out I really forked over triple figures to The House of Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe. Their famous customers include three mice who sport bobbed tails due to an industrial accident with a farmer's wife's carving knife. Mr. Magoo. And Mary Ingalls.

Of course I paid for the whole enchilada that day. The exam and two pairs of lenses. I had my distance lenses put in last week. I could see again, after a year of my old prescription never working, and them telling me that as I got older, my eyes didn't adjust quickly, and were probably just tired form working up close all day. Which didn't help me see to drive home with my new distance glasses. But now they are fine. My eyes must have rejuvenated over the year, huh? Or they've been working out, and don't get so tired at the end of the day.

Yesterday I went back to have my new bifocals put into my frames. When she called me to the counter, the lady said, "You're going to feel like a whole new person." I sure did. Helen Keller. Because I couldn't see, and nobody acknowledged what I was trying to communicate.

"I can't see!"


"I can't see with these."

"Oh, you'll have to get used to your new prescription."

"Well...if you think so."

"Here. Please sign that you've received your lenses."

"Where? I can't see that. This is not right. It's like I can't see out of my left eye." I leaned over the counter. Put my nose nearly on the form. "Where was I supposed to sign? I can't see it." The lady put her finger on a line. I thought I discerned a little squiggly mark that meant 'sign here.' So I did. I guess it looked like my signature.

"If you have any trouble with them, come back and we can adjust them."

"Well...I really can't see out of them. I don't think this is going to work."

"If you have problems, stop back by and we'll take a look."

What we had there was a failure to communicate. And a failure to differentiate black squiggly lines on white paper. I took them home. Couldn't see worth a lick. Tried to read a magazine. Had to hold it right in front of my face. At no point could I make out any letters with my left eye bifocal. Not at any distance. I stewed over it all night. Called this morning at 9:05. "Do you still have my old lenses? I was there yesterday at 4:00 and had new bifocals put in. This isn't going to work. I can't see out of them. I just want my old lenses put back in. I have to be able to see for my job. Right now I'm wearing a pair that's at least two years old. And I can see better than with the new ones."

The girl said they did not have my old lenses. Seriously? The trash man picked them up between 4:00 and 5:00? Or this morning between 8:30 and 9:05? She said I could come by and they'd take a look. That I probably needed an adjustment. Uh huh. I'm sure the glasses I've had for a year were just suddenly sitting too far down my proboscis.

Did I mention that yesterday, while waiting for the technician in the basement to put in my new bifocal lenses, that I overheard two different customers sitting at the frames-picking-out area explaining that they could not see out of their new glasses? Yeah. An old lady, who didn't know what to do, because they were new glasses. And she couldn't see with them. And a guy who had just picked up his new bifocals, who needed them for work, and couldn't see anything. So he wanted to scrap the bifocals and get a pair of glasses just for close up. Because he needed to see at work.

Today I walked in at 1:30, and had to wait twenty minutes'll never believe this...a man was already at the counter explaining that he could not see out of the left lens of his new glasses. The lady kept telling him that was very odd. That the prescription was the same as the right lens. It should work. She didn't know what could be the matter. She hemmed and hawed. Then said she could work him in to see the doctor in 30 minutes. Or 2.5 hours. He said his wife and daughter were waiting in the car. So he guessed he'd come back, because he really needed to be able to see out of his new glasses.

I heard them whispering about me. Like I was trying to scam them out of new lenses, because I had nothing better to do on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving, enjoying my early out from school by hanging out tormenting the employees of The House of Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe.

The lady came out and apologized for my wait, then started in about how maybe I didn't tell the doctor that I was planning to use those glasses to view my computer screen. No. I told him nothing. I figured my bifocals would work. Like my last bifocals. I did not expect that I would only be able to see directly in front of my face, 12 inches way. I measured it with a ruler at school this morning.

She carried on. That she didn't know why I couldn't see out of those bifocals. Tried to make me an appointment on DECEMBER 10, three weeks away! Good thing I have two-year-old glasses I can use to see until then. I asked WHY I was not able to see out of my brand-new bifocals. In my mind, it could only be one of three things:

*The doctor gave me the wrong prescription.

*The technician put the wrong prescription in the order.

*The lens lab received the proper prescription and ground out the wrong prescription.

That smoother-over with the job from Not-Heaven assured me that it was the right prescription and the right lenses. She checked it with a machine. Yet still, I couldn't see out of them. Huh. How can it be the right prescription? I asked for a printout of my old and new prescriptions. She went to the back. And brought out the youngest little doctor after ten minutes. He looked at both my old and new pairs of glasses. Had me put them on. Said they only needed to adjust the length on the lenses. appointment.

The technician kept my frames! And even worse, she said for me to keep my case. "Our technicians have a habit of destroying cases. Ha ha." Really? So you're taking my frames, and THEY will be safe from those smashing technicians, even though they're not protected by a case?

I wash my hands of them! Though I really feel like I want to gouge out my eyes.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Diet Coke N.A.Z.I.

This is a short work week. So I've been treating myself to a 44 oz. Diet Coke every evening. Sure, I put in extra ice. I don't exactly have all day to sip this magical elixir.

Monday morning, as we climbed into our bespoiled T-Hoe, I told The Pony that I had forgotten to bring a refill cup. I blame Hick. He's off all week, and I'm discombobulated by the disruption of my morning routine. Thank goodness I had such a cup rolling around in T-Hoe's rear, bestowed upon me by my mother in one of our used tabloid/old leftovers/Zyrtec coupon/five dollar exchanges.

After school, I carried that cup into the gas station chicken establishment for my refill. I rounded the back aisle and approached the beverage dispenser. Just as I was looking into that cup to make sure no creepy crawlies had made a vacation home, I noticed a flaw. A ripple of sorts. On one side, near the top inside of the stryofoam cup. That was odd. I looked on the outside. No matching curved line. I ran my finger along it. Just an optical illusion. I turned it to observe from a different angle.


Yep. That refillable cup would have disgorged its contents before I even returned to T-Hoe. I jammed it in the wastebasket and pulled a new cup out of the wall. At the counter, I made sure to tell the clerk that I had a new cup, not a refill. And the public shaming of Val commenced.

This was not the bubbly, friendly-to-every-customer-but-Val clerk who has, of late, improved to treating me as a stick of wood. No. This was the older lady of height, the dark-haired stone-face who talks to herself during each transaction. For example, "Ten dollars lottery going out, minus ten dollars scratchers, two dollars on PowerBall, and a refill. That's $3.07." At first, I thought she was just getting used to the job. Then I figured she was grandstanding for the owner, who is often working the other register alongside her. Then I chalked it up to her having some spectrum issue. Anyhoo...I put a bee in her bonnet.

I knew that my 44 oz. Diet Coke would cost more than the $1.07 refill of habit. I thought it was going to be $1.38. In my hand, I clutched a dollar bill and several coins. Stone Face was getting all antsy even before I approached the counter. A dude was scratching scratchers right there on the glass countertop, then cashing in winners for more tickets. Pardon me. That is just not done. Patrons must observe proper convenience-store etiquette. Take your scratching elsewhere, preferably off premises.

When I was my turn, Stone Face announced, "New one? That's one thirty-nine." I meant to hand her my dollar, and a quarter, a dime, and a nickel. But I had some pennies in my fist as well. I reached across the counter and dumped the silver coins into her hand, much like Tom Sawyer receiving fence-whitewashing bribes, or Beaver Cleaver counting up coins from Mrs. Mondello's sewing basket that Larry had dumped out the window with plans to say they found the money, which must have fallen out of an airline pilot's pockets.

Stone Face was not having it. She was visibly, and audibly, upset. She uttered one word. The S-word. As in, "IT" happens. Seriously. You would have thought I asked for bread with my lobster bisque. There was only a lady waiting for chicken, and a dude waiting to pay for gas. Stone Face was not happy with me. ME! Who keeps that establishment afloat! I thought we were kindred spirits. That we enjoyed a curmudgeonly bond. Like persnickety oldsters shaking a fist while being careful to maintain balance by leaning heavily on a cane, snarling through the window, "You kids get off my lawn!"

Apparently, Stone Face did not feel our bond. She reached across the counter and snatched that one dollar bill out of my fist like a magician whipping a tablecloth out from under a setting of fine china. Ahem. I had forgotten to give her the dollar. I tried to pay for my new 44 oz. Diet Coke with 40 cents.

Val stands corrected. Hopefully she is not banned for one year.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Hope Hick Didn't Leave My T-Hoe at Jiffy Park

Yesterday, Hick put a stop to the way I roll. Literally. He swiped T-Hoe from the garage, and fitted him with new brakes. Not in the manner of driving T-Hoe to town and paying retail for parts and labor. In the manner of driving T-Hoe to the BARn, cranking him up, digging elbow-deep into his foot innards, and installing brakes he bought at the auto parts store.

Hick is good with machines. He's a tinkerer. If there's no part available, he makes one out of scrap metal, saliva, armpit hair, duct tape, and hope. It's not just a hobby. He does the same thing at work. He's a mechanical genius. In fact, back in the days when Hick used to pretend to deer hunt every November, the joke amongst his hunter friends was that Hick's deer stand had a couch and TV and refrigerator and flush toilet. Which of course was not true. Though he did seem to do an inordinate amount of sleeping in the tree limbs. Thus he never shot a deer, but was gifted portions of other hicks' deers, as thanks for fixing their gadgets and procuring butchering accoutrements for them at a good price from his business suppliers.

It would seem that putting brakes on T-Hoe was a no-brainer for Hick. A slam-dunk. Easy peasy. A one-hand-tied-behind-the-back cakewalk. Nothing to write home about. Get 'em off, get 'em on, drive T-Hoe back to the garage, and hop on the Gator for a trip down to the creek and a brief respite in the cabin.

The sight that greeted me this morning in the garage was not pretty. I opened T-Hoe's door and reached across the driver's seat to set my purse on the console. I sensed right away that something was amiss. The leather seat that has been my domain for 98% of the life of T-Hoe was not at its maximum distance from the steering wheel. Val is a mommy-long-legs. With lengthy orangutan arms. Her setting of "1" on the driver's side door moves that seat to the ends of the earth. Or at least into the back seat of T-Hoe. No way could I paper-doll-accordion myself to fit behind the wheel. I pushed the memory button to restore my vehicular furniture to my designated position. All was well. The universe was restored to order. Or was it...

The radio was on the SiriusXM 70s station. Odd. I thought I had left it on the old country setting. Hick's preferred ear candy. Oh, well. I clicked past several stations with my steering-wheel finger-button. Some Christmas tunes, perhaps, from Channel 17. Or 4. What's this? I always have my display showing the artist. I know the name of the song. I know the station. What I want to memorize, for future trivia contest purposes, are the singers of the songs. I'll be ding-dang-donged! Now I have to figure out how to put that info back. Fie on electronic gewgaws! So easy to disrupt, so hard to restore.

I noticed a skirmish of one in the backseat. "What are you doing? The heat isn't warm yet! Don't turn it up. You'll freeze."

"I'm just putting all my controls back to where they were."

Verrrrrrry interesting...did the solar flare energy waft through the tiny glass panels at the top of the garage doors, and reset all of our settings? I don't think so. But the other explanation is just as unbelievable. It was like Hick took my T-Hoe to the bowling alley last night when he went to pay for not bowling tonight in order to go to a basketball game, and morphed into jockey Willie Shoemaker chauffeuring Andre the Giant while they lip-synced disco tunes.

The brakes work. I don't really want to know what went on in my car.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Undermining We Will Go

The temperature has been fluctuating in Backoads this month. Eighty degrees one day, down to 14 a few nights later. Is my intention today to discuss the weather? Of course not.

Did I ever mention that 80% of the items that leave Hick's mouth are bunk? Flapdoodle? Self-serving codswallop? Oh, you don't have to take my word for it. I suppose some who don't know me well might assume that I slightly skew my tales to show my own self in the best light, and Hick in a pitch-dark basement corner from which evil vibes and unexplainable shrieks and noxious odors emanate. Inadvertently, of course. Val would never cast aspersions on Hick's character. She's a purveyor of truth.

Our home is all-electric. No gas molecule has ever crossed our threshold, unless it bursts forth from Hick's nether regions. Electric stove, electric other appliances, electric heat. As you can imagine, our heating and cooling costs have skyrocketed exponentially over the past few years. Almost doubled. Alas, no longer can I bask in 72-degree coolness throughout the summer, nor toast in 72-degree warmth over the winter. I must roast at 75 degrees over my summer vacation, and shiver at 69 degrees through Christmas break. So I must hold a 44-oz. Diet Coke to my forehead, or drape myself with a fleece-blanket still beats paying an electric bill higher than our house payment.

Because of my recent frugality, our last electric bill was considerable less than its equivalent this time last year. I take full credit. Pardon me while I shine my unmanicured fingernails on the lapel of my big shirt. That's what happens when you're uncomfortable all the time, and crank down your thermostat even more between 6:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Sure, the house is a bit chilly at 65 degrees when we arrive home from school. But it reaches the magical 69 fairly quickly.

You might remember several weeks ago, when I found Hick reclining in his La-Z-Boy, wearing only tighty-whities, while exhaling visible breaths into the 65-degree atmosphere. If memory serves, I chastised him for not preparing a warm house for my arrival. And Hick declared that he was comfortable.

Flash forward to Friday night. As The Pony and I rushed inside, mere minutes ahead of the homebound Genius, I lamented, "The house is going to be so cold!" The sight that greeted us in the darkening garage was not one of Hick's hanging ghostly jeans, but that of Hick's car. He was home ahead of us. A condition which I needed to get to the bottom of. So intent was I on sniffing out this conspiracy that I did not notice the chill in our abode's atmosphere.

Because there wasn't a chill. A fact which I did not realize until five hours later. I accepted Hick's explanation that he had already been home 20 minutes, to prepare for the pre-bowling trip lined up for The Pony, who would miss league on Saturday for the Smartypants Tournament. But there I sat at 10:00 p.m. in my basement recliner, chatting with the bed-bound Pony. "It doesn't seem all that cold in here. I could get by without my fleece blankie. I bet that thermostat is wrong. Did you notice it when you came back? It's supposed to be on 69, you know." The Pony knew. But he had not noticed. Nor did he notice when he went upstairs for a shower. Because when I awoke from an unscheduled chair nap at 3:00 a.m., I found that thermostat set to...


That's outrageous! I immediately dumped it to 69. But the damage had been done. Ten-and-a-half hours at 72 degrees! I almost needed smelling salts. All that suffering and inconvenience, just so my money-saving plan could be sabotaged. I couldn't wait for Hick to wake up for my inquisition. At 7:00 a.m., Hick removed his breather to answer that he had been cold. So he cranked the heat to 72. Never mind that he was only there for 30 minutes before leaving for the bowling alley. Or that the house must have felt like an orchid sanctuary when he returned. The better to lounge around in tighty-whities, I presume. But here's the outrageous part. Hick's codswallop.

"Well, if you really want to save electricity, stop running that heater under your desk."

"I'm so sure that heater has made our electric bill double. I've used it all along. Off and on. To take the chill off. I don't run it every day. I don't run it continuously. I can't believe you think heating a house three extra degrees for ten hours on the coldest night of the year had less effect on the heating bill that my intermittent space heater. I don't think that furnace stopped running all night."

"Ha ha. You have no concept of what draws amps."

"Don't go making fun of me. I saved money on the electric bill, and now you've already ruined it for next month!"

"Like I said. That space heater draws a lot more amps. Worry about that instead of the furnace."

I hate it when he does that. What I wanted to do was tell him that breather he covers with Grandma's quilt every night must be sucking up electricity like a dehydrated hummingbird on the brink of starvation. But I didn't tell him to go without forced oxygen for twelve hours.

I swear. To hear Hick tell it, you would think we were actually MAKING electricity for those 10.5 hours at 72 degrees with the outside temperature at 14 bone-chilling digits. Uh huh. I imagine we were selling amps back to the electric company at that very moment, after our long night of overproduction.

But it gets worse. Genius, who, during the 99-degree summer, ran his ceiling fan with his western-exposure double-window open during the late afternoon hours, (while using his overhead light, closet light, and desk lamp during daytime), in order to "cool off" his bedroom...has taken to declaring that this house is too cold. He wrapped himself in an afghan like a hapless insect cocooned by a spider. Face included. I fear that while
Genius is left home alone this week, he will crank that thermostat and dance through the house like a tighty-whitied Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Even though it means borrowing the tighty-whities.

I think he needs to get an apartment so he can make that same amazing discovery about utility bills that he made about grocery shopping. "Living in the real world is SO expensive!"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

You'd Think the Universe Could Be More Generous With Its Karma

Hmpf! Set out to do something nice, and the universe bites you in the butt.

I had to get out early this morning, to take The Pony to his first Smartypants Team event. I called my mom and told her I'd bring the week-old tabloids to her house. We have not been able to make a connection this week. Mom said she was going to town today, so she could meet me halfway. Perhaps at the venue where I was dropping off The Pony. Never let it be said that Val allows her priceless mother to get out at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday when the temperature hovers around freezing, with a windchill that could penetrate even Val's own thick layer of personal insulation. I told Mom to stay home, that I would come by to drop off the papers. I asked if there was anything I could bring her on my way. Nope. Mom is the woman who has everything, including a pair of gray sweatpants formerly known to the people of Arby's as the gray sweatpants with a hole in the knee.

Once my Pony mission was accomplished, I called Mom to tell her I was on the way. I planned to go by McDonald's drive-thru and get a cup of hot chocolate. Did she want something from there? I virtually twisted her arm over the phone. "I'm going anyway. For hot chocolate. I'll be glad to pick something up for you, too. It won't be an extra stop. I'm getting myself hot chocolate." Mom decided that, if it wasn't too much trouble, I could bring her a large Diet Coke. Ptooey! How she can drink that stuff from there I'll never know. It always tasted watered-down to me. Which is still better than the Diet Coke at Dairy Queen, which tastes like a Pine-Sol-like floor-mopping agent has been used to clean the spigots.

I pulled up to the McDonald's drive-thru speaker and ordered. One large Diet Coke. One sausage biscuit (because I know Mom likes them, even though I can't stand them because the biscuit is like a giant cotton ball cut in half, wicking moisture from my epithelial cells like there's no tomorrow, giving me cotton mouth with no Diet Coke to re-saturate). And a medium hot chocolate.

"I'm sorry. Actually, our hot chocolate machine is down today. Can I get you anything else?"

No. Nothing else. In fact, if I hadn't already ordered, and if it hadn't been for my mom, I would have said to forget the soda and sausage biscuit as well. What kind of fast-food establishment can't have their hot chocolate machine up and running on a freezing Saturday morning?

I pulled to the first window to pay. Then I pulled to the second window to receive a large Diet Coke in a thin plastic cup (no styrofoam, according to a fellow faculty member who was stiffed with flimsy plastic yesterday morning, which sweated through two napkin mop-ups at the lunch table). The lid looked like an elephant had stepped on it, all smooshed in and cracked on one edge. "Could you please pull to the yellow line? We're waiting on the sausage." What kind of fast-food establishment doesn't have sausage ready at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday?

Finally, dragging my stiff neck, chemical burn, extra knuckle, and semi-dislocated shoulder, possessing all the treats for Mom, and no hot chocolate for me, I proceeded on my good-deed tour. The spanking by the universe was well worth the joy I brought to Mom. Week-old tabloids, smooshed watery Diet Coke, and a cotton-mouth biscuit. She's not that hard to please. She even offered to pay me for my trouble.

No thank you. I do not need to be the Two Dollar and Eleven Cents Daughter to know my mother loves me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Age Is Foisted on the Old

"Look at me. I'm fallin' apart here." Says Val Thevictorian, impersonating Cosmo Kramer in "The Mom and Pop Store" episode of Seinfeld, impersonating Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy.

 As if it wasn't bad enough that I stiffed my neck the other day, and have given myself second-degree chemical burns slathering ActiveOn like there's no tomorrow every morning before school...or that I gave myself a new knuckle, courtesy of ice machine purging...or that I nearly picked my ear off yesterday morning in a combing frenzy during my morning beautification ritual...last night I hurt my shoulder sitting in the recliner.

Is anybody out there a good illustrator? Yeah. I think we know one talented Chatterbox fellow. Perhaps he'd like to join me in a venture to distribute safety posters to the newly old. I would incur the injury, write the copy, and promote our line in my proposed handbasket factory. All Mr. Chatterbox would need to do is artistically render my latest calamity. I would not pay him in currency. That's tax deductible. No, I would pay him in handbaskets. Gift handbaskets. For the whole family, and any acquaintances he deemed worthy. A limitless supply of handbaskets. For life.

One minute I was lolling back in my blue basement recliner, getting ready to watch Dave Murray give his long-range winter forecast...and the next minute, I was waking up at 2:30 a.m. with a shoulder that felt like a Stretch Armstrong appendage after Stretch was on the wrong end of an arm bar in a match with The Incredible Hulk. My shoulder was about as mobile as a dislocated joint of the same name. My arm hung limply, like a toddler walking alongside you at the zoo, holding your hand, until he instantaneously decides he's had enough, and magically dissolves all bones in his body.

It's not like I tucked that arm up underneath me for safekeeping during my chair nap. Nor like I hung it over the side to attract game fish whilst I cruised the sea of tranquility. Apparently, rest is bad for your joint health.

Dang. Sometimes I long for the cartilaginous days of youth, when I could fall asleep draped across that hump in the floor of the rear-wheel-drive car, where backseat passengers put their feet, and unrestrained toddlers stood during cross-country trips.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

You'll Comb Your Ear Off, Gal!

Is it time for that 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story yet? Because I was thinking of it, just this morning. No, I was not cursing my porch barkers like Ralphie's dad cursed the Bumpus hounds. I did not make The Pony put on a pink bunny suit. I did not accidentally dust Hick's leg lamp to pieces. Nope. I almost severed my ear.

Oh, a BB gun is perfectly safe in my hands. I've had one since I was a child. Nobody ever told me I couldn't have a BB gun because I'd shoot my eye out. What I wish I'd been told is: "You'll comb your ear off, Gal!" As in a refusal to allow me the use of a hair pick. Those things are deadly.

You might wonder why Val even has a hair pick in her bag o' beauty accoutrements. It's all about the LIFT. Hard as it may be to believe, Val's limp old-lady hair needs some impetus to get up off its duff. A gently combing does not even make a blip on Val's hair's radar. Forget a blow dryer. That's just asking for trouble. So Val tempts her tresses, entices those Salvador-Dali-clocklike fronds to puff out their collective chests, rise to the occasion, to stop all that scuttlebutt about Val's hair being applied each morning with a paint roller or magic marker. So seal-like smooth is Val's head that 10 million Vals stuffing 10 million heads in 10 million faculty bathroom sinks could not make one of them catch between the faucet and drain, thus requiring a rescue call by muscular firemen.

The hair pick is just the ticket. It adds air. Like a fork beating an egg. Only not so violent. The tine on the end makes the part, then they all join together to whip Val's hair into shape, with only the assist of a round brush to turn the ends under. Oh, stop it! I'm blushing. I know what an attractive hairstyle that is. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. Hate me because I have two ears. Which was almost not the case this morning.

Over her many years of perfecting the morning beautification ritual, Val has grown complacent. Some students have even dared to hypothesize that Val is able to complete her daily coiffure toilette without a mirror. In the dark. So cavalier has she become that every now and then, Val forgets she has two ears. That pick has a bite, my friends. It's like the Cujo of the bathroom counter. One lapse in judgement, a mere millimeter of error, and Val's ear bends like a Chinese acrobat. Thank goodness it clings to her head like a barnacle to the hull of a boat left too long at the mooring. The pain and redness subside over the course of a couple hours.

If only my parents had warned me of the dangers of using a pick when I was still in my formative years. If only they had specifically forbade the presence of a pick in the bathroom drawer. If only I had thought to ask my parents for a pick for Christmas, my misery might have been avoided.

"A PICK? You'll comb your ear off, Gal!"

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Psyche Scarring Provided at No Extra Charge

The Pony will be joining the varsity Smartypants Team in a tournament on Saturday. He is fired up. He lives for this kind of stuff. Today he had practice with only the varsity. They competed against a team of teachers. Funny how I was not invited to participate. I guess I'm too smarty for my shirt.

Since The Pony will sing like a canary when it comes to all things Smartypants, I was able to gather intelligence on the ride home. Crucial items, like the participants, the team makeup each quarter, the winners, and the score. I also became privy to a near pronunciation faux pas.

"I won't say what the word was, but the question was about a monument. And the name of it ended like 'Zack.' It started with a 'B'. It was like 'ball.' And first one of the teachers started to shake, and then they all looked at each other and laughed out loud, and then they were hysterical."

"Huh. Maybe you should have reminded that one about the time she was the reader for the middle school Smartypants Competition, and started out a question by stating that the octopus has eight testi--"

"I WAS THERE! I remember what she said! You don't have to mention the word!"

That's right. I don't have to. But it sure is fun.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Am a Woman, Not a Frankenstein's Monster!

I have a new body part! Indeed, I have one more body part than any of you. Not that I'm gloating, of course. I'm not doing the Snoopy happy dance. Nor the Eddie Murphy you ain't got no ice cream dance. Val is not that kind of gal. I'm simply stating a fact: I have a new body part.

Oh, my new body part is not synthetic. It's 100% all Val. And it's not a new butt cheek, like when you kind of have an inkling you might have put on an ounce or two, because when you close the door behind you, it hits you in people always caution you not to let the door hit on your way out. No. Val's new body part is not silicone, stainless steel, titanium, plastic, or nylon mesh. It does not come from a human donor, nor a pig, baboon, or cadaver. It's just Val.

Surely that's not possible, you say. Because folks are sometimes reluctant to take Val's words at face value. Like she's got some trick up her sleeve. A regular David Blaine with words is she. A prime candidate for a law career if she ever gives up her first love of summers off. I assure you. New body parts are possible.

Why, just a couple weeks ago scientists discovered a new human body part. Yep. In the knee. A new ligament. Which makes me call shenanigans. How could anybody miss this thing? Seriously. Orthopedic surgeons have been carving on people for years. Do you not think that just one time, during the millions of operations, a particular Dr. Sawbones might have shouted, "Eureka! I've found the anterolateral ligament!" Look at it! That thing is as big as a world record nightcrawler. And it's right there beside the famous lateral collateral ligament. How could this have been missed? Somebody call Gray, stat! We need abridged editions of Gray's Anatomy. The book, of course. Not the TV series.

But enough about new knee parts to tear and have repaired. Let's get back to Val. No stranger to knee surgeries, having endured two lateral meniscectomies her own self. And on the same knee, no less. Quite a feat.


It's fairly small, as knuckles go. But it's real. And it's spectacular. All purpley and puffy. Like a California raisin, but without sunglasses, and silent instead of belting out Heard It Through the Grapevine. My 11th Knuckle is on my right hand, between the pinky finger knuckle, and the ring finger knuckle. If it were vocal, it would not be singing. My 11th Knuckle would be cursing a blue streak, lambasting me for daring to interfere with Frig's ice-making organ.

I am not a doctor. Nor do I play one on TV. But for some reason, I think I can perform a coldesystectomy on my beloved Frig every couple of weeks. Tonight, it backfired. There I was, jabbing the patient's innards with a butter knife, when I whacked my hand on the unforgiving edge of the organ itself. Twice. The pain was immediate. The swelling and discoloration followed at the speed of a hummingbird's heartbeat. I could not have crushed that cute blue vein any better with a mortar and pestle. Blood cells surged out of that vein and under my skin like third-graders through a push-bar door onto a playground.

It smarts. It has a little heartbeat of its own. I call it My 11th Knuckle, but in fact I appear to have only nine now. The pinky and ring kind of ran together, with this purple connector. Of course this buttercup has toughened up in order to bring you the Val news of the day. And this is it.

I have an owie.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Wonder If Sisyphus Noticed Anything Odd About His Task

My mom has a thing about leaves. She can't stand to have crunchy autumn leaves in her yard. That would be fine if she had a gardener. A lawn boy. A groundskeeper. But she does not. She is a septuagenarian. And she lives in the woods.

Countless times I have told Mom not to worry about the leaves. Countless times she's told me they kill the grass. Grass. One would think Mom lives on the South Lawn of the White House. In the outfield of Fenway Park. On a football pitch frequented by Manchester United. She does not.

Mom lives in the woods. The grass of which she speaks is a fringe around the front porch finer than the finest of fine frog hairs. It has to be mowed, in the manner a monk with a fringe of hair must keep it trimmed or look like an unkempt bed ruffle. Must cut those strands of monky hair unless he plans to coil them into some grand bouffant comb-over to protect the middle of his scalp from ultraviolet rays. Removing dead leaves from Mom's yard will not make the canopy spread to allow sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, thus thickening her fine fringe of grass.

The method Mom uses to keep her leaves at bay is to blow them. She rakes them over to the garage area, where the cord of her electric leaf-blower will reach. Then she blows them over to the little creek. Never mind that overnight, Mother Nature and Even Steven join forces to waft those leaves back into Mom's yard. She thinks more are falling off the trees. So she rakes. And blows.

Far be it from me to deprive Mom of her favorite fall pastime. I can only advise. I'm just worried that she may break an ankle falling through a mole trail. She's not that concerned about the mole. Oh, she doesn't like him hollowing out her yard underneath those fallen leaves. But she's not gonna go all Bill Murray Caddyshack on him. The spinning metal sunflowers didn't work. Oh, well. Case of rum, case of rum. That's what Kelly Bundy would say.

So this morning, on our 6:00 a.m. phone call, Mom said that her Check Mix neighbor had called to see if she was all right after the storm passed through. "Do you have any leaves in your yard?" Mom replied that she did not have a single leaf. However, she went on to tell me that for a couple of days, she'd had a big limb that broke off a tree on her property, and was hanging partway on the road. Since that is just a blacktop outer road since the new two-lane highway went in many years ago, there's hardly any traffic except for the livers on that thoroughfare. She was not all that worried about the limb. She had thought of calling for Hick and The Pony to drag it into the yard, but they were at bowling Saturday, and Hick had been gone Friday to Jefferson City.

"Did you know that after the storm, I looked out, and that limb was gone? I walked up the driveway to see, and it was across the road in the ditch! I thought maybe I'd better get it in case there was an accident, but it was off the road, finally. Then I saw my neighbor. That new weird guy. He was walking down his driveway with one of his adult kids. I hollered, 'Hey, did you take my limb?' And he said, 'Yeah. Do you want it back?' And I said, 'Well, I can take it back if it's in your way.' And he said, 'I was going to cut it up to put in my fireplace.' So I said he could have it."

Yeah. Mom doesn't see that as weird. A guy taking her limb right after a storm, so she'd think it blew across the road. Nor does she see three bags of hedgeapples appearing on her porch as weird. And she certainly doesn't think a septuagenarian blowing leaves from the woods into a dry creek where they can blow right back overnight is weird.

But chewing on a sweet dog's nose seems odd to her.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Even Steven and Mother Nature Are Surely in Cahoots

I should have expected it, really. Nobody runs up a tab on Even Steven and gets away with it.

The past several days have been the opposite of the crap sandwich I was served a while back. It has been like dining on Beluga caviar spread on toast points laid with gold leaf, sprinkled liberally with white truffle shavings and saffron. Until today.

Yes, my life has been chugging along, right on track. We've all benefited lately from Magnanimous Mr. Even Steven. The Pony's ACT results were posted this week, and he achieved a 33 composite score. That's out of a perfect 36, mind you, and puts him right up there in the top 1% of composite ACT scores nationwide. Not too shabby for his first try, and being a lowly sophomore to boot! Hick had a day away from his workplace Friday to attend a meeting in Jefferson City. He was able to squeeze in a visit with Genius on his college campus on the way home. Plus, he scored a coup at the auction last night, with a scantily-clad pin-up girl (as opposed to those pin-up girls who wear Victorian swimsuits) on a Pepsi tray. Sure, it wasn't Coca Cola memorabilia. But it was good enough for Hick. I have no idea where he's going to find room to display it. That might require an addition onto his BARn.

What about me, you ask? I had a day off work Friday for the eye doctor, and a lengthy visit with my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel. And when I stopped for gas station chicken to bring home for supper, the chicken man threw in an extra wing! AND when I took The Pony for his promised fast-food reward after the Walmart shopping today, the girl at the drive-thru window explained that a guy who passed through earlier had left enough money to pay for the man ahead of us, and still have $3.00 left to take off our order! Of course I was grateful. Though The Pony groused that if we had been just one car quicker, our whole $6.50 tab would have been paid. Not like he would ever pay it behind for anybody. We've all learned how he is really not interested in helping people.

So, there I was, flying high, all optimistic about my Sunday afternoon, having gotten up early to do that shopping in order to get home before the storm hit. Judging from the clouds, The Pony predicted that it would reach us within ten minutes of our home arrival. He was right. I was warming up my lunch in the oven, and asked him to toss out some old bread to the chickens. He came back reporting that the rain had started. No harm, no foul. I was inside, you see, in my house impervious to rain. Hick was somewhere on the grounds, as evidenced by the unlocked door and the absence of the fleabags who trail him and his Gator like greyhounds after a mechanical rabbit. I placed my lunch on a tray and headed down to my dark basement lair to grab a little internet time. As I set that tray beside New Delly, my desktop, Even Steven stabbed me through the heart.


It flickered momentarily to give me false hope, then snapped off like a dad's big toe in a student's story about missing homework. At this moment, it is still off. My power. Not that dad's big toe. Thank goodness we found Hick in the BARn and commanded him to power up the generator. That's how I have internet. But not heat. Or lights. We have to be selective in our ampage. Computer and TV trump lights and heat.

With no estimated repair time in sight, I am settling in for a cold, dark evening. Hick immediately jumped into his Gator and took off to find the mitigating factor. Or, as he calls it, the tree that fell across the road and took down the power line. It's not far away. Just down at the bottom of our gravel hill, on the road up past the boys' land. Hick called to give me the transformer number and the pole number. I relayed that info to my brother-in-law the ex-mayor, who works for Ameren. It doesn't move us up the list for repairs, but it saves the crew from driving around looking for that tree needle in our boondocks haystack.

I wonder how many hours Even Steven will require until we are square...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Perhaps This Lady Revealed Too Much

Friday, I had my eyes checked. No, not in a nice madras plaid. I had the windows to my soul inspected. Peered into, shot with a tiny air cannon, and tested for distance with one eye tied behind my back. Or at least blocked by an impermeable barrier.

But the best part is...I had a day off work! Yeah. It's not like the optometrist makes house calls. And because my appointment was in the morning, I had the rest of the day to spend with my best old ex-teaching buddy, Mabel. Don't ponder why altruistic Val did not return to work after that medical visit. She tried that one time, and was summarily dismissed. One is encouraged to make use of an entire "sick" day, not a half, because substitutes do not like getting dressed and hauling themselves to the education factory for only a few hours. Or something like that.

Of course Mabel and I saw the entire world pass by as we nursed our breakfast biscuits for two hours at Hardee's. And by "entire world," I mean people who know us and feel the need to stop by our table to talk, or nod as they're leaving, as if to say, "We know what you did this morning." Let's hope they don't keep appearing in a yellow rain slicker, with a hook arm, trying to scare the bejeebers out of us. Contrary to popular opinion, neither of us played hooky.

After catching up on gossip, I offered to take Mabel on a tour of Backroads. Some calls it Hillmomba. I calls it Backroads. Uh huh. Mabel was all for it. I think her mind was still reeling from purchasing her personal Val Thevictorian library. She thinks I'm a genius. Who am I to argue?

Anyhoo...we took off in T-Hoe to the far reaches of the county. I could not let Mabel inside my home. This was a spur of the moment offer. I could not expose her to my hoarder house. Not that she would have to climb up on top of six feet of old pizza boxes, adult diapers, mummified cats, and gas station chicken bones to get into the living room. We're just a clutter family. Like three folded towels laying on the couch, a stack of Pisa-esque books on The Pony's end table, a couple of weeks' mail on the kitchen counter. It's not like she would be entering the lair of the Alien where victims (and future meals) were cocooned along the walls.

Mabel met my sweet, sweet Juno. And saw the goats and the yard chickens and the turkey and the guineas. She was a bit startled by the scream of the guineas, but then declared she was fascinated by their looks. If only I could box them up and mail them to her. In tiny pieces in order to rid our grounds of them for eternity. They are bullies who grab chickens by their tail feathers and sling them around for sport. Fie on those guineas!

Mabel saw all the sights, such as the original 7-year pony, the BARn, the sinkhole, Poolio, Gassy-G the grill, the compound of the guy who threatened to shoot Hick, EmBee the mailbox, the garage cast iron collection, and various other horrors too numerous to mention.

I hope she does not suffer from PTSD. After all, Mabel is the wind beneath the wings of my graduation Masters' robe sleeves. We go way back. Maybe some day I'll tell you that story. I hope she is not at this very moment changing her phone number and readying for a move to another county.

She thinks I'm a genius, you know.

Friday, November 15, 2013

CAUTION: If Symptoms Persist, See a Doctor

Oh. Hello there. You caught me in the act of hanging out my shingle. Yes. I'm nailing it right to the wall of my proposed handbasket factory. I'm a self-certified, old-age, entrepreneurial practitioner. My advice is good for what ails you, as long as what ails you is a sinus headache. I discovered the cure this morning on the way to my eye doctor appointment.

Of course Val can't go to an eye doctor appointment without first stopping by her mom's house to drop off the used tabloids from last week. Have you heard? Bill Clinton is still dying, the Queen is still dying, Camilla hates Kate, and Oprah's mom and dad are having some kind of legal battle over an affair. Anyhoo...Mom offered me no money (this is certainly a long dry spell) for my trouble. She did, however, offer me pills when I disclosed my medical status.

"Oh, I hate a sinus headache. Do you need something? A Tylenol? An ibuprofen?" I turned down Mom's drugs and tried my go-to method of sinus headache relief. I pushed my nose sideways.

Don't scoff. It works. Put your thumb and forefinger at the end of your nose bone. Right where the cartilage starts. Right there at the top of the ball of your nose. What? You don't have a nose ball? Then this cure may not be for you. It may not work for the witchy hooks and the Nixon ski-slopes. But it works for the clowny nose-balls. Yeah. Val has a nose-ball. What are you looking at?

Take your forefinger off the side of the upper nose-ball, and use your thumb to push it to one side. Sure, your nose-ball will nestle against your cheek. Your nose is out of joint. But it feels so good! The pressure in your sinuses goes away. Then there's that urge to sneeze.

This is a warning. Better not try this technique while driving. You can feel that sneeze building. Then it explodes.Atch...HOO! Bend again. Atch...HOO! Blow your nose. Again, engage in nose-ball-bending. Atch...HOO! Atch...HOO! Blow your nose again. Then repeat, using your other hand, pushing your nose-ball the other way.

Yeah. That's a sure-fire cure. It's as good as a jar of the Baldwin Sisters' remedy, or anything Granny ever concocted in her cauldron out by the cement pond.

Too bad it only lasts until you climb into your T-Hoe and head to the optometrist. When you meet up with your best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel after the appointment, and have a sausage egg biscuit, you can swallow an acetaminophen. Then, ninety minutes later, you can toss back an ibuprofen. By noon-thirty, that sinus headache will be gone.

Better jot that down if you want the cure for free. At my proposed handbasket factory, I will be listing a phone number that will cost you $5.00 per minute. Still, you're getting a sure-fire cure for a sinus headache.

That's nothing to sneeze at.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Precious Metal Baron

Little did I know that Hick was buying up precious metal resources to have on hand for the apopadopalyspe. Silly me. All I’ve done to prepare is try to capitalize on people’s fears and supply them with handbaskets.

Little did I know there was a method to Hick’s madness, way back in the summer when he hung some specimens on the end of the garage. I simply thought he wanted to junk up our easily-observable living areas along with his more-hidden creek-side cabin recreational areas. It’s bad enough that he nailed license plates to the BARn door as soon as the BARn was no longer just a gleam in his eye. They are not even our license plates. They're random flea market license plates.

No pictures of the BARn licenses, but here are the rusty garage skillets. I kind of thought a man as worldly as Hick would understand the concept of oxidation. For a day or two, these were brand spanking new shiny black used auction skillets. I'm sure you can guess which one is the newest. Oh, and for any of you rockers out there...the name Rusty Garage Skillets is available for your garage band. I'm perfectly content with Other Dogs' Anuses.

So now Hick tells me that the other night at the auction, cast iron skillets were selling for $8.00 apiece. Which is a steal, according to him. Even though he paid around $2.00 or $2.50 for most of his. He further tells me that he has over 200 cast iron items. Huh. The wife is always the last to know.

Hick declared that if anything ever happens to him, I should not regard his cast iron collection as junk, but as a valuable commodity worth several thousand dollars. I suppose if anything happens to him as a result of the apopadopalyspe, it won’t matter anyway. Because the same something would most likely happen to me. And if it didn’t, then I would most likely need those cast iron implements to whack intruding marauders trying to steal cast iron in the back of the head.

I really don’t want to travel around to auctions, selling people cast iron skillets in which to fry their Auction Meat.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Around the World Old Lady Ways

My mom had a bee in her bonnet Monday. A bee of the overcharging species, that entered her bonnet at the grocery store. Unlike her gray sweatpants, Mom's bonnet is without a hole. She was all agitated by the metaphoric bee. I could imagine her waving her non-phone hand for emphasis. Or in an unconscious effort to thwart that bonnet-bee.

"I went to Country Mart this morning to get a bag of ice and some Worcestershire sauce for my Check Mix. The Worcestershire sauce was marked 99 cents, but when I got home, I saw that they had charged me $2.78 for those two bottles. That really upset me."

"I had forgotten that I was out of oil, so I went back to Country Mart and took that receipt. The girl walked me back to that aisle, and ripped the yellow 99-cent tag off the shelf. 'You take this to the register, show them your receipt, and tell them they were supposed to take the tag down.' So I got my refund. I know it cost me more in gas than 80 cents, but I sure felt better."

"Oh, and when I got back, I was about to pull into my driveway when I noticed that card I was going to mail for Genius laying on the front seat. I know there was no mail today, but I had meant to mail that card. It always goes out on Tuesday morning. So I just kept on going past my house, and hit the highway and went back to town to the post office."

"Your sister [the ex-mayor's wife] is out of town, you know. They went to a funeral for that man who was out cutting wood and died. No, it wasn't a heart attack. Let's see...did a limb fall on him? No! They were stacking the wood, and the whole pile fell on him. It was so sad. He was related to the ex-mayor, you know. He married a Hatfield. Well, her mother was a Hatfield. But she was a McCoy...So your sister told me that if I got my paper delivered on Veteran's Day, that I should go to her house to pick hers up so people wouldn't know they were gone. So as soon as I got my paper this afternoon, I went over to get hers."

"Mom. You mean you made FOUR trips to town today?"

"Well...I guess I did!"

"You could have driven across several states in that time."

"Yes. I'm staying home tomorrow!"

That's my mom. Nobody would dare call her a shut-in. She might have even made another trip she forgot to mention. To look for slaw.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Say It Ain't So, Cole

I don't mean to alarm you. Perhaps you should sit down. I'll try to break it to you gently. I had no idea until my mom filled me in.


Okay, so Mom didn't KNOW there was a slaw shortage. She just thought people had been eating a lot of slaw lately, and she was always too late when she got to the store. You know how Mom loves slaw. She first noticed that Walmart was out two weeks ago. And has been out every time she shops there, which is a couple of times a week. She asked a lady behind the deli counter what was the deal with the slaw, and that lady had no answer, other than to get a look of suspicion on her face, and point out that she could sell Mom some slaw made in the deli, languishing in a bowl in the glass case. Mom turned her down. She knew she could get her slaw elsewhere, in descending order of preferred providers.

Mom's back-up slaw vendor is Save A Lot. Their shelf was also bereft of that tasty cabbage treat. As were the shelves of number three, Aldi's, and her last choice, Country Mart. Yes, there was no coleslaw. Nada. All gone. It got to the point that Mom had to voice her concern in one of our 6:00 a.m. phone calls.

"Do you have any slaw? I haven't been able to find it anywhere. Everybody seems to be out."

"No, I haven't bought any in a couple of weeks. But I did notice on Saturday that Walmart was out. And they were also out of that red-skin potato salad that we like. I just figured that since it was Saturday night, other people had already bought it, and they needed to restock."

"Well, I thought that at first. But I can't find it anywhere!"

"I'll see what I can find out."

Yesterday, my work was all caught up at 7:45 a.m., so I consulted my BFF Google while waiting for first bell. What I found out would curl your hair. Or, if you're of the Charlie Brown's friend Freida style of naturally curly hair, the news will straighten it.


I know! It's a sign of the apopadopalyspe, if you listen to Hick. Who is slightly fond of slaw, but has not yet been updated on this calamity. Oh, I suppose you might find slaw in various hole-in-the-wall joints, or on the black market, or at auctions. But Reser's Fine Foods, Inc. the main supplier for Walmart and Sam's Club, and a plethora of other chains/brands has voluntarily recalled all packaged salad items. Including my red-skin potato salad.

During my plan time, I called Mom to fill her in. The old gal is taking it hard. I don't expect to be an Any-Dollar Daughter for quite some time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

If It Weren't For Bad Judgment, We'd Have No Judgement At All

When we last convened, I was telling tales inside the educational facility. How Hick and my mom had been all set to chow down on some chicken and dumplings from the basketball team fundraiser, but were force-fed chili instead. 

We went our separate ways. Hick drove T-Hoe back to the Walmart lot to pick up his car to go auctioning. The Pony and I did a rare Saturday-night shop. He almost forgot the two-dollar bribe that I give him for the game room. I guess there were more checkers on duty on a Saturday night, because the lines moved quickly. My gal was ignorant in the ways of bagging like-shaped and like-temperatured items together, but she was fast. I was done before The Pony had finished his first race. I parked my cart beside his machine to watch.

"I still have a dollar left!" He put it in. Chose his track. Some kind of southern California road, with palm trees and ocean views. It did not help that he reared his red car back in a wheelie at the start, burning rubber and showing off, immediately placing himself in 6th. To paraphrase Rooster Cogburn speaking of his stepson, Horace, who must have broke forty cup...I'll just say that a recklesser driver I've never seen than The Pony. That boy must have destroyed forty light poles. Who knew that a car could drive right through buildings? Though we all know that flowers raining down like...well...rain after a trip through the middle of a roundabout does not portend well for a first-place finish. The Pony was lucky to escape with 3rd, and without a summons. "All done."

"Here's the keys!" I handed them over under the grimace of a woman who had been sitting in one of those vibrating recliners, watching the race play out. The absurdity of the situation hit me. "Is this irony?"

The Pony looked sheepish. "Maybe." It's not as if I was giving him the keys to drive T-Hoe. He gets there quicker to click the clicker and start readying T-Hoe's rear to receive our load.

That's our routine. He hands me back the keys so they don't get lost, piles in the groceries, covers the cold stuff with my winter coat, and takes back the cart. I get in and write down the debit amount in my checkbook, then give The Pony and myself a squirt of green apple Germ-X that I carry in my purse. Can't be too careful when touching objects the masses have pawed all day.

I opened up my driver's door. There, on the black leather seat, was a mark. I don't know what it was. Maybe Hick had some type of chili remnant on his pants, a smashed bean, perhaps, wiped from his man-hands. Maybe he had scooted across the seat like a dog dragging its butt, and a rivet on his jeans left a scratch. I licked my finger and rubbed. I'd like to be able to tell you that the blemish wiped away. But I can't. Because I don't remember.


It was all I could do not to go Charlie-Brown Lucy, and scream for disinfectant. After all, my lips have touched dog-nose. My tongue, too. So I dialed the horror down a notch. But that didn't keep me from screaming at The Pony, "I can't believe I just licked my finger that has been on a Walmart cart! I'm going to wake up with hepatitis!" He chuckled. So supportive. We know he doesn't really have any desire to help people, after that ACT interest inventory. Still. I was shocked at his lack of concern.

When we got home, The Pony trotted into the living room to put his phone on the windowsill for an unlimited internet boost. He cradled a package of Jet-Puffed mini-marshmallows like a baby. "I think I'll have a snack on my marshmallows. Mmm. Smell them. They smell like marshmallows." I humored him.

"Yes. What were they supposed to smell like?"

"I just meant that I haven't opened them yet. And even through the package, they smell like marshmallows." He leaned his head over and LICKED THE PLASTIC!

"What are you doing? You know that's been laying around in Walmart, with people pawing at it all day, right? And now, you're LICKING it? I'm going to wake up with hepatitis, and you're going to wake up with hoof-and-mouth disease!"

Sometimes, we do not use good sense. Next thing you know, we'll be tasting Auction Meat.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Guess Hick and Mom Never Listened to the Rolling Stones

Our routine was disrupted this weekend. Hick did not work on Saturday. We spent the afternoon/early evening at school, at a basketball fundraiser game. Hick went eagerly, upon the promise of chicken and dumplings. That's what the poster above the drinking fountain advertised. Chili, and chicken and dumplings. My mom even decided to join us. She was one step ahead, bringing her own containers to get carry-out. For a good cause, you know. To help our basketball teams raise money. Hick got wind of her plan, and told me to take a container to bring home chicken and dumplings. I can't make them. Only the quick kind with cream of chicken soup and tortillas.

We all drove separately. Except The Pony, of course. That would have been illegal. And ill-conceived. Hick planned to drop by the auction later in the evening, so we picked him up on the Walmart parking lot for the trip to school. After the games, The Pony and I could do our shopping before heading home, and Hick could go on to the auction.

During the intra-squad games, Hick decided he was going to grab a bite of supper. He headed for the cafeteria for some chicken and dumplings. I swear he was salivating. Mom kept an eye on him. She wanted a piece of that chicken and dumpling pie.

Hick returned to our seats at the rail, overlooking the gym floor. "There's no chicken and dumplings."

"What? Did you eat it all?"

"No. They didn't have it."

"But the signs said chicken and dumplings!"

"Well, nobody at the counter seemed to know anything about it. I had chili. And it was spicy. Look at my head sweat! It's already talking back to me." He thumped his fist on his chest.

My mom got wind of the chili talk. "There's no chicken and dumplings? You said there'd be chicken and dumplings!"

"I know. That's what the signs said. I can't believe there's no chicken and dumplings! Will you still want chili? Hick says it's spicy. I know you don't like spicy things."

"Well, I brought my containers. I was looking forward to chicken and dumplings. I guess I'll still get some chili. I was going to eat chicken and dumplings tonight and tomorrow."

"If you put in a lot of crackers, and maybe a dash of sugar, and sprinkle in some shredded cheddar...I think it will be bland enough for you."

Mom nodded. She hadn't brought in containers for nothing, by cracky! She dug through her purse and handed Hick a bag of sugar-free Starlight Mints. "Do you need a Tums? I have one in my purse. Wait! No. I took it out."

Hick stopped giving himself the gently Heimlich. "Those mints will be okay. I don't need a Tums." He stuffed several in his pocket, and handed back the bag. My mom does not eat sugar-free mints. She brings them for Hick. Ever since that time she gave him butterscotch and I asked if she was trying to kill him. They bandied words over the Starlights, and Hick ended up stuffing the whole bag in his pocket. For the car.

Mom and The Pony headed to my classroom to grab her containers. Hick had reported the chili price as $3.00 per bowl. Mom wanted to buy $4.00 worth. She asked for a dipper and a third. The kids running the snack bar put in a little too much. "Give me back my four ones. Here. Take five dollars out of this twenty." They looked at her like she was crazy, but did as she said. "I was really wanting some chicken and dumplings, but I guess I'll just have to settle for chili." They cracked. They spilled the beans that the girls' team was supposed to bring chili, and the boys' team was supposed to bring chicken and dumplings.

I sure hope that money goes to the girls' team! The promise of chicken and dumplings is a terrible thing to waste.

And for Hick and Mom, sing it with me now..."You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Val is Ready to File a MalHardwarePractice Suit

Dear Supreme Ruler of the Technological Universe:

Please. I implore you. Do whatever it takes to repair my most beloved and daily-utilized piece of electronic equipment, hereafter referred to as "Pro."

Pro is dying. It's a lingering, painful death. Painful for me. Pro sees spots. Pro HAS spots. Everybody withing eyeshot sees the pox that has befallen Pro. Each day, Pro is one step closer to succumbing to his affliction. Each day, 200 eyes and 100 mouths plead with me to put Pro out of our misery.

It has been 26 days since I consulted a specialist in an effort to cure Pro of what ails him. Pro had only 100-or-so spots at that time. Now Pro looks like a map of the universe. That's 26 days. Which is 20 school days. Times 100 mouths. That means 2000 comments have flooded my ears since Pro fell ill. "Hey! There are more spots! Look at Pro now. I know what's going to happen. Pro will be one big spot. Then he'll be DEAD!"

Please. I implore you. Bump Pro to the top of your transplant list. Surely he (and we) have suffered enough. What could be more pressing after 26 days? Is there an all-electronic death panel of sorts? I don't care if you have to send your minion during after-school hours, clad in a fur-lined parka, flashlight strapped to his head, puffing exhalations like Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow to combat the programmed thermostat. Pro must be treated. Stat! Before he dies, and I am forced to soldier on like an 1800s school marm.

Please. I implore you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Say Hello to My Little Twins

They're heeeere!

Today I received my contributor copies of Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. I have not yet cracked their spines, but I know that blog buddy Donna Volkenannt is between the covers with me. Donna and me and 29 of our spookiest peers.

Ghost-hunt up one of these for yourself. Read the creepy tales while the porch witches are still astride their broomsticks. In Backroads, anyway. Folks are slow to undecorate in these parts.

Yep. Read 'em and you eschew proper decorum just before jumping out of your skin. Read 'em and creep...upstairs to bed in hopes of going unnoticed by unseen entities. Read 'em and heap...layers of blankets over your head and feet so nothing can grab you as you snooze. Read 'em and keep...the lights on all night as if that will hold spirits at bay. Read 'em and leap...out of your skin at the spine-tingling parts. Read 'em and peep...around corners before entering a room. Read 'em and weep...because these Read 'Ems are over now!

What else do you have to do all winter? Grab a hot beverage, prop your feet up in front of the fireplace, and enter the world of the unexplained.

What's that behind you?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Renegade in the Tahoe

I ran a stoplight this morning. That means I drove through when the light was on red. Just in case there was any doubt. It was a deliberate, premeditated act. I was not apprehended. I was not even chased. Though I cannot say I was without witnesses. And accomplices.

My life of crime began around 6:50 a.m. The Pony and I had just entered the Backroads city limits. I reined in T-Hoe to a respectable 30 mph. Just like the sign commanded. Also, that section passes by the mini-mall that used to house the police department. Two school buses pulled out from a side street and beat me to the traffic light. There were a couple of other vehicles already waiting. As I neared the intersection, the last bus went through. But I had a red light. So I stopped. I was not yet a criminal.

The line to my left got its turn. They had just come off the highway exit. I imagine some were heading to the drive-thru liquor store that seems to do a good business every morning. There was no line to my right, because that's the on ramp that heads up to the highway. The oncoming cars got their turn next. A few made lefts with their arrow, crossing in front of me to reach their highway access. Others came straight through. Then their light turned red. I know that, because they all stopped. It was now my line's turn. OR WAS IT?

The line to my left got the green arrow again! I could see it, and they again proceeded from their highway exit ramp toward the drive-thru liquor store area. WHEN WAS MY TURN? I had waited at least two whole minutes. And that's not even a two-minute light. More like 30 seconds. Again, the oncoming line had their turn. Stopped. Nobody was moving. There were no cars in the oncoming left turn lane.


Fair is fair. My line was skipped on two turns. Traffic was piling up behind me. It happened a few weeks ago coming from the other direction, with a left-turn arrow. Cars honked, and veered into a parking lot to cut through the light. I was in no mood for that this morning. I took my chances. Funny how the line of traffic behind me followed like I was some Pied Piper of Poor Driving Skills. The next two lights worked. Meaning that they were green, and I drove right through them. The better to make my getaway. It also helped that another school bus was directly behind me, defending my rear flank. I almost had me a convoy, rollin' through the morning, though short of 11 long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus.

After weaving up the side street by the funeral home, and down in front of the dead-mouse-smelling post office, and up the wide rich-house street to go past the lake...I was pretty much in the clear. I narrowly avoided a long rock-hauler and a reckless dump truck rounding a bridge curve near the shooting range at 50 mph instead of the intermittently-enforced 20 mph. That extra time at the red light might have been a deciding factor to avoiding smashage. I came out to the main road by the bank that shorts my mom $10 and won't cash her dividend check, I saw by their clock that I was exactly two minutes behind schedule.

Good thing I broke the law. Today was my duty day. It doesn't pay to be late on duty day. A call goes over the intercom, in the principal's voice: "I AM ON DUTY IN THE (parking lot/cafeteria/gym/hall) BECAUSE THE TEACHER WHO IS SCHEDULED IS NOT." Which is a signal for all the teachers to grab their handbooks and look up whose turn it is. For future blackmail material.

I might still be sitting at that red light now if I had not taken traffic into my own hands and foot.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Nut Case

Leave it to my mom to draw attention to herself, even when not wearing her gray sweatpants with the hole in the knee.

I might not have known about her latest attempt to grab the spotlight, had she not confessed last night at 10:30. Then again, her likeness might have been splashed across the airwaves as Public Enemy #2. Not #1. Hick is Public Enemy #1.

This month, the local news has shown a guy caught on surveillance cameras, robbing church collection boxes. Mom chose a more populated target.

"Oh, my. I have to tell you this. I went to Walmart this morning to pick up a few things. When I got outside, I saw a can of nuts rolling around. What? In the cart. It wasn't in a bag. So I wondered, did I put that there? Was it already in the cart when I started pushing it? I had nuts on my list. I'm making Check Mix for the church bazaar. I sent Genius a letter about the bazaar, but I think I spelled it wrong, with two Zs. He's probably laughing at me. What? Oh. So all my other groceries were in the bags. I wondered if the nuts might have rolled out as I pushed the cart. I got in the car with the nuts, and checked my receipt. Would you believe that the nuts were not on the receipt? So then I started to worry. What if they saw me leave without paying? I don't remember putting the nuts on the conveyor. The girl came around to scan some soda that I had in my cart. But she didn't scan the nuts. IF they were mine. She should have seen them in there. What? Uh huh. I wanted the nuts. So I got to thinking, that girl might get in trouble if her register was short. I took that can of nuts and walked back in. Not in a bag or anything. Just in my hands. And I went over to that girl, and explained that I found them in my cart when I got to the car, but they were not on the receipt, so I was bringing them back in to pay for them. And do you know what that girl said? 'WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST TAKE THEM?' Can you believe that? I told her no, that I was not that kind of person, and I could not just take them. I didn't pay for them. I told her she would probably see me now every time I came in, and hope that I didn't come through her line."

"Well, she SHOULD be hoping that she doesn't see you in the store, telling everyone that story, and that all those people rush to her line hoping to get something free."

"Oh, you're terrible. I have not had a very good day. I went to the bank to put in my dividend check, and all they sent back through the canister was a slip of paper. So I pushed that call button and said, 'I wanted to cash that check, and all I got was a piece of paper. I'm waiting for my cash.' And do you know what they told me? They can't cash that check. So I said, 'You've been cashing it for nine years now. I don't know why you can't cash it today.' So the girl left for a while, and when she finally came back she said that they could give me my money today, because So-and-So had signed for me. There is no need for anyone to sign for me! That is my dividend check!"

"Was that the same girl who shorted you $10 that time you deposited a check and wanted cash back?"

"Yes! I don't even think she got into any trouble for that. She's still working there."

"I hope she's not scamming old people. I think that next time, I would go inside if I was you, and make sure I didn't get that girl to wait on me."

"I KNOW! I was thinking exactly the same thing. I'm staying home tomorrow. I've had enough of this."

"I know exactly how you feel, Mom."

From one nut case to another. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Who's Waking Who

Can you believe Hick had the nerve to complain that he wishes he could sleep at night? I know, right? What kind of selfish bunk is THAT? Like I keep him awake, filling his hand with shaving cream, then tickling under his nose with a feather so he splats that white foam into his mouth. Like I roast some midnight marshmallows over the stove burner using my four-pronged mystery gadget, setting off the smoke alarm, then scream, "FIRE!" Like I rummage through the kitchen cabinets, dropping assorted canned goods, then, when picking them up, then exclaim, "JOAN OF ARC CHILI BEANS!" Wait. That last one was my sister-the-ex-mayor's-wife, back when we were teenagers, on Saturday mornings, when I was trying to sleep until noon.

Yes, the guy who goes to bed at 9:00 and arises at 5:30 has the nerve to complain to the gal who goes to bed at 1:00 and arises at 4:50. The guy who sprays ice cold breather air onto the back of the gal's neck as she attempts to snag 20 winks wants her to know that she is keeping him awake. Even though he never responds coherently after bellowing a complaint when his arm is excavated from the gal's pillow tower. I suppose his sore foot could be keeping him awake. The foot he uses to jab and pummel my legs throughout my brief mattress interlude. Though his precious little feet, the envy of Pearl-S.-Buck-Chinese-farmer's wives everywhere, should be satisfied roasting under the toasty quilt. Unlike my own feet, exposed to the elements and underbed monsters, due to that quilt my grandma made me being hiked up to the headboard.

Hick explained to me, in simple terms, like I was a non-English-speaking tourist, but without the high-decibel tone he adopts for phone-talk, that he repositioned that quilt for my benefit. Because I complain (such an exaggeration, as we all know) that he blasts me with icy breather air. Yes. That selfless husband of mine is actually self-suffocating in order to appease his better half.

It is not my fault that Hick repels the elusive ZZZZZZs like oil seeking water.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Framers of the Tauntitution

I omitted one tiny detail yesterday. It was an honest mistake. Really. Not like I was trying to cover up a crime. Give the alleged perpetrator the benefit of the doubt. Nope. I simply forgot. Actually, I forgot two tiny details.

As The Pony and I came up the driveway with the groceries jostling in the carpeted rear of T-Hoe, we saw that Hick's oldest son, a regular adult, was visiting with him on the brick sidewalk between the garage and the house. Juno scampered hither and yon, unable to decide whether to greet us and the groceries, or revel in the attention of the once-a-week visitor.

Of course she chose me. It had nothing to do with the bags of foodstuffs. Of that I am sure. Juno does not bother the provisions. That's just a rumor started by Hick, perpetuated by The Pony. For no good reason other than to smear Juno's stellar reputation. Green-eyed jealousy will make both man and beast discredit another for their own benefit.

The Pony ran inside with his laptop and other precious traveling possessions. As I was getting the bags out of the back hatch to set on the side porch for The Pony's return, I heard Hick raising a ruckus.

"Juno! Get back here! Give me my glove!"

At no time did I see Juno with a glove. All I could see through the garage door was her shiny black twisting rumpus and feathery swinging tail. She squirms like that when she wants attention. As I came out onto the sidewalk, I said, "There you go, blaming my dog again."

"She had my glove! It's the last one left. I guess she ran off with the other one yesterday!"

"Oh, sure. Like she wants your glove."

"I just pried it out of her mouth!"

"I didn't see that." Heh, heh. You've got to get up pretty early in the morning and shove a couple of dozen brown jersey work gloves in Juno's mouth and take a picture of it to fool me. Criminy! You can get those gloves for $0.09888888 apiece! It's not like this special pup stole the Hope Diamond.

I set down the first batch of bags and went back for more. The Pony snatched them up and took them inside. The next load included cold foods. A long Walmart deli sandwich stuck out of one plastic sack. Juno was trying to get to me for our lovefest. It just so happens that her tasty, rubbery black nose inadvertently landed upon the cellophane wrapper of that sandwich where it stuck out of the bag. An accident. I'm sure.

"Juno! Get your nose out of the groceries!" The Pony had a smirk on his face. He was taunting me. I'm sure. He's such a trickster.

"She was only coming to me. See there? What a sweet girl you are, Juno!" Let the record show that I spoke in a clipped manner, and kept my jaw partially locked in order to maintain a minimal mouth opening. My doubters rolled their collective eyes.

I did not feel that it was the right time to compliment Juno on her silky shiny coat. I'm sure it cannot be attributed to anything supplementing her diet while we are away from home for ten hours a day. No. My sweet, sweet Juno did not need validation for her healthy fur.

Somebody might have gotten the wrong idea.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

If You Can't Hang With the Mean Cats, Stay On the Porch

The Great Porch Board Replacement Project continued today.

Hick donned a glowing orange hooded sweatshirt and commenced to prying with the temperature hovering around 37 degrees this morning. The Pony enjoyed a brief reprieve while assisting me with a beans-and-ham delivery to my mom, a T-Hoe gassing, and the weekly grocery shopping. I know he did not mind waiting until the weather warmed up. Yesterday he was all decked out in camouflage pants, orange-and-gray shoes, white socks, a red-and-white striped shirt, a navy blue hoodie with tan fleece lining, and beige women's Isotoner gloves. No. It was not his Halloween costume.

All night I worried that the animals would plunge to their respective tragic, sad, unfortunate, untimely, unnoticed, just-deserved, and long-awaited demises. Juno was my prime concern. She's a flighty girl, gallivanting to and fro with abandon. Ann the black shepherd is just plain not-smart. She's always anxious, so I figured she would roll the whites of her muddy brown eyes and give that hole a wide berth. Tank the beagle has intermittent, mysterious back problems, and has been observed walking on two legs. That's right. TWO legs. I refused to believe Hick, then I saw it for myself. Opposite corners. He could run better than he could walk. However, he's been in some kind of four-legged remission for months, so I was pretty sure he would not topple down below.

The cats are another story. Genius the orange tabby, the brains of the outfit, has previously returned after a month-long disappearance, cheats death daily by getting under Hick's feet, and appears to have many lives left. Dusty the crumpled-eared gray tortoiseshell comes and goes, mostly avoiding people unless she wants that nasty ear scratched. She might have slipped through the giant crack. Simba the tan tabby is too evil to succumb to a mere hole in the floor, so I figured I would see him live to taunt the likeable pets another day. But that black-and-white tuxedo cat, Stockings, who weighs about 40 pounds and avoids us like the plague, only using us to supply him with $80 worth of generic Meow Mix every month, was not on my worry list.

Those cats are all virtually indestructible. They run along the rail overlooking the ten-foot drop as insouciantly as if they were running across a cheese field riddled with mice. Every now and then, one puts a foot wrong and disappears momentarily over the side, only to pop his head up over the edge and drag himself purposefully back like that metal T-1000 man with the hook arms in Terminator 2 piercing the trunk of the car John Connor was in, pulling himself right up on it.

Our flying felines can't wait for me to pull T-Hoe into the garage. Hick's hanging ghost pants be darned! These cats hop onto T-Hoe's rubber bumper, onto the slick, slick black hood, up the windshield, onto the roof, up onto the open garage door, into the rafters, and weave through that elevated maze like Ms. PacMan without the noise. You might wonder how they gain purchase on T-Hoe's smooth slanted metal. CLAWS! I have a feeling the insurance company will not believe those marks were an act of nature.

Upon my last project inspection, all boards were in place, save the one directly under the rail. It remains rotten. But I usually don't shove my foot under the rail when I walk across the porch.

Now if I could just keep the chickens from pooping on the side of the porch by the BARn...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

You'd Best Watch Your Step, By Cracky!

 Doo, doo, doo, lookin' out my back door!

Hick is replacing rotten boards on the back porch, just outside the kitchen door. They're only fifteen years old. According to Hick, they should not have rotted. It's due to his homebuilding carpenter not leaving a gap between the boards like he should have. A pencil-width would suffice, according to Hick. Except that suffice part. Hick would never use a word like suffice.

This is the part of the porch that veers around to the right side of the picture, past the kitchen nook sticky-outy part, that is not under roof. The porch, not the kitchen. What kind of kitchen would that be, without a roof? Not Val's kind of kitchen. She needs a proper kitchen, to use for warming things in the oven, or heating them in the microwave.

Hick and his apprentice, The Pony, spent all afternoon prying up boards, tossing them over the brink, and screwing down new planks. According to Hick, the nonexistent cracks of the rotten boards were "...full of cat hair and dog hair. The water couldn't seep through. So they rotted." By tomorrow, I'm sure my sweet, sweet Juno will be the sole fur purveyor for all boards rotten.

I hope the animals have good night vision. The cats are wont to hop up on the porch rail and tightrope walk while taunting the dogs. The dogs take a shortcut from the house of Juno by the kitchen door around to their food dishes on the other side. I'm sure they will be leery of the opening. That's about a ten-foot drop.

The internet was slow today, my friends. Slow. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli. Oh, wait. That's the angry sea. Not the slow internet. Hick was not exactly driving Titleist golf balls off the back deck. But my internet has really been slow tonight. Twelve minutes to load that picture. You're welcome.

Hopefully nobody will decipher my location, and show up to fall through that hole, just to sue me for an attractive nuisance. Except it's not all that attractive. I suppose I need orange cones and yellow tape to cordon off the area. Everybody's out to gain a quick buck these days, maimed limbs be darned.

I will be relieved when this project is over.