Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Next Thing You Know, Val's Picture Will Be Hanging in the Dead-Mouse-Smelling Post Office

When we last convened, I was having no issue returning an unfitting mattress pad for cash at the Walmart Disservice Center.

So...shed of my crackly faulty unused mattress pad, I turned that cart on two wheels and headed back to the bedding section. That's what everybody does, right, after buying three different crackly faulty mattress pads? Goes directly to that aisle and buys another one?

That $20.53 was virtually burning a hole in my pocket. Must. Buy. Another. Mattress. Pad. I parked my walker/cart beside the shelves. The mattress pads were on a long aisle going across the store. To catch your attention, I suppose. They morphed into quilts and fleece blankets and thirsty towels. The humdrum sheets and comforters and pillow cases ran down shorter aisles, from front to back. Yes. These mattress pads were the bait. The carrot in that wooden box propped up by a stick.

I found Quiet Comfort, which I believe is the Walmart brand, as it was the cheapest and the first three choices of Hick. Then there was Simmons Beautyrest. But I chose the third option. The mid-price just-right Goldilocks version, Serta. Sure, it was two-and-a-half times the price of my refund. But sometimes, you actually get what you pay for. It's still hermetically sealed in its airtight zippered clear-plastic cube. Unlike a certain date of Elaine Benes, we're afraid to take it out. I really hope nobody bought this one and took it home to see if it would fit on their bed, then shoved it back in the plastic and returned it! That would just be wrong. But that's not the story!

As I stood plopping one mattress pad pod after the other onto the child seat area of my cart/walker, unzipping them and fingering the fill and the stretchy fitted part...a "janitor" swept by me. Yes. A little dude with a short push broom. I think he was wearing a flannel shirt, and he might have also had on a blue Walmart vest. I would be a terrible crime witness. I did perceive him as shorter than me, and because of that, I could see that his sandy man-mullet was thinning on top. He came right up behind me, from the main front-to-back aisle that separates the hardware section from housewares. Yes. I had come that way myself, from the pharmacy where I picked up toothpaste and face soap for Genius. This guy could have been a bloodhound on my trail. Or McGruff sans raincoat.

Sweeper came right up to my heels, then veered off at a right angle down the king/queen sheet sets. I had made my decision by now, and hmpfed at his audacity to get right up on me before turning. I can get that on the backroads of Backroads anyday. Off I went, straight down my aisle, to the center of the store. I zigged a couple aisles toward the back, then zagged back across to Men's Wear. Pony needs a new pair of pants. He doesn't so much need them as wants them, in an unspoken manner, pants with a watch pocket to encase his new pocket watches. The Pony is not a fan of jeans, preferring cargo pants with loose legs and large pockets. But he'll make an exception for his precious Christmas watches.

There I was, perusing straight legs, boot cuts, and carpenters for acceptable Ponywear. I'll be ding dang donged if Sweeper didn't appear out of thin air and cut down the Dickies aisle behind my jeans table! What a coincidence that was! Almost as if he had followed my exact path. In no way did he have time to sweep up and down all those aisles in between.

I tossed a pair of carpenters into the cart, and headed on across the store to find Little Debbie. Genius is home, and there's a shortage. I had to veer two aisles up toward the front of the store. Little Debbie dwells across from the first freezer case. I imagine her people are also frozen pizza people. Wouldn't you know it, I had left my glasses at home. After that whole month of being without them, they're a second thought. I bent down to grab a box of Cosmics. Drat! It was a regular box. Not the large economy size. A regular box would not last two days around this Genius-ridden abode.

I put it back, and moved my walker/cart a few feet along, still squinting. A rough-looking lady was standing back, most likely having the opposite vision issue as mine, needing to press her back up against the glass freezer doors in order to see. "Are you looking for the big box? Because I saw you put back the regular one. And right down there on the very end, beside it, is the big box." She bent over and snagged it for me. A regular person-helping person.

"Thank you so much! That's just what I was looking for. I don't have my glasses." I put Little Debbie in my cart/walker, and was just about to wheel around and head to the deli for a big Ranch Cobb Salad, when I slammed on my walker/cart brakes.


That, my friends, is no coincidence. I was being mattress-pad profiled! Seriously. Are the surveillance cameras not good enough? Does security doubt that any employee (and I'm including Granny and Grampy Greeter) would be able to catch me totin' my purloined mattress pad out of the store? Have you ever seen a Walmart janitor? Not me. Not unless they call for a cleanup on a specific aisle. Really? A janitor taking the exact same path through the ten-acre store as Val, at 11:30 on a Monday morning? I don't think so.

I really think Sweeper could have better spent his time following the Grandpa/Grandson Played-Gamers, or the Fairy Barbie Frauds.

Let me steal a bit from Uncle Kracker:

I don't know how you found me
I don't know why
I really wish you'd turn around and say goodbye
All I know is when you're with me
I just ain't free
Who told you to push that broom and follow me?

Follow me? That's against my rights
I'm lookin' for a mattress pad to sleep at night
If a fake-return thief is what you're hopin' to find
I'm not the one who's going to steal you blind.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Returning to the Scene of the Whine

You might recall that Hick was off work all last week. So it's only fitting that he assigned about-town chores to Genius and me today, since he has gone back to work and can't follow through.

Genius drew the License Office short straw. Heh, heh. You can be sure there was no actual straw-drawing involved. No way would I take a chance on going back to that den of incompetent photo-takers. I suppose Hick saw that job as more manly than returning the unfittable moisture-barrier mattress pad. That was my delightful duty. Uh huh. On the Monday after Christmas, when folks flock to Walmart to return "gifts" they have tired of, or have worn out, or just want to trade in their old belongings for new items.

In the past, I have had issues with Walmart Customer Disservice. No matter whether I had my receipt and pristine purchase, others around me would be serviced while I was put through the task of jumping through hoops. Seriously. What am I, a person who makes a living returning stolen goods? Standing in line at the Walmart Customer Disservice Center is not worth it. Better to suck out septic tanks with a crazy straw than go through that maze every day with unminded kids flinging items out of the return cart and bearded mountain men banging on the CoinStar machine.

So off I headed to complete my task. Begrudgingly. I had my receipt. My bag of moisture-barrier bed cover. My driver's license. A story that would hold up in court. I snagged a cart in the parking lot to use as a walker. Plopped my faulty purchase in the child-seat part of the cart. Headed in the EXIT door. That drives The Pony crazy, but he wasn't with me today. Besides, everybody does it at the Backroads Walmart. AND they go out the ENTRANCE. That's because the doors are wonky. I pushed my bone-rattling walker across those rough entrance tiles. Looked for the greeter to put a sticker on my mattress cover. But there was no greeter. That's a bad omen. The last time I returned something without a greeter, I was detained longer than normal while my interrogators espoused that there was ALWAYS a greeter, and I should have a sticker, because how else do they know I didn't just bring in my receipt from the previous day, and hike through the store to grab an item, and come back up front to get a Walmart card for the amount of the item? Huh. I don't know. Maybe review the last five minutes of all that surveillance footage from the 50 cameras?

This time, I was 9th in line. Dang that Hick and his ignorant bedding-buying ways! A people-watcher would have had a heyday in this queue. Unfortunately, the lady behind me had brought a couple of her little people-watchers. I'm not a kid-hater, but if you're not my kid, and you're not my student, I don't really want to have anything to do with you, unless you're an infant with fat little bare feet, which are, like, the best part of a baby, and quite aesthetically pleasing. This little people-watcher made a point of walking all the way up beside my cart and turning to stare into my face. Go away, pest. I'm not talking to you. Go mind your business. I'm not a clown handing out balloon animals. You've got to be at least eight years old. Get some manners. You'd have thought I was that old woman Elaine Benes volunteered to visit, complete with a football-sized goiter jutting out of my neck. Get your peepers off of me, you little creeper.

As I waited. And waited. I noticed an alarming trend. The Customer Disservice clerks were actually servicing people. ALL people. No matter what they plopped on the counter. An old man and 6ish-year-old boy had a game in a green case. I don't know my games, but I'm guessing Xbox or an equivalent. There was clearly no wrapping on the case. The clerk looked all around it. Popped it open. Turned to her colleague and asked what she should do. Colleague nodded. "Refund it." Are you freakin' kidding me? As if that was not an obvious enough case of a kid taking back a game he already played, the kid shouted, "YEAH!" and pumped his fist. Grampy tried to calm him down with a glance and a hand on his shoulder.

THEN the lady in front of me stepped up with her little girl of around 5, and set a Fairy Barbie kind of toy on the counter. I'm not sure, because I'm not a Barbie collector or a girl-toy aficionado. But it was a slim standing doll in a green flowery base kind of toy. No box. No wrapping. Like it was right out of the toy box. No questions asked. Just two statements. "My daughter got this for Christmas, and she has one." "Okay. We'll need you to go get one in a box so I can scan the price."

Seriously? That guy from the convenience store in Florida who caught an alligator in the park and tried to trade it for beer should have driven up here to Backroads. He could use his Walmart cash refund to buy his beer.

You might be thinking I was given a hard time with my cash-paid receipt and crackly mattress pad. Nope. That clerk took the receipt, forked over my cash, didn't even ask to see my driver's license (you know how disappointed I was not to have a chance to show off that picture), and told me to have a nice day.

You might think that's too simple an ending for Val. It is. The rest of the story tomorrow.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thevictorian People Problems

My arm fell off, the baby disappeared, my son is on his way to the moon, and our bed is too obese for protection. The universe conspires.

Last night, my arm fell off. "But Val," you say, "you must be a world-class one-handed typer. Have we overworked you, dear, by stopping by, rain or shine, one arm or two, to see what words of wisdom or despair you wish to share with us each day? We meant you no harm. You are down one appendage, and still you carry on. So, Val, this is just to say

We have read them
the words
right here on
your blog page

words which
you painstakingly
for our laughs

forgive us
they're hilarious
so neat
and so bold."

Yes, I appreciate the sentiment. I am still able to type. My arm did, indeed, clank to the cold tile floor. The left arm of my best-Christmas-gift-ever red-cushioned five-wheeled adjustable office chair. Chairy had a hard life. Gave me her best years. But now has grown decrepit. As much time as I spend with my buttocks pressed to her seat, I'd say she's about 187 in chair years. Oh, Chairy's metal skeleton still remains. It was only a plastic-flesh wound. But now I'm unbalanced. Hush. It's not polite to murmur amongst yourselves, "Now?" Oh, the poor timing. If only I had lost an arm before Christmas, I'm sure Hick would have gotten me a new office chair. Or not. He seems to have gone all out with the scratch-off tickets, jelly sticks, and The Heat.

The baby disappeared. As I combed my tresses in the bathroom this morning, yes, using a mirror, and yes, with the light on, and yes, using a pick...I saw that we were down one baby. I save babies, you know. Not grotesque plastic dolls with elephantiasis that grow mold on their good leg. Nope. I saved three babies. The ones trapped in ice cubes at my niece's baby shower. My winning baby I keep separate. But the ones that had been clutched in The Pony's hands and jammed in Hick's armpit I set on the bathroom counter. I've been meaning to move them, but they look so cheerful there by Hick's charging phone, and the gray hair pick, and the red round-bristled brush. Yesterday, I noticed that there was only one baby. Not two. I'm afraid to ask. No good can come of this. It's not like the Baby Jesus with a GPS attached at the Baby Jesus Factory. And, unlike a stolen Baby Jesus in the news several years ago, I don't think my ice baby is making the rounds of bars in Belleville, having drinks bought for him.

My son is on his way to the moon. Figuratively, I hope. Genius is off to a nerd rendezvous, where two teams of four engineery-type dudes will compete to see who can land a rocket on the moon first in Godus, some kind of computery game that's still in beta. Godus speed, Genius. May the laws of physics be ever in your favor.

Our bed is too obese for protection. Hick thought he'd be a dear and change the sheets a while back, when he had a day off, just before my seven show days. Like giving a mouse a cookie, his decision had repercussions. Hick decided to put on a set of flannel sheets. Because sleeping with a quilt over his breathered head doesn't keep him warm enough, I suppose. After he got the current sheets off, and went to remove the mattress pad, he decided to purchase a new one. Seems his toenails are like that of a raptor, and had shredded his side of the quilted cotton mattress pad. Because he's Hick, and hides his light and bedmaking shenanigans under a bushel, I did not know of his surprise mattress pad. Until I went to bed that night.

As I lay me down to sleep, no shredded cotton at Hick's feet, I heard a crunching noise. As if Hick had been eating Chex Mix in bed, and missed his mouth because it was covered by his breather. What in the name of all that is Hickly had he done? Because I needed my beauty rest, I crunched down under the flannel for a snooze. I won't go into detail here, because this is a story I might want to elaborate upon for a submission somewhere. Let it suffice to say that the new mattress pad was crunchy and slippery and sweat-inducing. It seems Hick had picked up one that had a moisture barrier. Which...um...we really have no need for. But it was $19.97, so Hick snatched it up like a box of MEAT at a Thursday night auction.

Hick went back to the store today. Weeks of trying to adjust to that mattress pad have proven it unsleepable. I had looked for a plain cotton one, to no avail. I even unzipped the plastic bag packaging to make sure. Because they're not always labeled correctly. Hick brought one home today that he said was different. It was identical to the bad pad. He returned it and endured a grilling, then brought home a different one (he said) that cost four dollars more. He and The Pony, even with my help, could not fit that thing on our bed. Hick did not consider the fact that we have a pillow-topper mattress. It is thick. The fitted corners of the mattress pad will not tuck under the edge. I'm off tomorrow to pretend my husband bought the wrong size, and see if I can return it and buy a king size instead of a queen. It wasn't slept on or anything. Not even fitted on our mattress. Not that we didn't try. Hick already threw his first purchase away, and I say good riddance to crunchy rubbish. How hard can it be to find a quilted cotton mattress pad without a moisture barrier that fits a pillow-topper mattress? I'll find out tomorrow. Genius will have to return the next one.

If he's back from the moon, that is.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Pretties

There it is. The new bargain couch. In all its breathtaking glory. I don't know why the photo did not show the true color. Maybe The Pony should get the next phone upgrade in March.

Sofie is actually the color of an Army-issue duffel bag slung over the shoulder of Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce. Notice the spore pillows. Quite kitschy, I think. Of course, there's no explanation for the orb. I'm not even sure The Pony noticed it in his photo. Don't want to scare him away from his new daytime resting place. I don't think the orb came with Sofie. More likely a holdover from that second-hand dresser on the other side of the room. It seems to have been a catalyst for other happenings. While some would declare it to be a speck of dust in my ill-kempt house, I find it convenient that such dust does not appear in all snapshots.

Now I am a bit disturbed. I didn't notice that orb until I put this photo on the blog. Oh, well. Here's an orb of a different color. Okay. It's almost the same color, from the green family. The Pony says this is his favorite Christmas gift.

No dragon was harmed in the harvesting of this eye. It's actually an iris under a magnifying dome on the lid of a metal treasure-holding bowl/ball/orb/sphere thingy. I saw it on a website and knew this eye was earmarked for The Pony. In fact, upon surveying his take Christmas morning, The Pony's attention settled upon this acquisition. "Yeah. I think I won THAT contest." Meaning the unspoken competition between him and his nerd friends over who got the coolest gift. The eye is the size of a softball. He couldn't get a good picture without the glare. I think he was holding the peeper at arm's length to take the photo, because that's the floor and Hick's chainsaw sharpener and a book and a dagger sheath in the background. To the best of my eyes shod by The Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe. Those guys were piling their plethora of presents all willy-nilly about the room.

There you have it. A tale of two pretties.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Not-So-Desperately Seeking a Pony-Holder

Last Friday of the month, people. Last Friday of the month! You know what that means. I took my mom on a ride for my bill-paying purposes. As usual, she had an excellent adventure. No, we did not stop by Arby's. Too many holiday leftovers in Frig. In fact, we kind of rushed through the bill-paying part, except at my credit union, where I was depositing money so that one day, perhaps, The Pony can soak up some higher education. I was momentarily delayed by the clerk asking me through the glass window with the scoop in the counter for money-passing if I knew any business teachers who had seniors looking for a part-time position. Yeah, I have connections. I will pass on that opportunity to somebody in-the-know.

The reason for our rushing was that we were meeting up with Hick for some furniture shopping. We have been needing a new couch for the basement. According to Hick, The Pony has ruined the couch by laying on it playing computer games. Never mind that Hick bought this couch before The Pony was even a gleam in his eye. Before Genius was even a gleam in his eye. Before he even met me and commandeered three of the four pork chops I cooked for supper one night. Yep. A 26-year-old couch, ruined in the last two years by a 15-year-old.

Mom is in the market for a new recliner. She is kind of persnickety about her cushiony comfort. One year we bought her a chair, and she used it until it wore out. But she has Diet Coke wishes and coleslaw dreams. Nothing fancy. She wants a chair to fit her like a glove, and have just the right hip-to-ankle measurement in the footrest. Because I know Mom is unlikely to venture out on her own with furniture-buying in mind, I asked her to join us.

Funny thing. If I wasn't actively in the market for a piece of furniture, but only accompanying someone else, I would most definitely plop myself down near the entrance so they couldn't escape without me, and rest my weary bones and adipose tissue upon some comfy new sofa or wing-back chair. Not so with Mom. She followed us all through the couches, stopping to sit on a few, bounce around, lean back, and declare them firm or soft. She was like a puppy gamboling through a field of butterflies. Her recliners were in another section of the store. I offered to drive her down to that entrance when we were done with couches, but she declined.

Hick and I only saw two couches that appealed to us in the first store. Our requirements were: dark color, firm, no pillowy backs, and reasonable price. We found one for $899 and another for $999. Not that Hick would have paid that. He's a barterer. He's like a car salesman playing the what-if game, but from the other side. Instead of, "What if I can get you in this car today? What if I can get you a set of floor mats? What if I can get a free undercoating? Will you buy this car today?" Hick bandies words concerning delivery vs. pickup, jettisoning the three pillows that we don't really need, observed scratches or loose threads, and the kicker: CASH money.

Nothing really grabbed us, including the salesman. I do appreciate his lack of effort. I do not want to be followed around the store (except by my mom the frisky puppy), or led to items attached to sales bonuses or quick turnover. We left and headed to a smaller store run by the relative of a work colleague. Mom especially wanted to go there, because they carry Ashley furniture. Which might as well be Greek to me, as I am one for going-out-of-business establishments, and second-hand shops.

Huh. The minute we walked in the door, a spry little gal behind the counter called to us and pointed out the couch and recliner areas. Mom parted ways with us, and went to sit a spell in every chair in the place. We meandered around to the back wall, observing plenty of pretty couches to the tune of $1199 and up. Then we saw one. Basic. Four legs, three cushions, two arms. Just the ticket. And the ticket itself was $599. Perfect. Except for the color, a yellow-cream hue, which I knew would not cotton to The Pony's ways.

And there she was! Spry had snuck up on us like Katniss on a meaty mammal. "Do you like this one? I can get it ready. You can take it today. Is this what you're looking for?"

"Well, it is. We just need something for a 15-year-old boy to lay on all day and play computer games. But I'm afraid that color will not do."

"Oh! How do you feel about olive green? We have the same couch up here, in olive green. And we're trying to move that couch. It's a real bargain. Come take a look at it. Sit on it. I think you'll like it."

We went toward the front. There it was. And the tag said $299. Hick immediately said, "I like it." I said, "I can live with it." We each sat down. It was firm. Sturdy. Three cushions long. Had all its feet.

Spry said, "Let's go write up the ticket." No wallflower, she. We told her we wanted it, but that we were going to see now Mom was doing. She was only one row over. Sitting in a recliner. It was a gray-green color. She liked it. She really liked it. She said she might come back and get it next week. Spry was on her like pigs on loaves of Peta's burned bread. Like Haymitch on a cocktail. Like President Snow on an uprising. "Do you want me to take the ticket off of it? So nobody else buys it? Do you want to put down some money today so we save it?"

Mom dug in her heels. "I am not ready to do anything today. But I really like it. I want this chair. Just not today."

Spry was not done trying. "All three of those there are the exact same chair. So even if somebody buys this one, there are the other two. And we have some in boxes in the storeroom. It should be okay. We'll have one like that. It's an Ashley, you know." As if the deal was not already clinched, that cemented it more solidly than Jimmy Hoffa in the NY Giants' end zone.

Mom was adamant. "I want this one. I sat in the other two, and they don't feel the same. This one fits me just right." A regular Goldilocks, our playful little puppy.

Spry talked her into a deposit. It was no big deal, because Mom really wanted that chair. She just wanted it in her own good time. She does not respond well to pressure. However, since she was only putting down a deposit, and controlling the delivery date, she was appeased. So worried was Spry that she blurted, as she ripped off the $319 tag, "I can let you have it for $300!"

Yeah, baby! Cheap furniture! We here in Backroads are all about functionality. It's not like we can drop in and visit Brook and Amy Dubman at Carol House. Sure, we like nice things. But we like cheap things better.

I don't have a picture this evening, but our new basement Pony-holder is kind of the color and texture of a Korean War U.S. Army-issue duffel bag. With cream-colored piping around the cushions and arms. And two big square pillows of light color with a print of circular spores in the same olive green.

Take my word for it: our new couch is breathtaking.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Old Folks and Technology, a Curious Combination


My mom received a new remote control for Christmas yesterday. It goes with her cable TV system. I don't know if anything was wrong with her other remote. It could have just been a case of it needing new batteries. My best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel could relate to that. There's something about Moms and remotes and batteries. Mabel used to be a regular battery mule for her mom.

Anyhoo...Mom had been using two different remotes. One for volume, and the other for on/off and channel surfing. She has done this ever since she got cable, and even since she got a new TV. I think it's just a personal peccadillo. Apparently, my sister the ex-mayor's wife does not think Mom should be using two remotes. She took it upon herself to go by the cable TV office and get a new one for Mom. The clerk gave her a hard time. "Usually, people bring in the old remote when they need a new remote."

Sis: "I am giving it as a gift. I can hardly break into her house and steal the old remote and bring it in. Then my mom would only have one remote until she unwrapped the new one at Christmas."

Clerk: "Well, if you're not going to bring in the old remote, you'll have to pay a fee. The remote itself is free for cable subscribers, but we have to have the old one back. Otherwise everyone would come by for extra remotes."

Sis: "I will pay the fee. I was going to buy the remote anyway. I couldn't find one like it anywhere else."

Clerk: "The fee for a new remote is three dollars. Of course we will refund that when you bring in the old remote."

Sis: "That's all? Here's three dollars. That's not very much. I'll bring in the old one anyway. I don't have any use for it."

So Mom got a new remote. Not that she knew how to do anything with it. Genius had to go help Mom fix it because my nephew put it on full screen, and Mom prefers to watch her shows with five inches of black all around the picture. That's how she describes it. But when she watches Mizzou play basketball, she wants the full screen, so she changes it. According to her, she used to change it by pushing two blue buttons at the top of the remote, but this one didn't have two blue buttons.

Today The Pony and I dropped by Mom's house for a leftover lunch. The Pony downloaded some computer games in the family room while Mom and I visited in the kitchen. "Oh! Pony! My remote control would not turn off the TV last night. Do you know how it works? I think something is wrong with it. The channel buttons work, but not the OFF button. I was going to try that other remote I use for volume, but I didn't want to mess it up."

"You mean your TV has been on since yesterday afternoon?"

"Well...yes. I need to know how to turn it off."

"I can imagine you worrying over that TV. You won't leave the house with it on. So now you're housebound, all because of that new remote that cost Sis three dollars."

"You're right. I don't want to go off and leave it on. But I admit that a couple of times before, with the old remote, when I was just running down the hill for gas, or to mail a letter, I left it on. Then I thought, 'If somebody comes in here, they will think, that crazy lady left her TV on while she's not even here.'"

"Um...that would be a thief in your house while you were gone. Why would you care what a thief thinks about your electricity usage?"

"Oh, I don't know. I just don't want anybody to think I'm weird."

"Yeah. That would never happen."

For the record, The Pony turned off the TV with no problem. "It works for me. Maybe you should come try it now."

According to Mom, "He didn't use that white button on the top left that I used to use on my old remote. There's a red button on the right that says POWER. That's the one he used. Now I'll know."

Sometimes, I'm not sure what Mom is thinking.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It Is Truly Better to Give Than to Receive

We have a revolving gift that will scare the pants offa ya! It all started with my sister's husband the ex-mayor's sister-in-law. Okay. Technically, it started with me. But not really.

A few years ago I gave my niece a book called Creepy-Ass Dolls. Oh, come on. It's not like she's six. She was over the age of majority. Able to drink alcohol in a casino where a stranger offered her and her girlfriends his room to sleep in for the night. So this little picture book is not something that would scar her for life. Or even for a couple of hours. I also gave her Awkward Family Photos. For balance, you know. What's not to like? I would have loved those gifts. In fact, I did. I read them myself before wrapping them. I figured she wouldn't be able to tell.

So...we heehawed over those books one Christmas day. Niecy must have loved them so much that she spread the joy. At a family gathering on her dad the ex-mayor's side, her aunt brought this scary gift.

Oh, she may not look so scary right there on my living room coffee table. But when you're expecting a regular gift, and pull the lid off this thing, she's pretty scary. You might notice that her left leg has a bad case of elephantiasis. I refuse to take responsibility. She was like that the first time she was given to me last year. No, that knife is not laying there for amputative purposes. It was used to slash open packages for last-minute wrapping.

Last night we got Dollee (pronounced like Gomer Pyle said golllllleeeee) down from the upper shelf in the basement workshop. You didn't think I'd have that thing on display in my home all year, did you? So The Pony brought her in at my request, and said, "You mean THIS doll?" As if I have another creepy doll laying around. It was actually The Pony who brought the renewed bout of creepiness to the forefront. "I don't know why her right leg is hairy."


I thought he meant her misshapen left leg. Though I myself would not have termed it hairy. "Oh, that's just her big leg. Remember? I think it melted in somebody's attic all those years between childhood and latter middle age."

"No. Not that one. The other leg."

I looked closer. But not TOO close. "Eww! Get that thing away from me! Take it up to your dad and tell him he needs to wash it! That's MOLD. MOLD growing on Dollee's good leg! Yuck. Get it out of here!"

"Mom. It's not mold. It's white." 

"Yeah. So? It's not normal. What do YOU think it is."

"I don't know. Um. Hair?" 

"Like a creepy doll is going to grow hair on its plastic leg. Get that upstairs and tell Dad. It may look like white hair, but that's hyphae!"

Hick dutifully scrubbed Dollee of her fungus. I suppose she was just laying around decomposing for the past year. If you think that's bad...the ex-mayor ripped her fat leg off last night. I have yet to hear the details.

I will not be looking forward to any gifts from my niece next Christmas. Maybe she will discover a new cure like the old penicillin.

Dollee. The gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today's Thevictorian Festivities

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

...I only have a few thousand left for today's tale. This is a collection of prizes for the impending competitions at my sister the ex-mayor's wife's party this evening. It is my second year to be in charge of the swag. There are actually more gift bags, but The Pony only chose the ones that appealed to him for the picture. I have a sneaking suspicion that he is especially fond of the pink-and-red striped Victoria's Secret bag. The rules are that small prizes must only cost a dollar, and three grand prizes must cost between five and ten dollars each. We had a delightful time selecting these treasures.

In case you have a pair of bifocals finally liberated from The Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe, allow me to elaborate on what you are looking at. We have a pair of felt reindeer horns wrapped around a peppermint note-pad with candy-cane striped pencil, a festive serving tray, a mug with double-chocolate cocoa powder, a gingerbread man soap dispenser, a tube of tiny festive foil bows and ribbon, a bag of Gummi Worms, a box of Skittles, a Santa rubber ducky, cookie cutters, a Christmas tree soap dispenser, a Christmas tree flip-top jar, a Playful Pigs calendar, a squeaky felt squid dog toy, a four-pack of assorted jams, and a ceramic Santa with floppy plaid legs, suitable for mantle-sitting. Oh, and the collapsible umbrella grand prize is bashful and unphotographed. Please note that the soap dispensers are full of liquid soap. Can't beat that with a stick!

And now, for today's moment of angst. I have been baking the traditional Thevictorian Oreo Cakes. Each stepson gets one, and we have one for the Mom gathering, and then I made one a few weeks back for Thanksgiving. All of a sudden, I have forgotten how to bake a boxed cake mix. Or so it would seem.

Each of the cakes have had issues with the center remaining gooey. It can't be all my fault. I follow the instructions to a T. It doesn't matter whether I use store-bought eggs or our own chicken fruit. I used the same measuring cup. I bake at the recommended temperature, for the recommended time. Herein lies the problem. I think my oven is broken.

Here's a major clue. In all of my episodes of Chex Mix creation this year, the big roasting pan that I place on the top shelf of the oven has tried to burn. It doesn't, because I stir it every 15 minutes. But that pan gets darker than the others. Here's the key piece of evidence. On that first batch of Chex Mix, a single Cheerio fell out of a pan and onto the oven floor. This has happened in years past, and before that batch of Chex Mix is done, any droppings have been incinerated to a tiny smidgen of charcoal. This single Cheerio lives on. It is as golden as the day it was milled and extruded in the factory. And it's laying just below the bottom coil! I left it there to see if it would burn up. A kind of science experiment, you know. And also because I'm lazy, and bending over even one more time after 18 bends during a Chex Mix episode is too much.

I think my bottom coil is broken. That would explain the top coil working overtime, heating that upper Chex Mix, and the bottoms of my cakes remaining gooey. I told Hick this morning that I think my bottom coil is broken. Do you know what he said, after a loaded pause, in a you-are-too-dumb-to-understand voice?

"Are you putting it on bake, or broil?"

Give me a freakin' break already! As if I have used that oven for 25 years and still have not mastered the ol' BAKE/BROIL conundrum!

Of course, in Hick's mind, that scenario is far more plausible than a 25-year-old oven having a part that might need to be replaced.

Val don't get no respect.

Monday, December 23, 2013

We Are Not a Family of Finery or Filligree

Dashing off to town
In a 4-wheel-drive Tahoe
Making road walkers frown
Laughing ho ho ho
Time is running out
To grab last-minute gifts
For that crazy lout
In Good Feet Store lifts

Oh, Dollar Store, Save a Lot,
Big Lots, Dollar Tree,
Found it in 
The local Family Center
A push-broom glory be! Oh...
Dollar Store, Save a Lot,
Big Lots, Dollar Tree
Garage puddle must be swept
Before Val breaks a knee!

Yes. The Pony and I made about ten stops today, the first of which was at The Family Center to find a push-broom. We used to have one hanging in the garage. The Pony used it to shove out the puddle of meltwater that drains from T-Hoes tires and flanks after an outing in the snow. Overnight, that puddle has a tendency to freeze. And we don't have a flock of geese to fly away with it, like the lake in that story Idgie Threadgoode told Old Smokey Lonesome right before giving him a snort of Old Joe from a pint in the pocket of her apron in Fried Green Tomatoes.

That Family Center store is just about abandoned. Nobody is ever at the register. I'm surprised we don't see tumbleweeds somersaulting down the aisles. We turned right just inside the door, on The Pony's advice, and went almost to the end of the building. No push brooms. The Pony swore he saw some last week. There was nobody to ask. We perused the 37 garden varieties of rakes, and looked at long and short axe handles. No push brooms. On the way out, a Grizzly Adams man in a green duck vest greeted us. He was like the Brawny Paper Towel guy gone to seed. "How ya doin'?"

"Great. Do you have any push brooms?" He looked at me like I was as simple as Pangle in Cold Mountain.

"Um. Yes. They're right there, where you came from." Brawny Grizzly had to escort us back from whence we came. The fact that he was carrying a large bag of Horse Chow or cedar chips or Sweet Feed over his shoulder did not seem to be an issue. Our city-slicker stupidity did. "See? The edge of one hanging right there?"


"There. The blue bristles?"

"Oh! Yes! Thank you." They were on an end cap around the corner from where we stopped looking. The Pony ignored the blue and red, and chose a tasteful black push-broom for Hick at $19.98. Not exactly a $980 pair of Good Feet Store inserts, but an appropriate gift. As I remember, upon being quizzed as to the whereabouts of the old push-broom, which I assumed he had spirited away to the BARn, Hick said, "I thought that was in the garage."

The Pony toted it to the register. It was a long walk. "I thought you said you knew where they were."

"Well, I was kind of right. I took you there, I just didn't see it."

"If it was a snake, and could strike over a really long distance, it would have bit us."

"We were too far away."

"If it was a cobra, it could have spit venom in our eyes."

"I am wearing glasses. Venom would not hurt me."

"Sometimes, can you just go along? I'm creating here."

"No comment."

Thankfully, a cashier crawled from the woodwork. She looked at The Pony. "Is this a present for you?"

Of course he didn't answer. Just snorted and ducked his head. "Actually, it's for his dad, but I figure he's going to be using it more." Another snort. We stashed the push-broom in T-Hoe's rear. Tomorrow we need to sneak it in. The Pony thinks we should stuff it in the artificial Christmas tree box.

"Nobody will look in there until it's time to take down the Christmas tree."

I think he's got a point.

Hick decreed several years ago that I could no longer have my real Scotch Pine Christmas tree from my Grandma's tree farm in the partially-finished basement, and my artificial Christmas tree in the living room. One was enough, old Scrooge declared. So now I only have Artie the artificial. I think that angel on the top is kind of teed off as well, having to hear air whoosh through the ductwork all the live-long day.

She'll probably be even less happy when he puts up the ceiling over our break, and takes away her headroom.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Three Nights Before Christmas, It Was

Jolly Old St. Hickolas made a trial run tonight.

'Twas three nights before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a bathroom vent fan light fixture mouse.
No stockings were hung on the chimney in there
For St. Hickolas would eat all the goodies--not fair!

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Lazy little bums, texts and computer games filling their heads.
And me in my Crocs, spilled Chex lining my lap
Wishing I dared drink a tall winter's nightcap.

Then down in the basement there arose such a clatter
I jumped up from the La-Z-Boy to see what was the matter.
Away to the rail, I flew like a flash
Saw St. Hick's belt give his stomach an industrial-sized smash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Heh, heh, I said "breast" that's inappropriate, you know.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear...
I don't know--with these bifocals, my vision ain't clear.

Oh! A chunky old goat, not lively, not quick.
I knew in an instant it must be St. Hick.
He had no deer with him, around here they're called, "game."
And he burped and he farted and thought that not lame.

"Now Genius, now Pony, now Val, you darn vixen!
To drive into town now is what to do I am fixin'."
St. Hick made no sense, his language bluff we did call.
"Dang this darn syntax, to Not-Heaven dang it all!"

He was draped in red velvet, social-acceptability be darned!
Got a puffy coat in the temp drops, so please be forewarned.
A bundle of toys he flung on his back
Bought sight-unseen at the auction, in a peddler's pack.

He was chubby and plump, a bit like myself
And I laughed when I saw him, that overgrown elf!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Made him twitchy and deformed, "Cut that out now!" I said.

He spoke not a word, but got down on one knee.
Posing, I guess, for a picture, heehee.
And laying a finger aside of his nose,
Sucking in his gut...up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his Gator on $980 feet, like a missile
Rolled away with no sound, ruminating on gristle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drive out of sight,
"Too much Auction Meat, I think...this belt is too tight!"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I'm Gonna Hafta Sell a Buttload of Handbaskets

Hick has outdone himself. There are really no words to explain my shock at his latest escapade. But, being Val, I will try to scrape together a few particles of language to enlighten you. If my life was a sitcom, this would be a very special episode. It would have a public service announcement after the credits.

Hick had been overly solicitous this week. Agreeable to anything I said. Caring, almost. I chalked it up to his birthday on Wednesday. Not that he's a kid hoping for presents. It's the only reason I could think of. Then on Wednesday, he came in from work and asked if I got his message. Oops! I turned my phone off at school because the battery drains trying to find service. I turned it back on.

"Oh, here's your message." It was a voice mail converted to text. Let's just say it started out with, "Heavy, it's me." And went downhill from there. Some kind of gibberish about his oldest son wanting to take him to dinner. I ribbed him for a while about addressing me as "Heavy." Of course he swore he did not. Then he grew pensive. I could sense an undropped shoe about to crash down on my head like a chunk of errant blue ice from a passing airliner.

"So...did you get my email the other day?"


"I sent it a couple of days ago. I had to text Genius to get your email. I know it was right. Here. Let me check."

"Yes. That's my email. But I didn't get it. What did it say?"

"Maybe you should check again."

"I would know. Maybe it went to 5PAM. Just tell me what it said."

"Go check."

"Why are you making such a production? Just tell me what it said."

"Well, there's a reason I sent it by email. I didn't want to tell you."

"I'm getting kind of tired of this game. Just say it."

After about two minutes of dead air and my pointed stare, Hick began to speak. He made no move to sit down. Just leaned his elbows on the back of the short couch. Poised for a quick getaway to his birthday dinner.

"I sent you the email on Tuesday. You know I've been having trouble with my feet. Nothing works. Not the insoles, not those pills the doctor gave me, not that roll-on medicine. Nothing. So I went to The Good Feet Store. I walked in and they gave me some inserts to try. MY FEET FELT BETTER IMMEDIATELY! There is a set of three inserts that you're supposed to use. The guy said, 'So you want me to go make them up?' And I said yes. They make them right there while you wait. Then he came out, and I went to pay for them...I never do this. But I did that day."

"You didn't ask how much they were going to cost before you got them?"

"No. And I never do that."

"How much?"

"I sent you the email because I didn't want to tell you. I knew you'd be mad."


"Nine hundred and eighty dollars."

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have a friend or relative with sore feet who might entertain the thought of visiting The Good Feet Store, take away their credit card.

I cried because I had no shoes, and then I married a man with $980.00 feet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Got Your Nose!

I suppose I got off easy, with only a single nose in my desk.

I warned the students as they entered my classroom: "I'd better not find a pile of eyes and noses on my floor!" Of course they agreed. No eyes or noses. Not from them! Whatever was I thinking? But you know how it is. You have to specify. It's not enough to simply assume kids understand that leaving behind eyes and noses is improper. A violation of Mrs. Thevictorian's Don't-Do-It List.

The dismembering began, and I tried to remain calm. They had promised, had they not? One lad did his part by scavenging all the eyeballs. In fact, he had a whole handful. "See, Mrs. Thevictorian? Eyes! I won't let any get left on the floor. I'll take them all. The other kids can give them to ME. I'll take care of them. You can never have too many eyeballs." I commend his effort. Not so sure how his mom will feel when he gets home.

Midway through fourth hour, I saw that I should have been more specific in my rules. No, it wasn't the question, "Can I stab my brother?" I'm used to that. It was the question, "Do you have any scissors? That I can borrow?" Hmm...now why would a student want scissors? Even the would-be brother-stabber did not ask for a weapon.

"Why do you need scissors?"

"To cut this in half."

"Um. No." Indeed. I should have specified: "No eyes, no noses, no antlers!"

At the 10:53 lunch shift, a generous scholastic club passed out candy canes to any student who wanted one. Candy canes decorated with googly eyes, hard plastic or puff-ball noses, and pipe-cleaner antlers. It would have been cruel to deny the kiddies the chance to eat their reindeers in my classroom during a showing of the fictional climate-themed movie, "The Day After Tomorrow." It's the day before Christmas break. Finals have been put off until the week after vacation, thanks to our seven snow days. Let it never be said that Mrs. Thevictorian is a grinch.

Have you ever observed a ninth-grader devouring a candy cane? It is not a sight for the squeamish. Some hone the end to a weapons-grade point. Others slam it on the desk until it becomes crumbs. A few peel back the cellophane a tiny bit while slurping at the end, then a tiny bit more, and a tiny bit more. When they are done, they look like a toddler dipped in Karo syrup. "Can I go wash my hands? They're sticky."

"No. The door will lock you out. We don't need people roaming the halls. Go use the Germ-X."

Yes. There's a method to my madness of forking over hard-earned cash for a couple of giant bottles of Germ-X each year.

A single reindeer nose. I think I got off easy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Can See Clearly Now But the Pain Ain't Gone

Ooh! Ooh ooh! Mr. Kotter Val's loyal readers!

I have my new bifocals! Yes, they've been a long time coming. If you count the date they were ordered, November 15th, to the day I was notified to pick them up, December 18th, and add them up--I was only without my bifocals for a mere 33 days. Surely anybody can go without reading for that amount of time, right? Who cares whether a teacher can calculate grades? Who cares whether a wife can write out checks to pay bills? Who cares if a medicated individual can read the labels on the pill bottles? Obviously, the answer is: NOT the employees of The Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe.

Good thing Val is a crafty wench with a penchant for hoarding, and had a pair of two-year-old bifocals on hand to tide her over.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Oh, come on. Who am I kidding? There is no good news, silly! There is only bad news and not-quite-as-bad news. The not-quite-as-bad news is that I can see fairly well with them now, and I got a free hard case (which looks like it's for kids' glasses, and has a sticky mark like somebody peeled off the label and decided they didn't want it). The bad news is that the pain-in-my-rumpus, tooth-sucking, keyboard-pounding, not-listening hag who caused me the majority of my seven trips back to that office had to get in the last word upon pick-up.

I KNOW! Aren't you simply incensed for me?

I went to pick them up after school and a rendezvous with my best old teaching buddy, Mabel. The  Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe closes at 5:00. I arrived at 4:50. When I dared pass through their unlocked portal, I was greeted with dead-eyed stares from the two counter Cerberuses whose job it is to discourage repeat customers. "What can I do for you?" snarled the right-hand Cerberus.

"I got a call that my glasses are ready."

"Sit over there and someone will be with you."

Huh. You might think some further information might be necessary. A customer's name, perhaps. In order to dole out the proper pair of glasses. But wait! Maybe that's the problem! All glasses are generic, so nobody can see out of them. Yeah. That explains a lot.

I had no desire to sit down, having just sat on my ample duff chatting with Mabel until T-Hoe's warm leather duff-receptacle was begging for mercy. So I headed for the corral where they herded me, and stood compliantly behind a chair. I was almost bowled over by a large man of questionable hairstyle wearing baby-blue scrubs and carrying a large, see-through trash bag full of...well...visible trash. "Oh. Excuse me." He headed past me and toward the inner sanctum. About the room, like so many catatonic nighttime rainwalkers in the original Halloween, were other folks who had come to get their glasses. I'd say there were at least five. Which explained why the parking lot was so full. They were being fitted, outwitted, and coaxed into believing that of course they couldn't see clearly, because their eyes needed to adjust to the new glasses.

"Ma'am?" Trash Man was standing behind the counter, beckoning to me! How did he know which glasses were mine? He didn't know my name. Nobody had asked. I figure they labeled me as DIFFICULT in my file, and had tacked up a copy of my driver's license photo behind the counter, with a bonus for the person who could make me disappear permanently. "Let me get you a chair."

"No. I don't need a chair. The frames are my old ones. All I need to do is look through them to see if I can see."


Pain-in-My-Rumpus, Tooth-Sucking, Keyboard-Pounding, Not-Listening Hag walked by behind me. Yes. Cruella The Pill dared to insert herself into my seventh payless transaction. "She reads from that distance, standing up." I think I detected scorn in her tone. Sarcasm. Delusions of adequacy from that two-fingered keyboard whacker who is most likely the sole reason the computer system is down every time I go in there. Which is frequently!

I really wanted to turn around and slug her. Almost as much as that cutesy frat boy at Harrah's Casino who pulled my crank. But I refrained. Didn't want to break my new glasses, you know.

The very NERVE of some people! I am the customer. I am always right. At least when it comes to deciding whether I can see well enough out of my glasses to do my job. I paid several tens of thousands of pretty pennies for those new lenses that were withheld from me for 33 days. I don't care how much Cruella The Pill wants to heckle me, I am the one who knows how I function at work. The distance at which I read is not up for debate. But apparently, it IS up for ridicule. By a two-fingered keyboard-whacker with a bad attitude. I wish I had thought to take my favorite gambling aunt with me. She is a crackerjack patient advocate.

But this milquetoast finally has new bifocals.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unique Individual is the New Breathtaking

My mom is at it again! I call her every weekday morning at 6:00. Just because if I can't sleep in, ain't nobody sleepin' in. This morning I gained new knowledge. I've learned to pay close attention when Mom starts out the conversation with, "Now, please don't be mad at me, but..."

Mom went to see her doctor yesterday. Who, by coincidence and small-town physician availability, also happens to be MY doctor. He's a fine fellow, with a U.S. Army Certificate of Commendation framed and hanging on his exam room wall. His wife used to be a nurse practitioner, but gave all that up to stay home with their kids. The doctor business must be booming.

Anyhoo, you might recall that I had my own doctor's appointment on one of my seven snow days. I declare! What meteorologist does one have to have carnal knowledge of in order to use up one of one's ten sick days that will be absorbed into the vast sucking quagmire of institutional incidental funds if not used by the end of the school year?

So, anyhoo...Doc had sniffed out my little writing hobby a few visits back, in one of his personal conversations in which he endeavors to determine whether a patient is succumbing to the throes of pre-Atzheimer's, or is quite possibly a ticking time bomb in need of diffusion. I mentioned that I had a couple of stories being published, and Doc said, "Bring me a book!" When I did, he furthermore stated, "This is the best part of my job--finding out what people do." I'm sure that is running neck and neck and neck in a close three-way tie with giving proctological exams and lancing buttocks boils.

Let's see...anyhoo...in their personal chat, Mom asked Doc, "So, did you get some books from Val Thevictorian the other day?"

Doc said, "Yes! They're on my nightstand." Which in itself might be a fact that some folks would find disturbing, that their doctor falls asleep, perhaps, with visions of them dancing in his head.

Mom couldn't help herself. I am a commodity with a price above rubies. Or at least worth $15 (merchandise included). She proudly declared, "That's my daughter."

Doc said, "I didn't know that! She is a unique individual."

Uh huh. Like the pediatrician described an ugly baby and Elaine Benes as breathtaking, my general practitioner has his own code-speak: unique individual.

I can't wait until my next doctor's appointment, so I can bring up the topic of an intervention to deal with Mom's slaw addiction.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Such a Spate of Coincidences

I cannon believe I did not foresee my own clairvoyance.

This morning at school, standing in the hall between classes, I detected a delicious aroma. You don't smell something like this every day. It was dressing. Stuffing to some sections of the country. The stuff you have at Thanksgiving, that may or may not be cooked inside the bird. I'm sure there was an invisible cartoony meandering line of smell vapor snaking its way from under the kitchen door, across the hall, down a ways, ever climbing, right into my left nostril. The one I can breathe through. Not the perpetually clogged right one.

"Hm...," I wondered. So sagey. So bready. "Perhaps the cooks are cooking something special today. An unadvertised Christmas dinner. Just for the faculty." Nothing starts a status war a-brewin' like giving teachers something special.

"Wait a minute! There's another nuance. Turkey? Some kind of fowl. Chicken, per chance?" My thinker was working overtime. I know the menu said chicken patties. This was not your everyday cafeteria chicken patty I was snorting.

"Hold on! A new treat for the nose buds, as The Pony is wont to call his sniffer. I swear that smells like...like...blueberry muffins!" We have never had a fresh-baked blueberry muffin. Not even Martha White. If I didn't know better, I'd swear that the office candle warmer thingamajig was putting out a fragrance like Violet Beauregarde's three-course-meal gum.

One of my many conspiracy theories is that the cooks actually just toss packaged items in a giant microwave or industrial oven for warming, and in reality spend their time whipping up holiday meals for home, bountiful fare for their secret gourmet catering business, or treats for support staff after hours.

I knew the menu for today advertised chicken patty on bun, mashed potatoes, and fruit. I also saw the actual meal an hour later, on a hard plastic compartmented tray, of chicken patty on bun, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a box of Sunmaid raisins. Only the chicken patty came close to what I was smelling. I chalked it up to an olfactory hallucination.

At home, as I warmed up some food in the oven, I sliced The Pony a tiny treat to tide him over. A treat that arrived by UPS this afternoon, as usual this time of year, a gift box of tasty breads from The Daily Bread Bakery and Cafe, sent to Hick by a business associate.

I continued preparing our evening repast. Then it hit me. We were having chicken strips. Stove Top Stuffing. And The Pony had just sampled a fresh loaf of Blueberry Sour Cream Bread.

I really need to get my own reality show. Backroads Extra-Large Medium.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Windshield of the Universe Conspires Against Val the Bug

Was that a sniffle I just heard? A sloppy slurp, perhaps, of self-pity, as Val licks her wounds? The escape of a soul-crushed sigh?

Pardon my hang-dog demeanor this evening. I am still smarting from a setback on Friday.

It didn't start out that way. I have had eleven days off in a row, as you remember, and was sitting on top of the world and T-Hoe's driver's seat. Thinking about a contest I had entered. It rolls around every year. I don't forget. I always send in entries. They're just five dollars. Fairly cheap, as contest entries go. And it was right up my alley, this contest. Suited Val right down to the ground. It was a match made in Not Not-Heaven. A humor contest where unusual entries are treasured. Preferred, even. A contest for weirdos. Tailor-made for Val.

For months I had perused my vast stable of odd musings. Had picked out three that fit the bill. Reworked them. Shortened them to fit the word limit. Polished them until they shone. Let them sit. Honed them to a sharpness uncommon in Val's meandering cutlery parade. I paid close attention to the deadline. This contest does not accept online entries. Only mail entries. Hard copy. The deadline was December 1st. My entries were ready the Monday before Thanksgiving. Quite early for Val, the would-be usurper to the throne of the Princess of Procrastination.

I pored over the printouts. Proofread out loud. Let them rest. Proofread again. Addressed the envelope. Made sure to tuck in my entry fee. I even put TWO stamps on that envelope. Just in case. And I mailed it. I sighed with relief as I pulled away from the mailbox that morning on the way to school, while The Pony in the back seat pretty much ignored me. "There. That's done for another year. I think I sent in some good stuff."

That was November 25th. The Monday a week after the Friday I ordered new bifocal lenses for my glasses, WHICH I STILL DO NOT HAVE. Excuse me. I'm on edge right now. From the tragedy. The crushing setback that has befallen me.

The contest had been on my mind during the lazy hazy snow days of almost winter. I was kind of excited. This was no rush job. It was planned like an only child in China. And I was almost as excited anticipating news of my little bundle of joy. Winners will be announced December 24th. Antici-pa-a-tion, was making me late. Was keeping me wai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ting.

Friday we went to town to the dead-mouse-smelling post office to pick up some packages that had miraculously not been lost. On the way home, The Pony hopped out of T-Hoe and trotted to EmBee to gather the day's mail. He always leafs through and fills me in on what we've received. So many magazines, as he calls them, which are really catalogs. So many postcard dealybobbers. And the envelopes. "Huh. Here's an envelope that looks like it came from you. And it's not to us."

It was my envelope full of contest entries. Sniffle/hiccup/sob/tear-wipe.

My poor envelope, with its two cancelled stamps of Old Glory waving in front of fall foliage, forever. The corners were dog-eared and flea-bitten. A hole ripped in the bottom right. The entire envelope looked like it was stuffed into Beaver Cleaver's dungarees' hip pocket on the day he climbed into the billboard bowl of steaming soup. A yellow sticker adorned my pretty. Return to sender. Attempted--not known. Unable to forward. The address must have changed since I entered last year. Or I was on an old link when I so carefully looked it up, and so carefully addressed my double-stamped envelope with my so-carefully proofread pieces so carefully folded and sealed inside.

It was all for naught. The deadline of December 1st has passed. I got my dead letter back on December 13th. FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH! It has been a true horror story.

I somehow expected more for my 92 cents.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This Is Why Val Drives A Gas Hog

We have missed seven days of school in a row. This might have something to do with it.

That is solid ice. Still. Several inches thick. The rest of Backroads is mostly travelable. It's just our mile of gravel, and several sections of the blacktop county road that have not yet thawed. I'm thinking we'll go back to school Monday. Perhaps on the snow route, which does not affect me.

You might also notice that giant Christmas tree on its side. Or a big ol' cedar if you're not in the spirit yet, though that would be hard to believe, with radio stations playing carols since before Thanksgiving. That tree blew down several weeks ago, during a little storm that snapped off three of our fine branchy friends (weep, dendrophiles, weep). You notice how we let the dead rest in one big piece. Come spring, he'll probably be converted to fence posts.

This part of the road is almost flat. It's after the twisty climb that stalled the $1000 Caravan Friday evening. Because of our remoteness, talk has turned to installing one of those pricy automatic generators that pop on when the electricity goes kaput. I am not averse to the idea. The Pony and I would be hard-pressed to decipher proper generator protocol and get powered up with our current savior, Gennie. Besides, with such a modern gadget, we would even be able to run the furnace in winter, and air conditioner in summer! No more one lamp, two TVs, three computers, and a Frig. Full power, baby!

We are still in negotiations with each other. Hick says he can install it, I cry out in horror. Genius declares that Hick works with machines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Indeed. But they are run by electricity. Not gas. I'm not blowing sky-high because Hick gets careless with his gaseous Ps and Qs.

My mom is also thinking about such a system for her house. Hick might oversee her purchase, so she doesn't get taken in that way little old ladies have of getting cheated by conniving young men. But she would never, ever, entertain the idea of having Hick install such a piece of machinery.

Mother knows best.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Self-Imagined Ruler Returns

The self-proclaimed ruler has returned to his kingdom. Genius is home from college.

He was done with finals Wednesday, but said he was staying until Saturday. Which led to the following exchange.

"What are you going to do for three days?"

"Work on the solar car."

"Normal people will be going home for Christmas."

"Normal people."

"When are you leaving?"

"I am checking out Saturday at noon."

"Oh. You're waiting until the very last minute allowed to vacate the premises?"

"Technically, I could wait until 6:00. So I'm actually leaving early."

Ah, the logic is warped in that one. Because of the impending sleet/freezing rain/snow storm, I asked him to call me before he left. I wanted to know if he was taking the city route for clear roads, or the country route to save time. This was after several texts advising him to use some futuristic phone app to check road conditions. And a reply in which he told me to disregard the smile emoticon, because it was an accident that he hit inadvertently. To which I had to ask, "What kind of kid can't even give his mom a smile?"

"Apparently, a kid like me."

Still, he agreed to call before he left. You never know how the country road is going to be cleared, and his phone is dead for about 60 miles through the middle of nowhere. And it could be a long walk to find a house if he ran off the road. By 12:45, I was getting a little anxious. So I called.

"Are you about ready to leave?"

"I am just now pulling onto the highway."

"I thought you were going to call me."

"I was. But I forgot."

"Do you have the 4WD on?"

"Well, seeing as how I'm driving 70 mph down the highway...no."

"Which way are you coming home?"

"I'm going the back roads. It's quicker."

"Put it in 4WD when you get off the highway. Just in case."

"Yeah, yeah."

He made it home. And reported that our road is terrible. Yeah. Tell us something we don't know. He also commanded, from 30 miles away, that I move my car from its rightful garage slot to Hick's garage slot. No mention of where Hick was supposed to park. His reasoning was that all of his stuff was near the passenger side, and he couldn't open his door with it against the garage wall that is too close because Hick wouldn't listen to me when building this house, and add a couple of feet to make it more spacious for big honkin' 4WD beasts. Oh, and since he has no garage door opener, he suggested that I make The Pony run out and open the garage door when he got to the driveway.

When asked, after opening his birthday presents from Wednesday, if it he was glad to be home, Genius replied, "Well, I'm glad that classes are over." Huh. He also made some crack about how he loved living in the dorm, because he cranked the heat up to 76, and that conditions around this place were barbaric. I'll toughen up that buttercup forthwith. Or tell him he will have to pay half of the electric bill for the month he's home. And, he complained that when he moved his truck out of the garage, there was no place to park, because Hick's $1000 Caravan was in his place!

Furthermore, he commandeered The Pony's corn dog that Hick brought him from town on the way home from work, for a snack before supper, then opened up the puppy chow mix that I won by NOT cheating at my niece's baby shower and ate about half, then decided he wanted part of the salad The Pony was having for supper along with some fish, then saw a hot dog on the pan next to the fish, and decided he also wanted that with his salad and fish and just-commenced-digesting puppy chow and corn dog.

Ha ha! The joke was on Genius. He fell asleep on the couch before finishing his plate. He was all done up like Bear Grylls in Antarctica, what with a hoodie pulled around his face, hands warming on bare belly under the hoodie pouch and shirt, socked feet dug down in the crack between cushion and couch arm.

I think his last words were, "I'm soooo coooold."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Out Here, We Use a Swimming Pool For De-Icing Purposes

This is the reason I have had an 11-day weekend from school since last Thursday. Road conditions are bad in Backroads. Still. Oh, the main thoroughfares are clear enough. But the back roads of Backroads are not.

Hick has been driving on borrowed time, in a $1000 Caravan. He's not one to listen to the voice of reason, which we all know is Val's voice. Nope. Gotta drive the backroadsiest back roads in Backroads, that one. Thinks he's invincible. I must admit, he's never had a weather-related accident (knock on my laminated faux-wood butcher-block countertop laminate that Hick lovingly installed as a built-in desk in my dark basement lair). He refuses to take the highway all the way from work to town, then out the main drag to our county road. Hick takes a short cut. I don't know how he's made it so far.

This afternoon, Hick called at 4:24. I assumed he was just leaving work. There's a wide window of departure time, Hick not being one to punch a time clock. But no. He was calling from the bottom of our hill, a scant half-mile from home. "I can't get up the hill. Neighbor lady is here, too. And she just lives at the top of the hill. We're stuck. It's solid ice. Some guy has gone to get ashes. He said he'd be right back."

"I don't know what I can do for you." That did not mean I couldn't drive almost a half-mile and bring him home. There was the matter of the $1000 Caravan. After 15 minutes, I called him back. "Do you want me to drive down and pick you up? Or have The Pony throw a bale of hay into T-Hoe?" Hay. I saw that yesterday when I went to town to get one of Hick's presents. The farm and home center had thoughtfully broken open a bale of hay and scattered it over the ice spots on the parking lot. No salt for them. Of course I couldn't mention to Hick how I knew this might work, because then he would know that I went to buy the only gift he has requested.

"No. I'm getting ready to try it now." About ten minutes later he arrived home. Then I got the full story.

Neighbor Lady had tried to get up that hill in her four-door sedan. She drives it all the time. We've both been getting in and out with no trouble, up and down that solid sheet of hill ice. That's because we're used to it. Plus, I have four-wheel drive. Then today's storm rolled in around noon. It was 34 degrees when we left, and 31 degrees when we got back. I told The Pony I was worried about freezing rain, because that will zap our power. Anyhoo...back to the story of the ice hill.

Neighbor Lady had driven to the city to pick up her son from college. He's Genius's age. She also had her other son, The Pony's age, with her. They had done the grocery shopping, and were just getting home. Almost. She got her sedan kind of sideways on the winding gravel ice hill. Hick came along, and decided he would just go around her. He only made it halfway up. His trusty $1000 Caravan with its two-year-old snow tires started to slide backwards down the hill. As Hick said, "So I put it in the ditch and parked it. Then I walked up to the top, with her boys, who were supposed to get some salt. When we walked back down, the ash guy was there. He had a kid's swimming pool full of ashes from his outside wood furnace. They were still hot. He scattered them, and the boys spread out salt. Neighbor Lady's husband was there by then, and he was walking up to get his truck. I rolled the Caravan back down, and made it to the top."

Seriously. They should have sold tickets. Strewn about on that little section of road were a four-door sedan, a $1000 Caravan, a truck with a swimming pool full of ashes, and a panel work van. All they needed was a clown car.

Three to five inches tonight. I hope Genius makes it home tomorrow. It would be so sad if he got within a half mile, and had to live in a van down by the river until time to leave for spring semester.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What an Ambitious Three-Dollar Daughter Does On a Day Off

In case any of you have been wondering about how my mom and her holey gray sweatpants are getting along in this slaw-forsaken frozen landscape...I'm here to fill you in. Just one more service Val offers her future proposed-handbasket-factory customers.

Mom has not left her house since last Wednesday, when the forecast called for 4-6 inches of sleet and snow. After the 10+ inches covered her homestead, she has remained indoors, except for venturing to her roadside mailbox yesterday, with the aid of crampons and an ice axe. Okay. So it was a set of strap-on YakTrax shoe cleat springy things, and a yellow-handled angled kitchen broom. She makes do. She's a regular MacGyver, my mom.

Today I had to go to Walmart without my trusty helper, in order to pick up a few Christmas items, and I called Mom to see if she wanted to ride along, or if I could bring her anything. We've been dropping off chili and pulled pork and shower cake and slaw and honey-roasted nuts and Diet Coke, and yesterday Mom received a package of fruity goodness from Harry and David, or Larry and David, or somebody else and David, the mail-order folks. All the major food groups have been accounted for, unless you want to count vegetables and grains. But here's what Mom said she needed, in case tomorrow's storm traps her for another week: Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, and ripe bananas. I added them to my list. On the way to town, I had a horrible thought. What if Mom was running low on slaw? I called her from the parking lot, just in case.

"Oh! I never even thought about the slaw! Yes. Get me some more slaw while you're there." See? For those of you who believe in using foreshadowing while crafting your stories...perhaps Val is about to rise above Three-Dollar Daughterdom. I told Mom I would call her when I came out, and run by her house. Perhaps she might like to join me for a ride to the bank to put money in Genius's account so he can make it home from college.

In the checkout line, my phone rang. "Are you all right? I was getting worried. I thought you'd be done by now. I was afraid you might have fallen on the ice and hit your head."

"No, Mom. I'm fine. I'm checking out. Then I'll be there."

"Oh. I didn't mean to bother you. I was just worried."

That little call threw a monkey wrench into my plan to secretly drive through Burger King and get Mom those one-dollar pork sandwiches she forgot last week. At least I had the surprise of mini-cupcakes with buttercream icing. Mom loves buttercream icing. Just like my best old ex-teaching buddy, Mabel.

When I pulled into her driveway (only allowed because the ex-mayor went down it without permission, and made a couple of icy compacted ruts a few days ago) Mom came out with her arctic gear. Coat, scarf, sunglasses, crampons, and that ice-axe broom. I had suggested the broom several days ago, in case she wanted to walk to her mailbox through the yard. I thought it could act as a walking stick. You know, upside down, with the handle stabbing down into the snow. Of course Mom was holding the handle, pushing the angled synthetic straws into the snow. I called her on it. "Well, I just feel like I get better traction with that end."

Mom was worried that her snowy crampons would wreck T-Hoe's floor. Um. No. T-Hoe does not go about naked. He is outfitted with proper floor mats. Then Mom worried that she has not had a bath lately, because she wasn't going anywhere (who is she now, Beaver Cleaver?), and that her odor might be offensive. "Mom! I teach freshmen. I think I can handle it." We took off for the bank. Mom shielded her sunglassed eyes. She was like a mole just emerged from the tunnels in her yard.

After the bank, I drove her by to see the middle finger. "Oh, no! Somebody put that in the yard? That is terrible." She laughed a little too much. She must have thought I was pulling her non-gray-holey-sweatpantsed leg. When we arrived at the intersection, that big bird had flown. Or else it was blocked by a car on the street, and a truck in the driveway. I looked right at where it had been, but it was not in evidence. Mom was disappointed.

"Well, we're already halfway to Burger King. I'm going to take you to get what was supposed to be your surprise: three pork sandwiches."

"Oh! You don't have to do that. I finally figured out how to open those little containers of BBQ sauce your sister brought with the pulled pork. I can have that."

"We could get you a Diet Coke..."

"Oh. A Diet Coke? Where were you going to get that?"

"Burger King, I thought. But I know how you like McDonald's Diet Coke, so we can go across the street and get your soda there."

"That's too much trouble. You are SO good to me. I don't want to take up all your time. We could just go to McDonald's, and I can get three of those grilled onion cheddar burgers along with my Diet Coke. If it's not too much trouble."

"Nope. That's where we'll go." I figured she can freeze two burgers as easily as two pork sandwiches. Though I don't see the attraction in reheated fast food myself. She held that bag on her lap the rest of the way home. I hope she's one of those weathered, apple-headed, pipe-smoking, yogurt-eating 115-year-olds one of these days, attributing her longevity to grilled onion cheddar burgers and Little Debbie cakes. AND SLAW!

It takes so little to make Mom happy. I obviously take after my dad. And for the record, Mom gave me $15 for her purchases, and said to keep what was left over. My status is climbing.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What's Up Downstairs?

Strange, strange goings-on today at the ol' house of Val.

Such oddities. Perhaps explainable, if only I could decipher the code. It started with a noise. Think of a teenage boy standing outside the undoored door of your dark basement lair, clacking two remote controls together. That's what it sounded like to me. So I called out, "Pony! What are you doing?" And he answered me. From the couch at the other end of the basement.

"Nothing! What are YOU doing?"

"Nothing! I thought you were making that noise."

"I thought YOU were making that noise."

We heard it again. Once. Twice. Seriously. WHAT WAS THAT? It was not outside on the porch. That's a thumping sound we hear from the wrasslin' dogs and the tread of delivery men. It was not inside my office. It was just outside the door. Just past the NASCAR bathroom. The Pony ran over. He stepped into my office.

"Are you SURE it wasn't you?"

"Yes! Are you sure it wasn't YOU?"

"Uh huh. I know it was over here." He walked around, looking for items that might have fallen off the shelves. "It didn't sound like it was inside here. Maybe it was these empty soda cans out here on the desk." He stepped back out, to the aluminum Coke cans awaiting crushing after waiting to be stashed in an old Walmart bag after waiting to dry out after rinsing. He squeezed one. "That's what I thought it might have been. These cans expanding due to a change in air pressure. But none of them have been bent. And listen, that's not the sound." He squeezed another.

"And even if it was, how come they have never, ever made a noise like that before? I don't know. Listen. There it was again!" By this time, The Pony had stepped back inside my office. We could clearly see that neither of us was doing anything to cause the sound.

I give up. I have no idea what it was. After that last one, it stopped. Quite odd. In broad daylight in my dark basement lair.

And the noises that used to occur overhead in Genius's room at night, right after he moved off to college...the ones that stopped about a month later? They returned this week. It sounds like someone is having a hoedown after hours.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Remember When Kids Built Snowmen in the Yard?


Oh, wait. That was yesterday's post. But it continues. I have been out of school due to snowfall since last Thursday. Hick drove me around on Saturday, and I ventured out yesterday and today. Ten plus inches of snow, and nowhere, NOWHERE, have I spied a single snowman.

Do the kids of today not sense that a snow day is a precious playday to be cherished? Are they tiny conspiracy theorists, avoiding that Fukushima-tainted snow like the plague? Do they lay about, clicking their keyboards and think pad notebook surface gadget thingies and smart phones? One would suppose a child would get tired of that after a six-day weekend, and head out into the yard with a two lumps of coal, a carrot, a scarf, a pork-pie hat and two dead branches ripped from a neighbor's tree. But there was ne'er a snowman to be found along all the roads of Backroads. However...

We saw a giant middle finger.

Yes, a snow sculpture of rather large proportions, four knuckles and the extended middle finger as high as a normal adult's waist. It would have been taller, but some unfortunate accident had amputated that digit at the second joint.


As soon as this snow melts, I shall renew my lackadaisical efforts to get my proposed handbasket factory up and running. It's the least I can do to save humanity.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Must Draw the Line at My Butt Cheeks

The nightmare continues! Postal People Problems! I swear, I could start a separate blog. Let's try to narrow the topic to a single post office, and two specific visits. There IS a common theme. And that theme is VAL'S PERSONAL SPACE HAS BEEN VIOLATED. Excuse me. Sometimes I have to let it out.

Last Tuesday, I had a sick day to let the phlebotomist bruise my arm. Of course, I still had to go to school and pick up The Pony. It takes about 35 minutes to get there from home at top speed. I generally allow 40 minutes, just to be comfortable. I knew I had to pick up a package at the dead-mouse-smelling post office on the way, so I left 10 minutes early. I pass right by.

The universe continues to thwart Val's every plan. Before I even got to the dead-mouse-smelling post office, I had to dodge a barreling UPS truck, weave around a county highway department wood chipper on the blind fluffy dog curve (uh, blind curve, not blind dog), and follow a car on the county road that drove slower than my mom. Still. I had no idea I would later be an inactive participant in seven school buses stopping. So I was sure I had time to dash in for my package.

When did the dead-mouse-smelling post office turn into Walmart, where you are always tenth in line? I didn't get the memo. But since I was already stopped, and thought I had time, and had already counted the obstacles between me and the counter, I stayed. Send a package. Stamps. Registered letter. Package pick-up. Moving mail-forwarding form. Send a package. Stamps. Then the problem guy.

Problem Guy didn't know he was a problem. He had been minding his own business in line, scooting forward a thigh-high rectangular box with his foot. When he was next to next in line, he called somebody on his cell phone. "What's in here, anyway?" At the counter, he said he needed to ship it overseas in time for Christmas. The worker lady told him today was the last day. She put it on the scale, and told him it would cost $22. Did he want insurance? Yes. Contents worth $50. Then Worker Lady said, "Hold up. I think it's oversize." She whipped out her metal tape measure. Yep. Oversize. So it was going to cost $42. He did not complain. Just sighed and took out his wallet again. Worker Lady apologetically told him that if his package had weighed more, she wouldn't have needed to charge him for his package being oversize.

Here is the drama part. Yeah. People HAVE told me I have trouble getting to the point. There was only one lady between me and Problem Guy. But many other delayed customers had filed in after me. The old man directly behind me started heckling. "You mean if he put some rocks in that package, it would cost him less to mail?" Worker Lady agreed. "Yes. Unfortunately, the post office says that since they're not making money off your freight charge, they're going to make you pay more for taking up room." Huh. Problem Guy did not really engage. The box contained Christmas ornaments. Not good candidates for stowaway rocks.

But that's still not the theme of this story. The lady behind the Buttinsky guy would not stay in her place. From the minute she came in, she was a creeper. Buttinsky maintained the normal personal space that we older North Americans are accustomed to. Creeper was like a claim jumper. All at once she was between Buttinsky and me. Like she was going to jump on my back for a proper fireman's carry to the counter. The next minute she was under my left armpit. Then a step ahead of me. A regular Waldo. She was not stealthy, either. She kept popping up like a Whack-A-Mole. I only yearned for a mallet.

Problem Guy was shunted to the side to fill out paperwork. The lady ahead of me presented her orange postcard for a package. Worker Lady laid it on the counter and went to the back room. She returned with that package, and two for me, which she had to scan to show they hadn't lost them. She knows me on sight now. Worker Lady nodded at me as she handed over the previous lady's package. I laid my orange postcards on the counter next to the other one. THERE WAS CREEPER! She was in front of me. Craning her neck, looking at those cards like she was memorizing our addresses. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

In case anyone cares, I was ten minutes late to pick up The Pony. I only share that because I wanted to tie up that loose end before dwelling on the real issue here with my personal post office experience.

Today I had to pick up another two packages. The Pony was with me, but I had some jawing to do about a package missing since last Thursday, so I let him wait in the car. Perhaps I misspoke in comparing the dead-mouse-smelling post office to Walmart. Today I was only ninth in line. I can't even remember what the people head of me were doing, because I was so incensed about the man behind me.

Directly in front of me was a young mother with a baby in a basket, and a five-year-old. The baby was sweet, and the fiver didn't stare. Perfect. Except for that old man behind me. He kept sighing. I understood the need. But with every sigh, I felt the hair on the back of my neck part. Then he started doing the motorboat lip-flapping raspberry sound with each exhale. Like an old nag flapping its horse lips. I didn't want to turn. I moved forward as far as I could without setting the fiver to staring. Mr. Ed moved closer. I could feel the heat coming off his body. Except I was not Bear Grylls on the Irish moors, freezing my buttocks off, eating sheep eyeballs and stripping the hide for a makeshift sleeping bag. I was in no danger of hypothermia. I sighed. Half turned without looking. Hoping Mr. Ed would get the hint. He did not. I ran out of room to edge away from him. I turned my shoulders just a bit, to look out the window at T-Hoe. It couldn't have been more than a quarter turn. I didn't even move my feet. But that slight motion sent Mr. Ed's dangling hand, wrist, and forearm into the crack of my very buttocks! THE HORROR!

I heaved a heavy sigh of disapproval. Mr. Ed snorted. Not even an apology. I'm starting to think he was some kind of perv. I refused to turn my back to him again. I turned sideways, so he was at my shoulder. I hated that, because then his breath was on the side of my face. I wanted to grab his shoulders and shove him away. I sidled my way through the rest of the line. When my turn came at the counter, I moved off the the side. Right in the middle of the two stations. So it would have looked odd for him to ease up directly behind me again. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

I could never ride a train in India. Or even the New York subway.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

So I Was Feeling a Little Down...

Come on in! Here. Let me take your coat. What's that? Oh, I'm not laying it across the bed in the back bedroom...I'm keeping it. Sorry. You should have asked sooner. Go pick your seat. Heh, heh. I never get tired of that one.

Thank you all for showing up for my event on such short notice. It's not every day one gets an invite to a pity party. I truly appreciate your support. Some days Val can take anything the old world throws her way, and other days she's a quivering glob of plain gelatin. Take last night, for instance. I was feeling especially vulnerable, what with my championship plastic-baby-thawing performance, and the subsequent accusation of cheating. You'd have though I took an icepick to that glacierized inanimate infant. That put my nose out of joint. Then I read comments on the reportage of my victory.

The magic of ordinary days would have seen me viewing those comments through my rose-colored glasses (assuming I had them back from The Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe), taking such jibes in stride, like Jackie Joyner-Kersee over hurdles in her heyday, acknowledging the typewritten banter as a case of ganderfying the goose, giving Val a taste of her own medicine, fair play in a turnabout. However...I was still smarting from the announcement in front of the entire baby shower crowd that since I win everything, I must have cheated! I swear. That proclamation was as shocking as the time Ellen DeGeneres leaned over that sitcom airport microphone and BLARED to the sitcom airport and TV viewing audience, "I'm gay!" It took me by surprise. Probably more than Ellen's announcement took anyone by surprise.

So I was smarting, you see. My virtual 44 oz. Diet Coke cup was half empty, not half full. I started grousing about my image. How I am perceived by the masses of baby shower attendees and blog readers. A quick scroll through past comment sections seemed to point to an unavoidable fact. Val is a bragging, win-at-all-costs, husband-wood-chipping, menopausal, insane-asylum-bound, pencil-wielding eyeball-stabber who wears clothing made from dinner napkins, releases enough gaseous emissions to single-handedly warm the globe, cares not enough about her pets to let them reside inside, with an identity that is very hard to be. No wonder that tooth-sucker who works at The Charlatans Optical Delusions Emporium and Professional Prevaricators Shoppe looked at me like I was something she scraped off her shoe, that looked like a chunk of mystery meat filler that fell out of her Walmart Chicken Chimichanga, that resembled a cooked version of the blob that comes out of a patient's midriff during psychic surgery.

Let's all grab our Walmart stuck-together paper plates and move to the serving table. Do NOT take an extra fork! We have the main course all respectable pity parties, fried worms, along with a bit of crow, some humble pie for dessert, and a choice of Val's salty tears or hemlock tea (sweetened and unsweetened) for the beverage.

"What about games?" you ask. We will have the 44 oz. Diet Coke Chugging contest. The Thaw Val's Cold, Cold Heart contest (no fair removing Val's heart for heating). The Putting On Big Girl Panties contest, where participants must dress themselves in 10 pairs of granny panties and run across the room without picking their seat. The Soup-Stacking contest. And the Spin Juno And See Who Chews Her Nose contest. Prizes will be awarded at the discretion of Val, consisting of various and sundry treasures collected over the years by Hick at auctions and flea markets. Sorry, the Department of Health prohibits the dispensation of Auction Meat.

I hope you all enjoy my little soiree. I think it will be good for what ails me. Tomorrow Val will be back to her Mother Teresa/Pollyanna/Mary Poppins self, writing about fluffy kittens, gamboling puppies, silky unicorns, rainbows, and lollipops.

Like a post-apocalyptic roach, Val is a survivor.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Val Thevictorian, Infant Dispatcher

Val is a woman of many talents. Why, just this evening, she delivered a baby. Oh, not only did she deliver that baby, Val delivered that baby faster than all the other baby deliverers, relying on her old standby of spouting hot air, without even using her hands, without dropping the baby as some butterfingered deliverers did, and without licking the baby's buttocks.

Okay. I went to my niece's baby shower. All attendees were given a plastic shot glass containing a Mardi Gras cake type plastic baby frozen in an ice cube. The first person to get the baby out of the ice cube, without using hands, sticking anything in the glass, taking the ice cube out of the glass, or submerging that shot glass in hot coffee, was the winner. Here is my prize:

It's a hermetically-sealed jar of chocolate-covered cereal, powdered-sugar-coated Puppy Chow. That's what my sister the ex-mayor's wife calls it, anyway. Oh, and there's the bouncing baby of indeterminate gender that I delivered. I can't believe the rest of the faux midwives were not happier for my victory. It kind of hurt my feelings that there was such a sigh of resignation, and several shouts of disbelief. Let's see...I think the glowing lady of honor's exact words were: "I should have known you'd win. You win everything. You must have cheated." So hurtful. I'm of half a mind not to participate in the Christmas contests at her mother's house this year. I'll show them! I won't win a thing.

Here's my baby-delivery strategy. First of all, when the tray of frozen babies is paraded around the room for selection, and you grab one with a big fat ice cube, hand it immediately to Hick, and take another one. Then start breathing. Yeah. Right into that little plastic shot glass. Nothing melts the ice like a blow-hard. Don't follow the tactics of the poor clueless males on either side of you. Much as he thinks he has cracked the code of baby delivery, The Pony's method of banging the cup on a plastic plate REPEATEDLY does not work. I suppose he was trying to crack it open like an egg. Nor do you want to adopt Hick's mode of putting that plastic shot glass containing an ice cube with a baby frozen inside down the neck of your long-sleeved gray T-shirt and into your hairy armpit. If you feel lightheaded from all that exhaling, don't take a chance on hyperventilating and losing valuable baby-thawing time. Swirl that shot glass so the baby's newly-exposed parts are bathed in the melt-water. That helps free the baby from the ice. When you hear the baby clinking against the cube, raise your glass high and shout, "My baby is loose!" Then nod and say, "Uh huh!" when those in charge say they don't think so.

The Pony's favorite part was the foot cookies. I kind of enjoyed the centerpieces. Yes. She's expecting a girl.

We left before the next game, and the drawing for the grand prize for those who also brought a package of Huggies. Our roads are ice-covered, and we didn't want to be out too late. Besides, if Hick had won the diaper drawing, I fear that the mob might have come after us with flaming torches.

Val. Always the victorian.