Monday, June 30, 2014

A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing

The Pony returned Saturday from his three-week sojourn on the Mizzou campus at Missouri Scholars Academy, all smarted up from daily classes in writing and problem-solving. Those are the two areas he chose for his major and minor.

He deposited two suitcases full of dirty clothes, a packsack stuffed with writing accouterments, a bucket of toiletries, and two canvas shopping bags (one Walmart, one Barnes & Noble) containing odds and ends, near and on the two living room couches and coffee table. That meant that if Hick or I was in the La-Z-Boy, the other had to ensconce himself on the vacant cushion of the short couch. Let the record show that I made it my mission to secure the La-Z-Boy.

Poor Pony. He left us a 5'6", 130-something-pound strapping specimen of nerdhood, and returned a 125-pound waif. He has been feeding well over the past two days. I foresee a complete recovery.

Sunday I set him to harvesting various loads of laundry from those two suitcases. Funny how now that he's home, he's forgotten how to wash his own clothes. I did scam the leftover quarters from the ten-dollar half-roll that his grandma gave him to take to the Academy. I figure it was for doing his laundry, and I'm doing his laundry. To the laundress go the spoils!

This morning I woke up with a pain in my toes. The two smallest toes on my left foot. The little piggy that had none, and the little piggy that went WEE WEE WEE all the way home. Most mornings I awake to various aching joints. But the toes were new achers. I was puzzled for about an hour. Huh. Did my feet hurt yesterday in Save-A-Lot? Did my shoes feel too tight? Did I get stepped on by a minipony? No, no, and no. Then it all came back to me.

The Pony had just fished underwear and socks out of his small suitcase. It was wedged on its side between the long couch and the coffee table. Hick had been sitting on the short couch. I got up to turn on the washer, and rammed those hungry and loud piggies into the bottom of The Pony's small suitcase. I did not ram them on the curvy corner that is flexible, like the cartilage of a dolphin's fin. No. I rammed them on those hard plastic posts that are used as feet for the suitcase when you let go of its pull handle and park it while waiting in line. I would not want to see a slow-motion re-enactment, because I imagine those two toes bent all the way back against the side of my foot, as if they had no bones. I cannot bring myself to look and see if they are purple. I know they are facing the right way, because I got my shoe on this morning. And they feel just fine now in my red Crocs.

Of course I blame Hick for my accident. Val is not one to careen through the house willy-nilly, slamming into objects in plain sight. If not for the stretched-out short feet of Hick, narrowing my pathway between the couches, I would have completed my journey free and clear. It's his fault, really, that I almost dislocated my toes. And to rub salt in that closed wound, Hick made his turned-up-nose, rolling-eyes face when I screamed in pain. That man is so histrionic! He might as well try for a Tony. He has not even noticed that The Pony is a shadow of his former self.

One trip. Two casualties. I think The Pony and I will both recover.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Met My Old Beggar on the Interstate Off-Ramp Thursday Afternoon

I met my old beggar on the interstate off-ramp Thursday afternoon
He didn't even see me
I just smiled
And he waved a cardboard begging sign
And all the other cars passengers ignored him
Still crazy, amongst those idling gears

Halfway back from my doctor's appointment Thursday, Hick pulled off the interstate to find some lunch. There was a dude sitting on the exit ramp, in the lane where people make a left turn to go into town. He was sitting on his backpack, holding a sign that looked like a flap off the end of a cardboard box. Written on it, in Sharpie, perhaps, "Need Help."

"You know, I don't mind to give money to somebody who really needs help. But I'll be darned if they're going to make a fool of me like some of those I read about. You know, the ones who do this for a living. They always need gas money, or will work for food, but they're not traveling. They live here. And if you give them food, they toss it away. In the meantime, they make a couple hundred dollars a day, tax-free. Then go get in their car and drive to their house."

"Yeah. You never know if they really need it."

"Check his shoes. Are they worn?"

"Nah. Just black tennis shoes."

"That backpack he's sitting on looks kind of ratty. But it would be, if he sits on it every day. I don't see any kind of traveling stuff hanging off of it."

"He doesn't look like he's missed many meals."

"Yeah. You would think he'd put on a shirt to cover his belly. His cut-off jeans are kind of ratty. But maybe that's his uniform. For begging. I wonder how many days he's been here. Or how many hours. Maybe he makes a couple hundred dollars a day. Tax free. Just sitting on the road, holding a sign."

"You never know."

"This is a big enough city that there are places he can get help. I can't believe the police let him sit out here on the interstate ramp."

This is why we need to license beggars. So they can have a badge that says they're real beggars. Really in need. Not scamming. But I suppose the real beggars would sell their badges to fake beggars, so they have money without working to beg. And the fake beggars would use the badges to organize a group and have their minions sit in the sun all day, then take a cut of their beggins.

No solution here. I'm leery of handing over money to freelance beggars.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sometimes She Seems a Tad Unreasonable

My mom has a complaint about her neighbor. The neighbor she peeps out the window to look for, to make sure he will not be watching her if she goes out to water her plants. Mom says he mows his yard every day. OFF WITH HIS HEAD! She didn't say that in so many words. But she seems to think his lawn-mowing is inappropriate. That's because he mows the same section every day.

"Maybe he just likes to keep his yard tidy."

"There's no need to mow that same spot every day!"

"I bet that's his best vantage point for watching you."

"Well, that may be. But he can still see me from the his porch when he sits there with the newspaper."

Mom is also upset with her good neighbor. A new restaurant opened up in town, with a 1950's theme.

"Naby called and said we all should go have lunch there. Her and the ladies I went to school with, and some I used to teach with. Like when we all go out to breakfast and sit for three hours."

"Oh, you should! I think you would really like it, from what the article in the paper said."

"Well, I'm not going to organize it. She's always saying these things, but then she never calls to say when we're going."

"Maybe just the two of you should go. To check it out."

"I am not going to call her and ask her to go to lunch. She's just waiting for me to call and ask."

"Like you are just waiting for HER to call and ask you to go? I have a feeling it's going to be a while before you go out to lunch."

"She's the one who called me about going to lunch. Let her be the one to start it."

Good thing I took Mom to lunch on Friday. An old gal could starve waiting to get a lunch invitation in these parts.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Nightmare at Twelve-and-a-Half Feet

Today I returned from Friday in the car with Mom, petted my sweet, sweet Juno, gave her a handful of cat kibble, and carried an armload of stuff to the kitchen door. I juggled to get my key in the correct configuration, gave a yank to that cantankerous door that wants to stick on the recent pry-free plate Hick installed, and stepped through the portal.


Something dropped from above, past my face, skimmed over the breastesses of my chest like a dude in a barrel over Niagara Falls, and out of sight.


I lurched forward like a kid granted one giant step in a game of Mother May I. Slowly I turned. Looked at the threshold.


A giant Daddy Longlegs was striding toward the safety of Hick's winter boots, sitting under the window by the floor vent. NO! Val is not one to suffer Harvestmen in her home! She finds those bulbous-bodied, hair-strand-legged critters to be particularly creepy.


I stomped that eight-legged spider impersonator before he could lift another leg. I despise a stridin' Harvestman. To think that it had dropped right past my FACE, and across my chest was horrific.

Our back deck must be particularly attractive to this clientele, what with being up off the ground twelve-and-a-half feet, away from most of the peckin' chickens, with a roof to keep off the rain. Also a fan of this habitat: wasps. Since my unfortunate hospitalization, I've been lax in my wasp-spraying duties. About once every two days, I get dive-bombed by one. Good thing they're not yellow-jackets. Or killer bees. I just forge ahead and they fly off after the collision. I have much more momentum, you know. It hurts them way more than it hurts me.

Until a stinger rears its ugly butt.

Here's the scene of the crime. Don't mind the alarm system warning, or the note for UPS to leave packages in the garage so the dogs don't eat them.

You'd think predators would be scared off by that fake ceramic gunbelt thingy Hick got at some auction or flea market. Or by that dinner bell coated with bird poo that also was a treasure of Hick's. The wasps are up above the door, in the corner by the soffit. The Harvestmen have the next section. That whitish area, I think. Unseen is the right-hand corner, where birds try to build a little nest. I think they perch on that dinner bell while they contemplate their next move.

Maybe I should simply spray and sweep that area tomorrow. I'm moving a little faster now in case the evictees object to my actions.

There's a new sheriff in town. I've got a can of Black Flag in both holsters.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

That, My Friends, is the Elephant on the Highway

As I waited in the waiting room (where else did you think I'd be waiting) at MoBap for my lab test, I noticed a peculiar behavior amongst the staff. No, it wasn't the insurance-info-taker who told me I reminder her of her ex-husband's new wife. It was the various lab-testers who came to pick up the paperwork and call their testees. Heh, heh. I said testees!

They would grab the form, peer at it a moment, and then start walking around the large waiting room full of waiters. Let me tell you, almost ever seat was taken. Hick and I had to settle for two chairs in a corner, with a table between them, under the TV. So all we heard was the sound of Chester Lampkin giving the weather. It's a good thing the grabbers walked around looking for their grabbees.

At first, I thought the Grabbers were playing some kind of game. Like somebody was telling them through a tiny ear receiver, "You're warm. Warmer. Cold! Cold! Warm. Warmer. RED HOT!" Then they knew they were standing in front of their Grabbees. Silly me. It dawned on me that I had given my driver's license to the info-taker. Obviously, they had printed out a picture on the form, so that the Grabbers were just looking for a particular face.

When my Grabber came, she took a few minutes. Of course, she DID have to go from one corner of the room to the opposite corner to find me under the TV. She stopped in front of me, a fairly pregnant bespectacled lady in scrubs, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. "Val?" I was so proud of her, I almost clapped. I got up and followed.

When we cleared the waiting room and started up the hall, I said, "I guess it's a good thing it took you a minute to recognize me from that driver's license photo. It's terrible! This gives me hope that it doesn't really look like me. It's so hideous that even my mom laughs."

Grabber kept walking. "Oh, I haven't seen your photo. There are no pictures on our paperwork."

Huh! How do they do it? Are those Grabbers like Long Island Mediums? Do they try to judge by height and weight? Or did she know that info-taker's ex-husband and had met his new wife, and info-taker put a note on there about it? I never did figure out how Grabber knew my identity...even though we spent some intimate time together.

As for the elephant...this was no case of the elephant in the room. As we cruised up I-270 in the middle of six lanes, traffic flying by on both sides, I saw a curious sight. That's because I was pointedly ignoring Hick with his one eye, sweaving like a master, taking one hand off the wheel to point to a trailer with ramps to tell me how he needed to fix his own trailer with ramps. I looked to the far left lane, the high-speed lane, and saw a red truck pass by with an elephant laying down in the back. Its trunk stuck out over the tailgate. True, it was not a real live elephant. It was a bit of a misshapen elephant suited for a miniature golf course. But still, I saw an elephant riding in the back of a little red truck on I-270. If only I had been able to snap a picture.

Now I have two mysteries to try to solve. The elephant, and how that Grabber recognized me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum, Encased in a Quandary, and Carried in a Paradox

Hick took today off work to haul me to the doctor. No city driving for this ol' Val. Good thing I checked out the directions at the last minute. More than five people had told me my appointment was at MoBap, in a professional building. I guess the amateur building was eagerly awaiting for some calamity to befall the professional building, so that he could take over the duties, like a first runner-up in a beauty pageant, or like an understudy for Bette Midler in a Broadway performance of Rochelle, Rochelle in the event that a Humpty Dumpty with a melon head bowled her over while she was catching for her softball team in the Show League.

Huh. My appointment was NOT at a MoBap professional building, but on down the road a piece in a stand-alone facility. Hick had his Garmin, the generic version, which performed admirably at finding the address. I wish I could compliment Hick on his driving skills, but this is one area where he does not excel. Okay, I got there an back alive. That's the good news. The bad news is that I had a bit of a rough trip.

Hick's sweaving skills were in rare form today. He's a Master Sweaver. Hick is the sweavingest sweaver who ever sweaved. Any other travelers on the roadway might have looked into T-Hoe's passenger window and assumed that Hick was transporting a cobra being enticed out of a wicker basket on the front seat by a pungi played by a charmer on the back seat, so rubbery were my head and neck from all the sweaving.

Hick also has never met a speed limit he cared to obey. That's fine on the interstate, because the other drivers and Hick are simpatico, but on the blacktop roads, he really needs to slow down a bit. Those roads are rough and crumbly, with a plethora of potholes. I was jarred so hard that the straps of my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder slid right off my shoulders. My boulders themselves jounced like big rocks on that very first shake table those crooked Hoffman people used in the first season of Gold Rush.

Still, Hick got me to the appointment on time. A little early, even. And as Val Thevictorian's luck would have it, after the exam, she was shipped over to MoBap itself for another test. Hick piloted me there without incident and waited for me to be sprung. He even dropped me off at the door. Unfortunately, our day took way more time than either of us had anticipated. The sweet pregnant lady doing my test even offered me a snack. I declined, but had to chug down the bottle of water she gave me. For the test. Then she came right back for the plastic bottle. "We recycle these, you know." Another mark in the plus column for MoBap. I am having quite a time trying to find something to complain about with them.

Instead of stopping for a leisurely lunch at 2:30 on our way home, Hick elected to drive through Captain D's. Too bad it missed my menu review yesterday. Hick had a pressing engagement to haul home and unload and stack for the winter 100 bales of hay.

Here's the thing about our lunch. Hick went through the drive-thru, and ordered two fish sandwiches. We waited. And waited. "Huh. It might have been faster to go somewhere for a sit-down meal." Uh huh. I had my heart set on some Imo's Velveeta on cardboard, which was only feet way, but that darn minion of Captain D came to the window with our order. As the official passenger-seat food-hander-outer, I was struck by the redundancies in the wrapping.

I looked in the plastic bag for our sandwiches, only to find one of those flip-top styrofoam trays. I opened it. Inside were two foil logs. I opened one up, and found white waxed paper with the Captain D's logo on it wrapped around a fish sandwich. Are you with me here? Let's go backwards, from the way they wrapped it. Fish sandwich wrapped in 1) waxed paper. Waxed paper wrapped in 2) foil. Foil put in 3) styrofoam box. Styrofoam box put in 4) plastic bag.

I'll bet that snake charmer could have slapped a hunk of fish on a slab of roti and handed it to us with no wrapping, all while tooting at that cobra. No waste there.

Captain D's is no MoBap.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Val's Real Descriptive Fast-Food Menu

As part of my personal public service pledge, I occasionally veer away from complaining long enough to inform denizens of the blogospere about pertinent matters such as feces transplants, pulmonary embolisms, and the joys abandoned black dogs can bring their rescuers.

Today I shall use my public service platform to help fast-food junkies make informed decisions. Food is not always as it appears in commercials, you know.

Val's Eclectic Fast Food Menu (in no particular order or sections).

Dairy Queen Blizzard
More like a Dairy Queen Monsoon. No matter what time of day, or what kind of weather I purchase my is runny. Runny like Campbell's Chunky Soup. I might as well order a shake, because the shake would be thicker than my Monsoon. I used to think the workers made it as soon as I ordered, and let it sit on the counter until I pulled up to the drive-thru window. Nope. The last one I saw created right before my eyes. And it was still runny. My best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel says I should ask them to turn it upside down at the counter. That's how they advertise the Monsoons. The cardboard cup even has a picture of the Monsoon upside down. Doesn't matter if it's a mini or a small, all Monsoons are runny. Don't take the spoon, ask for a straw.

Hardee's Cheeseburger
Not so much a cheeseburger as a large seeded bun sandwiching twin lakes of ketchup and mustard, with pickle chips the size of York Peppermint Patties. Somewhere, there's a wafer of charbroiled meatness, but it's hard to find. The hint of cheese is easily confused with the mustard.

Hardee's Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders
Elongated chicken nuggets fried up in peanut oil with batter crispy enough to break a tooth. The term breading is used loosely, as no bread is evident, only oily hard flour leavings.

Taco Bell Supreme Beef Burrito
A quilt-sized flour tortilla folded like the maker was taking a stab at the old "You Can't Fold A Piece Of Paper In Half More Than Seven Times" challenge. Once you have gnawed your way through one end, you might find the dollop of sour cream and shreds of lettuce with a light coating of red sauce interspersed with several cubes of diced tomato and a couple slivers of cheese. After that bite, you'll get into the burrito proper for two bites of bean paste and intermittent crumbs of a meatish product touted by one of my school lunch companions (who teaches nutrition) to be worm protein.

Ponderosa/Bonanza Steakhouse
You can order a variety of steaks, but don't ask for a chopped steak any other way than well done. They won't make it rare because they're afraid of spreading E. Coli or Mad Cow Disease. The food bar items poured right out of cans, sometimes heated to lukewarmity, full of salt and a chemical taste that's hard to describe. The food tastes as if it has been stored underground in a missile silo since the Cold War.

Little Caesar's Pizza
Crust that, once-cooled, has the consistency and flavor of drywall. Topped with a tiny bit of sauce and tasteless cheese.

Pizza Hut Pizza
Nondescript crust covered with a lake of salty sauce and a miniscule amount of cheese, sprinkled with two or three pieces of each topping.

Imo's Pizza
Best described by a work colleague as "Velveeta on cardboard." I must say, I'm all for Velveeta on cardboard if it tastes like Imo's. I'm a fan of the square beyond compare.

If that's not enough to encourage you to heat up your own food in the oven, or warm it in the microwave at home, I don't know what is.

Feel free to review your own restaurant non-favorites in the comments.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Time To Make More Room on the Counter of My Proposed Handbasket Factory

Eureka! I've found it! The perfect job for Hick!

He has a perfectly good job already, but he's a bit disgruntled when he gets home from a long day in the salt mine sweatshop keeping his nose to the grindstone. So I've found him something he can do from home.


I discovered his talent by accident. Let's just say that Hick is not a silver-tongued devil. The devil part, maybe. He has less of a knack for words than Norm Crosby. No Nipsey Russell is our Hick. But he could be all the rage for guys like himself. Guys who know what they want to say, but simply cannot find their sentiments on a greeting card.

A couple of Hick's gems I still remember from when we were first married.

"You are like an elephant." So sweet, my special guy, my new husband. When I called him on it, Hick became defensive. "I didn't mean it bad. I never forget anything! You are like an elephant." Okay. No need to repeat it. Can't you see the card with this Hickism? A drawing of a healthy elephant on the front, perhaps adorned with false eyelashes, perhaps with a pink bow. YOU ARE LIKE AN ELEPHANT. And on the inside: You never forget anything! Such a compliment. Any gal would be pleased to receive such a card from her guy. Right?

"I like that skirt. It reminds me of a circus tent." Uh huh. So complimentary on my wardrobe. He couldn't believe I was offended. "No! I didn't mean it like that. I didn't mean it's the SIZE of a circus tent. It's the colors. It's bright. I makes me think of a circus tent." Oh, how romantic this card could be. On the front, a colorful circus tent. Above it, YOUR SKIRT REMINDS ME OF A CIRCUS TENT. And on the inside: I can't wait to see what's under the Big Top! Yep. You know that's what's on every guy's mind. Why not just put it out there? No need to beat around the bush.

Yesterday morning, I had this major breakthrough concerning Hick's new proposed greeting card line. He had gone through a litany of complaints/suggestions for how I should behave. Not that he's controlling or anything. He just wants me to go to bed at 8:00 when he does, and get up at 5:00 when he does, and go to flea markets and auctions, and go down to his cabin, and walk around looking at his goats and chickens. You know. Everything he does. He summed it up quite well when he said, "I just want you to be me."

Huh! Aint' THAT the truth!

"Obviously. You want me to be you. That's the problem."

"No, no...that's not what I meant. I want you to be WITH me. That's what I should have said."

"But the other part is what it boils down to. You don't care about MY interests, but I should take on all of yours. Indeed. You DO want me to BE you."

That's the third card. On the front, just those words. I WANT YOU TO BE ME. And when you open it up, it's a picture of the guy with his face cut out, and a little silver mirror so the gal sees her face with his hair and hat and shirt, etc.

Yes. Hick's greeting card line would be called Hickmark. Besides those three, the others are a bit more racy. His attempts at wooing a woman with sweet nothings. Let's just say Hick gets right to the point. We cannot mention the verses in these other cards. The romantic line would be 47 Shades of Tan. Cards would be on paper sack material. Or perhaps original (or even used) white butcher paper, because they could smell like meat. Hey! Guys are the ones buying them, remember? Instead of envelopes, the cards would be closed with a knotted piece of twine that comes off hay bales when you're ready to feed the hay to your goats or minipony.

It could work. No sillier than guy candles called Mandles that smell like grass, wood shop, and gunpowder.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Toot! Toot! Make Way for the Braggin' Wagon!

Toot! Toot! Beep! Beep!

Sorry for all you disco aficionados, but this is not a tribute to Donna Summer. Watch your toes! The Braggin' Wagon is headed your way. Hop on for a little ride. Don't cost nothin'. And if you fall off the Wagon, nobody is going to stage an intervention.

Genius has been away at Missouri Boys State for the last 11 days, working in the IT department as a way of giving back to the program. He's not doing it for the money. It pays a stipend of $100 for the entire session. Which, if you are mathematically inclined, figures out to less than ten dollars a day. Sure, he had a free shared room, and delicious meals from the cafeteria that also fed the Boys State citizenss, but he had to pay his own way there and back. He will do a little better than breaking even after paying for gas. Oh! Wait a minute! Genius will do a LOT better than break even!

Yesterday, as he was leaving, he called to tell me that he had been awarded the Missouri Boys State Staff Scholarship. He says it is a one-time award of $1500. Not too shabby! I was telling my best old ex-teaching buddy, Mabel, by text last evening, that I imagine it's more difficult for a staffer in the IT department to win, what with being behind the scenes and not out front like the counselors. Genius confirmed later that he is the FIRST IT staffer ever to win the Staff Scholarship. Kudos to my little techy. His photo is HERE, on this page, without our Thevictorian surname, and not in order of where he is standing. Let's just say he is proudly sporting his staff shirt, ID badge, and white shorts.

I told Mabel that Genius was now back at "home" in the city, doing laundry and probably fighting with his landlord's dog over the last slice of Totino's Pizza. Mabel summed it all up with: "Dog 1, Genius 0." Genius was shocked at her blatant pronouncement, though he was pleased with her congratulations for a job well done. Genius also said our county has been well-represented by the staffers, what with his cross-county rival winning the Staff Scholarship last year while acting as a counselor.

A few miles away, The Pony has been attending Missouri Scholars Academy on the Mizzou campus. Today was Family Day. Hick, and The Pony's niece, who is only a two years younger than The Pony, went to visit. I stayed home to avoid a possible exsanguination at the hands of Hick at the wheel for a three-hour drive. Hick reported that he took The Pony to a local park, where they toured some caves, and then went out for pizza. They attended programs at 1:00 and 3:00. At 4:00, Hick called to say he was leaving, and that he thought The Pony was ready for them to go. He informed me, upon interrogation, that The Pony seemed to be getting along swimmingly with other Scholars, and that several had called his name to greet him at the park. He's a regular Cheers Norm, our little Pony. Hick also said that The Pony mentioned that he had formed actual friendships with about 15 people while he has been at the Academy. Unless you know The Pony, you may not grasp the significance of this interpersonal interaction.

Oh, and one more thing...The Pony has spent the last week keeping company with...wait for it...drumroll please...are you ready for this...A GIRL! He has even forgotten to call me many nights because, as he put it, "I was talking to a girl, and that distracted me, and then we had our house meeting, and then I had my shower, and now it is time for lights out in five minutes." That's his story, and he's stickin' to it.

WAIT! That's not what I'm bragging about. Hick said the 3:00 program was a scholar bowl competition, and that The Pony's house was competing in the finals, and that THEY WON! Yeah. Out of 19 houses. Braggin' rights to The Pony for being on the smartest team at smart camp. HooRah! Never mind that he didn't answer any questions during the final competition. He had to do something right to get on the team for all the preliminary rounds. As he told Hick, "That kid from our rival school who competes against me at our school scholar bowl is smart, and I am smart, but up here, we're nothing special." Oh, yes he is! He's very special to me. We had that talk before he left that he's not always going to be the best. I think he's handling it well. The Pony has come out of his shell. No pictures of The Pony, but if you have high-speed internet, you can find him on this page, in a red shirt and plaid shorts, playing conga drums and "dancing."

Whew! All that braggin' has worm me out. But at least it's out of my system for a few weeks.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Closer Than Stink On Poo

You know how life is never easy for Val Thevictorian? That's a rhetorical question. I don't expect you all to chant, "Yessssss..."

I chose that row of three seats at Mom's doctor's office specifically to limit interaction with people. You never know how long the doctor will take, and the longer the doctor takes, the more weirdos try to pierce Val's armor, invade her air space, encroach upon her bubble.

We were there an hour and fifteen minutes all together. Here's a little picture of time standing still.

This is right after Mom got called in, leaving me with that rabbit/koala bear on the arm of the chair. I could have chosen to sit on that row across from me. Except that I didn't feel like being clobbered by that giant clock if the New Madrid Fault suddenly decided to engage in its long-overdue shenanigans. Yeah. I might have mentioned before that I'm a lot like Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine in her house of imagined horrors perched precariously on that cliff overlooking Lake Lachrymose in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

No, I did not choose that row of chairs, because it is right around the corner from where people get off the elevator. It's in a direct line with the hallway leading down to the check-in windows of several doctors. I did not want people traipsing past my tootsies, breathing their germ-laden breath in my face. I figured that if I sat on the opposite wall, surely people would be walking past those other chairs, evening out their path to the middle of the hall, giving me my desired personal space. You know what happens when we figure. We make a fig out of u and re. Wait. I might have that saying messed up a little bit.

Yeah. I was all the way across that five-to-six-foot gap, but the sick folk still insisted on crowding me. I was forever pulling back my feet. I looked like a Cossack dancer, but without the colorful costume. Nothing would do those close-walkers but to brush past my legs and feet like a cat waiting for his bowl of Fancy Feast. They were closer than the bumpers of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon drafting during the final lap of the Daytona 500. Closer than Russell Hantz to Survivor's Hidden Immunity Idols. Closer than Marlon Brando to Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris. Okay, not THAT close. But they could not stay away from Val.

No matter whether the walkers were pushing loved ones in wheelchairs, hauling oxygen tanks, or flying solo, they still came within millimeters of my withdrawn New Balance. One lady was pulling her teenage daughter by a clear length of oxygen tubing, yanking on it like she was a recalcitrant canine resisting the leash, saying, "Come ON." And still they trod treacherously close to Val's toes.

I wish I had thrust that shortbread rabbit/koala bear at them like a talisman. "Beware! BEWARE!" I think those close-walkers would have heeded my warning. Or else some old guy would have whacked me with his cane.

Next time I'm taking a shark cage for my own protection.

Friday, June 20, 2014

It Could Have Been Worse

I drove my mom to the doctor this morning. She's perfectly capable of driving herself, but she was having a biopsy of a little growth in front of her ear, and I didn't want her driving in case she felt woozy.

Last week, when she went in to ask the doctor about the growth, a new nurse took her in. "She was really young. She treated me different from Chatty, the regular nurse, who never stops talking. I take her peppermints. She LOVES peppermints. Anyway, this new girl was taking my information. She asked if I still lived at the same address. Then she says, 'Who's with you?' and I told her nobody. And she said, 'You drove yourself ALL THE WAY OVER HERE BY YOURSELF?' And I said, 'Yes. I'm perfectly capable of driving myself. I do it all the time.' THEN she said, 'Do you eat your vegetables?' I don't know what she thought was wrong with me."

"I told you they treat older people differently. When I took you for surgery that time, they kept talking to ME, like you weren't even in the room. And I told them, 'I don't know. Ask HER.' Remember that?"

"I do remember that."

"And you were barely 70 then. I don't know what's wrong with people. They need to have more respect."

So, I drove Mom to the doctor. She refused to be let out at the door, though if it had been still raining when we arrived, she had said she might get out at the door. We walked in, despite a delivery truck blocking the concrete sidewalk ramps so I had to step up and down. Inside, there was some grand rummage sale of scrubs and health care uniforms in the lobby. There must have been 10 racks clogging the area where chairs usually sit.

We wove our way to the two elevators, and two men jumped out of the racks and beat us to the button. "We'll just wait for the next one, Mom, if that's okay with you." I don't like to ride with people if I can get a private elevator car to myself. Mom said that was fine. We pushed the button. Both elevators were on the top floor: 4. Yeah. What did you expect, a high-rise?

The elevator on the left came down and opened up. Nobody was inside. We stepped in and I pushed 4. That's when it happened. The stampede of a migration of childebeests. FOUR adults and THREE children crammed in after us. I call shenanigans! Where were they while we were waiting? They must have been crouched in the clothing racks like lions around a watering hole. Did they all go to the 4th floor with us? Nope. One adult got off on 2. Two adults got off on 3. And the last adult and two kids got off on 4 with us. I swear. That elevator was like a clown car.

But that's not the most exciting thing that happened to us at the doctor today. Nope. Nothing odd about rude elevator usurpers. It was after Mom signed in, while she was waiting to be called, that weirdness visited us. I chose a row of three chairs against the wall, way down the hall, where people wouldn't bother me. As much. Mom came all the way back. "I'll just wait down here away from everybody until they call me."

I had chosen the middle of the three seats to discourage those weirdos who want to sit by me when there are 30 other empty chairs around the room. "Here, Mom. I'll move over one."

"Oh, no. That's fine. I'll sit over here." She moved to my right.

"No. That's farther away. Let me move my purse. Sit here on my left, where you're closer when they call you."

"Well...I don't know if I want to sit there. There's something on the chair."

Indeed. There WAS something on the chair. Something I had not noticed. "What IS that?" Let the record show that I was not wearing my glasses. "It looks vomit? I don't know...a cookie? Is it part of a cookie?"

Mom leaned over. Almost put her nose on it. "Oh! It's a rabbit!"

Looks more like a koala bear to me. But who am I to contradict my mother? Mom sat down like a brave little soldier, and left that rabbit/koala right were it was.

Never a dull moment when Mom and I go out on the town.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One So Suspicous of a Helpful Neighbor Should Not Be This Trusting

My mom's switchover from cable to DISH and AT&T was completed on Tuesday. We think.

Mom has said since last week that the AT&T guy was coming on Tuesday. The DISH was already up and running for several days. Once her phone got switched over, she would be free of the encumbrance of cable for good. Or at least until she decides to give up her high-speed internet that The Pony enjoys so much.

Wednesday morning Mom told me all about it. "You know how I said the cable people were out front yesterday, with their lift truck, working on the pole in front of my house? And how the AT&T truck showed up a couple hours later at the same pole?"

"Yeah. You told me about it when you called that afternoon, and my phone showed your call as out of area. Even though it was your same number. And it didn't say Grandma like Genius had it programmed to before."

"Uh huh. Well, right after I talked to you at 5:30, somebody rang my doorbell. I thought, 'Oh, no! Who is this? I hope it's not that neighbor doing something for me.' But I went to the door anyway. And it was the AT&T guy! He said he was here to switch my phone."

"At 5:30? I didn't know they worked that late. And why would he be there to switch your phone? It was already switched. That's why my caller ID showed it different."

"I don't know why he was there that late. But I got to talking to him, and he said he went to school where I used to teach! But I didn't remember him. And he didn't remember me. He said his wife went there, too. So he was going to ask her if she remembered me."

"Was he wearing a badge? Like, for ID from AT&T?"


"Was he in a uniform?"


"MOM! How do you know he wasn't just some guy telling you that to get in your house?"

"Well, he had a big truck. It was parked in the driveway."

"A big truck doesn't mean he works for AT&T!"

"It was a big WHITE truck. With AT&T on the side."

"Still. He might have knocked the real AT&T driver in the head! And then taken the truck. Haven't you seen the original Halloween? Michael Myers stole that guy's uniform and his tow truck! The AT&T guy should have had ID. You need to be more careful."

"He said he went to my school."

"Maybe he's just a stalker wanting to see what you have in your house! You really should ask for ID when people show up like that."

"I'm sure it will be fine. He said now that he fixed my phone, it probably won't show out of area again."

I'm going to keep an eye on that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Talk About a Hook!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the library...

Hey! Have you heard? There's a new program from the Missouri Department of Conservation designed to get more people a-fishin'! It's called the Discover Nature Fishing Rod and Reel Loaner Program. Yes. LOANER. You can check out equipment FROM DESIGNATED LIBRARIES and try your hand at fishing without investing in fishing accoutrements. Not too fast, there. You still must have a fishing license if you're over the age of 14. Which opens up the proverbial and literal can of worms from Val Thevictorian's perspective.

If you already have a fishing license, you probably have your own fishing equipment. Oh, and you have to have a library card to check out the loaners. I'm not complaining. Let there be a licensed, library-card-holding, borrowed-equipment fishing frenzy! I'm not casting stones. Not trying to make a ripple. It makes me no nevermind. I just think there are a few kinks that need to be ironed out.

The fishing equipment includes up to 12 poles per library, each with a little tackle box containing hooks, sinkers, bobbers, rubber worms, and a stringer. Apparently, the librarians are in charge of this equipment. One article said that the librarians will put a marshmallow on each hook so that nobody is snagged in the handling of the pole. That's fine for a brand-new fishing pole and hook. But think about when people check in their equipment after a day of fishing. There might be worm guts on the hooks if they sprung for their own bait after buying a license and a library card. At the very least, there's going to be smelly moss and weed particles clinging to the line, and fish odor on the stringers. And what about those reels that get jammed tighter than the dickens with twisted line? Do the librarians really want to deal with this stuff? To smell those used poles waiting to be checked out again?

I don't know about your librarians, but the ones at my local library are mostly volunteers. Crotchety, dessicated, stern volunteers, who refuse to deviate from established policy, and would like nothing better than to sit amongst the books, stroking them, perhaps, while whispering sweet nothings between their pages, while ignoring patrons as long as possible. I can't imagine these would-be Cerberuses flinging wide their gates to allow common folks to traipse about with sharp hooks (encased in marshmallows) swinging from long rods, perhaps with an unpleasant odor attached. I cannot see them spiffing up those fishing poles to await borrowing by the next patron. Nor can I see the head librarian taking on these duties. Neither do I imagine the Missouri Department of Conservation will assign a paid or volunteer representative to be on the premises daily to deal with their rods.

What about this pole-loaning program? It's a lofty endeavor, but do you think it will fly?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Natural Order of Succession is Being Usurped

Mass beautification is afoot in Backroads. I am not sure what occasion these efforts mark. We don't have a festival coming up. I doubt it's to impress the press which will be convening at the prison. Apparently we are about to lethally inject another convicted ne'er-do-well, because the sawhorses and orange tape that mark the press area have been in place since yesterday.

The thoroughfares of Backroads have not had this much attention lavished upon them since that headless body was found in the septic tank, and (unrelatedly) the cardboard-boxed portable meth lab was abandoned along the gravel road.

On my way to town this morning, I encountered a truck with a man-basket parked on the blacktop county road, another truck with a woodchipper parked behind it. It looked like they had recently felled a tree, because four sections of trunk were laying in the underbrush across the road. I suppose they were too big or too heavy to chip.

In a nearby town, crews had a road blocked off between the mini post office and the old library/city hall, painting thick white stopping lines by the stop signs, and also rectangular parking spaces along the road.

On the road to my mom's house, MEN WORKING signs were in place for the gray-pantsed, white-t-shirted prisoners weedeating along the right of ways. Thank goodness we have three prisons in the area to meet our landscaping needs. They are not allowed mowers. I suppose they could make a low-speed getaway like a Humpty-Dumpty-with-a-melon-head kind of guy on a Rascal. The only time they get mowers is on the prison grounds proper, when they gang-mow in a  wedge like geese in migration. Yesterday, though, a regular civilian was mowing the grounds all by his lonesome. Again, probably due to the upcoming injection.

Because the chopper/chipper combo was blocking half the road, without even the courtesy of a flagman to watch for oncoming traffic, I chose an alternate route home. Wouldn't you know it, I got behind a yellow highway department tractor with a mower that extends off to the side on a stalk. You know. It mows those slanted ditch embankments, and sometimes tree branches.

I swear. The Backroads foliage is being trimmed closer than a pr0n performer's privates. Not that Val knows anything about such grooming techniques. She's an avid reader, you see, and keeps up with current pop culture.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thank Goodness She Stopped Short of Checking Me For Diaper Rash

This morning I went to my mom's house to take her my gently-read tabloids. She's been out of the loop, what with my recent hospitalization. Did I mention that here? Feel free to ask in case I didn't. Two weeks without tabloids, and her neighbors are calling to see what's going on. These are the neighbors she likes. The Czech and his wife, the ones she makes Check Mix for.

I also wanted to show Mom pictures of The Pony that I found on the Missouri Scholars Academy website. He looks like he's having a rousing good time. Mom's favorites are the pictures of The Pony at the African Music and Dance presentation. Yes! The Pony is right in the thick of it, dancing away. And playing conga drums! Such a departure for our reserved Pony. I downloaded the photos and put them in Mom's picture file. They were the very first photos on her computer. Shocker, there. Then I showed her how to get to them in two clicks. I think she can do it.

While we were scanning several hundred pictures for a glimpse of The Pony, finding 17, which is pretty good, I think...I noticed a tab at the bottom that said Mom's computer was in grave danger from a security issue. Something like that. The thing she called the number from last week, and talked to a lady for 30 minutes, and pushed whatever computer buttons that lady told her to. "Look, Mom. This is a scam. You don't need to call that number. Close it. See? See how easy that was? Don't call them! Close it." Mom agreed. But I know how she is.

Mom wanted to print several of The Pony's pictures. I figured out how to download them and print. Mom has a color printer. I used to, but Genius replaced it with a non-colored laser printer. We laid a trio of Ponys on the table to dry. I leaned back from the computer, my hands clasped behind my head. Mom had been sitting shotgun on my right. She was up and down several times, peering at the screen with and without her bifocals. I was tired of sitting.

Mom stood up and reached for the shelf above her monitor. I assumed she was stretching, or getting a pen to write down instructions on how to find those pictures again. You know what happens when we assume. Mom grabbed a big tube of Bath and Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel Hand Lotion.

My sister the ex-mayor's wife gives it to us for Christmas every year. I love it. It lasts a long time. And it smells SO good, even though I'm not usually a fan of vanilla. Back in the day, when Genius used to ride to school with us, and I put on my lotion every morning, he would say, "Mmm. You smell like a cookie!" Which is one of the nicer things Genius ever said to me.

Mom was headed for a doctor's appointment later in the day, so I assumed she was lathering up to be presentable. You know what happens when we assume. Mom unscrewed the cap while I peered through her computer desk towards her TV with its newly-acquired DISH network. Before I knew it, MOM WAS SLATHERING VANILLA BEAN NOEL ALL OVER MY RIGHT ELBOW! That's a bit forward if you ask me. Even for a mom lotioning up her daughter.

"What are you doing?"

"Oh, do you mind? I just thought your elbow looked a little scaly, so I'm putting lotion on it for you. Is your other elbow dry?"

"No, Mom. My left elbow is totally smooth and moisturized."

"Okay." She started putting the lid back on the tube of lotion. Apparently, sarcasm is not well-detected by the newly-octogenarianated.

"Of course my left elbow is dry, too! Put some on it so they'll match!" I swiveled my left elbow to give her access. Which was entirely too much like exercise. "I can't believe you started putting lotion on my elbow without asking me!"

"Well, I didn't think you'd mind. I was only trying to help."

"Now you're making me think of Genius, at Grandpa's funeral, when the Ex-Mayor was still mayor, and had his arm resting along the back of the pew at the funeral home. Genius rubbed the Ex-Mayor's elbow, and said, 'Your elbow is crusty.' That got the whole row laughing. I can't believe the liberties you take with me!"

"Don't get me laughing. I'll choke."

"We wouldn't want that. What are you, drunk?"

"Oh, stop it! When you called this morning, I had just come up from turning off lights in the basement. I was hoping you wouldn't call, because then you would accuse me of drinking that bottle I'm going to give Hick. Then I ran out to the garage for a minute, and you called as soon as I got back in the house. That's why it took me four rings to answer."

"Do you have a bottle out in the garage, too?"

"No! Now stop it. There. Your elbow is smooth."

"Then put that lotion back and sit down."

Seriously. Who does that? I hope she's not like one of those hat-pin people who walk through crowds and poke their fellow pedestrians. Mom has always said she loves to watch people. Maybe she has just been scoping them out for recipients of her lotion treatment.

My mom. The Mad Moisturizer.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I Fear That if I Hosted Dinner Parties, People Might Confuse Me With Mary Richards

Hick cooked himself a nice steak for Father's Day. He even cooked one for me, too! What a guy! As he carried them into the kitchen on a stack of three paper plates (we are not exactly Chinet people, so it takes more than one plate to contain the juices), he declared, "That was the best sixty dollars I ever spent." He was referring, of course, to Gassy G, the gas grill he bought at the auction. I must say, Gassy G has performed stellarly in all of Hick's endeavors. That little dent on the front does not seem to differently-able Gassy G in any way.

Because the steaks were fairly Flintstone-brontosaurus-sized ribeyes from Save A Lot, Hick did not want much in the way of side dishes. He's quite the carnivore, you know. I offered a potato dish, or a baked potato. It's not like tossing one in the microwave and pushing the timer would wear me out. But Hick said no, that the salad I had mentioned would be fine. So he had a big salad of hearts of romaine, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and shredded sharp cheddar. I had originally thought about sauteing him some mushrooms and onions, but that seemed a bit out of my league, what with looking up the definition of saute, and dragging a pan out from that drawer under the stove, and raising the temperature of food in a way other than heating it in the microwave or warming it in the oven.

If you don't hear from me again, it could be due to the ingredient I added to my salad. I left off the tomato, and sprinkled on some sunflower seeds. The thing is, I found that bag of sunflower seeds in my small pantry beside Frig, and the bag was unopened, so I figured it was fairly new, even though I couldn't remember the last time I bought sunflower seeds, so I looked at the date, and it said, "Best by 06 10 10." Which is not really fresh. But they WERE unopened. So I cut open the bag and tasted a few, and I didn't keel over, so I added them to my salad. They were quite tasty. I can't imagine how I could have stood the pleasure if I had used them before 06 10 10.

This shall never be mentioned in the presence of my mother, who once served me four-year-old ranch dressing on Thanksgiving.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Basement Alcohol is the New Wedding Invitation Envelope Cheap Glue

I feel like a prized cow. My mom gives me so much fodder I must share some with you, lest I burst one of my four stomachs.

I called Mom this morning, and caught her chewing. Not a cud. That's me. Mom always calls me when I'm eating, even though that happens at odd hours around here. And no, it's not a matter of me constantly eating from sunup to sundown. So when she picked up, I said, "Are you EATING?" Let the record show that it was 8:20 a.m.

"Um. Yes...I just put a Cheeto in my mouth. I have NOT been drinking."

"That sounds suspicious! Who would even bring up drinking? Maybe that's what you were REALLY doing!"

"No it isn't! I've got a Cheeto in my mouth, and I need to get rid of it! What do you want me to do, spit it on the floor?"

"Uh, no...chew it up like a normal person. Are you sure your haven't been drinking?"

"No! The alcohol is in the basement. I have a cup of Diet Coke, and I haven't even taken a drink of it yet."

"You have ALCOHOL in your BASEMENT? Now the truth comes out. SURE it's in the basement. You probably have a jug of moonshine in the crook of your arm, swigging from it while I'm talking."

"Oh, it's just a bottle that somebody gave your dad before he retired. It must be 17 or 20 years old."

"What IS it? Does it have XXX on it? Like the jug you're swilling from?"

"I don't know what it is. I was thinking about giving it to Hick the next time he comes to mow the yard."

"Oh, you can't give it to him before. He has to earn it!"

"No. I pay him to mow the yard. But I don't want to give it to him now."

"It's probably no good. It might poison him. Like the glue on the cheap envelopes that George gave Susan for their wedding invitations."

"Well, I don't know. Maybe it gets better with age. I'll go get it. Hold on."

"You don't have to go down in the basement now."

"I was just down there, doing laundry. It's only four steps. I'll be right back." Mom left the family room and headed for the basement. "Here it is. It says it's J A C Q U E S."

"You mean Jacques? Like in Jacques Cousteau?"

"I don't know how to say it. But that's how it's spelled. Then it says, B O N E T."

"But what IS it? Is it wine? Is it liquor? Is it Boone's Farm Strawberry Wine?"

"I don't know. It says Extra Dry."

"Extra Dry what? Read the rest of it."

"Extra Dry California Champagne."

"I don't think champagne ages like wine. It's probably vinegar by now. Does it have a cork? Or is it one of those metal screw tops?"

"Oh, it's still good. It has that metal foil wrapped all the way down from the top to the middle of the bottle."

"Is there a year on it?"

"I don't see a year. It has those lines, like, to tell how much it is."

"What? Like, to tell how many liters you are pouring out? Wait! You mean like a bar code? To tell the price? I'm pretty sure fine wines that improve with age don't have bar codes on the label. And I don't think champagne is something you let sit for years. Does it say anything else on the label. Like a date?"

" says Culver California. And here's something. A safety warning. Oh. It's about how to open the bottle. 'Point bottle away from...'"

"Oh! Did you know there's a ceremonial way to open champagne? Like, a Russian soldier takes his sabre and lops off the end of the bottle, right through the neck, glass and all! The Pony has a lot of swords. I'll bet he has a sabre. And Hick can probably find a Russian soldier's uniform at the auction! They can have a regular ceremonial opening of your bottle of 20-year-old champagne!"

"Well, it's here. Tell Hick that I have it for him the next time he comes to mow my yard."

Yeah. My mom is a font of fodder that never runs dry. Oh, and she also messed up her DISH by falling asleep, then thinking she was turning it off, then on. She had some full-screen ad for programming. Thanks to the instructions of the DISH guy and her five-dollar daughter, Mom thought, "Hm. They said I would use the CANCEL button more than anything. I'll just hit CANCEL." So she did. VOILA! Her channels were right there again.

Thank goodness her little technological faux pas did not drive her to drink.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Backroads Thevictorians

Sometimes, Val's got nothin'. Which does not necessarily prevent her from posting.

Come and listen to a story 'bout a gal named Val.
Poor educator feels like throwin' in the towel.
'Cause one day as she opened the garage,
The door spring snapped and she felt a need to dodge.
(Flying metal, that is. Sidestepping a head injury.)

Well the next thing you know, ol' Hick commenced to clamp.
The kinfolk said, "Val, let's not forget your lamp."
Said, "A proper spring is the thing you need to have,"
But Val ducked behind her T-Hoe, and went shopping for some salve.
(Ointment, that is, to cure a puncture wound.)

Now it's time to say goodbye to Val, maybe for good.
If that clamped spring snaps, as we all know it could,
Val would be a goner pure and simple that is true,
Despite the healing claims of that antibiotic goo.
(Y'all remember Val now, y'hear?)

It was months ago that my garage door spring snapped as I closed the door, nearly trapping The Pony and me and T-Hoe in the garage the next morning. Luckily we had Hick to get us out, and tell us how to proceed with the manual pull chain. Then he got out a clamp on the weekend, and said that would hold the giant spring until we could get a new one made, like I did last summer for HIS garage door. Yet Hick will not take the broken one down so I can haul it to the garage door place for measurement. Their records did not include details on our other spring, only the date and cost and check number.

Every time I enter or leave the garage, I fear for my life. I even wait until The Pony is out before I open or close that garage door. I lean my head over beside the garage wall, under the shelf that now holds the black roaster pan full of cat kibble, and reach around inside the garage to push the doorbell-like button that opens and closes the deathtrap, so that the spring does not shoot off and pierce my skull, splattering gray matter across the sidewalk and porch. Seriously. A clamp is not a permanent solution.

I'm like Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I must protect myself and my little Pony from the doom that could befall us due to this giant spring. I stop short of warning The Pony not to touch the doorknobs because they might explode, or to stay away from the refrigerator because it may fall on him. But I don't mess around with that clamped spring.

One of these days, Hick will take a precious 30 minutes out of his schedule and remove the two pieces of that garage door spring so I can get a replacement. Until then, I'm living dangerously.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where the Wild (and Some Tame) Things Are

Ah...the perks of being a Backroads dweller. Today the wildlife was out in full force.

As I started to town, just down the gravel road, at the second neighbor, a deer stood in the gravel road. Doe. A deer. A female deer. She looked me right in the eye, but not in a playing-chicken kind of way, then looked over her shoulder behind her. She bounded off into the woods on the right. Well. Being a country gal, I know what that look means: more deer to follow. I crept along, watching the underbrush between the gravel road and the woods on the left. There it was! A fawn scrabbled across the road mere feet in front of me. It looked neither left nor right, but was intent on a reunion with its momma. It was not a new-born fawn, all leggy and wobbly, but a sturdier one, still with white spots. My mom had seen this pair a couple weeks ago when she was sitting with me during my early convalescence. Oh! Did I mention I was in the hospital at the end of May?

I made a trip to the bank, then dropped by my mom's house to school her on her new DISH remote. The serviceman got her all hooked up to DISH, so she's packing in the cable boxes tomorrow. Not letting any grass grow under her feet, or those cable boxes. Mom doesn't count as wildlife. Yet. But when I came out of her house, I saw that T-Hoe's black hood was covered with tiny white flower petals. Mom has a flowering tree right beside the driveway, but those flowers are bigger. I looked around, but did not see where these tiny white petals were coming from. I hopped in and tried to disengage myself from conversation with Mom. As I backed up the driveway, a couple of those tiny white flower petals blew in my open window. WAIT! They were BUGS! Bugs with long oval white wings! I jammed my finger on the window-raising lever forthwith! Those buggy things on T-Hoe's hood held on for a quarter-mile on blacktop. I hope I did not bring home an infestation.

Hick reported last night, after dark, when of course I could not go look, that we had acquired 12 or 14 new chicks overnight. Uh huh. Chickens are sneaky like that. If you don't catch them when they first start sitting, and count ahead 21 days, you're never quite sure when those chicks are gonna pop out and need putting up in a special pen. Since they were already out, parading around with their two moms (not that there's anything wrong with that), Hick did not think he could catch them all. He did snap a picture this evening, though.

Next time I will demand that Hick crawl towards them on his belly like a serpent, in order to get a better photo. If you count, I think there are 13. Not sure. Some of them are doubled up with a buddy of the same hue. And Hick said some of them kept getting under the moms. They will raise a racket as they walk around cheeping.

Oh, and the biggest critter I saw was the dude with a long ZZ Top meth beard, riding his little red mini-tractor, scraping gravel off the road edges and into the road proper. AND he had an assistant, about a half-mile back, heading toward him pushing an empty wheelbarrow with only a shovel balanced in it. Sucks to have that job. That's what crazy ZZ Top Meth Beard Man used to do...fill in the individual holes with a shovel and a bucket of dirt. Now he has an assistant. I gave him the standard country wave. I actually like crazy ZZ Top Meth Beard Man, because he does this chore for the good of all who live on this sometimes gravel, sometimes hardpan road. I even stopped to thank him one day. When The Pony was with me, of course. Not so much for protection, but as a witness.

I wonder what sights I will see tomorrow. Hopefully not a man walking across my porch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mom Puts her Foot Down, and Simultaneously Puts Her Money Where Her Mouth Is

My mom has gone and done it! She canceled her cable service yesterday. I was in shock. She hadn't mentioned her obvious vendetta against that company since she was all up in arms about their new one box/one TV policy, in which they required EVERYBODY to update their receivers, and to pay an additional monthly fee of five dollars per converter box. Even though many people did not want the upgrade.

I might have related how one of my co-workers said her husband went to the cable office to get the boxes, and saw an armed guard in the lobby. And how the clerk told him that since he had been polite, he could have his for half price. That's no way to run a business. Either you can afford to give everybody a break, or you require everybody to pay the full amount. Pardon my barnyard linguistics, but that's horsepoo.

So, out of the blue yesterday, my mom left me a message. "I've gone to town to stop my cable service. Be back later in case you're trying to reach me." Huh. So unlike Mom, to do something without discussing it for several hundred hours first. AND...the Cardinals were playing at 6:00 p.m. Surely Mom would not cancel her cable and go without TV until she found another provider!

I gave her time to complete her mission, and rang her up. "Mom! What's going on? You haven't talked about this cable thing for a while. Did something happen?"

"No. It's been bothering me for a while. Yesterday, I called and got AT & T back as my phone service. Then I called DISH Network and they're coming out Thursday morning to install a dish and get me all set up. I'm still keeping that high-speed cable internet for The Pony, because he enjoys it so much. But I'm just tired of the way that cable company treats people. I don't care if I don't save ANY money, I will be happier like this."

"But...don't the Cardinals play tonight? You'll be without TV!"

"No I won't. I am paid with cable through the 18th. So I will have everything ready to switch over when my cable is disconnected. I still have it now to watch the Cardinals. After I went over to the cable office and told them what I wanted, a lady called me. She wanted to know why I was cancelling my service. I told her I did not like having to pay that extra five dollars per TV. I said it was just too much now that they'd increased their rates also. I said, 'I didn't mind too much paying up to $150 a month. But now it's $179, and I won't pay that.' And do you know what she said? She said, 'Well, we can reduce your phone bill to $19.99, and that will give you a monthly bill of $143. Let's do that, and you can keep our service.' And I told her no. Why didn't they offer me that in the beginning when I complained about the boxes? I'm not playing around with them any more. I don't care if my bill is higher now. I'm done with them."

"I know what you mean. Either they can afford to have lower rates or they can't. That's bull, giving some people cheaper bills. Hey! You may be the only person who was actually paying the full amount! Maybe everyone else complained and got theirs lowered."

"That may be. But I'm done with them! Except for the internet. For The Pony."

"He will be happy that you thought of him. I hope you like DISH. I'll help you with the remote, until you learn how to use it."

"That would be great. They're coming between 8:00 and noon on Thursday. I'll let you know what they say about switching over on the 18th."

"Yeah. Genius is gone. The Pony is gone. I guess Hick can help you out when he comes to mow your yard. Show you what you have to take back to the cable office."

"I feel so good now that I finally got rid of the cable."

Yep. My mom. She'll gladly pay more to teach that cable company a lesson. I'm about ready to do the same thing with SPRINT concerning my internet.

Like mother, like daughter. We are two peas in a pod. Two gals in holey sweatpants. We'll teach those companies a lesson in customer service.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

From the woman who broke the timely news a few months ago that ENGLAND IS AN ISLAND, Val Thevictorian proudly reveals her newest discovery: Hot Pockets are HOT!

I know, right? Who would ever have expected Hot Pockets to be hot? Sure, you don't eat them cold. Any fool knows to heat them in the microwave (preferably one with an original door handle and not two round drawer handles), or warm them in an oven (preferably one with an upper AND a lower heating element). Yeah. That's where the name comes from, isn't it? You increase the temperature of that frozen treat until, in comparison to its frozen state, it's hot. And inside that crispy crust, there's a pocket of goo with flavor (in my case the Philly Cheese Steak edition) that gives it the other part of its name. Hot. Pocket.

Oh, dear. I have been spending time alone during the day, what with Hick doing an honest day's work, Genius doing all his work quickly and efficiently and then being used as a picture-hanger or other menial-task-master to justify his salary, and The Pony being away at Missouri Scholars Academy with his people, as he calls his fellow 327 nerds, getting smarter by the hour. Because I am responsible for nobody's lunch but my own, I have not been whipping up seven-course gourmet spreads suitable for the cover of Seven-Course Gourmet Spreads Monthly. I know that may come as a surprise to a few of you. My lunches have been consisting of, perhaps, a cold hot dog with a side of red grapes. A hunk of extra-sharp cheddar and an individual bag of Combos, with fresh strawberries. Or a Hot Pocket with celery stalks and Hidden Valley Ranch dip.

If you ask me, Hot Pockets should be renamed to reflect their true character. Renamed as Molten Lava Squirting Tongue Incinerators. Uh huh. That's more descriptive. Lets people know what they're in for. So they can have a tub of ice ready to prevent their tongue from sizzling like a slab of tenderloin on a hot griddle. Or have a phone handy with 9-1-1 on speed dial. Or have Jackie Chiles on retainer.

I am no simple-minded rube when it comes to food. Food and I go way back. I've been around the block a time or two with food. I know that when something comes out of the microwave or the oven, it needs to rest a bit. To let its molecules slow down. Dissipate that thermal energy into the atmosphere.

I did not grab that Molten Lava Squirting Tongue Incinerator Hot Pocket right off the pizza pan covered with foil that I took out of the oven with a mitt and pop it right into my mouth. No sirree, Bob! I let it sit for five minutes while I gathered up a bubba cup of ice water and my mostly-ice 44 oz. Diet Coke, and carried them down to my dark basement lair. And then, because my little Pony is away, I had to make another trip up to the kitchen to get my lunch. I fiddled about, squirting some horseradish sauce into an old plastic garlic butter cup from Little Caesar's. No ramekins here in the Thevictorian household.

Once I had all of my lunch items in place, I set to surfing the internet, broadening my horizons on all subjects but the blast-furnace temperature of Hot Pockets. It was a good twenty minutes after that Molten Lava Squirting Tongue Incinerator Hot Pocket came out of the oven until I took my first bite. Those who declare that Val Thevictorian has no taste are now literally quite right.

Tomorrow, I might go out for coffee with Cosmo Kramer and Stella Liebeck.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Candid Juno From Any Other Angle is Still So Sweet, Sweet

My sweet, sweet Juno posed for a picture this morning as I was on my way to town. Please don't judge her. She's not looking her best. Her silky fur is not so silky, because in warm weather, she likes to lay in a dirt hollow she dug under where Hick parks his Gator. Of course, I could use her dull coat to frame her partner in crime, Ann, for eating eggs throughout the day. Wait! Did I say frame? What I meant to say was submit proof to Hick of Ann's clandestine activities. No egg-shiny coat for Miss Juno.

Oh, and Juno does not like to pose. It took five pictures to get one that wasn't a blur of fur. She must have grown tired of not being petted, so she sat down for the sure head stroke. Yes, this is not a flattering photo. Juno is looking a Showing off her canines, ears back and not inquisitively perked. Her silky tail full of dust, not sweeping back and forth in joy at our reunion.

I must also point out that the bites taken out of Juno's doghouse roof are no doubt the work of Ann, the black german shepherd. Juno cannot be peckish enough to snack on asphalt shingles. After all, there are all those eggs handfuls of cat kibble that are dispensed as treats, and the best leftovers tossed out the kitchen door, and the giant pan of dog food every morning, and occasional dog biscuits from the auction. Juno is no goat. She takes care of her abode, even sweeping out the cedar chips onto the welcome mat by the kitchen door.

You can still see her human-like eyes, though. At least one of them. I really must have her sit for a proper picture one of these days.

Maybe I can bring her into the house while Hick is at work, and have her lay down on his side of the bed. And serve her some eggs for breakfast!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Portrait of the Genius as a Young Miser

Okay, so it's not an actual portrait, like an artist's rendering in oils on canvas. It's more of a written analysis of what currently makes Genius tick. Even though he has a real adult job this summer, working for $20 an hour at an electrical engineering firm, he still has that starving-college-student mentality.

Genius called me Friday to say that he was considering chucking it all and starting his own think tank. WAIT! That was Moira Kelly to D.B. Sweeney in The Cutting Edge, and she was kind of making fun of his dumbness. What I meant to say was that Genius decided he might as well forget about college and gainful employment, and take pictures for a living. He had just networked a gig to take wedding pictures for a four-hour stint at $50 per hour.

Genius is not some casual cell-phone-photo snapper. He develops his own film and has many exotic lenses and knows his way around an f-stop. He is also not averse to making some quick cash off this learned talent. Hick has standing orders to buy up cameras he finds at flea markets and auctions. Genius then resells them online for pocket money. Hey! At least he's not selling his plasma for beer money. Thursday night, Hick found an auction camera with two lenses, and texted Genius to see what he should spend. Genius told him to go up to $40, because more would cut too deeply into his profit margin. Crafty Hick got it for $25. He had also bought another camera earlier in the week for $10.

Saturday, Genius had plans to swing by the old homestead after a Friday night trip to his college town to work on the solar car, to pick up clothes he needs for his job as an IT staffer at Missouri Boys State this week, and before his wedding photo shoot.

"I won't have much time. Make sure you tell Dad to lay out a five-dollar bill. I owe him $35, but I only have two twenties." Indeed. Wouldn't want Daddy Dearest to make an extra five dollars for his trouble. Hick really needs to negotiate a finder's fee.

The Pony and I were in the midst of a three-hour packing extravaganza when Genius arrived. The Pony was heading off for the Missouri Scholars Academy for three weeks. A sojourn which would require LAUNDRY before he returned. On last week's trip to Walmart, I sent The Pony to the back aisle for some Tide Pods. I don't use them myself. Imagine my consternation when I reached into the bag of 31 that The Pony had picked up, and found them to be the consistency of a human eyeball. Not that I am in the habit of plucking human eyeballs out of a plastic bag, of course. I put four in a ziplock bag for The Pony to take with him, and set the rest on the mantle of the fake electric fireplace that Hick was all gung-ho about buying after the Great Icepocalypse of Ought Six.

"Hey. Trade me two dollars for this." Genius held eight quarters in his fist. "That's what HE gave me in change for my cameras. Three ones, and eight quarters. I don't need these quarters. Or, you can take the ones, too, and give me a five."

"I'll do it. But you have to take the eight quarters out to the garage and put them in my change cup in T-Hoe."

"Oh, all right. As long as I get a five."

Genius circled the living room, his plan to plop on the long couch or the short couch foiled by The Pony's Academy accoutrements. "Look, Genius. Tide Pods. How much does something like that cost?" I had no idea. I'm not the type to go over my receipts with a fine-tooth comb. Two of which we bought for The Pony's trip. I figure there were probably smaller packages of Tide Pods, but The Pony is not a comparison shopper.

"Huh. Thirty-one pods. I'd say about twelve dollars." Genius put the bag back on the mantle. Gave it a double-take. Said no more.

"It's a pity those pods will go to waste. I don't use Tide Pods. I use the powder."

"Why is there a package of ALL Pods on the kitchen counter?"

"Oh, your dad bought those at the auction. Said he thought The Pony could take them. But I said no. I don't want him having an allergic reaction to new detergent while he's away for three weeks. My mom switched detergents when I was in high school, and it took me two weeks to figure out that rash under my athletic socks was caused by All Tempa Cheer."


"Yes, it's too bad those Tide Pods are going to go to waste."

"I use Tide Pods. But I'm not paying you twelve dollars for thirty-one of them."

"Um. There are only twenty-seven left. Besides, did I ASK you for money?"

"No, you did not."

"My point is, I'm not going to use them. So if you want them, you can take them."

"I'll take them. Ocean Mist. I use Alpine Breeze. I guess Ocean Mist will go okay with my Spring Fresh dryer sheets."

"I'm sure it will be fine. Take them. For free. You can have the ALL Pods, too."

"Okay. Thanks."

Genius only had time to grab the big red wheeled suitcase that The Pony had planned to take, jump in the shower for forty minutes, and command The Pony to carry out the stuff Genius needed for Boys State. He told The Pony that if there was anything else I planned to give him, I needed to lay it out on the counter, because he was getting ready to leave. I made Genius walk into the kitchen. I withdrew two twenties from a stash my mom gives me every now and then "to give the boys, when they have a special trip or something for school, so you don't have to come up with spending money for them."

"This is from your grandma."

"Aww...thanks. Tell her for me."

And with that, he was off to see a movie in the city, then get dolled up for his job as wedding photographer.

It's always good to have several irons in the fire, I suppose.