Monday, August 31, 2015

Tut-Tutting the Cheese

Val Thevictorian has a bone to pick with the cheese man at Walmart. Surely Walmart has a cheese man, right? Cheese doesn’t just roll itself in there on its uniwheel, shred itself, and jump into a plastic bag. It gets processed elsewhere, and it gets delivered to Walmart. Somebody checks off the shipment, and decides where that cheese will go. Perhaps into the cooler to await restocking. Perhaps into a freezer to preserve it until there’s a hue and cry for shredded mozzarella. Perhaps onto a loading dock in the August dog days to sit, sweating, until somebody notices the cheese is steaming, then clandestinely shoves into a cooler until restocking time. Gotta move that cheese first.


Don’t go blaming Val. She has bought this product before, with no problem. A brand name, even. A 50-pound bag of shredded mozzarella. It’s great for slapping onto homemade pizza, into nachos, onto pasta, and topping garlic cheese bread. Which brings us to last night, 'round about dinner time.

I had the chicken tortellini boiling, the sauce simmering, my minced-garlic-infused butter already spread upon the French bread slices (at Thevictorian household, cultures are often mingled), awaiting the sprinkling of garlic salt. The oven was hot for those tasty morsels. As I pried open the Ziploc top of that industrial size bag of shredded mozzarella that I had just bought last weekend, I spied a tiny green speck. About the size of a pencil eraser.


What’s a woman to do, her meal simmering and bubbling and her Pony salivating at the thought of that garlic cheese bread? Okay. The Pony likes his garlic cheese bread without cheese. Just like he used to prefer his burger without meat. But Hick and I were ready for some delicious garlic cheese bread to accompany our tortellini.

Yes. I put the cheese on the bread. NOT THE GREEN PART! The part way on the other side of the 100-pound package. (Heh, heh. I said 100-pound package!) Let the record show that I crumbled those shreds apart to spread evenly on the bread, and no speck of green was seen. Besides, it was going to melt under the working heating element in the oven anyway. I stashed the rest of that cheese in the trash. What Hick didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. And if it did, pathologists searching the homestead for the agent of death would find it.

Hey! Maybe when I have that grand opening of my proposed handbasket factory, I can serve up some tasty garlic cheese bread. For free!

I know your mouth is waterin’.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In the Gas Station Chicken Store...

The Feds are everywhere! Even Backroads isn't safe. They're everywhere! Investigatin' and indoctrinatin'! I declare. A person can't even pull into the parking lot of the gas station chicken store without seeing THIS:

Sorry for the photo quality. The Pony had issues with his instrument. He said he didn't understand why all of his pictures were so blurry. In fact, he tried over and over while I was inside buying a 44 oz Diet Coke after our weekly grocery shopping trip.

We turned onto that parking lot, and I said, "WHAT is that?" The back door had a sign that said Civil Air Patrol. You can't see the stuff up on top of the van, but you can see the thing that sticks off the back. Some kind of cable ran across the top like a clothesline. A bald man, a woman, and a younger man sat on top of picnic tables just off to the right of the picture. I thought maybe they were eating gas station chicken.

"Pony! Get me a picture of that van!"

"Noooo! Those people are looking at us! I don't want them to see me."

"They are looking at ME. They can't even see you. You're behind me. I'm putting the windows down so you can get a good picture."

"Noooo! They will see!"

"What are they going to do? Take it now, while I'm fumbling for correct change. They can't see you."

"Okaayyy. I can't get a good one. They're all blurry. What's wrong with my phone? I took four."

"Send them all to me."

"They're not very good."

"I want them."

I went inside. While filling my 44 oz soda, the new chicken man and the wacky cashier bandied words.

HIM: "You should join the Civil Air Patrol!"

HER: "Nobody's going to let me fly a PLANE!"

HIM: "They don't fly planes! They drive around in a minivan! You weren't listening! I thought that old man was done. But he kept looking at me. Then he went on some more. I thought he'd never leave!"

"That minivan is parked outside. That guy is sitting on your picnic table."

HIM: "Don't get him started talking!"

I paid for my precious elixir and went outside. I was careful not to make eye contact with the Patrol man, or seem overly interested in his vehicle. Here's the thing. You can't read the writing on those signs on the side of the minivan. But The Pony and I could.

 The white sign says: " Emergency Services Cadet Program, Aerospace Education."

The yellow sign says: "CAUTION! Keep At Least 10 Feet Away At All Times Due To Radiation."

That thing on the back had a sign: "Transmits Automatically. Do Not Touch."

I'd like to know what they were transmitting.

"Oh, come on, Val!" you might say. "It's just an outreach program to get youth interested in aerospace. Everything is not a government conspiracy."

Uh huh. And my mom thought I was crazy when I told her for the last couple years that the Feds were listening in on our 6:00 a.m. phone calls. Who's crazy now?

WAIT! You were not supposed to say, "Val."

Maybe The Pony's phone didn't get a clear picture because of all the radiation leaking out of that van! It could happen! Why does an outreach program need to keep you 10 feet away due to radiation emissions? Huh? 

Look for the newest item that will be stocked on the counter of Val's proposed handbasket factory: TINFOIL HATS!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The End of An Era

Val is now childhood-home-less.

Last Wednesday, we had the closing on Mom's house. My sister the ex-mayor's wife and I sold it to our cousin, the son of my favorite gambling aunt. He had asked us to give him a chance before we listed it. That was no problem, since we didn't really want to list it.

We had a few hiccups in the process. Sis went on vacation for two weeks while Cuz took a week's staycation to get his loan in order. Do you know how hard it is to text a form to Colorado for a signature and get it back when the signer is camping in the shadow of the Rockies? Val ran herself ragged trying to get that document to Cuz before his holiday ran out, the process made so much more difficult by Sis being incommunicado from 5:00 in the evening until noon the next day.

Anyhoo, we agreed to hold the closing between August 1 and September 1, with possession being contingent upon contents being removed. Cuz did not really have a choice. Like it or lump it, take it or leave it. I even made a trip to the house to show him and his prospective wife the interior again. Not because they couldn't decide, but because they couldn't wait to get in there.

I told Cuz that there was some furniture that we didn't want, and we would have to make arrangements to get it out. Possibly calling some auction acquaintances of Hick who buy storage lockers, who might want to buy them. Cuz said that whatever we didn't want, we could leave. I told him that sounded good, but that I couldn't speak for Sis, and I was sure she would want some compensation for the left-behinds. He said he understood.

The weekend before the closing, we had everything out of the house except some furniture. Cuz had told Hick at work the day before closing that he did not want the furniture, because his future MIL was going to get a few things for them, and they each had their own furniture already. No big deal. Cuz was given first choice, and whether he already had furnishings lined up, or whether he didn't want to pay our fee, he declined. So we moved to Plan B, and sold two couches, a recliner, and a girl's bedroom set to Hick's oldest boy, who had asked for them. In fact, I GAVE him the bedroom set, because he's a big help to Hick.

Flash to the closing. It was like old home week. Or a funeral, which is where we have been meeting each other lateley. Hugs all around. Cuz went in first. He came out, and Sis and I, along with Hick and the ex-mayor (because Missouri says they are part owners, being spouses and all) went in to sign. Cuz said he would talk to us when we came out.

Let the record show that while signing 357 documents, some which had our names misspelled by that shifty or Alzheimered co-owner of the only title company in the county...she let it slip that Cuz was waiting out front for the keys.

Cue the scratch of the needle on the phonograph record.

Sis and I cut eyes at each other. WAITING FOR THE KEYS? "We told him we are not relinquishing possession until contents are removed! He knows that." Sis was taking no guff from TitleHag, who had already scammed another death certificate from her, having misplaced the one Sis had to rush across the county before closing two weeks ago, Babe in tow, because the document was needed before paperwork could be drawn up.

"Well," said TitleHag, "one of you might want to go out there and tell him that."

Of all times for Sis to become a shrinking violet! She insisted that I go. Because I was the oldest. I stopped short of telling her, "But everybody THINKS you're the oldest!" For a minute there, I thought we might have to do rock/paper/scissors. Finally we both went out. Sis made me talk first.

VAL: "You know, Cuz, we'd really like to give you the keys tonight. But we still have to get the furniture out. I told you in that note Hick brought to work that it would take extra time if you didn't want the furniture."

CUZ: "I just bought the house. I want the keys. I gave notice on my apartment a week ago. I need to be out by Friday."

Sis found her voice. "Now, Cuz. You knew we weren't giving you the keys until the furniture was out. We didn't even have to have the closing until September 1. It's not our fault you gave notice so soon. We have never led you to believe it would all be done today. We didn't even know closing was scheduled today until Monday."

CUZ: "Okay. I'll take the furniture. I'll give you ($500 less) for the furniture. Then can I have the keys tonight?"

Let the record show that Sis and I had pre- agreed to take $500 less than the asking price on that furniture, should Cuz make a counteroffer. It wasn't so much the money, as the fact that Cuz got such a great deal on the house, and Sis didn't think he should be able to sell the furniture for profit. Because, you know, 45-year-old furniture is in high demand.

VAL: "Well, when you said you didn't want the furniture, we sold some of it to Hick's son. We didn't know you'd want it now."

CUZ: "That's okay. I'll pay for the furniture. Just give me the keys tonight. I'll follow you over there when we leave here. My girl is meeting me there."

SIS: "Now, Cuz. We will be glad to show you the inside of the house again. But we're not ready to turn it over."

CUZ: "I just bought it. I own it."

SIS: "It's filthy! We still have to clean it up. I would be embarrassed to even show it to you right now. Our mom did not live like that. It's been sitting empty since February."

CUZ: "That's okay! My girl said she wants three days of cleaning. She loves to clean! She's ready."

I did not care. Let him have it. Get it done. Sis was wavering. Raising her eyebrows at me. I nodded my head while Cuz was watching Sis. She relented. "I don't have the keys back from my kids yet, but I can give you mine and the ex-mayor's."

VAL: "And we will have to be able to get in there Saturday to get that furniture for Hick's son."

CUZ: "No problem. I just want the house tonight."

I feel for Sis. I really do. She had told me only that weekend, "You know, once we sell it, it's gone. We can't come back and walk through it. That's our childhood right there. We will only be able to drive by."

When we all convened for the key ceremony, I thought Sis was going to amble from room to room, dragging her arms along the walls in a goodbye hug. She dawdled. Talked to Cuz for an extra half-hour in the kitchen after I left. On my way out the door, I heard a little catch in her voice.

"You take good care of this house, Cuz."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Val Thevictorian. Now With TWO Breasts!

Val has connections, my friends. No longer does she list out of the gas station chicken store, lurching toward T-Hoe with an awkward sideways tilt, pulled off-center by her single breast.

Friday! It's FRIDAY. Bill-paying Friday, to be exact. Except Val no longer has bills to pay. More on that another day. First The Pony and I lost my mom from our bill-paying excursions, and now we've lost our bill. However, I had promised The Pony a Rally's mini funnel cake today. After all, I thought I would be driving to bill-paying town, the location of Rally's, to pay the house bill. But we don't have it anymore. Still. The Pony was hankerin' for a funnel cake.

On the way, he decided to have a burger for supper. With a funnel cake appetizer, and a funnel cake dessert. Except he didn't want to founder himself, so later he stashed one in Frig II for tomorrow. Anyhoo...we sent Hick a text to see if he, too, wanted a burger. No funnel cake. We got no answer. Since Rally's was fast approaching, I told The Pony to call Hick. He chastised me because it was the time Hick normally gets in his car that was my mom's, and starts the drive home. I told him to send one more text explaining that it was almost too late to Rally.

Wouldn't you know it! Within one minute, Hick sent a cryptic text. "Rallies is fine in meeting." He called about 20 minutes later.

"I was in a meeting. I couldn't answer. My phone kept going off. So I checked it. It made a mess of the meeting."

"WHAT? Don't you turn your phone off when you're in a meeting?"

"No. Sometimes. If I remember."

"What kind of employee doesn't turn his phone off in a meeting? It's a MEETING! For WORK! We always turn our phones off when we have a meeting. We're professionals."

"Huh. It was okay. No harm done."

"Then why are you making a big deal of it? How was I supposed to know you were in a meeting? In fact, when you didn't answer, I told The Pony you must be in a meeting. 'He'll see it when he's out,' I said. Because I was sure you would have your phone turned off if you were in a meeting."

"No. It was on."

Seriously. That guy will be lucky if he makes it to retirement. This Val will be MORE lucky if he makes it to retirement. Anyhoo...the point it that Hick requested a burger while we were pulling up to the Rally's speaker. That meant I didn't have to warm up any food in the oven or heat it in the microwave. So I decided to have gas station chicken, my old friend, when I picked up a Friday evening celebratory 44 oz Diet Coke.

I bellied up to the chicken counter and asked for my usual. A breast. The jolly chicken gal missing a front tooth was training a new guy. She told him, "Give her two. We're backed up with chicken. I've got another tray going now. We have been slow on chicken for a Friday. We need to get rid of some to make room."

Let the record show it was 4:45, nearing the get-off-work rush. I suppose this being the last weekend of the month, and the Labor Day holiday coming up next weekend, folks are saving their chicken money.

"Okay. So I put in two?"

"Yeah. But not with everybody! I only give them to my regulars. She's a regular."

Heh, heh. That there is proof that Val is not irregular, by cracky!

So...I went in to buy one breast, paid for one breast, and left with TWO BREASTS!

It's who you know, people. It's who you know.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Val Plays Fast and Loose With Mathematical Analysis

As you may recall, Val went on a wild contest-entering spree a month or two ago. She has reaped an honorable mention and two first places so far for her nine entries. Not too shabby. The jury is still out on two of them, but Tuesday, Val was learned the fate of numbers six and seven.

Here’s the deal. Monday, I got an email after school explaining that my entry in a certain contest had not made it to the final round. No big deal. At least the sixth of the nine shoes had dropped. No more waiting for that one.

Monday evening, I realized that I had sent TWO entries to that contest. And that this email had specifically mentioned ONE of those titles. Hm. Perhaps my other entry was still in the running? Or maybe that organization only sent out one rejection per author. Hm. Was I a complete loser? Or just a half loser?

Tuesday afternoon, the mystery was solved. After the final bell, I turned on my phone, and was plugging away doing what I do best, keeping caught up with grading assignments before leaving work for the day. I heard my phone bleep the signal that it had received an email. I knew it. I felt it in my bones. It was that contest. I made myself wait until scores were recorded and entered in the computer. Then I checked.

Oh. Sorry. My piece did not pass through to the final round of the contest. However…they were happy to tell me that my piece had been a semi-finalist. It had clawed its way to the top 20% of all submissions. Good to know. Not quite as uplifting as winning 89th place in the 80th annual Writers Digest contest. But a tally in the plus column for Val.

Top 20%. Val is good with math. She knows that 20% is the same as 1/5. And that left over from that 20% is 80%. Which is the same as 4/5. Val was hoisted above 80% of the other entries. For every group of five entries, Val beat out four of them. She and the other 20-percenters breathed the rarefied air on the top of the heap while the rest choked on the smog below. 

So, applying her twisted version of a mathematical formula to that result…Val proclaims that four out of five writing contest judges surveyed think Val is hilarious. The other one, though, says, “Meh.” That other one? Probably laughs uncontrollably at Benny Hill, The Three Stooges, and those Ernest P. Worrell movies from the '80s. Enjoys a different style of comedy than Val's nuanced highbrow prose. That judge would never pick his seat by Val (heh, heh, I said pick his seat) in a two-person audience at a 5000-seat auditorium after the apopadopalyspe. That's okay. Val is pleased just to have been hoisted.

Writing is such a subjective endeavor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Juno Thevictorian Is/Was Missing!

Oh, dear! The Pony and I headed off for school this morning without a backward glance. And without a backwards trip, like yesterday, when I forgot my glasses but remembered them before we got to EmBee and the county road.

We were a little bit late, because Hick waxed all chatty until 6:10 about how he is DONE with work, and ready to retire. Aren't we all? 166 more school days? So that put us 10 minutes behind, and we needed to stop for gas, which we could have done after work, except that The Pony wanted to grab a donut. Make that three. Two for breakfast, and one for lunch.

Juno did not run around the porch to greet us. I didn't think anything of it, because some mornings she's there all human-eyed and loving, wanting a pat before I disappear into the garage, and some mornings she's off gallivanting about the countryside, picking up burrs in her silky egg-fed coat. I heard her barking around 5:40, I think. On the porch. A whimpery yip. Probably at that devil of a poodle across the way.

When we got home after 5:00, I pushed the garage door opener and saw a cat run out. CATS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THE GARAGE RIGHT NOW! As you may recall, my furniture from Mom's house has been stashed there, including the kitchen table of her own mother. With six chairs. No cat-clawing is going to befall them on MY watch!

After parking T-Hoe, I walked around to inspect my table. It looked okay. I heard my sweet, sweet Juno on the side porch. Whimpery-whining, excited to see me, eager for cat kibble. I started talking to her as usual. "Do I hear my sweet, sweet Juno? Does Juno want some kibble? Did Juno miss me today?" Imagine my surprise when I stepped through the door to find Ann. Poor dumb Ann. The black german shepherd/lab mix. I don't know why SHE was so excited. I tolerate her. But she's not a favorite. I patted her anyway, which I do grudgingly most evenings. I even gave her a bigger handful of cat kibble than normal. Because my sweet, sweet Juno wasn't there. Ann is the nervous type. She whiny-whimpered as she partook of her begrudged treat.

I called to my sweet, sweet Juno. Waited for her to run around the porch from her house. From the front. Out of the yard. No Juno. I bent over to look in her house. No Juno. That was very odd indeed. She is never far from Ann, though they get along like me and my sister the ex-mayor's wife. In the house, I asked The Pony if he had seen her.

"No. She'll come running."

"Take this baked potato skin from last night outside. She may want it. She missed her cat kibble."

"Huh." The Pony was perplexed when he came back from the dog pans. "I don't think Dad fed the dogs this morning. Their pans are empty, and usually they have some left. Besides, Ann was eating something dead."

"I hope it wasn't Juno!"

"Nah. It was about the size of a paw."

"I hope she's okay. It's not like Juno to miss me when I come home. I hope Dad didn't lock her in the BARn again. Did he go to the BARn last night?"

"I don't know."

Of course, speak of the Hick, and he appears. He came in the kitchen door.

"Have you seen Juno? She wasn't here this morning. And she's not here now. Not in her house. Not on the porch. She was limping for the past two days. I hope nothing's happened to her."

"Well, CRAP! She was running around over at the BARn last night. I'll go see if she's in there."

Let the record show that this was almost too much for my heart to bear. My sweet, sweet Juno locked up in the BARn all day? Alone? Unable to carouse? No water? No food? No love?"

It was almost worse when Hick returned, and declared that my sweet, sweet Juno HAD been in the BARn all day. Because I could imagine her yipping with delight when she heard the sound of Hick's Gator approaching. Picture her gamboling about Hick's feet when he opened the door. Imagine her joy at seeing him after a day all alone in a metal BARn. Worshiping her imprisoner, when I her true rescuer, was a hundred yards away. Unthanked.

When Hick came back inside, I told him to feed Juno. "She'll be hungry after missing her food this morning, and her dozen eggs through the day cat kibble this evening."

"There's food around there right now. In them pans."

"No. They're empty."

"They have food."

"How would you know? You haven't been around there. The Pony just came in five minutes ago ans said they were empty."

"Okay. I'll go give her some food." He went out the laundry room door. "C'mon you stupid mutt."

This is the third time Hick has locked my sweet, sweet Juno in the BARn. Now he's also letting the cat in the garage. He SAID she must have slipped in there. He doesn't even go in the garage. His car is outside because of my furniture that HE had the bright idea to put in there. So the cat would have had to walk right under his nose while he was getting their kibble this morning. IF he really locked the cat door in the big garage door like he said.

When Hick retires, I'm going to give him a checklist on a clipboard to fill out and turn in to me several times a day. Let's hope my furniture is not still in the garage.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oops! Hick Did It Again.

I came home yesterday to find two new additions to Thevictorian family sitting on the porch. They were not unattractive. Rather handsome, in their own way. As I was grousing to my sweet, sweet Juno about their origin, (while she was thinking "SHUT UP, WOMAN, AND GIVE ME MY CAT KIBBLE!") a voice hailed me from the front yard. It was Hick, sitting on his Gator. I suppose he had been waiting for me to exit the garage so he could ascertain my reaction.

“Did you see my newest find? I couldn’t pass them up. They were at the same driveway where I got the high chair.”

“Huh. Somebody is cleaning out their junk, and you’re bringing it home.”

“Look at them. They’re good chairs. I had to get them. And over by the bridge? Did you see the tub?”

“What tub? We came the other way. The back road.”

“Somebody had left a #3 washtub by the low water bridge. I got out to look. They had thrown a bunch of deer parts in it, so it didn’t smell very good when I brought it home—“

“Wait a minute! You brought it home? Where is it?”

“Over by the BARn. It’s a good tub. You don’t see those anymore.”

I don’t know what I’m going to do when Hick retires. We’ll have to buy another house, just for the yard to keep the junk he drags home every day.

Sorry. No #3 washtub for you.