Friday, July 31, 2015

Oh, Sweet Irony of Life at Last I've Found You

Hey! Remember how Val used to have such trouble understanding irony? So much that she had to consult her non-driving son in order to determine whether a situation was or was not irony? Those days are done, my friends. For today, this very day, the 31st of July, in the year 2015...Val found irony. Contrary to popular opinion, it did NOT bite her on the butt.

My sister the ex-mayor's wife was cleaning out papers from a bill and letter holder on Mom's kitchen wall. No bills. No letters. But some interesting items. The capstone, the topper, the piece de resistance was a page ripped from a magazine. From the test kitchens at Taste of Home.


Indeed. The woman who once served me 4-YEAR-OLD ranch dressing at Thanksgiving dinner, the woman who gave my boys Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that was still orange but tasted like stale cardboard, the woman who did all her shopping at Ye Olde Expired Food Shoppe...all along had a table of storage guidelines for various foodstuffs, right there in her kitchen! FYI, the recommended time for a bottle of commercial salad dressing is 6 MONTHS.

Oh, yes. I am positive that is a prime example of irony.

But that's not the best laugh I had today. Nope. Mom, even in absentia, is able to turn over my giggle box. We found a copy from some book, page 46 and 47, on the subject of "Make Your Own Slime." But that's not the funny part. I'm sure Mom had a reason to read these slime-making tips about two cool slimes you can make at home. The best part was her handwritten notes, around the corners. Notes which had nothing to do with slime or slime-making. I hope.

E. Welch. Ben R.'s mother. Fell out of bed. 93? Broke both legs at hospital. Okay. Sis and I were not laughing about some long-ago nonagenarian breaking her legs. And we think the note meant that the lady was IN the hospital, not that the hospital is where her broken legs occurred. It struck us as funny that Mom would write such a note on the slime instructions and leave it in her kitchen for decades.

There was another note on the opposite corner.

Jim. 16 ft driveway. no head trom. cracked ribs. a lot of ribs. Sorry, Jim. This one had us roaring. No idea why Mom would make these notes. She had a phone on the kitchen wall across from  this letter holder. Maybe one of her old lady friends called to fill her in on the infirmary list. Maybe it was a prayer request chain from church. Maybe it was just Mom. No idea.

In between Jim's ribs and Miz Welch's legs was this number: 1-800-AAA-HELP

This tops the dream I had about Mom last night. Where she took the whole family out to eat at McDonalds, gave the raised eyebrow to a lady who had a blanket wrapped around her son, and proceeded to enclose us all with a black piece of canvas, like a rectangular privacy tent.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Now You Know Why the Aged Val Screams

One aspect of my upcoming retirement (Have you heard? Only one more year to go!) that I am NOT looking forward to is that of Hick being all up under me 24/7. Like a baby chick poking its head out from under a hen's wing, like a cold dog nose poking a stomach up under a shirt hem, like a tack placed point-up on the piano bench under the descending rear end of a middle school choir teacher...Hick will invade my space. Heck, he's already practicing.

Now don't get me wrong. I do not wish for any harm to befall our Hick. I simply want him to realize that we are not going to follow each other around and remain within arm's reach of each other. And by that, I mean HE is not going to follow ME so closely that at any moment he can reach out and touch me. Not gonna happen. Hick needs to get himself a routine that involves as much time away from me as possible. Like when he takes off for a haircut at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday, and returns around 4:00.

Tonight, I was at the sink washing dishes while waiting for a meatloaf to heat itself in the oven (NOW WITH TWO ELEMENTS!), and getting ready to shuck some corn. Storebought corn. We don't grow our own, despite what people may think about Hick's access to cobs. The phone rang, and announced that I had an incoming call from Genius Thevictorian. Of course I dried my hands on my sweatpants with the hole in the left hip area (who needs an apron in these modern times, asked the woman without a dishwasher) and ran to answer.

Because it was Genius, right before suppertime, an hour of which he is quite familiar, I knew that the call would last a while. So I went into the living room and sat down in the La-Z-Boy. Let the record show that the TV was not on, the shades to the front window were closed against the evening sun, and the room in no way was a welcoming haven to one returning home from work.

On any given night, Hick comes in the kitchen door, grumbles a few words mostly about my sister the ex-mayor's wife and how my day went, and then goes out the front door to reunite with his animals. When supper is ready, he sometimes comes back in, but in the summer, he sometimes stays out and eats later.

Tonight Hick walked into the living room and plopped himself on the short couch. Let the record further show that I was in the midst of a phone conversation with Genius. Hick sat there like a creepy creeper. Did he voice any greeting to Genius? Or have questions for him about Saturday's upcoming move? No. Genius said he had already called Hick this morning to work out the details. So there sat Hick. Not watching TV. Not looking out the window. Not talking. Just listening. In the dim living room, while I was in the middle of a conversation.

Am I the only one who finds this rude?

You'd think it was enough that I have some government entity (surely you have not forgotten that Val is a well-known conspiracy theorist in her spare time) monitoring my calls, without the added snooping of Hick. He stuck it out like a champ, through the mumbles of "Uh huh. Yeah. I'm not very talkative tonight. I've had somebody sitting right here listening to me for 15 minutes now."

Hick is not one to pick up what I'm layin' down. Sometimes, a mom just wants to talk to her oldest son, her shining star, about his Garmin exit evaluation, on which he received two top ratings out of three areas, and a personal comment from the evaluator that he would hire him back, any time, and that it had been like having a regular employee, not an intern. Or about how I saw some Totino's 79-cent frozen pizzas in Save A Lot today, and thought of him and that dog, Gage, who stole his last slice in his basement apartment last summer. Or listen to him give me a pep talk on standing up for myself against Sis in the Battle of Inherited Knick Knacks. Hick was the fifth wheel in that conversation. And the tiny spare. And the itty bitty one on the end of a stick the patrolman uses to measure the distance of the skid after an accident.

I'm not saying that I would ever feed Hick to a wood-chipper. But I understand how that happens.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Could It Be...the Summer of VAL?

Remember way back when Val announced that she had sent off seven submissions? The results are still out on two of them. But five have reached fruition. Out of those five, Val has garnered an honorable mention, a first place, and ANOTHER FIRST PLACE!

Yes, I just found out about my latest bragworthy accomplishment success on Monday. You don't know how hard it's been to keep this tucked up under my hat until today. Here's verification, lest you suspect Val of stretching the truth, gilding the lily, falsifying the manifest. It's right there at the current end of the winners' list, last column, last contest. This submission was for the Saturday Writers theme of "Air." My piece was called, "Let the Breather Beware." Uh huh. You might guess the subject of my entry. It starts with an 'H' and ends with 'ick.' It will be published in the Saturday Writers anthology for 2015, which will come out in November or December.

Don't worry. I have not entered this month's contest. So you don't even have to think of me crowing about anything at the end of August.

Could this be The Summer of VAL? So far, three places out of five submissions. That's not too shabby. If I was a baseball player, I'd be batting .600! Cheer for me as I run out onto the field in my 100% cotton uniform. I hope you can all make it to my next home game, on Fitted Hat Day. If nobody calls in a fake bomb threat, that is! I couldn't be happier if I had a special desk at work where I could take a nap all day, complete with shelves under it for an alarm clock, coffee cup, magazine, and Snickers bar!

Yes, The Summer of VAL. I am going to be extra careful around steps and invitations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Val Has a Near-Drowning Incident in Minutiae. Multilpe Incidents, in Fact

Here's the thing. People grieve in different ways.

Some people wail and swoon and let it all out in public. Some people sniffle quietly in a corner. Some people hold it in until it hits them like ton of bricks. Some people find dark humor in the details and do their best not to let their inappropriate flag fly. And some people like to think they have control.

As a would-be controller from way back, I recognize this unconscious strategy in my sister the ex-mayor's wife. I love my sister. She's all I have left. Which is not to say she doesn't drive me crazy. We've never been the close siblings who wanted a double wedding, or to hang out with each other in our spare time, or would bear each other's children if something was wrong with our babymaking plumbing. But most of the time, we are civil to each other. And sometimes we have great laughs.

Ever since Mom had her seizure the day before Thanksgiving, Sis was the one taking her to appointments, talking to doctors, filling prescriptions, laying out meds, doing the laundry, and paying the bills when Mom was not able. She's already retired, you know. Even if she was not the one with more flexible time for these tasks, she would have taken charge. Many a time, Mom got mad at Sis. And Sis wondered to me if she was pushing too hard for Mom to do things she was not capable of doing. I think Mom was more upset with herself, and Sis was wishing Mom was better. Nothing made Sis happier than the day Mom snapped at me in the hospital. "See? Now you know what it's like." Still, Sis would let all that Mom-mood roll off her back, and continue fighting for the best care she could squeeze out of the doctors and nurses and health care administrators. I commended her more than once for her diligence.

Currently, Sis has me on a tight leash over the disbursement of the estate, and I am quick to heel. I complain about her here, and to Hick, but I am not going to risk a blowup to make myself feel better. A couple of times I have voiced my hurt feelings, and Sis apologized, saying that was not her intent. I believe her.

The cleaning out of Mom's house is taking my whole summer. Except for the two weeks of Sis's vacation, when I was not allowed to step foot on the premises. Every time we meet there, I tell The Pony, "It's only going to take a couple of hours. We should be able to finish my bedroom, Grandma's bedroom, and half of the family room." He sighs. And all we get done is the rest of my room, which should have entailed boxing up a dresser full of cross-stitch and other crafty items.

What we actually did was this. The Pony and I boxed items such as little jars and cross-stitch books and thread and Christmas stuff. Sis looked at EVERY SINGLE ITEM separately. That's right. Even that one drawer in my other dresser that held old T-shirts from my high school days. EVERY SINGLE T-SHIRT. She found a drawing pad in which I used to do pencil sketches. And pulled out EVERY SINGLE DRAWING. I had to tell her, "Hey! That's my stuff. Leave it alone.!" She did then. A little huffily.

This is what takes so long. I rue the days we discovered a cache of greeting cards. I now know who wrote each one, and what they said. EVERY SINGLE CARD! Sis had to take each one out of the envelope, open it, read it, comment on who it was from, and decide whether to keep it or throw it away. Don't even get me started on the costume jewelry that lined the top of Mom's dresser. That's how it goes.

Sunday, we went through the family room closet. It was stacked with board games, and had a shelf build into one half that housed old teaching supplies. Mom had been a retired 4th grade teacher for 20 years. So you know those markers were dried out by now, and that the pencil erasers were petrified, and the construction paper was fragile, and the tape didn't have the right stickiness any more. Of course Sis had to test each item. And open each game to see how many pieces were missing. That was a moot point. Sis wanted those games, and I said she could have them all. Every. Single. One. So all she really had to do was load them in her car. Was looking in them going to bring the pieces back? No. But we spent three hours on that closet.

It's a control thing. Sis is letting go. One piece of Mom at a time. I can't fault her for that. I can, however, complain. That's how I deal with it. There's no question of me taking over, cleaning out half of the house while Sis does half. Nope. She would follow along right behind me, doing it over. Like when I got the albums down out of the bedroom closet. Anyone for Dean Martin? Eddy Arnold? Charlie Pride? Sis had to sit down in the rocking chair, pick up the whole stack, and read the song list on the back of each one. Then ask if I wanted it. She took home all but the six I chose. "The ex-mayor and I put on records like this all the time."

We were supposed to close on the house this Thursday. However, last Friday the title company called about a glitch in the county records. The map shows an extra three acres included as part of the estate, but it was actually added later, and was not linked with the main house and property in the recorder's office. Therefore, it was not on the beneficiary deed, and might have to go through probate. Which would delay the sale another six months. We think we can switch it over within 2-30 days. The lawyer is working on it.

Sis will be cutting him a check from Mom's bank account. She also paid the water bill, which is done by going to a person's house and paying 1/10 of the bill, what with it being backwoods hillbilly town, and ten families sharing the city water line from the city limits. She has kept the house insurance up to date, paid the electric bill, and only last week shut off the phone service. We kept it for a while, because cell reception there is abominable. With the sale so close, she figured nobody would need to reach us there much longer.

Now...after all's my revenge. It was subconscious, you know. Keep that in mind.

As I said, we had scheduled Sunday afternoon to work on Mom's house. Hick and the ex-mayor would do the basement, because Sis had already handled everything down there the previous weekend. Saturday night, I had a dream. I was at an outdoor sporting event, perhaps a Little League game, sitting in a lawn chair next to Mom. She was on my right, in a webby, woven, old-timey lawn chair. The webbing was yellow and white. Mom wore yellow pants, white tennis shoes, and a white knit top with a plaid yellow-and-white cotton shirt over it, unbuttoned. Yes. My dreams are quite detailed. I had seen her wear this outfit before. Everything about Mom was bright and yellow. Not golden. Not glowing, Just a cheery yellow scheme.

In this dream, we were waiting for Sis to arrive. Just chatting, like old times. It seems like Mom had been lamenting that things in her house were breaking down. In reality, she had just had new windows installed a few months before she passed away. Dream Mom was wearing her sunglasses. She turned to me and said, "And my phone won't work!"

So many thoughts went through my dream head. I wanted to tell her, "Mom, you're not going to be needing that phone, because,'re dead." Of course I couldn't tell her than, even in my dream. So do you know what Dream Val told Dream Mom? "You're going to have to talk to Sis about that."

Yeah. Even in my dreams, I'm a smart ass.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Red Shoe Dreamaries

Val does not put much stock in dreams that foretell the future. Not her own dreams, anyway. She's never been precognitive like that.

Genius had been talking all summer about a camping trip that was scheduled for this past weekend. He goes every summer now, with his fellow staff from Missouri Boys State. They sleep in tents and float the river. Genius returned sick as a dog last year. I think it stemmed from the stoppage of his over-the-counter allergy medicine and exposure to too much nature. I never know for sure where this wilderness adventure takes place, but I know it's in the middle of the state in the middle of nowhere. Genius is not one to volunteer such information unless interrogated. All I know is that he called and said he might need me to drop off his tent in town to a total stranger passing through if the guy bringing one to share forgot it.

Thursday night, which was actually 3:30 a.m. Friday morning, I awoke from a dream about Genius. In that dream, I had been at a Boys State basketball tournament to watch The Pony. Let the record show that neither of my boys are athletes, and that Genius played one year of JV basketball in high school. In this dream, I was sitting in the bleachers with The Pony, waiting for his team to play, and he was talking to his friends about his new girlfriend, and they were declaring that he had one of the two biggest heads in their class.

In that dream world, I was looking at the court for Genius. I could not find him. The teams were playing six on six. I looked from one player to another, both teams. No Genius. I checked the bench. No Genius. Between games, I walked out to the gym lobby and looked at the tournament bracket. It showed that Genius's team had forfeited. Furthermore, a fan was saying, "...and Lesterville did not show up. They got lost, I guess. So they forfeited."

In my dream mind, I was concerned. I had just spoken to the dream Genius an hour or two before, and he was on his way to the tournament. He was excited to have new red shoes. He was wearing a blue track suit with white stripes down the side. Now he was dream missing!

Flash back to real time. Friday morning, I told The Pony about it on the way to my mom's house to work with my sister the ex-mayor's wife cleaning out more belongings. The Pony laughed. "Ha, ha! Me and Genius playing BASKETBALL? That's funny."

While I was at Mom's house, Genius called to tell me from his college town. He talked about getting internet and cable service for his upcoming rental house, and reminded me about being on-call for possible tent delivery.

"I had a dream about you. Where will you be camping and floating with these Boys State people?"


"Oh. Um. You don't have new shoes, do you?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. They're red. I'm wearing them right now."

"What are you wearing?"

"Who am I, Jake from State Farm?"

"No. My dream. Do you have on a track suit? Or a sweatsuit?"

"No. You would not approve of what I am wearing. My new shoes, and white shorts, and a light green shirt."

"Okay. That's a relief. Be careful on your trip."

"I will."

Let the record show that it is rare for Genius to get a phone signal when he's on these camping trips to the middle of nowhere. Or at least that's what he tells me. As I type this on Saturday, getting it ready to post on Monday when I am otherwise occupied...I have not heard from Genius since yesterday's phone call.

Maybe I should watch the news for information on Lesterville.

Let the final record show that Genius called Sunday evening at 6:00 to report that he had survived his camping trip. He was less than pleased that I did not do cartwheels upon receiving his call. It did not seem to matter to him that I was out of breath from slurping down the last of a delicious chocolate chip/caramel concrete from our newest local frozen custard stand, and in the midst of petting my sweet, sweet Juno, who was snuffling at my face (probably for the frozen custard residue) and simultaneously begging for cat kibble.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Know What You Did Last Wednesday. Or...The Telltale White Car.

You know how sometimes you think you can get away with something, but then all not-heaven breaks loose, and nothing works out as planned? Or maybe you don't. Maybe you have never done anything devious in your life, and don't know the smiting power of Even Steven. Maybe.

Let the record show that my sister the ex-mayor's wife has a thing about me cheating her in this estate-settling business. Or so it seems. Sis does not want me in the house unless she is there. While she was away on vacation, for two whole weeks, she did not want me working on the house. Did not want Hick cleaning out the basement. We were only asking in order to speed things along. Not taking stuff. Just getting rid of trash. Newspapers. Clothes to donate. Craft materials that Sis agreed for Hick to disperse at the auction for her cut.

Since Sis didn't want us there. We didn't go. We sat on our duffs and waited until she returned. Never mind that she had mentioned on more than one occasion how she and the ex-mayor had gone by and spent several hours getting rid of stuff. I didn't question that. I guess I had no ulterior motive to project. I was glad that was work I did not have to do. Still. It seems a bit untoward that she would decree that I stay away unless she is there. That was my mom, too, you know. But to keep the peace, I obeyed her wishes.

Until Wednesday.

I figured what Sis didn't know couldn't hurt her. We had all just been there Tuesday night, working on the basement. But Genius called later, and wanted pictures of the bedroom furniture that he might be using in his rental house. I figured I could get up early, go by there while I was in town for a haircut and the bank, snap some pictures for Genius, and be gone before the devil knew she wanted to kill me Sis knew I had been there. After all, we were not planning our next clean-out session until Thursday.

I was delayed at Terrible Cuts longer than I had planned. It didn't help that the check-in app told me the wait time was 59 minutes. By the time I got there, it was 7 minutes. Or so my phone said. Anyhoo...I was later going out to Mom's house than I originally planned. Sis might be up and stirring, although she does not live in a direct line with my route. I thought I was still safe to run by and take three pictures. Maybe four.

As soon as I turned onto the half-mile road to Mom's house, I met a white SUV. Sis has a white SUV! It didn't look much like her driving, but I couldn't see too well, what with a sharp curve coming up. I think it was a bald man. But I couldn't be sure. My heart was pounding. I waited for my phone to ring and for Sis to grill me on why I was out there. Even though that white SUV was coming from the direction of Mom's house.

I crested the hill onto the flat stretch that goes by Mom's driveway, and saw, in front of me, another white SUV! I couldn't tell if it was Sis. But if it turned in, I could ask what SHE was doing there. Even though I have no decree to keep her away without a chaperone. It went on by. Whew! This sneaking business is not all it's cracked up to be.

Wiping the flop sweat from my brow, I put on my turn signal. WAIT! There was a white car in the driveway! Nobody should be at Mom's house! A white car! Not even Sis's car. I could not pull in, because that white car was barely down the driveway itself. And there was a woman walking around the end of the house taking pictures! WTF?

I sat there in the middle of the road with my blinker on, thinking she'd get the message and move that white car. It's not a busy road, but an outer road segment since the state of Missouri took the land behind the house to put in a stretch of two-lane highway. Still, you don't want to be sitting in the middle of an outer road for an extended period of time.

FINALLY, that picture woman noticed that I was not going away, and walked up to the side of her white car. She looked SO familiar. Like Sis's best friend and neighbor. Then she spoke, and I recognized her as someone we went to school with, in the class between me and Sis, who works right now at my insurance office.

"I don't want to block you in, but I'll have to park sideways because there's not enough room."

"Oh. I'll move. Which side do you park on?"

"I usually just pull straight down."

Picture Woman moved her car about five feet. But at least it gave me room to get off the road.

"Do you two have a brother I don't know about? Because a guy called my office to ask about insuring this house."

"No. That's our cousin. He's buying it."

"I'm just trying to get an idea of replacement costs. Does that fireplace go into two rooms, or one?"

"I'll let you in to look around. I have to take a picture of the bedroom furniture for my son Genius." Let the record show that only last week I was dropping off a renter's insurance application at her office for Genius. So she knows who he is.

We were in the house about five minutes. Picture Woman asked what the appraisal value of the house was.

"Well, you can't tell my cousin!"

"Oh, I guarantee I won't do that. I don't even know what he looks like!"

I might better have asked Picture Woman not to tell my sister that I was in the house. Because she DOES know what Sis looks like!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Wayward Son Carries On, In an Effort to Lay His Weary Head to Rest

Tuesday, I found out that the bed my mom and dad slept on for 45 years is a queen size. Not king.

Okay. So Val is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Why would I have been concerned about my parents' bed, anyway? I had my own room. I wasn't a scaredy-cat, crawling in with them bawling in the middle of the night. I was in their room plenty, though, in the evenings, laying on the bright red carpet, listening to 45s of the Partridge Family on their stereo while I did my homework. Never mind that I had to take off an Eddie Arnold LP and add that little contraption to make the 45s sit in a stack and drop down one by one. I had bigger fish to fry than their bed.

Genius needs a bed for the house he will be renting for the next three years. I told him he could use his grandma's, but it was a king. The one from my childhood bedroom is a full size mattress. Genius, the little Goldilocks, professed that a king would be too big, and a full would be too small. He needs one that is just right. A queen size.

So...Tuesday, as we cleaned out the closet in the bathroom we used to share, Sis found a bunch of queen size sheets, still in the original packaging.

"I don't know why Mom would have queen size sheets. They won't fit anything here. But I'll take them for Genius when he gets a bed."

"Are you sure? They're only flat sheets. Nothing fitted."

"He won't care. He has one set. When he washes them, I'm sure he can use the flats to take their place."

We moved on to Mom's room, to finish off the jewelry and the dresser. As I sat on her sewing machine chair, I noticed that the bed looked the same size as my bed at home. "I think this bed IS a queen. Don't you?"

"Yes. A king looks like a big square. Not a rectangle."

When Hick arrived for cleaning out the basement, I told him to send Genius a text that the bed was a queen, in case he though he might want it. Later, after we got home, Genius called to talk about the computer he's building for me.

"So, do you think you might want that bed from Grandma's house? It's a really firm mattress."

"You swore that bed was a KING."

"I thought it was, until I really looked at it today."

"I saw another one for sale today that's only been used in a guest room. But I can't get it there from here."

"You don't want to use a mattress that's been in somebody else's house! You don't know what kind of guests they had. Maybe they invited homeless people in on cold nights. Unwashed homeless people. With Grandma's bed, you might be getting 45-year-old dust mites, but at least they are FAMILY dust mites! Besides, it's really only about 28 years of dust mites. Because once Grandpa died, Grandma didn't sleep in it anymore. That bed has been vacant for 17 years."

"Stop. You think that's GOOD?"

"You could put a mattress cover on it. A crackly plastic one. Like a bedwetter might use. And when you take it from here to your college house, we can stand it up on the trailer, so it can breath."

"Or maybe we can just tie one end of it, and let it flap like a magic carpet."

"That too."

"Or I could just get a piece of cloth the size of a queen bed, and stuff it with those red shop rags, and stitch it closed, and put it on a frame that's made from recycled pallet lumber covered with oil."

"I guess you'll be needing the sewing machine, too."

"No. I was just pointing out how I could make one from stuff that Dad recycles. I want the bed."

That's the good thing about 20-year-old college boys. They're younger, and they have stronger vertebrae.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sometimes, Val Has Followers

Heh, heh. Funny, the things you learn when traveling the Blogosphere. Take the 11:11 phenomenon, for instance. I had never heard of the 11:11 phenomenon until today. Blog buddy Joe H shared it with us, though true credit, I believe, goes to Mrs. Cranky, his famed-grocery-store-list-writing spouse.

I've noticed that sometimes 11:11 shows up when I glance at a digital timepiece. I probably notice because it's a nice symmetrical number. I've also noticed that the time is often 4:20 when I check the clock. No explanation for that one...

Here's the thing. Funny I should read that 11:11 post this morning before I left home to go work on cleaning out my mom's house. Because yesterday, while cleaning out her house, I picked up my cell phone to check the time, and it was 11:11! I didn't think anything of it then, except to tell my sister the ex-mayor's wife, who was leaning against the kitchen counter, "Oh, look! It's 11:11."

We had just spent two hours going through the top of Mom's bedroom closet. Sis found Mom's wedding album, and read out loud the page describing the honeymoon. Don't worry. It was G-rated. We're talking about my mom, here!

It was cute, how my 22-year-old mom gushed over my 20-year-old dad, saying how lucky she was that he made her the happiest woman in the world. How they drove south after the wedding, and stopped to have hamburgers and fries at a drive-in restaurant. "Of course, for all we knew, we could have been eating chicken sandwiches and chips. We were both so wrapped up in the excitement of being married."

Mom went on to tell of their eventual destination in Tennessee, where they stayed with high school friends Shirley and Elmo, who were already married. "The next night we went to the state fair. We had such a good time! In the parking lot, [my dad] and Elmo caught a man breaking into cars. They called the police and had him arrested!" Yeah. That's it. Not another word about the fair. That's my mom, all right.

Anyhoo...Sis and I had gone from the uppstairs bedroom down to the kitchen. The Pony was gathering boxes. I bent over to my purse, which was sitting on a kitchen chair from a set that had belonged to my Mom's mom. I pulled out the phone, and there it was, 11:11. We went down the next level of that split-level house into the family room, and continued our cleanout in the bathroom closet.

"Look at this Val! Why would Mom do things like this?" Sis held up a twisty lightbulb in a box, with a handwritten note: 'This may be burned out.' "Why wouldn't she just throw away a used lightbulb? And look at this. There's three knee braces! Mom never had anything wrong with her knees. And THIS!" Sis pulled out a musical relic from the 80s, a suitcase-size jam box, suitable for carrying on one's shoulder, or setting on the pavement when ready to breakdance. "When did Mom ever listen to this?"

We cleared out the bathroom. The Pony carried the trash and the treasures up to the main floor. He loaded a couple of boxes in T-Hoe and helped Sis carry a few things. Then he sat down in the living room to text his new paramour. I stood at the front door annoying him. We had propped open the glass door, and I had my hand on the wooden door, waiting to open it when Sis came back from her car. The entryway is a wood hallway. I had one hand on that door, and one hand on the wall of the living room entrance. There I stood, like a big bird with its wings spread.

Behind me, I heard a pop. Nothing was behind me. Just a mirror on the wall, a ceramic urn thingy holding three umbrellas, and a walker that Hick had bought for Mom. I was touching none of that, and standing perfectly still.

"Did you hear that?" I said it quietly, to The Pony.

"Yes! It sounded like somebody taking a step on that wood floor. Like how the wood creaks."

Let the record show that later last night, in our own house, I heard walking in The Pony's room. He swore he never got up. And two hours after that, I heard a heavy footstep in Genius's old bedroom, and the creak of the mattress as somebody lay down on his bed.

Mrs. Cranky doesn't have to make a believer out of Val.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Ice Bin Runneth Over

With Genius away in Olathe, Frig II has been churning out ice cubes like a champ. No more do I go to his door and find bareness that would embarrass Old Mother Hubbard herself. My Bubba cups overflow, and my 44 oz Diet Cokes are stoked with extra chill throughout the day.

The devil, however, has been acting as activities director for Genius's too-idle hands this week. I got a text from him Tuesday morning. Genius, that is. Not the devil. He's not exactly placing an order for Frig II's forbidden fruit for all those steaming souls he's dealing with. The devil, that is. Not Genius.

"Your GPS order has shipped. Expect it in a day or two."

"Okay. Your check is in the mail."

"I got it yesterday. Won $8 too."

"How could you get it that fast? I mailed it Saturday at 11:00."

"UPSP on point."

"It's the tax dollars you provided."

"I think I got all mine back."

"Then I am the provider. You are the freeloader. Aren't you supposed to be working?"

"I have to make a presentation board for the 'intern expo.' It's like I'm a middle school science fair participant, but for a Fortune 500 company. If they don't want me doing real work, I feel fine texting."

"'It will be like science fair,' is what I was actually typing. Slowly."

"Step up your typing game and maybe I won't outwit you so consistently."

"That is asking a lot. My New Delly is aging ungracefully, which weighs heavily on my mind."

"I've offered to build you a new one."

"I think that is necessary. I want it yesterday." (Let the record prematurely show that I have been having hang time issues with Firefox on my desktop computer. More than two windows open, and I freeze. It's sucking up 94% of my physical memory. The computer's memory, too! Heh, heh.)

"You can have it in three weeks."

"At what cost? Also, I will be back to work in three weeks. It will be hard for me to learn new tricks while preoccupied."

"I can get you a cost estimate tonight, but probably around $300-$400. It will also depend on how pretty a case you want."

"Don't care. It will be buried in my office."

"We will discuss it more tonight."

"That is presumptuous."

"So is you presuming I'll build it. Mayhap I'll scam you and up all the prices 10%"

"You already volunteered! I want a little bit of your finger blood in it." (Let the record show that Genius is notorious for injuring himself while working on projects such as installing a new video card in The Pony's old desktop.) "You won't cheat me. The thrill of opening up fresh packages of electronic gewgaws will be enough for you."

"Drat. She knows my one true weakness."

"Well, that. And slipping on your excessively-sweaty palms and putting your teeth through your lip." (Let the record further show that Genius had a childhood kitchen accident doing parallel bar moves with a hand each on the cutting block and countertop.)

"THAT is offensive."

"I do SO love to reminisce about your childhood."

I hope he got his volcano model up and working for his presentation. Garmin ain't payin' that boy to look purty and type on his phone all morning.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Val Really Needs To Be More Careful In What She Wishes For

Most of you must remember that The Pony is a back-seat rider. He does not yet have his driver's license. Only a permit, which has been renewed twice. It's not that he CAN'T drive, but that he chooses not to. Hick has had him out on the road numerous times in various vehicles. But why drive the car when you can ride in T-Hoe for free?

Lately The Pony had been trying to please me by riding up front in the rightful shot-gun seat instead of directly behind me with his laptop accouterments all spread out on the other seat. It kind of throws a monkey wrench into the within-reach organization of my purse, Bubba cup of water, and mail on the passenger seat.

Yesterday we ran several errands in which The Pony's presence was required. He started to get in the back, but hopped up front at the last minute. "Because you want me to ride up here." Far be it from me to tell him to get in back, because I wanted to set my stuff on that seat. He still had his laptop, but did look up every now and then, and responded to my musings.

On the last trip of the day, we stopped by the bank so I could deposit my $50 contest win check. You know. To cover the cost of that new drill that Hick put on the debit card. Lucky for me there was nobody waiting in the line I chose. The van in the next lane pulled out, and I had that teller all to myself. Only problem was, we were listening to the Laugh USA on SiriusXM, and we lost our signal right at the punch line.

There we sat, window down, in awkward silence, waiting for the teller to credit my account. "Whew! Something around here stinks! What in the world? Do you smell that, Pony? Shooey! Is it that bush over there? My grandpa used to have a bush that stunk. What IS that? It smells!"

The Pony took his foot out of his Adidas slide, which he had been wearing off and on all day. He grabbed his toes with his fingers and pulled that foot up to his nose. WHILE WE WERE SITTING AT THE BANK DRIVE-THRU!

"Yep. It's mah feet! They didn't smell that bad last time. In fact, I don't think they've EVER smelled this bad. Here." He poked that foot over toward my face.

"EEEEEE! Get it out of here! I HATE feet! Stop it!"

"It really does smell. Is that the odor?"

"It has to be! How can your feet stink like that? Don't you wash them?"

"Every night. With a LOT of soap! I find it strange that my feet, which have not really been in actual shoes today, smell so bad."


By now we had left the bank to continue our quest to another appointment. Because The Pony was riding up front with me, I had to jam my yellow Bubba cup full of ice water on top of the cup holder in the console. It is not a good fit.

"Look out when I make this turn. Grab my water."

"Okay. Got it."


"I'm not really touching anything but the lid. You drink out of the straw."

"But I'll smell FEET on the lid. It's right under my nose."


"It must be those shoes! You've had them for two years now!"

"But they're not closed in."

"They have that cushiony part. Not just slick, like shower shoes. That cushion that can soak up sweat. I'll bet your wore them working on the Sword Shack. It was 105 heat index! And you walked your little nephew down to the creek."

"Yeah. It was hot." He slipped his foot out of the slide and picked it up. "PEW! It's the shoes, all right. Smell."

"Get that away from my face! I'm driving! I'm going to gag. I need to put the windows down. How come I don't smell them when you ride behind me? You even put them up on the console to bug me, and I don't smell them."

"When I'm in the back, the air is blowing the smell back. Up here, the vents blow the odor up to your nose. See?" He put his foot up on the dash, over the vent by the door.

"YUCK! Stop!"

We completed our mission. It was now 6:15, and The Pony was hungry. He wanted to drive through Rally's for a burger before we started home. Let the record show that after watching The Pony consume his meal, I would kind of rather he was sitting behind me.

"Why don't you leave it wrapped in the wrapper? Ketchup is dripping out!"

"I always eat it this way. I lean over the wrapper. See? It drips on there. It doesn't get on my clothes or the car."

"It's running down your hand! Don't you have napkins?"

"I think so. Let's see." The Pony continued to chomp on his cheeseburger as he slid his foot out of his slide and REACHED HIS TOES DOWN INTO THE RALLY'S BAG FEELING FOR NAPKINS! "Nope. It's empty."

"Thank goodness! That was gross!"

"I was only trying to get napkins. You told me to."

"Not with your feet!"

We made it home by some miracle without me vomiting. I think it had something to do with the explosive farts that echoed against the leather seat like T-Hoe was being pierced by torpedoes. Their aroma tamed the tootsie twang.

Upon entering the homestead, and greeting Hick, The Pony filled him in on our trip. "Oh, Dad. Mom says my feet really stink. See?" He held a shoe in front of Hick's face.


"Heh, heh. I DO wash my feet. Every night. It's the shoes."

I can get them in two days with free shipping from Amazon Prime. This situation might justify one-day shipping.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Giveth and Taketh of Even Steven

Saturday, after mailing Genius his weekly letter, I stopped by the gas station chicken store for a 44 oz Diet Coke. While paying, I picked up two $3 lottery tickets. What's the point of making a stop for only a Diet Coke, I say.

Once home, I decided I would set aside one of those tickets for Genius next week. I don't normally play the $3 version, but this one was a format he likes, the Diamond Tripler. It has lots of lower-level prizes, but not so many high dollar payouts. It is, after all, only a $3 ticket.

I had numbers 22 and 23 from that roll of tickets. Hm. Which one to give Genius? He's going to turn 21 in December. But not 22 or 23. I figured I'd take the first one, and save the #23 for him. I started scratching. I scratch this kind in columns, not in rows. Midway down the first column, there was a 3X symbol. Well. I'd never seen on of those on this kind of ticket. The directions said you win three times the amount you uncover. I was one symbol into the second column when I stopped.

"Genius loves these tickets. I know it's a winner of some kind. I should really send it to him. But he might be insulted that I sent him a partially-used lottery ticket. Then again, he might be happy because I've sent him a sure winner."

What to do, what to do? Val Thevictorian problems. I've had a dry spell in the win department. Maybe I should keep it and see what's there. I felt like Thomas Hulce as Pinto in the upstairs bedroom at Delta House when his date passed out and the devil and angel on his shoulders were giving conflicting advice. I'd link that scene, but I'm not sure all of you are old enough to hear it.

I set that sure winner aside. Because I'm a giver, darn it! And I want my son to experience the joy of scratching off at least $9, which will be greatly appreciated by him, what with the price of Chinese food only being $6 at the establishment he frequents. I scratched off the #23 ticket instead, and won $3. Since the suspense was killing me, I put that winner in the mail Sunday.

Hopes are high that Genius wins bigger than $9, because Even Steven dealt more cards that afternoon after I dropped that sure winner in the drive-thru box at the dead-mouse-smelling post office. I had waited and waited to leave home, because Hick and The Pony did not return my texts about whether they wanted me to pick up something for their lunch while I was in town. They were busy putting the trusses on the Sword Shack. Finally, Hick replied that they would take Dairy Queen chicken baskets. So I waited in line for those, and headed over to the gas station chicken store for a 44 oz Diet Coke. The school year is fast upon us, you know, so I have to drink soda while the sun shines.

What's the point of making a stop for only a Diet Coke, I say. So I figured I'd get a gas station chicken breast. They do chicken right. As I filled my vat 44 oz cup with ice and that magical elixir, a woman bellied up to the chicken counter where I was headed. So I put on my lid and waited my turn. She ordered a 4-piece dinner. I don't know what that entails, but the cook was taking her own sweet time. And then it happened!


Well. That was it for me. I stepped around her to pay for my soda. No point in waiting when my meal was gone.I'd have to make lunch at home for myself, after I'd gone to all that trouble to make sure I would not be making lunch.

No good deed (or two) goes unpunished. Do-gooder, selfless Val went without a big win and a boughten lunch. Circumstances of apocalyptic proportions in Val's world.

Even Steven missed the memo that it's better to give than to TAKE FROM VAL!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Law and Order: V-A-L

And now, to complete our hat trick, pay off our trifecta, elaborate on the charmed third time...I shall share with you the HYPE that comes after BREAD and DEPTH in this sonnet to my Saturday:

How do I write thee? Let me count the ways.
I write thee for the depth and bread and hype
My prose can reach, when I begin to type
About events in ordinary days.

There's no way to ease into it, really. So let's go there:


Now some of you may assume it has something to do with her not paying her telephone and electric bills if she doesn't receive them because they have been stolen out of EmBee, her trusty John-Deere-green thick metal pipe mailbox hammered into a long wooden shelf at mailbox row. Or something to do with her not paying (one of) her car insurance bill(s) because it was not in its regular long billish envelope, but tacked onto the bottom of her liability and loss limits statement that comes with the little proof-of-insurance cards that tear off at the perforation. Seriously. Who sends out proof of insurance before you've paid the insurance? Or that she was apprehended loading up her car with empty boxes from Save A Lot. Or that Hick has finally served her with papers. Please. As if Hick would serve anything to Val! All of you assumers have constructed donkeys out of your own selves and moi. You're not even close.


Yes, during my very last year of gainful employment, my last year of teaching before I hang up the ol' dry-erase marker, I will be subject to absence due to jury duty! You know what that means! It will be even harder to use up some of my 100 sick days/personal leave days. Jury days don't count. AND the last time I had jury duty, the school district didn't even take my jury pay! That's an extra $18 per day in Val's pocket. Plus another $2.52 in mileage!

My term runs from September 1 to December 31. With the luck of Val, her presence at trial will be required during Christmas vacation, when Genius is home from college, and celebrating his 21st birthday, for which we have planned a casino excursion. Something tells me that I will not be excused from jury duty for a casino visit. Maybe my physician will meet me there, and I can say I have a appointment with my doctor.

I served on the jury before, you know. I was called perhaps four times. During three of them, I was excused, because the lawyer Hick and I have used for years was trying the case. I did not feel that I could be impartial, you see. I was perfectly willing to serve. Can you believe the other lawyer excluded me from that jury pool? I was really broken up about it, seeing as I had to leave and spend the rest of the day not sitting in the courthouse, and not working. Woe was me.

On a side note, I know exactly where I was the morning that news of the Taum Sauk Reservoir collapse trickled in. Sitting in the courthouse waiting for jury selection. It kind of made my predicament insignificant. Don't you worry about Missouri's hydroelectric power, though. Taum Sauk has been rebuilt. If something like that happens again while I'm in the courtroom, I will ask to be excused if I'm called a third time.

I hope I get a more interesting case than Eminent Domain this time.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Oh My God! She Killed T-Hoe! That B*stardess!

Remember yesterday, when I had three tales to relate, as alluded to with this catchy little creation?

How do I write thee? Let me count the ways.
I write thee for the depth and bread and hype
My prose can reach, when I begin to type
About events in ordinary days.

With the BREAD out in the open, it is now time to reveal the DEPTH of Val Thevictorian's very eventful day.

Friday, I went to town and picked up some empty boxes at Save-A-Lot. They let you do that, you know. Take them for free. Don't even charge you for empty boxes that might have held Circus Os cereal, or cases that contained twelve-packs of Mountain Holler soda. They're free for the taking. Whether you snatch them up front from the hands of grocery-buyers who need to carry home their foodstuffs, or sneak them off the shelves by taking out the last 3 or 4 items inside and stacking them neatly on another box of the same item. It's one of the perks of Save A Lot patronage.

Once home, I called The Pony from the garage. I had one box of groceries, filled with a jar of dill pickles, a bag of onions,  a bunch of bananas, and a bag of red grapes. "You can leave the empty boxes back there. We'll take them out to Grandma's house next week when we clean out more stuff with Aunt Sis. Can you help with the mail? And my purse? I'll carry my big soda."

The Pony grabbed the box and came around front for the rest. He's a reliable beast of burden. I closed up the garage and followed him in, after a short reunion on the side porch with my sweet, sweet Juno.

This morning, I was in a rush. I had to get a letter in the mail to Genius by 11:15. Let the record show that as of 10:15, I was just starting the letter. Still plenty of time. It takes 10 minutes to get to the dead-mouse-smelling post office. I had already addressed the envelope and stuck on two stamps. Scratch-off tickets are heavy! I still needed to slide them in, along with his money for Chinese food that his grandma always sent each week. A witty correspondence was forming when I got a text from Genius about using his discount for the Garmin gadgets Hick and The Pony were going to get before his internship discount ends in two weeks.

That monkey wrench set me back. I told Genius to pick them out, because the bumps on this end of the log were not making any effort. He wanted a check tucked in with his letter. But he hadn't found the GPSs yet, and didn't know the cost with his 45% discount. Meanwhile, I had to respond to his every text, finish the letter, write out a check, find the $6 and tickets, change into town-presentable clothes, and hit the road.

I had about 5 minutes to spare when I entered the garage. I pushed the doorbell unit thingy that raises my garage door. I heard it start up. I opened T-Hoe's door to set my purse inside.


I turned to see the garage door come to a stop two-thirds open. The reason for the stoppage was that it was hooked on T-Hoe's hatch door. Which was open! I never leave T-Hoe's hatch door open! In fact, I tell The Pony that he is not allowed to open it when the garage door is closed. He disagrees, declaring that he has opened it plenty of times inside the closed garage, and it fits just fine. Perhaps. When that door is completely down. But it curves, you know, to slide up inside the garage roof area.

Of course the seconds were ticking to get Genius's letter in the mail. It usually takes the USPS until Wednesday evening to get it to Olathe. And Genius is leaving work early next week for his Missouri Boys State Staff camp-out weekend. What to do?

I jumped into T-Hoe, started him up, and pulled forward a foot. I hit the button to close his hatch. Nothing. I pushed it again. Nothing. CRAP! Now I broke T-Hoe! I tried once more. IT WORKED. Then I pushed the garage door closer clipped to the shotgun-seat visor. THE DOOR CLOSED! Then it opened. Whew!

Hick has not yet been informed. For all I know, he was nosing around among the boxes for treasures he thought we brought home. You know I would never blame Hick without cause! But when I told The Pony of the Unfortunate Garage Door/Hatch Faux Pas, he frowned. "I'm sure you closed it. You always close it when I get things out of the back. You sit there until I'm out of the way, and you close it, and you close the garage door. And you make me get everything before you get out, because you won't let me open it when the garage door is down."

Uh huh.

I am growing careless in my dotage, or Hick is a sneak-would-be-thief, or something is afoot in the garage. A couple of mornings we found the door open when we had left it closed. But never T-Hoe's hatch.

You may see Mystery Inc. and the Mystery Machine in my driveway in the days ahead. Don't be alarmed.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Baby I'm A-Want You to Get Down on Your Knees and Look What You've Done to Everything I Own

You know how some days, you wake up and think, "WHAT am I going to write about today?" And then, as the day progresses, you know that problem has been solved, although perhaps not in the way you might have wished? Well, I'm having one of those days.

How do I write thee? Let me count the ways.
I write thee for the depth and bread and hype
My prose can reach, when I begin to type
About events in ordinary days.

Yeah. I kind of have three happenings to share. I'll limit myself to one each day. Let's start with the most mundane. Not that it happens all the time. Perhaps it's just the least interesting to minds other than Val's. It is the BREAD in the depth and hype sandwich of the above plagiarized partial sonnet.


This afternoon EmBee expelled a little envelope with a return address of which I was not familiar. The Pony, always a postal inspector lest he miss a vital college communique, noted this envelope as well. I ripped it open and found a CHECK! A check for money! Money for ME!

It was my prize money for winning 1st Place in the nonfiction contest at the All Write Now Conference last Saturday.

Let the record show that I have yet to wave this moolah under Hick's nose. Hick. Who picked us up, made a U-turn (legal, of course), heard that The Pony and I were both winners, then harshed our mellow by saying, "Do you ever get any money for this writing stuff?" Yeah. Ebenezer needs to work on his timing.

Let the record show that Even Steven is constantly running in the background of Val's life. Although Hick has not yet been informed of today's windfall of $50, he made a trip to Walmart two hours after it arrived, and bought himself a drill for $43.71, to replace the one he has four chargers for that overheated while he was using it in the 105-degree heat index.

Fifty steps forward, forty-three-point-seventy-one steps back. The soundtrack of Val's life.

Friday, July 17, 2015

I'm Not Sure I Want to Know What Did This

Something is afoot at the dead-mouse-smelling post office.

Today I reached into EmBee and pulled out THIS:

Blog Readers, I served supper with mice in my house. I know mice. Mice are enemies of mine. And this, Blog Readers, was no mouse!

Seriously. Think of the jaws on that thing! But try not to think of the nest. It might be as big as that HUGE stickly contraption I saw on Naked and Afraid, the one in Namibia that the Lady Godiva chick pushed over a cliff with a big stick, allowing the blond dreadlocked free spirit dude to catch five juvenile hammerhead storks. Somebody ate good on day 17!

Yes, this junk mail was not nibbled by a tiny field mouse with twitching whiskers and big ears. It was gnawed by a GIANT RAT. One, perhaps, like John Candy as Uncle Buck suggested to his niece Maisy's school principal. To have a mole removed. "Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face."

The reason the dead-mouse-smelling post office did not smell like dead mouse that last time I was there is because SOMETHING GIGANTIC ATE THE DEAD MOUSE!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Val Has the Pheromones of a Fly, Or Perhaps Possesses the Aroma of a Rotting Carcass

A fly came to my lair today
After a phone call, and I so late to hit the keyboard,
To taunt me.

In my dark, dark basement lair, at the corner countertop
I sat down in front of New Delly
And was buzzed, yes I was buzzed, but not in a way that brings

He zoomed in from the left side of my office in the gloom
And zipped his silken-winged gossamer self right past the end of
my nose tip
And made a return to land on the bright screen,
And where his hairy legs blocked out my view, he rubbed his fly hands
In a show of fly glee,
Laughed at me through his fly gums, shaking his black fly body,

Okay. Enough plagiarizing by Val Thevictorian. That's what happens when she runs out of original ideas, and can't concentrate because a fly that should be out sitting on poop and crawling on rotting carcasses invades her dark basement lair and makes her overexert herself waving her arms frantically about her head.

I'm pretty sure Hick let him in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Pony Will Always Be Special To Me

Yet another vignette from last weekend's writers' conference...

The Pony is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and poetry. He discovered his talent a couple of years ago. When I asked if he wanted to attend this conference a while back, he was all for it, even though he knew he was going to have a busy summer. So far, four weeks have been taken up by tutoring elementary students for his A+ program, Missouri Boys State, and an engineering camp at the college Genius attends. He's had several edits to do for his story that is being published in Building Red: Mission Mars, an anthology which should be out in August.

At the conference, The Pony and I sat together for the welcome and the opening keynote speaker. The Pony is a laid-back kind of fellow, but he must always be fiddling with something. We found this out way back in elementary school. His scratchings were almost illegible. He had a heavy hand with the pencil. In fact, he hated to write. He finished his work quickly, and sometimes his idle hands got him into trouble. The school hooked him up with an occupational therapist who suggested that he have something to do with his hands while listening to the lesson, or after he finished his assignments. We got him a variety of stress balls to squeeze while waiting for his next task.

Once a ball-squeezer (heh, heh, I said ball-squeezer), always a ball-squeezer. He outgrew this therapeutic crutch somewhat. The troublemaking waned, but The Pony was still a fiddler. Bending he corner of his paper, twisting his pencil, bouncing his eraser. He needed something to occupy his hands. Lately, he has taken to squeezing a small square of modeling clay left over from his science fair project. He does this absentmindedly while concentrating on TV, mulling story plots at his laptop, or waiting for return texts on his phone. It's a harmless enough habit, though I do not want his clay hands touching my stuff until he's washed them.

During the opening speech, I noticed The Pony out of the corner of my eye. He was working on that lump of clay like he was going to mold a miniature Thinker, a duplicate David, a replica Venus de Milo. Then, to my consternation, he rolled the clay into a perfect sphere, and started stabbing it with the eraser of his mechanical pencil. A dimpled orb emerged, which he rolled between his palms. I'm used to such antics. But the rest of the crowd, probably not so much. Still, I said nothing. He's The Pony. That's what he does.

We separated for various sessions, then reunited for lunch. Again, we parted ways. While standing outside the conference rooms, awaiting the final presentations before the closing remarks, The Pony ditched me! It might have had something to do with my comment, I supposed.

"You know, maybe you should cool it with the clay for a while. I can only imagine what those people were thinking this morning when you were jabbing it with your eraser."

"That? Oh, I made it dimpled, like golf ball. It made the best noises when I rolled it between my hands!"

"You crack me up. They probably thought, 'Oh, maybe that boy is special, and his mom had to bring him along because she didn't have anybody to watch him.' Not that there's anything wrong with that."

"Meh. I don't care."

"Yeah. Me neither. I just don't want you distracting people with you clay-stabbing. You don't have to put on a show."

"I know. Are you done? I'm going to sit down there in those chairs until time to go in."

"Okay. I'll see you later."

Well. What I found out later was that The Pony ditched me to go sit by a young girl who was also attending the conference. "Didn't you notice, Mom? I sat down right next to her. She's having a book published!"

"You're going to be published, too."

"Mine is just a story in an anthology. Hers is a whole book of her own short stories!"

"Yeah, but she didn't win third place in a contest today."

"I guess people saw that I really was special, huh?"

"That they did. Did you get her number?"

"Mom! She's only going into her freshman year!"

I embarrass The Pony far more than he could ever dream of embarrassing me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Irony, So Hungry For a Bite of Hick's Butt

For weeks I had been telling Hick about the writing conference excursion. Val Thevictorian doesn't get out much. This was big. Almost casino-trip big! I made sure Hick was free to drive The Pony and me to our literary destination. I paid him off with flea market/antique store cash. Dotted every i and crossed every t. Nothing was going to hamper our trip. Nothing. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor sweaving of Hick.

I consulted my BFF Google about the venue. Checked the conference website. I had a schematic of the building. A street view. An aerial map. Distance between cities. Driving directions. The address for both streets of the corner upon which sat our meeting place. Hick assured me that he know where he was going.

"I went there with Genius, when he had that academic comptetion. I know where that is. It's really easy to get to. It takes about an hour and a half. We could leave at 6:15 and be fine."

I planned to leave at 6:00 a.m. to make sure we arrived by 8:00.

Hick left The Pony and I getting ready and went to sit in T-Hoe in the garage at 5:40. That's what he does. Always jumps up the departure time, usually by at least a half hour. Always. I refuse to be manipulated. The Pony and I climbed into T-Hoe at 6:00. I saw that Hick had hooked up his GPS.

"Where are we going?"

"I told you. University Center."

"I need a street address, Val."

"You told me you know where you're going."

"I do. But I'm putting it in my GPS."

"Huh. Good thing I wrote that down. It's 388 Henderson Avenue."

"North or South?"

"I don't know. It didn't have North or South in the address."

"Well, I have to know that. It won't take this address."

"That's the address given by all the sites I looked up. Maybe our GPS doesn't know what it's doing."

"It does if it has a valid address."

"It's on the corner of Henderson and Normal."

"I can't put that in the GPS, Val. I need a number."

"Fine. Pony, hand me my padfolio. There. It's 975 Normal Avenue."

"There. It took that one."

"All you have to do is take the Kingshighway Exit, turn left on Broadway, and left on Henderson."

"I've got it in my GPS."

"Good. I thought you knew where you were going."

"I do. It's where I went to watch Genius compete in that robots competition. He was way down on the floor with the other teams. I watched from the seats up high."

"Um. I don't think that's where we would be having a writers' conference."

By this time, we were down our gravel road, up the other gravel road that runs past our other 10 acres, and out on the county blacktop road headed for our lettered highway that would connect us to the interstate. It was simple, really. A left. A right. A right onto the interstate for about an hour. Then the exit.

"You said the Show-Me Center."

"I did NOT! I said University Center!"

"Do you even know which direction it is from here?"

"Well, I would say it's south of here. Since the name of the college is Southeast Missouri State."

"Ha! It's southEAST!"

"Like I didn't know that."

"You think you know EVERYTHING!"

"I may not know everything, but I know more than you."

It was at this moment Hick's GPS instructed him: "TURN LEFT IN ZERO POINT FIVE MILES."  The opposite direction from which we should turn to hit the interstate. Even The Pony, a non-driver, knew that. I looked back at him. He slapped his forehead.

"SEE! This thing doesn't even know how to get you there!"

"It does that, Val! It sometimes tries to take you by the main highways. It's trying to take us up the interstate to hit the other interstate. It'll get itself straightened out in a minute. It always does. Sometimes it says, 'Recalculating.'"


Hick took off like he was the pole car at the Daytona 500. If he had been a roller coaster at Six Flags, there would have been a sign warning riders to steer clear if they had heart issues, back problems, or a bun in the oven. For the next 13 miles of sweaving too fast for conditions, we had to listen to that nonGARMIN knockoff GPS announce, every minute, "MAKE A LEGAL U-TURN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE."

Hick set his jaw and continued his qualifying round.  No way was he going to admit that Val was smarter than his Generic Positioning System.

Such sweet justice. Such unequivocal irony.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Val Brings You Down

Time got away from me today. So you get another vignette from our writer's conference experience.

Our big day was not without tears. Hick cannot even be blamed for the FIRST set of sniffles. He had nothing to do with it. He was driving us along, rambling on about this and that, as he is wont to do. The Pony and I were pointedly ignoring him, as we are wont to do. "Look over there, Pony. See that field? That corn is blah blah blah (insert Charlie Brown's teacher's wah wah wah here). I reached over to turn up the radio, which we had not heard for the previous 30 minutes, what with concentrating on fighting over directions. More on that another day.

As the volume came up, a song was winding down. Then the next one started. It was "Holes in the Floor of Heaven," by Steve Wariner. It was country music single of the year in 1998. In case you're not a country music fan, I am shocked here is the song, and here are the lyrics:

Holes in the Floor of Heaven
Song by Steve Wariner
One day shy of eight years old, my grandma passed away
i was a broken hearted little boy, blowing out that birthday cake
how i cried when the sky let go, with a cold and lonesome rain,
mamma smiled, said don't be sad child, grandma's watching you today
cause theres holes in the floor of heaven
and her tears are pouring down,
that's how you know she's watching,
wishing she could be here now,
and sometimes if your lonely,
just remember she can see,
there's holes in the floor of heaven,
and she's watching over you and me,
seasons come, and seasons go, nothing stays the same
i grew up, fell in love, met a girl who took my name
year by year, we made a life, in this sleepy little town
i thought we'd grow old together, Lord, i sure do miss her now

I snuck a look at The Pony, sitting behind Hick, his heart on his sleeve. He was singing along quietly. He is not one for bursting into song. I must admit, a few tears leaked out the corners of my eyes.

Hick? I don't think he even noticed that song, though he IS a country music fan.

He was, perhaps, more concerned with the tail-end of the song that was playing when I turned up the radio:
Alan Jackson's "Who's Cheatin' Who?"

Sorry to bring you down. As one comment on the video read:
This is the most depressing song ever.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Little Conference Reportage

Val has just returned from the All Write Now conference, and boy, is her butt tired.

Okay. That may seem a bit indelicate, but Val is what she is. She can change neither her spots nor her stripes. What you see is what you get, a big ol' country bumpkin who thinks she has a flair for writing. And stretching the truth like saltwater taffy in a rustic candy shop at Silver Dollar City. The conference was actually Saturday, so she did not just get back, but has been back almost 22 hours now. It's not quite as dramatic, though, to say, "Val returned 22 hours ago from the All Write Now conference."

We'll get down to the meaty bones today, and suck out the marrow over the course of the upcoming week.

Our day started at 6:00 a.m. when we headed down the driveway on our adventure. More details (many, many more) in days to follow. Let's just say, "Move over, Odysseus! The Valyssey needs room on the shelf, and your little trip pales in comparison." Years from now, schoolkids will be bemoaning their required reading of this ol' Val.

The conference had a writing contest, you know. The Pony submitted three pieces, and Val submitted three pieces. Flash forward to the final session, the awarding of the awards. Val was safely ensconced in her last conference room. It could be curtained open to join the next room, as occurred at lunch for the keynote speaker, Angie Fox. Val patiently waited for The Pony to rejoin her to watch the awardage.

As Val sat there, happy as a pig stuff, after a day of soaking up writing tips and tactics, she thought, "If I win something, it will be the longest walk ever to the podium." She did not think of changing her seat. After all, the only thing she thought she might win was the Mystery Grand Prize. The Pony would be more than willing to trot up there and grab it for her.

They had both won a door prize already, Val's being the first one, The Pony all excited after checking the winning numbers. "I couldn't wait for you to get out of your session so I could tell you to claim your prize!" Indeed. Val selected a 5 x 8 fake- (or real if you're an eternal optimist) leather-bound journal, which she promptly handed over to The Pony for his poetry writing. When he won a couple of hours later, he selected a flowered 3.5 x 5.5 mini notebook, and gave it to Val. Take a shot of insulin if you're diabetic.

Oh, Val had hopes that she might place, fresh off her Honorable Mention recently in the Saturday Writers monthly contest. One can always hope. As she waited for The Pony, a conference organizer came into the room and declared that the dozen people waiting there must move next door for the awards. Okay. So much for that plan. At least The Pony was found, saving a seat in the back for dear ol' Val. He knows how she rolls.

The awards for poetry were first. The Pony sat up straight. He had three submissions, you know. Third Place: not him. Second Place: not him. First Place: not him. The air went out of The Pony like the air out of a statue-poked Woody Woodpecker balloon with one rope held by Mr. Pitt in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Val felt so bad for him. But he is, after all, a seventeen-year-old lad, competing against adult writers.

Next up, the flash fiction category. Neither of us had entered flash fiction. No hopes. No pressure.

Nonfiction was next. That's Val's wheelhouse. Her bread and butter. Her strong suit. The category which has garnered her publication, honorable mention, and 89th place in the 80th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition, Memoir/Personal Essay Category! Val had a tiny bit of hope. Like Genius each week when he receives his scratch-off lottery tickets. She had placed all of her eggs in this very basket. Three entries. Third Place: not Val. Second Place: not Val. The air stayed inside Val. The hope exited. Oh, well. There are other contests. The presenter could not stop a moment to let Val gather her dreams off the floor and stash them back in her doggy-patterned carry bag. "First Place, Val Thevictorian."


The Pony grinned from ear to ear. Val made her way up front to accept her award, managing not to trip like poor Jennifer Lawrence on her way to the podium. As she took possession, the crowd burst into laughter when the title of her work was announced. It was as good as that Millard High-Life scholastic faux pas.

The last contest was short stories. It had an honorable mention award. The presenter scrunched his face at the list. "I'm not sure how to say this one...Third Place, Pony...Thevictorian?" Let the record show that his name is not actually Pony, and not actually Thevictorian. It's a rather common first name. So Val was shocked when the first name was read, and The Pony was halfway to his feet. What was going on with that young 'un? Was he hoping against hope? She did not want him to be embarrassed. But there he was, proudly accepting his Third Place award for his short story. Val could not have been happier. Not even for her own success. The Pony trotted on air back to his seat.

"I didn't know you entered that category!"

"Duh. You PAID for my entries. How could you not know?"

"Um. YOU sent them in online and used my PayPal. The bill comes at the end of the month, and neither it nor the email confirmation mention the category. I though all three of your entries were in poetry."

"No. I had one in poetry, one in flash fiction, and one in short stories."

Wow. We were not even disappointed that we did not win the Mystery Grand Prize.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Better Than a Turducken Swallowed By an Alligator and Stuffed Into a Roast Beast

Just a short vignette (as opposed to one of those long vignettes) about the day I had with Hick driving me across half the state for the writing conference. More tales from the conference in future days. I have limited time now for my short vignette.

Hick is not world-renowned for his fabulous driving ability. If you recall, Hick is a master sweaver. Not a quality a new driver should attempt to emulate. All who ride with him are advised to invest in a neck brace for those constant, yet random, side-to-side swerves, as if weaving through uprights like a Border Collie at a dog agility contest.

On the way home, along 25 miles of winding two-lane blacktop, Hick took it upon himself to educate The Pony on progress by MoDOT in recent years.

"This road is much better than it used to be. There's all that shoulder that didn't used to be here."

The Pony tried to look interested, but only because his phone battery died. I, on the other hand, exhibited bona fide interest in Hick's statement.

"Yes. More space for you to drive on!"

The Pony nodded at me and chuckled silently.

"He just serves 'em up on a big ol' platter! I must admit, I'm a glutton."

Hick was not as silent. "You just need to relax, and ride over there without talking."

"You just need to keep it between the center line and the side line."

T-Hoe veered right and ran up on those noise-making grooves.

"Yeah. Like I thought. Too much pressure. So you do that on purpose now, with plans to pretend it was on purpose later when you sweave off the road."

Hick cannot outsmart a smart-mouth. Val is a master, too.

Friday, July 10, 2015

I Shall Call Him Crumpledprintscam

This is why Val can't have nice submissions. Of the hard-copy kind.

Yeah. How fair is that? To pay a fortune for the name brand, order it right off those extortionists' HP's official website, and have it arrive like this? The generic off-brand compatible cartridge that Genius ordered for me at least arrived in perfect condition. Even it it DIDN'T fit my printer properly, even after proclaiming that it would.

So who am I to believe? Those scoffers who say, about my incompatible 1/4 the-cost-cartridge, "Well, you get what you pay for." Or those who advise me that name brand is always best? I think they're both wrong. Because I did NOT pay for a smashed cartridge. And I do not believe that this crumpled name brand will turn out better than my cheapie.

Time will tell. When I'm done shaking my current cartridge within an inch of its life, and then shake it another inch...I'll try to replace it with this HP train wreck. Fortune has not been smiling on Val Thevictorian lately. She has called a moratorium on scratch-off tickets after three unproductive bouts of ticket-buying which even stretched to her offspring's weekly letter of hope. We never both lose over a three-week spell.

This is just another sign that Even Steven has some evening to do. One way or another.

I shall call him Crumpledprintscam.

For now, I am submitting my wares electronically, and for those who only take print, I shake the old cartridge like a fiend before running a copy of my official work.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Val Finds It Necessary To Raise a Stink

Sometimes Val is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Not the biggest bargain at the auction. Not the tallest bowl of soup in the kitchen.

For several months now, we have been encountering a large truck on our county road. It's a blacktop road, which shrinks a little more every time the county road crew resurfaces it. They push that hot asphalt almost to the edge. But there's a little bit of old road left. Otherwise, all of my tax money flows over the side into the ditch. You could probably determine its true age by counting the edge layers like rings of a tree. A part of it used to be gravel when we first built our house 17 years ago. And now the road has risen about a foot, and receded from the edge. It is passable for two normal-size cars, but care must be taken with buses, trash trucks, heavy equipment, and septic suckers.

Yes, the vehicle we've been running into encountering at slow speed lately is a septic sucker. You know. Those tank trucks that are full of liquids and solids (but hopefully not headless bodies) sucked from septic tanks with a hose as big as an elephant's trunk. It's always on the section of the road by the main low-water bridge, out to the lettered county highway.

I figure this truck belongs to a guy we'll call Handy. He has a big house across the side creek over his own low water bridge. We bought our old rental duplex from him. He works construction, and flips houses. Also, his family drives like coked-up bats escaping exploding Hades with a tail wind. I put two and two together, and deduced that this septic sucker belonged to Handy. And I saw it turn onto his road one time.

We used to run into encounter this septic sucker in the mornings on the way to school, around 7:00 a.m. I told The Pony I couldn't figure it out. Who runs a business like that? If they start at 7:00, wouldn't the truck be going TOWARD town instead of coming out our way? And in the evenings, we'd meet it as we returned home. Well. Now that it's summer and Val is free to cruise the county roads at will, I've noticed this truck at noon and at 1:00. Like it's going home for lunch, then back to town. Seriously. Who can afford to drive that big truck back and forth with the price of gas? It was becoming absurd. Depending on what I had to do that day, I might see this truck four times on that section of road. So I complained to Hick.

"I don't like Woody running his septic tank business out of his home. It's bad enough to get behind his dump trucks and trailers loaded with backhoes. Now I have to get over to the side of the road and let his septic truck go by."

"Woody isn't running a septic business."

"Yes he is. I pass that truck several times day. In fact, I think he might have more than one truck. And I don't see how it pays to go home for lunch every day. They really seem to work an odd schedule. Like before people get up, and after they get off work."

"He is not running a septic business. Those aren't his trucks. They're going to some other guy related to him that lives up over the hill behind his house."

"Huh. I don't know how he runs a business with those odd hours."

"They're not the other guy's trucks, either."

"You just told me they were!"

"No. I said they were going to his property."

"He must really have a septic tank problem."

"Val. They're not sucking out septic tanks here. They're dumping fill."

"WHAT? How can they do that? That's...that's...POOP!"

"They're putting in on fields for fertilizer."

"No! You can't do that with human poop!"

"Yes you can, if you have a permit."

"NO! What are they fertilizing?"

"Anything and everything."

"Uh uh. Not crops. For people! You can't put human poop on fields where you grow people food!"

"Yes you can. I don't know what they're growing."

"I have never seen any crop of any kind come out of there. I don't even think there are fields. That's back over the hill, toward the river. They're not growing crops! I think it's some kind of illegal dumping ground."

"Well, there's lots of trucks that go there every day."

Oh, dear. I am so glad those people live below us and downstream. I'm still not sure whether Hick is telling the truth of talking out his butt. But his theory would explain the constant traffic and the odd hours.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Stretch of Unhelpfulness Continues

You probably understand by now that The Pony is a little bit out there. He prances to his own drummer. Pulls his own weight. Is a steady, dependable beast. Yet he has no desire to help people.

Monday, he sent me a text to say he had been mistaken by another engineering camper for a counselor.

"Oh. Your beard must be growing really fast." Let the record show that The Pony shaved Sunday morning, but did not pack his shaver because he said it would only be four days. "Don't worry. I used to be mistaken for an employee in many different stores, no matter how I was dressed. Even at Walmart, without a blue vest!"

"I was standing by the door with my padfolio open."

Let the record further show that The Pony always wears button-collar knit shirts (buttoned all the way to the top) with cargo shorts. Not your standard faded t-shirt and athletic shorts. He is reasonably well-groomed. Has two eyebrows. Doesn't really interact and cut-up with cronies. So he could have been mistaken for a counselor.

"I hope you HELPED that person!"

"They were asking to look outside a fence. Not able to help."

"I guess you dodged that bullet."

The Pony's record of not-helping people is still intact.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Road to Good Submissions Is Paved With Text Intentions

I had grand plans to whip some writing into shape yesterday. I was going to be the Jillian Michaels, the Jane Fonda, the Richard Simmons, the Jack LaLanne of manuscript-shapers. Had it all planned out. Had my time budgeted the night before.

Yes, with Genius in Kansas, The Pony at his engineering camp, and Hick at work, I knew I would have a whole day to let my creative juices flow. I might even need a small kiddie pool to catch the overflow of my fertile mind. I planned the time I would arise, the time I would take my medicine, the time I would run to the post office, all the while my literary ingredients simmering on the back burner. Careful to leave a large chunk of uninterrupted time for writing.

The texts started at 6:22 a.m.

I could not go the day, you see, without knowing:

~The IRS updated Genius's tax return information for the first time since March.

~Hick had plans to grill pork steaks for supper.

~Two of The Pony's PEOPLE were at the engineering camp.

~Hick was glad The Pony knew somebody at camp.

~Genius had Chinese for lunch with his Garmin team.

~Hick wanted vegetables to go with the pork steaks instead of green beans.

~Genius should get his tax refund by the end of the week.

~A random picture of SpongeBob's Sandy, sent by The Pony.

~The Pony was mistaken for a counselor.

~The Chinese lunch in Olathe is the exact same price as the Chinese lunch in college town.

~The Pony had corn dogs for lunch.

~The Pony was doing an activity.

~Hick gets a shot at 4:30.

Oh, and a phone call, too. Hick was leaving work right then for his appointment.

I can't imagine why I didn't get more done. A phone call and 20 texts. That's not going to stop a real writer, is it? I must admit, I normally leave my cell phone upstairs when I go to my dark basement lair. But with The Pony two hours away at camp, I thought I would keep it with me for emergency notifications.

The emergency is that Val is not making progress on her writings!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Val Measures Out Her Life In Contest Places

OH...YEAH! (Said with the force and intonation of the walking, talking, wall-breaking Kool-Aid pitcher-man).

Early results are in, and it appears that this ol' Val has not lost her touch. One of her submissions has garnered her a very special award. And it ain't a leg lamp in a crate marked FRAH JEE LAY.

Indeed, Val has achieved an honorable mention in the Saturday Writers "Elements in Your Writing" contest, in the WATER division. That's right. Here's a link for proof, the last contest results on the list right now, lest you think Val is jabbering her jaws, flinging her fingers, carousing her keyboard in an effort to pull the wool over your eyes. Of course I'm anonymous you'll have to take my word that the One Man's Hot Tub story is mine. ALL MINE! I was going to call it One Man's Junk, but I feared that somebody might misconstrue my usage of junk as slang know.

Excuse me. I had to suck in some air. I was running out of breath from all of this self-horn tooting. I was nigh on needing to strap on Hick's breather for a moment. And speaking of...that's a whole other story that I submitted for last month's AIR theme. I won't be holding my breath waiting on the results. Heh, heh. See what I did there?

An added perk of this monumental achievement is that my story will be printed in the annual Saturday Writers anthology. My dry spell is over. And with my UPCOMING RETIREMENT fast approaching (I'm only doing this for Sioux. She likes to be updated as often as possible. I'm thinking of putting the countdown at the bottom of each post!), I just might get back into the swing of this literary endeavor before I kick off.

Special thanks to my blog buddy Linda for her selfless help with this hopeless mess we call Val. She fine-tuned this story in its earliest incarnation, and like a mother's saliva thumb-rubbed on a dirty face, made my hairwad hot tub story presentable for the public. Or at least for the judge of the Saturday Writers.

There are still a couple of contests left this year, for any of you who want to get off your duffs and submit. Check it out here. Don't cost nothin' to read, and only $7 to submit. Cheaper than a box of gas station chicken!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Val Thevictorian's Opening Argument

I am firmly convinced that if I was away for an extended period of time, Hick and The Pony would survive on cans of beans opened with a pocket knife, warmed over a fire. Forget the fire part. They would eat them at room temperature.

How can men not grasp the basic concept of package-opening? I give you Exhibit A.
And Exhibit B.

Hick grabbed a bag of chips for lunch, to have with his leftover July 4th BBQ hot dog. You'd think a grown man was capable of pulling open the top of a bag of Ruffles. But you'd only be half right. Hick got that bag open enough to gather some ridged chips. Barely.

That bag was only partially opened. The middle had a hole. I seriously double that Hick's ham hand fit inside. More likely he dumped chips out of that aperture onto his plate. When I went to get some later, I found that the edges were still sealed. The top of that bag looked like one of those rubber coin oval thingies that used to be given away by banks and credit unions. The kind with a slit on one side that opens when you squeeze the ends.

Within ten minutes of the Hick opening, The Pony was sent to get a quart plastic bag to pack his soap for the trip to his engineering camp. You can't just simply set a pump bottle of soap into a suitcase. You know that, right? Apparently, The Pony did not. He huffed a bit when sent to open a box of ZipLocks. Now I know why.

He attempted to open that box from the end. Like it didn't have those little perforations in a smile pattern to pry open and grab a bag one at a time. I don't know how he planned on getting out a bag from the end. But he made sure to unseal and bend back each of the four flaps. Then he ripped the smile just enough to weasel out one bag.

Let's hope nobody severs a tongue on the jagged rim while trying to eat some beans out of the hobo can. And that if they do, they don't try to save it for the paramedics in a ZipLock bag.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

On the Anniversary of Our Nation's Freedom, An Old Val's Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of Alcohol

July 4th, a time for patriotic celebrations across this great land!

Or, here at Thevictorians...a time for grilling. No big party. No red, white, and blue foods or drinks. Just a couple of steaks on the bargain gas grill that Hick picked up at the auction, and a six-pack of Michelob Ultra. FOR HICK! Not that he's going to drink the whole thing. He imbibes in moderation. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Best to let the story unfold slowly. Make room for your Rip Van Winkle beard.

Thursday I dashed into the gas station chicken store for a 44 oz. Diet Coke. I don't have one every day. But this one I think I deserved, what with dealing long-distance with my sister the ex-mayor's wife over our impending sale of Mom's house, a process which required four days to get her signature over the airwaves. I decided to throw in some slaw from the chicken kitchen, because we were having shrimp for supper. Yes. The gas station chicken store sells slaw.

I swear, that new chicken girl must have been planting the cabbage and waiting for it to grow. How long does it take to scoop a pint of slaw? So there I stood, hoping nobody currently working would associate me with that demented Madam who ran in there last summer and took pictures of the establishment without making a purchase. I couldn't help but eavesdrop on the conversation between the two clerks and the current customer.

That customer looked very familiar. A small, extremely-tanned, shoulder-length white-haired lady. I knew I'd seen her somewhere around town.

"I could not believe it! She was ringing me up, and when she got to my beer, she said, 'I'll need to see your ID.' I said, 'Are you kidding me?' And she said, 'No. I'll have to see your ID, or I can't sell it to you.' I told her I was obviously old enough to buy alcohol, but she said, 'That's our policy. I can't sell it to you without seeing your ID.'"

"Ha, ha. Did she know you work at Walmart?"

"She does now. Because I told her, 'Listen, honey, I am the one who trains the trainees. You have to learn right, but you have to use common sense.'"

"I guess maybe that's Walmart's policy for the holiday weekend."

"It's our policy all the time. I'm supposed to follow it, too. But when somebody is obviously in their forties or fifties, I don't even bother. I just punch in a date for their DOB that I know will be old enough. There's no need to slow things down and make them mad."

"The Dollar Store cards EVERYONE! For tobacco. They don't care how old you look."

"Well, I'm going to have a talk with the checkers when I go back to work."

So, I took that all in. It did seem ridiculous to tell her she couldn't get her beer without her ID, when she works there and everything. But maybe the new girl was afraid of losing her job, in case it was a secret shopper or something.

Today The Pony and I headed off to Walmart to pick up a few things before he leaves tomorrow for an engineering camp. I asked Hick if he needed anything. Nope. Except, as we were going out the door, he said, "Bring me some beer. A six pack. Michelob Ultra."

Normally, I am not in the habit of buying Hick's beer. For one thing, he rarely drinks it. Every now and then with pizza. Maybe once every couple of months. And he has a cash allowance for that. No need for me to dip into my household budget. But the main reason he and I understand that I don't buy his beer is because...I'm a small-town celebrity. Everybody knows my name, and it ain't Norm. Backroads is full of tongue-waggers who would like nothing more than to dwell on how Mrs. Thevictorian up at the schoolhouse likes her Michelob Ultra. I might as well be Widow Jones not keeping her window shades all pulled completely down, or be caught exhaling Shirley Thompson's breath.

The Pony heaved a sigh. I hollered over my shoulder, "Really? You want ME to push your beer through Walmart in my cart?" Hick got all snotty and told me to forget it, but of course I could not. Seriously. He had already been to town for several hours this morning. Could he not buy his own beer? He knew we were grilling. I implored The Pony, "Can you grab it for me?"

"Um. No. I'm pretty sure that's not allowed. I am not 21."

"You're not BUYING it! Only bringing it to the cart."

"I don't think I can."

"C'mon. It's all the way on the BACK WALL. I was only going as far as...the produce section. We don't have much on our list."

"I'd rather not. Somebody will stop me."

"Okay. I'll go all the way back there and get it, and put it in my cart, and push it, the ONLY item in my cart, back up to the produce section while you're over in the pharmacy getting toothpaste."

"Okay. I can meet you on the soda aisle with the toothpaste and the paper plates and the Lysol. Then you'll have more in your cart."


So off we went. I waited and waited on the soda aisle. I had to keep moving, because no matter where I waited, I was in somebody's way. I thought I saw people frowning disapprovingly. I can imagine their blog posts today: 'And there was this woman in the way with only a six-pack of Michelob Ultra in her cart. I don't know what she was waiting for there on the soda aisle.'

We got to the front and I gave The Pony his two dollars for gaming. He has given up the car game lately in favor of one with a fake gun that you shoot at the screen. Playing the car game hasn't made him a driver, so I figure playing the gun game won't make him a shooter. I got in my regular line. It was a new checker I hadn't seen.

OH NO! What if she was the new checker? I had Michelob Ultra in my cart! I looked around to see if there was a sign that said this cashier could not ring up alcohol. Nope. Still. She might be that stickler! All I brought in was my debit card. No ID. Oh, dear. I put the Michelob Ultra on the conveyor. For all to see as they walked by. I figured if Checker wanted my ID, I'd tell her I was a good 30 years past the age of imbibement, and ask for a manager. Or I could holler over to The Pony, "HEY! Go get my purse out of the car!" I could imagine him squinting, and holding his hands palm-up, and mouthing 'WHAT?' as I made a spectacle of myself. I wanted to set that Michelob Ultra down on the floor and leave it. But then I'd have to face a sober Hick.

How do I get myself into these situations?

The girl rang up my items. She made small talk. When she punched in the Michelob Ultra, I heard her register make an odd beep. I held my breath. Tried not to look guilty. Stopped short of humming. Because something like "What do you do with a drunken sailor?" would probably have vibrated from my between my lips.

WHEW! Checker tapped in something and continued. That was a close call.

I can't wait to see who throws this in my face months from now. In the parking lot, as I was putting my/Hick's Michelob Ultra in T-Hoe's rear, I heard, "HEY! VAL! Did you buy enough for me?" It was my cousin, the one who's buying Mom's house. And earlier today, my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel called me to chat, and informed me that she had been ten cars behind me the other day when I turned onto the county road.

Forget that the hills have eyes. Backroads had binoculars.