Monday, November 30, 2015

Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong. Right?

Here is the whole shocking story of Val's first Thanksgiving.

It had to simmer on the back burner for a few days. How Val thought her goose was cooked. What a dodo she was. Her fear of eating crow. A glimpse into the seamy underbelly of Val's Thanksgiving turkey. And the story takes wing...NO SNIPING!

I knew that I could not simply pick up a turkey out of the Save A Lot freezer bin and drive it home and pop it in the oven. I knew that. So I did some internet research courtesy of my estranged BFF Google, and calculated how long my Butterball would take to thaw. That's 24 hours per 5 pounds, you know. So my 16-pound turkey needed approximately three days and six hours to cool her drumsticks on the bottom shelf of Frig II. EBFFG also informed me that a thawed turkey could sit for one or two days in the refrigerator.

Yes, I had it all figured out. I bought my Butterball on Sunday around noon. I figured it would be ready for roasting by Wednesday evening. I had no intention of cooking it until Thursday, but I knew it would be good and ready and not frigid by Thursday. As your may recall, the zero hour was 5:00 o;clock for the feast. Then 4:00 o'clock when Genius changed plans slightly. No problem. Everything was under control.

On Monday evening, I poked Butterball. Still hard as a rock. Like The Rock. And Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno in their prime. Like a turducken of The Rock, Arnold, and Lou all stuffed one inside the other. A RockSchwarzIgno. I figured I would put something under that hardbody as it thawed. But I had gotten home late from an appointment, so I put it off.

On Tuesday evening, I poked Butterball again. Barely pliable. Kind of like Jane Fonda, Jillian Michaels, and Jackie Warner all rolled into one. A FonMichNer. And it was still the RockSchwarzIgno on the bottom half. I figured I would put something under that solidbody as it thawed. But I stopped by Walmart for some last minute items, and The Pony drove us home, and it was getting late, so I put it off.

On Wednesday afternoon, I poked Butterball as usual. The bottom half was firm. Like Viggo Mortenson, John Stamos, and Liam Hemsworth stacked together in a panini press. A MortStamWorth. I figured I would put something under that firmbody as it thawed. But I had to make a chocolate pie, Hidden Valley Ranch Dip, boil two dozen eggs, bake a ham, and simmer a pot of green beans and potatoes. So I put it off.

On Thursday morning, I poked Butterball. Alas! My turkey was jiggly. It felt like my finger plunged into Delta Burke, Kathy Bates, and Roseanne wrestling around in child's blow-up swimming pool full of warm cream cheese. WITH NO SPANX! A DelKathAnne! AND THEY WERE INCONTINENT!

A pool of pinkish liquid sat brackishly on Frig II's glass bottom shelf.

"Pony! Quick! Get me a towel!"

He was on helper duty. Stationed on the long couch in the living room, at my beck and call. The Pony galloped to the hall closet and returned immediately with...a faded purple hand towel.

"NO! I need a big towel! A thirsty towel! Go get one! Get TWO!"

When he raced back, I made him fetch one of the two foil roasting pans. I lined it with a thirsty towel, and The Pony picked up Butterball and laid her on her new bed. Then we commenced to wipe out Frig II. I pulled the glass shelf out and bathed it in hot soapy water. I gave The Pony paper towels of various soapiness and had him wipe out the nooks and crannies of the plastic rim the shelf sits on.

"Did it get on anything else, Pony? You can get back in there, and see better than I can."

"No. We got it. Everything else looks okay."

So we did a load of towel laundry. Twice. And put Butterball back in Frig II for a couple of hours until roasting time. Let the record show that when rinsed in the sink before roasting, Butterball was still stiff inside, with the gizzard and liver frozen to her butt. Which is neither here nor there. Butterball was shoved in the oven quicker than the witchy plans for Hansel and Gretel.

Which brings us to the true horror.

"Pony, let's get the veggie tray ready. Bring me that bag of mini carrots from the second shelf. And that bag of broccoli/cauliflower/carrots from the crisper. It has thinner carrots. Genius likes them. So we'll have two sections of carrots, one of broccoli, one of cauliflower, one of green olives, and one of black olives. Let's see how they look the best. Orange across from orange. Green across from green, and black across from white. Wait a minuet! What's that on the broccoli bag? It's dripping! PONY! Put it in the sink! What IS that? Is that turkey juice?"

"No. We cleaned that all out."

"Go check."

"Um. There's a line of turkey juice just in the front of the crisper drawer. Just in the front. Everything else should be okay. You can use the broccoli and cauliflower, Mom. It's sealed in a bag."

"NO! Throw that away! And then wash your hands! I'm not using it. We'll just put the olives each in two sections. And get me the celery from the second shelf while I wash my hands. I don't have time to wash out the crisper until tomorrow. We shall not speak of this at the feasting table."

Of course The Pony let that cat out of the bag after dessert. No harm. No "fowl." No E. coli as of this writing.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Despair On Overwhelmed Street

FYI, The Pony has been showing an active interest in driving over the past two weeks. Which is not to say he looks forward to it. I suppose it's like an appendicitis patient looking forward to surgery to end the pain. The Pony knows that he will have to drive himself to college. Which is creeping up on him at the speed of...well...the speed of his driving.

Let the record show that T-Hoe is not a small vehicle. Yet The Pony volunteers to drive him home from school. Yay for The Pony, stepping up to the plate where the rubber meets the road. Now that he has mastered (or at least realized the logistical possibility of) using the break while turning, he says he is comfortable piloting T-Hoe along our two-lane unlined blacktop county road.

That is The Pony showing how comfortable he is. I think of it as The Scream. The Howling. Let the record further show that The Pony does not have a conehead. That is Val's poor picture-taking technique. You try it, fiddling with not-your-friend technology while fearing for your life. Nor does The Pony have a gut like a past-middle-age manager of facility maintenance. He insists on leaning forward the whole time he drives, eschewing the comfortable, lumbar-support-adjustable seat back. In fact, he perches on the very edge of the seat, refusing to move it forward with the single push of a button to short-legged Hick's settings, or tilt the steering wheel down. He has a death grip on 10:00 and 2:00, and about every third attempt turns on the windshield wipers with the blinker.

Val normally does not reveal the faces of her family members on this site. The Pony approved this display of roadsmanship.

Just so you don't think I caught him at an awkward's proof that ALL his driving moments are awkward. He needs a Swedish massage by the time he gets us home. Which, according to The Pony, was a trip that took one hour. Normally it's 40 minutes.

Better safe than sorry! That's what Val always says. When she's a passenger and not in control of her own destiny.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

From the Curiouser and Curiouser Files

Another coincidental sighting, perhaps.

Remember how The Pony and I saw a spate of ladybugs right after my mom passed away? Ladybugs galore during the first two weeks of March? The joke being that Mom had a drop-ceiling full of them in her family room, which she refused to have exterminated. "Oh, they go back up in the ceiling at night." During the day, she would sometimes use her vacuum cleaner on them and set them loose outside. Like they couldn't find their way back in.

So for two weeks, we had four sightings. In our basement, in the master bathroom, inside T-Hoe, and on the TV screen at 6:00 a.m. Then nothing. Nothing through the spring or summer. Not until October 22, the day I had parent conferences, when Mom used to pick up The Pony to spend the hours of 1:00 through 6:00 with her. That night, just before the 6:00 closing time, the parents I was conferencing with found a ladybug inside the nostril of their infant. Right in front of my desk!

So...back to present time. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when we had to attend school until 1:00, The Pony made an interesting discovery down in the room where he takes his online college credit classes.

"Oh, Mom. I saw a ladybug today. I took a picture of it. I'll show you when we get home."

"A ladybug? Inside the school?"

"Uh huh. I was reaching to plug in my laptop charger, and there it was, right on the wall."

"Huh. Your grandma had her seizure the day before Thanksgiving last year. That's what started her health problems."

"I know."

"Kind of an odd coincidence, seeing a ladybug the day before Thanksgiving this year."

"Yeah. That's why I took the picture."

I can't help it. Every time I see a ladybug, I think of Mom.

Friday, November 27, 2015

It's All Over But the Washin'

After all of my holiday preparations...Genius decided he was not staying overnight, but rather going to a movie after our 5:00 feast, and heading back to his college house after that; Hick took off for a basketball tournament as soon as he arose from the table; The Pony, having had enough of people whom he doesn't really care about, took to the basement and his couch with his laptop.

That left Val to put up the leftovers and entertain Genius and his college friend for an hour and 45 minutes, then clear the table. I'm starting to think this Thanksgiving thing is a little one-sided, and not all it's cracked up to be for the hostess! Let the record show that Genius DID pick up five glasses from the table and pour their melted soda-ice out in the sink. And later, I called for my little beast of burden to ascend from his lair and scrape the scraps into the dog dishes and hand me the silverware. So by the time I was ready to call it a night, my dishwashing chore that awaited the morrow at least looked like this:

Yeah. That's a morning photo, as evidenced by the dreary light outside. Of course, this does NOT show the pans on the stove, and the leftover containers that will be clamoring for their turn in a few days. Let the record show that Val washed three sinkfuls of dishes during preparations on Thursday, and three from the aftermath today. Perhaps you were unaware that Val has no dishwasher. What's that I hear? Could it be, perhaps, the first strains of a melody from a symphony composed of the world's smallest violins? Thank you. I needed that serenade.

I had planned on Genius taking back some leftovers. I knew he was going to a movie, but I figured he was at least coming home to spend the night as he had informed me last week. Apparently plans changed at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Perhaps over the pie he did not make from his backyard pumpkin, and a tumbler full of margarita. Genius still packed up some food, but insisted on letting it sit on the cutting block, rather than in the refrigerator. "It's better to let it stay at this temperature, don't you think, instead of having it cool down and then get warm again?" NO. I did not think so. But there's no telling Genius anything. He would not take a cooler. I hope that turkey and deviled eggs and ham and green bean bundles and pumpkin pie and rolls enjoyed sitting through the movie.

Oh, and even though we had spent a week tidying up a bit so that Genius's friend would not know the true depths of our hoardiness...the minute I kicked back in the La-Z-Boy to rest for the first time all day, Genius had Friend in the kitchen peering in the cabinet under the sink. THE CABINET UNDER THE SINK!

"Do you still have a bunch of that Bath and Body Works Soap that Aunt Sis gives you every Christmas? I need some soap. Can I take some?"

"Get out from under the sink!"

"Oh, it's fine. I like this white citrus."

"No! I like that one. Take the ones that are not clear."

"But I like the clear ones!"

"Me too! Take that one on the sink. The Snowkissed Berry. I don't like the smell. It stays on my hands too long."

"You have another one anyway, partly used. I'll put it out. Can I take the Vanilla Bean Noel? I know you have the lotion and you like it."

"Yes. It makes me think of lotion. So you can take it."

"What about Sweet Pea?"

"I don't like Sweet Pea. It's not even clear. You can have that one."

"You of them."

"Seven year's worth, I guess. Take them."

"Friend says his sister loves Sweet Pea."

"He can take it. Give it to her for Christmas."

"I will! We drew names, and I got hers."

"Tell her you went to a lot of trouble to get it especially for her!"

"Can I have Cherry Almond?"

"Let me smell it. Ooh! I like that."

"But there's only one. Maybe you'll get another one for Christmas."

"All right! Take it!"

"Okay. I think I have enough. We're going to get moving pretty soon. So we don't miss the movie."

Yeah. Some food that will give him intestinal issues, and half a dozen bottles of hand soap. That's all a college kid needs these days to warrant a trip home for Thanksgiving. He was here four hours.

I have that much time invested in dishwashing.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Paranormal Hicksperience

The unexplained happenings continue.

Last week, we noticed a renewed surge of activity in Genius’s room. I say WE. The Pony is in denial. As we sat watching TV, the thumping began.

“Oh. Somebody is walking around Genius’s room again. Did you hear that?”


“There! Hear it now?”

“Do not speak to me of such things!” The Pony held up the NO palm at me. I know he heard. He had looked up when it started.

“I don’t know why this has started again. I was texting Genius about coming home for Thanksgiving. Your grandpa’s birthday was the 17th…”

“Isn’t there a picture of him on the wall in Genius’s room?”

“Uh huh.”

“I always felt like the eyes were following me. That’s why I was afraid to go in Genius’s room.”

“There were better reasons to fear going into Genius’s room. Besides, there’s a picture of Grandpa in the hall between your rooms. And you used to say he came in your room at night to make sure nothing was going on.”

“Yes. But I don’t want to hear about it.”

Pretty sensitive for a kid who was dying to read The Exorcist.

On Monday night, I was enjoying a wonderful deep sleep in the downstairs recliner, most likely with my mouth hanging wide open.


That was a fine how-do-you-do.

“What do you mean, 'What?' I didn’t say anything.”

“Yes you did. You said my name.”

“No I didn’t. I was asleep.”

“You said, ‘Pony.’”

“No. I did not. I was asleep.”

Let the record show that this is not the first time The Pony has accused me of saying his name. A while back, he kept coming upstairs when I was in the kitchen, saying that I had called his name. It happened a week or two ago while I was in my dark basement lair. I told him he was imagining things. But then…

Wednesday morning, as I was getting up at the alarm at 4:50 a.m. because SOME of us teacher people had to work that day until 1:00…Hick said the most interesting thing. Yeah. I know. You’ll never read THAT here again.

“Here’s something funny. After you guys went to school yesterday, I slept in. But a woman’s voice woke me up, calling my name. Then it poked me on the shoulder. Once. Like this.”

“It said your name?” Let the record show that Val does not even call Hick by name. He has complained about it before. Like in our early years, when that song came out, ‘You Never Even Called Me By My Name.’ It’s country. David Allen Coe maybe. And not sentimental in any way. Anyhoo…

“I come awake real quick! It was a woman’s voice. Around 7:15. Saying my name. And it poked my shoulder!”

“You said that. I don’t know what to tell you. A long time ago, something said my name. I was laying right here by you in bed. In the middle of the night. And it tapped me three times on the side of my neck. Tap tap tap. I don’t know what to tell you. I usually don’t have those kind of things happen at this end of the house.”

“I got up. I couldn’t go back to sleep.”

“The night before, The Pony said I called his name downstairs. I was asleep. I don’t know what you guys are hearing. You never should have wound up those clocks.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

And His Hands Were Not Even Idle!

When we got home Monday evening, I smelled it while petting my sweet, sweet Juno. An industrial cleanser type of odor. The kind that could melt one’s nose hairs, if one HAD nose hairs. It got stronger as I went up the steps to the porch, and rounded the corner toward the kitchen door. Oh, yeah. When I opened it and stepped inside, the stench was overwhelming.

It was like an industrial size drum (as opposed to a household size drum) of Pine Sol  burned in a train derailment. Charred chemicals. Like a truckload of those pine tree car air fresheners were smoldering in my kitchen.

Further investigation revealed that industrious Hick had also cleaned the oven. By using the INCINERATE setting for self-cleaning. AND he had also used oven cleaner on the ring thingies for my stove burners. Which did not take it well. The shine was gone. They were gray and pockmarked. The kitchen floor itself was curiously gritty and dull.

I thanked Hick for his cleaning service. But I also inquired as to the increased friction of my feet on the kitchen floor, and the loss of sheen on my formerly-silver stove burner rings. Hick cheerily responded that perhaps he needed to finish-mop the floor with plain water. And that he had not expected the burner rings to react that way to oven cleaner.

But that’s not the real issue hear. Walkng on a gritty floor, and looking like a poor hillbilly with corroded burner rings to Genius’s college friend are not too much of a hardship for Val. It’s Hick’s other antics that caused the hardship.

Tuesday morning, just as I sat back in the La-Z-Boy, I heard a CLANG. So much for my morning chair-nap. Made even more evident at 6:00 a.m., when I heard CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! That accompanied the CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! CUCKOO! that I heard from the kitchen. And explained the TOCK! TOCK! TOCK! that assaulted my senses in the master bathroom when I went in to get dressed. I must have tuned it out as I got ready for the shower earlier. Val is sometimes groggy at 4:50 a.m., you know. But now it all made sense.


Without Val’s supervision, something finds work for Hick’s not-even-idle hands! He always winds the cuckoo clock, the one he bought from my grandma’s estate shortly after she passed away. That is accomplished by pulling its chains.

But now he had wound the clock on the mantel that belonged to his own grandma and grandpa, obtained from his oldest brother’s stuff after he died. I always thought it didn’t work, but I suppose Hick spirited it away another day he was off, and had it fixed.

And he wound the clock in the master bathroom that my grandma had given him while she was still alive.

Now Val must contend with a cacophony of ticking cuckoo chimes. All at a time slightly off the hour, and never synchronized with any other clock. But her kitchen floor is clean! And her stove burner ring thingies don't have burnt food on them!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Do You Think It's a Bad Omen?

When The Pony and I walked out to the garage Monday morning, The Pony stopped short. Not in the manner of Frank Costanza stopping short. That is just wrong. And not condoned by Val Thevictorian. No, The Pony stopped short of going in the garage door he had just opened.

“Did you see that?”

“No. What?”

“That tree.”

“Oh. The part that’s dead and breaking off. From the winds a couple weeks ago?”

“No. The OTHER tree.”

“I don’t see what you’re talking about.”

“Move over here. Look. Those birds.”

“Those are vultures! Turkey buzzards!”

“I know.”

“Do you think this is a bad omen? Your dad is home all week…Get me a picture!”

“I’ll send him a text. ‘Vultures in front yard. Hope all the critters are okay.’”

“Maybe they see those deer bones the dogs have been chewing.”

“Yeah. But they’re probably waiting to eat the chicks.”

As we started up the driveway, after backing out of the garage, I stopped T-Hoe.

“Pony. Get me another picture.”

“I just got you one.”

“Yeah. But look.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

He's Really Trying To Help Out, You Know

Genius called on Sunday. He never calls unless he needs something. But this time, he called because he thought I needed something.

"Hey. If you haven't bought a pumpkin pie yet, I can make one Wednesday night and bring it. We are having our house Thanksgiving on Wednesday. And we have all those pumpkins that grew in the back yard. So I can make the pie."

"Okay. But I just got back from doing the shopping, and I bought two pumpkin pies. One sugar-free, and one regular. But you can bring it if you like."

"I might."

Let the record show that normally, I make a chocolate pie and an Oreo cake for Thanksgiving desserts. Mom always made the pumpkin pie. This year, I can't make everything. I'm trying. But I can't. Let's not forget that I work until 1:00 on Wednesday. The current menu includes: turkey, ham, hash brown potato casserole, stuffing (Stove Top, because that's what my boys like, and that's what Mom made for them), green bean bundles wrapped with bacon, regular green beans with bacon and potatoes, deviled eggs, Hidden Valley Ranch dip with vegetables, rolls, fresh baked bread, chocolate pie, pumpkin pie, and seven-layer salad. I was not planning on the seven-layer salad until Hick mentioned how much he likes it, so now I'm off to buy three layers on Tuesday evening.

Genius is bringing a friend. He wants to eat at 5:00, so that will give me more time to get everything ready. Noon would have been pushing it, what with one oven and no time to prepare much ahead until Wednesday after 2:00 when I get home. Hick is not so thrilled with waiting until 5:00, but let's face it, we never got to dig in at Mom's until after 2:00, even though we planned on 1:00.

Genius is also planning to see the new Mockingjay movie with a high school friend. Thursday night. I know, right? "I hope I can fit Thanksgiving dinner into your time slot, what with serving it up at the stroke of five o'clock, and having you finished in time to see your movie."

"Oh, come on. I told you we're going to the movie that night."

"Seven o'clock is night."

"That's EVENING! We will be going later."

"Well, it takes time to get there."

"Yeah. But it will be late. Then I'll come home and spend the night, I guess."

"Well, we'll have to clean out your room. Dad threw a bunch of coats on your bed when he put in the piano."

"All right."

I would have let Genius bring the pie, if only I had known before 1:00 on Sunday. You'd think he might have notified me sooner, knowing my shopping routine. Still, I'm not sure I want to eat a pie made of back yard pumpkins. There are perfectly good cans of processed pumpkin products for that. I'm sure Genius is capable of following a recipe. We'll see what happens.

One thing is for certain. All of my preparations will be only a memory twenty minutes after the grand meal is served. Then I will have almost as many hours cleaning up and washing the dishes. By hand. Genius wanted to use the real plates and glasses.

I hope he enjoys his movie.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ponies Here and Ponies There

Hick had a light-bulb moment this morning. A scathingly brilliant idea. And when The Pony and I returned from our shopping trip, this is what we found:

My current favorite is the one in the middle. The big mama pony with the little baby pony. Just because.

This is proof that Val Thevictorian has at least ONE friend. Her best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel, who has kept her in ponies for the past 8 years. Well done, Mabel. In only six short months, I shall be dusting these ponies daily, what with having all that RETIREMENT free time on my hands.

This is the piano from my mom's house. Not to be confused with the one in the basement from my grandma's house, rescued from my former elementary school auditorium. On the wall is a picture of baby Genius, a December infant, who, in keeping with his then-unknown personal style, arrived exactly on his due date. No so The Pony, who was scheduled to be a Leap Year delivery, yet showed up around Valentine's Day. Let the record show that The Pony took this photo, and seems to have cut the head off Genius.

Little Genius could not wait for the arrival of Baby Pony. Until he actually got here. Then it was like, "Meh. He doesn't do anything." However, he soon found joy in blaming cracked curio-cabinet doors and chipped earthenware crocks on unwitnessed acts of newly-ambulatory Baby Pony. And, when they were old enough to receive identical toys from my step-grandpa, to know without a doubt that the recently-broken one belonged to Baby Pony.

Let the record further show that, as with most infants, Baby Pony's first word was Dada, second word was Mama, and, curiously enough, his third word was Back. We were at a loss. "What's that? What's he saying? What is THAT supposed to mean?" Uh huh. Everybody was intrigued. The third word of Little Genius had been the name of his eldest brother, Hick's boy, who was 14 at the time. But we had no relative with the name of Back.

After several weeks of investigation, Val Thevictorian cracked the case. She was sitting in the living room, not getting much of anything done except, perhaps, watching Emeril season his TV dishes with a satisfying, "BAM!" as Little Genius and Baby Pony played on the carpeted floor. It happened in an instant. Little Genius ran by Baby Pony and snatched a toy from his hands. Not-yet-crawling Baby Pony made a sad face.


Said Baby Pony, a moment before distracted Val commanded Little Genius, "Give it back."

I guess you could say Genius taught The Pony to talk.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

All's Well That Ends With a Package on Top of the Mailbox

So...what was in that mystery package from yesterday's story?

It was THIS!

Five contributor copies of this, The Pony's first publication, in the anthology Building Red: Mission Mars!

Let the record show that The Pony has been waiting on this package since October 13th, the release date. There was some kind of snafu in the shipping, and after waiting three weeks, The Pony contacted his editor, who acknowledged that the folks responsible for shipping had something suddenly come up. Another two weeks, went by. No package.

I didn't want to butt in. It's The Pony's journey, not mine. But I suggested that he might want to check again. You never know. They might have been shipped, but our post office lost them. Like they did TWO BOXES of books I had ordered a year or two ago. Which were never found, having disappeared into the Missouri Triangle, somewhere between St. Louis and Backroads. If you see a guy whistling and delivering mail on a Sunday, we might just have discovered their whereabouts.

The Pony did not want to be a pest. But there's this local reporter who interviewed him for articles on his ACT perfect score, and his National Merit Scholar Semifinalist status, who told him to send her an email when he got his contributor copies, because she wanted to do a story on his published-authorness. In fact, she sat one chair over from him at the school board meeting Tuesday night, where scholarly accomplishments were recognized. The Pony turned and said, "I still don't have my copies. I'll be sure to let you know when they come in." She must think he's stringing her along.

Anyhoo...Friday morning The Pony sent the email about his still-missing contributor copies, and by mid-morning had a response that the mailers reported that all copies had been sent out. Then we pulled up to the mailbox at 4:00, and there they were, sitting right up high on the roof of Mailbox Row. Where anybody could have taken them!!! Or rain could have soaked them!!!

Not sure if you can tell from his anonymous picture, but The Pony is grinning from ear to ear. I had to take another picture showing his face, even though his forelock was a mess, so he could send it off to HIS PEOPLE.

"I don't care what they think of my looks. I just want them to see my book."

The Pony cannot change his (uncaring) spots.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Those Dead-Mouse Smellers Make Newman Look Like the President of Mensa

It is no secret that Val has problems with her mail delivery. Though she suspects her correspondence and parcels have been taken out of her mailbox by ne'er-do-wells on occasion, Occam's Razor says her mailman is a jackhole.

I'm not referring to Tuesday, when our mail held more water than a Bounty paper towel, and was hosting a guest from our neighbor's mailbox next door. Nor Wednesday, when The Pony opened EmBee to find the contents of Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. Not even Thursday, when every item disgorged by EmBee had a wet spot and mud on it. Nope. I'm talking about today. When we drove up to Mailbox Row and saw THIS:

Yuh huh. That's right. Our mail, sitting ON TOP of the mailbox condo. Not an orange card saying it was too big to fit in EmBee. Not a special key to one of the FOUR package boxes five feet away.

What's up with THAT? Good thing there was no rain between the time he left that parcel, and the time we arrived at EmBee. Because the contents would have been ruined. More on the mystery package tomorrow. My business today is with the USPS.

I have half a mind (you don't need to act so impressed) to go down to the dead-mouse-smelling post office tomorrow and show them the picture of this handiwork. The dude may as well have put a sign on that package that said, "Take me!" A parcel ain't safe on a rural road traveled by Backroadsers.

I doubt that I will get any satisfaction from complaining. Other than the intrinsic satisfaction I ALWAYS get from complaining. In fact, I fear that Genius is suffering from my complaining. He cannot get his mail delivered to his college rental house. All was well until a couple of months ago. The fellows and he had been receiving their mail like clockwork. But shortly before Genius left on his California trip, his mail lady got all testy (heh, heh, I said TESTY!) with the lads.

Some construction was being done on the road of their cul-de-sac, and Mail Lady told them they needed to move their mailbox. They explained that they could not. That the road crew made it impossible. And that they already have to reach it over a 3-foot trench, so there's nowhere for it to go. Genius says Mail Lady simply does not want to get out of her vehicle. Anyhoo, after two weeks of no mail, and the bills coming due, he went to the post office to complain. And the clerk said, "Oh, there's whole pile of your mail here behind the counter. Do you want it? Do you know why she isn't delivering it?"

I think the USPS has many tentacles. That there's a kind of underground "permanent record" system, like Elaine's patient file, where all medical staff could see that she was "difficult." And since Genius has Thevictorian name, and gets some of his mail here, the USPS is being contrary with him because they are out to get Val. Yeah. That's a little far-fetched. More than likely they are simply simpletons on a power trip.

The Pony asked me if I was going to complain about the wet muddy mail. I told him no.

"Because we won't really know what the substance is that made the wetness on Thursday. But it could be worse than Tuesday's rain."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crosswalkavoiditis: The Slow-Speed Race For the Cure

There seems to be a new illness sweeping through the greater Backroads area. I'm not sure of its scientific moniker, but word on the street is that this affliction goes by the name of crosswalkavoiditis.

The sufferers of crosswalkavoiditis don't seem to suffer at all. No vomiting, no chills, no weakness. Just a spate of impaired judgment. In public. Patient zero has been traced to Lowe's.

That's right. Lowe's. In fact, the majority of people who come down with a bad case of crosswalkavoiditis catch it at Lowe's. The retailer can't be blamed. As many people have it going INTO the store as those who have it coming OUT.

Once a week, The Pony and I have a standing appointment in bill-paying town. As part of our route, we cross through the parking lot of Lowe's. Don't think this is like the people who cut through the parking lot of the drive-thru liquor store to avoid that red light. Nope. Val drives down a side street, makes right turn (not altogether voluntarily, but the alternative is to plow through a chain-link gate into the lumber stacks of Lowe's), then a left, to cruise across the front drive of Lowe's. At the other end, there's a STOP painted on the blacktop. Then the lot gives way to another side street.

EVERY time I pilot T-Hoe across the front drive of Lowe's, people step out in front of me. Let the record show that no fewer than FOUR crosswalks are painted in bright yellow spanning the entry area to the store and the parking spaces. Yet no human has EVER walked across a crosswalk while Val waited patiently for their trek. NO!

These folks can be strolling along, talking on a cell phone, chatting with a companion, doing absolutely nothing except concentrating on getting from here to there...when they suddenly dart out in front of Val like a squirrel nibbling a nut on the edge of the road darts in front of a speeding semi. It's like they can't help themselves. One moment they're doing their thing, appearing normal as all get-out, on their way to pick up a ceiling fan, or returning home with a bucket of paint to touch up the laundry room, when they lose their ever-lovin' minds. They look right at me. Our eyes meet through the lightly-tinted glass of T-Hoe's windows. AND THEY STEP OUT IN FRONT OF T-HOE'S BUMPER.

Let the record show that this initial dart is the fastest they move. Once their feet are in the roadway proper, those infected with crosswalkavoiditis seem to lose the will to move. They amble like zoned-out zombies. Never in a straight line. That's the fastest way between two points, you know. But people with crosswalkavoiditis coursing through their bodies can't fathom such a concept. They angulate. Meander from the lumber-loading dock to the main entrance area, all while shuffling at an arthritic grandpa's pace along the two lanes marked off for vehicular traffic.

It has gotten to the point where I tell The Pony, "Watch this one. Wait for it. We're almost to him...SEE! What in the not-heaven is WRONG with people? He saw me. He looked at the crosswalk. AND HE WALKED RIGHT OUT IN FRONT OF ME! Now we have to follow him until he decides what aisle the left his car in. Great. Two more. Look at them, in that concrete-block-and-yard-timber corral, by the riding mowers. Get ready...almost...I TOLD YOU! Look at them! It's like they were waiting for me to make their move!"

Something must be done about this infuriating illness. A telethon, a door-to-door collection, Marlo Thomas hosting a two-hour infomercial and sending out return address labels for the cause...anything.

Perhaps Lowe's should paint their crosswalks wider. The folks at Walmart seem to be immune. Or the drivers more menacing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

You Get a Line and I'll Get a Pole, Honey

Careful there! Move back from the edge of your seat! We don't need anybody requiring the cork from the moonshine jug passed under his nose after a gawking accident.

Now, the grand unveiling, a glimpse into the recently-decorated interior of the Fishing Lair:

Yes, it was formerly going to be the bottle shop. But Hick decided he didn't want to haul all of his bottles over there from the BARn. So he took a dozen or so fishing poles off the nails hammered into the studs of the garage wall right beside my pathway from T-Hoe's door to the garage people-door. Nails which, I might add, have ripped my flesh on more than one occasion, though I only asked my doctor for a tetanus shot ONCE.

Let's see what we have going on here. Of course the fishing poles are on the right. That bright orange one may be some kind of childhood Snoopy pole that belonged to Genius. Let the record show that these poles may or may not have dried worm skin still attached to their active hooks. You'd think Hick and Val were human octopi, or a couple of those Hindu deities, what with so many fishing poles per person.

On the rear wall is an old medicine cabinet which I've seen somewhere around here, though not in a bathroom. Not sure what's inside. Kind of afraid to open the doors. I'm guessing those candy/cookie dispenser/containers are full of bobbers. I see a plethora of stringers. A basket for stashing your catch. Some glass-framed lures. A ceramic bear in blue jeans and a hat (I don't know why), some framed butterflies and whatnot from the auction, and a wooden canoe (not suitable for going up any creek without a paddle).

On the left is not a big pickle jar, but a minnow trap. More later on that. The top shelf holds odds and ends of fishy treasure. And there's a stringer of three carved wooden fish that Hick got me for a present. I also have a carved wooden life-size scaly largemouth bass, but one of the boys knocked it off a shelf and broke the tail, which Hick glued back on. However, he must have forgotten that it's in the master bathroom on a shelf over the big corner tub.

The shiny electric-blue table/shelf? You got me. Maybe it's for cleaning your catch. Or pulling up an upended log and sitting down to feast on a Captain D's Captain's Fish Sandwich.

Here's a closeup of that minnow trap:

The minnows check in, but they can't check out! My grandpa used to have a light-green tinted one, more streamlined, that we put crumbled crackers in to attract the minnows. This one Hick bought from a guy in town for $50 because it's old. It still looks like a pickle jar to me.

So there you have it. The newest shanty in Hicksville.

Coming Soon: the next building project. Not that Hick has anything in mind. But with the Fishing Lair finished, can a new structure be far behind?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's Hard Out Here For a Drip

It's really hard for Val to provide you people with a daily dose of entertainment when the rain comes between Val and her satellite dish. Well. It doesn't exactly come between Val and her satellite dish, because that would mean the rain was falling inside the house. So it must come between Val's satellite dish and the blogosphere.

I had planned to show you two new photos from the Fishing lair, Hick's newest shanty. But those pictures don't want to get wet coming out of the email to be stored on my New Delly. So instead, I'll continue with a Pony tale. Make it a trilogy this week.

Tonight, The Pony and Hick were heading out to meet with a college recruiter from the University of Oklahoma. The Pony might discover that he'd just as soon be a Sooner as live in my basement and have me drive him to junior college every day. You know. When I'm RETIRED next fall.

The meeting was being held in a restaurant at Union Station. A whole slew of regional National Merit Semifinalists must have gotten the invite. Hick told The Pony they could get there early, to walk around. "You've never been to Union Station. I'll take you by and show you the Hooter's that I took Genius to."

The Pony pretended to be mortified. As I had a few moments earlier, when he passed his fingernail clippings (he's going all-out to make a good impression on those college people) under my nose and dropped one on my morning-chair-nap afghan. Except MY mortification was not pretend. The Pony, laying on the long couch, squinted his eyes at Hick, and held out his hand, palm facing.

"Wait a minute! That's the YES hand!"

The Pony snickered. "I know."

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Pony May Be More Worldly Than He Lets On...Nah.

Yesterday after the weekly shopping trip, I was cooking up some chicken breasts while The Pony put away groceries.

"Oops! I need to wash my hands before touching anything else. I don't want to...uh...taint any other food with possible salmonella. I hesitate in using that word. Taint. You don't have any idea what else that means, do you?"

"YES! I know what it means. It's the area between the ballsack and the butthole."

"WHAT? Where did you hear THAT?"

"On a commercial. You saw it, too. You know. The one guy asks what you call the area between the ballsack and the butthole--"

"Do you HAVE to keep saying that?"

"I'm almost done. They argue if it's the landing strip or the taint. Then a woman comes in and they ask her. And that woman says, 'The coffee table.' Then the other guy looks at the first guy, and says, 'That joke was tainted.'"

"What commercial is THAT?"

"I don't know. It was on some show you were watching with me."

"I don't think so. They would never say those two words on regular TV. It would offend their demographic."

"That's where I heard it. On that commercial."

Let the record show that I consulted my BFF Google about commercial taint coffee table. And this is what I got. Which is no commercial that I'VE ever seen on regular TV. Further interrogation revealed that The Pony had seen it on YouTube, as an ad. Which he considers a commercial. Uh huh. That's his story and he's stickin' to it.

Anyhoo...we had been talking about colleges. The Pony was growing a bit contrary.

"I'm not trying to say you can't go far away from home. But how would you survive? You locked yourself out of the house only yesterday! What if you did that in Boston? In the winter? How would you survive?"

"Um. I would be living in a dormitory. So I wouldn't freeze."

"For four years?"

"Yeah. They do that there. At MIT."

"What if you drove your car to Walmart, and you locked your keys and your phone in there. Would you know what to do?"

"Easy. I'd open it with a tennis ball."

"How's that?"

"Cut a little notch in it and squeeze it. The air unlocks the door."

"Where would you get a tennis ball if your keys and phone were in the car?"

"From your classroom."


"In the cabinet. Where you keep the tennis balls."

"You won't be living HERE. You SAY."

"I would carry a tennis ball with me at all times."

"Oh. Is that a tennis ball in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

"Yeah. I'd always have three balls with me."

"I don't believe you just said that! NO. Never again."

"You, Mother Dear, have a dirty mind. I meant all three tennis balls in that tube."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

From the Absent-Minded Professor Files

The Pony is taking an online physics course through a major university. That's because our school does not offer an upper-level, AP physics course for him to earn college credit. Only my introductory course, taken by all freshmen.

As part of this course, he periodically performs lab experiments. The most recent one is about a combined system and conservation of momentum. He needed a toy car to shoot a Nerf dart at, so he could use the mass of both objects and the distance the car traveled to calculate the initial speed of the car, thus the speed of the dart. That may sound confusing, but The Pony and I know what I'm talking about.

Anyhoo...none of our vast collection of Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars had a back bumper large enough to stick a Nerf dart to. So I went in the Dollar Store and bought The Pony a toy car on my way home from the doctor. Like a Mini Cooper. The Pony already had a selection of Nerf guns to pick from. And he borrowed a palm scale from school to find the mass of his dart and car.

Friday evening, The Pony could not be bothered to carry in his equipment. You know how it is. FRIDAY! You have the whole weekend to get stuff done, right? Except The Pony has to do the shopping with me on Sundays, and he had a walkathon to attend from nine until midnight on Saturday night. So Saturday morning, he said he was going out to get his stuff and start experimenting. Just as soon as he made himself some cinnamon rolls out of a can.

Yeah! I know! The Pony learning to cook! He's really stepping it up in order to go away to college. I offered to make his cinnamon rolls, because I bought them for him, and I've forgotten the last two weekends. But then he said he'd do it, and I agreed. I was sitting at my Shiba in the front window, watching my sweet, sweet Juno roll on her back in the frosty front yard while gnawing a jointed deer leg. It was almost as if she had opposable thumbs, the way she handled that carrion! The Pony planned to make his rolls, then carry the pan in for me to look at and judge if they were done. Our oven cooks kind of hot, now that it has TWO working elements.

The operation went off without a hitch. Except for The Pony dropping the whole can while trying to knock it open on the beveled edge of the cutting block. I told him to use the angled edge of the countertop, but he decide on poking it with a spoon, like the directions said. We agreed on the doneness after 13 minutes rather than the 18 to 23 that the package advised. The Pony applied the icing and sat down for his feast.

Around 10:30, he announced that he was going to the garage to get his car and scale out of T-Hoe, so he could begin his experiment. Around 10:32, The Pony obscured my view of Juno at the front window. There he was, in his red plaid boxers and his red science fair t-shirt and his black-and-white Adidas slides, tapping on the window, shrugging his shoulders, saying, "Sorry."

The absentminded professor had locked himself out of the house.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Let the Record Show That Val is Ready for THIS

Yes, Val is ready for a repeat of this weather from December 6, 2013.

Usually, we don't get our first accumulating snow until after Christmas. But only two short years ago, we had it on December 6th! Which is not very far away. A snow so early that we had not even made our picks in the snow pool at work! Nobody was complainin', however!

I think this one got us out of school for a whole week. We had to move the end of the semester back a week. Until we returned after New Year.

I don't know what I'll do after I retire (in only 6 short months!) and snow days lose their meaning. It might take a year or two for me to obsessively stop watching the 10-day forecast.

Then again, I might still feel compelled to watch. Thinking of the cozy days Hick will be cooped up in the house with me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Great Valsby?

Wednesday morning at 4:15, I woke up with the most scathingly brilliant idea. A plot for a novel!

Let the record show that this was no "flaming globes of Sigmund" dream. I knew exactly what I wanted to write. In fact, I could hardly wait until time to get up so I could get started on it. Forget that little thing called my job. I was a woman with a mission. I could see myself holding that hardback with the paper book jacket, all antique white and tan and brown, with a drawing of my protagonist facing the reader, and the minor characters in the background, his mansion the backdrop. A thick book. Not as thick as the unabridged edition of The Stand. Not as thick as The Thornbirds. Not as thick as Gone With the Wind. But thicker than a Jodi Picoult book.

Yes, I was fired up. I could see myself holding that book. Telling people about it. It would become a best-seller overnight. People LOVED my book. An epic tale from the 1970s. With a Robert-Redford-esque main character, but in his younger years. College age. He was from a well-to-do (okay, RICH) family, with a younger brother around 14, and a sister about 18. Rob went off to college and fell in love with a little gal of modest means. Her appearance was not so sharp in this dream, but she had dark hair, and was fairly tall. Rob was her first boyfriend. They were head-over-heels for each other. Girly did not know Rob was rich. His family cautioned him not to use her, and he swore he wasn't. But after six or more months, Rob grew tired of Girly. Nothing she did. He was just restless. The spark was gone. He broke up with her. Girly thought it was the end of her world. Rob's circle of friends, an eclectic group, called him out for his callousness. Especially outspoken was the Margaret-Cho-esque ringleader of their group. They had told him all along not to mess with this girl's feelings. But he did. Rob gave Girly a final goodbye hug, both in their jeans, she in a thigh-length leather coat (probably thrift store, because, remember, she's not well-off) and light blue long-sleeved blouse, he in a white button-down oxford shirt. Oh, the sweet ache of a love gone bad.

Yeah. That's pretty much all I've got. After waking up for real at 4:50 a.m., I was not quite as fired-up about my bestseller. I think it might need some fleshing out.

If you have already read this, let me know. My subliminal mind might be a plagiarist. Because of Redford, I'm thinking Gatsby. Let the record show that Val has never seen the movie, nor read the novel. But she's heard of it. Maybe her subliminal mind has been out catting around while Val sleeps.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Val, Off Her Rocker

Last night I went to bed around midnight-thirty. I don't mean to be indelicate, but as I was sitting on the toilet in the master bathroom, I heard the wind a-howlin'. No. It was not just Hick and his breather in the boudoir. I heard that wind whooshing in from the northwest, battering against the cedar shingles on the front of the house.

Because Val is safety-conscious, and somewhat prone to anxiety when wind is concerned, this development triggered a trip to the living room to turn on a local channel and check for weather watches or warnings. After all, the pupils had been up in arms that afternoon, declaring that they heard tornadoes would be popping up by the time school dismissed, and they would be stuck on the buses. Yeah. You might pooh-pooh Val's choice of weather forecasters...but those kids are at least as accurate as TV meteorologists.

First I had to turn on the DISH and then the TV. Then I had to quickly crank down the volume left by deaf man Hick. Huh. No watches. No warnings. I tried all three local channels: 2, 4, and 5. Please. Don't even ask about channel 11.

As soon as I climbed into bed and situated my head on my magically-Hick-arm-free pillow, and flapped under Grandma's quilt topped with a $10 Walmart fleece blanket...I heard it. A scooting crash. That's what happens when porch furniture is flung by the wind until it hits part of the porch rails or house. It happened to Genius one time just as he was reaching for the doorknob, having run upstairs from our concrete-walled-and-ceilinged basement safe room to see if the warned-of tornado had passed over our homestead yet. He ran back to join me and The Pony like a cat who decides it must suddenly be in another room. Flying porch furniture is nothing to be sneezed at.

I didn't sneeze. But neither did I get out of bed and go stick my head out the front door. I could have been decapitated by a mesh metal chair, old-timey colored metal chairs, an indoor rocking chair, a wicker-seated high square stool acting as a table, or a pew. Yes. A pew. Hick brought it home. I'm guessing from an auction, because I don't recall him ever breaking into a church.

This morning, as I turned on my Shiba at the front window at 5:30 a.m., I peeped out the mini blinds and saw THIS:

YIKES! The mesh metal chair had slammed into the pew, and my rocking chair was all topsy-turvy against the cedar porch post. Meh. Nothing came through the front window. So I settled back in the La-Z-Boy for my recliner nap.

When Hick kept me from nodding off by emerging early at only 5:45, I called to him as he was going out the laundry room door to feed the fleabags. "Hey, you should see what the wind did to the rocking chair! Don't set it up. I'm going to have The Pony take a picture for me when it's light enough. But you'd better be careful on the way to work. There might be tree limbs down in the road." Let the record show that Hick takes a back roads route to hit the highway, a route lined with woods on both sides.

Let the record also show that this is my indoor rocking chair. Hick callously banished it to Porchville when he brought my mom's piano into the house to take its place. My rocking chair. The one Hick gave me to rock Baby Genius in. A couple of times. Because Baby Genius was not a fan of rocking. Which he demonstrated by howling and throwing out his arms in the startle reflex. Nor of a pacifier, which he demonstrated by propelling it out of his mouth for record distance like a world champion watermelon-seed spitter.

I heard Hick badmouthing my sweet, sweet Juno and favoring poor dumb Ann as he flung their dry food into their respective metal pans like a jai alai player hurling a goatskin ball out of his basket against the side of a corrugated-tin-walled BARn. Then I heard his footsteps around the back porch, across the side by the master bedroom, and around front. Then I heard a thump. And Hick came in the front door.

"What was that noise? You didn't set that rocking chair back up, did you?"

"Well, yeah."

"I told you not to! The Pony was going to get a picture of it for me! I TOLD you not to set it up!"

"No you didn't."

"Yes I did! You never listen."

"I didn't hear you, Val."

"You heard about the chair, didn't you? That's why you walked around. You only hear what you WANT to hear!"

"Fine! I'll go lay it back down!"

So there you have it. A recreation of what the 50 mph winds did to my porch furniture last night. Still, that wind can't hold a candle to blow-hard Val Thevictorian.

Here's a second view from photographer Pony:

I fear that it might have been smashed to smithereens if it went off the porch and into the rock garden. It's really an indoor chair, see...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Fly On the Wall Stopped Rubbing His Face and Threw Up His Hands in Despair

It does not pay to be an eavesdropper in the lives of Thevictorian family. It does not pay. But it IS pretty cheap entertainment.

When The Pony and I came home Monday night, darkness had fallen. As I cross the big bridge on our lettered highway, right before our left turn onto the county road, I like to turn my lights on bright. The reflectors along the bridge railing jump to life.

“Look, Pony. It’s like I’m a pilot, coming in for my final approach.”

“Uh huh. A landing strip.”

“Um. Let’s never let me hear you utter that phrase again.”

“Why not?”

“Do you even know what else that means?”

“Oh, come on. It’s not like I said I was trimming the bush.”

“EEEEEE! I don’t want to hear that, either!”

“It’s like that commercial for the shavers. With the ladies standing behind those trees.”

“I KNOW! I’m the one who told you that was disturbing!”

So…flash forward a day to the steak celebration of The Pony’s latest ACT score. Hick sat at the table, fiddling with his phone after he was done eating his steak and my terrible catfish.

“You always used to yell at The Pony for having his phone out at the table.”

“I’m just checking Facebook. Here’s the problem with having two Genius Thevictorians. (Let the record show that Hick’s brother, who lives across the county, has a boy with the same first and last name. Which Hick did not bother to tell me when we named our boy, after my grandpa. Maybe Hick didn’t know. He and his brother rarely see each other. It didn’t dawn on him until Brother and family came for a visit.) Look at his Facebook: ‘In honor of Veteran’s Day, all you girls show us your boobies!’ Heh, heh.”

“That’s not exactly the style of our Genius.”

The Pony chuckled. “No. No it isn’t.”

“It’s not your style either, Pony. You’d say something like ‘…show us your landing strip.’”

“Heh, heh. No I wouldn’t.”

“Hey! We should have had Dad take your picture, eating your victory steak!”

“Feasting on the flesh of mein enemies.”

“Stop that! You’re too macabre for me.”

So, on the way home, after walking seven car lengths to T-Hoe because Hick couldn’t park in the space directly in front of the restaurant door, we had to endure Hick leaning over to fart. More than once. Then sighing with pleasure.

“That’s gross. I am not going anywhere else with you! Why do you always have to do that? Pony? Don’t you get tired of this?”

“Actually, I was going to do the same thing. But I thought I better not. Just in case, you know, something else might come out.”

“Great. Even you don’t back me up. Oh, look! We’re crossing the bridge in the dark. Which doesn’t mean we’re going to trim the bush.”

“Ay yi yi. I can’t go ANYWHERE with you two!”

I turned to look at him, riding in his usual spot behind the driver. “Actually…you can’t go anywhere WITHOUT us.”

The Pony held up his hand, palm toward my face.

“Don’t you go giving me the hand. You better listen to me.”

“That’s the YES hand.”

Another awkward ending to another awkward day with Thevictorians.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Braggers Gonna Brag

I'm running a little late tonight, because Thevictorians just returned from a night on the town. In the middle of the week!

Yes, a celebration was in order. The Pony scored a perfect 36 on his ACT. The scores came out this morning from the test he took on October 24th. I found out four minutes before first bell. Into my room dashed The Pony, his laptop cradled in his arms. "The ACT scores are out! What do you think I got?"

Let the record show that if he had scored another 35, he wouldn't be making a special trip to show me. A 35 is old hat for The Pony. In fact, he kind of goes into mourning for what might have been. His brother Genius, after all, scored a 35. A tie for him is kissing your brother, I suppose. But I played along.

"I don't know. What?"

The Pony whirled around to show me his score on the laptop screen. I congratulated him with a hug. And off he went! "I want to go show my Chem teacher! I already showed--" Let the record further show that I was not the first! The Pony had already showed his Comp teacher, an Algebra teacher he has never even taken a class from, because she was walking up the hall beside him, the office secretary, the counselor, three or four staff members standing around the office, and the principal. Word spread like wildfire. Sure. It's not like he was quarterback of our (nonexistent) football team and won the district playoffs. But academics is a big deal at our little school.

By first hour, students were congratulating me on The Pony's achievement. And Mr. Principal took over the intercom and announced it to the whole building. His former middle school teachers sent me emails to congratulate him. A reporter came from the local paper and took his picture for an upcoming article. His face is on the school website with his accomplishment. He is the first student from our district to ever earn a perfect score. So it's kind of a big deal, whether y'all consider it shameless bragging or not.

Who's gonna brag about The Pony if I don't? Not his brother, that's for sure. The Pony sent him a text with the news. Genius sent a one-word reply: "Congratulations" As The Pony said, "Not even an exclamation mark. No punctuation. No personal message."

Hick might try bragging, but he kind of mixes things up. Like that time he bragged at his family reunion that his son Genius was really smart, that he had an IQ of almost 100. Genius was mortified. "Mom! Dad told people he was proud of me because I was almost average."

The Pony remembered. "Maybe Dad will tell people I have an IQ of almost 200!"

Anyhoo...we took The Pony out for steak. It was Hick's idea. We took him to the center of Backroads, at a crossroads restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall that left us all smelling like we'd spent a week sleeping in an ashtray. But they have good steaks! Hick sprung for a $14.99 sirloin, and of course had one for himself. They both had a side salad and baked potato.

I opted for the catfish dinner, with slaw (was there any doubt?) and steak fries. I opted wrong. That catfish tasted like it had eaten enough mud to deepen the main channel of the Mississippi ten feet. I only managed to ingest 1/4 of that crispy treat. The fries were good, the three hush puppies not so much, and the slaw was great, though I couldn't finish it. Hick took my catfish, The Pony gave me the end of his sirloin and potato skin, I gave him one of my Texas toast triangles, and nobody would take the hush puppies. Between the three of us, we licked those platters clean. Except for the hush puppies.

Yes, it has been a red-letter day for Thevictorian family. Genius may be raising a drink in toast, but I doubt is has anything to do with The Pony.

Monday, November 9, 2015

I Have Not Yet Broken This News To EmBee

On the way to town yesterday, The Pony called my attention to a driveway on the left.

"Did you see THAT? There were seven turkeys standing in that guy's driveway!"

"No. I have to watch the road here because I'M DRIVING! There's that sharp curve coming up."

We went on about our business. On the way back, I told him to look and and see if the turkeys were still there. It's not a section of road where I can take my attention away to turn my head 90 degrees. But I noticed something else, right at the edge of the road.

"HEY! Where's that guy's mailbox?"

It's the one made entirely of brick. From the bottom to the arched, pizza-oven-like top that houses the mailbox. Except that somebody had shattered his curved brick roof a while back and the top had been replaced by a couple of heavy rectangular flat stones, all mortared in, still impressive. But now there was NOTHING. Not a brick to be seen. Not knocked down, not shattered and scattered, nothing. It was as if that mailbox never existed. In fact, there was no receptacle at all to receive mail.

It kind of looked like this, ony taller, with no house behind it, no curb, just a long driveway and woods.

Later last night, I asked Hick about it. "Hey, what happened to your buddy's mailbox? The fancy brick one, going down the hill?"

"My buddy don't live there no more. He and his wife got a divorce, and he had to sell the house. Some school guy lives there now. A principal or something."

THAT'S what happened to that mailbox.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rock Paper Fizzles

Perhaps you remember when Hick had aspirations to be a rock star. Not as a singer/guitarist in Val's garage band, Mommy's Got a Headache Other Dogs' Anuses, but like a Pawn Star, only with rocks. Selling rocks off our land. Uh huh. It's coming back to you now, isn't it. When Hick refused to part with our retirement nest egg rocks down behind the homestead, but agreed to whore out the boys' land for cash.

Our neighbors let it slip, upon a grand inquisition from Hick, that they had signed a contract with THEIR land-raper, stating the terms of the agreement, with a clause that upon completion of the harvest, TheRapist would repair any damage to property or structures.

Ahem. Hick had nothing on paper. I don't know if he even got a handshake from our HarvestMan. Hick had a price, quoted as $10 per ton, for our rocks. HarvestMan would dig them out, load them up, haul them to the quarry, take the money, and show us the receipts upon completion. He estimated that harvest to fetch at least $4000, but thought it would be closer to $7000-$9000,

Of course Hick made the deal. He would text the HarvestMan every now and then to check the status of the harvest. Seems that our man was the same as TheRapist. According to Hick. But he couldn't explain why the neighbors had a written contract, and we did not. Two weekends ago, HarvestMan was supposed to come pay Hick the rock money.

HarvestMan was supposed to stop by on a Saturday afternoon or evening. He didn't show. Hick tried to text him all weekend, but got no response. Shocker. Hick let it slide. He didn't have an explanation. He kept trying to get ahold of HarvestMan. Finally, contact was made. 

Of course HarvestMan wanted to come on Friday, when Hick was not available, what with being hours away running for president. Nothing was heard from HarvestMan Saturday. But today around 1:30, Hick walked through the kitchen door, the brass buttons nearly popping off his overalls, and handed me a wad of cash. In hundred-dollar bills. I told you he was whoring our land.

The total was $4600.

"Oh. I thought he said it would be more."

"Well, he asked me how much he told me he was going to pay. And I said he told me at least $4000, but from the looks of it, closer to between $7000 and $9000. Then he said, 'Remember how I told you those rocks were breaking up?' And I said I did. And he gave me $4600."

Let the record show that Hick has already (mentally) spent between $7000 and $9000 of this windfall on a concrete slab and roof trusses and a metal roof and doors for his garage that he is making out of two freight containers (that he already has full of junk sitting on the 10 acres next to our homestead 10 acres).

Only Val can go in the hole to the tune of $2400 to $4400 by selling the rocks off her sons' land.

Hick has not yet mastered the selfie, or you would see him proudly perched upon that rock, rather than his silhouette upon the forest floor.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Val is Relieved That No Scandal Broke on Election Eve

I just got off the phone with the president.

Yep. He was leaving Goodwill, where he bought some beer glasses, a mask to hang in The Sword Shack, and a bear holding a fish.

Hick had the day off work Friday, to travel to his election. It was a meeting of an organization that deals with plant safety. Not green plants, like those that undergo photosynthesis. Work plants. Factories. I'll not reveal their acronym, but let the record show that Hick was the incumbent in this election. He didn't even tell me he was running until Friday morning at 6:10, the earliest I could get him out the door.

"Where, exactly, are you going?"

"To my safety meeting. I'm running for president again. This is the meeting where we vote."

"Are you campaigning?"

"Not really."

"Do you want to win?"

"Yeah, I want to win! Because if I'm president, I get off work to go to all the meetings. And work can't say a word. But if I'm only a member, they might not want me to go to every meeting."

"Okay. Good luck. I hope you win."

"I have six ballots out in the car that I'm taking."

"Are you stuffing the ballot box? Won't you need more than six?"

"I'm not stuffing the ballot box, Val. People have given me their ballots to take and turn in. Mine is one of them."

If I was his opponent, I might look askance at Hick, carrying in six ballots. When he returned home Friday evening, I had to ASK him if he won the election.

"Yeah. I won. By three votes. There was nineteen votes all together."

You'd think he could have mustered more excitement over such a narrow victory. Nineteen votes, he won by three...that means it was 8 to 11. Hick said his opponent was a woman, younger than him, but still old, who works in personnel at a factory that makes spices.

No word on Hick's platform, or what promises he made his electorate.

Friday, November 6, 2015

An Excursion Into the Dark, Seamy Underbelly of the Education Profession

I try not to write about work very often on this blog. But I've nearly exhausted The Pony, and Hick has been too close to civilized lately to get any good material. So I'm exposing a sordid secret that you education outsiders may not be ready to hear.

Teachers are not allowed to fart.

Oh, there's no official rule about it. Not in the faculty handbook, not on the school website, not in a memo stuffed into a cubbyhole mailbox in the teacher workroom, not in a mass email. Still. Ask a teacher if they can fart at work.

Here's the thing. The pupils can let 'er rip. Toot to their heart's content. Walk up to my desk and emit a silent but deadly invisible cloud. Lean over on one cheek and let it reverberate off the dark blue plastic chair. Stroll to the wastebasket and putt-putt-putt like a motorboat.

But teachers can't.

In fact, sometimes a pupil tries to pin one on Mrs. Thevictorian. His nearby cronies will gag and gasp. Chastise him for fouling their air. Yet he will deny.

"It had to be you! We all heard it! You stink! Who else would it be?"

"I don't know. Mrs. Thevictorian walked by here handing out papers..."

Let me tell you, I nip that kind of uncalled-for aspersion right in the putridly-fragrant bud. But don't think I haven't considered such a tactic. As payback for the desk-pooters.

No, teachers must hold it in. Hold it. Hold it. HOLD IT until they're ready to explode. Because really, when do they get a chance to release the roiling gases that could more than likely keep the Goodyear Blimp aloft? Or maybe it's more like the ill-fated Hindenburg.

First-year teachers really need to be informed. Once the morning bell rings, you're out of luck. You're surrounded by kids for 50 minutes. And don't think you can let one slip during the four minutes between classes! Before the last pupil leaves, two from your next class will already be inside the room. Standing in the hall to supervise class-passing is not conducive to gas-passing. You'll have a little buddy who wants to stand with you and chat. And hall traffic sideswiping you from both directions. You'll have lunch duty to hustle to. And you don't dare let it out in the faculty women's restroom during your plan time, because the entire faculty population of another lunch shift (less one doing duty alone) takes up residence at the table in the teacher workroom, and they'll hear your butt trumpet, even through a heavy wooden door. More of the 50-minute torture in the afternoon. And don't think you can let that quitting time whistle blow after final bell. Because then the teacher workroom fills up with pupils shoving dollars in the soda machine. Which is not allowed, but try to yell that through a heavy wooden door while sitting on the pot clenching your butt cheeks to hold in a wind to rival a Santa Ana AND an Oklahoma plains sweeper.

So today, I thought I'd found a solution. Besides the fact that I should not eat steamed broccoli/cauliflower/carrots on a school night. On my plan time, I thought I might be able to sneak one out. I made sure to move away from the common concrete-block wall I share with my neighbor next door. Even under the cover of the 50-or-so enthusiastic freshmen she has that hour, right after their lunch, I was afraid to let it rumble wide open.

It was almost time for my next class. The third lunch shift was winding down. I moved over to the file cabinet to retrieve some study materials for a student's request. As I slid the metal drawer back in, I let some gas slip out. The resulting sound might have been a raspberry blown by the lips of a love child of Mick Jagger and Lisa Rinna. Louder than I had planned. Probably more aromatic that I had planned, too, what with the broccoli/cauliflower/carrot roughage last night. But I had no time to gauge the air quality because


I turned. Like a deer in the headlights. Val in the spotlight! I assumed it was a student coming in to ask for something. And I planned to get rid of them right away. "Wait until the bell. Come back then. It's my plan time and I'm in the middle of something." Oh, how I WAS in the middle of something! But it was not a pupil invading my domain.


"Oh. I was just getting a couple of files. What to you need?" I walked toward the door. Hoping the gaseous trail was not following me like a comet's tail.

"Where is The Pony?"

"The Pony? Oh. He's eating lunch down the hall. In his teacher's room. A lot of the kids do that."

"Oh. I was looking for him and didn't see him in the lunchroom." Obviously. Now go find him. Go find him now! The bell is about to ring. Just go. Because if you don't, you're going to be sorry.

"Nope. He's in the classroom."

Blessedly, she went on her way. It was all I could do to tighten that once-opened gas valve while she was IN THE ROOM. With the door closed!

And now you know. Why teachers are not allowed to fart. Let's keep this our little secret.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Pony Gives a Hand

Let the record show that The Pony is more than likely setting man’s communication skills back by tens of thousands of years. He has never been the loquacious sort, like his dad, and like Genius, and like Val on the printed page. Nope. He’s reserved. A thinker. Not one to offer his opinion.

So the other night, I asked him if the gold rush started at Sutter’s Mill. Because The Pony is quicker than my BFF Google, and history is my worst subject. My Achilles heel, right after geography. Which you might have suspected, after that whole England is an island! ordeal.

The Pony was in my office for something. I’m sure I called him in. Otherwise he does not rise from his couch and laptop, where he is perfecting the boneless physique as his muscles and skeleton atrophy. In answer to my question, he held up his right hand, palm toward me, on the way out the door. On that palm, written in ink, was the word YES.

“What in the world are you doing? Did you have that on there all day at school?”

“Uh huh. I’ve found that it saves time. And my left one says NO.” He showed me.

Later, when I had moved to the recliner to watch Survivor and Cutthroat Kitchen (superstar sabotage edition!), I forgot about the palm language.

Aarti, one of the celebrity chefs, was given no sabotages the first round, but was having difficulty getting all the components ready for her proper English breakfast. Being of Indian descent, and having attended a British boarding school, she had the concept down pat. She was running out of time, and I think she meant to say, “I have all these balls in the air,” like she was trying to juggle those components and plate them at the right time. But she started out saying, “I’m holding all these balls…” and I didn’t hear the rest, because I started hooting at The Pony.

“Heh, heh! She’s holding all those balls! And she’s not even in Little Caesars, and they’re not YOUR balls! Heh, heh! ‘I’m holding all these balls!’”

The Pony gave turned his attention from his laptop, and stared me down with a droll expression. He raised his left hand, palm out. NO. But then he elaborated.

“You are not allowed to say that. Ever.”

Kind of like he told me after the Little Caesar’s incident. Without the hand.

As if that will be effective.