Sunday, July 31, 2016

There Oughta Be a Law. Or At Least a Form of Revenge, For Lying to a Little Puppy.

Let the record show that over a week ago, Hick promised to make Puppy Jack his own little swimming pool, out of the bottom of a blue plastic barrel. Hick has not.

Those of you who have seen the backwoods shower Hick constructed for the Solar Car boys (who are due to arrive tomorrow evening to spend the night) know that there is no shortage of blue plastic barrels around the homestead. In fact, Hick even made them a hand sink out of another blue plastic barrel. Which leaves poor Puppy Jack to his own devices, namely swimming in the creek, his water dish, the chickens' watering pan, the fake fish pond, the goat's water tub, and the moat over by the freight containers.

Because Val likes Puppy Jack more than Hick most days does not want to see Puppy Jack disappointed, nor swimming in a filthy goat tub or muddy moat, she took the matter into her own hands earlier this week. No, Val did not cut the bottom our of a blue plastic barrel. But she did the next best thing!

I bought Puppy Jack a cat litter box! Yes. You read me. I was in The Dollar Store, stocking up on supplies for the Solar Car camp out, like a shower curtain and eating utensils and metal pans with plastic lids...and I saw just the thing for Puppy Jack to swim in!

He doesn't need a lot of water, you know. It doesn't have to be deep. In fact, he probably couldn't even get into it if his private pool was very deep. So...I made sure to choose the plastic cat litter box without holes in the bottom, and look who's happier than a puppy with two peckers a pig in poop Val in her dark basement lair with a fresh 44 oz Diet Coke!

Darned ol' Hick even noticed Puppy Jack's happiness from across the yard, and took a picture that evening to send me. Let the record show that Puppy Jack took many dips that day, both supervised and unsupervised.

Further scrutiny of Hick's second photo shows that Jack is having none of it. That is an accusatory look if I ever saw one! How COULD you promise me a blue plastic barrel swimming pool, and give me NOTHING! Not even hope!

Quite different from the look he gave The Pony, right after his new litterpool was filled from the 55-degree well water coming from the pump faucet.

Jack adores The Pony, and stops to gaze lovingly at him whenever he realizes his picture is being taken.

Hick, you should be ashamed.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Val Refuses to Believe, Lest She Free-Fall Off the Deep End

I don't remember how much I've mentioned lately about the uptick in our mysterious house noises. Just over the past week or so, the thumping has escalated. The Pony prefers me not to point out every creak and footstep when we are downstairs watching TV, even though he would have to be Helen Keller (wasting her time watching TV) to miss those noises.

Last week I asked Hick why he was up in the middle of the night, stomping through the kitchen. On the morning I questioned him, Hick said he was NOT up at all, except to go to the bathroom, which is in the bedroom at the other end of the homestead, and not over our TV-watching heads. He did admit to getting up the night before that, and going to the kitchen for a drink. Uh huh. I heard him. Walking like he has no feet on the ends of his ankles. So I assumed it was him again the second night. But no.

The Pony related a tale on Friday morning that deeply disturbed me. I am choosing not to believe it, but rather to think that he dreamed it.

"Pony, I asked Dad why he keeps getting up at night, and he said he only got up ONE night."

"Have you still been hearing things? Like...did you hear them LAST night?" Let the record show that when I asked The Pony what he wants to hear from home when I write him a weekly letter in college, he said, "I want to know about the noises at night." Uh huh. Even before news of Puppy Jack, or what happens on Big Brother, or how his dad and I are getting along without him.

"Uh. Not as much..." No need to upset The Pony when he really doesn't want to hear about it while it's going on.

"Well, I went up to get in the shower. You know how I let the shower run, then lay down in the water to relax? I heard noises."

"Okay. I DID hear noises in your room. But you were in the shower, so I thought it was Juno and Jack wrestling around out on the side porch, thumping against the wall."

"I heard something go from my room to Genius's room."

"Well...I DID hear something lay down in Genius's bed. I haven't heard THAT in a long time."

"Okay. So I got out of the shower and when I opened the bathroom door to go to my room, there were two wet footprints on the floor just outside the door. Kid-sized footprints. And they were pointed toward Genius's room!"

"EEEEE! How big?"

"About like this." The Pony held his hands apart about the distance of a boy's size 5...or a woman's size 7. The Pony himself wears a 10.5.

" probably just imagined it."

"I DID kind of fall asleep while I was laying in the tub. And when I came out, I was kind of not-clear-headed..."

"I'm sure that was it."

Aren't you? Aren't you sure that's all it was? The Pony fell asleep, and still hadn't cleared a dream out of his head. It was just a coincidence that I heard that bed noise a few minutes before I heard him open up the bathroom door at 11:50 p.m. Right?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #19

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to entice you to fake-buy my fake book.

This week, I tear a page from my interminable extra-long workmanlike life-affirming teaching career to reveal some (alleged) drama that definitely happened may have played out I heard about at the lunch table does not represent any real people or incidents that occurred, unless purely coincidental. Take a walk on the riled side, and fake-buy my fake book!

The Checkerboard-Tile Jungle

Telma and Louisa meet most mornings for coffee. Telma, principal of Not Your Public School Academy, relies on Louisa to bring her up-to-speed on the goings-on in the trenches. Lately, there has been a problem with Cutesey Newgal. Cutesey wears little-to-the-imagination leggings and revealing lace tops. She spends more time on her phone than on her lessons. Students don't complain, getting 'A's without effort. Nor do the not-A-students. The weekend parties Cutesey throws more than make up for their lackluster record.

Now Cutesey has been seen on surveillance cameras, antagonizing her fellow faculty. Namely, members of the Woeful Wagging Tongues clique. A copier job interrupted and deleted, a doorstop stolen, on-purpose tardy passes written after the bell, lunches missing from the faculty fridge...Cutesy doesn't have a leg to stand on as she skates on thin ice.

Will Telma and Louisa take Cutesy for a long ride off a tall cliff? (150 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Pat Conroy…”The water is not wide enough to protect the reading public from this fake book!” 

Bel KaufmanIt has come to my attention that Ms. Thevictorian has not been going up the UP staircase, nor down the DOWN staircase, choosing instead to declare herself special and take the elevator both ways. I'd like to say her fake book also has its ups and downs, but, unfortunately, it has only downs.” 

E.R. Braithwaite…To Val, With Shock: This fake book is pure trash. It should be tossed into the classroom stove like an unsanitary napkin and burned to a crisp.” 

Harry K. Wong…”Obviously, this author has never set foot inside an actual school. If there's only one fake book you don't fake-read prior to starting your teaching career, make it this one.” 

Mrs. Rayburn…”I have not been exposed to subject matter this shocking since Theodore Cleaver wore a 3-eyed Martian sweatshirt to school. Unlike Theodore's classmates, I am not tittering. I think Val Thevictorian should be sent back to her dark basement lair to fake-write a fake book that is more appropriate than this low-class effort."

Robin Williams as John Keating…”If only Thevictorian was a member of the Dead Author's Society, I would jump up on my desk and implore my students to Sleaze the Day and read this piece of dreck so that none of them would ever be tempted to fake-write anything so abominable."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hick Is a Regular Ray of Sunshine for Those Solar Car Boys

Hick is never happier than when he has a project. No matter whether that project is vital to the operation of the homestead, or whether it is a Hick-devised project of questionable importance. Over the past two weeks, Hick has taken it upon himself to ready the grounds for the invasion of the Solar Car Team.

Genius had asked if we would mind hosting the team on their trek through Missouri. They spend most of their time camping out, with a few motel stays interspersed in their itinerary. We have no problem with 24 people pitching tents in our yard and field. Hick even cleaned out part of his BARn so some can rest comfortably on the concrete floor in the air conditioning. We are springing for BBQables, along with several cases of water, since the team is caffeine free. I plan to heat up some beans, and make a vat of my almost-famous potato salad, which is often shoved out of the culinary spotlight due to my delicious deviled eggs and world-famous Chex Mix. No time for those two treats, but potato salad I can do.

Hick has a working toilet in the loft of the BARn. He also has his outhouse down by the cabin. And as he says, "They're mostly guys. They can pee outside." You might think Hick is not a stickler for cleanliness, but you would be wrong. He set to work the day after Genius finalized the plans, to make an outdoor shower.

Here it is, in various stages:

This is how it began. A barrel on top of some skids.

Hick always knew it would be a two-barrel shower. Here he has them both in place, and the initial test shows that the shower does indeed work.

Since nobody wants to be exposed around here except Hick, he had me pick up a shower curtain at The Dollar Store. It cost more than a dollar. I was not trying to be all artsy-fartsy outterior-decoratory. The plain shower curtains were translucent. So this is the only pattern that you couldn't see through. I had planned to have The Pony pick one out at Walmart, but the more I imagined him looking at a selection of shower curtains and getting one that suited our needs...the more I knew I needed to cut that escapade short and take this one the day I found it.

Looks like Hick also decided to upgrade that shower to three barrels. I guess he thinks the guests might linger in the luxury of running water. Not sure what they're going to stand on yet. Hick will probably come up with some rubber mats from the BARn. Or one of his sheds. Or one of the freight containers.

The barrels have been filled with 55-degree well water for nigh on two weeks. The temperature should be compatible with life. And if somebody wants a COLD shower, he can just pick up the hose attached to the well spigot. In addition, we have Poolio to act as a big bathtub for those bashful bathers. As Genius said, though, "We planned on not having facilities on the nights we camp out."

But wait! We're not finished! Hick also rigged up a hand-washing station!

We are looking forward to the August 1 invasion. Things were dicey there for a while, what with some vital piece of equipment shorting out before scrutineering was over. Another team generously offered a replacement. Day 1 of the qualifying track race saw the Missouri S&T team making repairs to get the Solar Miner track-ready. No laps were under their belt at the finish of the first day of competition.

By Day 2 of the race, Missouri S&T had hit the track and was racking up laps to qualify for the road portion of the challenge. Until a tire blew out about three hours after the start! Not just a blowout, but a broken tie rod! They got it repaired trackside, without pitting. But then, something quit communicating with something else. A coding problem. The coders rigged a work-around so that the Solar Miner could get back on the track. However, they finished Day 2 with only 89 laps. A one-day lap total of 128 was needed to qualify. But don't count them out!

Today, Day 3, the last day of qualifying, the Solar Miner took the track needing 101 laps to meet the two-day total criteria. Three hours in, 50 of those 101 laps had been tallied. All systems were go--until a thunderstorm dumped heavy rains on our hopes. The main problem, according to scuttlebutt, was not traction, but the humidity fogging the driver's vision. But don't count them out!

News from the Solar Car Team front is that as of the close of the track competition this evening, the Solar Miner has qualified for the road race, which starts on Saturday in Brecksville, Ohio.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hick's Latest Catch

Just because Hick starts new projects bi-weekly doesn't mean he forgets his former loves.

Here is the most recent denizen of the Fishing Lair:

Not sure what, exactly, Hick looks for in memorabilia to include in this year-old structure in Shackytown. This one is obviously not attempting to duplicate a real fish. Nor is it equipped with pointy stabbers to actually hook a real fish. Maybe next week, he'll bring home a child's artistic rendering ripped from the pages of a coloring book. I don't know if he plans to hang this catch on the wall, or let it balance itself on the sea-blue counter.

In case you've forgotten what the outside of the Fishing Lair looks like, here it is again, in its beginning stages:

And some of the early treasures on the inside:

In the next few days, I'll share what Hick has been working on for the past week. Let the record show that it is NOT a themed shed for Shackytown.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Those People With a Lotta Nerve and a Lotta Relatives Also Have a Lotta Ancestors

Do you sense a theme lately? Those parking-spot ne'er-do-wells don't put down roots at the gas station chicken store. Oh, no. They follow Val like she's some kind of weirdo magnet vortex for folks with more than the normal complement of axons and dendrites.

You'd think a person could have a peaceful interlude at the cemetery to center oneself, to reconnect with emotion and memories of a departed loved one, to speak aloud softy (it's a CEMETERY, by cracky!) the hopes and fears one might have discussed with that loved one if given the opportunity in life.

Not in Backroads. Especially not if you're Val.

I was headed to town to pick up some chips for The Pony. Never mind that I had just been in Save-A-Lot the day before. In fact, that is what spearheaded the trip. The four new Lay's Potato Chip flavors are out now, you know. Chinese Szechuan Chicken (inspired by Sichuan peppers), Brazilian Picanha (skewered-grilled steak with chimichurri sauce), Wavy Greek Tzatziki (flavored with dill, garlic and other spices) and Kettle Cooked Indian Tikka Masala (a tomato-based dish with tumeric and cumin).

When I saw those chips, I picked up a bag of the Wavy Greek Tzatziki, and the Brazilian Picanha. I figured The Pony would like the first because it looked something like Sour Cream and Onion, and the second because it had little meat skewers pictured on the bag that looked like steak.

The Pony loved the Brazilian Picanha. I had one (ONE! you CAN eat just one Lay's Potato Chip!) and thought it was great. So The Pony asked me to get more, because if this contest is anything like the old ones, there will be the best flavor that can never be found. Even though we did not open the Greek ones yet, The Pony wanted me to grab a bag each of the Indian Tikka Masala (because he's heard about this dish on the cooking shows) and the Chinese Szechuan Chicken (because Hick likes him some spicy Chinese food).

Chip mission accomplished, I decided to run by the cemetery. I usually go once a week, but last week there was a funeral a couple of plots over, and the next time we were in a hurry and took a different route back home. It's only a couple miles from the gas station chicken store. And I have all the time in the world now that I'm RETIRED. So off I went.

Pretty sure I've mentioned the convenience of Mom's plot. The row right next to the road, so I can do a drive-thru visit. I pulled over and parked. It's on the wrong side of that blacktop lane that winds through the memorial park. But it's not like there's a rush hour. The only traffic I see is the grounds crew sometimes, and they're not on the roads.

I had just parked and rolled down the window and put Satellite/XM on the Prime Country station. Mom always liked that, so I'd tune it in when I picked her up for our monthly bill-paying Friday excursions. She'd tap her hand on her thigh and say, "This is REALLY good music." I noticed that the flowers put there by my sister the ex-mayor's wife were gone. Gone! They had not even been in a metal holder, like the one that got ripped-off by lowlife scrap metal thieves. Only in a plastic holder, set upon the long engraved marker (no headstones in this joint) next to the screw-in plastic holder that was the purloined one's official replacement. I made a mental note to let Sis know. Along with the fact that the flowers The Pony and I had put there still remained.

In the side mirror, I saw a gray sedan coming down the road behind me. I followed it in the rearview mirror, then picked it up with my peripheral vision as it pulled up alongside T-Hoe's passenger door. And stopped. I did NOT turn my head. No siree, Bob! I'd learned my lesson the day before with that air hose doofus! Do not engage. I turned my attention back out my window to my mom and dad's plot. I was in the middle of a one-sided conversation already, you know.

Gray Sedan s l o w l y rolled on down the road. Turned right. A direction where there is nothing much except a road that branches off for the groundskeeping crew. The main road continues around to the right, back to where a caretaker's mansion older-style home sits back in the trees. That road winds on around the section with the fountain. And back to the top exit, or loops back to where I was parked.

Gray Sedan stopped. Backed up. Sat there perpendicular to T-Hoe, at the bottom of my road. Like when that crazy Michael Myers in the original Halloween stopped the stolen station wagon and backed up after Jamie Lee Curtis's friend hollered, "Hey, jerk! Speed kills!" I assure you that I hollered nothing. But the lady behind the wheel was looking at me through her passenger window.

Something is taken away from the mourning experience when you are being watched. I swear, I had not even been there THREE MINUTES when Gray Sedan Lady decided I was in the way of her I Can't Wait mission to do her own mourning. Seriously. What's the rush? They're not going anywhere.

It's just like when you get there early for your 9:00 a.m. doctor's appointment, and you're the only person in the waiting room, and the next patient signs in and sits in the chair right next to you, eschewing the other 29 empties simply yearning for a butt to fulfill them.

I told Mom I'd be back another time to spend longer, and started up T-Hoe. Put him in gear as Gray Sedan started back toward me. Went by on my right, because after all, I was there first, and was on the wrong side of that deserted lane. In my mirror, I saw Gray sedan pull over behind where I'd been. A lady got out and started walking across the plots. Like she couldn't have done that with me sitting there.

I can't figure out why the GPS coordinates I inhabit are always the place to be.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Those People With a Lotta Nerve Sure Have a Lotta Relatives. Or Kindred Spirits.

Seems like only yesterday Val was ranting about the NERVE of some people. That's because it WAS only yesterday. Let me be the first to warn you...they're baaaack! And at the scene of the original crime against Val's special parking privileges.

Uh huh. There I was, headed for that parallel-like parking space by the air hose, due to my first and third choice spaces being taken again...when a dude whizzed around the pumps and parked his little blue sports car in the handicapped space.

Of course Val was not headed for the handicapped space. She is not handicapped. And she has no H placard. Just like that SportsMan! Not a plate, not a placard to identify himself as one who needed special parking. People like him are the reason the differently-abled have such a hard time getting gas station chicken!

I pulled T-Hoe around him, cut into the empty space, and backed up so as not to block the dumpster or the air hose. Backed directly into the confines of the lines of that parking space. I looked in T-Hoe's door mirror. Sportsman was still sitting in his blue sports car. I counted up my exact change and opened the door to disembark. Let the record show that I took my own sweet time. No need to jar sore knees by hopping down. I slid my heels past the running board. Leaned a minute on T-Hoe's door to let circulation come back into my joints. We elderly are like that. Then I started walking toward the corner of the building. Toward the blue sports car. Perhaps I favored my sorer knee, my left knee, more than usual. Not-Heaven's Chimes! Is it MY fault if Sportsman might have thought I was indeed differently-abled?

I can assure you that such a false fact would have made him no nevermind. He was out his blue sports car door and around the corner before I got to his bumper. Inside, he went directly to the counter. Never mind that the owner was waiting on someone else, with another lady in line behind her.

"How are you?" The owner is always polite to the customers, even though she rules her oft-turned-over staff with an iron fist.

"Livin' the life! I'm livin' the life!" SportsMan stood there in his khaki shorts, his red-and-blue baseball-jersey-style shirt, and brown flip-flops. I saw nary a flaw on his tanned legs that might have warranted a parking spot for the handicapped. He kind of reminded me of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. That kind of attitude. That kind of hair. He was buying PowerBall tickets.

Far be it from Val to deny a dude his right to play the lottery. But I think he could have complied with the parking etiquette of civilized society to do so.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

People Have a Lotta Nerve, Which Makes Val Need to Let Out Some Hot Air

Friday I had some errands to run, like picking up about 100 pounds of chemicals to feed Poolio, and cashing a mileage reimbursement check for Hick, and picking up some shredded lettuce for my Super Nachos from Save A Lot. Technically, Hick had commanded The Pony to go get the Poolio chemicals, but I didn't see why TWO of us should drive to town, so I roped him into riding shotgun with me in T-Hoe.

Sure, I had to promise him Domino's Pizza after procuring the chemicals. But I had a companion and a go-fer, which I am not going to have ever again in three-and-a-half short weeks...Excuse me. I had something in my eye.

We picked up the pizza, and The Pony feasted on the way to the rest of the errands. Of course on the way home, I stopped for my 44 oz Diet Coke. Courtesy of The Pony's two feet. My regular parking spot that I am SHOCKED does not display a RESERVED FOR VAL sign was taken. Taken by a ne'er-do-well who could not even manage to pull all the way to the concrete tire-bumper. The spot over on the side, where you can drive into an unpaved drainage ditch between the gas station chicken store and CeilingReds Pharmacy if you go over the concrete tire-bumper, was taken up by a truck and trailer parked sideways. Taking up about 5 spaces. It's not like the gas station chicken store has unlimited parking. Probably about 15 spots at the most, if you consider the whole perimeter.

Lucky for me, my second-choice spot was open. It's at the side of the store, by the dumpster and the air hose. There are two spots there along the building, end to end, parallel-parking style. The first one is marked HANDICAPPED. I never park there. But other cars do, without H plates, and without H placards hanging from their mirrors, and disgorge drivers who have no discernible impediments. I drove through that one and parked in my regular second-choice spot. Within the lines.

The Pony went inside for my magical elixir, and I sat in the comfort of T-Hoe with the air conditioner blasting. It's been in the upper 90s here for two weeks, you know. No sooner had The Pony rounded the corner of the building than a car pulled up on my right. A man motioned for me to put the window down. I did. That's how we roll around Backroads. Perhaps he needed directions.

"Are you using the air pump?"

This guy must not have been very bright. Because I was obviously sitting behind the steering wheel, chillin' to extra Freon Hick had added a couple weeks ago. I was not bent over the tire with a pink rubber hose in my hand.


"I need to use it."

As we would say at the teacher lunch table: "Sounds like a personal problem to me." Of course, I am no longer on the payroll, and somebody else's butt will be in my unofficially reserved chair in the cafeteria come August 18th. So I did not utter that retort out loud. I did, however, roll my eyes at him, heave a heavy sigh, jam T-Hoe into reverse, and back into the handicapped spot behind me.

Little Mr. Self-Important was mouthing something through my just-upped passenger window. It didn't look like anything vile, but then again, I'm no lip-reader. Perhaps he was passive-aggressively saying he would wait until I left. But what would be the purpose of THAT, since he had the nerve to suggest that I was impolitely parked? I put on my sunglasses and glared at him as he pulled his car over perpendicular to my previous parking spot.

That's right. He parked IN FRONT of where I had been parked anyway. My space was of no use to him. Had I chosen to put T-Hoe into DRIVE, I could have T-boned that car. Let the record show that the air hose is plenty long. That I've been parked there before when people pulled in and aired all four of their tires. And that one day, a truck pulling a long trailer loaded with a backhoe and a Bobcat parked by the dumpster, and the dude aired up the tires on the backhoe. No shortage of air hose.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? Why do they feel so entitled? Why can they not delay the gratification of their deflated tires? It's not like I parked there and unloaded a suitcase or pitched a two-man tent for an extended stay. The Pony was out within 60 seconds with my soda.

When I used to put air in T-Hoe's tires (and by that I mean when The Pony used to hop out once a week to air up that bad tire that Hick almost had fixed after 6 months except for telling the guy the wrong one so that the good tire was fixed), I did not run up next to people parked in front of the air hose at Casey's and ask if they were using the air hose. Because, like the one at the gas station chicken store, that was a marked parking space. NOT a reserved space for air-pumpers.

I suppose I should just take this as a sign that it's time to redouble my efforts to get my proposed handbasket factory off the ground.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time to Make RAYCE While the Sun Shines!

This summer, while Hick works and schemes, while The Pony sprawls on his subterranean couch and games (that's a verb, he's not sprawled on his games), while Val taps the keyboard in her dark basement lair...Genius is a man of action. He left Wednesday with his collegiate solar car team, to compete in the 2016 American Solar Challenge Formula Sun Grand Prix. That last word is pronounced PREE, you know. Just so there's no unnecessary heh-heh-ing.

Right now, I would imagine Genius and his team are armpit-deep in scrutineering. Not my word, though I have been known to make up a few. It looks like they are in Pittsburgh this weekend, taking part in the American Solar Challenge-Full Track part of their competition.

If you go to that first link, showing the teams, you can scroll down and see Genius's team, #42 Missouri S&T, with a prototype of their car, the Solar Miner. It's much prettier than that now. I've seen a picture of it, but that is not for current release. Genius is in the front row, first on the left. Here is LAST YEAR'S car. Genius is third from right in that photo.

Looks like you can keep abreast (heh, heh) of the competition once the 2016 race gets started via Twitter and Facebook, and flickr IF you have those newfangled social media accounts!

We have a picture of LAST YEAR'S entry #42 right here. And here. And Here. Along with LAST YEAR'S results. can keep up with the press releases here. Good luck to Genius & team with this part of the competition right now.

Also, I did not make up that RAYCE word in the title!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #18

I skipped a week, but it's baaaack! Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to entice you to fake-buy my fake book.

Since I failed to produce a novel last week, in favor of staying busy not-writing my pitch for the All Write Now Writer's Conference pitch sessions...I shall forego my usual begging for your fake purchases, and treat this as an authorly exercise. Whatever that means.

 Here's my logline: Fifty Shades of Grey meets Lady and the Tramp.

And my pitch: A prissy bitch pursues a laid-back pug who is not all that into her. With the aid of toys and treats, their passion grows to off-the-leash proportions.

Fifteen Shades of Fur

Buster is a simple fellow. He spends his days chasing his kinky tale, and falls into his bed exhausted each night to lick himself to sleep. He has no idea that his wealthy neighbor next door has been watching him frolic on the porch, getting to KNOW his fluffy squirrel and skunk toys in the biblical way. Or that she has been practicing how to squeak in ecstasy.

FiFi has her sights set on Buster. Afraid she isn't his type, she spares no expense to doll herself up in a coat of just two colors. With her rabies-tag bling and Canine Anus #5 perfume, she escapes through her doggy door for a night on the yard. Buster's yard.

Will FiFi teach Buster how to bury the bone? (127 words)

Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Scooby Doo…Ruh roh! Ris risn't a rery rood rook!” 

Marmaduke…I have a HUGE dislike for this work! It needs to be shredded like Phil's couch!” 

Lassie…”Timmy! Grab a hardhat! I'm about to throw this fake book down the well!” 

Clifford…”I am red with embarrassment after peeking into this fake book.” 


Rin Tin Tin…”I am exerting heroic effort to dissuade people from fake-buying this fake book.”
Queen Elizabeth II's Corgis…”We are royally pissed that such an artificial tome ever saw the light of day!” 

That Chihuahua from Paris Hilton's Purse…”This is a romance book, right? Doggy style?” 

Buck Bundy…”This fake author makes Kelly look like Einstein."

Shadow from Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)…”This is pure pornography! I would run away from home and never come back if I was that Thevictorian woman!”

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Puppy Days of Summer Are Upon Us

Whew! It's hotter'n a habanero in Sriracha on an egg fried on a Death Valley sidewalk!

The heat doesn't matter that much to me at the moment, because, well, I'm in the air conditioned homestead, specifically below ground in my dark basement lair, where there's a chill that urges me to use my below-desk heater. Which I resist. Mostly.

Our animals are becoming acclimatized, what with the heat having crept in earlier in the summer, before reaching this crescendo. We've had temps in the mid-90s for at least two weeks now. My sweet, sweet Juno and Puppy Jack accompany Hick on his Gator rides, with a favorite destination being Hick's cabin down by the creek. That's where Puppy Jack first learned about water not in bowl form, I suppose.

Then we had the incident where Hick let Puppy Jack follow him and Juno up to the other property, where he was almost swept away in creek water too deep for his short legs! Ever since that evening when I was greeted by a soaking wet Puppy Jack when I went out to feed him, Jack has been showing up for supper soaking.

Hick claims ignorance (heh, heh, FINALLY) on the subject of where Jack is swimming. He's the one who created this monster, giving my pup his first taste of aquatics. I am fearful that Jack may jump into Poolio and not be able to get out. To his credit, Hick is mean to Jack and shouts at him every time he's in Poolio and Jack climbs the steps to the deck. Still, Jack shows up for supper soaking. It has been a mystery until this week.

Hick first suggested that Puppy Jack was utilizing the moat around his freight cars that would be a garage. "I've seen him get in there before. I bet he goes for a swim while I'm out feeding the chickens."

I disagreed, because Jack is not muddy every time I see him. Still. Jack came to supper soaking. Then Hick reported that he had seen Jack in the chickens' watering pan. Laying there. He was kind of indignant. Hick. Not Jack. "That dog of yours! I went over to feed the chickens the other evening, and there he was, laying in the chickens' water!" Like there was some sign that Jack could read to tell him there was no lifeguard on duty, or that it was had a Chickens Only policy. !!UPDATE!! And just tonight, The Pony and Hick caught Jacky Jack frolicking in the goat's water tub! You can tell it's in the goat's pen, because everything has been eaten except the dirt.

Hick was further flustered to walk around the kitchen nook of the porch one day and surprise Jack indulging in his not-at-all-guilty pleasure. "He was curled up in the water bowl! His own drinking water! He got out when I hollered at him. And about half the water went with him." Huh. I wondered why on some days, it seemed like Juno and Jack must have been really, really thirsty.

On Sunday, Hick decided to grill some bratwursts. He grabbed a bottle of Michelob Dry and a bowl of BBQ sauce, and headed around to the side porch to slap his sausage on Gassy-G, the auction grill. That didn't last long. Back he came, and flung open the kitchen door. "Your dog is swimming in the goldfish pond!" I told him to get a picture, but by the time we got back outside, Jack had wised up and evacuated his own private swimming pool. "I wondered why that stump looked like it had been moved. That's his ladder!"

Let the record show that those particles are clumps of fish pellet food that Hick tosses in every evening for his bigger-than-your-hand goldfish that he's grown from Walmart goldfish size, back when Walmart used to sell goldfish. It wouldn't surprise me if Jack was jumping in there to eat the food.'s Jack with The Pony when he took the water dish picture. Looks like our Jacky is contemplating a swim. Good thing his lifeguard, Juno, is there to supervise. I don't mind Jack taking the plunge every now and then, as long as it's not in Poolio.

Hick has promised to make Jack his very own puppy pool by cutting the end off a blue plastic barrel. A kiddie pool would be too awkward. I want to fill it each morning, and dump it each evening. Jack's a little doggie. He only needs a little pool.

Really. Who could begrudge a little fella like this his nightly dip?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Nothing Is Ever Easy for Technology-Challenged Val

Perhaps you remember last week, when Val sent her phone on a toilet cruise.

Phony is working just fine. After all the drama, trying everything except sitting on Phony's midsection, pumping his chest, chanting, "Out with the bad air, in with the good!" Yes, Phony is resting comfortably at my left elbow, on the counter of my dark basement lair. He had a short convalescence in a fluffy bed of brown rice for 36 hours. Now the patient is as good as new. Or at least as good as he was the day before his cruise, six years out from being new.

Here he was drying out before he retired to his rice bed to sleep the sleep of Rip Van Winkle.

When I wasn't sure if the patient was going to survive, I broke the news to Genius, Phony's former caretaker. We decided that it was about time this ol' Val got herself a new phone. Just because Phony was growing cantankerous anyway, after being handed down from Genius a couple years ago. His back was cracked. He had to have a batteryectomy last summer, due to swelling and bloat and an imminent explosion, according to Dr. Genius.

Genius hooked me up with a Nexus 5X Quartz. It arrived within two days, and its accessories within one. Since Genius was coming home last Thursday to get his tent and sleeping bag for the big solar car race (upon which he embarked today), I figured he could get Phony II all set up. I left my Nexus 5X in its box. You know how much Genius loves his electronics! Anybody's electronics! It's like Christmas to him, to get to open up a brand new electronic gadget. He's been like that since he was five years old. Genius said he could spare 10 minutes to set up my new phone. As a reminder, I sent him a text about an hour before he left college town to head home.

"I have my new phone, a case, a screen protector, and the sim card. They are just lolling around on the kitchen counter, awaiting your tender touch. Uh. Kind of sounds like an intro to tech pr0n."

"Gross. I will be home tonight."

"Okay. The eager Nexus awaits. I hear it's XXXXX..."


"Loosen up, Buttercup! I will stop when I'm done shenanning. Which is now. I should be writing a pitch for my unfinished book."

So...Genius got here and rushed right to the kitchen counter. Except we had moved Phony II into the living room, and set him up with his accessories (all still packaged!) on the coffee table. We redirected eager Genius. He grabbed Phony II's box and gently lifted the lid.

"Huh. You have a European wall charger."

"Is that a problem?"

"No. I don't know why they gave you that."

"Can it use another charger?"

"Yeah. Not one you have in here. But I have enough cables in the car that I can find one that works." Genius held up the white-backed Nexus 5X Quartz for me to admire. "Isn't it beautiful? Look. It's the same as mine, except I have Ice Blue."

"I can't believe you didn't want to get the new phone and give me yours."

"I don't really need a new phone right now." He set to getting my Phony II all set up. Used my laptop for some secret phone-setting-up ritual. "Huh. They sent you the European version. Not the U.S. version."

"So I can't use it?"


"It will have to go back?"


"Great! Everything happens to me! At least Phony is working again. What do I have to do to send this back?"

"I'll print you a return ticket. Just pack the phone, but the label on the box, and give it to UPS." He went to the Amazon page where he ordered the Nexus. "See? It even says it's the U.S. version. I wonder if they're shipping those to everybody." He typed in the reason for return. "Received European version."

So much for my new phone. I decided that I did not really like the Quartz version anyway. But the Ice Blue is sold out on the Google site. I might go with black, or I might wait and see, or I might get it somewhere else. I figure as long as I have it by the time Genius passes through on his solar car trek August 1st, it's all good.

As long as Phony doesn't take another toilet dive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ready...Sit...Pitch! Part 3 The Final Chaper


And now, my blogfriends, we come to the climax of the All Write Now 2016 Writer's Conference. The part where Val Thevictorian makes a buffoon of herself.

The lunch session ran a little long, so rather than find a quiet nook (or perhaps a toilet seat) where I could quickly edit my pitch to morning keynote standards...I stayed in the ballroom to await my fate. I had my trusty little notebook to jot key points. Just a bit of re-vamping from the 2-minute-and-15-second pitch I had planned for that 5-minute pitch session. (FORESHADOWING, people, FORESHADOWING.) I wasn't worried about memorizing, because that doesn't work for me. I'm an impromptu pitcher. I have the bullet points in my head, and freestyle from there.

Everybody pitching herded themselves to the end of the ballroom next to the glass-windowed (glass makes the BEST kind of window, imho) area where the agents sat at long tables. I glanced left, and saw Madam Sioux standing at my shoulder in solidarity.

"I am WRITING MY PITCH, Madam!" I didn't want to be rude. But apparently my not-nervous nerves got the best of me. I don't think Sioux took it the wrong way, because she stayed right there. One of the conference organizers read off names, and told those 6 people to sit in the chairs lined up against the window. We listened about like kindergarteners on the first day of school lining up for afternoon bus routes. The others, of course! Val did exactly what she was supposed to do, which was stay out of those chairs, because she was not in the first group of pitchers.

In my little notebook, I sketchily trimmed the fat from my longer pitch. I had a greeting updated to reflect what had gone on in Jill Marr's morning keynote address. A statement of why I had chosen to pitch to her. Then my name and my work and what it entailed. You see, from vast internet research, I learned that agents do not appreciate being verbally assaulted with canned pitches the minute the prospective author steps up to meet them. A brief greeting makes them feel more human.

After one more set of pitchers took (or didn't) the chairs, it was my turn. Yes. Val moved to those chairs and had a seat. It was expected of her, after all, even though the other five milled around near the door to the agent sanctuary. Finally, it was time! Time to enter and stand at the end of my agent's table. That was the standard procedure.

I stood dutifully. I was the best stander to ever stand! Val is, after all, a compliant creature with a permanent record clear of blemishes. Jill Marr motioned to me before the conference runner said we could sit down. So I went on over. I wanted to extend my hand and offer a greeting, a humorous comment relating to the morning's activities. Say my name--

But Jill Marr was looking down at her list! The minute I walked over! Because, you know, we were running late, and times were off. She looked befuddled.

"What is your name?"

OH DEAR! It was like I didn't know what I was doing! Should I have said my name as I walked over? Leaned over and pointed to my name on the list? Said it while her head was down? OH DEAR! I was the biggest rube who ever rubed! What was I thinking, signing up to pitch to a big-name agent with a big-name literary agency?

"I'm Kathryn Cureton--" I made my greeting. Which went over like a lead balloon. Fell flatter than a pancake (with no baking powder) in Kansas.

"What's that?"

OH DEAR! I had to repeat that little greeting. Not so humorous the second time around. OH DEAR! Why was I so stupid? Jill Marr smiled politely. The big ol' bird on my head was starting to crow and crap.

I mentioned that I chose to pitch to her because she represents humor books like "Don't Lick the Minivan." Because that's the type of stuff I write. Jill Marr mentioned how she signed that author at a conference like this in Canada.

I told her the name of my book is "One Great Big Not-Listening Party," and that it is not finished yet. [Yes, I know that's a cardinal sin of pitching, but not necessarily so with a nonfiction book, and besides, when was I ever going to have an opportunity like this again?] I explained that it was in the style of a Jen Lancaster or Celia Rivenbark or Jenny Lawson book. At no point did I say that I was the next one of them. Just something to compare to. And Ms. Jill Marr said,

"Not being finished is not a problem for nonfiction. I am not familiar with those authors."

Good thing I was not wearing a skirt, because at this point I would have wondered if my buddy Sioux had neglected to tell me that my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose. I understand that humor is not the main thing Jill Marr represents. She just has a couple of books out in humor. But it's not like Jenny Bent was at the conference. I picked the best choice from what was available, and Ms. Jill Marr was quite congenial and accommodating.

"They were bloggers and turned their stories into humor books. I have been published in five anthologies--"

"That's a good sign."

"I won a couple of contests, including the nonfiction category of this one last year."

"Oh, that's something to put on your query. Are you on social media?"

"I have two blogs that I've been posting to daily, one since 2005, and one since 2011. I don't have a lot of followers. And they're not in my own name--"

"Why aren't they in your name?"

"I was a teacher for 28 years. My employer didn't want us on social media. I just retired in May--"

"So have you come out? Ha, ha! Are you writing under you own name now?"

"As a matter of fact, just last week, I did a whole blog post on coming out! Put in my real name."

"You'll need to get your blog under your own name now. Congratulations on your retirement!"

I brought the conversation back to how I enjoyed "Don't Lick the Minivan."

"Did you know that the original title was going to be, "Get That Train Off Your Penis!"

"Yes, I did! I read it at the beginning! I've never had to say that to my kids, but I DID find myself yelling, 'Stop plugging your brother's fart hole!'"

"Oh, is your book about parenting, like Leanne's?" [Leanne Shirtliffe, author of "Don't Lick the Minivan]

"That. And WIFING! My husband does things like give me a crutch to hold open the hatch of my SUV, rather than getting it fixed. And a pair of pliers to turn on my lamp instead of getting a new one. And tried to make sausage out of our neighbors' pot-bellied pigs until I made him let them loose!"

Jill Marr laughed politely. "Oh, he sounds like my ex-husband! Not able to fix anything!"

"In this case, he's not so much unABLE as unWILLING!"

"When I met Leanne, her twins were the exact same age as my son. Do you have a proposal?"

"Not ready to hand out to people at this moment."

"Do you know what a proposal is?"


"Well, you're ahead of about half the people at this conference. When it's ready, send me the proposal." She gave me her business card.

"Thank you. I will." And with that, my time was up.

I'm pretty sure she gave me her business card just because. Just because I had the nerve to actually try to pitch to her. Don't cost nothin', other than printing costs for the business card, which I'm pretty sure are provided by her employer, or are at least tax-deductible. So...I will send a proposal when I get it polished.

At the final session, prizes were awarded for the writing contest. I received Honorable Mention for my essay "Baby Boomers Survive," and 3rd Place for my essay, "A Hot Date in the Next Town Tonight."

Yes, I AM proud of myself for going through with the pitch, because it HAD entered my mind to cancel it when we arrived that morning. And I AM proud of my contest placings, even though The Pony said the talk at my table when I went up to grab my Honorable Mention was that there were about 372 honorable mentions in that category.

Surely he exaggerated.