Friday, March 31, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #54 "Philatel Attraction"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. Are you a collector at heart? Do you scoff at hoarders, yet have a need to possess every single fake book Val Thevictorian has fake-published? If so, then this week's fake book is a must-have. is EACH ONE of them for you...but anyway...It's the story of a man who carries his love for the Statue of Liberty a little too far. He's a passionate type who can't let go. Mesmerized by her beauty, he creates more versions of the Statue of Liberty than Bubba Gump has shrimp. Fake-order your fake copy of this epic today. You don't want to appear unpatriotic, do you?

Philatel Attraction

Alex Woods really, REALLY loves the Statue of Liberty. A brief visit as a tourist has led to a more serious entanglement for Alex. He has trouble letting go. Becomes obsessed, actually.

The good news is that Alex turns his love for Lady Liberty into a healthy hobby, creating artist's renderings in many different media. One painting is chosen as a new stamp design. A problem arises when Alex refuses to let any of the stamps be sold. If he can't have them, NO ONE can!

Will Alex turn to crime to buy up all books and sheets and rolls of Liberty stamps that he can find? Or will he steal them and plunge every last one into a pot of boiling water? To find out, read Philatel Attraction. On the other side of preliminary designs, submission, and printing by an outside contractor, lies a terrifying stamp-collecting story. (148 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

American Philatelic Society..."This fake book is the bane of our existence! The author portrays stamp collectors as mentally unbalanced! Besides that, it is horribly fake-written. Even the numismatists won't throw a coin Thevictorian's way. It's a tome only the bibliophiles could love."

Mendenhall Glacier…"This fake book should really be called, ‘Thevictorian’s Folly.’ It’s not worth $7.20 on the clearance table. This story left me cold. In fact, it upset me so much that I felt like calving. Don't drop a chunk of your change on this worthless fake book."

Seattle Space Needle..."It doesn't take a 360-degree panoramic view to see that this author is not going to succeed. She has her head in the clouds, when pointedly she is the salt of the earth. And like salt to people of a certain age, she’s giving everybody hypertension. Avoid this fake book if you value your health!"

Sutters Mill…"Allow me to share this little nugget of truth with you: Nobody finds treasure in Thevictorians fake writing. You’re fools for trying."

New Jersey chemical factories..."Thevictorian’s fake writing stinks more than us! The citizens of our fine state would rather make a trip to the DMV without benefit of a nice dirty water cocktail buzz than fake-read this fake book."

Multnomah Falls…”This fake author must have been high when she fake-wrote this fake book. It absolutely made my gorge rise. Thevictorian needs to take a hike."

Crater Lake…"This fake book makes me blue. I may be a little rough around the edges, but I know bad fake writing when I fake-read it. I blew my top before I was out of the first chapter. We could go round and round on this topic, but Thevictorian should be in deep trouble for leading people to believe she’s a fake author."

Arizona’s Painted Desert..."Color us surprised that Thevictorian got this fake book fake-published. She should be red-faced with shame at this fake effort. Sorry for my original reaction. My language was more colorful than a Peter Max painting. This fake book is a barren landscape where a plot can find no purchase."

U.S.S. Missouri…"I am ashamed to say that this fake author hails from my homeland namesake. Look at the lengths I have gone to in order to dissociate myself from her roots. I am willing to wage war on any future publishing ventures of Val Thevictorian. She should surrender all hope of making it in the literary world. She has bombed with this attempt."

England…"I have never been so happy to be an island! Good luck on finding me, Thevictorian, on your fake book tour. Keep those fake books in the boot of your auto. There’s not enough petrol in the world for you to drive yourself on the wrong side of the ocean to get here! While you have made your fellow citizens PISSED with your fake writing, you have made me WISH I was pissed!"

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Follow-Ups For Freakish Happenings

Here are a couple of updates on this week's insanity. Perhaps you remember the perfect timing once again of the song that always has a Mom connection for The Pony and me. And the ladybug sendoff for Hick's departure for Sweden.

Perhaps you noticed that Val was trying to keep her nose in joint, what with her not seeing any ladybugs for herself lately. You can't force it, you know. I only ASKED for a ladybug sign ONE TIME. And I got it. So I'm not going to be greedy like that. I won't ask again.

Anyhoo...I've been feeding Billy the goat and Barry the mini pony and the guineas and chickens and turkey while Hick is away, plus carrying a five-gallon bucket of water. Maybe it's not five. But it's a metal bucket that gets pretty heavy when full of water.

I have a routine. I prepare the evening snack for the dogs before I go out to walk. When I'm done, I go through the house to pick up their snacks and put on my animal shoes. It's pretty muddy over there in Livestockland. I sit on the front porch to separate Puppy Jack and Sweet, Sweet Juno while they snack. Then I put the plates inside to keep Jack out of mischief, and go over to the Greater Shackytown Area to feed.

It's been pretty humid lately. Temps in the upper 60s and low 70s. I'm all sweaty a-glow after that exertion. I need to cool down. So some nights I sit on the porch again. But Tuesday night I went back in the house and kicked off those muddy shoes and cranked back in the La-Z-Boy. It was after 6:00. I tried to find Seinfeld reruns, but I guess TBS took them off at that time. I settled for Chopped, but it was from 2015, with celebrity chef contestants, and the only one I liked was Jet Tila. So I decided to check on the news. It was around 6:20 by now. Maybe I could see some weather.

Let the record show that I haven't watched Channel 2 News in at least two months. Probably more. It's the one we used to rely on for our school closing info. Not much chance of that this winter. I was robbed! Just because I'm retired doesn't mean I don't like to see a snow day.

Anyhoo, I pushed the remote for Channel 2 News, and wouldn't you know it, there was a commercial on. Every time I switch channels, I get a commercial. Wait a minute! What was that? Oh. A commercial for the Illinois lottery. I swear, right at the end, it showed a ladybug (animated) crawling up a person's arm! I'll take what I can get.


Don't turn up your nose at this addendum! You know you don't want to wait two days (after Book Blurb Friday) to get more of the story!

I wrote this late last night (Wednesday night) to have it mostly ready for today. There was actually another part, somewhat related, but I cut it out to make a new post later. I was running through this in my head on the way to town. At my first convenience store stop, to pick up some lottery tickets before heading to the Bill-Paying Town Walmart to browse around...I found a penny when I stepped out of T-Hoe. Right there by my toe. In the unmarked space where I always park, at the Casey's next to Hick's pharmacy, where I dropped off his prescriptions for filling.

On the way home, my last leg, cruising past the prison, I was fiddling with radio stations and hit "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye," by Patty Loveless. Another song that has Mom associations.

After walking this evening, and snacking the dogs, I saw HOS pull into the BARn field, so I talked to him and his wife and her cousin (they were here to hunt for mushrooms) while feeding the animals. Anyhoo...when I came back in the house, I made a pit stop in the master bathroom, where I have a stack of Entertainment Weekly magazines (don't judge me!).

I picked up the March 31 issue, which I'd lightly perused a couple days ago. I always start reading at the back, and then work my way forward. In the Books section, my eye was drawn to a thumbnail picture for a new book.

It's called THE LADYBUG.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

If Only Hick Loved Me as Much as Puppy Jack

More on the texting front from Overseas Hick.

My phone is trying to screen his calls, I guess. This afternoon, it put itself in airplane mode. When I discovered that glitch and took 10 minutes to figure out how to put it back to normal, I found this:

I'm home I miss you

Are you there I'm going to go to bed soon

I hope you're alright you can text but I'm going to lay down I love you

Oh, on the surface, it looks like a loving husband, lonely and missing his soulmate, concerned about her well-being. Look a little deeper, and you're realize that Hick WENT TO SLEEP right after that. Sure. Cut him some slack. He's on the job. The time is different over in Sweden. But what you don't know is what happened yesterday.

"I'm back was great time"

"That's good."

"How was your day"

"OK. Eating chicken. Won 70 on lottery."

"OK going to bed will talk in morning love you"

"OK. Love you. Jack has been missing all day."

"Probably at HOS's"

"Copper the neighbor dog is not around either. Just Juno."

"That dog goes to HOS's also"


"HOS is going to look for him"

Did you catch that? HICK took time to text HOS and tell him to look for Jack! Yet when he couldn't reach ME, he just went to his shower-bed! Let the record show that no search party showed up to pound on my door to see if I was all right! And I didn't hear anybody yelling, "VAL...VAAA-AAL...come and get your snack, Val! AND I'm pretty sure nobody was poking under the Little Barbershop of Horrors with a stick, just in case I was under there foaming at the mouth and shaking.

I'm not sure what time the text originally came in. When I got back from town around 11:45, it DID look like somebody had driven through the grass beside the driveway. Either some robbers stopped by who drive recklessly...or HOS came down on the 4-wheeler looking for me while I was gone.

Maybe Hick really DOES love me as much as he loves Puppy Jack...

Jack turned up back home in time for his evening snack. I assume that's all most of you care about, you know. Not whether I have enough gas station chicken on hand to tide me over until tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

This Post Should Self-Destruct in 60 Seconds

Hick has been texting me cryptic spy messages from Sweden.

On second thought...Hick has been communicating in his regular manner. Punctuation is not his friend. It's like my old nemesis, technology. And geography.

Sunday, on the way home from the casino with Genius and his Friend, I got a message responding to my report on Hick's query about our win/loss totals.

"Doing any better still train riding another hour"

I relayed that Genius was down, I was down $40 more than Genius, and Friend was up $40 for the day.

"O well almost to the hotel be careful Love you both"

"Sorry, Friend. Genius's dad says that he loves us both. I guess he likes you well enough...but he didn't mention it."

"Huh. Maybe he meant that he loves me and Genius, and left YOU out!"

"That's a possibility. You never know, the way he texts."

Later Sunday evening, Hick sent more code.

"I'm at the Hotel in my room shower and bed"

"Is it all one piece?" [asked Val, remembering the last time Hick sent a picture on one of his international espionage spy missions business trips to France, which showed a sink, toilet, shower combo that impressed him because it was 'molded all in one piece, like an airplane toilet!']

"No I'll take a picture love you"

And the next morning, which was the shank of my evening, at 1:31 a.m., Hick got right back to keeping me apprised of his situation.

"Good morning having breakfast"

"What do they give you, Swedish fish?" [said the non-world-traveler Val, who had a JV football coach for her History and Geography teacher, yet made VALEDICTORIAN in spite of it]

"Scrambled eggs and bacon and grapes"

"Good enough."

"They have boiled eggs and cold meats and fruit salads and cereals too"

"I'm shocked you're not having a pile of cold meats."

"No no cold meat" [said the Carnivore Laureate of Backroads, renowned for fitting (and eating) an entire rump roast in his towering bowl of Vegetable Beef Soup, carefully leaving out the 'juice']

"What are you now, a gourmet?"

"No no gourmet just telling you what they have in room now getting ready to go he will pick us up at 830"

Later in his day, and earlier in my next one...Hick reported that he was back from the hockey game he was taken to for his entertainment [who knew the Swedishans were so into hockey? Not this ol' Val] and that he'd had a great time.

"I'm watching a little TV then shower and bed"

No. I didn't ask him if the shower and bed was all one piece. Or why he was watching them.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Thevictorian's Fifth

Bear with me. There IS a message here.

Last night I was all jumpy due to noises above my head. With Hick gone to Sweden, I KNOW there is nobody up there walking around. I was minding my own business in my dark basement lair when I started hearing thumps at the front door. I turned down my underdesk heater to make sure no one was knocking at 11:00 p.m. They weren't. It could have been the dogs sprawling up against it, I guess, even though I heard them barking over by the goat pen.

I hollered, "What are you doing?" Twice. You know. Because that would signal burglars that an angry wife was ready to kick some butt over their shenanigans somebody was downstairs. And they could leave. And we could pretend this never happened.

Later, around 1:30 a.m., in my OPC (Old People Chair), blissfully heated and vibrated, I heard noises by the kitchen door. Walking. So I hollered again. "Hey! What's going on? I though you went to bed!" To allow the next set of burglars to leave, you know. Because obviously the man of the house was sleeping with a shotgun under the bed, just waiting for punks like them to break in. Apparently, even punk burglars need to use the facilities, because I heard walking in the boys' bathroom directly overhead. I won't lie. Usually this stuff doesn't faze me. But I was shakin' a little in my Crocs.

I went to bed around 3:30. Didn't notice anything unusual upstairs. I slept a little later than I'd planned this morning. I'd wanted to leave home by 9:30 to do the Walmart shopping. I didn't get away until almost 10:30. Hick had sent me a text. I had to check my internet usage, which can only be done on Shiba, my laptop. While I was logged on, I noticed that Bing had a picture The Pony would appreciate. He writes science fiction, you know. And I often tip him off to an inspirational photo. I won't put the picture here, because I am generally not a copyright infringer, but the link is here. It's the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, South Korea. Very futuristic. I didn't have time to send it to The Pony, since I was trying to get out of the house and get to Walmart without more delays.

When I got down to the county road by EmBee, I saw that the creek was way up, so I turned left instead of right, to take a little detour of a couple miles by the auto body guy, and miss the low water bridge that always overflows.

Since it was my Walmart day, I stopped by the cemetery for my weekly talk with Mom. I put the radio on Sirius XM Prime Country for her. George Strait was singing a song I didn't know. I told Mom about Sunday's trip to the casino with Genius. And how Hick had seen the ladybugs in the BARn, and The Pony had seen a ladybug in the Student Union. That reminded me about the Bing picture. So I picked up my phone to text him. As I swiped the screen to get into the texting thingie, I heard a familiar intro on the radio.

Holes in the Floor of Heaven. By Steve Wariner.

This is the FIFTH TIME I have had this song start playing in some association with my mom and The Pony. It shook me up. I used to think I was just stringing together these associations, making connections that weren't really related, because I have a hard time letting go of Mom. Like when people look at shadows or a pattern in wood grain, and see a face. Human brains are wired to make sense of stuff like that. But this is one too many coincidences for me!

I know that Mom does not control the playlist for Prime Country. That it's probably planned out months in advance. But like the flap of a butterfly's wings in New Mexico might lead to conditions that cause a hurricane in China (if you believe in the Chaos Theory)...something put me in the cemetery at that time, with the radio playing on that station, starting a text to The Pony, at the moment that song started to play. I had frittered away my time with conscious and unconscious decisions that put me in that moment. Sheryl Crow might as well have hopped into T-Hoe's back seat, trying to out-sing Steve Wariner's "...watchin' over you and me" with "...every road has led us here today" from Diamond Road.

Just as I was getting ready to groove with Mr. Wariner, those two men who have interrupted my graveside chat on three out of my last four attempts came chugging up from a side road on a 4-wheeler pulling a cart. All I had managed of The Pony's text was: "Bing is futuristic today!" I left then. My Mom conversations are not a spectator event. I drove the mile to Walmart. Parked. Finished my text to The Pony.

"Stopped by the cemetery to talk to Grandma. Those darn men interrupted me again. As I scrolled my phone to text you, you know what song came on, right?"

"Holes in the floor of heaven?"

Yeah. I think The Pony and I both get the message.

I'd apologize for making you all amble down this rabbit trail with me today. But let's face it. You were probably meant to. And you most likely needed this exercise. Not in the physical sense.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

We're Not in Capistrano Any More, and Those Aren't Swallows

Last week, I mentioned how I was concerned about not seeing any ladybugs, fake or real, in person or on TV or a billboard, on our recent trip to Oklahoma to visit The Pony. To us, ladybugs remind us of my mom, since she had a drop-ceiling full of them in her family room, and we teased her about refusing to exterminate them, choosing instead to vacuum them and turn them loose outside. Shortly after Mom died two years ago, at the beginning of February, we had a string of coincidences with ladybugs in our house and car.

I ALWAYS see a ladybug, or multiple ladybugs, when we go visit The Pony. But not this time. I got to hear my Mom-song on the radio, though, right after I dialed The Pony, and was waiting for him to pick up. That was the next best thing. I still haven't seen any ladybugs. I guess I'm not the one who needs them.

On Tuesday, The Pony saw a ladybug in a study lounge at the Student Union. "I didn't notice it. Another kid pointed it out to me. It was on the back of a couch. He told me to look, because he was afraid of it. I told him they're nothing to be afraid of. We were going to catch it and let it go outside, but before we could, the ladybug flew over to the wall, and crawled under it."

I guess Mom is moving in at the OU Student Union, to keep her eye on The Pony as the semester winds down. Actually, she must be pretty busy, trying to be in multiple places this week.

Hick went to the BARn Friday to put away some Goodwill items he bought. He was headed up to the loft area, where he has his Coca Cola collection, and his bar full of memoraBEERia, when he saw THIS on the landing, where the steps turn back on themselves. It's a little gathering of ladybugs. Perhaps (for security purposes) I have not advertised the fact that Hick was leaving Saturday on a spy mission work trip to Sweden.

Looks like Mom was telling Hick "Bon voyage!" Or wishing him a safe return.

Or maybe...she was drinking a toast to Hick's trip, saying, "Good riddance!"

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Follow-Up Report on Hick's Wrong-Again-ness

I do believe this VALidates Val's concerns over A-Cad's tire pressure. It's our monthly OnStar report that popped up in my inbox on Saturday, March 18th. I was too busy with Casinopalooza to let you in on this development back then. Looks like OnStar never heard of tires heating up to the proper pressure, but rather expects them to be inflated to the proper pressure, and then heat up to whatever tires heat up to.


Val high-fives herself in vindication.

Notice that OnStar makes no mention of the ambient temperature. Let the record show that temps were in the 50s/60s/70s when Hick's argument was in effect. And that we do not routinely get these OnStar tire warnings every month for December/January/February/March, when temperatures sometimes drop into the teens at night, and tires suck in their breath.

Maintenance Due

Remaining Oil Life: 17%
Mileage: 11,095
Based on oil life and mileage readings, next required maintenance will be due soon.

Please see dealer section below to schedule a service visit soon.

  View maintenance summary

Odometer-Based Maintenance Items

Based on your current mileage, no items on the additional maintenance list are due at this time.
Tire Pressure: Low (Add Air)
One or more tires are low and need air. Inflate them to the recommended tire pressure listed below as soon as possible.
Properly inflated tires can improve your fuel economy, vehicle performance, and tire life.
Recommended tire pressure - Front: 35 psi,
Rear: 35 psi
Left Front:
Low, 29 psi
Left Rear:
Low, 30 psi
Right Front:
Low, 29 psi
Right Rear:
Low, 27 psi

Friday, March 24, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #53 " 'Ho-Girl's Vegas Vacation"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. This week, I bring you the tale of a country bumpkin who hits the road to Vegas to seek her fortune. Will she fry her liver with free drinks, bet the farm she doesn't own, become the headliner of a musical revue, or turn into a do-gooder who sews blouses for those poor girls who've lost their shirts? I wager you'll want to try your odds on this week's fake book. Can't read if you don't pay! Fake-order your fake copy today.

'Ho-Girl's Vegas Vacation

Nevada Georgia Virginia Idaho is ready to make a new start. She leaves Beaver Toe, Arkansas, to the taunts of her former high school classmates, sprawled across the park bench in front of Woolworth's Five and Dime. "I da HO! I da HO! Make sure you tell them high rollers your name when you get there, gal!"

Nevada thumbs several rides without difficulty. A Kenworth pullin' logs, a cab-over Pete with a reefer on, a Jimmy haulin' hogs, and 11 long-haired Friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus. She's as happy as a pig in crap when she sees that the town of Las Vegas has erected (hee hee, that makes her giggle) a special sign to welcome her.

Will Nevada realize her dream of becoming a showgirl like she saw in Showgirls? Or will she become an actress to rival the talents of Elizabeth Berkley? (146 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Cher..."This fake book gave me a headache! I need a bottle of Dr. Good. I know gypsies, tramps, and thieves, Thevictorian. And let me tell you, none of 'em are gonna lay their money down for THIS fake book!" 

Tom Jones..."She's got no style, she's got no grace, she's no lady! Talkin' about Thevictorian. And Thevictorian is no author! Whoa whoa whoa, she's no author!"

Phyllis Diller..."I love this fake book. I keep it on my nightstand. Just the other night, I used it to knock Fang unconscious."

Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford..."Thevictorian, you big dummy! You ain't no writer! This fake book is a real piece of junk. Yet surprisingly, it's worth NOTHING! You hear that, Elizabeth? This ain't the big one, honey!"

Totie Fields..."I've been fake-reading this fake book for two hours, and all I've gained is the knowledge that I lost two hours. Thevictorian, as a fake author, doesn't have a fake leg to stand on."

Milton Berle..."Thevictorian will never be as big as me. She just can't measure up. I'm known as HUGE in the business, and she's not even known. I'm pretty sure it's going to stay that way."

Charo..."Cuchi, cuchi!"

David Copperfield..."Making the Statue of Liberty disappear was a snap compared to trying to make Thevictorian's fake book sell. The only way she's going to see any dividends is if we cut her in half with a laser."

Penn and Teller..."A review of Val Thevictorian's fake book? I'll let Teller speak for us on this one. Teller?"


Phil Hellmuth..."If this book was a poker hand, I would fold! No bluffing about it! I don't think Thevictorian is playing with a full deck."

Liberace..."Trying to read this fake book was like trying to play a piano with 87 keys. It can be done, but the result is less than satisfying. Thevictorian is a Plain Jane in the fake-writing world. She seems to be a bit unsophisticated, like her main character. I'm as sure about that as I am about the fact that I'm a confirmed bachelor."

The Rat Pack..."You're tellin' US! She thought WE were something for a lab critter to carry its college books in! We won't say she's unsophisticated, but this girl thinks a turn-down service is an agency that politely declines dates for her. Okay. We WILL say she's unsophisticated. And a terrible fake author."

Milton Berle..."Me again. Talk about embarrassing! Thevictorian asked ME if I was just glad to see her, or if I had a roll of quarters in my pocket. QUARTERS! Can you believe that? It's silver dollars, baby! More than you'll ever get peddling your fake book. And there's nothing fake about of silver dollars!" 

Siegfried and Roy..."We don't mean to rip on Thevictorian, but we ain't a-lion when we say this book tore us apart. She hasn't got a tiger by the tail, that's plain to see, nor one in her fake-writing tank. We are shocked that this fake author hasn't been mauled by the other reviewers. Oh, wait..."

Kenny Rogers..."You never read your fake book when it's written by Thevictorian! That gal really needs to learn when to fold 'em. As in, the pages she has written, and then stuff them in the paper shredder. This fake author is a loser, or my face isn't Kenny Rogers!"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Perhaps I Am Really Val Thief-ictorian

We had a good time at the escape room in Norman. It’s called Cracked. They have a website. There are four different rooms. The Pony picked the one called Heist. I had thought of the one (can’t remember its name) about students trying to escape from detention. Anyhoo…this one was like an art museum, and you had to get codes off the backs of the paintings before your hour ran out. Well, we got royally cheated! Not just because we’re stupid. We know we’re stupid.

The first painting had a description on the wall next to it that it was an interactive painting, but people over the years had take parts off of it. Let the record show that when we went into the room, and the guy was giving us instructions about not destroying anything, or putting holes in the wall…I noticed a black duffel bag under a row of three chairs against the wall. I was pretty sure it was something to do with the challenge, but I didn’t mention it. The guy left, and we had 60 minutes to find the codes and put them into a tablet or notebook or some electronic happy sunshine garget (exact wording advertising a cell phone that Genius wanted me to buy him off the internet from China when he was in 6th grade) mounted on the wall. That right there would have been enough to keep me in the room for eternity. But The Pony knew how to work that newfangled contraption.

The first painting had two wooden knobs on it as the centers of flowers. They were the same shape as the plastic knobs Hick put two of on our microwave to replace the handle that broke off. Knobs. You know what to do with knobs. You pull on them. That’s what I did, but The Pony and Hick said not to break the painting. We’d been warned about that. So I tried to twist them. They didn’t. I saw that the painting was screwed into the frame, but the top right screw was missing. So I tried to pull that corner to see if the whole thing would pop out. “Don’t! You’ll break it!” Again, my minimum-wage-worker-fearing companions cautioned me not to pull on that painting. We tried all combinations of the petal numbers and flower numbers and how many colors and the date of the painting. Nothing. We did the one clue they gave us on the garget. It said everything we needed was in the room. Duh.

After a while, Hick said, “This is bull. I’m asking for another clue.” The guy had said we could, just open the door. He said everything we needed was in that black dufflel bag. So we got that out and there was a black box (locked) that said something about safety. Well! I pointed out that there was one of 20 small pictures on shelves on the wall that was titled Safety whatever-it-was, and Hick put in the date on that picture as the combination for the black box, and it worked! Inside were knobs for the other six flower centers. The Pony put them on. They were magnets. He could move them and hear something behind the painting. I thought maybe you could use those magnets to drag the code or something across the back of the painting to the open corner and take it out. We tried and tried. Hick started saying, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen! We don’t have any time left, and we haven’t even got the first one done. Pony, go ask for another clue.” The Pony didn’t want to, but he did.

Here’s where we got cheated! The guy came in and asked how far we were, and what we thought, and we told him about trying to get what was behind that painting, and he said this is what you needed to do, and GRABBED THOSE TWO KNOBS AND PULLED ON THE PAINTING JUST LIKE I HAD DONE IN THE BEGINNING! Nothing happened. He shook it. He jiggled it. He twisted it. Finally, he yanked really hard, and that painting came off. SERIOUSLY! He had told us not to break things, and this didn’t even work unless you forced it. I call shenanigans! He could have at least given us some time back. There was nobody else there, and the room had not been booked after us.

Anyhoo…we moved on to the next painting. Now this one was really hard, and I don’t think we would have gotten it, even with our stolen time. There was a big painting with symbols on it. The clue said something about BLUE, and some symbols were in blue. Things like equations. Like n - @ , and p - *. The Pony turned those 20 small pictures around and saw that there were symbols written on the back of them with white-out. We tried to look at where they were on a keyboard, because that’s what the "Safety" picture was of. Of course that didn’t get us anything. I thought that we should use only the symbols that also had a corresponding number on a keyboard, and those would be our code number. Nope.

After asking for a clue from the guy, because all the tablet told us was something about symbols, he said the order was important. Well. We’d moved them from their original positions. But I don’t think it mattered, because Hick and The Pony put them in order by the year on them.

And then our time ran out!

The guy came in and showed us that once in year order, we only had to look at the LETTER from the equations, not the symbols, and they would spell out in words our code number. Like seven twenty-three nine. Yeah. We’re pretty stupid. Maybe Genius being there could have helped us. Or maybe there would have been an actual murder in that room for a real crime. Hick was getting hot under the collar and The Pony was giving up. I was just glad I had a chair to sit in, even though Hick kept grunting at me indignantly when he was trying to put the pictures in date order. Even though there was plenty of room for him to reach over my head and put them on the shelf.

Now here’s where IRONY comes in. I am really learning what that means now, I think. We went to Golden Corral and ate lupper (late lunch, early supper) and then went back to our hotel and talked to The Pony for a while. As we were leaving to go by his apartments where he’ll live next year, and take him back to his dorm…he reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys.

“Oh. These are from that duffel bag at the Escape Room. They’ll probably want these back.”

Yep. The Pony had stolen the props from the Heist escape room! It’s on Campus Corner, so as we went past, Hick pulled into the parking lot and told The Pony to run them in while he turned around. The Pony got back in the car with a funny look.

“The door was locked. I guess he’s gone, even though their website says they’re open until 8:00. So I put the keys on top of the mailbox by the door.”

I guess that guy found them Monday morning. Or else I’ll be getting a bill. It’s not like they can’t solve that crime. We were the only ones in there that day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fourth Time's a Charm?

On Sunday, Hick and I left Casinopalooza to head for Norman to visit The Pony. As usual on such a trip, I was excited to be heading toward him, forgetting that we would be leaving him behind in less than 24 hours.

Let the record show that I saw nary a ladybug on this trip. I ALWAYS see a ladybug when we go visit The Pony. But not this time. Not flying around me, not on a TV show, not on a picture texted me by The Pony when one lands on him, not on the big billboard going toward Norman. I don't know if I didn't look out at the right time, or if that billboard has been taken down or papered over. I saw not a single ladybug.


After we got A-Cad back on the highway after our final rest stop at a McDonald's about 45 minutes from Norman...Hick asked what we were going to do first after picking up The Pony. He had mentioned that he would like to go to an Escape Room. He's quirky like that, The Pony. Fun for him is being confined for an hour to see if he's smart enough to get loose. I picked up my phone to text him. He was probably just getting out of bed. Our ETA was 1:25 p.m. The Pony needs his beauty sleep.

"I'm just going to call him. I hate to text. It's even harder with your driving."

"I can't help the roads, Val. We're not on the turnpike. That's where all the money goes."

"Be quiet. I'm calling."

As I waited for the phone to start ringing, a new song came on the radio. Yep. A song I've heard before. "Holes in the Floor of Heaven." By Steve Wariner. The last 3 times I heard this 1998 golden oldie, there were circumstances involving my mom.


"Pony! Do you hear that song?"

"No...the radio isn't coming through very well."

"It's Holes in the Floor of Heaven. It just came on."

"Aww..." The Pony started singing it from memory.

I'd like to think that Mom was along for that part of the ride.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

You Might Want to Take Some of Those Little Alcohol Wipes with You if You Stay at The Sis-Approved Hotel

This story will wrap up our series on Casinopalooza. There, there. No need to weep. Turn that frown upside down! You still have two tales coming from our visit with The Pony.

On Saturday night at The Sis-Approved Hotel, Val lay on her side of the bed, counting out her money. Hick slipped into something more comfortable (can't get much more comfortable than stripping down to're welcome, Sioux, for that image) while packing up his suitcase over on the couch across the room from the foot of the bed.

"It's cold in here. I can't hardly feel my hands to count this money. I'm freezing."

"I'm not."

"I was cold last night, UNDER THE COVERS!"

"I was hot."

"Duh. All you had to do was uncover if you were hot."

"It's only cool when the air is blowing."

"I guess I'll get up and check that thermostat for myself. You're not getting the hint." (Hick rarely picks up what I'm layin' down.)

Hick stumped over to the thermostat, on the wall at the end of the couch. "The thermostat is fine. It's 74."

"I'm awfully cold for 74."

"I don't know what you want me to do, Val."

"I don't want you to do anything. Keep scratching your butt and touching the thermostat."

"There. The heat is on now."


"It wasn't on. The air conditioning was on."

"What's the REAL temperature in here?"


"NO WONDER I'M COLD! We don't keep it THAT low at home! So I guess it really WAS cold in here, huh? Not just crazy ol' Val making things up again."

Funny how Hick had no response. If I didn't know better, I'd think he is finally learning, after 27 years of being married to Val.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I Swear, It Was Like Mothra vs Godzilla

As you might infer, my sister the ex-mayor's wife does not suffer fools gladly. She would much rather make the fools suffer for daring to be fools.

Hick has been known to be a fool. Consequently, Hick must suffer.

Perhaps I've let it slip, though trying valiantly to conceal Hick's little peccadillo...that he is sometimes not telling the whole truth when he passes on his wisdom. If he thinks you can't prove him wrong, he sometimes goes too far.

We were all eating our free breakfast at The Sis-Approved Hotel on the second morning of Casinopalooza, going over our casino route, when the battle royale began.

"Hey, Sis...have you seen them signs on the highway? About the prison?"

"No. What signs? What prison?"

"Oh. I guess it's past where you go for the casinos. It's somewhere around Miami. I guess on the other side, where you don't go that far. There's a prison there. They even have a sign about picking up hitchhikers: People Walking Along the Road Might Have Escaped From Prison So Don't Pick Them Up."

"No way that was on a sign!"

"I kid you not. That's what it says."

"How could people read it before they were past it?" Sis gave Hick her best teacher stare. Chuck Norris himself would have withered in her gaze.

"Well...yeah...but that's what it meant!"

Let the record show that after Casinopalooza gasped its last breath on Sunday morning, Hick and I hit the road for Norman to visit The Pony. Along the way we saw that sign:


I sent Sis a text with the actual wordage.

"I can see that fitting on a sign easier than the quote Hick said was on there."

"Maybe you've can't believe everything he says."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Gotta Feed the Beast

Val cannot live on slot machines alone. She needs sustenance. Something to stick to her ribs. And hopefully not to her ample hips. Let the record show that Val does not partake of casino buffets. It's not the price so much as the time it takes away from GAMBLING! Oh, and her "wise choices" eating plan, too. Let the record further show that in the week we have been back from Casinopalooza, Val has lost 4 pounds!

I don't mean lost 4 pounds from the day we got back until now. I mean I'm 4 pounds down from the day we left here to start Casinopalooza. I know it's impossible to lose 4 pounds of actual fat in a week. I'm not exactly training for a triathlon ("THANK YOU!" say Val's knees). It must be something about changing my routine, all the walking from slot machine to slot machine, and the lack of gas station chicken. Anyhoo...I'm not complaining. About the 4 pounds.

The Sis-Approved Hotel had a free breakfast buffet. I made a wise choice to stay away from the biscuits and gravy, waffles and syrup, muffins, toast, orange juice, hot chocolate, and sugared cereal. My breakfast of wise choice was a generous dollop of whatever eggs were on the steam table, bacon one day, sausage links the next, and shredded hash browns the day they appeared. Oh, and I brought my own packet of Great Value Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal.

Let the record show that the Sis-Approved Hotel had individual packets and cups of brand-name oatmeal. But I'd tried them at the Holiday Inn Express in Norman, and they were always tasteless. So I took my own packet downstairs in my pocket, poured it in a bowl, and used the hot water provided for the hotel oatmeal, or hot chocolate. There must be something in the water. Because even my own favorite oatmeal came out tasteless, with an odd consistency. Hick says it's the chlorine in their water. I am not aware of fracking in the Joplin area, so that's one soap box I don't have to climb up on today. Anyhoo...something robbed me of my tasty breakfast treat.

The first night, for supper, we grabbed a McDonald's burger between casinos. The second night, we used our $10 food comp at Downstream Casino. We went to the little cafe right off the casino, with some weird name. I should have known better. But it WAS free food. I chose the Steak Strips. Huh. You don't want to choose the steak strips at a casino cafe. When I got it, it was four one-inch-wide strips of what looked like chuckwagon patties.

You know what chuckwagon patties are, right? It's not just a Missouri thing? It's like a flat generic chicken-fried steak patty that's some kind of pressed meat that may or may not be a distant relative of steak. What a gyp! (As my non-PC mom might have said.) It made me wish I had ordered the Chicken Strip Basket that Sis had. Even though it looked exactly like the Walmart Deli fried chicken strips, mostly breading. Sis had FIVE of those monsters, because the guy who waited on her told her that the three-piece basket she ordered was the same price as the five-piece, and she could use her food voucher. Sis DID give me a piece of chicken, and Hick too. He said his burger was nowhere near as good as the one he had at Wyandotte Casino for lunch. The Ex-Mayor had a Turkey Panini, which looked better than all the rest of our free meals put together.

Anyhoo...all that's just filler. Here's the real story. I would have separated them, all (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration) clamored for no more here we go with the meat and potatoes of today's story.

Our lunch on Saturday came around 2:30. I was feeling a mite peckish, not having consumed quite as much free breakfast as the others in my Casinopalooza party. Sis called the shots, though. So when we entered Wyandotte Casino, she put her nose in the air in search of food. "I smell something! I know they have a snack bar here. Let's go find it as soon as we get our player's cards." So we did, after taking a roundabout way counterclockwise through the casino floor.

We found a deli in the back left corner of that casino. Nobody was waiting in line. Only two people were sitting at a table eating. Sis didn't know what she wanted. We all stepped up to read the menu on the wall. Sis couldn't decide. She thought she wanted a hamburger and chili. What tripped her up was the chili. Thus commenced a game of 121 Questions with the minimum-wage late-teenager working the counter.

"Is your chili spicy?"

"I don't know. I've never tried it."

"Do people tell you it's spicy?"

"No. They usually just eat it. They don't talk to me about it."

"How do you make it? What do you put in it?"

"Well...our chili comes out of a can."

"You mean like Hormel?"

"Um...more like chili dog sauce."

"But is it spicy? I don't want anything too spicy."

"Do you want me to get you a sample?"

"Yes! That would be great. Thanks." So the minimum-wage late-teenager left the counter, and returned with an opaque plastic container like you might get salsa in at a taco stand, with a spoon sticking up out of it. That chili dog sauce was pretty firm. Sis took a bite. "Well...I guess it's okay. Tell you what. I'll just have a chili dog."

By this time, there were about ten people lined up behind us. Hick ordered his hamburger and my boneless wings, and we joined The Ex-Mayor, who had given up and sat down at the front table, separated from the gambling floor by only a waist-high wrought-iron rail fence, leaving Sis to pay for their order.

"What'd you get?"

"Well, I got the chili dog. Do you think it'll be okay? Try this chili." Sis pushed the little cup over to The Ex-Mayor. He took about half a spoonful for a bite. Then he made a face and grabbed a couple of napkins and used them to wipe off his tongue.

"That's TERRIBLE! You might like it..."

Hick had to get in on the drama. "I'm just glad she finally picked something."

And I couldn't resist. "Yeah. See all those people waiting? They weren't there before we ordered. I think a baby was conceived and born at the back of the line while you were making up your mind."

The buzzer-disc thingy activated, letting Sis know that her food was ready. She came back with a giant 1/4 pound hot dog covered with chili sauce. After the first bite, she let us know that it was, in fact, delicious.

Right then, a man I'd never seen before came up on the other side of the metal fence. He leaned over to get Sis's attention. "Hi. I'm Bill. This is my wife Judy. Come on over, honey. She just wanted to see what you got. And know if it's any good."

The weirdos in Oklahoma are pretty friendly, as long as you're not monopolizing their slot machine with two monkeys and a fake husband.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I hope you're enjoying the tales of Casinopalooza! Because there is still a plethora of them left. Okay. Plenty more where those came from. Actually...three more. After this one. And then one concerning our visit with The Pony. Let's get right to today's story.

Val Thevictorian has a problem. Stop laughing. We all know she has 99 problems, and Hick is one. But for now, we'll narrow it down to Val's problem of resisting peer pressure. She's not very good at it. Take her early years of teaching, for example. In a town not Backroads, where she had two really, really good friends she hung out with every weekend.

It just so happens that both of Val's friends taught in the elementary section of the campus, while Val herself was in the high school end. That's okay. I accepted them as if they were real teachers, heh, heh! Every weekend, we would spend Friday night at one of each other's apartment or house, playing cards or getting into mischief, and Saturday night attending the the weekly teachers' party held at various locations. It was a heavenly place to work, with a rich social life, and I loved it. Too bad they fired my a$$ over my coaching record.

Anyhoo...these two friends were smokers. Smoking was not allowed on campus. It was a new rule that fall, and it almost killed my buddies. Anyhoo...whenever we got together, the air was thick with smoke. One reason we rarely met at my rented house. They were not good influences on Val, these two, back in the days when Val may or may not have imbibed fermented spirits on a regular basis. That part was not their fault. cohorts Jim and Karen persuaded me one night, in the midst of a heated game of Indian Poker, to smoke a cigarette. Yeah. I'm not proud. But I'm a people-pleaser! I gave it a try. The fact that they laughed their drunken rumpuses off did nothing to dissuade me. I even bought a pack of menthol something-or-others and gave them a try over the next week, on my way to night class at Fort Leonard Wood, working on my Master's Degree. I failed miserably at smoking. It felt awkward. I got not the slightest buzz, nor any tingle of pleasure from that nicotine. I think I must be immune to it. I didn't see what all the fuss was about. After my pack was empty, I quit smoking. Cold turkey!

"But Val," you ask, "what does that have to do with Casinopalooza?"

I'll tell you what that has to do with Casinopalooza! I am still a people-pleaser, and my will is still weak! When The Ex-Mayor who married my sister (and went to my high school where, let's not forget, I was VALEDICTORIAN) told me I should try a certain slot machine that he'd had luck on...I listened. Yep. Walked right over to where he was motioning, and put a $20 bill in it. You can probably guess the result.

"Oh. Sorry, Val. It really paid off for me."

Since The Ex-Mayor was being so nice to me (while Sis was fending off that crazed slot-stealer who accused her of having two monkeys, and being married to Hick), I decided to be nice right back. I had sat down at one of those desktop kind of slots, which I normally don't like, to play a $1 Mr. Moneybags game. That thing went crazy with the red screens. In about ten minutes, I'd won over $400. I cashed that ticket out so as not to play it back. I figured the machine would go cool for a while, so I wandered around playing some quarter machines. The Ex-Mayor found me, and asked how I was doing.

"You won't believe it!" I showed him my winning ticket.

"Wow! That's great! What were you playing?" I should have recognized his line of questioning early-on.

"That dollar Mr. Moneybags over there. I got a bunch of red screens."

"That's great! Good for you."

We went our separate ways. I went to check on Sis and Hick. Then I started back to my Mr. Moneybags. There sat The Ex-Mayor, playing away. He saw me, and it was like that time Jerry was pretending to smother George with a pillow in the hospital bed, and Elaine walked in, and Jerry said fakely, "Elaine! What are YOU doing here?" The Ex-Mayor looked like a deer in the headlights. Like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. Like Hick discovered eating a Casey's donut.

"Oh, you're trying my machine?"

"Well...I thought I'd give it a try... LOOK! I'VE WON OVER TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS!"

So much for my lucky machine.

The next day, we had all split up in a different casino. I think The Ex-Mayor was off playing his $14 birthday comps at the gaming tables. I was losing money, switching from one machine to another, trying to find a good one. I sat down at a dime machine. I never play dimes. But this one had the red-screen feature for bonuses. And it was a three-reel nine-line Lucky Ducky. Sis had brought me a Diet Pepsi/Lemonade so I didn't have to walk my sore knees to the soda fountain. I set it down and plopped my butt on the stool, and fed this machine a ten-dollar ticket. That dime machine gave me lots of bonus play, and I hit about 5 red-screen spins to accumulate $105. Wow! On DIMES! I cashed that out.

Here came The Ex-Mayor. "Hey, Val. How ya doin'?"

"This dime machine just paid me a hundred and five dollars!"

"Which one? This one?"

"Yeah. Try it."

Of course you know what happened. The Ex-Mayor won $109 on it.

"Val, see that Emerald Fire machine behind you? That's the one I was playing last night at The Stables. Remember?"

"Yeah. I lost twenty dollars on one. That's AFTER I lost a twenty on the Emerald Fire you told me was good at High Winds."

"Well...this is a really good game. Lots of bonuses. And this one here is only fifty cents."

Of course you know what happened. I sat down and played it, and lost $20. Then The Ex-Mayor said he'd give it a try. Sat down on the same machine I just got up from. I went back to my dimes, but it was played out. Not paying. I guess we wore out the luck on it.

"VAL! Look at that!" The Ex-Mayor was up $200 on that Emerald Fire machine. Figures.

Oh, that's not all. At Wyandotte, waiting for Sis to find us by the front door, The Ex-Mayor recommended a game for me. "That one there, Val! It has really good bonuses. I always win on it."


"Well, you'll get four spins for a twenty. It'll hit on one of those."

Of course you know what happened. It made another of Val's twenties disappear.

"Oh. Sorry. But this one here, this Quick Hits, it ALWAYS hits. See? I'm playing this one now. Try that one there."

Of course you know what happened. That machine did nothing for me except take ANTHER twenty and spit back nothing.

Back at High Winds on Saturday, The Ex-Mayor found me wandering around again. "Val! Look over here. I saw this machine that I've never played before. Look. It has that orange flame. I don't know what it does. What kind of bonus it is. It's only a nickel machine."

"You want ME to try it, don't you?"

"No...I'm thinking about it. I might play it. Just to see what it does."

"Okay. I'll try it for a minute. This one right here on the end. I don't understand how it pays. It has that square and says it locks in. I guess the flame? It locks in the flame? So it must be a bonus?"

"I don't know. It doesn't say."

"Okay. I'm putting in a twenty."

"Hey! That one is a penny machine!"

"Yeah. But I'm playing ninety cents a spin! I might as well play dollars and have a better chance of winning!"

"I'll try this nickel one."

There was an old man at the machine between us. HIS machine was winning. Ours was not. He explained a bit to The Ex-Mayor.

"Okay! I'm done! I'm cashing out ten dollars and going somewhere else."

"All right, Val. Sorry you didn't win."

You might think that was the end of me succumbing to The Ex-Mayor's suggestions of which games to play. But it was not! At our final destination, he roped me into playing a dollar video game with buffaloes on three reels. It stopped on three lines. So you had to pretty much bet at least three dollars to have the best chance of winning something and getting a red screen spin.

"See here, Val? I've got over six hundred dollars on mine! When I built it up a little bit with bonuses, I played max, and hit more bonuses! You sister, on this one next to me, has won over two hundred on her seven dollars of comp play. Try this one here!"

Of course you know what happened. Another of Val's twenties evaporated. So right there, on those specific games I remember, The Ex-Mayor peer-pressured me into losing $130. Not to mention my rightful winnings that he stole every time he took over the machine I thought I was done with.

Val really needs to learn how to say, "NOT-HEAVEN NO!"

Friday, March 17, 2017

Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday #52 "Run That Way: The Biography of ArrowJones"

Blog buddy Sioux is hosting Back-of-the-Book-Blurb Friday. I have 150 words to convince you to fake-buy my fake book. Do you like a rags-to-riches story? One that details how simple people from humble beginnings make it big in the entertainment industry? Sure you do! So this week's fake book is for you! Better get your copy now, so as not to get crushed when the release date rolls around. Festival standing is not a picnic. BookMaster, BlurbHub, DialBlurbs, MetroBooks, and BooksNow all have Val's latest fake book available for order. Get it now, and flick your Bic lighter in appreciation if you'd like Val to write a sequel.

Run That Way: The Biography of ArrowJones

Steven Smith and Joe Jones are lifelong friends, though their lives aren't very long yet. Steven has a scheme to get girls. "Let's start a band, Joe! I'll be the lead singer." Joe is okay with that. As long as he gets to pick the name. He suggests ArrowJones. Steven says he'll think it over. In the meantime, he gets to writing some songs. Raggedy Ann Doll, Nuts, Making Out on an Escalator, Boy (Looks Like a Girl), Run That Way, Weepin', Joey's Got a Bow & Arrow, and Can't Stop Liking You.

Will the boys switch instruments, grow out their hair, and hit the big time? Read "Run That Way: The Biography of ArrowJones," to find out. Unless you're already familiar with their band, of course. Then read it for the sordid backstage tales. You won't be disappointed.
(139 words)


Fake Reviews for Val’s Fake Book

Lucy and Ethel..."Thevictorian is not a biographer. Sometimes, it seems like she couldn't keep up. If she worked in a candy factory, she'd be fired in no time. She writes like she needs a shot of Vitameatavegamin."

Tina Turner..."This author never does anything nice and easy. I hope Thevictorian didn't leave a good job on the river, working for the man every night and day, to fake-write these fake books full time. We don't need another zero. "

Ike Turner..."Thevictorian will stop fake-writing if she knows what's good for her!" 

Simon and Garfunkel..."This fake book left us feelin' woozy. Slow down, Thevictorian, you move too fast! Val, we're down on our knees, begging you please to stop writing."

The Carpenters..."Rainy days and Mondays and the release of a new Thevictorian fake book always get us down. We've only just begun to wish it was yesterday once more, before this author started fake publishing. Please, Mr. Postman, Thevictorian is no superstar, so stop delivering her fake books."

Captain and Tenille..."Don't ever do that to us one more time, Thevictorian! We write the songs that make the whole world sing, and you fake-write the fake books that make the whole world wish they were in a coma. "

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young..."Teach your children well not to read this fake book. If you can't read the one you love, don't, under any circumstances, read this one that's with you. We think the author was wasted on the way to fake-write this fake book."

Doobie Brothers..."What a fool believes is that takin' it to the streets minute by minute will persuade anybody to read this fake book. Listen to the music, Thevictorian! Your fake writing is like black water! It keeps you runnin' to the bathroom to try and purge yourself of its poison."

The Who..."Who are you, Thevictorian? We have never seen a more disgraceful treatment of a squeeze box! We won't get fooled again into buying one of your fake books!"

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Monkey Business at Casinopalooza

Val is not the only weirdo magnet in Thevictorian family.

My sister the ex-mayor's wife had a run-in with a gal at the second casino we stopped at on Friday night. The run-in actually came on Saturday, on our return visit. I'd had good luck there, and Sis gave me the choice of which one I wanted to return to. You don't turn down Sis when she gives you an option.

While I was busy having no luck on my previously high-paying Mr. Moneybags machine, and no luck on any other no-armed bandits in High Winds that day, Sis had sat herself down at a penny machine near the front. She was having a blast, getting a little bit of payback, and Hick decided to join her at the machine on her right. There were four machines in that grouping. The two that Sis and Hick were playing, and two on the other side of them, arranged back-to-back with their machines.

Sis was the first one to get her bonus Money Monkey. She and The Ex-Mayor were taking those stuffed monkeys back home to Babe, their 3-year-old granddaughter they babysit during the week. The Ex-Mayor followed shortly with his. I couldn't get the card-reader to give me a total on my play, but Sis persuaded me to go ask the player's club gals to scan it and see if I had earned my monkey yet. There was no line right then, so I did, and I had, and I took my Money Monkey back by to show them that I won $8 in free play. "So did The Ex-Mayor and I!" said Sis. "That must be what they are giving today."

I went on roaming through the quarter and the dollar machines. My Money Monkey was an albatross around my neck. So awkward. Normally, I don't take a purse when I go to the casino. But on this trip, I had too many different player's cards to stuff in my pockets. I had my small leather purse with a long strap that I put over my neck and under one arm like a tourist. I told Sis (who had a large, flat, over-the-neck-shoulder, soft-sided, brightly-colored purse that The Ex-Mayor gave her specifically for casino purposes) that I felt like that big ol' bear with the itty-bitty backpack in the kids' cartoon movie Open Season.

At least I didn't wear the purse on my back. I had to keep shoving it back into place so it didn't ride up to my armpit. Then I had to carry the Money Monkey. And when I wanted a free soda (Diet Pepsi w/a dash of lemonade), I had to stuff that Money Monkey kind of inside my little purse, but his head and shoulders and most everything above his waist stuck out.

I went back to find Hick. He was still sitting at the machine on Sis's right. "Are you going to be here a while?"

"Yeah. I'm winning now. I was down to my last few cents, and The Ex-Mayor put money in my machine for gas to get the lost keys last night. I told him no, but he walked over and stuck it in. I hit a bonus, and now I'm winning, and I'm going to play this machine a while. He said he was giving me lucky money. Looks like he was right. What are you doing?"

"Still looking for something that will pay. But this monkey is in my way. I hate carrying it around. Will you hold it for me?"

"Yeah. Give it here." And with that, Hick took my monkey and shoved it in the crack between his belly and his upper thigh. Head first. It looked a bit inappropriate, but who was I to question my monkeysitter? "Hey, sit down on your sister's stool for a minute."

"No. I don't want to play that machine."

"She's coming back. She doesn't want anyone to get it."

"There are two monkeys on her seat. They'll know it's taken. You can tell them."

"I'm trying."

I didn't care one whit about Hick's and Sis's problems. I was in a casino, by cracky, with a pocketful of money, and I was going to gamble. Not sit idly as a seat-saver. It wasn't until we all met up to leave, standing in the front vestibule waiting for The Ex-Mayor to cash out his tickets (this casino made you use a real live person, not a ticket machine), that Sis told me the whole story.

"See that lady sitting at the machine I was playing? [a hardened-looking 50-something gal with bleached-blond hair, thin as a rail] She is crazy! She was at the machine on the other side of mine, and I knew she was waiting for me to get up so she could have my machine. I could hear her playing, and she would press her button about once every four minutes. Then she came around and got all smart with me. 'Do you get a monkey for every 50 points of play?' I told her no. You only got one monkey a day. After playing 50 points. And she said, 'Why don't you go ask them if you get one every 50 points?' And I told her I didn't need to. It tells you on the sign as you come in. She just wanted me to leave so she could take my machine. Then she says, 'Well, YOU already have TWO monkeys.' And I told her, 'No, one is my husband's and one is mine.' Then she pointed at Hick and said, 'Your husband has two monkeys, too!' And I told her, 'THAT is NOT my husband!' So she went back to her other machine to wait. Now she's on mine. I hope she loses a lot."

I pity the weirdo who tries to separate my sister the ex-mayor's wife from her machine. She doesn't know who she's messing with.