Friday, August 31, 2012

What My Co-Workers Really Think of Me

It's no secret that I have control issues.

My close colleagues don't hesitate to mention it. Remind me that it's the school's laptop, not mine, and if I'm absent, there's no harm in one of them popping in to borrow it for the day. I beg to differ. But according to our technology minder, my colleagues are right. It doesn't seem fair. I baby my equipment. Who knows what indignities it may suffer while I'm away? The thought of a substitute fondling it is bad enough. Let the record show that I am rarely absent.

Any card-carrying member of The American Association of Handwriting Analysts could walk into my classroom and peg me write away (heh, heh, that's probably a joke those handwriting analysts use all the time) for the control freak that I am. My writing on the white board, all evenly-spaced and chalk-line-straight enough to please a master carpenter, would be a dead giveaway. I print in all caps, for cryin' out loud!

Earlier this week, my room was not swept. It's nobody's fault. We only have two-and-a-half custodians for a regular full-sized high school. And they have to double as bus drivers as the need arises. Much in the way you can't get blood from a turnip, you can't squeeze extra hours of work out of staff for no pay. It's not right. If they only have time to dump the wastebasket when they get back from an emergency route, so be it. I totally understand.

At the lunch table, I asked if Custodian had been absent that day. Because, you see, it is very unlike Custodian to leave my room unswept. Custodian is ultra efficient, terribly thorough, and takes pride in a job well done every day. So I was simply checking to see if something was amiss. To illustrate why I inquired as to the whereabouts/health issues of Custodian, I gave an example.

"I came in this morning, and it looked like my room had not been swept. I found a broken mechanical pencil and a sticky note on the floor. Of course I picked them up. It's not that big a deal. Luckily I have my seventh hour students line up their desks and chairs every day. You know, the only thing that was messy was the pencil and sticky note. Because, ha ha, I'm such a master teacher that nothing else gets messed up."

A colleague to my right agreed. "Val runs a tight ship. The sticky note probably had a message on it: "Sorry about the pencil."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Think I Lost It, Let Me Know if You Come Across It

Must I write about writing on this blog? That smacks of a coffee table book about coffee tables, in my opinion. Which is all that counts, I suppose. It is MY blog. Which I started in order to be different from my everyday blog.

Sometimes I feel pressure to dish out advice that nobody needs. There are many sites where one can garner a daily dose of writing tips. Sites operated by qualified, experienced writers. I don't know where that pressure comes from. Most likely the universe, conspiring against me again, giving me pause when I should be blissfully writing up a storm. Or at least a submission.

I could do it, you know. Dispense that unneeded advice. I'm quite versatile. I could turn everything around by the end of the post and tie up a lesson with a pretty red bow. Because I'm a teacher, you see. I know how to spin things. But something makes me want to dig in my heels and refuse, like a sleep-starved toddler who does not want to be dropped off at daycare.

My enjoyment comes from dishing out a daily dose of skewed humor. Funny-bone ticklers. Mirth candy. To turn up the corners of someone's pursed lips a smidgen more than Mona Lisa's. Or at least to elicit a response of, "That didn't suck as much as I thought it would." Nothing makes me happier (okay, that cliche is a bit overstated here) than pounding out a post that makes me smile smugly, and give myself a virtual pat on the back. This, however, is not one of those posts.

This quick-fingered blog ninja needs to brush up on her basics, and bring back the funny.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Case of Workplace Violins

You would think, would you not, that one might feel safe and secure in a school setting. In a small rural school, where everybody knows everybody. Where your fellow faculty step in when needed, and mind their own beeswax when not. Where administration, faculty, staff, and students pull together for the good of the cause, one for all and all for one. Where lunch in the cafeteria is a pleasant interlude from hard-core learning. A place to relax. To let your hair down. Enjoy the company of your peers. Safely. While ingesting wholesome food to fuel your brain for the afternoon ahead.

I once thought as much.

Today we sat at our faculty lunch table in the cafeteria, discussing the relative merits of our incoming freshmen. A feisty group. Yet not unpleasant. And then it happened.

I felt an impact on my upper left arm. The place right beside the fatty part that jiggles when I wave along the parade route, unless I take my teaching buddy Mabel's advice, and give the royal wave. I looked to determine the severity of my injury, only to see a thin red liquid coursing down my arm. Thin rivulets. With shrapnel. The sleeve of my shirt was stained. The teacher next to me gasped. She tried to stem the flow of fluid. Dabbed at it with a napkin. "I am SO sorry!"

The rest of the table laughed. Hee hawed, actually. Belly laughed. Brayed like donkeys. Made light of my misfortune. Students at the table next to us, my last-year's charges, snickered openly.

I had been tomatoed. My second-cousin-about-to-be-removed had chomped down on a grape tomato, and sprayed the living daylights out of it. Right onto my arm. Good thing for her. The principal was on her other side. Does one not chew with one's mouth closed any more? Is the force of a single grape tomato so powerful that it explodes out of one's tight-lipped mouth?

I looked to the left. To the right. I know how Carrie felt on prom night. Yet there were no doors for me to slam telekinetically. So I used my words.

"Is it too much to ask that I be able to dress in regular clothes at work? I had no idea this morning that my wardrobe should have been that of a person with front-row tickets to a Gallagher performance." I turned to my former relative. "Your jaws have the power of a hefty wooden mallet."

I completed my day in soiled clothing. Including parking lot duty. I'm expecting an email about professional dress. Will somebody please play the world's smallest violin for me?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Road Barrier

No. It was not a concrete structure keeping me from my travels. It was a person. And believe me, he was no Mel Gibson. No road warrior. So I have chosen to name him The Road Barrier.

We met this morning at 7:05 a.m. The time when the sun is creeping over the horizon. Brightly. On a blind uphill curve, with a long semi loaded with rock bearing down on me from the oncoming lane, The Road Barrier and I became acquainted. He scuffed along in the middle (yes, I said THE MIDDLE) of my traffic lane, even though a five-foot swath of only partially-littered wet grass was available for his transportation needs. He did not deign to turn. To meet my eye over his shoulder. On he plodded, giving no quarter, insouciantly swinging his see-through grocery sack, two apples swaying like fake testicles on the tow-hitch of a rebel-flag-decaled pickup truck. Apparently, he had missed the memo: roads are not for walking.

The Road Barrier gave not a smidgen. Not a skosh. He owned that piece of pavement, by cracky, and was yielding for no vehicle. I slammed on my anti-lock brakes. Came to a complete stop. In the road. On a blind uphill curve. To keep from killing him. He would have been safer with Gordie and Vern, traipsing over the railroad trestle high above the Castle River, on a quest to discover the body of Ray Brower out on Back Harlow Road.

I call for the state of Missouri to initiate a walkers license, requiring all walkers to pass a written test, and a perambulation test, every two years. Our roads will be safer. Our revenue will increase.

Let's make it happen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Who You Know

I have been off my 44 oz. Diet Cokes since school started.

The 44ozDC was not abandoned due to an intervention. Nor because of cost, taste, tooth discoloration, The Jitters, a bleeding ulcer, kidney stones, sleeplessness, or a healthier lifestyle. No, the mitigating factor in the cessation of my sweet, unsweetened libation is TIME. Lack of time. Time is not on my side.

I prefer to sip my magical elixir in my dark basement lair. From it, I draw inspiration. In short, ice-cold sips. A 44ozDC purchased at 11:00 a.m. may not be completely consumed until 6:00 p.m. Extra ice is added, of course, in irregular increments. Now, I cannot relax with my liquid gold in the leisurely manner I so desire. It must sit on the kitchen counter, ignored like a new kid in the school cafeteria, until my meal preparations are complete. Then I might have from 6:00 until 8:00 to sip. The spell is broken if I haul a 44ozDC out to the TV area. It's not the same.

Don't you worry none about Val and her hydration. On Saturdays and Sundays, my beverage and I are besties again. We pick up like we never left off.

Saturday, I pulled up at the 80-cent refill store. Hopped out of my Tahoe like a kid at the carnival. I strode purposefully through the door. Jauntily waved my refill cup toward the front counter. No need to make eye contact with them. I'm a regular. I'm almost surprised that they don't all holler, "Norm!" each time I walk in. When the line is backed up with a lottery scratcher, the cashiers will sometimes hold out their hand for my correct change, and put it on the counter until they can ring it up. Meanwhile, my liquid buddy and I hit the road.

On this day, I had my three quarters and one nickel clenched in my fist, along with four dollar bills. It was PowerBall day for me. When I stepped up to the counter, I saw a familiar face. The Woody to my Norm. A former student from my school. He was never in my classes, but his three brothers were. And I saw him in the hall every day. During this long, hot summer, he taunted me with questions of when school was starting. Which is something you should never ask a teacher. Seriously. Make a Note To Self.  He asked how school was going. So I said, "Please give me four dollars on PowerBall." We shared a laugh. I handed over my four bills and change. He pushed the change away. Shook his head.

I have connections.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Thin-Skinned Squatter

This morning, Hick discovered that an intruder has set up housekeeping in his BARn.

For a couple of weeks, Hick has been hearing things toppling upstairs in his Coke room/BAR area. Knick-knacky items. He figured there must be mice running around up there. He's had them before, you know. Most notably the time he found them inside the pockets of his coveralls. Hairless, pink, blind, baby mice. Plunged his hand right into their midst. To hear Hick's older boys tell it, "Dad jumped up and down, ripped off those coveralls, and screamed like a little girl." So the idea that there might be furry brown fully-grown field mice in his tricked-out loft did not cause him to panic.

To further fuel his suspicions, he had found that his gimcracks were, indeed, on the floor. And this morning, he found something else. Under his workbench, downstairs.

 In case you can't tell from The Pony's phone pic, that's a five-foot snakeskin. The thing about a five-foot snakeskin is that the snake is bigger than five feet now. Hick thinks the original owner of that skin was a black snake. Or black rat snake, but nobody around here uses its proper name. Hick reports that in spite of the toppled tchotchkes, he has actually seen only a couple of mice in the barn. So he figures the skin-shedder was laying in wait along the mouse path.

Just so you don't think Hick is pulling a fast one, here's another photo, showing both ends of the skin.

This picture also includes The Pony's finger. Or perhaps an ominous entity. Or a magical red dot. Glass half full or half empty, I suppose. That backdrop is our old heating/cooling unit that was just replaced. Because why throw away something that doesn't work, when you could store it in the BARn to use as a backdrop for a five-foot snakeskin?

Yes, the BARn proper is not up to the standards of the BARn loft. I suppose that's a working chainsaw and a nonworking chainsaw. A chair I've never seen before, which points to something being thrown away at Hick's work. The measuring implement is a survey pole, though nobody here has ever worked as a surveyor. Under a gray tarp in the back is a 1970s Ford pickup without a bed. I'm expecting those American Pickers to drop in any day now.

There are no plans to evict our reptilian squatter. Hick was a bit apprehensive about the skin being light-colored from a black snake, until I told him that was normal. He declared that if it came from a copperhead, we were gonna catch it, by cracky, and become rich for owning the world's largest copperhead. Yes. He has delusions of grandeur. Surely he must know that we will become rich after my as-yet unwritten book hits #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

While I wait for that to happen, I'm going to see if we can't find a cousin of Mr. Five-Foot-Plus Black Snake to take up residence in our garage.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Putting the Freeloaders Back to Work

Hick is displeases with our felines. Or, as he calls, them, "YOUR cats."

It's not like these cats are my sole pleasure in life. Like I sought them out for companionship. Lay around stroking their soft, soft fur while they caress me with their sandpapery tongues. No. I accepted one for each son from a teacher with two litters to disperse, and rescued three from the woods by the mailbox. They were duly wormed and vaccinated, and each received that very special operation to prevent proliferation. Now they roam about the grounds, drape themselves bonelessly over the porch furniture, and totally ignore us. Run from us, even. Except for Genius's cat, also named Genius, an orange tabby.

During the cooler months, our herd of cats takes up residence in the rafters of the garage. Hick has put down plywood across the trusses. Not for the cats' pleasure. For storing the yard Santa, the fake Christmas tree, tubs of who-knows-what, and pet carriers. When not tightropewalking along the two-by-fours, dangling tails off the plywood platforms, or sharpening their claws on a piece of carpet remnant, these thankless freeloaders pace back and forth across the hood of my black Tahoe. At least that's what I deduce from the footprints. When I pull into the garage, my heart is often stopped by the PLUNK of a cat onto the roof. I'm a stepping-stone, you see. From plywood to beam to open garage door to Tahoe roof to Tahoe hood to floor. It's a choreographed critter ballet.

The cats don't drop onto Hick's roof. His Pacifica has a lower profile. Last week, Hick took exception to our less-than-loving felines. "I'm gonna kill me a couple of cats." Knowing Hick, I did not take this literally. First, he would have to catch them. Then get them away from the house to fill them with lead. Then bury the carcasses. So I figured what he was really trying to say was, "I am totally pissed to the max at these darn cats!"

When further questioned about the issue, Hick revealed the catalyst for his comment. "I pulled into the garage and sat in my car for a minute. I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I waited. There is was again. A mouse running up and down the wall! Those lazy cats need to start killing the mice! What's the use of a cat if it won't kill mice?"

My cats used to kill mice. Really. They would play with it a while before one of them ate it. And they always left the liver on the porch. Maybe if Hick would stop feeding them so much, then griping about how much it costs to feed them, they would snack on mice again.

I haven't noticed the goats killing any mice.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Val, the Universal Antithesis

I seem to have a magnetic personality. Through no effort on my part, people and creatures and erosional materials are drawn to me.

*Drivers cross the center line just to get my attention.

*Ticks take flight, jumping and parasailing like tiny arachnid flying squirrels, to feast on my very being.

*Students cluster outside my door before school, even though they know they belong elsewhere.

*A patina of windblown soil coats my black Tahoe like fairy dust, letting everyone know how special I am.

*Shoppers converge on the empty aisle as soon as the nose of my cart enters.

*Folks I don't even know call me to inquire as to my political beliefs.

I'm not that special. Really. I only seem attractive. Because I oppose everything in the universe.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Backroads Barking Torture

My dogs work the night shift. Eleven to seven. They lace up their steel-toed boots, don hardhats, pack their black metal lunchboxes with baloney-and-mustard on Wonder Bread, fill their thermoses with coffee...and punch the time clock. It is my goal to see them fired.

I have not seen their contracts. But I suspect they were hired to bark intermittently at the wind in the trees, distant canine cousins three counties over, and absolutely nothing. Each of my three mutts deserves a plaque for Employee of the Month. A parking spot near the entrance. A key to the executive washroom.

There is no point in flinging open the door and chastising my blue-collared workers. No. Even a simple shout of "Bad Dog!" results in them rushing me in an orgy of whining, licking, sidling, and tail-whipping, the imminent apocalypse to which they alerted me gone on a zephyr.

I refuse to have my workers' barkers removed. On the off chance that some ne'er-do-well might hear my hillbilly hounds, and imagine the gnashing, bone-crushing jaws of invisible pit bulls. Or fleet dobermans, aching to relentlessly, doggedly, pursue the perpetrators of mayhem upon my property.

The horns of my dilemma are honed to razor-sharp points, my friends. I'm losing sleep over this quandary.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Mother's Love Can Kill

My mom stopped by school the other day to pick up some goodies that I had for her. It's the most convenient way, her meeting us on the school parking lot in the morning. It was a little outing for her, plus she could look forward to a day of reading tabloids and feasting on chicken-and-noodles.

Mom usually brings snacks for The Pony to store in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet for after school. On this particular morning, she leaned in the window of my Tahoe before I could get out.

"I always bring treats for The Pony. But I never bring anything for you. I want you to have these." She thrust three individual snack bags of Lance peanuts into my hand.

"What are you trying to do, KILL MY STUDENTS?"

Mom has been retired for eighteen years. Things have changed in academia since she last presided over fourth grade. I imagine that back then, they still sang Christmas carols at the Christmas programs, celebrated Halloween, and enjoyed homemade refreshments at their holiday parties.

Mom did not premeditate her attempted murder. In her mind, she was providing after-school energy for her hard-working daughter. In the form of peanuts. Delicious, salty, crunchy, nutritious, Lance peanuts. One hundred forty calories of proteiny goodness. DEADLY Lance peanuts.

I thanked her. I told her I would leave them in the car to enjoy on the way home. Yesterday, I ate half a pack. And today, I finished it off. I know better than to eat them in the morning on the way to school. Because if somebody drops dead of anaphylaxis, I refuse to be left holding the bag.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Get Your TailBaiters Here

I am starting a sideline. Items to be sold on the counter in the office of my handbasket factory outlet. I think I'll call them TailBaiters.

These products can be affixed to your rear bumper to send a message to tailgaters. I have several models in mind.

See the Birdie - a forearm and hand that flip out and flip off the offender.

Got Skillz? - a stick-on electronic type sign that runs a red-light-lettered scroll of driving schools in the local area.

Caged Pete - a tiny door opens to release Pete, a hyperactive two-year-old who has been feeding on two liters of grape soda from a self-watering pet bottle attached to his crate. Pete jumps onto the hood of the tailgater's vehicle and begins to dismantle it like a Twilight Zone creature after a jet engine.

Hungry for More? - an under-chassis assembly dumps dirt and rocks in front of your rear tires, so a steady cloud of particles is sprayed at the tailgater. Even better that weaving on a gravel road, this device will force-feed your dust to the uncouth culprit.

So...any customers? Or any freelancers with fresh ideas I can steal and market under my own brand?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Toot! Toot! Here Come the Word Police!

I saw a new word today. Not a proper word. A made-up word that somebody thought was proper. I am consumed with jealousy. I love to make up words. This one's a humdinger.


I'm not sure if the user was going for "castrated" or "ostracized." It was a Big Brother contestant, bemoaning the fact that he was about to make a big move in the game. And if he followed through, he suspected he might be castracized.

Now I wonder if he thought the other players were going to de-nut him, or shun him. I suppose you can never quite be sure on reality TV.

My own personal creative word for today was tossed out in class by me, myself, and I. To emphasize that we only have eight planets now. Not nine. No. Don't you worry about Pluto. It's still there. But now Pluto is assumed to be a moon of Neptune. Because one of those things is not like the others. The four outer planets are gaseous. But Pluto is solid. And its orbit is messed up. Instead of playing nice, orbiting in concentric ellipses like the other planets, Pluto dares to cross Neptune's orbit. And for those reasons...our dear former-planet Pluto, has been...wait for it...


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Oh, What a Hardened Knot We Tie When First We Struggle to Get By

I prepared a delectable feast for my menfolk tonight. A big pot of chicken and egg noodles, with a side of garlic knots. Don't even think of asking, "Where's the vegetable?" You're no Clara Peller. And my men are no vegetable eaters. In fact, last night all three turned down a salad with their baked chicken and potatoes. Far be it from Val to waste food. She enjoyed her own salad, thank you very much. No need to even put theirs in a bowl, just to throw it out. Because salad mailed to starving children overseas does not travel well. Which brings me back to the topic of tonight's supper and the garlic knots.

Don't be thinkin' Val tied up her own knots after grinding grain into flour, setting dough aside to rise, crushing garlic harvested from her own garden, and churning some fresh butter to melt on top. We won't even go into the aging of the parmesan cheese until it was mature enough to sprinkle over the knots. That's not how Val rolls.

I bought a dozen garlic knots from a student for a fundraiser last fall. It must have been one of the cheaper items in the brochure, because my kids have only had garlic knots once. At a restaurant. It's not like they clamor for them. They were more likely to eat the knots than a strudel or a fancy pie.

My garlic knots arrived on the day of parent conferences. The day when school let out at 1:00, but faculty had to stay until 6:00. My mom came by to pick up The Pony so he wasn't home alone with Genius, ripe for the picking-on. I asked her to take my cardboard box of garlic knots for safekeeping. They were frozen, you know. Of course, the students picked up their items around 11:00, and traipsed about the building delivering them willy-nilly. Mom drove them to her house and put them in the freezer. Then took them out and I drove them home with The Pony, where we put the knots in our own freezer. There they languished until yesterday.

I knew I had knots in the freezer. They were in the way, actually. Many a time I planned to serve them, only to spot them as I was gathering my cooking implements for the current meal. The directions on a sticker on the cardboard box said to thaw them at room temperature before cooking. Like I had time for that. I set them out on the counter while cleaning out the freezer before shopping. I meant to cook them last night. I had put them in the fridge, and forgot them. So I hauled them out tonight. I had dubious hopes of rising knots.

Genius spied them on the stovetop as I was warming the oven. "Hey! These look great!"

"They're not cooked yet. I don't think they'll rise. They might break your teeth."

"I don't care. How many can I have?"

"Well, I don't want any. And your dad shouldn't have many. There's garlic dipping sauce. And parmesan to sprinkle on."

"They look really good."

"Let's put them in the oven."

Of course the knots didn't rise. They looked even smaller when they came out seven minutes later. I rubbed the knot-tops with butter. Sprinkled the parmesan. And called the boys. It was like tossing toast crumbs to fish. They swarmed that pan. I stepped back, lest I incur an injury. When the parmesan had cleared, Genius had five, and The Pony had four. They each took a dipping sauce.

Genius declared that only the outside was hard as a rock. The inside was good. That I should try a bite. He ripped off a miniscule portion. Even offered to dip it for me. I declined. It tasted like a soft pretzel. I might just as well have cooked them with a little sea salt on top. I love pretzels!

The Pony announced that the knots were delicious. Especially with the sauce. Both boys decreed that more should be purchased through the next fundraiser. I'm wondering how many times those knots were actually thawed and re-frozen.

I don't suppose it matters.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Witness for the Absolution

For a brief instant, I thought I might be on tonight's news. If I survived.

The Pony and I went on our weekly Walmart shopping spree this morning. Nothing of note happened inside the store. Unless, of course, somebody decided I was worthy of a guest appearance on People of Walmart. But I doubt it, because most of my fellow customers were old and dowdy, not young and smart-alecky. No, the real action was in the parking lot.

We had loaded our bounty into the back of the Tahoe, and The Pony was returning the cart. I climbed in and put the windows down. Then it happened. A horn tooted. Not so much tooted as bellowed like a foghorn. Again and again. Further up our parking row, a white car was backing out. A tiny red pickup truck was trying to drive past it without stopping. The trucker laid on the horn. The white car kept backing. Then it stopped. Pulled forward back into the space. The door opened.

I think my mouth was hanging open. I anticipated some foul language and possible violence. The truck stayed put. An elder gentleman with white hair climbed out of the car and started for the truck. I scanned both hands to make sure he didn't have a weapon. We were in the line of fire.

Elder Guy strode towards Trucker. I readied myself for flying F-bombs. Perhaps a flying tire iron. Fisticuffs. A duel. In the very least, a slap across the face with a pair of dress gloves.

But nothing happened!

Elder Guy went to the front bumper of the truck. "Did I do any damage?"

"I don't think so." Trucker climbed out and took a look. "No. It's good."

They both got back in their vehicles. Trucker drove up the parking aisle. Elder Guy backed out.

Don't that just beat all? A random act of civility! Cooler heads prevailed. Violence was not the answer. Lawsuits were not threatened. No harm, no foul.

This sudden turn of events does not bode well for my proposed handbasket factory.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Knew This was Coming

Our household now has two boys in high school. Brothers in name only. Sworn enemies. Deliberate strangers. As luck would have it, they both ended up in the same lunch shift today when classes were juggled to even the numbers. You would think that I single-handedly engineered that act of torture. By the time The Pony and I got home, Genius had convened an inquisition, the most pertinent question pertaining to khaki cargo shorts and bright blue shirts.

Genius: Why did you dress him like me?

Val: I did not dress him like you. I laid out his clothes. You were still in bed. How was I supposed to know what you were going to wear?

Genius: Look at him. It's the same clothes.

The Pony: Genius, YOU dressed like me! I put them on first!

Val: We got to school first. Everybody saw him first. So I guess they think you copied him.

Genius: No.

Val: I guess it's kind of awkward, now that you're in the same lunch. And people see both of you together.

Genius: I KNOW! And he's wearing what I wore!

Val: We already established that he put on the clothes first. And anyway, your shirt is different. His is plain. And yous has Chem II in pink.

Genius: They look the same.

Val: It's not like you were anywhere near him. Like he was sitting on your lap. Like you had your hand up his back like some...some...ventriloquist's talking thing. What is that called? I'm drawing a blank here. A ventriloquist's doll?

The Pony: Actually, Mom, it's called a dummy.

Genius: Heh, heh! That's about right. A DUMMY!

Val: Okay, that's enough. Stop calling your brother a dummy.

Genius: But he IS!

The Pony: That really is what it's called, Mom. A dummy.

Val: Pony, you're not helping your case any.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Give the Man a Sextant. Please.

Mark your calendars. This was a day of first for Val's family.

Genius started his senior year of high school today. I am triple-knotting the apron strings. I'm not ready for him to make his escape.

The Pony started his freshman year of high school. It's a cold, cruel world out there, little Pony. I'd keep you in the paddock a while longer if I could, but you have been chomping at the bit and kicking up your heels all summer.

I started my 25th year of teaching. That's right 25 years. I need to file my teeth down to nubs. A couple of years ago, students were guessing my age as thirty-five. Yes. I was a child faculty member. A prodigy. Attending Harvard at six years old. Hey! I can't help it if kids these days are not very observant. And since I never comment on my true age, I could not correct their honest mistake. Far be it from me to dash their tender self-esteem on the jagged rocks of truth.

This morning I stopped Hick as he walked past my morning-nap recliner on the way to feed his fleabags before embarking on his daily journey to the salt mines.

"It's a day of firsts," I told him.

"Yeah. It is. Genius starts his senior year. It's like the first day of the rest of his life."

Okay. I did not call Hick out on his deep philosophical observation. He would never understand that each day is the first day of ANYBODY's rest of his life.

"The Pony starts high school. And you haven't even showed him how to use his shaver."

"Aw. He'll like going to the first day of high school with chin whiskers."

"Today is my 25th first day of teaching."

"Your 25th birthday of teaching? How's that?"

Sigh. Hick just cannot navigate that tricky context sea.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When They Call the Roll Up Yonder I'll Not Hear

I think I might have a legal case in the making. Not that I would file such an action, of course. I love my job. I would never bring monetary hardship on my employer. But perhaps the safety committee needs to review proper in-house procedures on noise abatement.

One would think that a teacher toils in a tranquil environment. Serene. Pastoral. You can almost see the fluffy sheep grazing on the hillside, cotton candy clouds drifting overhead, flies buzzing lazily around the sheep poop. But one would be wrong.

I'm not talking about student attendance days. The real nitty gritty. Where the rubber meets the road. The heavy lifting of basic knowledge. The vigorous stuffing of little noggins until their tight as sausages with book-smarts. A modicum of extraneous decibels is expected on those days. Learning does not take place in a vacuum.

No, I'm talking about the pre-learning workplace. Those days set aside...okay...REQUIRED per the teacher's contract...for readying the academic environment for their charges. No students. All teachers. I am not asking you to play the world's smallest violin for me. Egads! Some of you have had no musical training. Do you think I want to listen to the impromptu caterwauling of catgut under attack by horsehair? I assure you, I do not.

Is it too much to ask for a GaggleTube video about monkids, played through my ceiling-mounted projector, in the confines of my own classroom, to have sound that I can hear without maximum volume? I think not. Yet I could hardly discern the bloodcurdling screams of the capuchin in a diaper as he launched himself at his human daddy. Beethoven himself, in his latter years, could have heard the ruckus in the hallway through a set of jet-engine ear protectors. At first it sounded like an out-of-control cocktail party, which had progressed to a bullfight, and then morphed into the World Cup soccer championship.

Yes, the hall outside my room had been rented out as a rock concert venue. Rather than flicking their Bic lighters, my colleagues were shooting off gargantuan fireworks. Some waged an epic gun battle as others sped away in their dragsters. I guess they were in a hurry to see the space shuttle launch just past the fire doors. Luckily, the shuttle missed that meteor that struck the building, which set off a 5.0 earthquake, which caused a volcanic eruption, which detonated a 1-ton bomb. Oh, and some chickens must have gotten in, because I heard a lot of cackling.

Somebody really needs to simmer down. Now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hobnobs and Chapsticks

Today I got a little done on a lot of things. Classroom preparation things. Not writing. Let's be real. I gotta dance with the one what pays me. It was a sporadic dance. Too many suitors cutting in, bidding for my attention.

My classroom is a hub. Folks flit in and out with no discernible schedule. It's not due to my sparkling personality and witty repartee. I'm no effervescent cheerleader or sweet-as-pie homecoming queen. But neither am I an ogre, or the quirky kid wearing a trench coat. I am not BFF to all. I do, however, have the ability to two-face my way through conversations with those of whom I am not fond. In other words, nobody's throwing me a surprise birthday party...but I don't need a food taster in the cafeteria.

I am the milquetoastiest milquetoast of any milquetoast who ever milquetoasted. Hobnobbers pop in at all hours of the day. And I hobnob with them. They pretend they are really there to associate with me, and I pretend that I can tolerate them. I'm not above slapping on some Chapstick and smooching a posterior or two. No harm, no foul. That's what makes the world go round. But we both know that it's a hobnob born of necessity.

Yes, the basis of my mediocre popularity is the fact that my tiny portion of public school real estate sits inside the double fire doors. The ones that slam shut automatically when the alarm sounds. I am near the offices, restrooms, cafeteria, and teacher workroom. I am a way station. A place to hang out while waiting for someone more desirable to pass along the route. A place to borrow educational implements forgotten way down at either end of the hall. To take an unplanned sojourn before reapplying one's nose to the grindstone.

Some colleagues see my little workstead as the last outpost before embarkation on the Educational Trail. A place to load up on staples (both literal and figurative) that are in short supply. And they don't want to barter with their grubstake. They have sadly mistaken me for a mission. But I offer neither handouts nor religious tracts. So they take. Steal me blind without even pulling the wool over my eyes. Steal while I am watching.

Tonight at open house, for instance, I lost a desk. But I knew the wily sidewinder who absconded with it. Because he sent a young apprentice to do his dirty work. Don't you worry none about Val's classroom furniture.

I stole it back one minute before go-home time. It's safely locked away in my hub.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Free is Free

Today was my first day back at school.

My ample posterior sat through a whirlwind of meetings. Then it sat through some more. And in one of them, I almost won a prize. Never mind that I didn't know what the prize was. I wanted it. The same as everyone else in the room wanted it. You could slap a pair of googly eyes on a cow pie, and teachers would clamor to win it. Because it's FREE STUFF! We'll find a use for it later.

I would like to say that my MENSA-level IQ and savvy gaming strategy led to my near-victory. But the Truth in Blogging Law puts the kibosh on that. The contest that I exited with only three players left was a battle of wits called BEAR/MAN/GUN. Perhaps you've heard of it. Now don't go thinking you can buy this game at Target. No. There is no board. No game pieces. You play it with your noggin and your appendages. Kind of like George Costanza treating his body like an amusement park. But not quite.

Most people would liken this sport to ROCK/PAPER/SCISSORS. But that's not violent enough. We are teachers, doggone it. We are tougher than the tools of our trade. The basic premise is:

BEAR beats MAN
MAN beats GUN
GUN beats BEAR

Yeah. So at the end of the technology portion of our meeting, we took five minutes to battle each other to the death. Figuratively, of course. Again, I would like to say that my MENSA-level IQ and savvy gaming strategy led to my near-victory. But the truth is, I had never played this game, so my main method of participation was getting the proper display of appendages in my head, and whirling around to spring it on my unsuspecting opponent.

Hey, y'all. I went out in a blaze of gunslinging glory, beaten by a man.

Too bad, so sad. I almost had that prize in my hot little hand. I couldn't wait to tell Genius about it when I got home.

"Hey, I almost won a thing at school."

"Great. What was it?"

"I'm not really sure. My buddy told me it was like a baby laptop. I think it's called a notepad."

"Um. I think you mean a netbook."

"Yeah! That's it! I almost won a netbook!"

I wonder why he walked off shaking his head. It's not like I would have known how to use it. He could have been the proud owner of a free notepad. Notebook. Baby laptop. I mean netbook.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Reluctant Exhibitionist

I have a semi-secret. Val is an exhibitionist.

That hasn't always been the case. It's a recent affectation. And not a conscious decision. I am, in fact, a reluctant exhibitionist. I try to keep my peccadillo out of the public domain. Well, except for blogging about it. But seriously, how many people could possibly be reading this? Unless there are a lot of freaky folks who consult their BFF, Google, in search of exhibitionists.

It is not my intention to seek out an audience and wow them with glimpses of my flesh. Sometimes, stuff just happens. The whole issue was actually initiated by accident, in the kitchen, with a drawer knob. No need to play a whole came of Clue for this culprit.

I have a favorite pair of special at-home relaxation pants that I slip into when I am not entertaining guests. They are capri in nature, gray, with a wide, two-tone lavender stripe down the outer leg area. They can be seen in full-figured women's catalogs under exercise wear. They are quite comfortable, and the color scheme really sets off my black men's socks and red Crocs. I'm sure I'm a topic of conversation amongst home-delivery drivers and air conditioner repairmen throughout the county. Even more so lately.

I am a fairly tall woman. Not petite. No gymnast bone structure here. I can reach the top cabinet shelves without a stepstool. And it's the dastardly cabinets that have made me an exhibitionist. Not so much the upper echelon cabinets as their drawers. Many's the time I have walked through my kitchen, minding my own business, gathering items for lunch-packing, when I have been brought up short by an unwelcome knob protruding into my personal space. Stopping me in my tracks. Hooking the pocket of my work and town pants. Requiring me to back up and unhitch.

My special pants have no pockets. But they have worn thin at the side pocket area. That's because I wear no chef's apron. Are you kidding me? I am not a chef! I merely warm up food in the microwave, or heat it in the oven. According to Hick. So when I wash my hands at the kitchen sink, I sometimes blot them on my pants sides. Saves a paper towel. It's not like I could hang a kitchen towel from those grabby drawer knobs.

And here we are again at the root of the problem. Those confounded drawer knobs. They snare the stitching between my two lavender stripes. After repeated molestings, my stripes have been stripped. A small hole appeared first. A small hole in my side-pants attracted those voracious drawer knobs like beef jerky attracts Sasquatch. It's not like I was messin' with the drawer knobs. I wasn't pranking them like Ashton Kutcher in a trucker cap. I wasn't teasing them like a laser light in front of a kitten. I wasn't enticing them like Sirens singing to sailors along a rocky shoreline. Those drawer knobs were attracted to my special pants like iron shavings are attracted to the red plastic wand in a Wooly Willy game.

After repeated gropings, the small hole was stretched into gargantuan proportions. I try to cover the gaping pants-wound with the side of my big shirt. But sometimes, an unsuspecting observer becomes privy to more of Val's private hip-skin than anyone needs to see. I try to soften the shock to their system by wearing undergarments the color of the stripes or the pants proper. I have a new pair of special at-home relaxation pants on order.

I apologize for the inconvenience

Saturday, August 11, 2012

And a Little Pony Shall Lead Me

On the way to town this morning, I beheld a horror that was nigh on unmentionable. But of course I'll mention it. Val would never let a fright get in the way of unraveling a good yarn.

I piloted my large SUV down the blacktop county road as I do every day, at least once. As we approached the low-water bridge, I pointed out to The Pony that the pair of roaming geese were not in their field. Neither were they on the road. So I was wary. That meant they were either floating along in the creek, or chillin' on the bridge.

It's a blind approach to that low-water bridge. Not on a curve. The road is ruler-straight. But it dips. Like one of those pretty pastel rubbery rulers that are flexible and can be whipped and whapped and leave a welt on an unsuspecting victim. Hypothetically, of course. This road dip at the edge of the bridge can be quite a problem in times of high water, because you cannot see if water is over the bridge until you are within ten feet of it. And if it is, you must put your large SUV in reverse, and back up for about a quarter mile to a turnaround driveway.

So I crept toward the bridge slowly this morning, lest the pair of geese be sitting in the middle. Oh, the geese were there. Toward the left side. One was sitting, kind of impersonating a swan. And the other was standing. That's when I saw the bone-chilling, nerve-wracking, tooth-chattering, silent scream of a sight:

That goose only had one leg!!!

Yikes! It was all I could do to drive by without losing a wheel over the other side. I couldn't shield The Pony. He insists on riding behind me, rather than in the shotgun position. Like I'm a common chauffeur, or perhaps to glide his window down one day at a stoplight and request some Grey Poupon. And The Pony was already looking for the geese, because I had so kindly pointed out that they were not in the field or on the road.

The more I gawked, the more I was relieved that the wound was not messy. No bloody stump. It was as if a goose surgeon had been flown in, perhaps in formation, to perform the amputation. I could not help but feel responsible. Had not I needed the Freon Chef to return to my abode yesterday? The one who handed me the yellow bill. That was not from a fowl? Now this silly goose was missing a leg. Coincidence, perhaps?

That gander stood there. On one leg. Not teetering. Very stable. The Pony asked how it could stand up from sitting position with only one leg. "Oh, geese. They have a good sense of balance. They're like the gymnasts of the avian world." Anything to keep The Pony's mind off the atrocity most likely committed by our very own air conditioner repair man.

"Um. Mom? His leg is not missing. It's up under his body, keeping warm. Our chickens do that sometimes."

Never mind.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Real Pain in my HPICCET

Here I sit, licking my wounds. Then applying a soothing salve made from Diet Coke and soon-to-be-proven-false promises. Wounds inflicted by the breakdown of my Heat Pump Inside Cooling Coil Element Thingamajigger that was apparently just fine one short week ago, so fine that he had an appetite for two pounds of Freon.

Funny how after forking over the dough for that feedbag, my HPICCET suddenly took ill. Gluttony is not pretty. And is not cheap. The Freon Chef returned this morning to see what he hath wrought. It seems that my HPICCET has an inoperable ailment. The only cure is a transplant. Have you checked into the price of HPICCET transplants lately? To grind salt into the gaping wound, HPICCET has a pre-existing conditon. He has already reached the cap on his warranty, having required a major procedure some years previous.

Now the dilemma. To secure a transplant for HPICCET to the tune of $1500 with a warranty of one year, or put him down along his entire unit, and welcome a new inside cooling unit into our home for an adoption fee of $1800. Yes. Tough choice. But we have chosen to euthanize HPICCET.

Even more depressing than the low blow to our semi-deep pockets, and the loss of our fickle HPICCET, is the fact that the adoption process will take three days. Do you grasp the gravity of my situation? NO AIR CONDITIONING UNTIL MONDAY AFTERNOON!

I feel faint. Crazy from the heat. At least we do not reside in a concrete jungle. Our sweltering temperatures abate a bit overnight. It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. Hey! That would be a catchy opening to a novel, don't you think? One one hand, the forecast calls for the mildest temperatures in the past month. For the whole summer, almost. But on the other hand, I return to work on Monday. There shall be much frantic rushing around. My cool morning shower will be negated by the oppressive heat and humidity blanket that shall drape itself over my rustic home like a John Carpenter horror movie. But without Adrienne Barbeau.

This has been The Summer of Even Steven, Harsh Taskmaster. I am curious to see what good things await.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Val: Sharer and Carer, All Rolled into One

Here's a little contest tip for anybody with $5 to spare. The Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction is open for entries. Deadline is December 1, with prizes of $500, $250, and $100. Entries should be 750 words or less.

I know this contest is old news to some of you. I've read about it on your blogs. So don't forget! You've only got about four months to send in an entry. And as the home page says: Weirdness is encouraged. Not that I'm calling you weird or anything. That would not be very ladylike. It just seems like this might be the kind of place where Sioux's woodchipper story might find a home.

Last year, I entered. And I plan to enter again. Because I am fresh out of ideas to blog about tonight, I am sharing a snippet of my weird entry that just might have been too weird even for this contest, since it garnered me absolutely nothing for my five dollars, other than a completed weird story.

How Many Roads Must a Manatee Ride Down?
            Dennis, we hardly knew ye! Oh, excuse me. I haven't introduced you to my new friend, Dennis the Manatee. Wait! I almost forgot. I can't introduce you now. Because Dennis is DEAD! Yep. He kicked the bucket, bit the dust, bought the big one. He's taking a dirt nap, six feet under.
            That's because Dennis was murdered. I can't prove it, but by my calculations, if the powers that be had simply left well-enough alone, Dennis might be here with us now. Not literally, because, well, Dennis would not like to be in my basement office, watching me type up his story. Nothing against me, of course. If he had to watch anybody type his story, I'm sure Dennis would have chosen me.
            A manatee is a big, sea-cow-looking critter. That's what Mr. Maven, my work colleague,  called him: a sea cow. How rude! But if Dennis was here today, I think he would forgive Mr. Maven the slight, because, well, if he was here today, that would mean Dennis was still alive!
            Technically, the sea cow is extinct, but some people, like Mr. Maven, use the term interchangeably with manatee. Did you know the name “sea cow” came about because these aquatic mammals taste like beef? Me neither. But it makes me question where Mrs. Maven shops for meat.

Yeah, there's more. But I don't want to subject you to the whole thing. That's the gist of it. Too weird, ya think?  It's based on a true story, you know. The people trying to rescue Dennis actually killed him. In my opinion, anyway.

Val Thevictorian. Judge. Jury. Working on her executioner's license.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cheeky Little Muse

My muse is an insomniac. Put down the espresso, Muse. It might be time to taper off.

I don't really like my muse. We haven't bonded. We're not besties. We have a semi-cordial working relationship. No mutual admiration society. No reciprocal back-scratching sessions. Just a nod in the elevator. An impersonal card at Christmas, name stamped, not signed.

Muse is sometimes embarrassing, flitting about in her lavender tights, crown of flowers flouncing about her limp auburn curls, cajoling me to set words to monitor. She does not realize that I can't be forced. In the human world, she would be that eighth-grade bully who gives you a Wet Willie, a titty-twister, a horse-bite, an Indian burn, a flat tire, and that thing where you bend your knees behind someone else's to make them collapse while standing. Shame on Muse!

Between 4:30 and 5:30 this morning, Muse made sure I could not sleep. Swept away all the hard work completed by The Sandman earlier in the wee hours. Put words and ideas in my mind. Played them on a loop. Ground her bony knee into the small of my back, tickled my philtrum with one of her detached crown flowers. A regular Olympic-gold-medal-class pest.

I might write down her idea tomorrow. Just to show her that we're working on MY terms. Not hers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

It's a Gamble

Here's a little writerly tip for any of you who happen to be of the writer persuasion.

Let me preface this tip with a question: do you want the good news or the bad news first? I often ask that of my students. I write the basics of the day's assignment on the whiteboard for them to gander at while I'm in the hall looking for speeders and lovers and horseplayers. When the bell rings, I walk to the board, point to the assignment, and ask which they want first. Most often, they request the bad news. Except for those cockeyed optimists who live with the hope that a sudden snowstorm, earthquake, or fire drill will disrupt the lesson before class time is over. The good news is usually that they may have a partner to work with. The bad news is that a worksheet is two-sided, or must be turned in before they leave class, or that there will be a quiz on the material the next day. C'mon. It's not like I'm giving away cash and prizes, or taking their firstborn child. keeping with my most common request, I'll give the bad news first: a submission costs $22. But the good news is that you may earn $250 if your story is selected. If you're good at writing succinct stories with a beginning, middle, and end, and have reaped success with prior publishing credits, this may be for you. Or not. Depends if you want to pay to enter. Kind of like the lottery. You may be out your money, or you may win your money back tenfold. It's not a sure thing like plopping down $2.25 plus tax, and receiving a gas station chicken breast.

Narrative Magazine is looking for iStories. They have to be short. You can read some examples here. If you have an iPhone, you can already get the free app here. They are working on an android app to come out later this fall.

I don't have an iPhone. I rarely read stuff on my android. And I don't know if I could write a good enough story to make it worth a $22 wager.

But I'm passing on this info. Because I'm a giver, not a taker.

Monday, August 6, 2012

With a Little Help From My Kin

Today I went to ready my classroom for the upcoming school year. The company of my indentured servants was required. And wouldn't you know it, I learned something within the walls of that bastion of knowledge. My sons are the Alf and Ralph Monroe of classroom organization.

You would think that two strapping teenage boys (sorry, not saying which one is Ralph) would knock out brainless, menial tasks forthwith. But you would be wrong. Because they truly appeared to be completing their tasks brainlessly. It took twice the time I would have needed to do it myself, had I been two strapping teenage boys.

We had three goals. Make sure that all of my teacher property had been put back into MY room after the summer scouring and polishing. Rearrange the furniture to the floor plan that was in place when I walked out the door in May. Put out the two sets of textbooks, in number order, so they could be checked out to students in the most orderly manner.

The first goal was easy enough. All items but one were present and accounted for. First time ever! Not a component was missing, except for a mouse.

Accomplishing the second goal was like working one of those crazy plastic math puzzles with the sliding tiles. Move five things to make room for the one you need to set in place first.

I directed them, of course. But they are somewhat like their father, in that there is only one way to do things, which is their own way, not mine. The file cabinet, for example. Most people understand that a four-drawer file cabinet full of files is heavy. That it can't be carried. That it requires a hand truck, which around here we just call a dolly. Genius sent The Pony to acquire the dolly. Which he found in the closet right next to my room. And here's where we diverged in our plan.

I told Genius to have The Pony help him move the file cabinet away from the wall a few inches. They could have tilted it and "walked" it forward a bit. But no. Genius rammed the dolly under the side of the file cabinet, and tried to wheel it across the room to an adjoining wall. File Cabinet was having none of that. There was no room for his sharp, angular corners when the dolly wheels tried to change course. So Genius rammed File Cabinet forward and backward, trying to turn him all the while. Gouging and scraping the white-painted concrete-block wall that separates me from the classroom next door. The Pony and I watched in horrified fascination.

"Well. I suppose I will have to explain why there is a tunnel from my room to the Spanish room now. And in the future, please remind me not to ask you for help in re-stocking my china shop."

Goal Three was an exercise in inefficiency. Genius messed with the bookcase shelving, skewing the unskewed, then exposing my false bottom. I put The Pony in charge of shelving and stacking, and Genius in charge of dragging stacks of books out from the bottom of the wooden cabinets. They were somewhat in order. But I knew from experience that even if they were stacked numerically, taking them out gets books out of order. They have the numbers on the bottom of the pages. So they can be seen quickly in a stack. But nobody drags ten texts at a time out from the bottom shelf. Except Genius. Who then told The Pony, a teenager of younger years and less musculature, to shelve them. I feared a hernia in the making.

The Pony gamely hauled huge stacks to the shelves and to the line of extra desks along the new wall tunnel area. He put them in proper order. They were already in piles of tens, twenties, thirties, etc. Up to the eighties. He got ahead of Genius. And then I saw the problem. Genius was crawling back into the depths of the bottom cabinet area, stacking books in numerical order before taking them out. When it would have been so simple to set out a stack, and let The Pony order them as he re-stacked. Because Genius is all about doing things the only way he can imagine them done.

I was glad to have the help, though. Even when Genius carried my roll of black paper that I use for blocking the front window when winter nears, so students can see my projector screen without sunny glare. Had he asked for my guidance, I might have suggested cradling it like a baby, or pinching it between thumb and forefinger to hold the roll while bringing it to the back corner by my desk for safekeeping. Rather than shoving an arm in the middle of the roll, then whipping it around while shouting, "Wee! Wee! Wee!" like Maxwell, the Geico pig. Resulting in a totally unrolled roll of black paper.

I'm going to miss him next year. In so many ways.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Duck, Duck, or Goose, Goose

The universe conspires against me.

More specifically, the universe thwarts my attempts at travel by blocking my path with various and sundry flora, fauna, and houses.

Today's roadblock was a barrier most fowl. You might have to look closely at my bad phone photo. But there they are. A pair of geese. I think they're geese. Sometimes The Pony and I argue over whether they might be ducks. With their bills intact! Not ripped off by some rogue air-conditioner repairman! We usually see them in a field along the road. Or swimming peacefully in the creek. But the last three days we've found them walking down the road, walking on the bridge, and now SITTING ON THE BRIDGE.

This picture was taken on my way home. At least one is standing, pretending to make an effort to get out of the way. They were both sitting down on my way to town. I might as well be driving on Bolivia's Death Road by the time I navigate my large SUV around them, taking care not to drop two tires over the side. The horn has no effect on them. On Friday, they continued with their leisurely stroll down the barely-two-lane blacktop, neither changing speed nor nor direction when I tooted.

No good is going to come of this behavior.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Kudos to My Sweet Baboo

Today, I sing the praises of Hick, my sweet baboo.

Hold on! I am not responsible for the medical bills of those who just fainted or split open their chin(s) as they dropped to the floor. Toughen up, buttercups. Or bandage your own wounds.

One of our dogs, Tank the beagle, has been having issues. He acts like something is hurting him. Writhes on his back. Bites at his nether region. Yelps for no apparent reason. So I made him an appointment with our vet. He hasn't been in a while. Because it costs more to get your dog a check-up than it does for your kid.

Hick got up early, hunted down the dog, crated him, and drove him to the vet for his 8:45 appointment. Seems that all Tank has wrong with him is a bad flea infestation. I suppose Vet would know. She stuck her finger up his butt and everything. Much to Tank's dismay. Hick had to hold him while he snarled. He's a testy one, that Tank. He still has all his parts, if you know what I mean. Normally, our pets have that very special operation, but Tank has papers, and thus escaped the knife. He's kind of a masculine hot-head at times.

Hick was a bit surprised. He told Vet, "But I put Frontline on him!" According to Vet, it has to be Frontline PLUS. Or else the flea eggs are not killed. She shaved a patch off Tank's back to get a good look at his doggy scalp. Now Tank has three kinds of medicine, and an Rx for a good old-fashioned bath. Vet advised that the water will turn red, from the flea detritus that coats Tank's skin. Hick asked why the other two dogs who run with Tank are not having this problem. Vet said they are probably infested also, but that Tank must have an allergy to the fleas.

Don't that beat all? A dog, allergic to fleas! And it only cost us $142.03 to find out! That's 177.5 Diet Cokes! Not that I begrudge my pet proper medical care. Even though that's almost half a year's worth of soda. And Tank is not even my favorite dog.

After Hick medicated Tank and turned him loose, he went to help one of his older sons move. Then he came back home, grabbed the keys to my Tahoe, and took it to find out why the right rear tire loses four pounds of air a week. Even though he told me last week that the tire people would never be able to find such a slow leak. But they DID! Said it was a loose valve stem. Supposedly fixed it. But like Hick said, he took it to Walmart, so we need to watch it and make sure that was really the problem.

But the sweetest babooish thing my Hick did for me today was bring me a 44 oz. Diet Coke when he returned with my Tahoe!

I am a very lucky woman.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Road House, but Without Patrick Swayze

Did you ever have one of those days, where it seems like everybody's gettin' on your case? From your teacher all the way down to your best girlfriend? Well, technically, that was Brownsville Station. But I kind of had one of those days, myself. Good thing I'm not a smoker. Or a hanger-outer in boys' rooms.

It all started innocently enough. But because you know that the universe conspires against Val, you know there's more to this story than a trip to town to drop The Pony off at his grandma's house. We called first to let her know that we would be arriving in about thirty minutes. The plan was to pick up a 44 oz. Cherry Diet Coke for her, and grab a sausage biscuit for Genius at the drive-thru. The Pony required no sustenance, thoughts of his imminent diet of Grandma's love already filling the void inside him.

I breezed through the soda bar, only to end up in line at the register behind a man buying a six-pack of beer and four dollars worth of lottery tickets. AT 9:30 IN THE MORNING! I know. Some people just can't put off their lottery tickets until a reasonable hour. A kid was ahead of me, too. Waiting for his brohans to pump some gas into a Mustang convertible. Twenty dollars worth of gas. Big spender. It takes eighty-eight dollars to fill up my Tahoe. Getting out of that parking lot was a bear. A snarly, tooth-gnashing, in-need-of-anger-management grizzly bear. Because there's road construction in that area, you see.

The roads were full of people who don't know how to drive as well as I do. Twenty mile per hour people in fifty-five zones. People with burned-out signal and tail lights who turned without signals. People with signal lights who were saving them for some grand occasion, who simply stopped in the middle of the road. Then turned. Cars swerving over the center line, then pulling off on the shoulder. Trucks. And that was just on the way TO Grandma's house.

I'll save the piece de resistance for the finale. So pardon me if I get a bit out of order. Put the cart before the horse. On the way home, I popped in to get my own soda. I went to the gas station chicken store, because, well, I didn't want those other people thinking I had already drank one 44 oz. Cherry Diet Coke and I was returning for another one. That's almost as bad as buying lottery tickets at 9:30 a.m.

Of course I got in line behind a chicken lady. She had four legs plus an eight-piece box. But I'm not one to ridicule people for their unconventional body composition. Her man had been pumping gas. He came in and grabbed his soda, making the checker all antsy waiting for Chicken Lady to pay. Of course she had to wait for her order to be boxed separately. Then she wanted five lottery tickets and five more of a different kind. She had gas. Plus the two sodas. And she pulled out her check book. Asked the checker her last name. Like she was writing a personal check. Then she asked the date, which was hanging on the wall. Then she grabbed the checker's pen, with the white plastic spoon taped on it for scratching off the verification on scratch-off tickets. And Chicken Lady proceeded to write out her check. Which she could have done while waiting in the chicken line.

Upon leaving the gas station chicken store and heading towards home, I hit three red lights. Of course I did. But while cruising under the overpass, the car in front of me made a U-turn. No signal, mind you. Just veered across the left turn lane, the opposite left turn lane, and into the going-the-other way lane. So I moved on up behind a twenty-mile-per-hourer, who got into the left turn lane by my first soda stop store, and stayed in the left turn lane. In spite of the fact that the turn lane came to an inverted V and then disappeared. On an uphill stretch. Just kept driving in the darn-tootin' middle of the road. I slowed way down to give it room. That car had a handicap parking tag hanging from the mirror. The driver was using one hand to steer, gesturing wildly in conversation with a burning cigarette in the other. Then, you might have guessed, came to a stop in the middle of the road. And made a right turn.

But this, THIS is the grandaddy of all incidents on today's ill-fated trip:

That's a road house. A house. In the road. On the main thoroughfare from my mom's house. I had to drive in the opposite lane to get around it. I really wanted this picture. So I went around the block. Yes. Now those folks who snicker that Val has certainly been around the block a time or two are validated. I am not one to endanger the welfare of others by slamming on my brakes and stopping to take a photo. So I stopped at this side-street stop sign. Looks like that house had a flat tire.

I know what you were thinkin'. That darn Val has been wicked-witching herself all over Backroads again, stealing ruby slippers, and this time, the house just missed her. C'mon. You know you were.

Today was definitely Friday the third-teenth.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Simply Because it was on My Mind Today

Did you even notice how some people won't accept responsibility? I'm not trying to sound like Andy Rooney. He didn't copyright those words. A lot of people say, "Did you ever notice...?" Like Jerry Seinfeld, for instance. But I'm not trying to emulate either one. I don't have the eyebrows. Or the horse face, flared nostrils, and big teeth.

Some people would not accept responsibility if it came with a cash award and a gold-plated statue. Everything is always somebody else's fault. I call them the "If...then...I guess" people.

"Well, IF you think I hurt your arm when I twisted it behind your back and it popped and the x-rays showed a fracture so the doctor put you in a cast, THEN I GUESS I'm sorry."

Not that my arm is in a cast or anything. That's simply an example of the lengths people go to in avoiding responsibility. I might just as well have used the examples of missing bowling shirts turning up overnight on the back of the couch, or mysterious drippy stains on the carpet, or a missing twenty dollar bill that reappeared facing the other way, or a cracked glass in the curio cabinet, or sticky residue on the kitchen linoleum. All of which may or may not have occurred in my residence this summer.

Apparently, I've been Ambiening myself all over the place, wreaking havoc and not remembering it. Or staging crime scenes for the fun of accusing others so I can put on my judge, jury, and executioner hats. Who knew I was so fond of chapeaus? Maybe these were acts of Chester Drawers, the resident basement entity. Or some maximum security prisoners tunneled out of the local lock-up to prank a gal in Backroads, just to hear her whine.

I say that Responsibility should stop having so much class. Stop showing up on the doorstep with an engraved invitation and a dozen roses and a bottle of champagne with a real cork, asking for the pleasure of one's company.

Responsibility needs to start biting people on the butt. Preferably, after having his teeth sharpened into vampire fangs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does This Thermostat Make My Butt Look Fat?

I gained two pounds today.

I know you're all shocked. Shocked! That a regime of 44 oz. Diet Cokes and gas station chicken for an entire summer, coupled with sitting in a mostly cool basement, would not result in a stunning weight loss. Life just isn't fair sometimes, is it?

But before you jump to a too-personal conclusion, I must add that the excess poundage was not discovered when I stepped on the scale that resides next to the refrigerator. Seriously. Why would I step on a scale? I'm not one to go looking for trouble. It finds me easily enough on its own.

No, I found out that I gained two pounds when the heating and cooling man handed me a yellow bill. Not a yellow bill, like from a cute, downy, snow-white duck. That would be gruesome. I certainly would not allow such a man to service my air conditioner! Nor would I condone his actions! Ducks should not be separated from their quackers. Because then they don't need Chapstick, and even if they wanted some, they could not tell the merchant, "Put it on my bill." Unless, of course, the merchant had ripped off the duck's bill himself. But why would he do that, when he could make more money repairing heat pumps?

The yellow bill was a piece of paper showing that I owed $184 for freon. TWO POUNDS of freon. Because I haven't spent enough time sweating this summer without the use of my air conditioner due to power outages. Nope. Let the power flow, and let my AC unit run its fan for 24 hours nonstop pushing tepid air through the ductwork, requiring me to fire up the exhaust fan after outside temps dipped below inside temps, thus using up even more kilowatts to suck cooler humid air inside my abode while huffing the hot air up and out through the attic.

Is there any snow in the forecast?