Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Submission that Almost Withered on the Vine

I received an email this morning concerning a submission that I made a while back. I know it came in this morning, because it wasn't there when I checked my phone at 1:30 a.m. as I plugged in the charger. Since I was just going out the door, after dousing The Pony's head with kitchen-sink water, the better to tighten his too-long mane into regular ringlets rather than the stretched-out curls of sleep...I did not take the time to get my glasses and read it. I told The Pony that I would need him to read it to me on the way to school. He was quite agreeable, even though I had just set him up to be a walking icicle when the wind hit his hydrated noggin between house and garage. It's not called a breezeway for nothing, you know.

Shortly after we left gravel and turned onto blacktop, The Pony retrieved my email on my phone. He read it excitedly for me. We are kindred spirits. As he finished, murmuring the last command of how I should peruse the story once more and make final edits and reply, I instructed him to back out of the email program so I didn't accidentally boob-delete it. Okay, I didn't say boob-delete to him. That would be a bit untoward. I merely said I didn't want to accidentally delete it when I dropped my phone into my shirt pocket for the walk from the parking lot into school.

Almost instantly, The Pony shoved my phone onto the center console of the Tahoe. "That was quick! Did you back out of the email?" It's what I do. I just hit that backwards arrow at the bottom of my phone. Not on the screen. On the metal of the phone casing. That's one thing on that contraption that I know how to work.

"Oh, I saved it in the archives."

"WHAT? What is that? I don't want it saved in the archives! I never use that! I want it in my inbox so I can go right to it when I get home."

"Well, it's in the archives."

"Well, GET IT BACK!"

"I can't. I don't know how to get into the archives on your phone."

"Great. Genius won't help me at school, and I can't get reception anyway. And you'll both be gone tonight to your Academic Team match. What am I supposed to do?"

"I don't know. I didn't do it on purpose. I actually thought it said 'add star,' not 'archives.' I'm so dumb sometimes."

"You are NOT dumb. I'm not mad at you. It was an accident. But there are very few things that are really important to me, and this happens to be one of them. The others being you, your brother, Grandma, and even Dad to a certain extent."

"I'm looking on my Gmail right now. I see where the archives are. But I never put anything in mine."

"Me neither! And I can't access Gmail at school on my computer. It's blocked."

"Uh huh. All email is blocked."

"HEY! Why don't you just open my Gmail right now on your laptop?"

"I never thought of that! Wow! You have 138 spam emails!

"Try to focus."

"There it is, the archives. Move to...IT'S BACK IN THE INBOX! At least on my laptop."

"Um. Yeah. It will be from wherever I open my Gmail. Whew! Between the two of us, we make a regular Einstein."

Pity the poor technological simpletons. We might as well be writing on cave walls with paint made from charcoal, spit, and animal fat. Except for that troubling starting-a-fire-to-make-charcoal skill.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One Size Fits Most

I have a birthday coming up within the fortnight. Don't think I'm fishing for gifts. Ol' Val has everything a woman could need. And then some. But there's something on the work front that I covet. My employer is going to spring for it, I'm sure. Not in time for my birthday, of course. But in time for next school year. I will drop some hints every month. I will pencil it into my requisition form, then erase it so it can still be seen. No need wasting my allotment of taxpayer dough on an item that I consider a right, not a frill. Other teachers have them. I merely ask to be kept like the Joneses. So...what do you get the teacher who has everything?


Not Manolo Blahniks. No Jimmy Choo shoes. Don't need Christian Louboutin boots. Nor vermillion Crocs. Nope. I'm talkin' about the latest fashion fad in educator footwear...


Look at the dainty lines. The cushioned instep. The high gloss. The aesthetic profile. I don't mean to drool like a fetishist, but you must admit there's something tantalizing about a well-turned chair-ankle in a hot quad of workplace clodhoppers.

I can't find a vendor for these eyecatchers anywhere. Not even my BFF Google can give me an image. I know they are not custom made. It's not like that hippie barefoot dude, Cody, on Dual Survival, sawed into a bloated cow carcass and peeled away dear, departed leather for a sole, through which he wove yucca fibers for straps. And I'm pretty sure they were not made by Mythbusters out of duct tape for their very own version of survival show sandals. Somewhere, a factory is chugging away, churning out these beauties in a steady gleaming stream.

It's all I can do to restrain the green-eyed monster when I happen across a sight such as this:

Oh, the coltish insouciance! Flaunting their footwear with unbridled abandon. Knowing not the effect such a sight has upon one so enamored of their assets.

I swear, as this blog is my witness, that one day, I shall never be chair-shoeless again!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rotten to the Core

I have been getting by on four or five hours of sleep during the week. Unless I nod off in the recliner while watching the news, that is. It's not by design. Not a part of my master plan to try and take over the world. There are simply too many things I want to do. Things that are hampered by my full-time job. Not that I'm complaining. I've adapted. By sleeping four hours per night. From 1:00 to 5:00 a.m., whether I need that shut-eye or not.

That lifestyle is catching up with me. I have been finding myself a tad forgetful. Like last week when I could not, for the life of me, recall the name of that thing a teacher puts on the board to keep the students occupied and educated the first few minutes of class, while she's taking roll and signing absentee slips and doling out make-up work. I was grasping at straws like a week-day bathroom-break-restricted 44-oz.-Diet-Coke addict on a Friday evening. It was kind of important. I needed that word to fill out my pre-evaluation form before the administrator's scheduled visit. To forge ahead with the rest, I penciled in words that sounded similar to me. Barnstormer? Brainstarter? Boardwarmer? I stopped short of asking the students themselves. We may be partners in education, but we're not EQUAL partners. A couple of hours later, it came to me: BELLRINGER!

This afternoon, at the end of a strenuous day pulling science project ideas out of students like a coon hunter pulling porcupine quills out of an inquisitive hound, I plopped down at my school desk to wait for The Pony to finish with academic team practice. "Whew!" I thought. "I really need a few minutes to decompose."

Maybe that's why so many people think I'm a stinker.

Monday, January 28, 2013

For Whom the Marquee Glows

My valuable time has been usurped this evening, filling out financial aid forms with Genius. Good thing that boy is smart, because I have a feeling he ain't gettin' nothin' 'cept what his noggin earns him in an academic scholarship.

Two-and-a-half hours I shall never recoup. Hours that I could have spent writing an interesting post. Or better yet, spent readying tales from the wood for submission to the Not Your Mother's Book series. I've got a bunch of them inside me, yearning to escape. The gas station chicken keeps shoving them back down.

Some of my more outgoing tales have already packed their bags, and departed to seek their fortunes in the world of entertainment. Others are waiting in the wings at the local dinner theater, biding their time until their cue. Some have just signed up for a thespian class at The Learning Annex. And a few sit in the audience, too timid to draw attention to themselves.

I wish them well, my little proteges. All big-eyed, breathless, and naive, sharing a cold-water flat with fifty-nine or so roommates, hoping not to be the one evicted for eating somebody's leftover Hunan Chicken in the communal icebox. That ragtag bunch of newbies, putting on a show, pleased as punch to be performing, still shocked to discover an audience on the other side of Aunt Penelope's old drapes.

How long before they're old and jaded? Sneaking out the stage door into the alley for a cigarette. Heating up the prop room in the throes of a clandestine affair with another ingenue or manchild. Refusing to sign autographs. Demanding a table without waiting at the dinner rush, bellowing, "Don't you know who I am?"

Then all too soon, they shall languish, spirit broken, having never hit Broadway, hacks in a rundown hotel where old has-beens go to reminisce about the salad days. When everyone was spit-shined and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, glowing with the vitality of youth.

Youth. So frivolously wasted on the young.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Val Thevictorian and the Ripple of Gloom

I have spent the day taking one step forward and twelve steps back.

Lest you think I am learning new dance moves, I must declare that I have NOT been tripping the light fantastic. No waltz, no polka, no electric slide, no macarena, no tango. Not even a chicken dance. I'm no hoofer. What I HAVE been doing is my tax return.

Oh, how simple the Federal 1040! It is mere child's play compared to the Missouri maze of false starts and dead ends and divisions and recombinations designed to flummox the math-and-direction-challenged everyman. Neither factor of which is usually a weakness in Val Thevictorian. Just when you think you're going to town on that sucker, you hit line number two, and have to embark on a journey that makes the adventures of Indiana Jones look like the afternoon playdate of a toddler in a backyard sandbox. It is akin to sending a new intern from the rooftop helipad to the basement morgue, and farthest reaches of every floor in between, all under the guise of procuring a left-handed thermometer.

Remember the days of the paper booklets mailed to each taxpayer near the beginning of January? I don't know about you other-staters, but Missouri had a thin book of forms, with accompanying directions, several little worksheet boxes...and the whole kit 'n' caboodle was only about eight pages from front to back! Now I need to get online, find the type-in forms, and when I go to look for directions, there are a multitude of unnecessary fillables in my way. EIGHTEEN PAGES! I don't want to print all that! I tried just a couple of prime pages, but you have to click the PRINT selection within the form, or you get gobbledegook. AND, you can click to get the instructions for each line, but good luck getting back to where you started from.

For the last two years, I've used TurboTax for my official filing needs. I have it ready this year, at my left elbow. But I'm trying to get these figures in an accessible reference form for the FAFSA. Genius happens to NEED this by February 1st. Yeah. Good luck, Genius. I just got my last document Friday. And rumor has it that forms should not be officially filed until after January 30th. Everything is pretty much in order right now, except I can't figure out why this MO form is giving me a couple-hundred-dollar break in adjustments, but not Hick. Darn those income percentages! They're so archaic. The Feds don't care that Hick makes twice my money. Why should the state revenuers? It's back to the old recalculation board for me.

Alas, I have tarried too long at the Diet Coke watering hole. I sense something creeping up behind me, and it's not granny panties.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Let's Make One Thing Clear

Just in case some of you are planning to complete a science project for my upcoming mandatory assignment, allow me to steer you in the proper direction before you go careening down a one-way street with no outlet. The following topics of investigation are not appropriate. Don't bother to research them and ask for approval. Denied!

* shooting guns of any kind at any target

* building any type of incendiary device

* lighting different flammable fluids on fire to see which burn the hottest

* feeding mice a diet of only Cheetos to see what effect it has on their health

* giving mice any type of supplement such as an energy drink to see what effect it has on their health

* making your own cough medicine to compare it with store-bought cough medicine in the effectiveness of relieving a cough in your little sister

* testing your pets for a reaction to stimuli

Yes, I have learned from experience. Unless I specify, the assignment can spiral out of control. The cough medicine lass could not understand why it was not ethical to mix various elixirs and herbs and offer them to her sibling.

The pet-stimuli investigation was actually listed on a website that we use to get project ideas. If I remember correctly, it involved touching various domesticated animals with a feather, or blowing a burst of air through a straw. I recall nothing about jabbing them with a Bic pen. Which was also not listed in the procedure that I approved before the actual experiment. Imagine my shock during the presentation when the young scientist reported that: "I poked my cat with the ink pen, and she scratched me and ran off. I poked my dog with the ink pen, and he bit me." Ahem. I most certainly did not approve that procedure. Luckily, the cap was left on the Bic.

I think, perhaps, the young experimenter learned a lesson about stimulus/response. I know that I did.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Look Away! It's Hideous!

Here's what happens when you send a man into the convenience store to buy gas station chicken. If you have a weak constitution, perhaps you should read no further. In addition, pregnant ladies, those with heart ailments, and gas-station-chicken connoisseurs should step aside. This tale is not for you.

I've grown comfortable with my refueling/poultry establishment. I recognize the workers. They know me. Sure, they stop short of calling, "NORM!" when I walk through the door. But they greet me. We exchange pleasantries about Larry the Cable Guy Chips. So it was with no trepidation that I entered last night to pick up a fowl feast. As luck would have it, the luck that has dogged Val Thevictorian all her live-long life, an elderly gentleman entered upon my heels and made a beeline for the chicken counter. Of course, it was an elderly gentleman kind of beeline. Perhaps you are acquainted with Tim Conway as The Old Man. I sincerely thought I could take him.

The dispenser of my 44 oz. Diet Coke had just completed the last gurgle when I saw Mr. Clueless beat me by two seconds. I'm quite speedy at filling up. But there he was, not at the counter proper, but peering through the glass case. The cashier asked if he needed something from the kitchen. "I guess so." She pushed the doorbell button under the counter that signals the chicken clerk attending the fryer that his help is required. He came out in his fetching little plastic hairnet.

"May I help you?"

"I guess so."

"Do you want some chicken?"

"That's what she sent me in for."

"Do you know what you want?"

"I don't know. I guess I'll take two of those in the front, and two of those in the back, and two of those in the front, and two of those in the back." At no time did he point. Just peered into the case.

" you want two breasts? And two wings? And two thighs?"

"I guess so."

The chicken clerk put on his plastic gloves, folded up a box, and grabbed his tongs. He deftly snagged the pieces and put them in the box.

"I think that's only six."

"Yes, sir."

"I want two of those." Again, no pointing.

"Oh, you want an eight-piece box?"

"Do you have one of those?"

"Yes. It's two breasts, two thighs, two wings, and two legs."

"Gimme two of those there."

"Two legs?"

"I guess so."

Let the record show that this business is known for their eight-piece chicken boxes. It's on the sign out front. It's clearly listed on the menu on the wall behind the counter. That poor chicken clerk must have thought he was being pranked. He remained cheerful and polite. He scribbled out the ticket and wrote in the eight-piece box. Granted, it was his error to start with, not keeping proper track of how may 'two of those' Mr. Clueless asked for. On a normal day, I would have stepped past the debacle with my soda. But I was entranced by this befuddled septuagenarian. I couldn't walk away.

Ladies, don't let your husbands grow old and buy chicken.

Mr. Clueless is lucky he was not in line to buy soup in New York City.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Can't Help But Share

You know the Super Bowl is coming up, right?

Forget about it! Puppy Bowl IX is where it's at! Here's a link to the most heartwarming spectacle ever. Genius and I watched it one year. You don't mean to sit down and waste all that time. It just happens. You'll find yourself rooting on your favorites. "Get away from him! Look out! That's not fair, you big bully!"

Just when you think it can't get any better...THERE'S KITTY HALF-TIME!

I know! Exclamation points don't do it justice. I'm trying to share this feel-good event so others can feel as good as I. Had to use proper grammar, clunky as it sounds. It's not such a stretch from my everyday feelgood stories of unicorns and rainbows.

If you have Animal Planet, mark your calendar. Or maybe you can find it online later.

PUPPIES! Fluffy KITTIES! Oh, yeah!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We've Got a Bleeder!

There I was, lost in peaceful meditation, grading assignments, awaiting the end of the NatGeo video on the infant mammoth found frozen after 40,000 years, when a member of the audience walked by my desk. I thought nothing of it. They do that all the time, on the roundabout way to the Puffs box. It's cold and flu season, you know. My desk is on the anti-express route.

What's this? He's coming back to stand right beside me? Behind the desk? My inner sanctum has been breached! Oops! Did my thoughts escape my fingertips again? The kid was standing right beside me. Leaning forward. I turned to see a Puffs soaked with blood. "Can I go? To the bathroom?"

"Of course! Go now! We'll unlock the door to let you back in." No need for Red to tarry, trying to set the door gently against the frame so the latch did not connect. I didn't want him to lose consciousness for lack of hemoglobin. It's not nice to starve your lungs for oxygen.

I grabbed a Puffs and squirted a generous dollop of Germ-X on it. Then I proceeded with a visual inspection. No visible signs of body fluid. I wiped off the inner door handle. Just in case. Because my number one goal, as I tell the students every August, is to keep everybody in our school safe. As soon as that video finished, approximately five minutes later, a front-row citizen of Mrs. Val Thevictorian's world announced, "Hey! There's blood on the floor!"

Oh, dear. We can't have that in this day and age. I went to look. It was a single drop. Smaller than a dime. To avoid mass hysteria, and buy myself some time, I said, "I don't think anyone is going to be walking over it in their bare feet. Stay away from it, and I'll get it cleaned up." My initial plan was to grab a baby wipe and some Fantastik (that stuff is FANTASTIC, you know!), then finish the job with a paper towel and Germ-X. But I got to thinking. The district must have a policy in place for blood cleanup. I remember stories of sporting events, and tales of Genius's split-open head, as told to me by the previous custodian. He had a special bottle of liquid mixed up for just such calamities. That was the protocol. Activity had to stop until the blood was removed. By a trained professional.

I stepped out into the hall. Cus had just come on duty. I explained the situation. "Got it!" said Cus. Cus is nothing if not efficient. "I'll use my bleach towel." Apparently, bleach is the superhero of cleaning fluids. I'm surprised Cus didn't have it in a holster on a tool belt. In came Cus, out went the spot. HooRah!

As Cus walked out the door, I mentioned, "Maybe I should have blocked it off with cones." Uh huh. But I did not even have a pair of plastic gloves. Nor a hazmat suit with a respirator like those worn by the government guys experimenting on Stu Redman in The Stand. Gone are the days when a kid could snort out forty gallons of blood, have the teacher tilt his head back, pinch his nose while he gargled on life fluid, then be pronounced healed, and spend the rest of the day wearing a stiff brownish-red shirt. I remember skinning a hole right through my royal blue polyester pants with the little stitchy thing down the front of both legs (worn under a dress, of course), and wearing those clammy things all afternoon, with a gaping hole in my knee covered by a square of soggy scarlet gauze and hospital tape. My mom gasped so audibly when she saw me get off the bus that I heard her half a block away.

The times, they have a-chang-ed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Frank N. Furter is Missing!

Is it considered inappropriate to put your wiener on a milk carton?

Wiener, frankfurter, tube steak, hot any other name, would it still taste like ambrosia to my husband Hick?

As you may recall from your unannounced visit last night, the Thevictorian supper menu was chili. That's right. Chili. With a side of slaw for those who desired a green vegetable. Because all I ever needed to know about meal planning I learned in the high school cafeteria, I knew that tonight's menu would be chili dogs. If it's good enough for public school children, it's good enough for us.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled out the meat drawer and found four hot dogs missing! Not that I count hot dogs. It was a brand new pack. One of those big packs, because I know how much Hick loves him some hot dogs. I bought them Friday evening. We have not had a meal including them. The zip-locked package had been opened. AND FOUR WERE MISSING! I started the inquisition.

"Hey! Who's been into the hot dogs?" The Pony was in the basement. I knew he couldn't hear me. Genius was still at school working on his robot for Saturday's competition. So he definitely couldn't hear me. Hick was on the living room couch.

"Is your mother talking to ME?" He hollered down to The Pony. Like I, in the kitchen, would not hear.

"Yes, I'm talking to you. Who has been into the hot dogs?"

"Well...I ate two last night."

"We had CHILI last night!"

"I wanted chili dogs with mine."

"You ate a bowl of chili AND chili dogs, or you just put it all together on a plate?"

"I put it all together."

"Why aren't your buns open?" I buy the whole-wheat buns for Hick. Then I feed them to the chickens at the end of the week.

"I used white bread."

"You are not supposed to have white bread! And there are FOUR hot dogs missing."

"Oh. I took two in my lunch. On those white buns."

"The ones you could only get by moving the wheat buns out of the way? I am going to quit wasting money on those."

Here's the point. Hick is a hot dog junkie. He can't resist them. Hide them under the celery and mushrooms for three weeks, and he'll still find them and eat them. So I don't buy them often. It's not like I want to count food or chain the door of the Frigidaire shut like I have a resident with insatiable appetite syndrome. I just want to have my logically-planned meals to progress through the week logically. Not have Hick eat chili dogs for supper, take chili dogs in his lunch, and then be served chili dogs for supper.

I don't know why I care. Hick would probably prefer hot dogs at every meal.

Monday, January 21, 2013

If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd Have Locked the Door

Oh! Hello...what are YOU doing here?

I thought I latched the door. I was only away for a minute. No, no. Make yourself comfortable. I was off submitting a spur-of-the-moment idea that took just a smidge of updating to be presentable. Kind of like a mother cleaning her offspring's face with her thumb, some mom-spit, and a little elbow grease.

Did you help yourself to some chili? I'm sure the pot was still on the stove. Sorry we didn't leave you three bowls to sample. It's just as well. I don't think you would have found any that was just right. I like my chili in a cup, piping hot. Genius prefers his in a styrofoam bowl, barely warm. And while you may suspect that Hick's is the elusive just right, it's not. Not unless you take yours all beans and hamburger and diced tomatoes and caramelized diced onions, with no liquid. The liquid I take special care to infuse with a variety of flavors. Chili powder, of course. Along with tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Frank's Original Hot Wing Sauce, hickory barbecue sauce, ketchup, Heinz 57, some fresh-ground black pepper, and a dash of Splenda. I could drink that with a straw. Hick, not so much.

Are you tired? Need a nap? Good luck trying out the beds. The Pony's is located in the middle of a booby-trapped minefield of book stacks and clean clothing. Genius just washed his sheets and pillowcase and comforter (okay, he commanded ME to do it), so his bed is freshest. Good luck catching it at a time it is empty of Genius. My bed is an enter-at-your-own-risk proposition. Hick has the sniffles. That means the bed has the sniffles. Or at least the air space over the bed, which is fogged with Hick-sniffles throughout the night, courtesy of Hick's breather.

Perhaps you should look to a chair nap. The obvious choice is Hick's La-Z-Boy. But remember, that recliner has the sniffles. My basement recliner suffers from the same malady as Genius's bed: good luck finding it without me in it. The third choice is my office chair. It's kind of hard on the neck.

Wait! Where are you going? I'm trying to be hospitable. Drop in again sometime. We'll whittle a corncob pipe and chew the fat.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Was, Perhaps, My Third Strike

Sometimes, the news headlines you read on the internet are quite intriguing. There you are, browsing away, never intending to actually click on an article, when the headline grabs you by the throat. Makes you hover that little index finger over it until it turns blue.

This morning, I was intrigued to see that "Men who take care of their guns are more likely to enjoy better sex, have fewer issues with erectile..." Yeah. Who knew? Such a timely issue, what with the recent firearm frenzy preoccupying the media 24/7. Those dudes must be really in tune with themselves. It made me think of that scene in Full Metal Jacket, where Joker and the other private-grabbing privates chanted, "This is my rifle, this is my gun, this is for fighting, this is for fun." There must be some connection, I surmised. It made me curious as to what kind of study had been done. Ever the scientist, desiring to check out the experimental design, I hovered my cursor-finger over the title. What do you know! That connection was actually about men who take care of their gums!

A few weeks ago, I was perusing Amazon for new titles. One caught my eye. Saturday Night Windows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives, by Becky Aikman. The cover was kind of a dark blue, with what looked like snowflakes falling. "Hm..." I thought, "that looks interesting. Maybe it's about somebody looking in windows and watching people live their lives. Some kind of meek lonely person, not a creepy Tom-peeper." I clicked on it. Read the description. Well, I'll be hornswoggled! That book is about widows! Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just not my cup of vicariousness.

Friday evening, The Pony and I did the weekly shopping on the way home from school. We pulled out onto our usual outer road for the trip home. It takes us past a propane tank business. Earlier in the week, The Pony told me he saw a tank with the end taken off, and a man inside. Like he was cleaning it or painting it. I was driving, so I took his word for it. Now it was near dusk, and we were going the other way. "Hey, Mom! Now you can see that tank."

"What in the world...? Look at these two fools. I get SO sick of roadwalkers!"

"See? The end is open."

"I can't look. I'm going to run over--hey! They're on bicycles! That's all I need. Two idiots on bicycles in front of me, riding across that bridge!" The bridge is barely two lanes, and is supposed to be closed down this month for replacement. It is made of rusty iron beams that have been hit at the 12' 6" Clearance sign by the top of a semi. Trucks are no longer allowed to cross it, but school buses are. Go figure.

"Right there, Mom! Did you see?"

"No, honey. I'll have to look another time. It's all I can do to avoid these...ROAD SIGNS? Those weren't roadwalkers or bicyclers! They're ROAD SIGNS!"

"That's really bad. You're even wearing your glasses."

Yes. With my glasses that I got in October, I could not tell stationary road signs from moving people. I'm starting to suspect that my optometrist ripped me off for two pairs, bifocals AND regular glasses that I use for driving.

I'm glad that I stopped short of honking at those signs to get out of the way. If you ever drive through Backroads, it is probably good advice to fear the beeper.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Opening Arguments in the Case of Owner Lady vs. the Audience

There I was, watching the local news this morning, when my dainty nostrils flared involuntarily. My delicate olfactory system had detected an unmistakable whiff of reproductively-capable male bovine bowel product.

The story was about a dog that had been very ill, had barely recovered from an apparent poisoning. The owner lady believed that her dog had ingested poison put out by her neighbors. Oh, she wasn't accusing them of trying to kill her dog. She was bending over backwards to justify their actions. The dog was a sweet-looking black lab mix. His name escapes me. Owner Lady was shown picking him up at the emergency vet facility, where he had spent several days. He now needs a special diet and medicine for a while. But he seemed to be in good spirits.

Over a video of Doggie wagging his tail and smiling, the newscaster voiced that Owner Lady believed Doggie had picked up the poison on a leashed walk through the neighborhood. Owner Lady purported that Doggie had either walked over poison pellets that homeowners had put out to kill squirrels or rats, then licked his feet, or he had eaten an animal that had been killed by the poison. BS! BS! BS! Which is it, Owner Lady? How could you not know what happened, holding the end of Doggie's leash?

Seriously. Own up to it, Owner Lady. People know you love Doggie. You spent a fortune having him healed. It is obvious in the way you speak of him, and the way he responds to you. We won't hold it against you. Just tell the truth already. Stop the charade.

Here are the possibilities:

*Doggie was let to run free through the neighborhood, maybe due to negligence, laziness, or the fact that he's a world-class escape artist.

*Doggie was walked by an irresponsible person, a child, perhaps, or a dog-walker of ill repute but bargain-basement price.

*You, Owner Lady, let Doggie eat yardkill, allowing him to actually be a dog and partake of the wonders of canininity, while you were holding the end of his leash.

Imagine yourself as a responsible dog-walker. I can't do so, because my dogs are country dogs, and run through the countryside, ears flapping in the breeze, baying at all manner of furry future victims, and rolling on odiferous carcasses with abandon. While on your walk, would you not notice if sweet Fido tiptoed through blue pellets and later licked at his toe jam? How could you NOT KNOW if sweet Fido was chowing down on a dead squirrel or rat WHILE YOU HELD HIS LEASH?

Sorry. I'm getting all worked up. Something does not add up in this tale of Doggie's woe. True, my mind is always trying to sniff out conspiracies. I like to analyze evidence. In my mind, I would make a good prosecutor. What a great job, to argue and cite bits of trivia from past cases and be paid for it.

Have I convinced the jury that something is amiss?

Friday, January 18, 2013

An Apology of Sorts

Oh, dear.

It seems that I might have crossed the line of good taste in yesterday's post about feces transplants. I thought it was all in good fun. If not exactly good clean fun. No malice was intended. Yet it seems that some found my goodwill gesture of spreading news of cutting-edge developments in the field of intestinal medicine to be less than savory. For all who were offended, and afraid to leave a comment expressing your true feelings, all I have to say to that is..."Up your nose with a rubber hose!" Oh! Did that really fly out of my fingertips? I most certainly did not mean that! That is what Horshack on the Welcome Back, Kotter show used to say. Not me. I don't quite know where that came from. I am a lady of tact and refinement. So here is an open apology to all who might have been put-off by my off-color topic.

Dear Readers Who Found Yesterday's Post Offensive:

The messenger readily accepts the blame. In trying to inform the masses about the work being done to foist feces into other folks' bowels, I did, perhaps, cross the line of good taste.

I thought I had charged right up to the precipice overlooking the chasm of inappropriateness, and put on the brakes in time, before I became a cartwheeling Wile E. Coyote spinning down to a dot and a puff of dust. However, it seems that I took the plunge. So...since that horse is out of the barn, that train has pulled away from the station, that poop has left the chute...allow me to apologize.

I get it. Feces is not your cup of tea. Like schoolchildren, some bloggers seek approval, and some simply seek attention. It seems that I am one of the latter. The potty-mouth of the classroom becomes the poopy-fingers of the internet.

That's me. I cannot change my spots. I can only offer a half-hearted apology when the poo hits the air-circulator.

As my husband, Hick, would say: "Well, IF I really offended you, then I GUESS I'm sorry."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What We Have Here is a Success to Eliminate

The shiznit hit the internet today.

I read that the cure for a severe intestinal infection caused by Clostridium difficile bacteria can be most successfully treated by a feces transplant! Can you imagine? The doctor comes in holding his clipboard, wearing his best white coat, and says, "We have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we can cure the infection that is causing you acute intestinal pain, recurrent diarrhea, and impending death. The bad news is, the cure is not's a feces transplant. Yes. That's right. We take feces out of a donor's gut, and put them into your gut. Uh huh. That's right. Somebody else's crap in your large intestine."

The thought of a feces transplant must be hard for some folks to swallow. But not for others! Feces can be put into the patient's intestines by colonoscope, enema, or a tube through the nose, down the hatch, into the stomach, past the duodenum, through the small intestine (the lesser, chocolate babka of the digestive system), and into the descending colon. Kind of like going around your elbow to get to your thumb. Oh, and if you prefer, you can do this treatment at home! No mention of whose feces you get, or if you pick them up at the pharmacy, or somebody comes to your door to present you with the specimen in a little Chinese take-out-food cardboard container with the cute metal handle, or if, perhaps, you can pick the poop of a family member or loved one.

All right. I fibbed. That info is in the article at the link. Patients pick their own poop-givers. That's kind of a sticky issue. How do you ask somebody to give you their excrement? And make it seem like they're doing you a favor. And assure them that you're not a freak. Once you snare your pooper, their gift that stops you from giving is tested, then run through a blender! I know! Maybe you can do that part at home with a Magic Bullet. Just don't ask me over for smoothies.

Also, imagine the pride of the donor. "Yep. Doc says I'm the perfect donor for this feces transplant. Apparently, I'm full of it."

To think, all the money spent on pharmaceuticals and invasive surgeries, only to find this low-tech feces cure right under our noses.

Scientific research. A process of elimination.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Little Science Humor

Have you ever heard of Newton's Cradle?

Just a hint--it's not the bed baby Isaac slept in. You might not be familiar with the scientific name. Perhaps, like me, you simply refer to it as that thing with silver balls that you pull out the end one and let it go and the last ball in the line pops out. Yeah! That thing!

Today a colleague shared a cartoon with me. She had it on her phone, and I had just come in from the 13-degree parking lot after duty, and I did not have my bifocals on my watering eyes. So it took me a minute to get the joke. I felt like Elaine trying to decipher cartoons in The New Yorker. But I stopped short of drawing a pig at the complaint department saying, "I wish I was taller."

The colleague was sending it to a former teacher at our school. My co-worker said, "I've got the caption blocked out, but it says, 'Why physics teachers should not do playground duty.' " It was a drawing of five kids on five swings on a swing set. A man stood at the end, holding one of the kids and his swing off to the side. Preparing to let him go, and whack all the other kids on their swings. I don't want to post the cartoon, but here's a link.

Yeah. It was a New Yorker cartoon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Country Livin' is Wildlife for Me

The country lanes of Backroads are alive with tasty meals on hoof and wing. In the past thirty-six hours, The Pony and I have encountered four deer and twenty-nine turkeys within two miles of our country palace. Having neither license to kill, nor a knife for skinning, we continued on our way once the wildlife cleared our blacktop path.

The deer were browsing along the left side of the road. I rounded a curve, and said, "That's a big dog!" But it was a little deer. A doe. She scooted through the ditch and up into the woods, flipping her white tail at me, to join her band of merry men. Three little bucks stood staring at me. One a four-pointer. The other two with just a single little antler on each topside of their head. I didn't know bucks hung out together, but my students assure me that once rut is over, they do.

The turkeys showed up this evening, around 4:30, as we were coming down Mailbox Hill. I have to watch it, because one side is still icy from Sunday morning. As I topped the hill, foot poised over the brake pedal, I saw birds walking across the road. Like those animated ones at the beginning of The Partridge Family. These were no partridges. Not colorful. Nary a Keith, Laurie, Danny, Chris, Tracy, or Shirley in the bunch.

I started to count them. Not like sheep. I was already yawning and ready for a nap. Every time I tell Hick that I saw turkeys, he asks how many. One, two, three...they kept coming out of the woods on the left, crossing to the right. Too bad the possums weren't there to take notes. I was a bit apprehensive that a BigFoot-type truck would run up on me. But still, I sat in a stationary Tahoe and counted turkeys. The Pony joined in. As soon as one would run into the right-hand woods, another would emerge from the left. They were like short feathered clowns without a car. No end in sight. It was like the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. If there were twenty-nine Beatles. And if some of them could fly.

Oh, they fly, you know. Contrary to WKRP folklore. I can't speak for tame fancy eatin' turkeys. Or for those dropped from a plane. But the wild turkeys surely do fly from the ground up into the trees. The are not graceful downy ballerinas. But they achieve lift-off. They sound like a squadron of helicopters when they do it. Some of the latter road turkeys took off into the wild gray yonder. More flew out of the left-hand trees and across the road. Kind of like Duck Hunt. But without a Nintendo red shooter. It's a good thing they stopped at twenty-nine, because The Pony and I were approaching our finger/toe counting limit.

Hick the unofficial Doomsday Prepper would be pleased to hear of my experiences. He does not actively prep like the Nat Geo show people. He just talks about it a couple times a month. "I got this little bucket at the auction. Do you know why it's so skinny? So it can go down the well pipe. If we lose all electricity and can't get gas for the generator, WE will have water. People coming out of the city trying to live here won't have clean water. They'll have to boil their water." See what I mean? Left to my own devices, I would probably poke together a whole bunch of plastic straws and stick them down in the well pipe like a butterfly tongue sipping nectar from a flower. Which is actually not a tongue at all, but a specialized proboscis. Just humor me and play along. We don't have to be sciency specific all the time.

Meat on the hoof and wing means that it will take longer for Hick to resort to eating his precious chickens and goats. Of course, he does not like to hear that if we are in the midst of doomsday survival, the lack of medicine will do us in before we starve to death. He's probably on a quest to find folk medicine remedy recipes in an old armoire at an auction or flea market. And maybe another box of auction meat, which he WILL buy this time.

Actually, it would take quite a long time for either of us to starve to death.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

Pardon this look on my face. It seems I've just swallowed a canary. Or DID I? Let me assure you that if such a calamity has befallen a tiny bright feathered was an accident. I never expected that the canary would fly right into my mouth. What was I supposed to do, choke on it?

This has been one of the best Mondays EVER. But I shan't reveal my secret(s). Here is a short list of items that were NOT bestowed upon me today. It is not all-inclusive. And even if you shout out a guess, I will not confirm your suspicions. A lady reveals nothing, you know. And about those eyebrows...there should be TWO. Never forget your A League of Their Own guide to etiquette.

I most fervently pinky-swear that today, Val was NOT...

...named Chief Arbitrator of Motorist/Roadwalker Relations

...crowned Wife of the Year

...rewarded for her exemplary customer loyalty with a lifetime supply of gas station chicken

...awarded Miss Congeniality in a final competition group that included a honey badger, a cobra, a tasmanian devil, a great white shark, a scorpion, a killer bee, a porcupine, and a scorpion.

...asked by Genius to accompany him to college, audit his classes, serve as a third roommate, lay out his clothes, and clean his face of miniscule smudges by using momspit and a little elbow grease

...chosen to sing the praises of UPS in a national series of commercials plagiarized from that Flo lady

...paid cash money to participate in a scientific study to find out whether human blood can be replaced by Diet Coke

...selected to test new scuba gear on dry land to see if it can withstand the forceful, germ-laden exhalations of a person tethered to a breather at night

...picked to helm the National Efficiency in the Workplace Task Force

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Honing the Knife in Preparation

I have been stirring the cauldron of creativity this weekend. Reviewing past works, and taking a stab at new ones. Believe it or not, two of the items listed below are previously-written tales that need more words! I know! So shocking, that in my past, I was succinct, concise, terse, and to-the-point. With less descriptive language.

Bubbling to the top of the almost-ready-to-submit stew are:

PEEPS Gone Wild: a little story I shared here concerning mysterious appendages on Snowman PEEPS. If you remember, the picture left nothing to the imagination as to why they were such merry gentleMEN.

The Free Hairwad Hot Tub: a story I may or may not have posted, about Hick's plan to install a free hot tub. In the garage.

Locked Up! the story of the change in classrooms that resulted after my fall/rise from biology teacher to at-risk mentor, and the ensuing generosity of a particular colleague. NOT!

When Chipmunks Attack: a reminder that ground squirrels are most comfortable on the GROUND, and that cats can climb trees. And a tetanus shot needs a booster every ten years.

Yes, I am preparing to shove my baby birds out of the nest later tonight. I'm hoping they soar. But I'll repair their broken bodies if they take a nosedive. Allow them some time to convalesce after reconstructive surgery. Then push them out of the nest again. Maybe I'll make them learn how to ride a bicycle, just so I can force them to get back on when they crash. Or enroll them in rodeo school, so I can require them to get right back on the horse that throws them. Or serve them some milk, knowing full well that they will spill it, and decree that there's no use crying. Or, if I'm in a particularly festive mood, I'll give them something to cry about.

Such a big step, sending my literary babies out into the world. Stand back, while I slice this apron string.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Grand Opening is Now Closed

We have a mini-mystery here in the old homestead.

Technically, it's a middle-aged homestead, built the year before The Pony was born. Every now and then, some odd antics occur without explanation. The most recent incident was last Sunday.

I called The Pony to my dark basement lair, my office, located at the front corner of the basement. The Pony lounges on the couch at the other end, watching the big-screen TV and fiddling about on his laptop. I wanted him to put my baggie of knee ice back in the mini-fridge under the stairs. He does this for me on a regular basis. Once a day. But Sunday evening, something was different.

"Okay. Now THAT'S creepy."

"What do you mean?" The Pony had crossed three steps from my office doorway to my desk to grab the knee ice. Or as he proclaimed it, knee water. Ice melts, you see. When he took those three steps back to the doorway, he made that "creepy" proclamation.

"That door was not open when I came in here." The Pony was not talking about my office door. It's only a portal. No hinges. No door. I wanted it that way. "It was closed, and now it's open."

"What are you talking about?"

"The bottom door on that gun cabinet by the refrigerator. It's standing open. Again. It was open earlier when I came downstairs. I noticed when Dad asked me to bring him up a soda. I closed it. Now it's open again. That's not right."

The gun case holds two long guns of a type which I do not know. I'm not a gun enthusiast. It's a wooden case, with a glass door that opens to take out the guns. Hick says those are his "show" guns. The ones he's okay with somebody taking if they break in, rather than look for the "good" guns. He's a bit of a collector. I've only known him to go target-practicing a number of times less than I can count on my fingers. Thumbs excluded. The gun case is against the front basement wall, under the stairs, across from the mini-fridge. It has two small wooden doors at the bottom. Inside is a pair of winter gloves. That's it.

The small doors were what The Pony was talking about. I would logically infer that he must have bumped the door while getting a soda or knee ice out of the mini-fridge. Except that the cabinet door was open BEFORE he got the soda. And AFTER he came directly from couch to office to grab the knee ice and put it back a couple hours after he got it out. It's a short cut, you see, to pass under the stairs, between mini-fridge and gun cabinet. A short cut The Pony takes multiple times per day, coming to my office when summoned, or going to and from the NASCAR bathroom next to me.

In all the years of homestead living, this is the first time that cabinet has let a door hang open. The Pony has been fetching items from the mini-fridge, and cutting through that gap, hundreds of times. I can't explain it. But The Pony is spooked. Wednesday night, we were looking for a lost item. One we thought The Pony had misplaced. Or put down somewhere and forgotten.. "I'd go look in that cabinet, but I don't want to. It's dark over there."

I'm not sure what to make of it. Since last Sunday, the cabinet has remained closed.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Val Can Get it for You Wholesale

I'm kicking around a new invention. Not literally kicking. That's an aerobic activity, hard to perform from a chair in front of the computer in your dark basement lair.

But let's not put the cart before the horse. And I assure you, my invention is NOT a cart. You'll find out farther down the page. Hang onto the cliff a bit longer, you instant-gratification junkies! Patience is a virtue, and winding through one of Val's meandering posts is next to Mother-Teresa-ness.

This morning in the shower, I had the most scathingly brilliant idea for a submission. I'd like to think that inspiration flows into me through some other-worldly conduit. But I have a feeling it's just the thyroid medication kicking in. The idea was about how teachers support each other, have an unwritten code, how colleagues have your back, will give up their prep hour to fill in for you if an emergency arises. UNTIL IT COMES TO SUPPLIES. Not-Heaven hath no fury like a teacher filched from. They are on guard 24/7 for acts of pilferage.

So invested was I in this story of truth that I smiled at The Pony all the way to school, he in the seat behind me, oblivious to my Cheshire lippage. Listened with one ear to the plot of the new science fiction book he is writing (already has a prologue and two chapters), I gleefully invented new words in my head, set the scene, shouted the kicker in caps in my mind.

By seventh hour, I had forgotten the whole thing. All day long, I had been harboring my secret, not consciously thinking about it, just enjoying that warm glow knowing that after school and a bank trip and shopping for the week and grabbing a 44 oz. Diet Coke and carrying in and putting away all that stuff, I could put my true story on screen. Yet there I was, five minutes before the bell, drawing a blank. Oh, the inanity! I almost panicked. The whole circuitous trip home, I tried to backtrack. Get the feel. The mood. The ambiance of the tale. For some reason, my mom kept popping into my head. But I didn't think it was about her. She's not all that funny. I took myself back to the location. The kicker. AND IT HIT ME! I had my story back.

My new invention is for those who never get their story back. C'mon. Who has a little spiral notebook with them in the shower? Not me. It's out in the living room on the end table. A world away from the shower. Woe is the showering writer struck by a bolt of inspiration. I sensed a need. So I invented...drum roll please...


Oh, yeah! A product whose time has come. Wear this waterproof little notebook around your neck, with its attached grease pencil. Never lose an idea again. For those who don't like wearing their bling au naturel, a variation comes as a memo board for the shower wall. With suction cups!

Race you to the patent office!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Backroads Miz Manners Keeps the Chicken in the Bag

Dear Backroads Miz Manners:

I am appalled at the shrinkage exhibited by my favorite gas station chicken pieces. For some time, I chose to consume my high fat high salt fast food from other establishments, using the poultry place only for 44 oz. Diet Cokes. Imagine my surprise when I heeded the pull of my fowl master, and returned for a meaty crunchy treat on my husband's bowling night.

Where once there were normal sized sections of bird, I found a thigh bigger than a breast. I know, Miz Manners, how shocking that must be. I, myself, thought, "Mary! That's akin to getting your beans above your frank! What a freak of nature that fryer must have been, tottering around on giant T. rex legs, flapping withered gnat wings to keep her balance. No breast development in that pullet. The tiny white meat morsel was like a mini gummi hamburger. Made to be cute. Not filling."

Miz Manners, the thigh was nothing to write home about. But rather, something to write YOU about. I remember during childhood, when my mother cut up a frying chicken for supper. And when my grandma caught a chicken in the sideyard, and spun it over her head by the neck until it popped loose and ran around for a minute. The thighs served on my girlhood plate were like chicken on a stick. Lots of meat, arranged with a bone through the middle. This mutant thigh from the gas station had a tiny bit of meat on one side of a two-inch bone. But the rest of it was fried skin over bone! Can you believe it? That thigh was a T shape. Only the top of the T was longer than the stem. And it was BACK. A BACK bone. A back is not a thigh.

I've a good mind to slaughter one of my yard chickens, drive it to town, and show the gas station cooks what a real breast and thigh look like. On the chicken, too. Is it not bad enough that Little Debbie Cherry Cordial Cakes are now the size of silver dollars? You remember the silver dollar, don't you Miz Manners? Every Christmas, these very special Little Debbies have been downsized. Before long, they will assume the size of Starlight Mints.

What do you think, Miz Manners? Should I show those gas house fry cooks the real deal? Or should I suffer in silence? Or market my leftover bones as a new kind of Rubik's Cube, to see if gifted children can reconstruct a chicken from that framework?

Breastless in Backroads

Dear Breastless,

Don't do anything rash, my dear. Teeny tiny gas station chicken pieces are better than NO gas station chicken pieces. People love tiny things. Just look at the new cars on the lots. Those itty bitty electric gadgets that can go a whole thirty miles on an overnight charge. People are eating those things up. People who don't drive more than thirty miles, and who can afford the hit to their electric bill, and who don't care about the environment, what with all the charging eating up more resources than a regular gasoline engine. Where do they think the electricity comes from, huh? The electricity fairy? The power plants that operate on coal or nuclear power must work harder to fill the hungry grid. But I digress.

By no means would Miz Manners advise showing the convenience store workers your breast and thigh. That just is not done in polite society. Nor should you voice a complaint. Next time you might find a neck and a butt in your take-away bag. And some unappetizing chicken pieces as well. Suffer in silence, sister. Consider it a reducing plan. Recycle. I hear that giants are always on the lookout for a bone bargain to help defray the costs of their homemade bread business. 

I hope you will accept the fact that this is not one of those things you can change. And next time, please clean your fingers of grease, either by soap or saliva, before you write to Miz Manners.

Backroads Miz Manners

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Very Special Episode

Sometimes, the sitcom of my life takes a more serious turn. An event occurs that needs its own very special episode. A whole hour. During sweeps week. And as a show of good faith, I am willing to send the writers home. You heard me. No need for Rob Petrie, Sally Rogers, and Buddy Sorrell to burn the midnight oil. Some shows write themselves.

The Pony and I made a trip to the bank after school. We stopped at a local park to meet up with my mom and exchange a tin of pictures from 1984, a Zyrtec coupon, a bag of mini Twix and Butterfingers, and a baggie containing Christmas meat and a hambone...for last week's National Enquirer and Globe. Yeah. I think we got the long end of THAT stick. We proceeded to the dead-mouse-smelling post office to pick up two packages, one being special socks for Hick, the other an otter box. That's a belt holder for his phone. We're not raising otters now, nor do we have them in our master bathroom vent fan/light fixture. We scurried on home, up our muddy gravel road whose gravel had disappeared like granny panties in a septuagenarian's buttcrack, over the area where ice had still been packed as recently as this morning. An altogether uneventful trip.

Genius arrived a scant ten minutes after we did. The Pony was out gathering THE EGG that we get each day, rain or shine, twenty-nine out of thirty chickens being slovenly layabouts who can't be bothered to propagate. He had just stepped in the front door with his little basket when Genius blurted, "So I guess you guys saw the arm?" I'm getting a bit hard of hearing, it seems, or kids these days talk in some kind of code. But The Pony gave him a crazy look, too. So I figured I must have really heard that sentence. It's not like the talk at the teacher lunch table of how a kid kept singing "Elvira," but thought it was called "Hellfire."

Genius grew impatient with our slack-jawed countenances. He whipped out his phone and shoved it under my nose. Even without my bifocals, I could understand what he was getting at.

That's an arm. A road arm. On the road in front of our property. It was not there when The Pony and I went by, but Genius stopped for a picture a scant ten minutes later. The first thing I asked was, "Oh, no! Are you the throwing-arm killer?" Not such a nice thing for a mother to ask, I suppose. But I was 99 % sure that Genius was not. Though I was relieved when he denied it. The second thing I asked was, "Is it REAL?"

"Um...let's see. NO! It's got a bar code on it."

The third thing I asked was, "Where did you say that is?"

"On the road in front of our new land. Not up on the hill. Right beside us."

The fourth thing I asked was, "Will you send me the picture?" It's not every day that a theme for a very special episode of the sitcom of your life falls right onto your road.

"AGH! Do I HAVE to? Why can't The Pony go get you a picture on your phone? It will take forever to send it. He can run over there and get it."

"WHY? I just came in from gathering THE EGG! I don't want to go back out in the mud."

"Yeah. Why should he run all the way over there? If it was you, you'd jump in your truck and drive. He can't drive."

"That's his OWN fault, not mine."

"Technically, I CAN drive. It's just that it's not a very good idea."

"Forget it, then. Never mind that I can do everything for everyone, from birth to now, but nobody can take a picture of a road arm for ME while I'm in the middle of making supper. Fine."

"All RIGHT! I'll send you the picture."

Hick came home. Nary a word was mentioned about an arm in front of the Thevictorian spread. We ate supper. All dispersed. And now that I'm elbow deep in The Great Road Arm Mystery, it seems that I must ask Hick if he saw it. Because it would be SO like him to drive right by. "Huh. A road arm. Somebody's gonna be looking for that."

After interrogation from The Pony, let the record show that Hick did not observe an arm in the road when he arrived thirty minutes after Genius. The first question he asked was, "Is it real?" Is it just me, or does it seem like we Thevictorians are just too nonchalant about a possible severed arm laying on our section of gravel road? Oh, how times have changed. Beaver and Wally would have been all over that arm. And Ward would have taught them a lesson.

The original owner of the road arm must have come back and picked it up. Or else we'll find it on the porch in the morning, courtesy of one of the fleabags who call this place home.

Just another thread in the rich tapestry of Val Thevictorian's life. Suitable for sitcoming.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

If You Give a Mouse a Sky Box

When we last convened, I had taken shelter in my dark basement lair. Directly under the master bathroom, where Hick stormed off to wreak havoc on a rodent.

One might suppose it is a simple matter to unscrew a light cover and place a mousetrap inside. One would be basing that supposition on how a normal man's mind works. One might THINK one knows...but one has no idea.

From up in my bathroom arose such a clatter, mice 'round the world stirred to see what was the matter. Seriously. No way should a man with a step-stool on a tile floor be making that kind of rumpus. It sounded like a cage match between Bigfoot and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Like Hick was driving a Hummer on the rims, after police shot out his tires, down a potholed road paved with Tungsten steel. Like Hick had rented a jackhammer to break up the tile and create a tiny pit of poopy poisoned stakes covered with the bathroom rug for Mousy to impale himself upon while dashing about all willy-nilly after evacuating his bowels in my vent fan light fixture. After fifteen minutes of this stressful cacophony, I heard the creak of Hick's La-Z-Boy. Where he sat, bonbonless, to await the capture.

Within ten minutes, I heard the clunk of the La-Z-Boy. The opposite of the creak. That mean that Hick had catapulted himself out of the chair. I followed the sound of his seemingly footless leg stumps as they thumped across the living room to the bathroom. There was a short scuffle. Then a flush. Then the return stumping and creak. I figured Hick had taken a break from football during a commercial, and was using the facility. Standing right under the upside-down dome of death. Until I heard, "Hey! Pony! Tell your mom I caught her mouse."

"Mom! Dad caught your mouse."

"Did you SEE it? Ask him what he did with it."

"He says he threw it away."

I went to the bottom of the steps. "You threw it away? Where?"

"I got rid of it."

"It better not be in the wastebasket. I didn't hear you open the door."

" rid of it."


"I flushed it down the toilet! He's in the septic tank."

"NO! That's not normal! Pony! Do YOU think that's normal?"

"It's really no different than a goldfish going down."

The Pony chose this time to run a bath in the large triangle tub, mere Hick-feet away from that deathtrap in the ceiling. You're a brave one, Mr. Pony. I wouldn't come closer to that fixture than a 49-and-a-half-foot pole. The Pony enjoys his nightly soak with the coursing jets in a tub long enough for him to stretch out and float. You'd think he was swimming with the dolphins, raising the Titanic, surfing the Banzai Pipeline, or pilfering treasure from the Flor de la Mar shipwreck. Ever since he was little, my Pony has tarried an hour or so in the bath.

When he returned to the basement to plop on the couch with his laptop, I asked if he heard any action in the killing field. "Not really."

"Did you feel like you were being watched?"

"No. Actually, I didn't want to look at that light. There was some kind of smear on it."

We heard Hick hobbling back to the bathroom on the ends of his tibias and fibulas. "Well, Pony, we got another one. He must have come in there while you were in the bathtub. I just flushed HIM, too!"

"Let's not talk about it."

We think those were the only two home invaders we were harboring. There was no further action throughout the night. No more mouse turds this morning. This evening, I asked Hick what that stain was in the light fixture. "Oh, the yellow blob? I think that's a piece of cheese. I need to get it out."

"It's not yellow. Was there a...smear...on it?"

"I cleaned that up last night."

"What did it do, decapitate them?"

"Not all the way."

"What's THAT supposed to mean?"

"It just broke their necks. One of them was a little bloody. I had to clean the blood off the rug after I dropped him."

EEEEEEEEEEEEEE. If you ever visit our Backroads estate, you might want to use the outhouse to freshen up.

Monday, January 7, 2013

You Got A Mouse In Your Socket?

Oh, dear. It's just one wacky predicament after another around here. I am seriously going to have to shop my sitcom around again. Those early episodes were nothing compared to the rich tapestry life has been weaving for me lately. If you are squeamish, or require a laugh track with your comedy, you might as well search your 150 Dish Network channels for a Seinfeld rerun. If you think you have a cast-iron constitution, read on.

Hick built our house. We had plans, of course. It's not like he tried to refurbish that foreclosed old lady's shoe after her kids were taken away due to their steady diet of broth, no bread, and sound whippings. Because Hick built it over a span of about six months, he added little touches that he felt a house must have. For example, each of our three bathrooms has a ceiling vent fan/light fixture. So whenever you turn on the overhead light, that vent fan comes on. Whether you need it or not. At first this bothered me, that unneeded sound and consumption of electricity. But I've grown used to it.

Our house is as old as The Pony. While he grows stronger every day, our house is beginning to age. Last week, I flipped on the light in our master bathroom, and silence slapped me in the face. The light worked. But the fan had stopped. I informed Hick. He said he would pick up a kit and replace it. Saturday, he finally got around to it. Not that he was lolling around all week in his underwear, laid back in his recliner, eating bonbons. He can't have sweets.

I had noticed that the nonworking fan light was full of bugs. They seemed to appear all at once. Or maybe I never looked up at that fan light while it was working, and they had accumulated. Hick roped The Pony into helping him. He got out a stepstool thingy that my mom gave us for Christmas one year, and had The Pony on hand to hand him tools. They put the new fan light in after bowling league. When I went into the bathroom, I stepped in some of their handiwork. The wastebasket was littered with more black sprinkles than a Swensen's ice cream sundae. I picked up the rug by the shower and shook a few more in.

Sunday morning, I looked up at my fan light, happily whirring away, and saw more bugs. Black spots. Uniformly-shaped black spots. I ran out to confront Hick. "Why do we have so many bugs already in the light? You just put in a new one. What if they're not bugs....what if...they're MOUSE TURDS?"

"I thought about that. I need to vent those fans to the outside. All this time, I've just vented them up into the attic. We might have a mouse, after this cold snap. We had one in the garage. I'll put a trap up in the light."

"Well, you need to. Or I'm calling an exterminator. I'm not catching the hantavirus because you didn't put a fan in right." Yeah. I know the hantavirus is out west. But Hick doesn't. Still, at 6:30, he had not yet put in that trap. I called on Genius, the more dextrous of my two boys. Besides, he's always gone, and hasn't done his share of Hick-helping lately.

"Come in here and get two mousetraps out from under the sink." It's not that we're infested. They've been there a couple years, since we had a mouse in the basement.

"Why am I getting mousetraps?"

"You're going to take two up in the attic. Put them where you can see them every evening when you have to go check to see if we caught a mouse."

"We don't have a mouse!"

"Yes, we do. In the bathroom light. There was mouse poop."

"That was bugs!"

"Bugs are not all the same shape and size."

"You'll have to bait them."

I put on a dash of peanut butter, and stuck a morsel of sliced cheddar to it. Off Genius went, into the attic. He was gone about ten minutes. "Are you all right up there?"

"I can't make them stay set. This is stupid."

He used to have trouble setting them, snapping his fingers in the trap. I didn't hear any cries of pain this time. Hick reared his oblivious head. "What's he doing?"

"Mom has me setting mousetraps in the attic!"

"I SAID I'd put one in the light. Come back down here!" Hick stomped into the kitchen. "Huh! No wonder. That's too much peanut butter." He slashed the mouse's portions, and headed for the bathroom. I could not take the drama, and escaped to my dark basement lair.

TO BE CONTINUED...The sitcom of my life has two-parters, you know.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Valrus Speaks Again

Make it stop! Everywhere I turn, I run into encouragement. Encouragement for my writing efforts. What is with you people? Can a lazy woman not sit in her dark basement lair in peace, reading conspiracy theory websites, shirking her household duties, chugging Diet Coke, designing her opulent palace and the bejeweled crown she will wear as Queen of the nation of Procrastin?

Y'all are more persistent that an overactive bladder attending its balloon high school reunion. I'm surprised you don't have a village woman with an Irish brogue standing by to proffer you a good stick with which to beat me as you drag me by my flaming red hair back to our thatched-roof, white-washed cottage, where you will make me a good writer whether I want to be one or not...oops! That was John Wayne dragging Maureen O'Hara back to her wifely duties in The Quiet Man. But it seems to apply. Besides, then I would be termed a "lovely lady" right before you were handed the stick.

Oh, I know the recent blog posts I've encountered were not all about me. That's a cold hard fact on which I do not wish to dwell. It's kind of the opposite of when your principal lectures the entire faculty at length during the First Monday meeting, and you're feeling just a little bit guilty about something else somebody might think you've done that has not been discovered or mentioned, and you just KNOW he is really talking about you but disguising your transgressions so as not to elicit a grievance filed through the proper chain of command.

Excuse me. Somebody seems to have lit a fire under me. And I am all out of Diet Coke to extinguish the flames. This is really going to interfere with my quest to catch a cloud and pin it down, keep a wave upon the sand, solve a problem like Maria, and catch a moonbeam in my hand.

The time has come, The Valrus said,
To write of many things
Beginning by embellishing facts
Until that story zings.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The One With a Buttload of Obscure References

Briiiing. Briiiing.



Well, here's a fine how-do-you-do. It seems that in order to win contests and be published, ONE MUST SEND OUT SUBMISSIONS! Don't that just beat all? Imagine my surprise to read that in my enlightening comments yesterday. I KNOW! I can hear you mouthing it quietly at your computer screen, too. What's this? You have to send out submissions? Except for the enlightening squad, of course.

Perhaps they've tried to drop this subtle hint all along, and it bounced right off my pointy little head. All that time I expected success to come tap tap tapping on my chamber door while I lay nap nap napping in my blue recliner. Well, forevermore!

I suppose I've been lax in pouring my efforts into this writing thing. My little hobby. Regarding myself as just a frumpy high school teacher with a bad haircut and questionable fashion sense, counting the days until retirement. Okay. YEARS until retirement. So many years of hearing that those who can't DO, teach. And that we don't deserve that king's ransom we are served on a silver platter while we sit around all summer eating bonbons on the taxpayers' dime. I don't even like bonbons. But people seem to like my writing.

To paraphrase Sheryl Crow, "Teaching is what happens while I'm making plans." Yeah. My job will go on. But I can kick my writing up a notch. Don't cost nothin'. Okay, maybe I had a little help in the paraphrasing department there from Emeril Lagasse and John Belushi. Still. I can do better. Short of poking me with a pointy stick, I don't know how my blog buddies can motivate me more.

To date, I've been happy as a puppy with two...Hold it! I didn't even watch City Slickers. I don't know where that came from. Anyhoo, I've been happy just to write my blogs and make people smile. Like Dewey and his Poopy Dance on Malcolm in the Middle. But I'm putting a stop to all that. I swear, as fans of Gone With the Wind are my witness, that I shall make a concerted effort to waste less time and write more thingies suitable for submission. Even if it takes the sacrifice of snorting more Diet Coke. And by snorting, I mean in the manner a grandpa might grab his ten-year-old grandson by the neck and wave a pint of peppermint schnapps under his nose, chuckling, "Take a snort of that! That'll put hair on your chest!" Not in the manner of a certain actor actually snorting coke off a porn star's behind, chuckling, "WINNING!"

I vow to make this my New Year's resolution: send out several submissions per month. I know that's not many. But it's more than I have been sending. Baby steps. (Thanks, Bill Murray.) Indeed. That's my number one New Year's resolution. For 2014. No! Joking! For this year.

Excuse me. I've got some writing to do.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hum Into the Kazoo a Tiny Bit, Softly

Last night I retired to my comfortable basement recliner after a hard day back at work preparing today's youth to be the future of tomorrow. I cranked my chair a few notches to restore blood flow to my feet, and picked up an unusual periodical that I had received in the mail. I can barely remember getting it before. More accurately, it might be termed a yeariodical. It was Tiny Lights. A Journal of Personal Narrative, you know. I think I subscribed to it last year.

Personal essays are like crack for Val. Not that she's a crackhead, mind you. That fiction stuff doesn't light a fire under her like a true-life tale or opinion piece. I started reading various winners from last year's contest. It was a pleasant way to while away what was left of my evening. Around about 11:00, I must have nodded off. I woke up at 1:00 with my bifocals still on, the TV off, and Tiny Lights on my chest. Well. By that time I was wide awake. I picked up Tiny Lights and proceeded to pore over the pages. Check out a couple of ads. And there was my own name! Now, before you jump to the conclusion that somebody signed me up as a hooker soliciting customers or serial killers (c'mon, my hair isn't even parted in the middle!), let me set the record straight.

It is with a modicum of motivation that I mumble out the following lackadaisical divulgence:

I was an Entry of Note in the FLASHPOINT Category of the Tiny Lights Annual Essay Contest 2012.

I hope I don't lightly strain my arm while smoothing out a wrinkle on the back of my comfortable house-shirt. Should you decide to follow the link for verification, doubting that one so fraught with writing talent as Val could possible be awarded such an careful not to damage your vision. Like that squirrel-headed b@stard advised LaBoef at the dinner table of the Monarch Boarding House in True Grit, "Watch out. They'll hurt your eyes." Of course,the SHB was talking about the chicken-and-dumplings straining LaBoef's peepers while looking for the chicken. Not the list of contest credits straining your eyes while looking for Val's real name.

Attempt to read it and weep. I am setting the writing world on fire with my damp kindling and hollowed-out board and spindle. Look out for that smoke. One of these days, it's going to result in a tendril of flame that will grow into a respectable blaze suitable for warming a can of hobo stew.

I just know it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I Could Probably Save Some Time by Simply Answering, "Sugarbaker's."

Oh, dear. The New Year has barely pulled itself up on the coffee table before attempting its first steps, and already I've got a bone to pick.

The phone rang last night as I was just sitting down to supper. You'd think I would let it ring. Let the answering machine pick up. Let my personal secretary, The Pony, screen my calls. But no. I thought it might be something important. Only the night before, Hick's security service had called the minute he got home about an alarm at work. Or maybe it was school, automatedly calling to inform me that we would miss our first day back, due to a pack of solid ice still on my mile of gravel. But it was neither.

"Is this Vale Victorthian?"

"Um. Yeeessss..."

"Of Bake Rowaddis, Montana--I mean, MISSOURI?"

"Um. Yeeesss..."

"This is U R Bank calling from a cold and windy Chicago. How's your weather out there?"


"What kind of temperatures did you guys get today?"


Give me a freakin' break! You're either phone phishing for my personal financial information, or you're one of those bank idiots interrupting me at supper time or bed time asking how everything is going with my account, and asking if there's anything you can do for me, and telling me that there are no problems with my account, that this is JUST A COURTESY CALL!

"I'd like to thank you, RAE DAWN, for being that telemarketer who interrupts my meal and/or my sleep pattern. You are the one who can't bother to pronounce either of my names correctly. Who does not know the name of my town, nor the proper postal code abbreviations for our fifty states. You are that telemarketer who wants to tell me about your day, and make small talk about the weather in my locale, a locale which you could not find on a map with a flashlight, a magnifying glass, two hands, and the assistance of a world-record-holding map reader. Please read my lips and remember, as hard as it is to believe, that sometimes, we account-holders like eating supper, sometimes we like settling down to an uninterrupted slumber, and most times, we just like being left alone."

 Whew! I feel better now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rumors of My Birth Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Well. Some misinformed entities are heartily wishing happy birthday to me!

It's not that I am such a curmudgeon, or such a spring-chicken-wanna-be that I would look askance at sincere birthday wishes. But it's not time. I am still on one of my many 29th years. January is not the anniversary of Val's emergence into the world. Not a Capricorn is she. Stop trying to foist a celebration upon her.

AMC Movie Theaters want to give me a free large drink! What a thoughtful gift! How did the CEO of AMC know that Val enjoys her Diet Coke in vast quantities? It's like a psychic intervention. Those tricky giftsters at AMC have sent me a link to a coupon good for a birthday beverage. Funny how it says, "Not your birthday month? Click here to update your profile. We'll be sure to get it right next time." What is to keep me from printing that coupon, then claiming that January is not my birthday month? What is to keep me from printing twelve copies? Do you really think that the same clerk will be working the counter every time I try to redeem my free soda? Of course, I would have to moonlight at a second job in order to pay for the tickets and the popcorn. But the SODA is FREE!

Also on the birthday bandwagon is Writer's Digest. They are offering me 15% OFF my next purchase from their Writer's Digest Shop. I don't suppose it matters that I have yet to make any purchase from their Shop. So friendly and economical! They start out with a greeting of "Happy Birthday, GARRETT!" Um. Val is not a Garrett. Something seems to be amiss. All this time, all these offers and emails, Writer's Digest has had me confused with somebody else.

I feel like Elaine, being referred to as "Susie" by Peggy the office lady, who would not touch Elaine's water bottle, but drank out of one proffered by a dude that only had the inch of spit left in the bottom. Which spurred Elaine to rub her butt on Peggy's keyboard at a later time. Good thing she didn't go to that Peggy actress's other job, as a pathologist on the set of ER. They might have tracked Elaine by her butt DNA.

Sorry, Garrett. It must be a lonely birthday. I'll drink a toast of AMC Diet Coke to you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Orangient Express

Did you get an orange in your Christmas stocking?

No! Don't tell me all you got was a lump of coal! I'm sure some of you got an orange. Or put an orange in somebody else's stocking. Didn't you? That's the custom, you know. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you doubt me. All I know is that I ALWAYS got an orange in my Christmas stocking. Oranges are synonymous with Christmas for me. A Christmas stocking without an orange is like a day without sunshine. And I'm NOT stealing a slogan from that old Anita Bryant commercial. I'm paraphrasing. Not plagiarizing.

The smell of oranges belongs with Christmas. My band used to sell citrus as a fundraiser every fall. Let me clarify, by BAND, I mean my high school band, of which I was band president, not my imaginary garage band called Mommy's Got a Headache. The boxes of grapefruit and oranges arrived right around Christmas time. That was back when you actually got something worthwhile for your donation. No slivers of wrapping paper, or twenty-six-dollar candles, or six-ounce boxes of sugar-free peanut butter cups that suddenly turned up unavailable when the order was shipped, so a six-ounce box of white-chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, bursting with sugar, was substituted, making the intended diabetic recipient of this gift unable to enjoy your good deed with the hefty price tag.

I always made sure that Santa put an orange in my boys' Christmas stockings. Sometimes that meant an extra trip to the store on Christmas Eve day, because Santa was quite forgetful. The sight of my kids digging through those stockings, elbow deep in candy and trinkets, to pull that orange from the toe, then frown, demand, "What's THIS?" and set it aside like a hot-potato, shellacked, odious pile of dog feces made it all worthwhile.

What's the deal with kids these days? Don't they know that Laura and Mary Ingalls were THRILLED to receive an orange in their Christmas stocking? That, a peppermint stick, and a rag doll were more than they ever hoped for. No net bags of gold chocolate coins, Hershey's kisses, mini Butterfingers, rubber-band-shooters that make pigs fly, and brown plastic mooses that poop jellly beans for them!

So much for the specialness of the Christmas stocking orange. My boys bring them to me. "Here. You need to do something with this." Oh, I've learned my lesson. One year, left to their own devices, one boy left his orange sitting in an out-of-the-way basement nook or cranny. It was discovered a month later. Did you know that green is sometimes the new orange? Or old orange.

I have a little bag of oranges on the kitchen counter by the toaster. I eat one every day. I'm prolonging the holiday season. According to my calculations, it should last five more days.