Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Egg the Rocks the Table Rules the Roost

I don't mean to brag, but I make a mean deviled egg. Seriously. My deviled eggs ROCK! One time, before I wised up and saw my colleagues bringing loaves of day-old bread, and bags of frozen corn, I even made them for our Thanksgiving potluck at school. They were all the rage. One of my lunch tablemates still speaks wistfully of them every November. They are a staple at our family holiday gatherings.

Yesterday, I boiled two dozen eggs so they would be ready to make fresh this morning. It's not like instant oatmeal or Stove Top Stuffing. They take some time. The egg white is merely the artist's canvas. A tippy canoe to be filled with mustardy nectar, and topped with two olive-slice life preservers.

The eggs were store-bought. Grade A Large. We get bigger ones from our chickens, and more colorful, too. But fresh eggs are very hard to peel after boiling. I'm sure there's a secret ingredient to add to the water, but I haven't been actively seeking the remedy. I used my big stainless steel copper-bottom pot. After boiling, the eggs were treated to a cold soak for about half an hour. Then they were placed in the sink drainer to air dry. Their final destination was back into their foam carton to rest on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight.

This morning I put my other projects in motion and settled down a the kitchen table to peel the eggs. It's a tedious job, but eggs don't peel themselves. I tapped. I rapped. I rolled. I massaged the tip against the table. I did everything but give each egg a happy ending. I was sure those eggs were ready to disrobe in one continuous motion. Some eggs, however, had other ideas.

You would have thought they hailed from the Victorian Era. Those eggs put up quite a fight to keep their outerwear intact. Their skin would not come off. Jame Gumb would have been sorely disappointed. The only headway I made was in ripping away small chunks of shell and attached flesh. Those egg whites stuck to the shell like asphalt-parking-lot gum to the sole of a mid-July Croc. There was no separating them.

By the time I had finished, about one hour after starting, some eggs were not fit for the family table. Their fate lay in the testing arena. After all, some eggs must be sacrificed to taste the filling. The test subjects were not things of beauty. Had they been babies, I think we all can imagine our handsome pediatrician calling them "breathtaking." The were as pockmarked as Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver. A few looked as though Injun Joe had whittled them in McDougal's cave with a Bowie knife, after he had eaten the candles.

This photo does not do those bad eggs justice. But I think you can see the whittled one up front.

It was delicious.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

You Can Relax, Mom. It's Not a Local Crime Spree.

My mom called me this afternoon, all excited.

"I was reading those one-line things that go across my computer? And I saw one that said, 'St. Louis Women's Mystery Writing Group, A Sisterhood in Crime!' I don't know if you can find it, but it's about half the page down on my Yahoo! page that I read my one-line things on."

Mom knows that I know of some women in St. Louis who know how to write. And they have a writing group. I was sure that was what she was getting at. Why else would she call me all breathless with the news? "Well, I don't know if any of my gals write mystery. At least enough to be in a mystery-writer's group."

"Oh, I just thought you might want to hear about this."

"Did you read the article?"

"Read it? No."

"Then why would you call all excited about it? Just because you thought I might know somebody in it?"

"Well, it said, 'A SISTERHOOD IN CRIME!'"

"Wait. Did you think they were going out and committing crimes and then writing about it?"

"Uh...yes. That's the first thing I thought of."

"Mom. It just means they all write about crime. That's their connection."

"Oh. I'll let you go. I just thought you might want to read it."

I kind of forgot about the whole thing until that darn article popped up on Google News. I didn't even have to search through those one-line things on Yahoo! Of course I clicked on it to see what the hubbub was all about. I called Mom back this evening to update her.

"I don't know any of the writers mentioned in that article. But you'll be relieved to know that they don't go out and commit crimes. They get ideas from places they visit and things they read and guest speakers that come to talk to their group. You don't have to worry about them committing crimes."

"All right. Maybe I'll try to find that again and read it."

"Yeah. You always did like Jessica Fletcher."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Karma and Even Steven Need to Redouble Their Efforts

The world is full of scofflaws. I see anarchy on the horizon of Backroads.

Just this morning, my dear sweet mother, she who exalts me alternately as her eight-dollar daughter or her five-cent daughter, was nearly bowled over by a person of Walmart. A person of Walmart exiting through the enter door. Before you go defending the offender because you assume that a person of Walmart can't read the door, so is not at fault, but is a victim of the public education system...let me elaborate on the scenario.

Mom had ridden along to pay the house bill with The Pony and me. Being more of a five-cent daughter today, I asked Mom to meet us along the route so that I would not have to go out of my way to her house and back. Mom was agreeable, because she had plans to stop by the store later anyway. We had a fine time chewing the fat while I piloted the Tahoe to the next town.

Among things I learned on our trip is that Mom has decided she will say what she thinks. "I figure that at my age, I'm done with giving in to people. I went to pay my Christmas club, and the credit union lady asked me if I wanted to be on the board. I told her, 'No. I do NOT want to be on the board. I was on the board one time, and they only meet twice a year. Then I have to see them at the annual dinner, and they all act like they're my best friends.' And there's that one guy (name redacted) I don't like. I wonder if he's still on the board. Surely he's retired by now. Oh! I never could stand him! Those people didn't like me anyway, and then to pretend they were my friends once a year was too much."

Next, Mom said that she was afraid she'd made her friend in Florida mad. "She sent me an email saying that she's been having dizzy spells, so she quit taking her heart medicine. I sent one back saying that I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to just stop taking heart medicine. She has her whole family depending on her. She said that since the dizzy spells, she only drives a block to the grocery store and back. I know how she's trying to be cautious. I'm always really careful that I don't drive through the wall or anything. Did I say that? I mean, I'm careful not to back into a pole or something. But just because she doesn't want to go to the doctor before her May appointment, she can't be deciding on her own to stop the heart medicine. I emailed her that she should call the doctor's office and ask what they think. After I sent it, I thought, 'Well, I'm not going to hear from her for a while now.'"

Among the things my mom learned on our trip is that The Pony is perhaps more visually-challenged than we think. Because when we came up the driveway yesterday, and saw Juno running around to the garage door, we had differing opinions on her limp. I said she was still holding that foot up like she does about fifty percent of the time. The Pony disagreed. "No. This time she has a reason. Look. There's something stuck on her foot." I said it was just the fur between her toes. "Nooo. Look. Something is stuck to it. Like a dead mouse." Really? REALLY? It was just toe fur. I don't know why The Pony thinks a dog would run around with a dead mouse stuck to her foot.

One thought that occurred to me was that I might need to keep closer tabs on Mom and The Pony when he spends the day and night with her. What with them crashing through store walls and hallucinating dead mice on dog feet and all.

Anyway, getting back to the scofflaw who nearly took down my own personal septuagenarian...he KNEW he was coming OUT the IN door. Mom had to jump back behind me, since we couldn't walk in side-by-side with the crowd of scofflaws rushing out. The first guy, with his woman walking right beside him, said, "Oh. Sorry. I think we're going out the wrong door." But he did not stop and step five feet to the left to exit through the OUT door. Nope. He made Mom be nimble and quick to avoid being flattened faster than Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. Let's just say Mom's candlestick-jumping days are over. She tucked in behind me like a NASCAR driver drafting at Daytona. Just in the nick of time to avoid a seven-person pile-up.

This guy probably cut his teeth going up the down staircase. It's a gateway behavior. Now he's graduated to exiting through the entrance door because he knows nobody is going to call him on it.

Look out for him coming at you on a divided highway.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Under the Influence Age

Yesterday I stopped by my convenience store, with a name akin to Voice of the Village, to pick up a quick 44 oz. Diet Coke. I proceeded without incident to the back wall where the eight-foot-long soda fountain holds court. After refilling my refill cup, I headed up front toward the counter. That's where the incident foisted itself upon me.

Carrying my precarious tall cup by the tiny bottom that fits into the car beverage holder, I was nearly bowled over by a screaming heat-seeking missile. Well. Not so much a screaming heat-seeking missile as a slightly-plump blond-haired high-school-age girl darting from behind the Sun Chip endcap. I lifted my cup, though definitely not in a toast, and shrugged a shoulder, allowing her to pass by with my innate bull-fighter reflexes. About three steps past, she turned slowly and said, "Woooaahh." But without the leather jacket and coolitude of Fonzi.

Dud Missile had been lurking near the front door when I entered. I paid her no nevermind. When one works with individuals that age all the live-long day, one is not inclined to greet and befriend strangers of the same ilk. Besides, Dud Missile was talking to a younger boy about some issue for which I could not have mustered less interest. I walked right through the sentence, "Would you still like me if..." and out from under their drama.

After dropping my eighty cents into the hand of the eldest of the clerks, I turned and headed for the door. As my karma would have it, Dud Missile was back on that side of the store. Taking up space. Fiddling with her cell phone in her left hand. I put my 44 oz. Diet Coke in my left hand to protect it with the buffer zone of my body. Much like an all-conference point guard protecting the basketball from the terrier-like advances of an aggressive defender. Or like a medieval gentleman on the street protecting his lady from garbage, chamber pots, and other effluence tossed from windows above.

Dud Missile wheeled around at the instant I inched around her. She jabbed that cell phone deep into the fluffy folds of flesh near my equator. I think her hand momentarily disappeared up to the elbow. I pivoted a bit to facilitate the withdrawal of her appendage from my person. "Excuse me," I said. Not in the Steve Martin manner of, "Well, excuuuuuuuuse meeeeee!" No. Just a simple excuse me. Like that used by teachers who do not suffer bad manners gladly, but who must maintain a modicum of self-control.

Dud Missile looked after me as if in slow motion. "Oh." The encounter itself would have been fairly unremarkable except for one glaring anomaly. SHE REEKED OF BOOZE! Yeah. There's no way that gal was twenty-one. And I don't mean she smelled like her alcoholic mother driving to the store on a booze run had accidentally spilled Pink Panties on her. No. She smelled like when a person ingests alcohol, and the byproducts ferment their way out the mouth with each exhalation. This was at 4:00 in the afternoon. Maybe Dud Missile had been drinking Germ-X all day. Or she had inserted some kind of alcohol-soaked implement into an orifice for a quick buzz. But the fact remains that this little gal reeked of spirits.

I went out the door and about my business. I don't know how she got there or who was responsible for her, or how she managed to careen around that establishment without knocking over merchandise. It may take a village to raise a child, but my voice remained silent on this one.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sometimes You Feel Like a Wergle Flomp. Sometimes You Don't.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a mite Wergle-Flompish.

I realize that time is running out. But I plan to throw caution to the wind and throw together a bad poem for entry in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Don't cost nothin'. I can copy a poem as good as the next person, by cracky! And you may not believe this, but on rare occasions in the past, a few people have told me that I am humorous! Of course, they could have just been referring to my haircut or driver's license photo or wardrobe. I don't always pick up on social cues like that.

My topic has not yet grabbed me by the throat. I can't decide if I need an ode to my 44 oz. Diet Cokes and the people who enable my habit, or an endorsement for my delectable gas station chicken, or a rant about the occasional circumstances that sometimes rub me the wrong way. I might just make it a very special shout-out to my love for cliches.

So what if the deadline is April 1st? I have all weekend!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eating Crow Can Lead to Gastrointestinal Distress

I have been eclipsed. Surpassed. Shoved to the back of the pack before I even left the starting gate.

My sons have both made more money with their writing than I have. Yes. It's true. Today the truth was especially flauntable, because the local newspaper showed up to photograph winners in last fall's VFW Voice of Democracy Speech Contest.

The Pony came prancing up the hall just before 7th hour. Usually not one to show emotion, he had a horsey grin on his face that was evident way down past the cafeteria. In his hot little hoof he held a certificate with a bank envelope paperclipped to the top. First Place. The monetary award was $100. Uh huh. Not too shabby. Those veterans are a class act.

Genius the senior, way too cooler for school than freshman Pony, barely mentioned his Second Place finish. It only came up after school because he needed a deposit slip to put his $75 in the bank. This makes the second Second Place for Genius, with First Places the other two years. That is $350 over his high school career.

Let's see how that compares to my literary earnings. Not counting all the money I have spent on various and sundry contests, my adjusted earnings from my writing stand at...let's see now...just! Zero! Zilch! A big goose egg. Not even a real goose egg. I am proud of my boys, but just a little disappointed with myself.

I am the proverbial cow. Giving it away for free.

It's hard to four-stomach their success.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sometimes a Mediocre Notion

Sometimes, I feel like the old woman who lived in a shoe.

Sure, I'm old. That's not the reason. I'm old all the live-long day. And I don't actually live in a shoe. But if I did, by cracky, I'd be sure to stock up on Febreze. Have you seen those commercials? Febreze would have probably been called Fantastik if the name was not already taken. I suppose we're lucky it isn't called Coyote Ugly. You can strap used sweat socks, a stinky fish head with spine attached, a bucket of incontinent baby skunks, a fifteen-year-old boy's armpit, a brick of Limburger cheese, and the entire Azerbaijan wrestling team under a person's nose, and they will think they're smelling roses and freshly-laundered sheets. Febreze should be able to destinkify an ancient boot with one arm tied behind its back.

Furthermore, I don't have so many kids that I don't know what to do. Oh, I'll admit to the not knowing what to do part, but the number of kids is not the problem. No, what I have too many of are ideas. Ideas for stories that never get told. Sometimes they're on scraps of paper, but more often they're in a little computer file that grows bigger by the day. It's chock full of clever subjects that get bumped for more timely issues. Then I go back to retrieve them during a creative drought, and THEY ARE UNINTELLIGIBLE! Like notes of a dream on the nightstand that read flaming globes of Sigmund. I refuse to give up on them. I saved them for a reason. A story I wanted, and a story I'm going to get.

Here are my most recent Sigmunds:

--Not hold me back likes notoriety did he not brag about I ran over her one time

--Lost my crown flag pole snubbing post declared unofficial queen of the world

--Boys of august I'm not as dumb as you want me to be

--Dog snouts poking like sharks at a bloody piece of meat, tails whipping like a cane for a hooligan

--My nine lives

--Tupperware vs cheap containers for spaghetti, almond sink not stainless, stain, prop up clean items more recalcitrant that a 13-yo-hooker on beyond scared straight, stuffing all over stove like 11 yo peer around toilet

--Bedsheet head

--Mail pony express walk snail tortoise

--Bone rabbit graveyard delivery men wrong house

--Queen city on grid like spider web really can get there from here

--Compliment because I don't dress out of the rag bag

--Osteo aficionado Juno bones graveyard trap UPS lady

--Looking forward to tourney to kick off the season/crowds/sardines sideways

--Passive aggressive custodianship

--Great literary tombs went over my head

--When beleaguered night-school instructor Mutt Jefferson jolts awake to find his dimwitted class of adult GED underachievers (“The Idiots” to his fellow faculty) mysteriously miniaturized, bobbing helplessly in the puddle of drool on his desk, he inadvertently gasps, swallowing his entire roster, which precipitates a panicked call to his reformed-stripper fiancĂ©: “Bunny, I drunk the Ids!”   (58 WORDS)

I imagine that last one was a blog contest of some sort. Whether I did not enter or failed miserably, I don't remember. I'm hoping the next-to-last one was a comment I saw somewhere, because I definitely do not want great literary tombs over my head.

I think it's time to clean out the file.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Val's Life is Fraught with Danger

Come listen to a story 'bout a woman named Val
How a near-calamity befell our gal
Yesterday, she was dishin' out a treat
Which turned out to be a regretful feat

Hindsight, thy name is Val the Missing Person on an episode of 20/20. Oh, if only we could dial back the clock a few minutes as the mood strikes. How many careless acts of stupidity could be avoided? You there. It was a rhetorical question. Stop counting on your nine fingers.

Saturday is bowling league for the boys. Genius usually drives himself, unless he has frittered his gas money driving willy-nilly about the county to bad movie nights and sleepovers. I normally drop off The Pony, because Hick works most Saturdays until noon. He meets us there and brings The Pony home. Don't even bother to ask why Genius can't bring him.

Yesterday, Hick did not work, because he went to a meeting in Rolla for work on Friday, which supposedly does not count as real work, but like a day off. And everybody knows you don't go in to work on Saturday if you had a day off on Friday. The Pony had spent Friday night at his grandma's house, so she was taking him bowling. I needed to meet them to take The Pony's bowling locker key, which he'd forgotten to pack, and pick up a ham bone Mom had saved for me, so it didn't spoil in Hick's car during the bowling interlude. This is why Val compares managing her social calendar to mounting the invasion of Normandy.

When I left home, Genius was still as his desk, plotting to take over the world. Sometimes I make it back before he even leaves. It's only a ten-minute trip to the bowling alley and to town. Genius does not suffer down time gladly. He does not arrive when the doors open at noon, but around 12:30 when the league starts. Hick was nowhere to be found, so I assumed that he would be leaving from the BARn, or the he was already running around town fleamarketing. I left the kitchen door unlocked, because I figured Genius would be there, and it's easier to get in without fishing for a key while juggling a 44 oz. Diet Coke and a ham bone.

While completing my key/ham mission, Hick pulled into the bowling alley parking lot with Genius riding shotgun. I gave it no thought, and proceeded to pick up my bountiful beverage. Once home, I found that Hick had locked the kitchen door. I ferreted out my key and let myself in. I'm a kitchen door kind of gal, while Genius prefers the front entrance. Hick makes use of both portals. I had several items on my agenda, so I got right to work.

First was moving laundry from the washer to the dryer. Then I rinsed the beans which had been soaking and readied their pan for the ham bone. I cut off some of the rind and set it aside as a treat for the dogs. I put away a few groceries I had picked up at Save A Lot, and ran a sink of dishwater. I ground a little black pepper into the bean pot, added a dash of minced garlic, and poured in some sweet banana pepper juice. I put the lid on, and turned it up to medium high to get it started. Slipping the dishes into the sink, I decided it was a good time to toss the ham rind out to the dogs. You can't just throw it out the kitchen door like a common hillbilly might throw it to the hounds. All three dogs lounge there on the back deck. One dog will snatch all the treats in her stacking half-lab manner, and two doggies will go the way of Old Mother Hubbard's mutt.

I went out onto the deck and tossed alternating tidbits to each canine. Of course I saved the prime pieces for my sweet Juno. I threw them way over by the breezeway so she wouldn't have to snarl a warning the whole time she ate. Ann and Tank-the-Beagle minded their manners. Another successful feeding accomplished, I turned to re-enter my kitchen domain.


The pit of my stomach dropped ten feet below the deck to the ground. I was alone. The spare key has not been moved since the boys were tots. It's in a location not accessible to Val or Hick, but in a place only wiry snake and snail and puppydog tail boys can get it. I made a round of the wraparound porch. Front door, bedroom French doors, laundry room door...all locked up and unforgiving. I might as well have been trying to get into Fort Knox. The dogs looked at me expectantly. "What? No more food? Why are you still here?"

I remembered that earlier they had been barking at a revving engine. I thought it was 4-wheel riders at the time. Then I heard it again. Our neighbor next door. Next door means a tenth-mile walk up my driveway, a tenth-mile walk down the gravel road, a tenth-mile walk down their driveway, and back. Val has not been training for the Olympic 800 meters. Thank goodness I was wearing town clothes, and not my stay-at-home sweatpants, ratty shirt, black socks, and red Crocs. AND I still had my New Balance shoes on, that I normally take off upon entering the house. Thank goodness the temperature was 48 degrees with no wind, not the wind-chill twenties of earlier in the week. The bean pot on medium high crossed my mind. I wasted no time in descending the porch and heading for the driveway.

Then I saw them, across the field that separates us, their field that Hick set on fire one July 4th. My neighbor and a young man laying across the motor of a pickup truck. They had stopped mid-rev. "HEY! Do you have a phone I can borrow?"

"Sure." Never mind that we haven't really spoken to each other for about ten years. Only waved along the road. I started under the lone barbed wire left in the fence that makes good neighbors. "Don't worry, she'll bring it on the 4-wheeler." He hollered to his wife. I went back to lean on Genius's little red Ford Ranger. She arrived with her 20-something daughter riding on the handlebars. I called Hick. No answer. I called Genius. No answer. I called The Pony. No answer. Daughter suggested having Hick paged. She knew the bowling alley number by heart. Five minutes later Hick came to the phone. He agreed to run home and unlock the door for me. I think it was the imminent threat of a house fire due to beans burning on the grill that made him do a whole lot of tryin'. The neighbors and I shot the breeze and kept our dogs separated for a while. Then they left when I assured them I was fine and Hick was on the way.

Seriously. I think Hick sat down to a five-course feast and bowled a few frames himself before he hit the road. He let me in and went back to the alley where he belonged. The beans were just starting to boil. Darn Hick and his fancy lock that does not stay unlocked when the key turns it.

You didn't think I was going to take the blame myself, did you?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sometimes, What's Best for the Gander is Burying His Head in the Sand

Poor, sweet, oft-maligned Hick. He of the FAT RED INDEX FINGER. He who poots at high school band concerts. The lover of towering bowls of soup. Yes, steadfast Hick, often on the outs, is trying his best to get back into my good graces. To erase that little indiscretion of Monday night.

Don't go thinking Hick made a doody on the carpet. Or disgorged a partially-digested mouse on the porch just outside the front door. And I'm pretty sure he didn't even dream of knocking over the trash can and shredding the bag and strewing its contents along the driveway. No, it was a trivial incident, and Hick's mouth that got him in a little hot water. Boiling, actually. Because he doesn't know when to turn off the burner and let things cool down. Even though another adult in this house might be screaming at him, "Turn off the burner and let things cool down!" Figuratively, of course. Surely you don't think I was cooking.

Last evening, Hick returned from a business day-trip to Rolla. While in town filling his prescriptions for ailments other than his FAT RED INDEX FINGER, he called to see if I wanted him to bring home some Hot & Sour Soup. No thanks. I'm not currently coming down with the grippe. And besides, I'd already imbibed my 44 oz. Diet Coke for the day, a necessity to fight the Hot of the soup.

Hick hiked down the basement steps bearing a gift. Another 44 oz. Diet Coke. I thanked him. Didn't even ask if he was trying to kill me by caffeine overdose. It's the thought that counts. Same as when my mom asked at the concert Thursday night if Hick could have a Three Musketeer. No. He is diabetic. That kind of treat is frowned upon. Mom persisted. "It's ONLY a Three Musketeer. He can't have it?" Um. No. The last time I checked, a Three Musketeer's main ingredient was SUGAR. I'm sure Mom wasn't trying to kill Hick. Like she wasn't trying to kill dumped-off puppy Juno by not feeding her for two days. But enough about my family's House of Borgia tendencies. We were talking about Hick's apologetic actions.

This morning I checked my email. Saw a little something that's coming down the pike. I asked Hick if he was willing to sign a release for a story that included him and his unique method of doing things. Hick said yes. No questions asked.

I'm sure that's because Hick wants me to become a bread-winning, best-selling, maligner of my better half. Because he trusts my judgment. Doesn't want to get in the way of me launching a story here and there. Yes. I'm sure that's his reason. NOT that he figures the best way to shut me up is to agree unconditionally, without making eye contact. Or the fact that he wouldn't read the directions to a gold mine if it was taped across the lenses of his glasses.

Thanks, Hick. You won't be disappointed. Because I know you'll never read it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened in the Way of Decorum

Last night I attended The Pony's band concert.

It was at my old high school, not far from the district where I teach and The Pony attends. No regular concert was this. It was a festival. Five schools and seven bands. Hick even pre-bowled for his league so he wouldn't miss the concert. My mom met us there, and we grabbed our seats (heh, heh, I said grabbed our seats) on the back row of the enormous field house that used to belong to a junior college. There was a bit of a draft because we were near the doors. But that was a good thing, because it blew away the stench of the bathrooms on the other side of us. Hick, always the manager of facility maintenance, mentioned that right off. "They could have at least cleaned the bathrooms for this thing." Then he launched into a diatribe about their overhead lighting that was terribly outdated. I nodded like I was listening.

Bands were flowing in all willy-nilly, staking out territory on the side of the huge oval behind the chairs set up for playing. I don't mean to sound judgmental, but I named every school without a one of them wearing any distinguishing uniforms. The countrified school whose girls like six-inch heels. The too-cool school whose guys favor pork-pie hats. The floor-length dress, white shirt/bow-tie school that sat calmly in their designated area without incident. And the host school whose members gamboled like great friendly puppies. Of course I knew OUR students as they entered single file, resplendent in their black slacks, white shirts, and shiny gray vests.

While the concert band that drew the first slot took advantage of the pre-concert thirty minutes to warm up with scales, a curious incident occurred. Hick, Mom, and I sat spying on The Pony, trying to determine who he was sitting by. No mean feat for me, as my vision was distorted by looking through the glass basketball backboard. I was ripped from my reverie by a finger tapping on my shoulder. A girl old enough to have graduated shoved a rolled up bill of indeterminate currency into my face. "Will you give this to Cletus Parmly?" (Not a real name).


"I don't know where he is."

"He's right down there on the front row."

"I don't want to walk down there!"

"Well, I don't want to walk down there."

"Oh, I don't mean right now. After."

"I'm not going to see him after."

"Never mind." She and an upper-elementary-age girl stood behind us for several minutes. Then they walked on around the large arena.

Really? REALLY? She expected me to hoist my ample behind off the back bleacher, hike around the field house, down all those steps, across the main floor to Cletus Parmely, and hand him money? W.T.F.? Do I look like a caseworker of some sort? Do I live at the freakin' school, and devote every after-school minute to minding the student body? Am I the all-powerful queen of our district who bestows riches upon select pupils? Just because I had the kid in class one year does not mean that I am responsible for him for the rest of his life. I was not wearing a school uniform to link me with our group. We were sitting nowhere near them. I was there on unofficial business. It's not like I was sponsoring a field trip. I was sitting with my family, for crying out loud! I have no idea who this girl was, or why she wanted to give Cletus money. I did not feel the least bit guilty for refusing her request.

I put my nose back in joint and settled down to hear some tunes. The second band to play was not the greatest, but they played one of my favorite selections, Shaker Dance. I was groovin' away through the first half when I noticed something was amiss. There was a strange sound not coming from the band. A kind of hissing sound. Up in the bleachers. To my right. It went on and on. I tore my eyes away from those fresh-scrubbed faces, earnestly tooting out the melody, and turned to seek the source of that infernal noise.

It was my mom. She was ripping a gripper strap of Velcro on the end of her coat sleeve. Trying to get it just the right tightness. Just the right alignment. Ripping it off to start over. On both sleeves. Egads! Try to feign interest until The Pony makes his debut! I did not say anything. She's my mom. And I'm her eight-dollar daughter, or her five-cent daughter, depending on the day. I let her get it out of her system. To her credit, that little band kind of fell apart mid-Shaker. It was as if they, themselves, had lost all interest in that piece. Poor things. They were only freshmen and sophomores, the lesser of the two bands brought by their school.

As if Mom's Velcro accompaniment was not bad enough, Hick had to horn in on the last act of the evening. It was nigh on nine o'clock by then. Mom had already left to go home and watch Mizzou get beat in the NCAA Tournament. I was leaning left, with my hand on the plastic bleacher, trying to realign my vertebrae. The symphonic band that capped off the evening was in full swing, filling the field house with horns and tympani. I felt the bleacher vibrate. "Oh," I thought. "Hick must have a phone call." We put our phones on vibrate, you see. Because we are basically a good concert audience, with the exception of Mom and her sartorial pecadillos.

I looked at Hick to see if he was taking his phone out of his belt holster. Maybe he didn't notice the vibration, what with it resting against the bleacher like that to make the whole seat vibrate. Then I smelled it. A hideous odor that could only have come from one place. I glared at Hick. "I can't believe you just did that!"


"You KNOW what! I'm choking from the stench."

"It's them bathrooms." He nodded his head over his left shoulder.

"You KNOW it's not the bathrooms! You shook the ENTIRE bleacher!"

Hick grinned. Let out a contented sigh. Then choked when he inhaled the backwash of his deed.

I may not have been the most cultured flower in that field house, but at least I managed to hold my flatulence in check and put off ripping sections of my outergaments until the concert was over.

I got class, see?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Scintillating is in the Ear of the Beholder

Our numbers were down at the teacher lunch table today. Only five of us showed up to entertain ourselves and revel in the company of adults.

Two of our members, let's call them Sis and Bubba, had a spirited conversation concerning electric bills, house construction, and renewable energy. Not that there's anything wrong with that. However, the other three of us dullards were unable to settle upon a topic to discuss amongst ourselves. We watched Sis and Bubba gesticulate and nod and raise their eyebrows. Finally, in an effort to steer them to a more interesting topic in the eyes of us three third wheels, I said, "Why don't the two of you just get a show on HGTV already and be done with it?"

They laughed. And continued their little environmentally-friendly conversation. Really? REALLY? Because if I want a green lunch, I'll go to the high school cafeteria. Oh...never mind.

While Sis and Bubba were expounding on the merits of solar panels and the pitfalls of hailstorms, I turned to Missus on my left. "NOW I know how students feel in my classroom. I want to jab a sharp pencil into each ear."

On my right, Mister, our guy with a personal story to fit every situation, got up and left. Thumped the green bean stems out of his tray, pushed it through the hot-water-hose window, and left the immediate vicinity of the cafeteria.

I turned back to Mrs. "You KNOW it's bad when Mister gets up to leave because he's bored."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Long-Awaited Appearance

Did you catch it?

Here now! No need to panic. I'm not referring to some exotic or hush-hush disease. I'm merely wondering if you happened to see my blog buddy, Ann (aka MommyX) on Good Morning America today. I am totally living her 15 minutes of fame vicariously. Maybe it was more like one minute of fame. But it has been long time coming. Her segment has been postponed more times than the entry deadline in a procrastinator's contest.

I've been trying to get the word out so people have a chance to brush my brush with greatness. Yes, I've been pim...push...foisting Ann's appearance on GMA onto my unsuspecting readers for the past couple of weeks. I'm striving to be the Don King to Ann's Mike Tyson (let the record show that I have prohibited ear-biting, and stated off-handedly that I find facial tattoos unbecoming). I want to be the Huma Abedin to her Hillary Clinton. The Judy Ogle to her Dolly Parton. The Michael Caine to her Sandra Bullock (the most congenial Gracie Lou Freebush). Who knows, I could turn out to be a real Svengali. Or as Elaine Benes might say, Svenjolly.

I set my DVR, but since my plan time at school was right after GMA's airing, I found Ann's segment online and watched it there. Who knew Ann would have a southern accent? Not me! You'd think I might have caught on that Missi-freakin-sippi is in the SOUTH by now. I'll let you in on a little secret: geography was never Val's best subject. Here's the transcript version, in case you might be distracted by the accent.

The kernel that I took away from the segment was that some moms are stressed, and some moms have anxiety, and they use prescription medication to deal with it. It's not about recreational drug use and bragging about scoring illicit narcotics while you're supposed to be minding the baby. You'd think that was the focus, though, after reading the comments on the GMA site. Probably from childless folk, or narcotic addicts. I can't speak for Ann, but I seriously doubt that her blog title, "Mommy Needs a Xanax," is a cry for help or an endorsement for getting high in order to deal with your own children. Perhaps some people have never heard of hyperbole. Or looked at blogging as a way of relieving stress.

I'm thinking of starting a third blog myself: "Teacher Needs a Blog." And a fourth: "Wifey Needs a Blog." Not really. Just letting off some steam through my fingertips again.

One More Time...

MommyX is supposed to be on Good Morning America today, WEDNESDAY, March 20, 2013. My DVRing thumb is exhausted. Here's to YOU, MommyX, and fie on those GMA teasers! They must have taken Lucy van Pelt lessons, the way they've been yanking your air date like a Charlie Brown football.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Val Tells You the Best Way to Let It Rip

Here's a little household tip that I learned at the office: the best way to outsmart perforated paper.

You know what a problem perforated paper is. It's like the juvenile delinquent of the vellum society. A ne'er-do-well who does not know his own strength. One who refuses to yield to the pull of another. I'll bet that even Ramses II complained about the audacity of perforated papyrus all the way back in ancient Egyptian times.

There's a trick to making perforated paper rip like it should. After all, is there not half the amount of paper there as compared to the rest of the document? Making that perforation, in theory, half the strength of regular paper? But no. There's something wonky about those perforations. Like they've been working out, taking supplements. Like they want to kick sand in your face when you try to separate them at the detachment area.

Listen up! Here's the secret. Fold over at the perforation line, then LICK along the edge you just created. Careful. No need to give your tongue a paper cut like that old lady in the commercial with the yippy white dogs who whine in commiseration when she slashes her tongue on an envelope.

You'll need to act fast. Strike while the strings of saliva are still hanging between your lips and your perforated paper. Don't let that perforation dry before you try to rip it apart. Drying is not good. It makes the perforation stronger. Like you went to all the trouble to shave Samson's head, then he poured a mixture of Chia Pet paste and seeds on his noggin, and regained his strength lickety-split.

You're welcome. You know how Val strives to keep folks abreast of breaking news in the field of technology.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"Val's Literary Caricatures" Hangs Out a Shingle

I just had the most scathingly brilliant idea!

Because I don't have enough activities to keep me busy, enough appointments on my calendar, enough goodies to fill my plate, because I have not yet been able to bite off more than I can chew, because my eyes are never bigger than my fingers...I have created a new business sideline.

I'm going to be a literary caricature artist!

Here's how it will work. I'll travel the country, setting up a booth at town picnics, county fairs, regional food festivals, renaissance fairs, hillbilly shindigs, and LARP-ings. That's right. And for one thin ten-dollar bill, I will craft a knee-slappin' paragraph exaggerating your most unappealing physical features or personality traits. A literary caricature! Who could turn that down? And, because it's better to give than to receive, I will offer my services online. Think how a loved one's face will light up when you present them with an original Val literary caricature! No more need to wrack your brain for a gift idea on Boss's Day, Secretary's Day, your mother-in-law's birthday, or special anniversaries. Just fill me in on a person's idiosyncrasies, and I'll do the rest.

What can ten dollars buy these days, anyway? Twelve-and-a-half 80-cent 44 oz. Diet Cokes? Twenty-one first-class stamps, with enough left over for an 80-cent Diet Coke if you can borrow six cents? Ten McDonald's grilled onion cheddar burgers? Even Val can tell you that a literary caricature would be a healthier alternative. In fact, you might lose weight. From laughing your butt off!

Don't have a thin ten? I'm willing to barter. Just about anything reasonable will do. However, I must draw the line. No apple cores, kites, dead rats (even with strings to swing them), marbles, blue bottle-glass, tadpoles, kittens with one eye, brass doorknobs, knife handles, orange peels, or dilapidated window sashes. I will not be mocked.

Val's Literary Caricatures. Framing and gift-wrapping available.

I'll leave you with a sample:

Gertrude was a stern, statuesque woman, upon whose head no pigeon dared to perch. Her lazy eye was the icing upon the cake of a face that only Picasso could love. Her breasts hung like plumb-bobs answering to separate sources of gravity. That they partially obscured her ample muffin-top was of no consequence to Gertrude. Her jutting buttocks swayed to and fro as she walked, eliciting cat-calls and wolf-whistles from construction workers and mild-mannered accountants alike. "Hey, baby! I wish I had that swing on my back porch!" Gertrude smiled inwardly, not outwardly, due in no small part to her lamprey-like teeth and large-mouth-bass jaw. Beauty is only skin deep, she thought, as she rubbed salve onto her psoriasis.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sick Calling It as I See It

Sigh. It is SO hard keeping Hick alive.

First, there's that time-consuming business of telling him to breathe in, breathe out. Then I have to police his food consumption to stop his ingestion of expired items. And warn him to never, ever, run alongside his moving tractor and try to jump on again when he knocks it into gear from the ground. Friday he stayed home sick, and I insisted he make an appointment to see the doctor. Now he has a FAT RED INDEX FINGER. I've sent him off to Urgent Care, the wicked stepmother of that always-closed Convenient Care.

Hick was gone three days to Florida last week while I was getting over a cold. Let the record show that he was in good health when he departed early Sunday morning. He returned Tuesday night. And woke up Wednesday morning with a cough and congestion. As much as he wants to point the blamey finger at me, I call shenanigans. Even the all-powerful Val cannot infect someone so that full-blown symptoms show up within eight hours. Especially since I was finally on the mend. My days of contagion had done passed, by cracky! I figured it was some virus he picked up in Florida, or from the airplane air.

Friday morning I told wheezy Hick he didn't have to put on the sickly act for me, and that he should get himself a diagnosis and/or medicine. He did not sound good. He sounded almost bad enough for me to give him sympathy and wait on him hand and foot. However...he could only see the nurse practitioner at his doctor's office (because doctors only see well people on their six-month check-up visits, you know, and can't be bothered with worked-in sick people). That NP listened to Hick's lungs, told him there was basically nothing wrong with him, and to take TWO ibuprofens every 4-6 hours! Last time I checked, ibuprofen had been ruled not really very good for folks with high blood pressure. Flash forward to this morning, and Hick's cough had not improved. He was still running a fever.

The fever business was kind of hard to confirm. First Hick complained of feeling hot. He wanted me to test his forehead. Yes, it felt hot. He got the thermometer. He said that earlier, it had showed that he was normal. I let that huge softball float right past me into the catcher's mitt. Genius had already hit one out of the park on Friday night, when Hick emailed him that something was wrong with his Facebook page. "I can't find friends." I turned to look at Hick over my shoulder, and caught him putting the thermometer in his armpit. WITH THE T-SHIRT FABRIC ON EACH SIDE. Seriously? What is he, an infant? A t-shirt-wearing infant? I suppose we're lucky that Hick did not try the backdoor route. Once under his tongue, the thermometer showed about a degree of fever. Enough to be sent home from school. I made him promise to try to see the actual DOCTOR on Monday. Because he's not getting better if he has a fever five days after coming down with a cold.

The FAT RED INDEX FINGER was discovered by accident on my part. Hick has arisen from twelve hours of sleep and gone straight to the couch to lay down. He was fiddling with that finger when he said, "I think I have some kind of infection in my finger." I could see it from across the room. The fingertip joint had a protrusion that was bulbous and red. Like a W.C. Fields nose on Hick's finger. I asked if it started around his fingernail. Yep. There's a name for that. Paronychia. And it might have progressed to a felon. That's right! Hick may or may not be harboring a felon in his fingertip! Don't search for pictures. I warned you. That's what my mom had with her FAT RED PINKY FINGER. It took her three months to get over it, which was done by a bone-scraping surgery, not the lopping off that an osteopath recommended. Hick is not talking out of his head yet like Mom was just before her diagnosis. But with his diabetes, I'm thinking he probably needs to get right on some treatment for that infection. He reported that he had it in his other hand a couple of weeks ago. Which kind of points to an infection that was coiled in his bloodstream, ready to strike.

So...Hick and Genius have gone off to Urgent Care, with plans to visit Goodwill if Urgent Care is closed. It made sense to them, anyway.


Sorry to shout. But now I'll have a brush with greatness story. Oh, sure, I want you all to see Mommy Needs a Xanax on TV. But really, it's all about giving me a name to drop. Because I knew her before she was famous. And I was even nice to her then!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reflections on the Thwarting

As you may recall, yesterday I received a sound thwarting from the universe. Even Steven did a tap-dance on my snout. I am confident that balance will be restored in the form of me winning the $216 million PowerBall tonight, but until then, I choose to revisit the scene of my thwarting.

Such a word, thwarting. It gives me an image of that giant hand in Jackass 3D, spring-loaded to whap unsuspecting members as they walk through a doorway. Yeah. I watched Jackass. I'm not some refined, camomile-tea-drinking, dainty maiden who sighs contentedly, gazing upon my collection of velvet paintings of big-eyed waifs while stroking one of my 37 cats. I am more of a guys' gal. The one they like to tell, while waiting for dusk to turn to dark, so the drive-in movie can start, the joke about how a one-armed man counts his change, all the while hiding one arm inside their overalls, preparing for the visual punchline.

In a movie, I would be SEE-gar, the designated chick who wants to fly jets with Zach Mayo and Sid Worley in An Officer and a Gentleman. Not Paula, the wanna-be girlfriend/wife who works in the paper bag factory. In Some Kind of Wonderful, I'm Watts, the drum-playing best friend, not Amanda Jones, the stuck-up object of desire. I'm Elaine, darn it! Jerry and the guys could persuade me to save them seats to see Rochelle, Rochelle: A Young Girl's Strange, Erotic Journey from Milan to Minsk. Dudes appreciate me. They don't thwart me.

My high school gang turned out all right. Good change-counters, one and all. A dentist, a banker, and a third-grade teacher. The future candlestick-maker went off to work on the Alaska pipeline and was never heard from again. But three out of four earn a respectable living. I don't know what my high school gal friends are up to. We lost touch long ago. About the time I went off to college and they did not.

I hope they're not being thwarted. That PowerBall has my name on it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Val, on the Business End of a Sound Thwarting

I am exhausted from the constant thwarting that plagued me all day.

It's not easy being a thwartee. The forces of the universe that conspired against me today, or my thwarters, as I unaffectionately think of them, were:

--the nonworking automated prescription refill answering service at my pharmacy

--the hermetically sealed pack of index cards, from which I needed only two (one for my prescription numbers so I could call them in to a live person on my plan time) that could survive the apocalypse, a honey badger attack, and a mob of teachers at a Last Index Cards on Earth sale

--the cell phone I forgot to charge last night that made me turn it off all day to save the battery

--my usually helpful Pony, who had spirited my red teacher bag out to the Tahoe YESTERDAY when I took a day off, so that I panicked this morning when it turned up missing at the time we were ready to leave

--the city cop in a white SUV parked at the middle of a 100-foot section of 20 mph roadway, who forced me to actually drive 20 mph for 100 feet

--the stack of science fair display boards on top of my classroom cabinet that refused to defy the law of gravity and cascaded onto my head as I was trying to sort out one specific board using a yardstick

--the one line of The Pony's science project that I needed to retrieve from his computer drive in order to submit his entry into the local junior college science fair, which printed in a room far, far away, as my printer was not set up on his drive, and I had no time to add it

--the sweet little girl with a breakfast tray  in her hand, not in my class, who wanted to enter the science fair, who timidly knocked on my door to run her idea past me, apologizing for taking my time, which was down to two minutes before first bell with a bathroom break on the horizon

--the eleven students missing from my afternoon class who really needed to take advantage of our day in the computer lab to practice for the End of Course test that pretty much determines whether I am worthy enough to teach

--the stack of six classes of yesterday's assignment and four classes of today's assignment that needed grading before I left the building to mail the science fair entries, stop for gas, pick up prescriptions, do the weekly shopping, and pick up my 44 oz. Diet Coke

--the National Enquirer that The Pony put in my cart that had the top half-inch of the middle third of the cover chewed off as if by a rat, requiring me to step back from setting out my items on the conveyor to exchange it with an undamaged one, much to the sighs and chagrin of the undoubtedly also-thwarted lady behind me in line

Yes, this thwartee has been thwarted to a pulp today. And now I'm going to stop writing right in the middle of my thwartedness and save the rest, the obscure movie-people references, until tomorrow.

Because I can. The thwartee becomes the thwarter. Bwah ha ha!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Scales Swing Back to Mississippi

Hey! Did you hear? Mississippi is trying to pass an anti-Bloomberg bill that would make it illegal for local governments to limit portion sizes and require caloric information to be posted in restaurants.

Yeah! I'm talkin' to YOU, MommyX, our delegate from the crooked-letter state. I knew it wouldn't be long until I had some news from Missi-freakin-sippi to share with you. Good to see that you still hold the title of the nation's most obese state. Sometimes it's hard to stay up on that pedestal with everybody trying to knock you off...but your citizens have prevailed. Or else it's just the universe declaring that the law of inertia is still in effect.

Yes, let's all raise our gallon jugs of sweet tea, our 44 oz. cups of The Real Thing, our tankards of Pink Panties, and our flagons of Cherry Kool-Aid in a toast to that BBQ-owning restaurateur lawmaker who sponsored this bill. Our hats, along with our binding undergarments, are off to you. Here's hoping that a Pajama Jean factory is in your district's future.

It's high time somebody stood up for the people who prefer not to. Let them eat cake! Let them eat gas station chicken! Let them eat whatever they desire, because they're not hurting anyone, except maybe those who have to sit next to them on airline flights, and those victims of the occasional unfortunate Walmart beeper-cart faux pas, and...well...their pallbearers. Yes, the citizens of Mississippi deserve their freedom to choose, not lose. If not for them, who would the rest of the populace feel superior to? Besides people who use prepositions to end sentences with.

Chomp on, Mississippi! Eat, pray, love. By that, I mean eat like there's no tomorrow, pray that your next meal is just round the corner, and that you're going to love it.

Oh, here's a link to the article. There were several different sources, but I chose the one from that last bastion of unjaded journalism, The New York Daily News.

I DO love to revel in the celebration of another state's notoriety. Doesn't matter if Missouri weighs in at one-point-three ounces under Mississippi's total citizenry tonnage...IT'S NOT US!

Enjoy, MommyX. Here's hoping that Good Morning America will get this news out of its system in time to air your segment on Monday, March 18. We can't have you getting bumped for proposed gluttony-protection laws.

I eagerly await your rebuttal in the form of breaking news from the state of Missouri.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Val Bugs Out

Sometimes I am plagued by a plague. A plague of bugs that have no business being where they are.

Every now and then, as I sit in my blue recliner in the basement, enjoying reality shows on the big-screen TV, draped with my chartreuse, red, and yellow fleece Christmas throw...a movement catches my eye. A movement on my chestal area that is NOT the gentle rise and fall of twin peaks signifying that I am, indeed, still living. No need to hold a mirror to my mouth to check for vapor. No, the slight movement that attracts my attention is the purposeful march of a gnat/beetle hybrid the size of a pinhead. This critter is too solid to be a gnat, and too gossamerish to be a beetle. It does not jump, so it is not a flea. It does not have good reflexes, so it is not a fly. In fact, it is quite easy to grasp and crush between my immense thumb and index fingerpads.

At school yesterday, I was beset by a flying insect of some type that buzzed me like I was Charlie Brown's hygienically-challenged buddy, Pigpen. I waved my arms and swatted while the students watched in awe. Let the record show that my ninja reflexes knocked that invader out of the air and onto my desk, where I smashed him flatter than a sheet of onionskin paper. Val. Not JUST a valedictorian.

Last night, my recliner respite was not marred by the intrusion of a six-legged freak. All was peaceful. I was feeling a bit peckish, so I tore off a row of yellow bunny PEEPS from the open pack that rested on the coffee table in front of the couch where The Pony curves his spine while typing on his laptop. What's that? Most people don't have packs of PEEPS on their coffee table? Yeah, right. I suppose they have coffee table books about coffee tables.

Not being one to do much of anything in moderation, I chomped those four bunny PEEPS before stopping to think about whether four might be a bit excessive. Oh, who are we kidding here...I didn't think twice about eating four rabbits.

Then I noticed something amiss in my mouth. There was a hard particle. I gave all my teeth a quick once-over with my tongue. Nobody was missing any enamel. I stuck my finger into my gaping maw and withdrew it with the offender attached to the tip by saliva. It was a dark dot. Not moving.

At first I though I had pulled a tick from my mouth! EEWWW! That's just WRONG! But it was not a tick. Upon closer inspection under my bifocals. I saw that the ejected intruder had no legs. Not four. Not six. Not eight. Good news, actually. Unless I had dissolved the legs with saliva. It IS the first step of digestion, you know. I squeezed that speck between my thumb and forefinger. It did not disintegrate. Any self-respecting bug would have smooshed under pressure. That was a good thing. The particle was not a bug.


Somebody at the JustBorn factory is making indestructible PEEP-eyes. Not cool! PEEP-eyes should dissolve in saliva like the other parts of the PEEP. Now I'll have to turn the darn PEEPS around before eating them. I can't stand their accusatory, fixated, soul-windows boring into my face. It increases eating time.

We both refuse to blink.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Take This Job and Shovel It

For several afternoons, there has been an old truck parked on our gravel road down by the creek. When we stop at the row of mailboxes after school, I am cautious. You never know when some Jame Gumb type of dude might be waiting to grab him a full-figured gal with the intent of eventually making her the skin he's in.

The truck is an older model dark blue Dodge with a club cab with a homemade wooden door leading from the cab to the truck bed. Oh, and it's two colors of blue. Navy and cornflower. Not a factory paint job. A dude sits in the truck, and gives us the pointy-finger, thumb-up, semi-gun-hand wave as we pass by. I return it, of course. Anything else would be considered rude.

Dude has a long wiry beard, graying. It's half the length of a ZZ Top beard, and not quite as pointy. His hair is unkempt, black, with gray at the temples. His eyes are blue, and his cheeks are ruddy. I point this out partially to give you a mental image, and partially as a description for the police. Dude wears a blue, white, and black plaid flannel shirt, and overalls. Today he was not in his two-blue pickup truck. He was walking down the middle of the gravel road towards us, carrying a shovel.

This is probably where you should cue the psycho music.

Last week I asked Hick if this truck belonged in our outer Backroads community. One of our gravel roads is an unofficial three-mile shortcut between two blacktops. It's good to keep an eye on one's surroundings. To know who's coming and going. Hick assured me that Dude does, indeed, belong here. And also left the impression that Dude is a little bit off. Which is saying something, considering how Hick looks at the world.

Dude moved to the side of the road so I could pass. He had a shovel full of mud, carrying it out in front of his body like a pole vaulter carries his pole down the approach. The closest mud access point was about fifty yards up, where there's a tiny offshoot from the road that allows a four-wheeler access to a flat-rock, foot-high waterfall the width of the creek. Dude strode like a man on a mission. Who may or may not have been a pole-vaulter. I put down my window and stopped the Tahoe. Isn't that what you would have done?

"I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate what you've done here." Because I do. It seems that Dude is that invisible pothole fairy who has been filling the myriad of spring thaw potholes with mud. And sometimes gravel that washes out along the side of the road. We had assumed it was the old guy who threatened to shoot Hick, but now blades our driveway when the mood strikes him. Shooter has been seen cruising the gravel roads in a golf cart with a bucket. The only character we're missing is a fellow called Nub who rolls around in a red wagon.

Dude stood with his shovel full of mud. He nodded. He looked embarrassed. Or afraid. "You're welcome. Something needed to be done."

"Yes. It really helps. Thank you. We can tell a difference." The conversation seemed to have played itself out, so I rolled up the window and proceeded. Dude went about his shovel business.

A Sisyphean task. I'm glad I stopped short of calling him Sisyphus.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Know What She Did This Afternoon

This old dog learned a new trick today.

There I was, dropping in at my 44 oz. Diet Coke convenience store after school, because I deserved a treat after a particularly manic Monday. I try to limit my Diet Cokage to weekends. Really. But I threw caution to the wind and snagged one on the way home.

As I waited in line, a clerk-jumper darted from behind me to the next available register. Not cool. The dude I was behind was trying to figure out how to use his credit card to pay for a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper (Really? REALLY? In a CONVENIENCE store?) and gas and two different kinds of cigarettes, which should not have been that hard, you know, since the basic idea is to hand it to the freakin' clerk to scan for you if technology is not your friend.

I stepped over behind Clerk Jumper. Figured she was gonna be fast, you know, what with being in such a hurry that she cut to the next line ahead of me in what could have been a fatal convenience store faux pas if I was a woman of hair-trigger temper and concealed weaponry. Do you know what Clerk Jumper bought? A 20 oz. bottle of Minute Maid pink lemonade. She asked the clerk for one of those cute little bottles of Jack Daniels stocked in a clear plastic high-rise of tiny alcoholic beverage apartments on the counter. It took her forever to come up with the cash. Like she was on a scavenger hunt in her own purse.

THEN she didn't have the grace to leave, but instead asked the clerk, "How much is ice?" The clerk must have known what she was dealing with. She did not quota a price on bagged ice, which was the first thought in my mind. She stated that ice was thirty-eight cents a cup. Clerk Jumper tilted her head to the side like a dog in a Victrola ad. "Thirty-eight cents? For a small cup?" The clerk assured her that it was thirty-eight cents for ANY size cup of ice. So back on the scavenger hunt she went.

Yeah. Guess what SHE was going to do as soon as she left The Voice of the Village? SHE WAS GOING TO DRINK AND DRIVE! She had her ingredients right there. I don't know why she didn't just swig out of the tiny bottle like those people on Intervention do when they're driving along being filmed and interviewed.

When I got back to the car and pointed out the scenario to The Pony, I said, rhetorically, or so I thought, "WHO drinks Jack Daniels with pink lemonade? That is just wrong!"

The Pony, apparently, has been checking out online bartending schools. "Well, Jack Daniels is whiskey. And whiskey goes with anything. It should go fine with pink lemonade."

"Uh, how do YOU know? Whiskey goes with Coke. Jack and Coke. Or maybe with 7-Up. Seagrams and Seven. It does NOT go with pink lemonade! You need something like vodka for that." Said I, the teetotaler who DID go to college.

When I got home, I consulted my BFF Google on the cocktail question. PINK LEMONADE AND WHISKEY IS REALLY A DRINK!!!'s called Pink Panties.

Let the record show that before I left the convenience store, I made sure that Clerk Jumper and her Pink Panties left ahead of me. I wanted to keep her in sight until I could ditch her.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's Hard Out Here for a Hick

Hick is about to set off for a fun-filled Florida adventure on the company's dime. Not HIS company's dime. But A company's dime. Three days and two nights at a trade show for some kind of supplies and equipment. As you may notice, I don't put a lot of effort into deciphering exactly what it is Hick DOES for our living.

A tug-of-war ensued Saturday morning over a small bone of contention brought to the forefront by Hick's table manners. Or lack thereof.

Genius had cooked himself some french toast sticks. He had tried to order me into the kitchen to prepare this frozen feast, but I stood my ground. "You are 18 years old! I think you can manage to warm some french toast sticks in the oven according to package directions." Never mind the near-backfire when he used a rectangular tray instead of a pizza pan, a tray which gives a loud "POP" and tosses its contents toward the roof of the oven as it expands. Nor his penchant for opening the oven door and standing there in just his jeans with no shirt, basking in the warmth like an Arizona lizard on a flat rock shortly after sunrise.

Genius suffers from a congenital deformity which rendered his eyes bigger than his stomach. He offered three leftover french toast sticks to The Pony. Sensing a trick, The Pony passed. "Here, Dad. You can have them."

"He can't have that! He can't have sugar! What are you trying to do, kill him for the insurance money you think he has?"

"No, I didn't think of that. Anyway, the syrup is sugar-free, and it's only three little pieces of bread."

Hick was on those french toast sticks like Kobayashi on a Nathan's Hot Dog. As he stood behind the long couch by the front door, devouring them before letting the goats out, I saw it. His pinky finger was extended like that of a refined English noblewoman sipping from a delicate China cup of Darjeeling.

"There you go again, sticking out your pinky finger! That is not a good look for you." Genius craned his neck from his contorted, accordioned body on the short couch to get a look, and snorted.

"Oh, you're always on me about something. I guarantee you that I've eaten in more fancier restaurants than the two of you! All over the world! And there's never been any complaints." Genius and I met eyes. More fancier? We did not have to speak. We DID have to laugh. Loudly.

"Oh, you mean like that time at the inside sidewalk table at that sandwich shop in Harrah's Casino, when you sucked your fingers loudly and tilted your head back to shake the potato chip crumbs down your throat? While people were walking by on the other side of that little wrought-iron railing, staring?"

We did not get a response, as Hick had passed through the portal to the front porch, slamming it behind him, about halfway through the questions. Not in anger, mind you. But in desperation, because he knew that he was no match for our method of interrogation.

Hick's more fancier restaurants all over the world include places like Hendersonville, North Carolina, where I'm pretty sure it's normal to lick BBQ sauce off your fingers in public, and Brazil, where they serve brontosaurus haunches on a metal pole and whittle pieces off as it is carried through the dining room like a bigger, meatier Olympic torch. Oh. And New Jersey. So let's not go filing a business license for Hick's School of More Fancier Dining Etiquette just yet.

I am dreading a headline on Google News about strange slurping noises in Florida, feared to be sinkhole suckage, which turn out to be a the sound of a certain tourist gluttonously consuming oysters.

While flying his extended-pinky-finger flag, of course.


Hey, let's try again to catch my blog buddy at Mommy Needs a Xanax on Good Morning America. She has been told it will air MONDAY, March 11. I'm setting my DVR.

**OOPS! Postponed again! She'll keep us updated. **

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A-Bolting and Quite Jolting

...continued from yesterday.

Now, the rest of the story. The people of Walmart are revolting, the people of Save A Lot are a-bolting, and the people of the gas station chicken store are quite jolting.

Happy to survive the auto impasse on the Walmart parking lot, I headed for the gas station chicken store for a 44 oz. Diet Coke. Pardon me for titling my tale out of sequence. I must have been in a state of befuddlement last evening from the strange happenings.

The original plan was to snag some chicken along with the soda. One look into the glass case changed my mind. I did not intend my 44 oz. Diet Coke to wash down leathery chicken jerky. The fowl looked as though it was left from the lunch rush. Yesterday. So I stepped up to the counter to pay for my drink.

A local dude had popped through the door while I was ogling the breasts and thighs. He stopped short on the other side of the register. The cashier was the short jolly one, finishing up a story for the previous customer about how she was excited about getting her first grandchild any day now. I don't hold it against her that she looked to be in her early thirties. That's how folks do things here in Backroads.

Local Dude transferred his weight from boot to boot, like a toddler needing a potty break. He could not stand being outside the bullseye of attention. Jolly smiled at him. "Are you gonna pay for that gas this time?"

"Yeah, I'm payin'." Local Dude practically wriggled under his flannel shirt like an adolescent dog playing hard-to-get with a fetched stick.

"I don't see any money there."

"I'm using my credit card. Here. I'll just flop it out on the counter so you can get a good look at it."

Oh, dear. That's the state of men here in Backroads. That's a pick-up line. Sure to attract females like green bottle flies to a cow patty. I was relieved that the severe head bun spinster cashier opened the other register and took my money. I felt like I needed a shower.

The Pony awaited in the Tahoe. We cruised through the three stoplights and toward outer Backroadia. A maroon van whipped out of the Save A Lot road in front of us. A maroon van that somebody had paid a lot less than $1000 for. I had to slam on the brakes, wasting all that momentum I had built up after the light. Why anybody would be in such a hurry to leave Save A Lot is beyooooond me. Unless they had shoplifted some 5-for-$19.99 meats.

That van took off like a bat out of Not-Heaven. Then it slowed. I caught up and had to brake again. Vanny took off. AND THE PASSENGER THREW GARBAGE OUT THE WINDOW! Seriously. Like some hillbilly James Bond with a weapon to slow me down. It looked like White Castle hamburger cartons spilling out of a white paper sack. Lucky for me, I was coasting to save gas, so it didn't hit my windshield, but was treaded by my tires.

As quickly as it had appeared, Vanny vanished. Well, not so much vanished as turned left after signaling for three roads, onto a pig trail that led to what used to be a trailer, with the outer metal ripped off, showing insulation. I didn't even know anybody lived there.

Maybe they don't.

With this kind of excitement crammed into one evening...I might as well live in the city.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The People of Walmart are Revolting

There's a little more to that title. The people of Walmart are revolting, the people of Save A Lot are a-bolting, and the people of the gas station chicken store are quite jolting.

Yes, this is Val, your roving reporter in Backroads. This afternoon on the Walmart parking lot, The Pony and I almost became another retail store statistic. I left The Pony inside driving like a maniac on a simulator in the game room. Yet he does not wish to get his driving permit. Go figure. I pushed my cart that I use like a walker (but without the snazzy tennis balls) up the row to the Tahoe. About six cars past me was a curious sight. I kept one eye on it while I loaded the merchandise.

A small gray car was headed the wrong way up the row. A gray Ford Marquis was headed the right way, but was stopped in front of the wrong-way car. They were almost touching noses. At first I thought one needed a battery jump from the other. Cars coming down the row first stopped, then squeezed by. Tiny Car and Mr. Marquis remained. Nobody got out. Nothing was happening. The Pony joined me. He put my cart/walker in the cart return corral and hopped in. "Let's go."

"No. I want to see what's going on. Look. Can you tell what they're doing?"

"No. Someone is sitting in each car."

"Let's listen." I put a window down. A couple of women walked up the row. One in a red sweatshirt stopped on the passenger side of Tiny Car. I couldn't hear her because some dang hillbillies went by on the next row in their bigfoot truck. Red Sweatshirt went to the driver's side of Mr. Marquis. Again, I couldn't hear. The Pony feigned deafness, even though he can hear a tick crunch into a dog's butt at 500 yards. Red Sweatshirt shrugged her shoulders. Tilted both hands skyward. She came closer to join her friend.

"Mr. Marquis won't move because Tiny Car is going the wrong way. And Tiny Car refuses to move until Mr. Marquis gets out of the way. They're going to be there forever. They're almost blocking traffic. The one guy got kind of smart with me. He said he's going to call 911. I'm going to get security."

I don't think Red Sweatshirt had a dog in this fight. But those cars WERE blocking in about 12 other vehicles that might have wanted to back out. Red Sweatshirt whistled without using her fingers. She waved her arms back and forth like a signalman on an aircraft carrier. Her friend started toward the store, doing the same thing. I assumed they were trying to get the attention of whoever was monitoring the parking lot security cameras. That is, unless that dude was kicked back in his chair licking BBQ powder off his fingers and tilting the crumbs from his bag of pork rinds into his gaping maw.

A county sheriff's deputy was parked in front of the store. He got out and came up the row to talk to Red Sweatshirt. He nodded and went to Tiny Car. "You ARE going the wrong way." I didn't hear the reply. Deputy went to Mr. Marquis. "Why don't you just squeeze around there?" Again, I couldn't hear the reply. Deputy went back to Tiny Car and emphasized the wrong-wayness. Then Mr. Marquis backed up and squeezed past, leaving Tiny Car an open aisle to cruise up the wrong way.

Ain't that a kick in the butt? Just like in everything else in today's cockamamie world, the guy in the right had to yield to the guy in the wrong. Mr. Marquis was NOT happy. He pulled into a spot across the row from me. I couldn't get a good look, and The Pony refused to take a picture. He said it was a little old man wearing a cap. The passenger sat there, leaned over, unbuckled the shoulder belt, sat there...and after about five minutes, Mr. Marquis backed out and drove off. But not before a red SUV had gone barreling THE WRONG WAY up the same row at about 40 mph.

I bemoan the downfall of society. Time to get crackin' on my neglected proposed handbasket factory.

To be continued...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It Went South Sometime Before Sunrise

Some days are diamonds. Some days are poop sammiches.

What a day! Just when you think you are on the mend from a virusy incapacitating illness, you have a relapse. The combination of cough medicine and hot-and-sour soup Tuesday night had me thinking I was the new spokesmodel for Cheratussin Soup. I felt 100 times better. Until 1:30 this morning, when I woke up in the basement recliner with a thumping sinus headache. What my broken crown needed was a good wrapping in vinegar and brown paper. Just the thought of all that work wrapping my irregular noggin turned me off, so I went to bed to toss and turn until 5:00.

The pain made me a bit discombobulated. I had some loose ends to tie up on my laptop. I ordered The Pony to fetch me an envelope to throw in my school bag so I could accomplish some personal business on my plan time. Hick had "folded" some of the boys jeans out of the dryer, so I had that chore to redo. My mom wanted to meet me after school to give me a candy bar. She means well. She found a new Three Musketeers bar with coconut. We made plans that rivaled the complexity of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. My routine was off kilter.

The Pony and I took a different route to school because a bridge on our regular route will be demolished on Monday. We might as well bite that bullet early. When I sat down at my classroom laptop, I realized that I had left my glasses at home. I called my mom to see if she could drive all the way to my house and bring them by school. Hey! SHE'S the one who is always asking if there's anything she can do for me. I like to make her happy. I had asked her to watch for my buddy on Good Morning America, so I would know which part of my two-hour DVR to fast-forward to. You know, because she doesn't have anything else to do all day. One can only work so many Sudoku puzzles. I told Mom to wait until that show was over first. I could manage one class and my plan time with one eye tied behind my back.

Dear me. I jammed the new copier while running my third-quarter tests. It happened right at the bell. I refuse to take the fall. All I did was stand there and watch. After about 50 copies, that darn Kyocera started folding the last paper and stapling it in the middle. One came out, then the jam screen came up right as the bell rang. I reported my mishap to the office and headed to class. Ten minutes in, Mom arrived with my glasses. I celebrated by sneaking an acetaminophen while the kids were working.

Lunch, enhanced with the responsibility of my cafeteria duty, was a whirlwind of chicken nuggets with ranch dressing out of a giant plastic jar with a metal spout. The afternoon flew by in flurry of papers to grade and projects to evaluate. The Pony and I took off at the stroke of 3:30 for the bank and some cash. We met Mom at the park to grab that very special candy bar. She reported that she had watched all of Good Morning America without seeing my buddy.

I can hardly wait to tell her that she should watch again on MONDAY, when Mommy X will be appearing, having been bumped for some breaking news, I assume. If only she could have had a toe ripped off by a roving Shih Tzu, her segment might have aired as planned.

Oh, and that envelope I had big plans for? Kyocera, like a dingo, ate my baby. Okay, not my actual baby, or even the envelope. But Kyocera ate up the time I could have used to fill out and mail in a release form.

Val is gonna hit the big time one of these days.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Val Has Connections

All this time, you thought Val was just a bump on a log out here in Backroads. And not a very attractive one, either, judging from the photo on her recent driver's license. A bump on a log that used to be a world-class ugly tree. Or maybe you pictured her as a little fish in a little pond. Swimming round and round, never going anywhere, bemoaning the fact that all the other fishies were

I'm here to set the record straight. Val has connections. We're not talking about the guy at Voice of the Village convenience store who gives her a free 44 oz. Diet Coke every now and then. Nor about the students who call her name as she walks through the school cafeteria, fancying herself some teetotaling Norm in a nonalcoholic neighborhood bar. Nope.

Val knows somebody who's going to be on television! Not a local cable-access channel, on a Community Happenings show run by middle school students. Nor a hapless citizen with a mullet and no home, having a microphone shoved into his face after his trailer whirled away in a tornado. Nope.

Good Morning America, baby! Thursday. That's tomorrow as I write this. My old blog buddy, who knew me under my old alias, back when I was still wet under the waistboobs, IS GOING TO BE ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA! All because of her blog. She coined that term, you know. Waistboobs. The stretchy breasts of old ladies. We won't go into why she had a need to create that word. All I can say is: better her than me.

Back in the day, we were thick as thieves. Well. We were thick. Okay. I was thick. And maybe I still am. Is that so wrong?  She's from Mississippi. Every time I read an article about the fattest state or the state with the highest teen birth rate, I sent her a link. I know she truly appreciated my consideration. I know, because she would reply with news of some guy shooting his wife through the wall of the house while trying to start nail holes to mount a big-screen TV. Can't remember if it was a nail gun or a regular gun. That's one detail we don't really dwell on in these parts. Before, or after. Oh, and she always inquired as to whether we here in Missouri still held our title of Meth Capitol of the United States. And most often, I could reply that we did.

Here she is, letting it all hang out, at Mommy Needs a Xanax. Catchy title, huh? So wrong, yet so right. Maybe you could drop in and leave her a little comment. Don't cost nothin'. She's been busy lately, what with raising two boys and all. Her impending famewhoredom came as a complete surprise.

Apparently, national TV exposure is what happens when you're raising kids. Sheryl Crow might need to update that song of hers.

Check This Out!

This is not my usual daily tale of how the world conspires against me. It's an EXTRA! Details will follow this evening.

Check out Good Morning America on THURSDAY. One of my old blog buddies is supposed to make an appearance. The camera crew made a house call and put her in the can. I have already set my DVR. Let's hope she isn't bumped for some world-shaking event. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's Complicated

Hey! I'm still kickin'!

Last night I was miserable, despite dosing myself with the dregs of cough medicine from 2009. Its effectiveness wore off, and the night wore on. I called my mom to check in, which I do twice a day, whether she wants to talk to me or not. Makes me no nevermind if she is snugly ensconced in her recliner watching Mizzou basketball.

Mom was upset at my hoarseness. And possibly with my whining. I had no witty tales of Hick's shenanigans. In fact, I was feeling so low, down-in-the-dumps, under-the-weather, sub-par, down-for-the-count that a tiny sob escaped my throat.

Oh, dear. That was not the right thing to do. It was not a conscious decision. It just slipped out. Like, "Oh, f***!" from between the lips of a fireman at Art Hill, trying to pull a 200-lb. woman wearing a down coat out of the lake after a sledding incident. Mom began emitting tiny sobs. My own gained frequency. I told her I was going to hang up and get some rest. She said she would talk to me in the morning.

This morning, my expired cough medicine was a distant dream. My head hurt, my chest hurt, my cough was back, and I misery index was rising like heat waves over a new section of blacktop fresh out of the paver on a July highway. I called Mom to check in. "Oh, honey. I have been thinking about you all night. Is there anything I can do for you today?" Of course that made me sob. Which made Mom sob. Which made me sob harder. That conversation did not last long.

This morning I was ready. The minute my plan time rolled around, I called my doctor's office to request some proper cough medicine. That was the only time my cough was non-existent. If only I could bottle a doctor's office phone call, I could help more people go coughless than Hall's, codeine, and Robitussin.

The minute school was out, Mom called. "Are you all right? Can I pick up anything and bring it to you? Did you call the doctor?" I explained that I would be picking up medicine on the way home, and that even though he was presently unaware, Hick would be bringing home hot & sour soup to open up my head. I did not sob. I was better than yesterday at that time.

WAS. Until The Pony and I left school on the drive to the pharmacy. I hacked more than Anonymous. It felt like the top of my head was going to shoot off like the lid from an empty plastic water bottle when a freshman boy squeezes it until it explodes. My eyes bugged out like the eyes on one of those rubber eye-popper stress dolls. I needed a Depends more than a spurned astronaut traveling cross-country to confront her ex-lover's girlfriend.

The pharmacy parking lot was fuller than Takeru Kobayashi after Nathan's Famous July 4 International Hot Dog Eating Contest. As I fumbled for my debit card, the whole world passed in front of my Tahoe and entered the building. People were lined up to the door. Apparently, it was a good day for making one's mother sob. My prescription had been called in, but it was not ready. The technicians were forty minutes behind. They were not about to fill something for somebody not even filling up their store. Of course my car cough abated when I walked into the pharmacy. If only I could bottle a long wait in line for cough medicine at a pharmacy, I could compete with my other product on the market, the Doctor's Office Call Elixir. (I'm also flirting with the idea of a clothing line called Togs For the Emperor).

I sat down on the black faux leather couch made of chairs to wait. After about 15 minutes, my cough returned. Val had got her WHOOP back. It was all I could do not to mark that fine piece of furniture like Poppie marked Jerry's new white couch. Let's just say I did not look down when I got up. I'm hoping the little old lady that sat on my right hip was without her glasses. I took off for the counter when my name was called. My doctor had hooked me up with some Cheratussin. It doesn't hold a candle to Histinex, but it's better than four-year-old Iophen.

Mom was happy to hear from me when I got home. She said I sounded better already, even though I had not yet taken a dose. Nobody sobbed. I'm looking forward to feeling better.

Mom needs her rest.

Monday, March 4, 2013

It Was a Very Good Year

An expiration date ain't nothin' but a number.

Hey! What did you expect? So sorry, but A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich was already taken. TAKEN! Like movie theater seats at the Paradise Twin showing of Checkmate, trying to be saved by Elaine Benes. In the same manner that Lil named her bar Coyote Ugly because Cheers was taken.

You might think, with an intro such as this, that I will be expounding upon my mother's penchant for expired foodstuffs. But no. Like Rooster Cogburn, aiming to kill Lucky Ned Pepper in one minute, telling Farrell Parmalee and his brother Harold to stand clear...I've got no interest in her today.

No, what we're talking about here is a failure to expectorate. I have a cough from my weekend cold, and I can't retch up that annoying liquid that tickles the back of my throat and squeezes and wheezes through my lungs.

As Even Steven would have it, my plan time today was filled with grading a tall stack of work placed in my mailbox last Thursday afternoon, which I had expected to grade Friday morning. Before we had a snow day. Before this cold was even a twinkle in the eye of that close-talker who sprayed sputum in my mouth, apparently, with a surprise cough just before final bell.

My lunch time was filled with duty. My after school time was filled with a lengthy First Monday faculty meeting. So I have hacked my way nearly into submission. Fruitlessly. Halls cough drops have not helped. Tomorrow I intend to call my doctor to see if he can call my pharmacy to see if they can whip up an elixir to halt my hacking. I am not optimistic. If I try to make an appointment, I will have suffered needlessly and no longer need relief by the time my scheduled audience with the doc arrives. Don't even get me started on that Inconvenient Care place.

Tonight I was left to my own devices. I am loathe to breeze into Walmart and grab a boxed bottle off the shelf, because cough medicine ingredients clash with high blood pressure like a polka dot shirt with madras shorts. In the nooks and crannies of my kitchen cabinets, I discovered an old bottle of my prescription cough medicine from 2009. That's right. 2009. There was not so much cough medicine in it anymore as there was a tiny blob of gooey stuff that looked like the center of a Fruit Gushers candy piece. I added a bit of water and swirled it. Let it sit on the counter five minutes. Poured out a teaspoon in the plastic shot glass measuring cup.

EUREKA! It worked for about two hours. Mostly. Enough for a brief respite from cracking my ribs with an explosive cough every thirty seconds.

It's going to be a long night.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Yours, Mine, and...Oh, Who are We Kidding Here?

This is why Val can't have nice things. Oh, who are we kidding here? This is why Val can't have THINGS.

The kitchen is my domain. According to Hick, it's where I merely heat things in the microwave, or warm them in the oven. Still, that's more than he does. In fact, Hick does not even know where kitchen stuff goes. That's why he can't put anything away. He doesn't have a diagram like the lid of a Whitman Sampler.

If my kitchen was a convenience store, that cushy mat the cashiers stand on would be at the corner of Sink and Counter. That's where I do my food prep, the 'L' with the sink at my right hand, and the stove at my left. That's where the wooden paper plate holder sits, and the salt and pepper grinders. The glass plate cabinet is directly above. The silverware drawer just below. Because this is my control center, I feel safe in leaving my red Solo cup there within arm's reach. I use it every morning to take my medicine. I use it to stay hydrated while glowing over a hot stove. No need to throw it away every day. It's only used for water.

This morning, my red Solo cup was gone. I don't know about you, but to me, this smacked of an act of provocation. Thank goodness I do not yet have nuclear capabilities. You might as well stick your tongue out at me. Kick sand in my face. Flip me the bird from the passing lane. Show me the sole of your shoe. Not cool.

Not being an I'm okay/you're okay, everyone's a winner, unicorn-and-rainbow-loving flower child hippie, I set out to apprehend the culprit. Not so much bent on revenge as on assuring that this reckless disregard for my personal possessions did not rear its disrespectful head again. Especially after struggling so hard to put an end to the confiscation of my tube of hair conditioner that comes with L'Oreal, the clandestine use of my pink plastic disposable razor, and the unauthorized removal of bites of food right off my plate.

In my house, there are really only two suspects. The one who is the food snatcher, with his very own red Solo cup that sits on the cutting block, and the one who takes everything else. The interrogation of Hick was not suitable practice for my dream career of high-profile prosecuting attorney. More like catching a toddler with his hand in the cookie jar and melted chocolate chip residue around his mouth.

Did you take my red Solo cup?

Red Solo cup?


What red Solo cup?

You know what I'm talking about.

I drank out of a red Solo cup last night.

Where did you get it?

What do you mean, 'Where did I get it?'

Did you take it off the counter?

I don't know.

Well, that cup I leave there to drink out of every morning is gone.


You know you took it.

Okay, so I took a cup off the counter. There's always a stack there.

No. There's ONE cup. The one I drink out of. Get your own out of the pack in the pantry.

I don't know why you're making a big deal.

That was MY cup. You were just too lazy to walk three steps and get your own.

Believe me, I don't want to drink out of your cup, the way you hack and sputter.

That's funny. Because you took my cup. Even though I've had this cold since Friday.

I swear, I'm going to get my own stuff and keep it in the BARn.

You do that.

See, it's the principle of the matter. What if I took the plastic cup Hick keeps by the bathroom sink to take HIS medicine every morning? I'm sure he would notice something amiss.

Unless he was too busy shaving with my razor and revitalizing his meager tresses with my L'Oreal conditioner.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Do They Take Duos on Worst Cooks in America?

What a blustery cold day we had here!

I threw together a pot of vegetable beef soup to simmer for supper. Hick came in ten minutes after I added the last ingredient, and said, "That stew is ready now, right? So I can have some for lunch?" It might as well be stew. Hick does not like the "juice" in soup. That's why he builds a bowl like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I told him it was done enough. But that we were having it for supper, and also tomorrow. He ate it anyway.

What Hick does not seem to understand is that even though all the ingredients are in the pot, the final taste is still percolating. The flavors have to marry. There'll be no common-law soup in MY house! No shacking up. No living in sin. Nobody's getting the milk for free.

Genius came home from a sleepover as I was putting the soup together, and stepped right into a nightmare.  

"Hey, open those cans of vegetables for me. The can opener makes my wrist hurt."

"You know how awkward this is for me, right? Why don't we have a left-handed can opener? Or one of those mechanical ones?"

"Why don't we have a dishwasher instead of my hands? If that's too hard for you, I can do it myself. You can go take your shirts out of the washer and hang them."

"No, this is fine. You can do the shirts."

"I'm busy cooking this hamburger right now. Hey! That part looks funny. I'm taking it out. It might be horse meat. Do you want to do it?"

"No. I'm fine."

"You didn't take out the trash last night like I told you, so you'll have to do it now. And you didn't fill the pepper and salt grinders like I told you last week."

"I can only do one thing at a time!"

"And not very well. How am I supposed to get these carrots out? You didn't open all the way around the lid. It won't come off."

"Give it back!"

"Things take so long when I have help."

"Where's the peppercorns? Oh, here they are. I guess you know that I have touched every single one of them with my fingers. My skin cells will be in the soup."

"Don't worry. They will blend with that tip of my thumb I cut off while dicing the onion. Grind some pepper into the soup."

"What? There. Is that enough?"

"Well, that's about the amount one person would use for a single bowl of soup, and not a whole pot. But don't worry about it. It's fine."

"Yay! I made soup!"

I find kitchen chores to be SO exhausting.